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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Vintage amateur | Collins R388/URR (51J) Help

Reviews Summary for Collins R388/URR (51J)
Collins R388/URR (51J) Reviews: 11 Average rating: 4.6/5 MSRP: $1200-1464
Description: General coverage receiver used by the US Defense Department
from 1952 until the early 1960's
Product is not in production.
More info: http://
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K0SDZ Rating: 5/5 Nov 18, 2015 11:23 Send this review to a friend
Is it really Collins?  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have a 51J3 which I purchased more than 20 years ago for 75.00. I have used it for shortwave broadcast listening more than ham communication, using more modern transceivers for the latter purpose. So for me it's preferable to an A4 beecause I want general-coverage capability. Licensed since 1958, back in the day we used receivers and transmitters rather than transceivers. Being licensed since the 50s, I've had experience with various communications receivers including Halicrafters, Hammerlund, National, etc. I rate the 51j3it a solid "5" based on sensitivity, selectivity,stability,and ease of operation, based on realistic expectations for the 1950s. It's fine for AM, CW, and SSB. It's fun to own!
QUESTION: I'm aware that some of these receivers are essentially "clones" and not really made by Collins. Mine doesn't say "Collins" on the front panel which makes me suspicious. Of course for 75.00 I'm not complaining but would like to know if I've got a clone or the real-deal. How can I tell? And is there a difference that makes a difference in quality? Or were the clones built to Collins specs? Are they essentially identical? Bill K0SDZ
STEVEQ Rating: 4/5 May 19, 2014 06:09 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Imagine a modern rig working as well as a vintage Collins receiver 50 years in the future.

Bells and whistle it is not, so what. Solid yes and IMO one of the best looking boat anchors around. SSB can be heard if one turns dials, those nice big dials.

For its time, great, for this time wonderful
W8BBM Rating: 5/5 Mar 25, 2014 08:46 Send this review to a friend
Solid Classic Performer  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned my R-388 for 25 years and would never consider letting it go. I also own R-390A's, Hallicrafters and Hammarlund GC receivers but this classic receiver is steady as a rock and does a wonderful job on AM and more than adequate on CW and SSB considering there is no product detector. The crystal filter can do an okay job with the BFO engaged and it is remarkably stable in those modes. Yes, you must adjust the RF gain control but, so what! This radio is over 60 years old and does not operate like an appliance. The real beauty of this receiver is that it requires you to actually operate it to a small degree and rewards you with good stability, fidelity and selectivity. A real piece of achievement for a Korean/Cold War analog receiver.
K7WXK Rating: 5/5 May 13, 2011 10:35 Send this review to a friend
Great receiver comparable to many of the latest solid state.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have owned mine for a grand total of 24 hours and so far so good. It is a quality piece of workmanship with performance to match. As sensitive as my 21st century rig and a whole lot more fun to operate. So far the only mod I have done is to replace the power cord with a grounded one. I am contemplating doing the product detector and AVC mods to enhance SSB reception. But I must admit it is quite capable of receiving SSB as it is. It is a much quieter receiver than my high tech version, too. I grew up using these old boat anchors and half the fun of them is tuning all the dials in order to achieve a desired result. This is my first Collins receiver, but it will likely not be my last. I give it a 5 because it does everything it is asked with top notch performance and the workmanship is second to none.
W0OGH Rating: 4/5 Jun 8, 2008 10:21 Send this review to a friend
Good radios  Time owned: more than 12 months
I own two of these receivers, R-388's. I sent one back to Howard Mills, W3HM for overhaul. A bit expensive but the radio has been updated with mods, calibration, replaced broken coils and works great. Calibration is right there. Lots of comments on it from visiting hams. My 2nd 388 was originally used as a training unit for the Navy. It's in very good condition also and other than the calibration being off it appears to be working fine. I still look at them on the auction place wondering if i should buy another one. No room for it but they are a really attractive Radio. I am looking for the data plate that goes on the front panel as one of my units plate is missing. Also i've been told that the "S" meters were a problem. On one of my radios it sticks at about the 60-70 db point and as they are a "sealed" unit, not reparable.
KQ6IG Rating: 4/5 Nov 30, 2004 22:09 Send this review to a friend
Pretty Good  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I owned an R-388 receiver for a short time, but found it to be an impressive receiver. It has general coverage reception, and is very sensitive. It has pinched restricted sounding audio which works when you're trying to pull in that weak DX-station. It is a short wave DX man's dream.

I sold mine because I'm a high-fi buff, and I found the pinched audio offensive. However, there are times when conditions are difficult, that I wish I had mt R-388 back!

N1BEC Rating: 5/5 Sep 26, 2004 19:47 Send this review to a friend
The R-388 is a great AM receiver!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had an R-388 for over 20 years. I has fortunate enough to buy it with my BC-610-I when I was in college.
The R-388 was the matching receiver, housed in a large mil box along with an EE-8, J-38 key, and a 12 volt input/110 volt 60 cycle AC dynamotor.
Didn't do much with it for years, but farmed it out to a friend. If it weren't for the fact that the end points were out of tolerance and not adjustable, I probably would not have seen it again!
Finally got around to performing a complete restoration in the late 80's. Built a VFO test jig, and had it running again shortly. Make doggone sure the VFO works within tolerance before you buy one, or get a good downward adjustment on the price, as the rebuild is a royal pain!
It worked great for about two weeks before the power transformer shorted. I solved that by substituting a TV tranny and changing the filtering to choke input.
It's worked like a champ since then! May have to swap the volume pot at some point.
This is another keeper. Jump on one if you get the chance!

73's, -Tom
N4UE Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2004 21:26 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I was fortunate enought to own two R-388s and one civilian version, the 51J-3. I sold the two 388s and kept the J-3. It has a perfect front panel and the insides look like the day it was made. I was always VERY impressed with the sensitivity of these radios. Even on 10M, they performed right up there with my high priced rice radios.
Obviously, they were not intended for SSB reception, having been 'born' before that mode became popular. I found that by reducing the RF gain and using the BFO (liked I learned to do back in the 60's), it made a fine SSB receiver. This is due to it's exceptional mechanical and electrical stability.
One day, just for giggles, I decided to see if the bypass and coupling caps needed replacement, like the caps in all my beloved boatanchors have.
(my 75A-4 had some reallllly bad ones in it!).
Lo and behold, the caps were all of the 'dogbone' variety and were perfect. No wonder it worked so well!
I found a PD-1 SSB adaptor on e-Pay, er, e-Bay and connected it up. Although it works very well, one must still reduce the RF Gain slightly, or the audio doesn't sound as it should.
The only negative thing about the PD-1 (and it's no fault of the device), is that it connects to the IF output of the radio and thus needs an external AF amp to drive a speaker. This is easily solved. A visit to the local flea market turned up lots of cheap, small, solid state amps with enough power to blow your speakers of choice.
I kinda wish the main tuning dial had a 4:1 ratio like the A-4.........
New dial drums are available very cheaply and they make the radio look like new!
Typical Collins build quality. Excellent! Also, the J-3 doesn't have the MFP coating (varnish) on the chassis.........
Mine is rack mounted below the 390A and it's a keeper!


W4PTO Rating: 5/5 Nov 13, 2002 15:45 Send this review to a friend
Classic receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had the opportunity to own 3 (yes three!) of these great receivers. My first foray into the R-388 receiver was when I swapped a CV-89 RTTY converter for one of these. The other two were swaps with the last one being a pristine late '62 Navy contract unit (that is, when the R-390's were too expensive, the Navy contracted Collins to make the R-388 in 1962 as a lower cost alternative).
I managed to scrape up a cabinet for this one. Afther that, it looked extremely good sitting next to my old 75A4. I used it in conjuction with a Viking Valiant transmitter. My only complaint about the R-388 was it's "tight" audio. The R-388 is a communications grade rx designed to do the job and cut out the adjacent channel and interference. If you wanted to get better audio, you'd probably have to do some minor rebuilding of the audio section. Other than that, it was (and is) a classis rx. If you're in the mood to do some bandcruising and you are a Collins nut (and don't mind the absence of the vaunted mechanical filters ala the 51J4) the R388 may be your cup o' tea.
JAMES_BENEDICT_EX_N8FVJ Rating: 4/5 Nov 3, 2002 13:01 Send this review to a friend
Good receiver.  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Good, not great (R-390, R-390A is great). Earlies 50s design is one of the first to allow anyone to find a frequency. Well designed dial. Receiver is hot up on ten meters and this radio is built like a tank. Of course, no product detector makes riding the RF gain a pain on SSB. Somewhat weaker audio, but I am fussy. I like 10 watt push-pull audio. So, buy it as a very good AM radio.
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