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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Drake R8A Help

Reviews Summary for Drake R8A
Drake R8A Reviews: 7 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $1,060
Description: 100 Khz - 30 Mhz, notch filter, passband tuning, 6.0,4.0,2.3,1.8,0.5 Khz filtering.
Product is not in production.
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N4UE Rating: 5/5 Sep 16, 2015 12:02 Send this review to a friend
Darn close to a '5'  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have a large receiver collection. I seem to have a lot of Drake radios (3 R4Bs, for example).
Recently, in my old age, I've been collecting receivers that I've wanted for too long. I've done a lot of research on the R8 series and thought the "A" model would be the best bang for the $. So, when this nice R8A came along, I bought it.
- The radio is a nice size (in my opinion), and overall it is VERY attractive. My recent Kenwood R5000 surprised me because it was a lot smaller than I expected...
- It is an excellent performer. The original R8 review in QST pointed out some issues that were fixed in the "A".
- It runs very, very cool. Unlike the R5000 which runs warm even when turned off. When on, it runs HOT. Scary HOT!

- The tuning knob is beyond cheap. I found a replacement metal knob (with finger dimple) on ePay. Put a piece of felt behind the knob and it tunes silky smooth.
- The internal clocks drop memory 30 minutes after removal of AC power. WHAT!??!
I'm playing with battery back-up. Why does this matter?
I lost almost every solid state device in my house after lightning hit a nearby Neutral Power Drop. I now disconnect everything and ground all my antennas when not in use. (two 115' towers here, near the USA's lightning capital)

Add a set of W6ON's covers and it's probably gonna be my last radio purchase.

K6HOM Rating: 5/5 Sep 29, 2009 09:27 Send this review to a friend
Excellent RX for the $$  Time owned: more than 12 months
My R8A is previously owned and cosmetically challenged. But what an excellent receiver, I can especially recommend it for MW AM listening. Overall, not a 5/5 IMHO, more like 4.75/5, but cannot give intermediate ratings and 4/5 is way too low for this unit.

Positives: sensitive, sensible filter bandwidths, all filters included, PBT/Notch/NB work great, AM Synchro works well, low noise, display shows all of your RX settings at one glance, a "complete" unit without much else to buy.

Negatives: not premium case construction quality, tuning knob is cheap and has little "feel," keypad buttons could be better, got to hit a button squarely to get the function you wanted, draws too much power when "Off" powering the clock, use headphones or get an external speaker

Personally, I dislike the memory function setup and logic.

Performance-wise, I sold my Racal RA6790/GM & kept this R8A. Both were equal performers for what I like to listen to, I just prefer the feature set of the R8A.

The Yahoo Drake R8 group had a post by a German R8 series owner who posted a mod. to hook a battery up to maintain the clock time while installing a second power switch to completely turn off the R8. I'm going to install this mod. soon.

73 to all.
K2VI Rating: 5/5 Mar 24, 2009 12:02 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding reciever  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Super quiet reciever but the weak stations jump out of the noise floor. Superb passband tuning and the sync detector on my radio locks quite well. Looks like to radio will last a lifetime as the construction is very nice, The only nit is the main tuning dial is a bit light and plastic. After learning this radio I can access and operate all tuning in the dark. My hat is off to R.L drake for a superb radio. I purchased one in brand new condition 1998 production for 610.00.I feel I got a nice deal.

tony k2vi
KG6WLV Rating: 4/5 Jan 25, 2005 15:46 Send this review to a friend
"Almost" perfect, but...  Time owned: more than 12 months
This would be a perfect radio, but for two things, one minor and the other major: The synchro detection lock problem, as mentioned in the review below, and the rubbery feel to the push buttons. I'll address those both in turn.
The synchro detection lock problem is a MAJOR defect in this radio -- on my model, it is virtually unusable, and this is why I rate this radio a 4, and not a 5. I have rarely been able to get this feature to function properly, which is a pity, since I enjoy music on shortwave and do a lot of AM DXing to distant sports broadcasts subject to selective fading. WHEN it works, the results are very good -- fading distortion disappears and makes for very pleasurable listening, as this radio has excellent audio.
The rubbery keypad is kind of a drag, too -- I find I often "double" a keypad entry; once you get used to that bugaboo, the radio is easy to operate.
What's good about this radio? -- a lot. First of all, the audio quality is excellent -- it's amazing how many other manufacturers think 10% THD is an acceptable level of distortion for a radio. (My old Yaesu FRG-7700 comes to mind.)For "fatigue-free" listening, this radio can't be beat -- hook it up to decent headphones, your stereo or some good computer speakers, and the audio is superb. As mentioned by others, the external speaker is bad, unless you prefer a front-firing configuration. (Someone once mentioned a Radio Shack speaker to replace the one provided that gives you decent audio from Drake's robust, shielded cabinet.)
The six levels of selectivity, coupled with the passband tuning, make it possible to dig out just about any signal, unless of course you want to listen to the hams who think contesting includes firing up on SSB 1 KHz away from another QSO. ;-)
This radio has every feature you could want, except for a decent external speaker, and an IF output. The audio notch filter is pretty much worthless, but with the full complement of filters and passband tuning, I never miss it.
A couple of other complaints: When I received this radio from Universal Radio -- presumably new -- a knob fell off and the external speaker had an intermittent connection from a cold solder joint! Both of those are unacceptable in a radio costing more than $1000. Also, my mechanically-coupled tuner has developed a glitch in it wherein it "skips" a couple of KHz arbitrarily while tuning slowly. (This after ten years of almost daily use.)
I just got my ticket and I'm considering selling my R8A to help with a TXCVR purchase, but it's really tough to get rid of it -- I had envisioned that this radio would be a "keeper", and one that I would live with for a long time... and you know what? It IS! LOL I think that's the truest test of quality in a rig.

W0AD Rating: 5/5 Mar 4, 2004 01:12 Send this review to a friend
Synchro lock solved!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I wish I could justify "moving up" from my R-8A in favor of a R-8B, but I can't. It's the only radio that I use every day for SWLing (morning prayer on WEWN is my alarm clock each day) as well as being the preferred radio for my passion of BCBing with my Kiwa MW loop. (another "5" on!)

My only criticism is that the R8A's synchro tuning loses lock during relatively shallow fades on AM. Concerned about the frequent loss of syncho lock during fades, I called Bill Frost, Drake's long time service manager (I remember talking to Bill in the '70s about buying a R-4C!) and asked him about the sensitivity/selectivity differences between the "A" and the "B" and found out there are none!!! The lock problem is due to the fact that the "A" model uses a double sideband syncho scheme, whereas the "B" model uses a single sideband synchro scheme.

So, I solved the syncho lock problem by asking my friend Rob Sherwood of Sherwood Engineering to send me an upconverter and buffer for the R-8A that would inject the proper signal to my Sherwood SE-3 Mk III (another "5" in!). Problem solved... The combination of the R-8A and SE-3 plus the Kiwa MW loop is radio perfection! I also use a custom made Jim Dale (Minnesota DX Club president) large 160M/BCB loop with great success. I'd be happy to answer any questions about this fine radio.

Best regards,

Paul WAD
KD7KGX Rating: 5/5 Feb 13, 2003 06:09 Send this review to a friend
Excellent HF receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned a Drake R8A for three years, and use it often for BCB reception (Seattle local stations, West Coast AM 'DX' at night), as well as HF shortwave reception.

I use two shareware software packages with this radio, both from Fineware ( These are excellent packages and really add to the utility of the R8 (and they work with the original R8, the R8A, and the R8B). I use the ILG SW databases and find it easy to listen to my SW station of choice.

The R8A was a major upgrade from the original R8, adding synchronous AM as well as greatly improved front panel ergonomics. The R8B adds additional memories and side-band selectable synchronous AM. In my opinion, the R8A is the bargain of the bunch... it works much better than the R8 while the differences between the R8A and the R8B are so minor as to not matter especially if you use a rig control program as described above.

I have used my R8A as an auxiliary receiver for my HF rigs also, and it works FB. Unlike my Omni VI/Opt1 or my K2, I can listen to ham AM broadcasts, and I can also set the bandwidth to 4 Khz for 'hi-fi' SSB QSOs.

Although the R8A has a built-in 120v power supply, I also have mine hooked up to my shack's 12v battery-backup system, so that I never have to worry about power outages affecting memories.

In summary, I would strongly recommend the R8A as a great adjunct to a ham shack... and also as a great stand-alone receiver.
VE3HG Rating: 5/5 Apr 1, 2002 15:30 Send this review to a friend
Great rcvr  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought one of the first available here. Compared it to scores of other rcvrs at several Ontario DX Club's weekend get-aways to country retreats where we hooked everybody up to the same antenna using an x-military antenna coupler. R8 heard more than most. Superb audio and with passband tuning, L/C filters that really work and synch detection on AM (stabilizes QSB)along with 100 memories and two VFOs this is a classic. Not sure if R8-b is better. Don't buy the matching speaker unless you like the look of the box. Okay, some of the buttons feel rubbery but really minor point. Optional VHF converter works fine. Is all mode, so can monitor 10-meter FM repeaters or works as first-class CW rcvr for QRP xmitter.

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