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 Post subject: Drake R8 opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Thu 12, 2012 2:47 pm 
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Location: Moline Illinois
Sold my R390 last year to a forum member but I have been thinking about getting a user friendly BA with a built in speaker and the Drake R8 and its later versions seems to get high marks.

Thoughts and opinions on it - Thanks pro or con

Bruce


Last edited by y2k Bruce on Jan Fri 20, 2012 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Thu 12, 2012 3:20 pm 
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Joined: Jun Sun 19, 2011 2:31 pm
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Bruce,

There are 3 versions of the R-8; the original R-8 along with A and B versions. The R-8A introduced better front panel ergonomics (easier switching of mode and bandwidth). The R-8B has more memories and is supposed to have the best sync detector of the group (selectable AM sideband during sync). The original R-8 uses an optical encoder with metal knob for tuning, later models use mechanical encoders with a plastic knob. A VHF converter (not for broadcast FM) was available for internal installation in all models. The built in speaker is NOT very good, it would be a shame to use this receiver only with its internal speaker.

I have the original R-8 and like it a lot. It shares receive duties with a Hallicrafters SX-88 for my Ranger/Desk KW station. Selectivity options are very good and pretty much every Drake I own has excellent passband tuning and the R-8 is no exception.

I have several receivers with sync detection and I rarely use sync detection for amateur use because there is always a very slight lock delay between stations if they are not on exactly the same frequency. In most cases it is a minor beep of tone annoyance but in a net situation you miss part of a breaking call or comment. But for shortwave listening under conditions of selective fading sync detection provides amazing results.

To put this into context, I own a number of Drake models starting with the original 1-A through the R-8 along with an Eton E1-XM which was largely designed by the Drake team. I would place the R-8 in the number two performance spot edged out slightly by a R-7 which benefits from its full complement of higher performance crystal filters but it does not have sync detection. The R-7 uses an analog VFO so there is some drift but it is minor and I could always use my RV-75 with it if that was a real concern. The R-8 construction quality is very good but the R-7 is clearly a more expensive radio. It sold for $1300 in 1978 without optional filters and noise blanker while the R-8 was introduced in 1991 for about $1,000 with a noise blanker as standard and no optional filters needed/available. So the R-8 clearly wins the performance per dollar award and is better suited to fit in with the normal family room decor.

I hope this helps but if you have specific questions I would be happy to try and help. I just finished using my Ranger/Desk KW and R-8 in a roundtable on 3885 Khz. and the combination of filtering and passband tuning allowed me to pull one station out (who was using a low power retro-75 setup) that no one else could copy. The R-8 does a fine job and any of the family variants should make you happy. If it is a later model, check to make sure the mechanical encoder hasn't gone flaky. I think Drake may still sell it but they have long been out of the shortwave/amateur market and only their legacy of great service kept parts in supply this long-far better than Kodak who no longer has available the required printer supplies for the dye sub printer I bought 5 years ago.

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Fri 13, 2012 3:09 pm 
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Location: Ohio 45177
Do you have an SPR-4?


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Fri 13, 2012 4:47 pm 
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wazz wrote:
Do you have an SPR-4?


I am not sure if you are asking me or the original poster but I do have a SPR-4.

Rodger


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Fri 13, 2012 9:07 pm 
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Location: Moline Illinois
rsingl wrote:
wazz wrote:
Do you have an SPR-4?

I am not sure if you are asking me or the original poster but I do have a SPR-4. Rodger

..........And I don't :D :D


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Sat 14, 2012 1:47 am 
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So how do you compare the Spur to the other receivers? Have one here but it needs shipped off to be worked a little bit. PTO gears and possibly AGC malf. I feel I must let a Drake expert mess with those gears slipping, at least! I have been eyeing the LF loop antenna for it on the bay, but the guy wants a ton of money for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Sat 14, 2012 3:03 am 
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The SPR-4 is an interesting Drake. Some refer to it as "the solid state R-4B" since it continued to use L/C filtering instead of the crystal IF filters used in the R-4C but it does use the newer PTO style of the C line.

The sensitivity and stability are excellent. The only thing I miss from the R-4B is pass band tuning and it may have been left out in order to keep the SPR-4 fairly simple to operate. The L/C filter bandwidths are well chosen for AM, SSB, and CW and it sounds good on all modes. The noise blanker and calibrator are optional and it seems a lot of those up for sale don't have one or both of these options. It does have a built in speaker.

Drake referred to it as programmable in some of their advertising because you could buy different sets of range crystals (shortwave broadcast, amateur, tropical bands, etc.) based upon your interest and they came with decals to label the switch. I believe the range switch was originally built for the CB market of the time and it provides 23 selectable ranges each covering 500 khz. There are some used SPR-4 receivers floating around that were former FCC units and the CB channels are marked directly on the PTO dial.

Mine came with the NB and calibrator and both work as expected. I built one of the "crystal eliminators" from the Hageman QST article to provide complete .2 to 30 mhz. coverage for my SPR-4. It works well and I bought two more kits for the regular 4 line gear. Note that the range crystal frequencies are different for the R-4 line and SPR-4 line so crystals for one will not provide the proper range in the other unit (regular 4 line crystals will create a 10 Khz. calibration error); in the case of the "crystal eliminator" you had to specify when you ordered the kit. I don't know if the programmed parts and board are still available but here is Hageman's website: http://www.oocities.org/hagtronics/r4.html Of course you can also buy the Drake FS-4 full coverage synthesizer but they tend to be collector priced and slight modification is needed for operation with the SPR-4.

I have a Drake AL-4 loop that came with my SW-4A receiver and it is a useful accessory for the broadcast band (the jack it plugs into is only active through 1.5 mhz. so the loop doesn't function on the higher ranges). If you want to build your own instead of paying a high price here is a link to a construction diagram: http://www.dproducts.be/drake_museum/im ... _to_do.jpg

There is a rubber piece under the tuning knob in the C-line style PTO (includes the SPR-4) that will cause the PTO to constantly lose calibration when it is worn. You can replace this piece easily if that is the problem. It is also a good idea to clean/lubricate the PTO to prevent wear and preserve smooth operation and several internet sites provide a good explanation of this process. Do NOT get lube on the plastic drive gears. The Drake PTO is very easy to work on.

Let me know if you have other questions. Your SPR-4 is a fine receiver when operating properly and is well worth getting back into proper shape.

Rodger


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Sat 14, 2012 6:33 am 
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Location: Ohio 45177
I bought the Spur on ebay as a whim. It came from an estate in California. When I got it I found a wrinkled red Drake service receiving tag on it. Turns out it is one that I filled out on Valentines day 1977 so I guess it was not the first time I had handled the radio! Wish it had no issues but physically it is in very nice shape.


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Sat 14, 2012 4:00 pm 
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Very neat that you worked for Drake! You should definitely get it going again. I have been inside a lot of Drake gear so if I can answer any questions please feel free to ask.

I have a lot of vintage gear but if I had to go live in a closet and could only keep one setup it would be a Drake C line.

One of the funnier exchanges I heard at a contest station back in the 70s was a ham complaining about the bill he received from Drake service for his R-4C receiver. He observed that apparently Drake service replaced tubes even if they were just dusty. Another operator remarked that given all that he had spent on the rest of the station that a less than $100 charge for a great operating receiver was nothing. My thought, not shared aloud, was Drake service was finally getting paid for all of the free phone support they had provided this particular owner who had a habit of twisting the tuning dial past the end stop causing it to disengage (a protective feature for the PTO). It was a simple matter (for most people) to reset the mechanism but this particular person called Miamisburg several times a year and was walked through the procedure over the phone.

I recently acquired the RV-75 synthesized external VFO for my TR-7A/R-7/L-7 station and that setup is a pleasure to use on all modes. I have temporarily owned a number of high end radios but I keep going back to my Drake lines for DXing. When I get back into contesting again it will be time to replace my old Yaesu FT-1000MP with something new but I seriously doubt that I will ever find anything that would cause me to give up my Drake C line and 7 line gear.


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Wed 18, 2012 9:59 pm 
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Location: Moline Illinois
What sort of antenna would I use with a Drake R8 ? Looks like there is a coax cable connection on the back and other types of connectors.

Thanks as always in advance

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Just when you think you are a big dog, a Bull Mastiff shows up.


Last edited by y2k Bruce on Jan Fri 20, 2012 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Thu 19, 2012 12:56 am 
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Drake specifies 50 ohms for the coax connector and then alternate connectors are available for 50 and 500 ohm antennas. In my experience the impedance isn't that critical. I use a full wave 80 meter horizontal loop with my R-8 most of the time and this works quite well. fed into the coax input. But you can easily use a random length "long wire" antenna with the 500 ohm input and it will work well.

In the manual, Drake recommends using the 50 ohm coaxial input as the primary antenna connector if you are using a typical dipole, vertical, or beam on the amateur frequencies while long wire or end fed Zepp antennas should be fed to the 500 ohm input.


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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Thu 19, 2012 4:37 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 3634
Location: Westminster, CO, USA
Opinions about the R-8 (don't know why you are calling it the 8R). I bought one when they first came out They are great radios. I sold the radio a few years later when I needed some money. I regret having done that in a big way. It's the kind of radio you never want to get rid of. My memories are a bit dim but I recall not liking some of the button pushing sequences. Connected to the computer I could avoid some of that but I recall not liking computer based operation very much. As for antenna, I used the 500 ohm input with about 75 feet of wire to a tree and down to the fence. The radio is not too picky about that. If I were buying one now I would probably want to get the B model and the speaker. It's going to look out of place next to all of your big consoles.

Tony

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 Post subject: Re: Drake 8R opinions ??
PostPosted: Jan Thu 19, 2012 10:50 pm 
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Posts: 172
Location: Madison, WI
Hi guys,

Interesting thread. I've had an R-8 for about 15 years and I like it very much. A few years back, I got the VHF convertor for it which works quite well. My only gripe is that the internal power supply runs very hot. It even stays warm with the main power off. I seem to recall that it draws 15-20 Watts with the power off! Of course, this can be avoided by powering it from an external 12 VDC source, but then the clock loses its settings when the power supply is off. I agree with Rodger that while the R8A and R8B have better ergonomics, the mechanical encoder and plastic tuning knobs are a definite downgrade.

I had many positive experiences with Drake service over the years. Bill Frost was always very giving of his time.

73,

Clark, K9OA


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