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Old 12-01-2012, 9:47 PM
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Default Communications Receiver Advice

I am looking into purchasing a desktop communications receiver for general SWL and some SSB. My price range is around $300-$400. I have already tried a DX-394 and had a bad experience with it so I am heasitant to try another one. I would love to try an Icom R-75 but it is a little too expensive for my budget. I also was considering an older used radio with a digital tuner, and that's where I need some advice. I am too young to have any idea of which older receivers are good performers, and there have been many mixed reviews on some I have looked into.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:05 PM
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Hey, welcome aboard.

The timeless Kenwood R-1000 is a good bet. Super sensitive and very reliable despite their age. A great value for it's price:

Kenwood R1000 Product Reviews

kenwood r-1000 in Ham, Amateur Radio | eBay
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:41 PM
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You would do well to do some research - there are numerous places to check out for reviews, at various levels...this wiki article (anything in blue is a link) lists quite a few places to look

Category:Receiver Reviews - The RadioReference Wiki

Once you've settled on something, then you can start looking at some used lists, such as

Universal Radio Used Radio Equipment List

If you can put up with a radio that's married to a PC, the TenTec RX320D is well within your price range - it's nothing more than a black box with a serial control (no switches/knobs). But it performs very well indeed, and there's a few programs out there for it. It's so good a few of the top DXers have them as 2nd receivers. I had one for a number of years.

True story; TenTec engineers intended the 320D to be an 'introductory' model to get folks interested in ham radio. They had absolutely no idea it would be come so popular. In fact, a major marine company used that as the basis for a plan for remote receivers (the idea was abandoned, and the modified radios - called the RX321 - came onto the market. It's very hard to find one...)

It's a great deal more selective than most older desktops (which means that it can separate stations that are close together in frequency), and with the right software, there are 32 (yes you read that right) different bandwidths (available in any mode) you can choose.

I saw one or two on the Universal used list linked above...HTH...Mike
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Old 12-02-2012, 11:48 AM
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Don't just focus on the radio. You can buy an extraordinary radio and it can still sound like garbage because the antenna is no good.

My mentors from decades past told me not to forget putting money in to a decent antenna. Make sure your antenna is as far away from your house (and everything else) as possible. Make sure that the antenna is isolated from your home. In other words, make sure that your coax is not part of the antenna system, so that you don't pick up the noises from your house. And finally, if you choose to use an amplified antenna system, make sure it does not diminish your receiver performance. Too many amplified antenna system have cheap amplifiers that will actually overload and distort more than they help.

I would hate to see you spend good money on a great table top receiver, only to hook it to an indoor amplified antenna and have S9+ readings of nothing but noise.
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Old 12-02-2012, 12:41 PM
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Jake's point is valid - OT, but very valid...

To that end, please feel free to post questions in our receive antennas forum...

Receive Antennas (below 30MHz) - The RadioReference.com Forums

It will be very important to know whether you can put something outside, and how much area you have to work with. As Jake says, getting the antenna as far away from the house is quite important.

Now, back to the topic at hand...Mike
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Old 12-02-2012, 3:49 PM
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Default Thanks!

Thanks for the help. The links have been very helpful. The TenTec RX320 seems pretty cool, but I would prefer a traditional radio. I like the looks of the Kenwood R-1000 suggested and have read the eham reviews and watched it in action on youtube. I have also looked at the Kenwood R-5000, Icom R-71, and Yaesu FRG-7000. Does anyone have any recommendations on one of those?

Regarding the antenna, I have a longwire that I used with the DX-394 that received quite well when the 394 wasn't suffering from stations 50 kHz away bleeding over, and will use that until it needs to be replaced. I have already done quite a bit of reading on antennas when I got the 394, which ended up being a bust.
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Old 12-02-2012, 4:23 PM
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The R71 is a fine radio *if* the battery for the PROM is in good shape. I wouldn't count on that lasting, however. There are a couple of ways to fix that, and if you do get that radio, have it checked out first thing.

The issue here is that the operating system for the radio is on that PROM - so if the battery backup goes, there goes the operating system for the radio. This is a radio whose strengths are more in the ham and utility side. To me, the audio is just a little rough for long term broadcast listening, but everyone's tastes are different.

I like the simplicity of the R5000, but as I understand it, the circuit boards are beginning to show their age. It's a fine basic receiver, however - I've played with a couple of them. Very nice audio - better than the R71.

I fiddled once with a FRG7000- now there's a radio that brings back memories for a lot of folks. Pretty hot front end, too, from what I recall.

Do your research - use the links I gave in a previous message. Each of these radios, I'm sure, has a Yahoo group associated with them (along with folks here that use these radios). No better places to get recommendations on a radio from the folks that use them.

Mike
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:04 AM
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Re: Icom R-71a

Excellent performance. Top shelf in it's time, still outperforms many of today's receivers.

You can hook up 10 miles of antenna to this radio and it will handle it. I've got one that's got
every modification conceived and OMG ... awesome!

Lots of support on this radio by enthusiasts and by repairmen if you have trouble with one.

The WILLCO ELECTRONICS NO-FAIL MEMORY FOR ICOM RADIOS is still available. I bought one two years ago, and honestly if
you read the discussion forums, that legendary battery failure is just not that common in real life.

Hard to go wrong with this unit.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:44 AM
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+1 on k9rzz. Mine was built in the 80s, I've owned it since 2008. It still has the Icom ROM battery in it and still going like hell. I have run it pretty much every single day since 2008 for an average of 3-4 hours a day. The only "trouble" it ever had, was what I thought was a heat issue with the ssb walking itself up a few kHz on its own (like you sound when you inhale a bunch of helium)
It turned out to be a simple matter of "massaging" the "C78" trimmer back/forth a few times then a small relign and she's been dead on since I may buy a backup r71a I love it that much. This one I will recap someday as it is a radio that well earns and deserves another go-round.
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Old 12-03-2012, 1:28 AM
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Hiya Ridge,

I got some advice from a gentleman a year or so ago that has been into electronics for years. I was advised that recapping was a bad idea. As a radio ages, the tolerance is not as good as it at one time was. If you go putting new caps in a radio and the tolerance of the components after the new cap are older and not up to the specs they at one time were, you may do more harm then good. I was told "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and the opinion sounded good to me.

To the OP, the Kenwood R-5000 is a fine radio. The Drake R-8 is as well if you can find one in decent shape.

Last edited by corbintechboy; 12-03-2012 at 1:32 AM..
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Old 12-03-2012, 3:28 AM
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This is a answer to a question I posted on the Panasonic RF2200 group about re-capping:

A cap can have no signs of bulging, and still be defective. High ESR is the
easiest-to-diagnose indicator of a defect, because you do not have to desolder
the cap from the PCB.

On the RF2200, and my quote is valid for THIS radio ONLY, Panasonic used such
high-quality capacitors that it is the rare exception, rather than the rule that
you will find any defective capacitors in this radio.
Do not read any other inferences into the above statement.

Could you have a defective capacitor in this radio? Of course, anything is
possible under the sun, but it is highly unlikely. On other radios, the tendency
is to certainly find defective capacitors, on this radio - not!

Unless your RF and electronic knowledge guarantees that you know what you are
doing with this machine, leave the capacitors alone. There are numerous PI- and
Tank circuits, which require exact capacitor characteristics, and unless you
understand what is going on in these circuits, you will destroy its ability to
do the job.

As someone else suggested to use the Panasonic FC, it is a fine capacitor for
power circuits, but not suited for a willy-nilly recap in this radio.

Of course, it is your radio, and you are free to do with it as you like, but you
may not like the results if you do anything without the proper understanding.


I totally agree with the RF caps not having a need to be replaced with the
2200. The power supply and DC blocking electrolytic caps may need replacement
but I would not do this unless there is a performance issue. Radios that are
stored for a long time may be subject to capacitor degradation, they can corrode
and leak almost like dry cell batteries.
One time I ran into a capacitor issue that was not with electrolytics, it was
a tuning problem with band switching. The service manual talks about this, there
is a range of polystyrene capacitor values to correct this, the manual has a
list. Only problem is sourcing these capacitors. I could not find them so this
project ended right there.
My "el-cheapo" 2200 works fine in the performance area and I will leave it
alone!
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Old 12-03-2012, 4:57 AM
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I'm quite surprised that the Willco boards are even still around, much less available. I should note that I know of at least 2 that have told me that installation of those boards is not for the average hacker (one is an extra class ham, and works in the broadcast media center as a technician). If you do go this route, line up someone that will do it for you.

Another source of replacements for that battery is here...

ICOMPROM ICOM Non-Volatile RAM Module - $69.00 : Piexx Company, Computers & Electronics

I know of more than a couple of R71s that have had the PROM fail - not surprising, given the age of the radio. As I understand it, the battery only comes into play when the set has no power. If it's left connected to the AC all the time (not a recommended practice during lightning storms) you probably won't have an issue.

Better safe than sorry...Mike
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:10 PM
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Take it for what it's worth, I cannot fix TV's, I've only built one Heathkit, although I've been tinkering for 30+ years ... I had no problems putting in the Willco board. It comes with directions. YMMV.
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corbintechboy View Post
Hiya Ridge,

I got some advice from a gentleman a year or so ago that has been into electronics for years. I was advised that recapping was a bad idea. As a radio ages, the tolerance is not as good as it at one time was. If you go putting new caps in a radio and the tolerance of the components after the new cap are older and not up to the specs they at one time were, you may do more harm then good. I was told "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and the opinion sounded good to me.

To the OP, the Kenwood R-5000 is a fine radio. The Drake R-8 is as well if you can find one in decent shape.
You may be right given how nowadays the r71a is getting pretty long in the tooth. I have no need to do one now as the rig is top notch but thought it a good thing in the future. I stuck it in the r71a Yahoo Group to see if I can scare up more on this thanks CTB
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Old 12-03-2012, 9:15 PM
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Understanding fully that your interest is primarily in a conventional tabletop receiver, I would still suggest not discounting or overlooking the SDR (software defined receiver).

One that is within your price range and that has received overall good reviews can be found at this site: AFEDRI SDR

The software to run it varies, and is by and large free. Check out Software Defined Radio for what I think is the best of them.

I'm to this day a casual SWL'er, but I use SDR Radio with my RFSpace SDR-14, and the ability to see a wide range of signals, click on one of them, and automatically tune to it is to me priceless. I'm not sure I'd go back to a conventional tabletop receiver after my experience with this type of setup.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:21 AM
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heyhey none of that newfangled internet stuff here! Meters and dials man-meters and dials
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Old 12-04-2012, 3:00 AM
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I've read nothing but good things about Kenwood R-1000's. Some of the Yaesu's are good also, you may want to look into the Yaesu FRG-100. Some of them go for decent prices on the used market.

I have an older Yaesu model and I think they are well designed radios.
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Old 12-04-2012, 1:49 PM
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I've played around with the Perseus software defined radio, and while it performs admirably, the reason I would buy one is the ability to record a section of the spectrum and play it back over and over. That can be a huge advantage while Dxing, although I'd still prefer a box with knobs in front of me for every day listening..
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Old 12-04-2012, 2:38 PM
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The R1000s surely had a very hot front end - I played with a couple - so much so that if you live in an urban environment, it's possible you will need to add some MW filtering to prevent overloading issues. YMMV (and probably will)....Mike
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Old 12-04-2012, 3:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scannerman1000 View Post
I am looking into purchasing a desktop communications receiver for general SWL and some SSB. My price range is around $300-$400.
I'm curious by this statement? What did you mean by "some SSB?"

Most utility comms are solely USB/LSB so if you're interested in monitoring non-broadcast stations then a radio with USB/LSB is *required* for SWL.

FYI, a used radio is a good way to save money but some require some "tune-up" and/or additional TLC that may be more than you bargained for... be very careful buying used.

You're not going to find a lot of options in the "new" category for your price range. The best value is a SDR but since you said you wanted the traditional radio... you're best bet is this -->

Desktop style: Grundig Satellit 750 Radio Receiver
Portable style: Sangean ATS-909X Portable Shortwave Radio ATS909X

(The best sounding portable-desktop style is the Grundig SAT 800 but it's quite large.)

If you can find one for that price (which may be difficult), the R-5000 is a very nice receiver. I'd pick that over the R71a. (It's more compact too and has slightly better performance.)

PS. The "desktop" portables come with decent antenna jacks and have extra electronics that can withstand the signal of a full-size outdoor antenna. Some "portables" can use an external antenna but you need to be careful since they can overload the portable receiver -- and in rare cases, damage the portable.

Last edited by nickcarr; 12-04-2012 at 3:43 PM..
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