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Info on Hallicrafters S 120

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#1
I am considering getting a Hallicrafters S 120, and it is going to be my first shortwave receiver. I was wandering if anyone has one or has had one in the past, and if so how good of receivers are they? Are they easy to use? Any known issues with them in general? The one i'm looking at is right around 35.00 if i can get it, is that a reasonable price? Or should i keep looking for something else in that price range? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks
 

Token

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#3
I am considering getting a Hallicrafters S 120, and it is going to be my first shortwave receiver. I was wandering if anyone has one or has had one in the past, and if so how good of receivers are they? Are they easy to use? Any known issues with them in general? The one i'm looking at is right around 35.00 if i can get it, is that a reasonable price? Or should i keep looking for something else in that price range? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks

The S-120 was introduced in about 1961. It is about as “entry level” as you could get in the day and was essentially an updated S-38, minus one of the S-38’s 5 tubes (meaning the S-120 has 4 tubes). The S-120A is a solid state version of the same radio.

How good a receiver are they? Well, for their price (~$70 new) I guess they were not bad. Of course they did not compare in any way to their “big brothers” in the Hallicrafters line, such as the SX-115, SX-117, and SX-122, but then those radios all cost $280 to $700 at the same time. The S-120 has relatively poor selectivity, and only a BFO, so SSB does work, but is less than optimal.

Are they easy to use? For the basics, turn it on, spin the dial, receive a signal, yes they are easy. Because of their poor frequency display (typical of lower end radios) it can be difficult to tell what frequency you are listening to. So to turn it on and receive the signal you want, instead of just one you stumble on, can be a challenge.

In my opinion for $35 dollars it better be in pretty good shape. True, you are not going to afford much more radio for $35, but if you have to put work into an S-120 and have already put $35 into it you are getting past its value pretty quick.

Would I recommend an S-120 as a new HF listener’s first radio? Not today I would not, I think the frustration factor might be too high, and drive the new user away. But then again, anything I recommend as a new listeners first radio is going to cost several times $35.

I have an S-120 in my collection. However I seldom even think of it, and pretty much never get it out. While it is no worse than the S-38 it replaced the S-38 has a very much more classic feel to it, as does something like the S-72. Seriously, if you want something that limited and that basic I would say maybe grab an S-85 or an SX-99 (my first radio was an SX-99, and I still have it today, over 40 years later). They may not function all that much better on any one signal, but the freq dials are better and they just have a more “classic” feel to them. After you decide they are too much of a pain for regular use they still make a nice “occasional” rig, or a shelf item.

T!
 
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#4
Yeah, i like older tube radios. They have a good sound to them and are generally easy to repair bc usually it will only need caps,resistors and sometimes a tube replaced and then theyre good to go for another 50 years..

This one looks to be in good condition, the only thing i plan to do to it is a simple re cap down the line, i figure maybe 10.00 worth of caps depending on how large the electrolytic are.... I know i'm not going to get much for 35-40.00 but that is what i have to work with. i looked up them models you listed on ebay, and the sx 99 was 150.00 only one of it on there, the s 85 was 129.00 restored, only one on there, the s 38, i seen a few they were in the 40.00 range and no s 72's on there. I would like to get something more advanced down the line, but for now its likely going to be an s 120. It will give me something interesting to listen to. Hopefully i can receive stations from overseas. I plan to use a basic long wire antenna for it, maybe 10-12 ft long outside a window.
 
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#5
Going by your login name, it sounds like a winner! When I started out back in '74, my neighbor gave me a Hallicrafters S-40B out of his garage which I used for a long time. No bells and whistles on that one either, but I sure logged lots of neat stations, as well as cut my teeth in ham radio with it as well.

Good luck and if you get it, tell us how it's running!
 

aggie72

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#6
I am considering getting a Hallicrafters S 120, and it is going to be my first shortwave receiver. I was wandering if anyone has one or has had one in the past, and if so how good of receivers are they? Are they easy to use? Any known issues with them in general? The one i'm looking at is right around 35.00 if i can get it, is that a reasonable price? Or should i keep looking for something else in that price range? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks
The S120 was my first shortwave receiver back in the early 60's. With a good antenna you will be able to listen to a lot of stations all over the world. This radio is one reason I now have over a two dozen Hallicrafters, Hammerland and Zenith shortwaves; not to mention a bunch of newer models. I still have my S120 and turn it on every now and then. Yes, they do keep you warm on these cold winter days and the glowing tube filaments remind me of the good ol' days. If you have the equipment and experience I would recommend you give it a tune-up assuming it's not defective. They are pretty easy to work on but it might need some TLC to get it working again.
 
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#7
I'm going to try to get it, missed putting a bid on it this morning bc it ended early, but no one bid on it so the seller said he'd relist it and i told him if he did a buy it now i'd do 25.00 plus the 15.00 for shipping. I think 40.00 will still be a good price, considering some people are asking 50-75.00 out of them on ebay and i seen another that had a bid of 26.00 on it with a few days left on it.. so i think if i were to ever sell if i upgrade i could get atleast what i paid for it, if i list on ebay.. but i'll likely keep it
 

kb2vxa

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#8
Just one thing to add, lacking a product detector receiving SSB can be somewhat problematical. To receive it at all the BFO injection level must match the IF signal level, with the RF gain wide open it is insufficient. That means you must reduce RF gain and increase audio gain which means running audio wide open and using the RF gain as a volume control. Trouble is the AGC level will be low to none so you have to adjust the RF gain for different signal levels. Keep your hand on it because a sudden, unexpected strong signal can knock you out of your chair.

"Yes, they do keep you warm on these cold winter days and the glowing tube filaments remind me of the good ol' days."

Eh, an SX-120 might keep your feet warm but a 60W RCA CarFone VHF rig bristling with 23 tubes will heat the shack. It has been said real radios glow in the dark but on the other hand 12V is for wimps, real radios can kill you. Boat anchors, an SX-120 is fine for a rowboat but a Collins KW-1 can hold a battleship in a typhoon.
 
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#9
If i want to receive SSB i can get either a CB with that in it or a SSB radio.. but ive really never heard much on USB&LSB when i had a cb with it.. I mainly want to listen to overseas stuff on SW and maybe a bit of the lower Ham bands if it even picks them up.. I know it is a small radio compared to some of the real "boat anchors".. I live near Fair Radio Sales and have seen there "boat anchors" that are on wheels.. I have no need for anything large..
 

Token

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#10
If i want to receive SSB i can get either a CB with that in it or a SSB radio.. but ive really never heard much on USB&LSB when i had a cb with it.. I mainly want to listen to overseas stuff on SW and maybe a bit of the lower Ham bands if it even picks them up.. I know it is a small radio compared to some of the real "boat anchors".. I live near Fair Radio Sales and have seen there "boat anchors" that are on wheels.. I have no need for anything large..
Almost all of the transmissions you hear in the ham bands on HF will be either SSB or CW, and the S-120 will do those, but it is a chore. Outside of international broadcast stations (which are in AM) the majority of everything in the HF range is in SSB or some form of digital that requires an SSB receiver.

On HF you have to plan on doing SSB, period. Don't compare it to CB, it is a totally different world.

T!
 

kb2vxa

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#11
Being a general coverage receiver you'll have no problem picking up SW, ham and CB.
Hallicrafters S-120 Shortwave Radio Receiver
Another thing to note, tuning is easier using the bandspread dial, just set the main tuning at the top of the band segment you want to listen to and the bandspread will tune down from there within its range.

It's a nice little radio and a whole lot better than my first SW set, the radio section of an old B&W TV, radio and record player combo. Lucky you living near Unfair Radio looking over their mil surplus boat anchors. Now you know that during WW2 and Korea the Army considered anything you can move with a forklift mobile. One thing about them that ticks me off, some of their stuff is "demilitarized" meaning many original parts are removed, most unnecessarily. A perfect example is the R-390 receiver minus the dB meters and modern meters look so out of place. So why do they remove them? They had glow in the dark radium dials BUT the radium has long lost its ginger and the dials no longer glow.

That calls for a slight revision, real radios glow in the dark, 12V is for wimps, real radios can kill you and the rest will give you a hernia.
 
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#12
I had no clue it would pick up in the 27-29MHZ range.Ive always heard them called unfair radio, but lucky for me all i buy there is caps and tubes which are not badly priced.. I never understood why people call it unfair radio, unless its bc of there prices on there ham gear.. I have noticed some of there stuff are missing a few parts here and there.. like alot are missing power supplies and some use quite odd Dc voltages and unreal current like 50 VDC at 75 amps.. The funny thing about them is i see all the same military radios sitting in the front of the store year after year.. you would think they would bring the price down to move them..
 
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#13
S-120 was a step up from the S-38. I made the jump on to the SX-111 and transitioned it into my first ham radio station (60-some years ago) with a military surplus ARC-3 radio that tuned 150-500 KHz. Wrapping its antenna lead around the plate output of the final IF tube in the SX-111 made pretty stable SSB reception as well as CW.

If you can, save your money and move on to an IC-718 if you can or older Kenwood TS-430/440 ham radios which have all-mode coverage form 150 KHz to 30 MHz. SWL on it and start working on that ham ticket so you can use the microphone and key or keyer (built into the IC-718. Why 718 rather than exotic newer ones? Fewer useless bells and whistles. The object is communication, not HiFi.

I have two IC-718s for station at home and mobile. Backup to that? DX-60 with VFO and HR-1 Heathkits.
 
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#14
Kenwood stuff is nice, but not for me.. i'm not paying the prices people ask out of there kenwood stuff.. it is usually outrageously priced.. I rather stick with hallicrafters,heathkit or even realistic, yes the get expensive but not nearly as bad as kenwood. I'd love to get my technician or general class ticket, but it is just difficult due to nobody teaching classes around where i live. I know i can study online but its just not the same. I would rather be taught so i can ask questions and then take the test right there rather then doing an online test. Maybe next time i go to fair radio i will ask the local ham there if he plans on teaching again.
 
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#15
Price usually reflects value. I was writing of used, not new. As for a ham to tutor you, just ask if you can "look over his shoulder while he's on the air." Let that lead to where it will with questions and answers and who knows where you might wind up. I was lucky to have a father who was a "radio fan" in the 1920s when radio was brand new. He never got a license to transmit. Wasn't his thing to talk to strangers. But he did instil in his son the urge to listen to short wave. That led to a radio class given in my high school. Two semesters on theory of receivers, circuits and repairing things with glowing tubes and 300 volt plates that'd get your attention at a single touch. That led to broadcasting as a career right out of high school. Not engineering, talking. Did you know you can be paid for talking? I was for 15 years, including 10 at a station with 50,000 watt transmitters for radio and TV. There, I was ill for a time and the entire studio and transmitting engineering staff decided to make a "ham" with a ticket out of the ham on the air while I recuperated.

See where you might go? And buy used. Cheaper by far than new and you'll learn more that way and maybe really become a "communicator," which is what amateur radio started out to be. Listen today. Not many communicators, just appliance operators with money trying to out brag each other.

73 de W0JOG
 
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kb2vxa

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#16
Calling it Unfair Radio just hit me out of the blue like other humerous name changes. You did hit on something, on some items you get good deals, some not so good and frankly some is electronic scrap which is probably how they bought it and sell at outrageous prices. One thing about old mil surplus is Army uses 24VDC and Navy 36VDC so mods are required but what operated from 50 (probably more like 48) I have no idea other than telephone equipment that operates from the 48VDC common battery supply.

Well what do you know, back in the day using an ARC receiver for double conversion was fairly common. That reminds me of "Radio Row" in the Cortland Street area of NYC, the Mercantile District. There was so much mil surplus all over the sidewalk in front of the shops you walked by with an odd gait trying not to trip over it. The Mercantile Building along with the shops were demolished to make way for the World Trade Center complex and Radio Row faded into history and fond memories.
 

Token

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#17
S-120 was a step up from the S-38. I made the jump on to the SX-111 and transitioned it into my first ham radio station (60-some years ago) with a military surplus ARC-3 radio that tuned 150-500 KHz. Wrapping its antenna lead around the plate output of the final IF tube in the SX-111 made pretty stable SSB reception as well as CW.
Sorry, the S-120 was not a step up from the S-38. The S-120 was basically a repackaged late model S-38 (the S-38E specifically) with a solid state rectifier instead of the 35W4 rectifier tube. In performance they were identical, however I preferred the layout of the S-38, it felt more solid and the S-120 had a more “plastic” feel to it. Also, the round dials just looked better to me, but that would be opinion, and not quantifiable.

Remember the S-38 itself went through several changes however basic performance was the same from right after the beginning (late 1946 changes) to the end of the production run (1961). The original S-38 was six tubes, but the last S-38’s had the same basic 5 tube configuration that the S-38A would have in 1947. The late S-38, S-38A, and S-38B all had the same basic configuration. There was a slight change for the S-38C and S-38D, the IF amplifier tube was changed. The “new” 4 tube (counting everything except the rectifier, the fifth tube in the circuit) configuration that would eventually transfer to the S-120 came out with the S-38E in 1957. The S-120 came out in 1961 as the replacement for the S-38E. The S-120A transistor version came out in 1967.

How similar where the S-38E and the S-120? You could use the schematic from one to troubleshoot the other if needed, the basic circuit was essentially the same with renumbered parts and minor variations.

S-38E schematic:
http://mikeyancey.com/files/S-38E/S-38E MKII.jpg

S-120 schematic:
http://www.mcmlv.org/Archive/Radio/HallicraftersS120.pdf

Time gets away from us, and decades and years are hard to remember at times, having a way of blurring together. But I don’t think you could have transitioned the SX-111 into your first ham radio station “60-some years ago”.

The SX-111 came out in late 1959, slightly over 53 years ago. So, “50-some years ago” I can buy, assuming you got the SX-111 new. The SX-111 is one of the few Hallicrafters I have never owned, but would add one to my collection if I stumbled on one.

T!
 
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San Francisco, Ca.
#18
Yeah, i like older tube radios. They have a good sound to them and are generally easy to repair bc usually it will only need caps,resistors and sometimes a tube replaced and then theyre good to go for another 50 years..

This one looks to be in good condition, the only thing i plan to do to it is a simple re cap down the line, i figure maybe 10.00 worth of caps depending on how large the electrolytic are.... I know i'm not going to get much for 35-40.00 but that is what i have to work with. i looked up them models you listed on ebay, and the sx 99 was 150.00 only one of it on there, the s 85 was 129.00 restored, only one on there, the s 38, i seen a few they were in the 40.00 range and no s 72's on there. I would like to get something more advanced down the line, but for now its likely going to be an s 120. It will give me something interesting to listen to. Hopefully i can receive stations from overseas. I plan to use a basic long wire antenna for it, maybe 10-12 ft long outside a window.
I'd give it at least 30-40' or more if possible to really give the ol' man a good shot at some distant stuff:) I hope ya got a winner there TRG so you can enhance the hobby with heat! Do you have others in your collection that warrant your handle? Would like to hear what you have.
 
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#19
Hey thanks for the schematic, saves me the hassle of having to find one when i want to do a cap job.. I actually like the look of the s 120 over most of the s 38 models, espically the C model.. The dial is curved and looks like it would be hard to read. If i get the s 120 which hopefully the seller gets back with me tomorrow i think i'd want to illuminate the dial with some small bulb or white LED.. that way i can see the dial easier in the dark. Would that be an easy and possible mod?

I would have to figure out where to run that much wire, but i'm sure i could figure something out.. I'd probably get 50 ft of 24 gauge speaker wire, if that would be good enough.
This would be my first SW receiver.. The only other thing i own with tubes right now is a zenith X334 AM/FM radio.. Ive had other tube stuff, just 2 other am/fm amplifier sections from console radios that were both a flop. I chose this name bc i like tube stuff.
 
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