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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Radio Shack DX-160 Help

Reviews Summary for Radio Shack DX-160
Radio Shack DX-160 Reviews: 50 Average rating: 3.7/5 MSRP: $$160 (ca 1975)
Description: General coverage receiver, solid state, analog readout, single-conversion, AM - SSB, coverage 150Khz to 30 Mhz.
Product is in production.
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K7LZR Rating: 4/5 Mar 29, 2019 03:28 Send this review to a friend
Return to yesteryear  Time owned: more than 12 months
I own two of these - a DX-160 and the DX-150A model. In contrast, I also have a couple of state-of-the-art radios - A Yaesu FT-991A and an SDRPlay RSP1A.

I started with this hobby in the early 1970s when the DX-150A was still sold new. Lusted after one then but never bought one at the time for some reason or another. Fast-forward to the middle 1980s. I acquired a DX-160 in a trade deal. Used it for a time and wasn't really impressed with frequency stability etc. so off it went in the next trade and life went on.

So about 7 years ago I saw both a DX-160 and a DX-150A for sale as a package on eBay and I bought them. Seller said that they both powered on but both would need repairs so sold as-is.

After repairing and aligning both radios, I really began to appreciate them much more than before. Using these rigs is really a treat now. Big, beautiful, color-coded slide rule dial. Clearly marked and easy to use controls. Warm incandescent dial & meter lighting. Real analog signal strength meter. Heavy, solid feel. Yes, a welcome return to yesteryear.

Performance? Not too shabby really. If properly aligned, these radios are sensitive and very quiet. The RF Gain control is buttery smooth and works really well because it is tied into not just the IF amplifier but also the RF front end. This makes it a true RF attenuator which really helps with strong stations. This radio also has an honest-to-goodness Product Detector for SSB & CW reception. Provides nice, distortion free reception of such signals. No big deal these days but it was in the early 1970s, especially in a budget priced receiver such as this. And even a simple but effective noise blanker too :). Regarding frequency stability, the DX-160 is barely adequate if one wants to listen to a net or a conversation on SSB without constant twiddling and there are modifications to make it better. Drift on AM is hardly noticeable and broadcast stations are a pleasure.

I do embrace current technology, but for casual listening I find myself returning to the DX-160/150A radios. With them I can lose myself in the experience in a way that just isn't possible with the new stuff. Grab one, feel the nostalgia. Enjoy the ride.
WA2LXB Rating: 4/5 Oct 31, 2016 21:04 Send this review to a friend
Saturday afternoons  Time owned: more than 12 months
We turn on the DX-160 on Saturday afternoons to listen to The Twilight Zone on WYLF in Penn Yan, NY. They broadcast with 1kW, and neither our Bose nor Onkyo AM radios have the sensitivity to receive the station, even with external antennas. The 160 is fun to use, given the slide rule tuning that is very quick to navigate, and you can see the entire band at a glance. Our specimen happens to be very well aligned and the dial is dead-on across each band. Unusual...the previous owner must have shown it some love, as all we have done is toss a 30 foot wire out the window. India, China, Cuba and the UK...all are picked up by this unit. Fading? Yup. Drifting? Some. Selective? Not really, although the band spread dial works quite well. Sensitive? meh...not great...but good enough for the casual listener. I give the rig a 4 because it does what I want it to do, not because it's a great radio compared to SDR or top of the line radios from the same era. It's fun to use, easy to understand, and it has a permanent place in our shack.
K6LO Rating: 4/5 Jul 4, 2016 18:12 Send this review to a friend
Legitimate on the cheap  Time owned: more than 12 months
Back in 1977 paired with a $5 Goodwill find DX-35, the DX-160 was my novice receiver. Somehow I managed hundreds of CW QSOs on the bands. Forty was a nightmare in those days. Tons of novices, lots of cold-war era bc stations. Contacts were made and the QSL cards kept coming. Forty is a cakewalk nowadays compared to then. My old 160 should be better than ever.
KA8FHW Rating: 4/5 Dec 21, 2014 19:45 Send this review to a friend
A good unit for the price  Time owned: more than 12 months
Alignment , caps, and a few tricks make this still
a great receiver. I own some of the best units made
from the present to 50 years ago. When I was a teen-ager, I worked for Radio Shack, and owned the 150 and 160. I obtained and practiced my novice skills
with that receiver. I still pull mine out, and make minor improvements over the economy oriented topology. It has amazing sensitivity, provided you
know what you are doing. It was a real bargain in 1971 or so.
KA8EXK Rating: 4/5 Dec 21, 2014 14:16 Send this review to a friend
Needs Re-alignment  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Mine needs a Re-alignment. It drifts on SSB and I notice a little drifting on AM.
W2JUV Rating: 4/5 May 25, 2013 05:40 Send this review to a friend
Back to yesteryear...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Picked up a DX160 and matching spkr. at Dayton fleamarket. At first no Rx on Band B, but soldering loose connections fixed that. Also did realignment. Certainly not a professional grade receiver, but still fun to operate.
SCOWL Rating: 2/5 Apr 30, 2013 16:45 Send this review to a friend
Keep your perspective  Time owned: more than 12 months
I agree with those who say you can't let your positive memories overwhelm what this receiver really was. At the time it looked like a serious communications receiver with a massive multicolored dial, quality weighted knobs in an attractive symmetric arrangement (yet the switches felt cheap), a very affordable price, and available for immediate purchase at thousands of Radio Shack stores. It was a decent first radio for someone who wanted an introduction to shortwave listening. It could easily share the shelf with expensive audio gear in someone's living room.

However it had poor sensitivity, very poor audio even with the attractive external speaker, mediocre fixed selectivity, and the pretty dial on mine was far from accurate on the ends which made the digital display of the Panasonic RF-2900 so desirable. I compensated for the poor sensitivity with an ever-growing long wire antenna (an indoor antenna would get you nothing but the strongest stations). While 120 feet of antenna helped pull in a few more stations, I also discovered local AM stations splattering on various points on the SW bands. Was that what the "ANT TRIM" knob was for? The drift made SSB reception a chore of continuous adjustment. The not-so-narrow selectivity sometimes made the ham bands too crowded to listen to. I also remember the sensitivity dropping off above 20 MHz and rarely picking up anything in the CB band.

Of course I still received dozens of stations from around the world and a decent number of ham operators especially on the 20 and 40 meter bands where the receiver seemed to be most sensitive. This would impress a lot of newcomers to shortwave.
K5TEN Rating: 4/5 Jan 30, 2013 14:10 Send this review to a friend
4.0 And A Thumbs UP!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my first one in 1978 with money from a job after school at high school. Having had a Zenith (wooden cabinet) before, I knew that having an outdoor wire antenna as high as I could get it was paramount. My initial 150' wire went from my room at 25' down to a 2x4 at 10'. This was during the peak of the then solar cycle.

The receive on the AM (MW) and short-wave frequencies up to about 22 mHz was VERY good for a single conversion set, above that was not so good. I blame my antenna for much of that but you can only expect so much from an all solid state rig that could still see former tube type receivers in it's rear view window.

I was able to use the main tuning indicator to set at a easily to return to mark on the tuning slide and then find a "marker" (like WWV, WWVH, other time & frequency stations) and then use the fine tuning to get a relatively accurate frequency without a frequency counter. These marks DID NOT jive with the marks that Realistic used on the dials, and had to be carefully noted. After I had set up my own system, new stations were easy to pick out from the others because I could sit and wait for them to sign-on the air. A WRTV (World Radio & TV Handbook) was the bible back internet.

As for the drift, yes, it was bad to drift on SSB and CW signals, especially during the first 1/2 hour or so. Even though there were no tubes to "warm up" it did become a bit more stableafter being turned on and left in standby mode for an hour.

I have bought two of these radios and still have one of my originals after all of these years (30+) and it is still in my shack.

If you can pick one up on ebay for less than $70 in working order you won't regret it--especially for someone "new" to short-wave listening.
K9MHZ Rating: 1/5 Jan 30, 2013 13:45 Send this review to a friend
Keep things in perspective, people!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I read all of the glowing reviews and have to look to be sure we're referring to the same radio. This thing was very low end even back in its day. It was never intended to have the glowing performance that some here have claimed, it's just not true. I owned several back in the day, and I quickly learned that it's NOT for any ham desiring any performance beyond just the novelty of tuning across the shortwave bands and listening to broadcasts. The IFs were a joke, selectivity very wide, and audio that was not pleasing to the ear. Trying to make this a centerpiece in a ham shack would be a real exercise in unnecessary frustration.

But, calling it a nice nostalgic blast from the past, "really takes me back", etc, is fair. But let's not inflate its capability as so often happens on these equipment review forums for some reason. If you want one for some good old-fashioned (1970s) fun, and can get one inexpensively, then by all means knock yourself out.
N3AIS Rating: 5/5 Jan 30, 2013 09:30 Send this review to a friend
I learned CW on this thing  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got my dad to get me a DX-160 back in 1976. I would spend hours in the kitchen decoding CW, listening to shortwave broadcasts and amateur radio conversations. It drifted a bit but it never failed us. I moved it into my ham station I had in my room. I wish I had kept it now!
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