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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Drake TR-7 Help


Reviews Summary for Drake TR-7
Drake TR-7 Reviews: 43 Average rating: 4.7/5 MSRP: $1495.00 (new 1980)
Description: A solid state Drake, that is solid!
Product is not in production.
More info: http://www.dproducts.be/drake_museum/
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AC5XP Rating: 5/5 Nov 2, 2018 19:27 Send this review to a friend
Excellent design from Drake, way ahead of its time!  Time owned: more than 12 months
The Drake TR7(A) is my all-time favorite vintage transceiver. I had one more than 20 years ago and always regretted selling it. But I recently was able to get a very nice one again with a high serial number, a Drake TR-7A, one of the last ones built. It had a problem but it was easily fixed (defect PIN diode switch for the calibration marker which caused a low output at 10 meters, a common problem with the Drake)
The Drake TR7 is an incredibly smart design, it was way ahead of its time when it came out. Drake really took a huge risk at the time by pushing the limit for an all-solid state, PLL synthesized rig. The radio has a couple of features that make it special. To list a few:
1)The PLL concept is really smart. A 500 kHz digital synthesizer is used, which generates the local fixed frequencies for each 500KHz band. A 500 kHz span VFO (5MHz to 5.5MHz) is then used INSIDE the PLL loop for the fine tuning inside a selected band. The SSB carrier frequency generation is also inside the mixing scheme, which means the rigs output frequency cannot drift if the SSB carrier frequency drifts (which concept also allows for the nice working pass band tuning on this rig). The only radio that I am aware of that uses the same concept is the Kenwood TS-530S, hard to say who stole it from whom. In any case, the result is an exceptionally stable rig with derives everything from a 40 MHz fixed reference frequency, including the digital display counter time base. Of course, the VFO can still drift (albeit small), but when this happens the display will show the drift as well so that you can compensate for the drift manually. Most VFO tuned Japanese rigs of the time (and the Collins KWM-2A) did not have this scheme, which meant that the many local oscillators in those rigs were unlocked and each one of them would cause independent output drift on those rigs, without showing this on the display. Drake also did the right thing by NOT going for a fully synthesized system, the latter which was done by Collins for the KWM-380 (that rig has a digital synthesizer capable of 10 Hz steps). Because in those days, rigs designed with fully digitally synthesized tuning (also for the fine steps) suffered a lot of phase noise because direct-digital synthesizes (DDS) did not exist yet. As a result, the TR-7 VFO based system has a MUCH better receiver than the KWM-380 did with all its complexity. Quite an accomplishment considering the KWM380 was almost tree times more expensive than the Drake!
2)The Drake uses an up-converting concept, one of the first rigs to do this. As a result, it is general coverage from 500 kHz to 30 MHz, without manual front-end tuning being necessary. General coverage also extended to the transmitter (although the latter was blocked by Drake but easily defeated by the user). As a result, this rig also can be used on the WARC bands, despite its vintage.
3)The receiver uses a passive ringmixer without an RF preamp in the RF front-end. Dont ask me how they did it but this resulted in a sensitive rig nevertheless, even on 10 meters. The result is a bullet-proof front-end. This rig STILL is one of the better rigs when it comes to large signal handling and absence of phase noise.
4)The rig is built REALLY well. Nice made-in the-USA all aluminum construction and quality. Especially when you consider that this rig was less than half the price of the competing KWM-380. Drake did a MUCH better job than Collins finding the right price-performance balance.
5)Last but not least, I lust LOVE the cosmetics of this rig. It was way different than anything else on the market at the time. And it still is. Ten-Tec copied the concept more or less (same extruded aluminum front panels), but the Drake always looked the coolest.
I kept my radio 100% original, NO mods. You should not do that either if you value the history of these vintage rigs. The only thing I did was replacing the AC fan with a modern DC brushless fan, since these DC fans are less bulky and quieter. And if needed, the original AC fan is easily re-installed. 12V DC for a DC fan can be obtained from the auxiliary port on the back of the rig (12 pin Jones connector) so there are no mods needed to the rig when installing such a DC fan. Using a DC fan also means you can operate the radio from any 12V 30A DC source (I use an Alicino PSU) without the need for the large and heavy Drake PS-7 supply. Because the original AC fan ONLY runs when you use the Drake PS-7 supply with it.
A tempting mod could be the installation of the huff-and-puff VFO stabilizer, many hams have actually done this. It eliminates the TR-7s VFO drift. However, the VFO drift is so small to begin with that I do not think this justifies violating the rigs originality. If you are into vintage equipment, you need to accept its shortcomings. Because, if I want a rock-stable QSO, I will use my state-of-the-art $4000 Japanese rig -that is not what vintage equipment is all about!

 
WD5ACP Rating: 4/5 Feb 4, 2018 15:52 Send this review to a friend
Classic rig - still valuable!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I picked up a TR-7 (split-back) about 2 years ago. It's a rig I wanted way back when it was introduced into the market (Fully solid-state! No tune! Up-conversion!)

The example I have was already modified. It was opened for 3-30 mHz transmit and someone had replaced the incandescent bulbs with cool-blue LEDs. It looks great in the shack! Right after I purchased it I modified it a little more. I re-tasked the STORE button to key the radio in CW mode (great for tuning amps and antennas) and then I added the wonderful X-LOCK kit from Cumbria designs. An easy Heathkit-ish board to build and easy to tie into the TR-7. Once installed, once you let go of the VFO knob, the PLL locks and eliminates any drift (common on radios with analog VFO/BFOs). Out the box, the TR-7 is very good, but the audio isn't exactly up to today's standard with the stock 2.3 kHz IF filter. I recently added a Sherwood 2.85 kHz IF filter (in the standard position it's for both transmit and receive) and WOW - I've been getting great audio reports, and on receive it's much better too! This is a highly recommended MOD for everyone still using the stock filter. You'll do best if you avoid the Drake external speaker - it's an open back design and isn't very good (even if you close the back, it's still not very good).

One other quirk... this rig is a mother-board design with most of the radio built on plug-in circuit boards (with LOTs of connectors). Unfortunately Drake didn't bother to gold-plate the connectors so if you have a TR-7 buy stock in Deoxit-5 and be prepared to pull the boards/connectors out every year or two and douse them with Deoxit.

Finn ally a note about the PA & accessory power supply on the rig. Its' a freaking tank. I suspect Drake didn't want to stumble out of the gate with the first solid-state rig - so they over-built the thing. Expect 140+ watts out on the 40/80 bands!

So it's not perfect - there's no speech processor (the external one isn't very good) - though it really doesn't need one. - No DSP - though as mentioned by others the Pass-Band tuning is VERY good - -but it holds it's own - even against my primary Kenwood TS-590 - it's a joy to use and a nice vintage radio that was Made in 'Merica and is still useful today (with a few tweaks and mods). If you like Drake - these are good ones (look for the TR_7A models - split-backs, as they have the better circuit boards) - Enjoy!
 
ZS1ZC Rating: 5/5 Jul 20, 2016 11:49 Send this review to a friend
Game-changer in its time  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The Drake TR7 - a modern classic. I've been wanting one of these ever since I got the TR-4C two years ago. I was discussing it on the air last year during a 20m opening to the US, and a day or so later got an email from Stu, K8ST, who had been listening, saying he had a near-mint condition TR7 with accessories looking for a home . Well, we did the deal and shipped her over - what a beauty! At serial #4774 it's quite an early build (1979), and it spent its life no more than five miles from the plant where it was made.

It's hard to explain the appeal of Drakes but somehow the TR7 takes it to a different level. It really isn't a fancy piece of kit, but it represents an epoch change in the design of amateur equipment. Firstly, it's all semiconductor, one of the first non-tube rigs on the market. And the Sherwood figures really aren't bad for the era, it's up there with the big names of the time in performance. The look of it is almost homebrew, there's no moulded front panel like the Kenwoods used, it's all metal sheet and extrusions, nothing sophisticated. But the performance for the technology is brilliant. Somehow those guys in Ohio really thought this one through and produced a game-changer that has a functional balance that designers have followed for years since.

Based on limited use so far, sensitivity is good, no stability issues, audio is nice and clean both ways. I see 100W+ output as expected. One noticeable feature is the NB7 noise blanker that absolutely kills pulses from neighbours' electric fencing, it's really effective. Then there's the PBT... I rarely use the IF shift on my TS830S, but the Passband Tuning on the Drake just begs to be turned on it's so effective. I run it as a second channel on the Kenwood SP-230. Also have the SP-75 Speech Processor that I'm still setting up. First QSO was Heard Island on 20m.

One minor hitch.... it wasn't switching my linear amplifier (or rather, it was half triggering the amplifier relay in receive, triggering it fully on transmit and then not releasing it) - but a bit of troubleshooting revealed a ceramic decoupling capacitor on the Cinch-Jones connector inside the rig that seems to have partially shorted. A quick replacement, now there's no problem - I guess it's age, this girl was made nearly forty years ago. She drives my NEC tube amp to legal limit with ease, no problems with the output match at all.

It's not a perfect transceiver compared to modern designs, but it's pretty damn good - and for its era it is superb. Hence the 5/5.
 
W6PMR Rating: 5/5 Jan 26, 2015 22:21 Send this review to a friend
Great old radio.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I would rather have a TR-7 than any Drake tube
radio. One of the all time great older rigs.
I could go on and on about how good these are
but you get the hint by now.
 
AA7LV Rating: 5/5 May 7, 2014 19:18 Send this review to a friend
A Ham Classic  Time owned: more than 12 months
Owned a TR7 R7 L7 station tenh years ago
I sold it for an Elecraft K3/10 kit.
But the Drake Tr7 station is my favorite
Transceiver Receiver and Linear for the price of the loaded K3/100.
So I just bought another TR7
 
WA7DUY Rating: 4/5 Oct 5, 2012 21:39 Send this review to a friend
An excellent solid rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my TR7 new in the late 70's. I got one of the first off the line (#762) and still have it. It is and was a very well built American radio. It had no bells and whistles by todays standards. I bought it to use on Mars frequencies. The stability was second to none. I kept hearing that was not the norm but mine was super stable. It has one of the best receivers that I have ever owned and was very easy to use. The replacement displays were a problem to find replacements but now Willi Raas sells an excellent set. The rig is easy to work on. The one drawback was the use of the Molex pins and headers. Often the repair is to pull the boards out and push them back in to remove oxidation from the pins. I now also own a second TR7 and I still think it is a fantastic radio and very underpriced for what it does.
 
WD9CMD Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2010 13:54 Send this review to a friend
Hard to beat a TR7  Time owned: more than 12 months
A wonderfull American Made Radio !

Currently have my TR7 alongside a new TT Omni VII and a pristing TR4C on the shelf above both. I must say as for operating convenience, and chasing DX, the Omni VII is the first rig on line. However, last weekend, during field day, I did some experimenting. Well, just purely as a receiver, that old TR7 still works very well indeed. Interestingly, the TR4C hears most anything the TR7 hears.

I do enjoy the receive audio more on the TR4C than any of the rest, and the TR7 is nearly as good. Not saying the Omni VII is not a fine radio,....its among the very best, and I feel very fortunate to own one. But lets not forget its a new rig versus a TR7 thats over 30 years old and older yet for the TR4C.

As for maintenance, either the TR4C or the TR7 needs some TLC, either by you, or from a list of excellent technicians. Yes the TR7 takes some effort to operate, and no DSP, but its a pleasure to use, a pleasure to listen to, and a pleasure for others to hear you.

These are great for a new ham, a collector, or someone who appreciates a rock solid american made product of days gone by. If you want the latest bells and whisles, or are into contesting, then of course, you should look to the new rigs only. Sorry,....no PC control or computer logging with a TR7. Just a pencil and a old fashioned log book.

If you find one in good condition, it just may be a lifetime keeper!
Good luck !
 
NU0C Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2010 12:26 Send this review to a friend
It's about the receiver!  Time owned: more than 12 months

Or maybe I should say, "it's about time" I wrote this review. I've owned my TR-7 for over 20 years, and it was hardly a pristine specimen when I bought it. But a little TLC and routine maintenance keeps it my go-to rig for when I want to HEAR stuff.

Sure, it's got stellar transmit audio. Yeah, it can do 180 watts or more output (but keep it down to spec, Drake set them to 150 watts maximum for good reasons). It's harder to screw up a transmitter than it is a receiver.

My radio and I just completed yet another guest appearance at our club Field Day, running 20 fone on a 4-element monoband Yagi. Over 1000 Qs on 20 for a 3A operation, not too bad. I am consistently pleased with the ability of this radio to pull out signals on a crowded band with lots of other RF in the area, while the tiny "modern" import radios struggle. If you say "the antenna makes a difference", YES! It does indeed: the Yagi pulls in MORE signals for the radio to deal with than a vertical or dipole. Anyone who has pointed at California or the Northeast when the band is wide open knows this. Aside from all that, the AGC and RX audio is pleasant to listen to and not fatiguing. The hottest receiver in the world with the best IP3, etc., still sucks pond water if it gives you a headache or hurts your ears. The TR-7 does not get in the way of the signal. This radio is only edged out by my vintage R-4C in that respect.

No support? Not repairable? Bah! There are several skilled radio techs out there on the internet who service these radios, and more support from knowledgeable gurus is available in various internet forums (for FREE!) than you can get from any of the current manufacturers. I fix radios on the side for fun, and I would much rather work on one of these than something "modern". Not that I am afraid to work on modern radios, I deal with the technology every day at my "day job", but the TR-7 is truly easy to repair and maintain. And they will still be running long after the radio-du-jour is in the trash heap due to an unobtanium CPU or LCD display having died.

Would I buy another? In a heartbeat. In fact, I have, only to resell it to another ham who appreciates it as much as I do. Coupled with the R-7/A receiver, it makes a versatile contesting setup that only top of the line modern rigs can match. The downside is that it probably would put you in the SO2R class. Life is full of sacrifices...

In summary, despite what the competition comes up with in whizzbang do-everything radios, I still say that they will have to pry my TR-7 from my cold, dead hands. Featurism is a Trojan Horse.
 
K4SPS Rating: 5/5 Feb 23, 2010 11:19 Send this review to a friend
My Friend Flicka  Time owned: more than 12 months
After several decades of major VFO flicker on my TR7's digital display (from minor table jolts and from necessary microphone movement) - I decided to do something about it.

It was so bad, that it would jump off frequency during transmissions - quite embarrassing.

On Sunday afternoon 3:00 EST on 7.237 MHz - I contacted the Drake net for some help and ideas.

These guys are great and they explained how to fix this obvious electrical problem. They said it was a faulty ground connection in or around the VFO section.

I removed the 5 Molex connectors from the mother board. I removed/unplugged the fat gray wire and the skinny blue/white wire. I removed one fastening screw. I then removed the mother board with a homemade board puller. I worked around from the back to the front. It came out easily towards the rear.

I next soldered the required ground braid to the PTO arm as per Drake threads. Mine was an early unit from 1979 and this hadn't been done at the factory.

I carefully sanded all the prongs for the above mentioned 5 Molex connectors. I then lightly coated them with Radio Shack mineral oil/contact cleaner and reassembled everything.

One hours worth of work, totally fixed this old TR7. It is rock solid on the LED display! After initial warm-up drift of 15 minutes, the digital display never varies any at all. It is SOLID!

Fix your TR7. It was easier than I could believe. 73's K4SPS

 
K4SPS Rating: 5/5 Feb 5, 2010 19:30 Send this review to a friend
Crank It Up!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I always wondered why my old TR7 would only output 100 watts on the watt meter. It has 250 watt input according to the specs. So with a little research this week I discovered that there is an ALC pot on the bottom of the chassis. When this is rotated clockwise, the power output immediately jumped to 180 watts output.

Obviously these solid-state transceivers are 'de-tuned' from the factory to limit flat-topping. All that has to be done to circumvent this is to turn the mic gain back to the 10:30 position as that is where I got the best audio signal reports!

This old rig is superb. Like so many others have indicated, this is the radio that I use the most. Bought it new in 1980 and I have enjoyed this wise purchase immensely. P. S. You can download the service manual for free at mods.dk-manuals, and do not have to purchase one from E-Bay.) 73's K4SPS
 
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