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 Post subject: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 4:09 am 
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Joined: Jan Fri 08, 2016 1:19 am
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Location: mapleton sd
Been wanting a vintage tube shortwave receiver and have two local opportunities.
One is a Collins R-388/URR and the other is a Hallicrafters SX-100.

I'd love to get some feedback from this group on which one you'd choose.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 7:11 am 
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Buy 'em both, and compare, then sell the lesser performer. Radios from the past have lived in different climates, which affect their components, and therefore their reception ability.

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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 7:22 am 
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I would prefer the R-388. Solid Collins military/commercial design and build quality vs consumer quality. 3 to 1 original price difference. SX-100 has better audio for casual listening. R-388 has better audio for DXing. R-388 is much more stable. You might want to add a product detector.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 11:44 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
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Location: Limington, Me
No contest! The R-388 is a much better receiver in many ways. I added Treetops product detector
module for SSB and CW.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 11:45 am 
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Location: Montvale NJ, 07645
If you are not digging out serious DX and just want to casually listen to SW broadcasts, definitely get the SX-100. It will be a reasonably easy to restore set.

The R388 is a complex receiver with it's PTO and mechanical setup. It will be difficult to restore for someone inexperienced with these sets. It's audio will also not be as good as the SX-100.

If you have to ask this question, I am assuming you have not restored any complex SW receivers, and probably are not listening to SSB or CW.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 2:10 pm 
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I have both and love them both. The SX-100 takes up less room and is easier to use but lacks the top end of the AM band. Restoration of either is not for the inexperienced. If you can afford both and feel confident about restoration, buy both. They don't make receivers like these any more. If I had to choose just one, it would probably be the SX-100 which is more conventional in design.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 3:01 pm 
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Anything Collins will probably hold it's value much better and be a better performer when it is operating at optimum. IF it needs work, better consider your abilities, and what it would cost to have someone supposedly expert overhaul it if you have difficulty doing it. Could be a white elephant if it needs alot done to it. The Hallicrafters is probably more than enough for someone that wants to have a general purpose SW receiver, but I doubt it will work as well on SSB as the Collins at all. But I have a S 41B here that I overhauled and use in here as a casual listener for both SWBC and AM BC. It sounds pretty good even with the built in speaker. I changed all the caps and most of the resistors, though. And at least one tube. Lot of work.

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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 3:03 pm 
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Joined: Jan Mon 28, 2013 9:35 pm
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Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Buy the one that is in the best condition. Look for modifications.
If they are in the same shape my vote is 101% Collins. I've owned
both, still have the R-388.

The quality is like comparing a Kia to a Rolls Royce.

Another great general coverage s/w receiver I'd suggest is the SP-600.
This one is hard to restore though.
Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 3:57 pm 
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A tough choice because they are so different.

For general usage, the SX-100 is hard to beat with its smooth tuning and selectable sideband performance. It will pull out AM stations in heavy QRM conditions better than the R-388 and is a decent sideband receiver without adding any external adapter. For band scanning, it is very enjoyable to use.

The R-388 has very low drift and excellent calibration and military quality construction. It isn't as easy to work on as the SX-100 but if you focus on a section/issue at a time it is very doable and is more tedious than complex.

I have and use both and for several months a SX-100 was the receiver I used with my Ranger/Desk KW station because it was far superior in tough conditions to the National HRO-50 which was featured in Johnson advertising for the Deak KW. For several years I used a R-388 paired with a 32V-1 and it was a good combo. I did add a 4:1 Collins tuning knob to the 388 because otherwise the tuning really is pretty fast. Selectivity is excellent for CW with its crystal filter but I prefer the SX-100 for AM. My favorite of this Collins series is a 51J-4 (late civilian variant of the R-388 with mechanical filters in addition to the single element crystal filter) and I also have the 4:1 knob mechanism on this receiver.

If you get the SX-100, realize that tuning AM with it is a little different than typical shortwave receivers. It is designed to only receive one AM sideband at a time so you don't center the station within the IF passband. The easiest way to get used to this style of receiver is by tuning in AM stations with the BFO on and the pitch control set to zero. Tune for zero beat and then turn the BFO off, the receiver is now perfectly tuned and you can switch between upper and lower sideband at will in order to choose the sideband with the least interference. This is an extremely useful feature for amateur use and also BCB DXing and would have been great a few decades ago when the SWBC bands were more crowded. When set to the 5 khz selectivity position, the SX-100 (and its similar Hallicrafters siblings) provide a bandpass equal to 10 khz. with a regular AM receiver but with less interference. This same applies to the Heathkit RX-1 "Mohawk" which is largely a copy of the Hallicrafters design. Collins receivers (and most others with good mechanical or multiple pole crystal filters) can be tuned using this way putting the carrier right at one edge of the filter passband in order to receive only one sideband and reject the interference on the other side of the signal. It takes a little getting used to but once you learn this simple process it provides perfect copy under lousy conditions.

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 4:45 pm 
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Although the 388 has far better frequency and mechanical stability, along with consistent dial accuracy across all the bands, the SX100 is a little more convenient if you're intent is simply to casually cruise the SWL bands. I agree with Rodger's comments regarding the 100's I.F. characteristics and tuning, he is spot on.

I'm also a ham, have both receivers, and when communications become difficult, unlike Rodger, I tend to prefer the 388, but for casual use, either will do well.

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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 6:28 pm 
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Mike,

On CW I would give the edge to the R-388 where its crystal filter works very well but I have never been a fan of the old single element filters for AM. Maybe it is just personal preference but using those single element crystal filters to provide sufficient selectivity on phone reminds me of using the 1.5 Khz. filter in a Drake R-4C for SSB. I did this many times during contests with the passband tuning offset to make it work; it allowed you to get the call sign and exchange when a wider filter let through too much QRM but it wasn't pleasant.

Of course either of these are very good receivers and either will work in situations where many lesser receivers will struggle.

So to the OP, you really need both :)

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 10:25 pm 
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Joined: Jul Tue 21, 2009 1:38 pm
Posts: 946
Location: SW WA state
Lots of good comments so far.
I would go for the Collins hands down. I have used the R-388 as my "daily driver" for HF and AM BCB/SW reception since 1989.
Good Points:
-Stable
-Accurate dial
-Built to last
Things to watch out for:
-Collins PTO: They are all BAD if not previously worked on. You MUST replace the three matchstick caps in the PTO. It's not a matter of "if" but WHEN they will fail on you!
Also, the PTO has aged, and will not be correctable anymore from band end to band end. The End Point Error fix will need to be done. Not for the faint of heart...
Yes, I have done the EPE and matchstick cap fixes on my R-388.
I have two more in the weeds to fully go through when I have the time.
Very good receivers, and with my CV-591A SSB converters, will do quite nicely on SSB.
You should do well either way you go... Better in the long run with the R-388 I feel.
Best of Luck!

-Tom


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Fri 12, 2019 11:34 pm 
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Quote:
...On CW I would give the edge to the R-388 where its crystal filter works very well but I have never been a fan of the old single element filters for AM... reminds me of using a 1.5 Khz. filter for SSB...
Agreed, but when you have to pick out a little slice of intelligibility from two side bands of interference, and "some" signal, you do the best you can with what you've got.

As for buying both, Ya got my vote. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sat 13, 2019 2:59 pm 
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Joined: Jan Fri 08, 2016 1:19 am
Posts: 131
Location: mapleton sd
Thanks to all and especially rsingl for some very good information.

Though I wish I could buy both as some of you suggested, that is not an option for me.

However there is a third player on the field. The guy who has the R-388 also has told me
he'd sell his Hammarlund HQ-180A. I have seen none of them in person yet but the three are
all priced similarly. Thoughts on the Hammarlund compared to the 388 and SX-100?

My primary use is casual AM BCB and shortwave DXing although I do enjoy listening to SSB and
CW. Im not a ham but I did learn Morse in the service.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sat 13, 2019 4:29 pm 
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Joined: Mar Wed 16, 2011 10:44 pm
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Location: Peekskill, NY
I would point out for the record that there are are simpler, less expensive, easier
to restore radios that would fill your bill.

There are many simpler hallicrafters sets that would do the job. If your goal is to
tackle an adventurous restoration, by all means jump in hard. But if you just want
a radio to do casual BC dxing or some swl, then consider scaling back you target.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sun 14, 2019 1:32 am 
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Joined: Jun Mon 24, 2013 3:00 pm
Posts: 1265
Location: Champaign IL 61822
The Hallicrafters is simply "out" if you have an even reasonably close AM station between 1600 and 1700 kHz.
as that's near its IF.

They are all fine radios.

That said, if you ever get "bit" by listening to SSB or CW on a tube radio,
you will eventually want an R390A or a Racal RA-17 (the latter a restoration nightmare however).
I personally would get the Hammarlund.
I did get a Hammarlund (an SP600) first and then found myself buying the top set
from every tube manufacturer, an obsession.


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sun 14, 2019 5:35 am 
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Joined: May Wed 23, 2018 6:28 am
Posts: 398
The Hammarlund is a good receiver, but it is still a retail market receiver, not a commercial/military receiver like the SP600 or the R-388. The SP600 is a great receiver. Imade the mistake of trading mine. There is one negative I am aware of on the R-388, but it seems you should be able to check it before you buy. Some PTOs don't retain their linearity over time. I was in 30 level Direct Support (DS) Maintenance at the end of the R-392 (part of the R-389, R-390, R-390A, R-391... family) era (~1975). Some PTOs aged and although it is possible to fix them, it is difficult, requiring purging and sealing afterward, so the radio had to be sent up to 40 level General Support (GS) Maintenance and probably went to Depot Maintenance. In the end, new PTOs, not NOS, were installed in their place in DS Maintenance and the old ones were trashed. You can check the linearity by looking at the high end, middle, and low end of any range using a signal generator or stations of known frequency near the 3 test points. I think +/- 2 kHz was considered OK. All of the early R-392s that hit the surplus market seem to have been the ones sent to Depot and warehoused without repairing. Later ones were mostly OK. After all these years, if it is still accurate, it is likely to stay that way. You can find guidance on repairing and adjusting them on the internet.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sun 14, 2019 5:52 am 
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Joined: Jul Tue 21, 2009 1:38 pm
Posts: 946
Location: SW WA state
John,

I haven't seen an R-388 PTO yet that hasn't needed maintenance due to EPE. Also, the three matchstick caps are a mandatory replacement...
Collins spec I believe was +/- 1 kHz. I have no problem rebuilding them to that spec. I typically get them to +/- 200 Hz.
I've never purged or resealed a PTO, as they are NOT airtight! I've watched air bubble from the PTO shaft bearings as the units heat up.
When it cools down, it will pull outside air back into itself.
Thanks for your information on the PTO's... Makes me wonder if they eventually figured out what caused them to change value, and corrected the issue.

-Tom


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 Post subject: Re: Vintage shortwave choice, whick one?
PostPosted: Jul Sun 14, 2019 1:13 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
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Location: Utica, NY 13502 (USA)
I serviced an HQ-180 for a friend about a year ago. While it worked well, its IF system is too narrow for enjoyable AM BCB and SW broadcast listening in my opinion. Great for SSB and CW.

Regarding the SX-100, there is a simple mod to the noise limiter circuit to reduce audio distortion when it is switched off. It involves replacing the SPST switch with DPDT and a minor circuit change. It made a big difference in my set.

Attachment:
File comment: Disconnect C81 when noise limiter is switched off to reduce distortion.
SX-100 Noise Limiter Mod.JPG
SX-100 Noise Limiter Mod.JPG [ 60.91 KiB | Viewed 215 times ]


Dave


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