eHam.net - Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net



[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Classic SSB HF Radios

from James Benedict, N8FVJ on September 8, 2010
View comments about this article!

Classic SSB HF Radios

"Editor's Note: Due to the popularity of some of eHam's older articles, many of which you may not have read, the eHam.net team has decided to rerun some of the best articles that we have received since eHam's inception. These articles will be reprinted to add to the quality of eHam's content and in a show of appreciation to the authors of these articles." This article was originally published on: 04/22/2002





Hams have a lot of interest and fond memories of HF radio equipment manufactured in the early 70s & 80s. The radios in this era represented a 'bridge' between all electron tube based gear and the newer soild-state synthesized HF radios.

Drake and Collins were more representative of 1960s HF radios brought to the ultimate refinement in the late 70s. A Drake R4-C with Sherwood Engineering modifications can outperform most new radios on 160 meters with high noise levels and crowded band conditions. The Collins 75S3C is also a great performer with great sounding tube based audio and a mechanical filter that just 'sings special notes' on SSB reception. These radios are too important not to be included in this group, however, I will focus on the transceiver versions. The rest of the radios are for the most part imported from Asia.

Interesting receiver performance issues with the era of these radios are not so well known or understood. The reason the radios are still well appreciated is most have very sensitive receivers with a low noise floor. Keep in mind, the more sensitive a receiver is, the more difficult it is to engineer a better Blocking Dynamic Range, Third Order Intermodulation Distortion Dynamic Range and other performance issues. Removing about 8-10dB of signal input at the receiver helps a lot. Also, this era of radios will close the performance 'gap' with the newer designed radios when the 100kHz standard Blocking Dynamic Range as measured by QST Product Reviews is reduced to a 3kHz to 5kHz range. In other words, the numbers do not look so poor. Another issue is most of the receivers in this era did not use a broadband synethizer, rather a HF tunable crystal oscillator ultimately resulting in the frequency selection. Some later radios of this era made use of a PLL with bandswitching that performed well. Early synthesizers generated a high noise floor. This resulted in a much higher noise floor that masked weak signals and caused a low level 'roar' that is fatiguing. What you were hearing on the early synthesized radios was noise that was not actually present on the band! This is ugly business to a purist or someone who knows what and how the band should sound like at the time of day or night. Ten Tec made many hot radios with this common engineering knowledge. A great example of high synthesizer noise is the IC-725, Yaesu FT-757GX (its low dollar brother, FT-747GX, way outperforms the FT-757GX) and well I leave Kenwood out of this because they had the best early synthesizers. The tradeoff is high frequency stability and general receive. Myself, I would rather have drift and a seperate receiver for foreign broadcast!

The radios in this article are not poor performers at all. In fact, are preferred by many operators (TS-830S for example). Anyways, this is what all the hype is about regarding this era of radios and the Ten Tec Corsair & OMNI series of radios. Will these radios 'blow away' the new higher-end offerings today? No. The radios listed are mostly solid-state with electron tube driver and a pair of finals. I am not concerned with tube replacement as the tubes are available everyday at the internet auction sites.

COLLINS KWM II

This is a electron tube based radio that was manufactored from the 1960s thru the late 70s. Collins was bought by Rockwell International and is in business today. The KWM II is a compact transceiver that performs well. The frequency selection is mixed with a crystal controlled oscillator. Many crystals were used to produce a fine bandspread type tuning rate. The use of the mechanical filters produces sweet sounding SSB and CW performance was good. I do not have much information, but have operated the radio many times. I would recommend you visit a Collins site with more information. Collins produced the 75S1, 75S3, 75S3A, B and C series receivers. With each model performance grew to the point of fairly high performance. The 75S3C has a noise floor of -146dB (I believe the KWM II is about the same). The DDR is 122dB and IMDDR is 90dB.

COLLINS KWM 380

The KWM 380 is a all solid-state HF transceiver manufactured about 1980/81. This is an expensive collectors item of well over $2K. I do not have a lot of test data, but the noise floor is about -131dB.

DRAKE TR4CW RIT

The drake transceiver started life back in the early 1960s. The intent was to produce a compact transceiver somewhat simular to the 1958 Collins KWM I. The radio progressed over the years into the TR4CW RIT. This design made use of three 6JB6 sweep tubes producing about 175 watts SSB PEP output. The USB and LSB was selected using a pair of special unsymetrical crystal filters at the 9mHz I.F. The 'CW RIT' was the last of the series using an optional CW filter and a seperate receive tuning knob that shifted the receive frequency without effecting the transmit frequency. These radios are becoming expensive. Performance measurements include a noise floor of -124dB, BDR of 105dB and an IMDDR of 74dB.

DRAKE TR-7 & TR-7A

Intorduced in the late 70s, Drake has always taken pride in their engineering group. The TR-7 was an engineering design change for Drake. The radio is all solid-state. Many features were available and even continious general transmit & receive was an option. The outstanding measured test data of the TR-7A is a noise floor of -133dB, BDR at 146dB and an IMDDR of 99dB. Hey, how about an intercept point of +25. This is like a high-end current manufacture HF transceivers. Twenty-three years ago? Amazing. Drake moved on into the satelite receiver business and other commercial areas.

YAESU FT-101

This radio must be the most talked about radio in ham history. I do not know who bought more of these radios- Ham or CB operators. In Yaesu's defense, the FT-101 was never meant to be a CB radio. In fact AM transmission represented over 90% of CB communications and the FT-101 transmits poor, low level modulated AM with only one carrier! The FT-101 introduction was a stunning package- small sized for the era and loaded with standard features. The FT-101 is certainly the most modified imported radio to date. It had such a following that a new aftermarket business was created. Fox Tango started a newsletter, offered aftermarket crystal filters and perhaps 100, (1000?) modifications. I consider it the VW (car) of ham radio. The models were FT-101 with B, C, D, E, EE, EX, F, Z and ZD series. Have I forgot a series letter? For the most part, the letters represented either a technical upgrade or an option upgrade such as 12VDC operation. I consider the FT-101 thru the F series to be about the same chassis if you will. The Z series was a departure that resembles the newer FT-901 series radio. To this day, I want a mint condition FT-101ZD (when I get around to it). The receiver on both series performs ok with the Z & ZD series the best of the two models. The noise floor is about -140dB, BDR is about -108dB and IMDDR is about 81dB.

YAESU FT-401, FT-560, FT-570

This family of radios were an earlier design using mostly electron tubes. The package was much larger than the FT-101 series and the SSB output was about double at 200 Watts PEP. The receivers performed OK, however I do not have specifications. Also, the under chassis wiring was messy with the appearance of an old tube TV set of the 1950s. This does not mean the radio is not desirable by some operators. The front panel is a cast aluminum piece that looks impressive and is much too costly to use today.

YAESU FT-901, FT-902DM

This is a radio designed after the FT-101 series and marketed at approximately the same time as the FT-101Z. This series are the Yaesu 'heavy weights' battling it out with the competition. The competition was the TS-820 and TS830S. This series of radios performs well. The FT-901 has a noise floor of -137dB, blocking dynamic range of about 120dB and IMDDR of 90dB. According to the above specs, it matches or outperforms a new FT-847 on HF!

YAESU FT-102

This is the last of the electron tube final series. The transmitter has three 6146B finals for about 160 watts PEP SSB output. The receiver is the best performer of the Yaesu tube series. I have been told if the HF radio is close to some high powered transmitters, the receiver front-end will hold up well against the best of the new HF transceivers. The noise floor is -130dB, BDR is about 120dB and IMDDR is 98dB. A minor issue is the front end bandpass filters used relays for a serious 2nd order intercept specification. The relays may have poor contacts after time and will need replacement from Omron manufacture (common US based stock). A ham, I believe in Florida, offers a kit that loads a few milliampere of current thru the contacts greatly increasing the contact life.

YAESU FT-107M

This is the Yaesu all solid-state radio that was the competition for the Kenwood TS-180S. The radio used a PLL that was quiet in operation. The radio was sold in an off- white package that makes it a 'one of a kind' package. I have spent some time with this radio and performance is reasonable. The noise floor is -133 dB, Blocking Dynamic range is about 115dB (based upon the FT-902DM chassis design) and IMDDR is a respectable 90dB. Yaesu made use of a 'roofing' filter in the receiver front-end for better performance. An optional FV-107 external VFO and a FTV-107R transverter for VHF/UHF operation is available.

KENWOOD TS-520S

The TS-520S was another famous HF package that also must have sold thoudands of this model radio. Attractive, compact and a 'real hams radio' was the feelings in the '70s. Either you had a FT-101 or a TS-520S. 'One camp or the other', these two radios battled it out and caused two followings to this day. 'Yep, I am a Kenwood fan' was the phrase of the day. Anyways, the TS-520S used a pair of 6146B tubes vs the FT-101 6JS6C TV 'sweep' tubes. (CRT horizontial sweep tubes are a sturdy design and outperforms 6146B tubes- no kidding). The TS-520S has a noise blanker that is considered one of the best today. Receiver performance is about equal to the FT-101 series- noise floor of -133dB, BDR of about 105dB and an IMDDR of 70dB. So which 'camp' am I in? Still trying to figure that one out!

KENWOOD TS-820

This was Kenwoods' top contender, an upgrade from the TS-520S. The receiver is better than the TS-520S. The noise floor is -136dB, BDR is -114dB and an IMDDR of 114dB. This receivers' close DR is much better than the TS-520S as the close range DR is about 20dB better at 3kHz or 78dB.

KENWOOD TS-530S, TS-530SP

This is the revised TS-520S. The receiver still is single conversion like the FT-101 and TS-520S, but performance is higher. Noise floor is -136dB, BDR is 120dB and IMDDR is 90dB. This is good performance and better than the earlier top-gun TS-820! I do not know the close range DR specification. The radio is more rare than the TS-520s and TS-820 because the focus was on the TS-830S.

KENWOOD TS-180S

This is a solid-state version of the TS-820S. The receiver performed about the same as the TS-820 per QST, but per Sherwood Engineering measurements of the close-in DR has the TS-180S measured at 68dB @ 3kHz and the TS-820 was 78dB @ 3kHz. This is a nice package for the hams that want no tune, solid-state performance. A seperate 13.8VDC power supply is required unlike the electron tube based radios.

TS-120, TS-130S, TS-130SE, TS-130V

These radios were Kenwoods' first compact HF mobiles. The 'V' series was for QRP operation with 5 watts output. The newer TS-130S is the better of the two series. The noise floor is -138dB, BDR is 109dB and the IMDDR is about 78dB.

KENWOOD TS-830S

Kenwood hit a 'home run' with this radio. The upgrade is the double conversion receiver. This allows better IF filtering and provided a noise floor of -136dB, a Dynamic Range of 129dB and an IMDDR of about 85dB. The close-in DR is excellent, measured at 81dB @ 2kHz using the YK-88 CW filter. This was the 'DX contest' radio of choice for many years.

TEN TEC TITAN IV

Ten Tec started the solid-state, small package in the early '70s upgrading to the Titan series. The Titan IV Digital with optional filters is a good performing receiver. I do not have specifications, however the noise floor is quiet and the I.F. filtering is good.

TEN TEC OMNI A, B & D

This family of radios are hot performers as the noise floors are about -130 to -135, BDR are between -125 to -135dB and the IMDDR are 85 to 95dB. All are solid-state, no tune radios. The radios were available from the late 70s to about 1981. Performance was very high at this time and outperformed other manufactures.

TEN TEC CORSAIR

I am not sure when the original Corsair was available, but I believe in the early 1980s. The receiver is very good and CW operation is a 'key-pounders' dream. It is the fast full break-in that just feels right according to many operators. The receiver section has a noise floor of -131dB, DBR of 130 and an IMDDR of 93. At the time this radio would outperform the imported radios. Funny thing is no one ever knew it. The receiver is better than most middle priced radios available today.

ICOM IC-701

The IC-701 was intorduced in 1979 as a solid-state design. Icom was committed to all solid-state design HF transceivers. Performance was good with a noise floor of -133dB, DDR of 130dB and an IMDDR of about 85dB.

ICOM IC-720A

The IC-720A was available in the very early 1980s. Performance was improved with a noise floor of -133dB, DDR of 138dB and an IMDDR of about 95dB. This is a good performer.

ICOM IC-730

This 1981 compact radio was interesting with a quad conversion receiver and an optional passband tuning filter. Performance was with a noise floor of -140dB, DDR of 135dB and an IMDDR of 92dB.

ICOM IC-740

This radio was introduced in 1983. Performance was excellent and the filter options were large allowing one to custom tune to their requirements. Extremely low PLL noise was a benefit as well. The noise floor is -141dB, DDR of 125dB and IMDDR of 94dB. The hot receiver is highly recommended.

ICOM IC-751A

This is getting to be too new for a classic SSB radio as it was introduced in 1985. Some hams will disagree. Their ham hobby evolved around this radio for many years and other HF radios are simply not needed. (Mabby I am getting too old). Noise floor is -133dB, BDR is 138dB and the IMDDR is about 93dB. If I increase the sensitivity too high to a possible -141dB, the dynamic range becomes noise limited. (The noise level of the HF bands is about -133dB).

SWAN ASTRO 150

Manufactured in 1980, this solid-state HF transceiver was a good performer in its time. The noise floor is -131, DDR is 118dB and IMDDR is 86dB.

Hey, Where Are The TWINS- another article will focus on the famous sets of 'Twins'- Drake, Swan, Collins, Yaesu, Kenwood, Heathkit and Davco.

Hope you enjoyed the article and 'sparked' some interest in these older classic SSB radios. For more information, please visit under eHam links the 'Sherwood Endineering' site. It is located under 'commercial- filters'. At the site, look up Receiver Test Data. Bob has a fun site, a 'tweekers' delight- don't miss it!

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by ZENKI on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting list, some of my favorite radios on your list.

However we need to lose our obsession with receiver performance by itself. Transmitter design issues should have equal or greater emphasis.

The vast majority of current model radios have poor transmitter IMD performance despite their excellent receiver performance and high prices! My K3 is an example, good receiver lousy transmitter.

You cannot exploit the excellent receiver performance of the many radios on your list simply because the vast majority of transmitters on your list have marginal to very bad transmitter IMD performance.

If your re-organized your list based on both transmitter and receiver performance your list would be a very short one indeed!

The only amateur transmitter that has considered transmitter IMD performance as part of the design equation has been the ADAT transceiver.

Its amazing that we still have 12 volt CB transistor in ham radios intended for home station use. A classic case in point is the new Kenwood TS590S, supposedly a good receiver however it will probably have a marginal transmitter because of its 12 volt operation.

We need radios with transmitters that perform as well as the FT102 and KWM2a both which have 3rd IMD figures of around -40 db. This is almost double the performance of most new model radios.

If you need a comparison look at the QST review of the FT9000D's IMD performance. In the QST review the figures were no better than a CB radio despite its $10,000 dollar cost!

Simply put, these poor transmitter jam your receiver from achieving its best performance. At end of the day its nice gloating about where your favorite radio is on the list. Unfortunately its some cheap transmitter thats going to knock it right to the bottom of the list.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K7CB on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I disagree with your comment about the FT-101 sounding poor on AM. I've heard many and they sound really good.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KB2DHG on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
A very nice article and a great reference for anyone wanting a vintage HF radio. I personally love this vintage equipment. I have the YAESU FT-101EE, DRAKE B-line, ICOM 745 and The KENWOOD TS 430 I cannot say anything bad about ANY of these radio's.
Thank you for this good reference article.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K8QV on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
"Progress" doesn't always mean "better."
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WA6DXI on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, brings back some fond memories.

Altough not in same class as the ones in the article, maybe the SBE 33 & SBE 34 could be consider clasics also. The SBE 33 may have been the 1st hybrid tranceiver & the SBE 34 may have been the 1st hybrid tranceiver to have built in AC & DC power supply and both were probably the 1st compact tranceivers. The SBE 34 may still be the most compact stand alone tranceiver that can operate on either AC or DC.

73s and have a GREAT DAY

Don WA6DXI

 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by AD6KA on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Since you got all the way up tp 1985,I believe
you should have included the Kenwood TS-930 and 940.
I think that the 940 is the best HF radio Kenwood has ever made.
AD6KA
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K5COV on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
When you consider that most radios of that era cost $1000-$1500 dollars, if you were to factor in the time value of money through today, think of how much radio you could buy! The price point has stayed the same for years. Makes you wonder.

Glenn
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K7CB on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I agree AD6KA. When I first got licensed, while in high school, my dream station was a Kenwood TS-930 or TS-940...and the TS-830 was/is certainly a kick ass radio. However, I think some might argue that the TS-870 was Kenwood's finest radio.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios (UNIDEN/TEMPO 2020)  
by KG6YV on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
At the risk of being labeled a member of a radical cult (hi) I will add to the list a 1980 vintage hybrid with some very innovative features, the Uniden/Henry Tempo 2020.

1. The rig was designed by Yaesu, manufactured by Uniden and sold in the US as the Henry Tempo 2020.

2. It is a true PLL driven hybrid using 6146 finals and has a digital and analog dial that is very linear because the band segments (selectable with pushbottons) offer 100kc dial span. This can be a bit anoying at first, but the design is so stable, my 2020 drifts "nada" after 3-5 minutes on the air.

3. The receiver is state of the art for the time, with a built in CW filter. Comparing noise levels with my Kenwood 820S and Yaesu 101E of the same vintage the 2020 wins for low noise and sensitivity especially on bands 20M and higher. It also has a continuously variable front end attenuator( potentiometer) AND the S-meter still works as you add attenuation. The noise blanker is excellent, the RIT has two ranges (wide/narrow) and the audio from the receiver is the best I have heard from any 80's vintage hybrid (and I have owned most of them).

4. Construction (since it was a Yaesu design) appears to be a pre-cursor to the Yaesu 901DM. Glass epoxy plug in boards, chassis with plenty of iron, a very heavy transceiver.

5. the receiver RF amplifier/first mixer circuits are separate from the transmitter drive circuits. There are two similar boards with three multi-section variable caps on each, one for the receiver, one for the transmitte. This is all coupled together thru a series of steel chains/drive sprockets behind the radio's front panel. The menagerie looks like a tiing chain setup on an old V-12 engine.

All in all the 2020 is a superbly engineered and somewhat unigue radio. I am lucky enough to have the 2020, remote VFO and Speaker and I use it all the time. One more radio for the classic list....

Greg
KG6YV
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KB4XV on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Why was Heathkit left ou of the list. There were thousands of HW-101 sold along with the other models. For the price and a little work it was a great radio. Wish I still had mine. It was my first radio. Took me about three weeks working at night to build it and it always worked great.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by G3RZP on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I've worked on three FT101ZDs. The problem is the tx - when on 18MHz, the twice IF(9MHz) spurious output is only about 20 to 25 dB down.

The FT102 has a nasty receive spur on 3500kHz and 7000kHz. A signal on very close to those frequncies blasts through, getting weaker as you tune up the band until you get up to about 3505 or 7005. It's due to the lack of isolation between the signals fed to the mixer that drives the frequency counter. It's curable with a fair amount of work - 17 hours with around $80k of test gear at the time, borrowed from work for the weekend. Another interesting exercise is trying to find out where the handbook circuit schematics actually match the equipment - there were several mods in production over the years and not all of them made it to the handbook and schematics. I wouldn't change mine for anything else I've used.

Th HW101 was very good in its class and in its day. The dial drive was a weak point - better than the HW100, it was still poor.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by BOYSCLUBRADIO on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
While the old radios are still just as good the problem really exists with the operator preferance.

The older tube type radios will hold up better and longer than the solid state ones in all kinds of bad environmental conditions. i.e operation during a sever storm. The rec section of the tube type radio will stand up to storm EMP such as local thunderstorms much better.

The transmitter section with tubes is much more tollerant to swaying antennas and mis-match.

What is the real delenator is the frequency read outs. the old tube type used mechanical dials which at best could get you in the ball park for a frequency. The new solid state radios have digital readout to the hundreth of a KC. And... they have memories so that all you do is push buttons to remember where you want to be.

Drifting was also a problem until the tubes/heat inside got stable... thus requir warm up time... something digital solid state does not require.

As to power consumption. One looks at the radio (solid state) and can see that it take very little power to run in recieve when compaired to tube radios.

This is not reality.... due to the high current regulation of the power supply. When one takes the bottom line. (Power input from the line) and compairs the two.. and the tube type radio power supply is almost dead even or LESS on power consumption.

(On rec the KWM-2 takes only 60 watts of 120v. power while the Astron 35 draws a whopping 80 watts of 120v power)

so while the solid state radio only draws 12-20 watts of 12 volt power the regulation in the supply requires more power to stablize it. (switching supplies are indeed more effecent and load dependent on consumption but, they still are about par with the old tube type power supply in rec mode.

Finally tube type radios... make great heaters in the winter time..

Now that we have gone to solid state radios and high effecency FL's one has to crank up the old heater to keep the shack warm and dry... something that the older tube type radios and amps provided as a benifit in the winter time for the op.

As to the supply of tubes. They quit making them years ago. What is left is all that is left... and even those setting on the shelf are going down hill.

It is a toss up as to if one could get a replacement tube vs a replacement transistor. (technology is always changing in the solid state line. One reasion that Icom and the dreaded Kenwood seem not to be able to provide service for outdated (over 5 years old) radios.

thus while tubes are still around... lots of the solid state items that were built into radios are not. (mainly the displays seem to be --one of a kind-- manufactured at the time specific to the radio. )

... good article on the older radios... but you need now to add the Icom 706's and ProIII to the list of OLD Radios that are no longer in production
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by W5RKL on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
The TS-520 series, TS-520, TS-520S, and TS-520SE, were all "dual conversion" transceivers, not "single conversion" transceivers.

The TS-530, TS-820, and TS-830 were all "single conversion" transceivers.

73s
Mike


 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by W8AAZ on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I got my third 101 series radio now, I sold the second in like 84. That was a mistake. The one I got now needs TLC but is functional. The famous "one of these days" project radio. I got it as a backup but would be just as happy with it as a primary radio(if necessary) like I did in the 70s and 80s. Sadly it is getting harder to find them at good prices or in good working order. And the tubes, $$$!, I am lucky to have Japanese spares. But then again I knew people that had 520s and admired that radio, did not see them as "adversaries". Would like one of those but there is no more storage space for radios here! The aftermarket 2.1 KHz filters really can improve things with these, the narrower ones are just too much.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WB8YQJ on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have Drake B Line, C Line, Yaesu FT101E, FT890AT, Ten Tec Corsair II, OMNI VI+. So many classic radios that the newer DSP radios, even though I always kept one for reliability, could never compare or satisfy.

The lure if software (DSP) as a cheaper manufacturing alternative to old time crystal filters is what keeps anything newer than 1990 from becoming a classic in my mind.

My latest transceiver is a Yaesu FT2000 and it shines because it has an analog "half" of the radio, bypassing the limitations of IF DSP.

Recently however I installed a very high quality 3rd party crystal filter on the main receiver side, the one that is DSP. It is an expensive filter by todays standards - $300, but thats roughly what crystal filters sold for back in the day - adjusted for inflation.

The filter is relatively expensive because it operates at 70MHZ and 2.4 khz. This setup is my "new classic".
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WB8YQJ on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Correction: "the lure OF software"...
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by NT9M on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have to admit I've been bitten by this bug. I've had a Tempo 2020 for a few years now, and just bought a TS-820S that's in very nice condition.

Oh the fun we'll have this winter !
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N4KC on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Sort of sad none of the "real" Swans made the list--350, 500, 700CX.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WB4TJH on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Good and enjoyable history, but you made one mistake: Ten Tec's radio is the TRITON IV, not "Titan". I owned a Model 540 years ago, basically the same radio at the Triton. The "TITAN" is a Ten Tec HF linear amplifier. I also think the Heath line should have been covered.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WY3X on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Ten Tec Titan HF set? I think you probably meant Triton. The Titan is their line of amplifiers. -WY3X
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N7WS on September 8, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
ZENKI wrote among other good stuff:

"The vast majority of current model radios have poor transmitter IMD performance despite their excellent receiver performance and high prices! My K3 is an example, good receiver lousy transmitter. "

Amen.

I've said elsewhere that there should be a transceiver figure-of-merit that measures receiver IMD performance when the two test signal sources are two other like transceivers.

Using two pure-as-the-driven-snow crystal oscillators followed by crystal filters carefully combined to minimize test circuit IMD to measure receiver performance tells you how the receiver will perform when the other signals on the band are from pure-as-the-driven-snow crystal oscillators followed by crystal filters.

When crappy transmitters are your neighbors, a super receiver is overkill.

Using nominal 12V bipolar transistor finals in today's radios is nuts. Very few people operate directly from batteries. I happen to use a battery, but I have a boost regulator inline to minimize IMD; I might as well boost to 28-50V and have a radio with FET finals.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by G3RZP on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Not only tx IMD is problematical, but tx wideband noise is another potential difficulty. The old tube rigs had at least one tuned circuit that helped reduce wideband noise: the signal levels were in general higher, improving the transmitted SNR, and most of the oscillators ran at relatively high power, also improving SNR.

The problem with the noise is that generally speaking, it's relatively independent of output power, and the wideband noise levels of all the tx's in a band sum.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K4EQ on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Great informative, memory-filled article. Forgot the Icom IC-745. Had a hot, triple conversion receiver.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K9MHZ on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>by G3RZP on September 8, 2010
The HW101 was very good in its class and in its day. The dial drive was a weak point - better than the HW100, it was still poor.<<<<


Yeah, and the funny thing was they tried to clone in appearance, the Collins gear, but without any dial mass or much of an attempt to limit dial backlash.

Maybe it's just me, but seeing any Heathkit today reminds me of a decaying, rusting Chevy Vega or Ford Pinto.

 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N1DVJ on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
For years I wanted a TS-140SV, but never saw one in the flesh. Then I was told the 'SV' didn't exist, except as a photo mockup. Although there was a '140V' that was sold only in a few countries, the US not being one of them.

I don't know what it was about that rig, but boy did I want one back in the 1980's...
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WA2TTP on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
"Great informative, memory-filled article. Forgot the Icom IC-745. Had a hot, triple conversion receiver."

I used one of these at Field Day this year and it really worked great, much better than the Icom 706 that was being used in the other tents.

Steve
WA2TTP

 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by PF1JM on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
W5RKL wrote:

The TS-520 series, TS-520, TS-520S, and TS-520SE, were all "dual conversion" transceivers, not "single conversion" transceivers.

The TS-530, TS-820, and TS-830 were all "single conversion" transceivers.

73s
Mike

You're almost right: the TS-830 has a dual conversion receiver.

73, Jeroen PF1JM
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by W4VR on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I could not afford the radios you mention in your article in the 60's. I bought a used Heath DX100 and a brand new Gonset GR212 receiver. That combination worked for me on AM. Later I added the Heath SB-10 Sideband adaptor and Heath Warrior. Then, the Japanese manufacturers took over the hobby.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K9CTB on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. Good personal choices, too.

Most hams don't even bother thinking about the fact that these gnat's-a$$ measurements everybody drools over are highly variable over just a few units within the batch run, due to component tolerances. What should be happening if we're gonna do this right, is to sample a few rigs and publish the average figures. It's too expensive, but without doing so, the figures are worthless. Your high-dollar yamakawazuki rig won't perform the same as Joe Blow's down the street. (Trust me, yamakawazuki is gonna send their HOTTEST rig to QST for evaluation. It's done all the time in the business world. They'll rig any cheat they can get away with to get those numbers up, because that's what rips its way into your pocketbook.) Add his choice of coax, antennas, power supply and cables, and you've got such a huge variable, you'll never figure out if your $20,000.00 set up works any better than the guy in the next call district with a '718 and a long wire. It's just the way engineering is when unleashed upon the real world.

Still, the numbers and how they're arrived at is very interesting reading.

73,
K9CTB
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K9MHZ on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know anyone who says "yep, this here Icom IC-9999 has 2 dB better BDR than that there Yazoo FT-9999, so that does it for me!"

People buy features, not "gnat's"-a#$ specs, I'd argue. Now, if you want to advance your antenna and coax assertions, I'm right with you.

I'm having a hard time believing that the manufacturers are unleashing trash onto the unsuspecting ham masses, just to gouge them and separate them from their cash.



 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by G3RZP on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
There's a load of BS in the figures. My articles in QEX and NCJ showed that in the QRM laden European environment, most hams can't use more than 95 to 100dB of instantaneous dynamic range. And a +40dBm intercept point needs incredible phase noise performance to be any use.

But the numbers look good on the marketing spiel.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K9MHZ on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
That may be true, but it's not my point. I'm just saying that CTB asserts that they're producing trash, and dumping it into our unsuspecting community. It's just not true.

Someone earlier in the thread mentioned that we're obsessed with receiver numbers, and he's got a great point..... intermod this, roofing filter that, dynamic range all around, and dB tossed into every sentence. True, it all sounds sexy and space age, but it's the best stuff ever produced for us.

Once again.....I contend that most people buy features, and the manufacturers know it. While the numbers themselves might be inflated, people might be brand loyal, mode loyal, or even style-conscious and prefer a certain look....who knows.

Just about all of the new stuff is very, very good...pick a manufacturer, it doesn't matter. When you cost compare, it's incredible how inexpensive rigs are compared to those of yesteryear, of course price adjusted for inflation. Also compare the pricing of any new amateur rig to one of a similar type in another radio service, even from the same manufacturer.

Apologies to the thread author and original topic...great trip down memory lane.

Best,
Brad, K9MHZ
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by 9M2RS on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!

In the early sixties, my College Radio Club had a National NCX 5. I was one of the operators of the club. We worked thousands of stations either dx or local using this set.It was real enjoyable experience.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K9CTB on September 9, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Brad .... I didn't mean "junk" necessarily. But it is true that if manufacturers are going to supply a piece of their manufactured equipment for professional review, they're by-golly gonna make sure it is in premier shape! I've been on that side of things, and just passing QC isn't enough. It's gonna be the hottest one of the bunch. Same with cars, motorcycles, ham gear ... do some research on the Icom IC-F7000 and why it's not for sale in the U.S. They tried and tried to get those spurs down and they couldn't do it. I bet they cherry-picked for months trying to find one that would pass, and it wasn't to be. I'm assuming they gave up.

I'm not saying the manufacturers give us junk, but if they're gonna supply a unit to go under the microscope so to speak, they're gonna make sure it's the cream of the crop. That's my point. Unit absolute specs vary between samples within the same lot number. Mostly it is because of component tolerances and subjective measurements along the assembly process.

73,
K9CTB
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by AD4U on September 10, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed your article very much. When I started hamming in the 1960's as a jr high school student, I could not afford any of the rigs of that era that I drooled over in the catalogs. A local ham loaned me a novice rig.

Now that I am north of 60 years old, I am having a very good time finding, buying, and restoring (if necessary) all the rigs I only dreamed of owning way back then.

I have tried to restore all my boat anchors to pristine electrical and cosmetic condition, but they are not museum pieces that just sit on a shelf. I use them on the air.

My boat anchor collection consists of the following:

Collins: 75S3, 32S3, 30L1, KWM-1, KWM-2A

Drake: 2B (2 each), 2C, 2NT, R4B, R4C, T4XB, T4XC, FS4, L4B

Heath: SB-101, SB-102, SB-640 VFO, SB-301, SB-401, SB-303, SB-200

Kenwood: TS-520, TS-830S

Yaesu: FT-101E, FTDX-560, FTDX-570

National: NCX-3

Galaxy: GT-550A

Hammarlund: HQ-180A

My "newest" rig and the rig I use at my main operating station is a Kenwood TS-930S that I bought new in 1986. In my opinion, with several modifications that I made, it performs about as well as any new rig, so I don't see any reason to upgrade.

See you on the bands. If you hear me I will likely be running one of my boat anchors.

Dick AD4U
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K0PD on September 10, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have owned or operated at one time most of the radios listed but like every body i wanted more bells and whistles and more stream lined radios. By the way i think Ten Tec starting with there Triton4 has built the over all consistent better performing radios. But back to my main comment,which is i have a KW TS130s PS30 and the VFO + MC50 mic, and outside of some early drifting until it warms up receive wise and transmit wise it still in many cases perform's as well as todays radios.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KO7I on September 10, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
In 1977 I purchased my first set of Drake Twins, T-4X and a R-4A receiver. In the 90's I got the "I need to upgrade bug" and replaced the twins with a rice box. The convience of the solid state rigs was nice, and the ICOM I-751A had the best receiver of the rice boxes that cycled thru my ham shack. I had a Corsair II and was on even par with the 751A.
For one reason or the other I sold those rigs, eventually I settled on a IC-745, then the PLL caps went bad. I have yet to have that rig serviced so it sits with a old cloth over (kinda like a dead corpse).
A few years ago When HRO was doing the clearance of the ICOM IC703's I picked one of those up.
But to be honest, I have never connected with any of these "new radio's."
The adventure of my old days was not there and I became inactive.
This past spring the "get back on the air bug" hit me real bad. So I called a long time friend and asked him what is a good radio these days.
To sum things up he said, "the new SDR's and DSP radio's are noisy and no one is making a affordable receiver that is quiet. I know your operating style, you don't have the patience to figure all of this computer controlled menu driven crap, you like a straight forward, dig down in the noise floor work weak signal CW rig. To be honest, you should not have sold those Drake's."
He then said go to the Sherwood Engineering web site and read it for yourself. After reveiwing the receiver reports my quest to find a Drake C-line began. The C-Line that I acquired has a R-4C with all of the Sherwood mods and at first I thought the receiver was bad it was so quiet. So I turned on the internal Cal generator and the receiver came to life. The quietest band at my qth is 40M, so I operate there most of the time. The roofing filter mod's are a must hear to believe just how good they are on a crowed band, SSB in particular is really nice.
Being able to switch in a 3kHz roofing filter and go to the standard Drake 1.5kHz filter makes a huge difference. You can have a S-9 guy move in 1 kHz away and easily copy a S-5 station that you are working.
On CW, the 300Hz roofing/250Hz standard filter is a brick wall to qrm. Amazing - I can not wait for the November CW Sweepstates to come around and the chance to put this receiver thru true contest grade QRM conditions as I work towards my 40M CW WAS certificate.
The joy and adventure was returned. Heck I have even been looking at HW-16's and HG-10's on e-Bay. Real Radio's go in dark (and help keep a cold garage warm).
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KC8QMF on September 10, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I had some of the old stuff,only being licenced for 10 yrs. The Kenwood 830 was my first rig and was a good one at that. But my favorite has been the Heathkit HR 1680 and HX 1681 twins.Yes it's CW only but have made hundreds of contacts with them. Most of the time running 50 watts or less. Probably the next one would be the Ten Tec Corsair II. Great receiver and easy to operate too. I find that as I get more years into the hobby it takes less to make me smile. It's also alot cheaper too!!!
73 Mike
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WB4QNG on September 10, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have to agree the HW101 has to be on the list of classic radios. I think 40,000 were sold. It sold for less than $400 in kit form. Heathkit instructions were great and even after you put it together and it didn't work for another $69 they would correct any mistakes you made, aligned it, and guarantee you it worked. Great Radio for its time.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N4MJG on September 11, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have the ft 102 that still works it beging worked on by mal. i called him and told that it been worked on and everything he had done stuff in this rig. great rig thuo

.
I still have this rig !

73
Jackie
N4MJG
WWW.N4MJG.COM
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KC8VWM on September 12, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I have no comment.

Call me "gun shy" if you will.

 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KG6UTS on September 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
My friend and co-worker Doug WA6VOV(SK)swore by his Drakes and his job was RF/antenna design. I wish I had a 2B right now! After reading comments by others I did pickup a TS-830S and am VERY happy with it, fun radio that always gets good reports and has good 'ears'. One day an FT-102 will show up so I can try that one too. Thanks for the list!!

73
EdZ KG6UTS
San Diego/Borrego Springs
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K3LUE on September 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Swan 350? For as much as we chased and apologized for being chased, it should be included just for the principle of it.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by KB1GMX on September 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Henry Radio Tempo-One aka FT200.. fine basic SSB radio
with single conversion 9mhz IF. It's a simple radio and if anything competes against the HW101 for power and performance but much more compact. Easy to work on as well.

I have both black and silver face versions.

Allison
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N1DVJ on September 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Chasing the Swans? As a former owner of a 500, 500C, 500CX, and 700CX, and still technically own a 500C (that is loaned out and I'll probably never get it back), yeah, chase is the right word.

But the Swans didn't drift. Without a RIT, people tended to move around a bit, and people could quite easily 'walk each other right up (or down) the band' as they try to tune each other in the way they like.

But I had the dual VFO option for my Swan, and I could leave the TX set, and tune only my RX. As a result, once I let the rig warm up, it was rock stable.

On another note about the Swan. I had a really crappy antenna at my appartment set up. But it worked. One night another friend came in on two of use on 2M and said someone needed a phone patch somewhere down in HF to our area, so we all tuned down to listen. I could hear the trash in the background over the 2M when my friend talked (and later on the phone) from my friends TS-820, and he couldn't pull in the exchange, but I was receiving it crystal clear with no interference at all on my 500C.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by N1DVJ on September 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Chasing the Swans? As a former owner of a 500, 500C, 500CX, and 700CX, and still technically own a 500C (that is loaned out and I'll probably never get it back), yeah, chase is the right word.

But the Swans didn't drift. Without a RIT, people tended to move around a bit, and people could quite easily 'walk each other right up (or down) the band' as they try to tune each other in the way they like.

But I had the dual VFO option for my Swan, and I could leave the TX set, and tune only my RX. As a result, once I let the rig warm up, it was rock stable.

On another note about the Swan. I had a really crappy antenna at my appartment set up. But it worked. One night another friend came in on two of use on 2M and said someone needed a phone patch somewhere down in HF to our area, so we all tuned down to listen. I could hear the trash in the background over the 2M when my friend talked (and later on the phone) from my friends TS-820, and he couldn't pull in the exchange, but I was receiving it crystal clear with no interference at all on my 500C.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by AF6NI on September 15, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Good article, thank you. You left out the Swan 500CX that I use daily but what the heck....

Anyone who is interested in vintage SSB rigs and who lives in So. Cal. might want to check out the vintage SSB net that meets on Tuesday evenings, 3825 kcs (after all I wouldn't say "Khz" with vintage rigs.) Starts at 2000PT.

73.
Joe
AF6NI
af6ni@arrl.net
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by WB4AUW on September 17, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Glad to see the corrections on the Ten Tec Triton. I had the Triton (I think model was 544). I loved talking to the service people at Ten Tec but this model was a real dog. Cheezy knobs and really cheaply built. The receiver couldn't hear a freight train coming through the front door. I haven't had enough confidence in Ten Tec to buy anything else from them.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios - try the TS511s  
by KF7CG on September 25, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Though never produced in enough quantity to let it make "Classic" status the Henry/Kenwood TS-511s was a seventies rig to contend with. It had the heaviests of the sweep tubes as finals and a very stiff 900 volt plate supply. This allowed for a good sounding 500 watts peak input on SSB, no speach processing of course. It did 300 watts in on CW. No WARC frequencies and no 160 meters but still a mighty fine rig. I have good memories of mine with the external VFO to allow working split. I understand that it was a combination of the Kenwood Twins TS599/RS599 witk the redundant if parts and audio eleminated.

KF7CG
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios - try the TS511s  
by KF7CG on September 25, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Though never produced in enough quantity to let it make "Classic" status the Henry/Kenwood TS-511s was a seventies rig to contend with. It had the heaviests of the sweep tubes as finals and a very stiff 900 volt plate supply. This allowed for a good sounding 500 watts peak input on SSB, no speach processing of course. It did 300 watts in on CW. No WARC frequencies and no 160 meters but still a mighty fine rig. I have good memories of mine with the external VFO to allow working split. I understand that it was a combination of the Kenwood Twins TS599/RS599 witk the redundant if parts and audio eleminated.

KF7CG
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios - try the TS511s  
by WA2JJH on September 28, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
The TS-820 sure turned many a hams head.

For $875, one had a radio that only the old $2000+ (1973) signal one had.

The 820 had it all, we take for granted today.
Real RF speech proc. PBT, Notch, and 6146 finals to boot!

Truth be had, the Drake TR-4CW with 500hz cw filter
free and a Triple tube final for almost 200W out was nice too!
I was a 16 year old Novice, so the TS-520S cost only
$650 back then. The Audio Proc was a step down from the 520 DX ALC switch. It gave faster attack and slower decay for an RF proc like sound boost.Of course tthe 6146B's made all the Kewoods have decent.

TRIVIA...The 520 was the only SSB/CW rig with a dummy
6146. OLD NOVICE PWR WAS 75W. This and the 4 xtal channels and easy use, made the 520 a radio for novice
and budget minded Generals.
The DRAKE C line was popular too for those that could make any Qrm go away.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios - try the TS511s  
by WA2JJH on September 28, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
correction. 75W 520 was a special order deal.
The novices got 250W and the right to use a VFO!!!!
1977.
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K6SDW on October 1, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Nothing from Radio Shack!!
 
RE: Classic SSB HF Radios  
by VK4BYX on October 4, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
I purchased a Japan Radio Company JST245 in 1992. With a few extra filters and other bells & whistles it seems to hold its own with modern radios but I guess it will also end up being a classic.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by K6RJC on October 13, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Indeed, a very interesting list. Please let me add a candidate from the late 60's-early 70's era. My unmodified "Signal One CX-7A" remains a constant source of satisfaction every time I use it. This one is 42ish years old and has never let me down. State of the Art then. Still Solid As A Rock today. And I'm the second owner. BCN U, on 40, 20 & 15.
K6.
 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by W5GI on October 14, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
Article/List makes for interesting discussion albeit very superficial and certainly incomplete. For those who want detailed specifications pertaining to receiver specifications go to http://sherweng.com/table.htlm where you will find Receiver test data.

For those who want a complete review of vintage gear check out the ARRL Radio Buyer's Sourcebook Vol 1 and 2.

If you haven't tried a Cubic Astro 102/103 you've missed out on one great radio. And, for fun, try a SBE-34 with Collins 2.1 filter or a Atlas 210 radio.

Getting right down to it, rig performance should be based on receiver and transmitter performance, and, appearance and ergonomics. There are many hams who rather have an inferior radio because of appearance and/or name brand. That's life.


 
Classic SSB HF Radios  
by W4MEC on October 14, 2010 Mail this to a friend!
From my perspective, cars, motorcycles, and women, everybody has their preference. Even the radios folks considered junk, had their good points. When it comes to vintage, many want to rebuild their original novice station, or first 'good' equipment station. I just like to run the old stuff because, to me, it is just more fun. I owned one of the most advanced transceivers made, for a month at least. Got rid of it and went back to my 'C' Line as my primary station. My gear spans pre-WW II through the 70's, and still love to get them on the air.
I know a fellow who got his ticket in 94 and made the Honor Roll in about 6 years. I've been a ham for over 41 and still need South Dakota for WAS. But that Honor Roll guy hasn't been on the air in years, and I'm still enjoying this hobby. Hope you are too.
 
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

Subscribe!
My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Related News & Articles
Safety Schmafety
It Was Worth A Try


Other Recent Articles
Boy Scouts Have Weekend Submarine Adventure:
Ham Radio Operators Link on Global Airwaves:
Amateur Radio Operators Get Their Own Day:
Boy Scouts: 'Jamboree On the Air':
Ham Radio Day in Paris: