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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | Realistic DX-160 Help

Reviews Summary for Realistic DX-160
Realistic DX-160 Reviews: 16 Average rating: 3.6/5 MSRP: $150.00
Description: Improvement of the DX-160 series, with an external speaker.
Product is in production.
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KA4DQJ Rating: 4/5 Jun 8, 2017 09:21 Send this review to a friend
Good Analog Receiver  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a good analog general coverage receiver which along with the earlier DX-150 was Radio Shack's shortwave flagship for years. Built in the days before digital readouts became standard, this puppy is analog all the way from main dial and bandspread, to S-meter. The BFO is nice when you want to copy CW/SSB signals.

It's also heavy and quite large, though not to the degree of the older vacuum tubed Hallicrafters and Hammarlunds.

The DX-160 is sensitive, selective and durable; meaning it will perform for decades. If you get one, be sure to do a realignment of the circuits since component values have aged and changed over the decades, and clean the pots and switches.

I actually have two DX-160s and both were working when I laid hands on them; all both required was realignment and a couple of mini-light bulb replacements. Both receive regular use around the house and shack on broadcast AM, and occasionally to check the time signal on 10 mhz.

If I had to mention one thing which afflicts the radio, it would have to be the wideness of the bandwidth in CW/SSB mode. The sensitivity is there, but the radio was really designed to tune DSB (AM) broadcast signals. A simple fix is to find (or build) an external audio filter such as MFJ's old CWF-2 CW Filter. These can be found on eBay for very little, and of course there are other models which work just as well. I even have two CWF-2's just for the occasion.
Z31GH Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2014 13:31 Send this review to a friend
Good all mode receiver  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I bough mine for 50$ last year from a friend who is not a Ham. His late Father was. It was still new in the box, never used. Its a bit hard to manage the frequency's, but if you manage to handle the reception its a very good receiver. It needs some mods to be bether, you can find the mods on the net. All bands have exelent reception if you have a good antenna. The opinion for this receiver is divided, for some this receiver has bad reputation, for other it is one of the best receivers that realistic made. I have big fun with this receiver, maybe because its still new, and i like the design. If you can find one for less money, try it.
K9MHZ Rating: 0/5 Sep 23, 2014 10:58 Send this review to a friend
Terrible piece of crap  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had one when it was all I could afford, and actually learned a lot about receivers because it's such a piece of crap that needed constant attention to get it to do even close to what it claimed to be.

IFs were way, way off. Tuning was so imprecise, you never knew where you were exactly. The receiver drifted miserably, and the receiver audio quality was the pits.

They're old now, but they were never good even when new. If you find one for $20 at a hamfest, and can't resist the "nostalgia" (what a joke) that someone described below, then go ahead, but be prepared for a lot of headaches. Yugo cars are "nostalgia" now, too.
W2WDX Rating: 4/5 Mar 1, 2013 20:24 Send this review to a friend
Good Receiver Stock, much better with a few mods  Time owned: more than 12 months
Like so many of us, I used to look in the Radio Shack catalog as a kid and wish I could get the DX-160. When I went to the store I would stand and stare at the thing, tongue hanging akimbo.

Well now I can get these radios and have restored and resold quite a few. Here's a few things about these radios you should be aware of when buying one now for that childhood bucket-list fulfillment thing.

First, alignment is crucial for this radio to perform well. Most, when originally coming from the factory, needed alignment out of the box. This was because the adjustments for the RF Osc circuits used transformers that had loose slugs. Bouncing around in shipping from Japan, caused them to go out of alignment every time.

So if you buy one now, it will need alignment. More so than most radios I have restored. It is easy to do, but you should do it patiently and thoroughly. There were two versions, delineated by serial number. Before #418411 (US model) #417544 (Canada) #429012 (Europe) and after. The only difference is a different IC for the audio output. Make sure you have the correct manual. However the alignment procedure and components are the same for both.

The thing about this receiver most complain about is the narrow audio quality. This is contributed by two facts. The IF and the audio circuit. The manufacturer designed a narrow audio bandwidth, most likely, in order to save cost. By limiting the low frequency response above 200Hz, filtering of the power supply became less critical. The linear IC used in both version used some filters on the surrounding pins to limit the audio. For the later model, using the NEC uPC575C2 IC, there are several mods posted on various websites. However it is important to also increase the values on the filter caps in the power supply surrounding the regulator transistor. This will help keep the 2x line frequency (120Hz) out of the audio. Doubling the capacitance (or even tripling it) is recommended.

No mod is around anywhere for the earlier model, using a NEC uPC20C, for making an improvement in the audio bandwidth. I am currently looking for the original application notes for this NEC IC to see what the suggested circuit should be. Some of you more daring types might try working this out yourself.

One mod I have performed is adding a switch to bypass the crystal filter in the IF and switch in various external filters to change the selectivity. This works very well to improve reception of SSB and CW.

Another thing can be done to reduce drift. Most of the "drift" reported on this receiver is attributable to the instability of the BFO. A simple fix is to change all of the resistors in the BFO circuit to 1% tolerance. There are about 10 of them so it is not a big deal to solder in some new ones. Pat particular attention to the four 470k resistors in the bridge circuit in the BFO (R38-R42). Match them. This will make a big difference.

All this being said, a stock DX-160 aligned properly is a surprisingly good receiver for what you can buy one for these days. They are going for anywhere between $25 to $75, so they are relatively inexpensive and a great spare receiver, a good receiver for the new SWL, or just a nice casual receiver to play around with. This radio also has a mute jack on the back for muting when using a transmitter, something not often found on most inexpensive consumer receivers.

I have to say, of all the low priced receivers ever made, this one is quite good once aligned correctly. It is very hot with outstanding sensitivity, it is hard to overload (due to the FET front-end), and has decent selectivity for most casual uses.

My intuition as a kid wasn't completely off the mark as it turns out, my dangling tongue notwithstanding.
K8JHR Rating: 5/5 Jul 10, 2012 07:14 Send this review to a friend
Great Fun - Great Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is a really GREAT RADIO - considering how old it is, and how long they last. Built in the Late 1960s, this radio looks cool, sounds good, and is fairly sensitive and selective compared to radios of its day. You can get these for anywhere between $40 and $110 depending on condition and whether or not they have been tuned, aligned, and gone over by a good technician. Mine was tuned by an old ham. Mike, who trades under the name of "Lowbander" - and mine is in great shape, physically and electrically, and it works like the day it was made. These cost about $150 in their day, so they were not an expensive rig, but they work well, especially if you are patient and willing to work the band-spread fine tuning dial, and are willing to put up with an inaccurate "slide rule" dial. These rigs are solid, and built to last a long time.

Bottom line = a fun old rig to play with. Not an expensive DX rig, but a decent general coverage rig that can also work the ham bands, including SSB, and do a decent job of it, once you get the hang of using the BFO and antenna trim controls.

I have had a lot of fun with this old radio, and I think it looks pretty good (old school) in the shack. I will keep this one for a long time.

// K8JHR //
KB8GRO Rating: 4/5 Jan 26, 2012 22:06 Send this review to a friend
Good Radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have a DX160, it is being used in the shack. I like the radio a lot, it is built like a tank compared to what is available today. It drifts until you have it on for awhile, and the audio is communications quality, but the radio I have is 35 yrs old, and still going strong, it does remind you of the old shortwave receivers of the day, and some people think its a boatanchor wannabe, well at 15 pounds it could be. This radio is really not bad, I have newer receivers that do a good job, but if want a tast of what an old radio is like to tune , and use a bfo, and all analog readout, well you may like this one...

N0LKK Rating: 3/5 Jan 13, 2012 00:48 Send this review to a friend
An entry level radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have one of these in a storage tub somewhere. At the time a good radio at reasonable price for the casual SWL user. Not a communications receiver by any mean. When I went looking to upgrade, I discovered I could purchase a HF XVR for not much more, so I got off my butt & got licensed.
N8ERM Rating: 2/5 Nov 10, 2010 07:57 Send this review to a friend
Good? Got much!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I did the audio mod and aligned the rig. Looks much better on the service monator. I gave it away to a SWL. He used it for a few weeks and returned it, what more can I say.
KA8GEF Rating: 3/5 Dec 4, 2009 18:54 Send this review to a friend
Not hollow state, but not so bad after a little work !!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I never thought that I would have one of these in my shack, I use to scoff at anything that Radio Shack put on the market. I picked up the DX-160 at a hamfest, the cabinet was worn down to the primer and the audio sucked. This receiver sat in a cabinet for a few years, until I stumbled on a web site last week, that listed a number of mods for this unit. Surrounded by at least 20 boatanchors, several desperately needing TLC and repair, for whatever reason I sought first to make this DX-160 a better receiver. I improved the antenna compensation, did an alignment and significantly improved the audio response- the stock limited communications audio certainly needed addressing. I repainted the cabinet (computer matched color) and although this rig may not hold up well (unstable, drifty etc. etc.) against my Hammarlunds, Hallicrafters or Collins receivers, the audio mod worked wonders, AM signals are easy to listen to, sensitivity below 14Mhz is respectable and now it is a fun to use little receiver. I will somehow find a place for the DX-160 on the operating table!
K6LO Rating: 3/5 Oct 27, 2009 15:45 Send this review to a friend
Nostalgic  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had a DX-160 as a kid, and paired with a Heathkit DX-35 scrounged from a my high school electronics teacher, I managed to make actual contacts with other novices on 7122. This was 1978. Radio Moscow OWNED 40 meters, and my DX-160 was virtually useless after sunset. I'd send CQ, wait for an answer on 7122 for a bit, then assume the other station was also rock-bound and go hunting for him across the novice segment, roughing it through the broadcasters, using my DX-160, and find my QSO. A minor miracle. God how I miss it. Did I just digress? Go ahead and buy one. If you don't like it you can always put it back on eBay.
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