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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Hallicrafter S-120 Help

Reviews Summary for Hallicrafter S-120
Hallicrafter S-120 Reviews: 19 Average rating: 1.9/5 MSRP: $60-70
Description: General coverage 4 tube radio
Product is not in production.
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K8JHR Rating: 4/5 Jul 10, 2012 05:51 Send this review to a friend
Great Fun  Time owned: more than 12 months
Not an especially good receiver, but a lot of fun for what I paid for it. I got mine used for about $25 and got more than my money's worth. Great fun tuning up the old tubes, and working a piece of history. I doubt it is considered a high performance rig compared to other rigs of its type, but I liked it and mine worked fine - well enough, anyway. Sometimes good is good enough when you get it for a bargain price. Mine looked really good and played well enough.

Just My take... your mileage may vary greatly depending on your expectations and price paid.

// K8JHR //
ONAIR Rating: 3/5 Dec 16, 2010 04:14 Send this review to a friend
Nice first radio.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Got a clone of this receiver called the Starlite A 120 for Christmas, way back in 1963! It received pretty well beneath 30 meters, but above that it wasn't too great. By today's standards it wasn't really much of a radio, but it opened up the world to me as I listened to the BBC, Radio Havana Cuba, Radio Moscow and the like on those cold winter nights. Hearing some local CBers one night while tuning around 27 mcs got me into CBing, and eventually into Ham radio! After almost 50 years, I still have that radio sitting in my closet, and the darn thing still works!
WE1X Rating: 3/5 Nov 17, 2010 13:15 Send this review to a friend
My Introduction to SWLing  Time owned: more than 12 months
I was 13 when I bought my first rig...the S-120. Saved up. Didn't really know what I was saving up for, but for some reason I had my eyes on the S-120. Yeah, with hindsight it was a marginal receiver...but what a world it opened up for me. Years later I would have some old Navy receivers, my ham gear, etc...yet the S-120 got me started. Still have it. No regrets.
KS1U Rating: 3/5 Nov 17, 2010 09:46 Send this review to a friend
Good teaching receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned this receiver since my parents gave it to me for Xmas in the mid 60s. I learned more about radio receivers with this radio than if I had been given an R390A. OK, so above 21 MHz there is virtually no sensitivity. But put an amplified preselector ahead of it and add a Q multiplier and the radio performs well. I made dozens of contacts on 80, 40 and 15 meters as a Novice in 1966. When I upgraded to better equipment I was amazed at how simple contacts were to make. I would set the receiver main dial on the zero beat of my xmtr and look for stations on the bandspread. I would never have realized (as a novice) what was involved in selectivity if I had not strapped on a Heathkit Q multiplier by modifying the S-120. Remember, in those days having a radio that covered the AM Broadcast band as well as 80 and 40 meters with decent selectivity was all a novice operator really needed. It picked up all sorts of commercial SW broadcast stations and I was a happy kid. Granted if you are looking for a good SW radio you'll probably pass over this one, but letting a kid play with it is not a bad idea. If you find one in good physical condition for $20, buy it and see if you can make it better as a fun project. I still use mine (with new capacitors) occasionally with an Ameco amplified preselector and the Heathkit Q multiplier.
K7LN Rating: 0/5 Oct 30, 2010 08:53 Send this review to a friend
Designed by a bean counter  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
To paraphrase W8ZNX's comments:
simply one of the worst receivers ever offered to the public.

Its a up dated S-38x / all American five (-1) broadcast receiver with a bandswitch and extra coils

Put it in a brown paper bag
Set it on somebody's front porch
Set it on fire
Ring door bell
Run (as fast as you can)

Even the original 6 tube S-38 was marginally better than this thing. You would think that after the S-38A through S-38D series, they would learn their lesson on CW reception. At least the S-38E made an attempt at a better receiver. Maybe the success of a cheap post war receiver clouded their view. I might take another S-120 to play with and modify, but I would never pay money for it.
K3YD Rating: 1/5 Sep 8, 2009 14:48 Send this review to a friend
Memories, bad memories  Time owned: more than 12 months
Had one of these back in the 60's before I was licensed. I recall that it had a regenerating Q-multiplier instead of a BFO. It was OK for copying strong CW on 80 & 40, and for listening to International SW broadcasts up to about 10 MHz. SSB was difficult & AM BCB was swamped by a local 1 KW station about 2 miles away.
I'm not sure what happened to mine (sold, given away, used as boat anchor?) but if I sold it to you--please forgive me.
N4VBV Rating: 4/5 Sep 8, 2009 13:07 Send this review to a friend
Was Good Starter Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
This radio gave me a great introduction into Ham radio. I received it as a gift when a relative passed away while I was still in grade school. While it's obviously not perfect, it did allow me to be introduced to ham activity on AM, SSB, and CW. It also allowed me to hear the far away stations (back in the '70's) that I wouldn't have otherwise heard.

The BFO wasn't great and the tuning was wide, but it did teach that with patience you could dig out most of the stations you were interested in hearing. For a youngster, simply being able to hear all the faraway places was an amazing experience. True there are other receivers that other folks have higher opinions of, but this was the only receiver I had access to so I learned to use it.

WWV came in just fine, and I remember being very exited the first time I heard WWVH coming in with the female voice. Hearing WWV's solar terrestrial conditions (and the A/K indices) sent me to the library to find more info on these terms new to me. Even in college I used the S-120 to hear the entertaining "Moscow Mailbag" during the Cold War.

SSB was also a new concept. I had never heard of it before getting the radio so a visiting ham friend of my Dad's showed me how to tune SSB signals. After that I was hooked in trying to find far away stations and hear the aviation broadcasts (weather and air traffic control) in SSB.

Was it the best radio available? Maybe not, but to me back then it was a great radio and worked fine to hear what I wouldn't have heard otherwise. Even with the shortcomings that I learned to deal with it still gets a 4 for all the fun it delivered back then.
NU4J Rating: 3/5 Nov 25, 2007 15:15 Send this review to a friend
Not a bad Standard Broadcast Receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Picked this up at a hamfest this past week end for practically nothing. Checked it out before I bought it and I picked up a few standard broadcast stations. Origianl tubes. All tubes has Hallicrafters on them. Stopped by Radio Shack and bought a can of spray contact cleaner for the severely scratchy band switch.

You can find an alignment link here:

The S 120 is a fairly good standard broadcast receiver. After alignment and a good cleaning I was able to pick up some ssb qso's on 75 and 40 meters but unable to make anything out with the BFO. CW was good and the bandspread control did seperate the QSOs.

It's a good standard broadcast radio. SSB is worthless. It will do CW and never should it be used by a ham for the ham bands.

W8ZNX Rating: 0/5 Nov 18, 2007 12:09 Send this review to a friend
dog when new, dog now  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
simply one of the worst receivers
ever fosted off on beginer swl's and novic ops

its a up dated S-38 / all american five
bcb receiver with a bandswitch and extra coils

put it in a brown paper bag
set it on somebodys front porch
set it on fire
ring door bell

K7NG Rating: 1/5 Dec 18, 2006 11:42 Send this review to a friend
Well....  Time owned: more than 12 months
Several of us young Novices in my home town passed a couple of S-120's around between us for various general coverage uses in the days when we otherwise had only single-band receiving capability. I think I have had the privilege of using one receiver that was worse than the S-120. The receiver selectivity was approximately the entire band it was set to. Sensitivity was adequate on BCB, marginal up to about 5 MHz, and miserable above that. One of us made his first 'homebrew' project a one-tube (6BQ7, I think it was) cascode preamplifier for the S-120. It actually heard stations on 15 Meters with the preamp which I think was a milestone for the S-120. I did get some utility from this dog, copying CW MERCAST from station KOK in Los Angeles on the 2 MHz Marine Band, which made my eventual license upgrade considerably easier.
I think this product was a shameful departure from the Hallicrafters mystique.
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