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Reviews For: Collins 75A-4

Category: Receivers: Vintage amateur

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Review Summary For : Collins 75A-4
Reviews: 24MSRP: 695
10-160 meter AM/SSB/CW Receiver
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
W7MBR Rating: 2019-02-05
Collins Masterpiece Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I am a major collector of vintage radios including lots of Collins transmitters and receivers. The 75A-4 along with its companion KWS-1 transmitter were largely responsible for the switch from AM to SSB back in the late 50's and early 60's attesting to just how good both of them are. Unlike some reports of bad audio I agree with Art Collins statement back in the 60's about Collins audio: We make great communications receivers not HI-FI equipment. Its stability is legendary and the mechanical filters provide excellent selectivity. I have personally measured the sensitivity of the 75A-4 and it averages .06uv from 160-10 meters, as good or better than most of its contemporaries. I rate it a solid 5 and to rate it a 1 or 2 simply shows you are one of those Collins haters or you just aren't familiar with vintage equipment.
W6XY Rating: 2012-08-15
A great vintage ham SSB and CW receiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The 75A-4 is my favorite vintage amateur band receiver. I cannot think of another receiver from the 1950s that is so often compared to the performance of modern receivers. The 75A-4 was designed primarily as a SSB and CW receiver and was paired with the Collins KWS-1 transmitter.

At least one previous reviewer mentioned the high mixer noise level, yet the 75A-4 has a measured MDS of better than -140dBm (see measurements at

My two 75A-4s compare favorably with my Drake R-4C with all the Sherwood Engineering mods for CW. The enhanced performance of the Drake is due mainly to the excellent added filters, and it's obvious when operating the Drake that reception improves greatly by cascading filters and narrowing the IF bandith. All of this is to say that appropriate filters should be used in the 75A-4 for optimum reception. I'm looking forward to getting a Dave Curry mechanical filter for 300Hz!

My 5 rating is for the 75A-4 in the vintage receiver category.
W7MHZ Rating: 2012-04-04
The All Time Standard Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
If you have a Collins 75A-4 and it does not sound good. It needs repair.

These are great receivers. Stable, Low Noise, Sensitive, and Excellent Audio.
KB2FCV Rating: 2012-02-06
Stable, it holds its own Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I've owned my 75A-4 for a few months now. So far I am very happy with it. I've owned hallicrafters, heathkit and hammarlund receivers before, but so far I think this receiver is far superior. Once it's warmed up, the receiver is absolutely stable. If listening to a net that runs for an hour or several, I never have to touch the dial. I think the PTO was definitely ahead of it's time and was leaps and bounds better than any other manufactured ham gear (not counting the R-390, which was not manufactured as ham gear)

I decided to do some comparisons with my IC-746pro. While yes, the IC-746 pro does hear a little better, the 75A-4 did a very respectable job at pulling weak signals out. It's not fair to expect it to receive just like your modern DSP transceiver, but I was impressed that it held it's own when I copied stations that were weak on both radios.

The receiver does ok with filtering out nearby ssb or cw stations. My Icom was the clear winner but for what it was able to do, it did ok. I'm not expecting modern contest grade performance out of a 50+ year old receiver. I can imagine back in the day, it did a fantastic job compared to what else was available.

I haven't done much receiving on AM, but then again I've heard that if you want to use AM, get a 75A-1 (which I have.. under restoration), A-2 or A-3. AM sounds ok on the receiver so far, but I suppose I'd like to hear it against my A-1 before I can really give a good review.

Bottom line, I've owned alot of boatanchor receivers over the last 20+ years from the 1940's - early 60's. This is by far the best perfoming I have owned and it's a joy to operate.
KG8LB Rating: 2011-02-08
OK just OK Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Another of the "trophy" boutique offerings from the St James Grey folks. The receive audio is lack luster with more than a fair amount of distortion. The mechanical filters color that already poor audio . There are many receivers that will outperform the 75-A$ quite easily. Smaller packages and lower prices to boot. A very business looking box, it really fails to deliver up to the expectations . The Harley Davidson of radio, the Collins 75-A4 is overweight, overpriced and under-performing.
WN3R Rating: 2010-11-28
Memories Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I never had any Collins gear when I was first licensed, but my elmer did. I just hooked up a borrowed 75A-4 with a sweet sounds speaker and it felt like the late 1950's again. Even the AM stations sounded good. CW was a bit of a challenge with the 3KHz filter. My new Ranger is now plugged in and all tuned up into a dummy load. It has a slight chirp but sounded sweet anyway. There's somethng to be said for the days when radios were not as good as they are today. Next week I'll add the coax relay and make a contact or two. I encourage the youngsters in the hobby to visit your local old timer and listen a bit to the older gear. It was fun then and nothing has changed.
KC2NYQ Rating: 2008-02-03
Great receiver for it's time Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I bought this receiver last summer from a local Collins collector. It
was restored by Howard Mills. This receiver for it's time and even today is one of the best I've owned. I've read that people state that
it's not a very good receiver need to keep in mind the time it was made and what it was made for.
WB6YZZ Rating: 2007-02-10
Better than expected! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I'd been missing the old BIG receivers with BIG knobs, space between them and linear slide rule dials, analgous to an analog watch. You can "see" where you are in the band without having to calculate how far you are from one end of the band or the other. So I decided to get an old receiver with that in mind. The best receiver out there seemed to be the 75A-4.

First I bought the "Modification Compendium" to see just how much it could be improved so that it was actually usable. I was impressed with the implied results, so I nabbed a 75A-4 off eBay with the vernier dial, the 3 standard filters and NO RUST for just under $1100! It performed and sounded better than I expected. I almost decided not to modify it, but I just don't feel right unless I get inside my gear and do SOMETHING to it ;-) So I made the AVC and the front end mods to improve gain distribution and IM response.

The receiver sounds great, with an old Radio Shack Minimus 7 "stereo" speaker. The tuning is smooth and easy. After a complete alignment, I compared it to my FT-920 and was amazed to find that it was as sensitive, but better sounding. I think the wider mechanical filter contributes to better fidelity, depending upon the transmitting station. AM, of course sounds terrific, with the 6KHz filter.

I'm not a DXer, but a casual listener and occasional rag chewer. I am very happy with the 75A-4, my now prefered radio.

I will now pair it up with either another boat anchor transmitter or maybe a homebrew job, and really enjoy ham radio, the way it was back when I first got my ticket!
WY6K Rating: 2007-01-09
Best of its era Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I am fortunate enough to have two fully restored 75A-4s, both of which were restored by Howard Mills, who did an exceptional job. I was a ham when this radio ruled the airwaves and was in awe of it after I was able to compare it to my SX101 - there was no comparison. It is still head and shoulders above the other receivers of that era - the SX101, HQ170, NC303, etc.

But you must remember that the design goals were stability, sensitivity, and selectivity - roughly in that order. The 75A-4 was the first truly stable receiver I ever experienced, it was, and is, amazingly stable for a non-synthesized rig. It made all the other recievers of that era look like toys. You could actually depend on the markings on the dial to be correct and repeatable. On most other rigs, the markings were just approximate and not necessarily the same from day to day.

It is still one of the most sensitive radios I have. Only the R390A seems better. It consistently hears everything my IC756PRO hears.

The selectivity is clearly not what you get with a modern rig but is more than adequate for everything but serious contesting or the most difficult dxing conditions. Of course, you don't get effective noise reduction or bells and whistles.

The audio is fine in both my rigs, although some manual gain distribution management is required (sometimes you have to turn the RF gain down a bit) and you don't want to drive the audio stage too hard. I use a 312B-4 speaker. I can also tell some difference between the two rigs.

The 75A4 was really made to introduce SSB to the amateur community. While many improvements were made in later rigs, especially in the S-line (which are surely better SSB rigs), the 75A-4 performs well enough on SSB. Correctly setting the Passband Tuning yields excellent results, even on weak signals.

This receiver is great fun and one of my favorites. If I'm serious about DXing, I turn on the 756PRO. But if I just feel like listening to see what's going on, I turn on either a 75A'4 or a 75S-3. Get one of these radios if you want a wonderful nostalgic experience, or if you just like the sound of tube radios of this era (especially Collins). Don't get one thinking it is going to beat your ICOM or Ten Tec. But if you are considering radios from that era, there is no way to go wrong with the 75A-4. It's the Rolls Royce of that era.

I would happily pay $3000 (in 2007) for a Howard Mills restored 75A-4. I'd pay $1500 for one in excellent, but not restored, condition. And maybe $1000 for one that needs work.
K6JPA Rating: 2006-10-22
Elegant Classy Lady Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I was fortunate enough to find a fully restored example for sale several years ago and purchased to to complete a full "Gold Dust" set. Although not used as much as my newer rigs, it still brings a smile to my face to watch this old girl light up and bring the airwaves to life. It's not really fair to compare her to my newer receivers. Frankly, even with their computer controlled, digitally processed DSP wizardry, they simply lack the kick in the rear fun factor of pulling in and listening to a weak station using skill, and not simply relying on microprocessors.