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 Post subject: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 3:05 pm 
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I've probably restored a billion AA5 radios over the years. Something I've experienced is that if I get a Zenith and its from the late-40's onward, usually there is at least a 50% or greater chance it still works. There are a few models, in particular their larger AM/FM " High fidelity" sets that probably work 75%+ of the time and on top of that- mostly all of not ALL original parts. Happened last night as I cracked open a high fidelity model and I'm sure it had never even been taken out of cabinet since the screws looked unmolested and the parts were all original as well. I've had some Zeniths that look like they sat in a barn for 50 years- like look like total crap and yeah, they still work.

Yeah- I know that was their thing- Quality goes in before the name goes on. But its not like the "innards" are remarkably different. Same brand of parts and components inside as more or less all of the other brands. Like usually spraque caps and so on.

Their FM is also a hell of a lot better. FM is often sub-optimal on many 50's and 60's era US made sets but on Zenith's? Works as well as a modern day radio.

Same goes for their TV sets. We just came back with a bunch of 60's-70's era Zenith sets from a former repair shop. FOUR still worked just fine and dandy.


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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 3:48 pm 
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Location: Dos Rios, CA. region
Perhaps Zenith just had a more conscientiously trained workforce on the assembly line?
Seldom if ever have I seen any "cold solder joint" posts about Zenith products for example,
though I'm sure there's a few instances (lunch break, etc) it happened.

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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 4:28 pm 
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Location: La Mesa Califonia
I did Zenith factory service back in the 60's - 70's. The only big fault they had was the 4 lead ceramic case "safety capacitor" on the horizontal output transistor. Would open up at the ends and the high voltage ran away blowing the CRT neck off. This capacitor was later replaced by an orange drop type. No fails after that.


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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 5:21 pm 
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Maybe the end users treated them better since they were a little more expensive.


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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 7:06 pm 
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Location: Beaver Falls, PA. USA
It could also be better components. The parts manufacturers were competitive, and would make you better stuff if you were willing to pay the price. Look at how much vintage HP and Tektronix gear still works, as found.

I remember the capacitor failure fiasco very well; other companies which used the same supplier (American Radionics) had problems with them as well.

Zenith was Armstrong licensed from the very beginning, and evidently put more effort into engineering good FM radios. Other companies who tried to beat Armstrong's discriminator patents, such as RCA and Philco, made sets which were not quite as good on FM.

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Last edited by Tim Tress on May Sat 21, 2022 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 7:19 pm 
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Location: 13 Critchley Avenue, PO Box 36, Monteith Ont, P0K 1P0
I haven't restored quite a billion, but I have rebuilt a dozen or two, and I have owned and played with several hundred over the years. I am one of those who plugs them in first and damn the consequences (and have yet to have one fail ) ..... and I gotta say that at least 90% of them, maybe more, have played when tested right out of the dumpster. Yes, they hum, but that's only because they're old and they're suffering from memory problems.

I am afraid I cannot comment on "Zenith" in particular, but Canadian radios in general appear to be particularly tough and long lived.


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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sat 21, 2022 8:41 pm 
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Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Right, I have a simple box Zenith from about 1960 that has still never been worked on, bought for $7 at a thrift store, worked well last time I tried it. I imagine the e-caps want to die by now.
Hand-wired chassis and decent quality components, I'd say.

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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sun 22, 2022 3:29 am 
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Joined: Aug Mon 16, 2021 3:25 am
Posts: 251
Location: Lewis & Clark Stomping Grounds, Oregon, USA
A timely post on Zenith radios for me. I recently picked up a completely "ratted out" Zenith Transoceanic Royal 1000-D for nothing (1962 manuf. date)and figured it might be useful for parts. The exterior was pitted and filthy dirty. I saw spider webs and dead bugs behind the dial face. The bottom of the cabinet was covered in a layer of dirt. Seemed like this radio was stored for 50 years in a farm shed with a leaky roof.

When I opened up the back, I was surprised to see the radio chassis corrosion-free and untouched. Lots of spider webs, dust and leaves inside. The variable capacitor was covered in dust. The main problems were a broken dial cord, dirty chassis-cabinet and missing front cover.

Chassis pulled and extensively cleaned. All (9) transistors pulled from sockets and tested (all good!) and leads cleaned with DeOxit. Volume & tone pots cleaned, band switch, light and radio/phono switch cleaned. Replaced broken dial cord. Cleaned some corrosion in battery box. Then spent a hour and a roll of paper towels getting the dirt & grime out of and off the cabinet.

Radio re-assembled and works beautifully! All bands (LW, MW, SW) are working without any issue. Great reception last night on the SW bands using just the telescoping antenna. It could use some alignment on a few of the SW bands but overall I am impressed. All original transistors and electrolytic capacitors too!

Jeff


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 Post subject: Re: Why are.... Zeniths so durable?
PostPosted: May Sun 22, 2022 11:06 pm 
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Location: N. Palm Bch, Fl.
I'm a big Zenith fan and my success rate has been in the upper 80% right out of the box also. I do bring the up on the variac first time to check current. I have 4 TO's that haven't been touched except for a good cleaning to make them look pretty. They get played twice a week and no hum. These are the tube radios. What surprises me is the paper caps. I've cut 1 lead to test on a couple and they won't show anything on me RC bridge yet work fine in the radio. Zenith did build a fine radio.

Freeman

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