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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Collins 51J-3 Help

Reviews Summary for Collins 51J-3
Collins 51J-3 Reviews: 3 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $1,000
Description: Don't let the lack of SSB fool you
Product is not in production.
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STEVEQ Rating: 5/5 Nov 4, 2013 08:41 Send this review to a friend
still kicking after 60 yrs  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have a R390A so to acquire a R-388 was a no-brainer. Built very well, the old rig still works quite well. The dial is a bit stiff but then again so am I after 60 years.

I enjoy the "mechancial" sound of the audio on CW, like in the old days, it takes me back. After one copies a million hours of code (ha,ha) one knows the different sounds and this R-388 has it. Sure the R390A has great audio but the R-388 is a blast from the past. SSB takes a bit of tuning but it can be done.

It it is a great looking rig and the large dials are a blast. Sure I have the modern Icoms, etc, but they are not real radios... ok so I like old radios.......... For its time, the enginnering is/was first rate and time has proven this very well.......... no it is not a wiz-bang new solid state rig which one turns on and goes, one works these rigs, so if you are in a hurry go with the solid state........... but let the old rig warm up and see the glow of yesterday.....

In the end, this is one great radio, how will the new solids state rigs look/work after 60 years, if any are still around.......... buy one, you will not be disappointed ....
N4UE Rating: 5/5 Aug 28, 2002 11:09 Send this review to a friend
additional info  Time owned: more than 12 months
Sorry for this additional post. However, I wanted to add this information in case you are interested in buying a 51J-3 or an R-388.....
Don't let the fact that these are older radios scare you. For example:

After replacing a bunch of caps in my 75A-4, (a very, very commong problem),I was very impressed with the improvement. I thought, "what the heck, let's check out the caps in the J3".
(remember, this radio really impressed me it stock form)

To my surprise, all the caps under the radio are the ceramic 'dogebone' type. High $, but they do not 'age' like those paper caps. No wonder that old girl still played so well.


N4UE Rating: 5/5 Aug 28, 2002 08:42 Send this review to a friend
A great radio, several varities exist  Time owned: more than 12 months
Yep, another 5 from me. Don't worry, I have some much lower ones to come!

This Collins receiver is triple conversion and used 18 tubes. Construction is typical Collins with PTO and just incredible considering it's age. This radio has 30 (!) 1 Mhz band sections. I had just one of these but several of the military versions, the R-388. The 388s were black and the J3 has that nice Collins St. James wrinkle finish to it. All radios functioned the same. The 388 was used in tanks and the like and to say it's rugged, would be an understatement......Let's face it, it's an very early 75A-4...


1. sensitive (as much as you could possibly need on HF, even 10 Meters)
2. stable
3. chassis are not prone to corrosion
(more on this later)


1. no SSB
2. no cabinet
3. power hungry

Here's how I addressed the dislikes:
1. SSB, I bought a PD-1 SSB adapter. The radio already has a 500 Khz IF output jack on the back. Although both are in storage, I am certain this will be a nice combination. Actually, SSB is easy to tune in with the BFO, due to the smooth controls and excellent stability. Besides, I cut my teeth on BFOs.....
2. no cabinet. The 75A-4 looks MUCH nicer in it's cabinet, and almost looks 'small' by comparison. I have several cabinets but chose to rack nount mine.
3. power dissipation. I always replace the rectifier tubes in my boat anchors with diodes placed in an old tube base. Sometimes I add a dropping resistor, most of the time I do not. I DO keep the AC reduced to 115 VAC. I have never, ever had a problem. I also place a small muffin fan on a reproduction dust cover I make, just to move the air around. I do this on every BA in my collection. I use 2 fans in the 390A!!

Cosmetics. It seems most of the J-3s I have seen for sale have had the Collins logo removed. No big deal.
New reproduction drum decals are available from several sources. I turn the old ones off on a lathe. Interestingly, the drum yellows a lot with age where the rotary dial usually stays bright white. The chassis of these radio is varnished underneath, excellent. The R-388 is also MFPed (I think that's the term for Moisture, Fungus, Proofed). Anyway, let's just say they looked like they were dipped in varnish! I'll bet they could work underwater!
These are fairly common radios. I would love to put the 4:1 tuning knob on it, but that would cost as much as the radio....
Thanks Art!

I love mine!


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