Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Radio Reminiscing....

In the seventies, the idea of a radio with ACCURATE display of the frequency was at first left to high priced bench radios. The rest of us would have to guess at the frequencies with our portables. As some of the earlier direct-readout radios appeared that were more mainstream (read: affordable), I started to save up for something that would work better for me.

Sony and Panasonic seemed to be competing at the time, releasing similar technology, and features at about the same price point. Panasonic's entry was the now highly-regarded RF-2200/DR22 model. The Panasonic was a large analog set, known for it's performance. It had a crystal-based calibration setup that allowed you to calibrate a band-spread readout for each band you were tuning, Sony's entry was the ICF-5900W. The reviews at the time praised both radios. The Panasonic had the edge on audio (partially because of its HUGE cabinet), while the Sony was clearly more compact and easier to deal with. I had saved up for one of them, and the Panasonic won, after a local department store advertised it one Sunday for somewhere around $140 I think. For the first time, I knew what frequency I was on without having to find a known station first and play "creep-and-guess". It was also my first portable with a useful BFO for utility and ham listening. The Panasonic became the center of the collection, with a couple of portables surrounding it, and a Mosley CM-1 ham receiver that was purchased to encourage me to get my license.

As digital portables evolved, one Sony model stood out as a particular bargain in performance. Sometime in the early 80's I purchased a Sony ICF-6500L. The Sony was much more portable than the RF-2200, and didn't need to be re-calibrated every 1 or 2 MHz. I gave the RF-2200 to my brother Paul. My sister in law still proudly displays it front and center as her main radio. The 6500 was accompanied by some less expensive portable at the time. A Toshiba RP-F11, a Magnavox D1875, an Emerson PSW-4010, a Realistic DX-370, and a few others that I may not remember. The Emerson recently turned up though when I was cleaning out my old garage. It had unfortunately not weathered the years so well. The Emerson was an interesting find. I think I purchased it at the Emerson factory outlet store in NJ. For a cheap radio, it performed very well, and had very powerful audio output. I used to to drive a good-size set of external speakers with it, and used it as a shop radio for years.

All of these were sold off at some point, or given away, except the Emerson. The Sony went to a good friend who I think still uses it. The Mosley went at a ham auction, along with some other ham gear. I'd love to pick up another 6500 but they bring quite a premium on eBay in good condition. I think the Emerson is another I would like to replace. I missed a NIB example once recently that came up for auction. Have to keep watching.

The next evolution for me was to PLL-tuned radios. More later.

Photo by Radio Rover on Flickr

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