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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Vintage amateur | Hallicrafters S-38D AM/CW Shortwave Receiver Help

Reviews Summary for Hallicrafters S-38D AM/CW Shortwave Receiver
Hallicrafters S-38D AM/CW Shortwave Receiver Reviews: 7 Average rating: 3.4/5 MSRP: $40
Description: Introduced in late 1954 through early 1959, the S-38D is the fourth version of the five-generation Hallicrafters S-38 series. The S-38D is physically and electrically identical to the 1951-1953 Hallicrafters 5R10A (1951-1953). The radio is a simple five-tube design, runs on 105-125V (AC or DC), and tunes from 540 kilocycles to 31 megacycles demodulating AM or CW (and SSB via CW).
Product is not in production.
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You can write your own review of the Hallicrafters S-38D AM/CW Shortwave Receiver.

N4MJG Rating: 5/5 Sep 21, 2016 14:34 Send this review to a friend
Great radio time i had it !  Time owned: more than 12 months
My Dad brought this radio back in late 50's and gave 50.00 back those days 30 years later i took over the S-38 The things still work up on until 97 the thing stop working ! It was fun radio and picks up cuba and round the world not bad little radio.

so now looking anouther one when i go hamfest in oct 22 never know i just old tubes ! i really missed the S-38 i hope find one soon !
AI4WC Rating: 5/5 Mar 1, 2015 09:16 Send this review to a friend
It WAS good!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I owned an S-38D in 1955-58; $49.95 from Sears Roebuck, paid for on time for $5 per month. When all else you had was the 4-foot tall living room monsters or the unobtainable Grundigs (NICE!) or the Zenith Trans-Oceanic (not affordable), you could hear it all - because RFI was reasonable and there were only a few SSB stations. America was known for Clear-Channel superpowerful nighttime AM stations and Wolfman Jack from somewhere near the Mexican border and Radio Tirana, Albania, punctuated every sentence with the phrase "Marxist-Leninist." I will always remember the look on my mailman's face when he handed me, a 14 year-old kid, my mail from Moscow - my Radio Moscow schedule! You could hear "Big Ben" and the chimes from Red Square live and as it happened. Today, the AM shortwave spectrum is a shadow of itself. Yes, I loved my S-38D, even if it was primitive; it WORKED!
AA1LL Rating: 2/5 Feb 28, 2015 19:23 Send this review to a friend
Served its purpose in the 50's  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was my first radio as WN2OPB in 1958. I used it with a Knight-kit T-50 transmitter to make many QSO's on CW on 40 meters. It was sensitive but not very selective and there was a lot of dial backlash, making tuning difficult. It overloaded easily. I think I used to fine tune the BFO by sliding the metal spiral binder of my logbook around under the radio! It did not work well above 20 meters. Not recommended nowadays as a "first radio" but it did get me going!
K6ELV Rating: 3/5 Jun 2, 2013 23:32 Send this review to a friend
OK receiver for its time. UNSAFE however  Time owned: more than 12 months
This seems to be an OK receiver for its time. It has pretty good sensitivity and I am able to pick up the major shortwave stations and WWV as well as amateur stations without too much difficulty with just a 10 foot piece of wire (although it was a little hard to find the frequency with the vernier tuning dial). It is also a quiet receiver (no noise generated like on transistor sets albeit a little 60-cycle hum due to it only having a half-wave rectifier) and good, warm sound quality due to it being a tube set.

I did notice however that this receiver picks up a lot of images from strong local stations

One really bad thing I noticed about this receiver is that is UNSAFE. Be VERY careful when operating this receiver, if you come in contact with the chassis and you happen to be at a ground potential then you will be greeted with a mighty shock! I found out the hard way and then figured out that the chassis of the receiver has 120 volts on it even if it is off! This problem is totally inexcusable and I think Hallicrafters could've done a much better job on the design of this radio such as putting the on/off switch on the hot side (B+) instead of the ground (B-) side to make it safer.
W8ZNX Rating: 1/5 Apr 11, 2009 11:50 Send this review to a friend
not a amateur receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
take a all American 5 ac dc receiver
add a few extra coils
you have the S-38D

think of it as a S-38 with out the
good looks of the early Rayomd Lowey versions

a dog
if you must own a S-38
for gosh sake get a S-38, S-38B or S-38C
these have the classic Raymond Lowey styling

KB0XR Rating: 5/5 Apr 8, 2009 04:29 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good in 1958 for a budding SEL  Time owned: more than 12 months
My folks bought me the S38DB model from the navy exchange in Alameda California. It was the blonde furniture finish model. I was a beginning SWL at that time. I logged hundreds of stations and qsl'd most of them. The bandswitch knob broke(common problem) and I used an old wooden radio knob to replace it. I knew nothing about sensitivity or selectivity then so I just used the heck out of it and enjoyed every minute. A simple wire strung around my bedroom provided hours and hours of enjoyment.

I upgraded to the SX 110 about three years later and the S38 was put on a shelf. The radio survived many moves, a couple of divorces, and it is on the shelf in my garage right now 51 years later. The caps are bad and it hums like crazy. The cardboard/masonite back got lost somewhere. The cabinet is scratched badly in many places. I'll never use it again but I'll never sell it either. I see one occasionally on Ebay and I am tempted to pick one up and combine with my old one to make a functioning unit. But, modern technology has me spoiled and I probably never will crank up the old girl again.

N5NSL Rating: 3/5 Oct 12, 2003 21:58 Send this review to a friend
Nice simple Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The Hallicrafters S-38D was the first shortwave radio I worked with. On it I heard everything around the world through a little half-rhombic and random-wire antenna.

Some notes in 2003-2004:

The oldest members of this series are fifty years old and many have slept for a few decades in attics around the world, (but mostly in the USA, with some in Japan). A descendent of 1930s radio design, the S-38D radios are extremely sturdy examples of 1950s electronics. Even with thirty to fifty year-old tubes, resistors, capacitors, and switches, the three radios I bought still work and within their capacities rival the sensitivity of new radios. They are clearly very simple designs however, and have some operating quirks characteristic of electron-tube radios which don't occur (or occur as readily) with their transistorized and uP descendents.

The Good:

The radio is very sensitive, tunes cleanly, has a good, rich tone to the speaker characteristic of tube sets (However, the speaker is a 4" paper cone model producing about 70dB at 30cm (12 in.).) The radio has a provision for a two-prong phone connector, characteristic of pre-coaxial and pre-RCA jack audio connectors. The radio runs off of either AC or DC, running from 105 to 125VAC or VDC into the power plug. ( I tested with ten 12V batteries in series, and while connecting 120V DC requires the usual respect for lots of VA, the radio cheerfully runs on DC.)

Also the radios have adjustable coils and capacitors, making them relatively easy to align (However, each of the four bands needs to be aligned individually). In testing with a variety of antennas, the S-38D seems to receive proportionally to antenna length/area. The bigger the antenna the better it receives. In AM broadcast testing, it was very selective and never overloaded. The tuning also comes with a simple 0 to 100 logscale bandspread, which offsets the tuned frequency by a few kilocycles.

Also, the radio has a receive/standby mode switch. When selected to "STANDBY", the IF amplifier is disabled. In the "RECEIVE" setting, the IF amp is powered by the receive/standby mode switch.

The radio receives double-sideband standard AM when the MODE switch is in AM, but goes to single-sideband (LSB) when in CW. SSB is tuned by frequency offset. There is no BFO function.

The Interesting:

One interesting point about the design of the S-38D (and the 5R10A from which the S-38D is an extremely close, nearly identical, cousin) is that it doesn't propagate static with the same amplitude as most transistorized units. When there is no signal, the S-38D very quietly hisses. When tuning onto a signal, the signal comes clearly and loudly through the speaker (loudness is proportional to the "VOLUME" knob). From a distance, the detector quiets down AF output in effect (but theoretically different) like a modern squelch when a station ends transmission or the radio is tuned off-frequency.

Also, if the antenna lead is grounded to earth, and the radio is being powered from 120VAC, the speaker will hum like an ungrounded phono connector on a typical hi-fi stereo system. (On 120VDC power, the radio never hums at all.)

The bandspread control is a simple 0 to 100 logscale which negatively offsets the radio's frequency by a variable and unknown level as the bandspread tends from 0 to 100. (That is, as the bandspread value increases on the logscale, the tuned frequency of the radio decreases, but not by a definite quantity).

Like any tube set, the radio's tubes produce heat, with the two tubes under the speaker's rear half near the left rear of the radio producing the most heat. The left rear of the radio case is the warmest part of the case, but is merely warm. One could rest their hand on that part of the case forever without any discomfort (and might feel good if your hands are cold!). The sides and back of the case are about 5 or so degrees F above room temperature and the face and bottom of the set is at room temperature.

Also, typical of tube sets, the radio is inoperative for about the first fifteen seconds after power up as the thermoinic heaters in the tubes rise to their operating temperatures.

The display sidelight is driven by the voltage difference from the radio's tube regulator through two resistors. Changes in line voltage directly affect the brightness of the light, and during power-up the changes in heater current and electrical flow through the circuit cause the bulb to glow softly, then dim greatly to an orange filiment, then brighten steadily as the tubes warm up.

The radio has no printed circuit boards. The electrical components are directly soldered to the lugs on the tube sockets, to the switches, or to each other. It looks a little like a rats nest of components compared to the relatively highly ordered PC boards, but it works fine.

The Bad:

For what it does, the S-38D is pretty good, but there are a few annoyances even from a 1930s through 1950s perspective. First, the radio has a tendency to image on strong signals. Particularly noticeable in CW mode, the radio will quietly heterodyne more signals than are actually there. However, this is minor and images are weak compared to on-frequency signals.

Also, on the 50-year old models, the masonite-style rear and underside of the radio are understandably slightly bowed from gravity. Also, the switch selecting between the speaker and the phones is on the back of the unit near the phones connector (but this is only a minor issue). Also, the lighting on the vernier frequency display is on the extreme left of the verner, overlighting the first 1/8th of the left side while insufficiently illuminating the center through right side of the vernier at night.
The placement of the bulb has a traditional bias which carries back to the 5R10A, which had a blackfaced vernier display better suited to the sidelighting.

The radio has very good selectivity, but being a vernier dial, one doesn't exactly know what frequency the radio is actually on +/- about 2 kHz. Also, the radio drifts typically when cold, and when the temperature of the radio's components change. In still air after a few hours to warm the case and chassis the radio stabilizes.

The sidelight is affected by inrush current and changes in line voltage. If the radio is turned off then back on quickly, the sidelight will become extremely bright for about half a second, then gradually dim down to it's normal glow. Too many cycles like that will burn out the bulb's filament.


The radio's got a lot of quirks typical of the radios of the 1950s and is a very simple and basic radio, but it receives basic AM and CW as well as any modern receiver (the EM physics of AM radio haven't changed). It's a very simple, unassuming, direct, likable little radio.

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