Best Analog Shortwave / HF Receiver Ever?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KK4NSF, Jan 25, 2020.

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  1. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    Im glad you admitted that. The R-390A was DESIGNED to conform to the very detailed US GOVERNMENT CONTRACT SPECIFICATIONS. And didnt see any Hammy Hambone or SWL use until they were surplused.
    NL7W and KA4DPO like this.
  2. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    The widest range of top performing SS receivers is most any transceiver model over the past 30 or so years. Many in top used conditions sell for much less than an inferior receiver only. INRAD carries crystal filters for most if wanted.

    NL7W and KK4NSF like this.
  3. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The R-390A:s were used in many applications.
    One major use was in fixed radioteletype links, where large antennas and high-powered transmitters indeed were used.

    This placed much higher demands on the dynamic range of the receivers, and if the receiver site was a quiet one, the strong-signal dynamic range of the original receiver would be lacking.

    How the designers of the receiver sites handled this for the R-390A I do not know in detail,
    but RF attenuators and passive multicouplers were parts of the tool-boxes used.

    My main point is that a high-performance HF receiver must have a low noise figure, 8 to 15 dB, and at the same time be able to tolerate strong adjacent channel and very strong adjacent band signals.

    It is here the real test of any design comes in.

    Making a sensitive receiver is easy, but preventing it from generating internal interfering noise or signals that mask wanted weak signals is considerably more difficult.

    Someone said in an earlier thread that a quality sign for a receiver is not always what you hear, but more what you do not hear.

    I suggest that you read up on the works of DJ2LR, G3RZP and B M Sosin of Marconi, who already in the early 70s formulated an analytic theory for the rating of receiver system performance.

    N2EY and KK4NSF like this.
  4. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Affordability, and availability, can reduce the field by a considerable number.

    I have never owned an SX-88. But, I have worked on a few over the years. Frankly, it is an "OK" receiver that is built like a tank and very heavy as well. I understand that there were around 300 manufactured and, as such, are not that common. Therefore, higher prices. Not as rare as the matching HT-20 transmitter. Less than 200 manufactured (my HT-20 is s/n 11). The SX-100- series performs much better.

    The Collins R-390 / R-390A were made for applications that do not require much tuning around. The Collins 51J- series, and the R-388- series, are much more conducive for general tuning around the bands.

    I do own a fair number of receivers and have owned, in the past, even more. In addition, over the years, I have worked on many receivers both amateur band only and general coverage. Most Hammarlund receivers (without being modified) tend to be pretty drifty especially above around 10 MHz. The primary exception to this is the series that started with the HQ-120, then the HQ-129X, followed by the HQ-140X, and ending with the HQ-150. After a reasonable warm up, those receivers are, generally, very stable.

    I have owned Collins R-390- series receivers and do own a 51J-2 and an R-388 (51J-3) as well as a number of different Hallicrafters models and several Heath receivers. For general tuning around the shortwave bands, I normally use either my SX-100 or HQ-140X. My TS-440SAT does have general coverage and, occasionally, I do use that receiver.

    There are, of course, general coverage receivers that have more capabilities. But, those receivers do tend to be more expensive as well as difficult to obtain. Basically, it come down to the actual application for which the receiver is used. Commercial, and military, uses are quite different from someone casually tuning around the shortwave bands.

    Glen, K9STH
    KK4NSF likes this.
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree there's never any "best" anything, but to me a "shortwave receiver" is not an amateur-band-only receiver like an SX-101A or NC-300, it would be general coverage.

    And to "me," I like old analog stuff with big knobs and flywheel drives and an audio amplifier that can drive a big speaker without distorting; performance on CW or digital modes, or even SSB, generally isn't a factor as SW-BC don't use those modes.:p

    Precision frequency readout or phenomenal stability, for me, aren't required, either.

    I had an R-390A and sold it a long time ago (it worked perfectly) because for "tuning around" it kinda sucks. It was good for dialing up a frequency and leaving it there. The 51J-4 was better for tuning around.

    For SW listening, "performance" isn't particularly important. Ease of use and fun during use are way more important. And something that sounds good listening to AM signals, with at least an AVC circuit that keeps one from blowing his head off when tuning in a really strong one.:)

    I've only owned maybe 15-20 SW receivers over the years, and that's not many at all. I think my "favorite" one was the NC-183D. A bit newer than an SX-28, sounded easily as good, and was lighter weight.
    WD4IGX and KK4NSF like this.
  6. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    the TS-440s actually makes a very good receiver... especially if you add a full set of filters. It's not as sensitive as my other radio, but it is very close. If you use a good speaker with it, and 4 or 6khz filter, the audio is superb.
  7. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hmmmm, in those cases the RX and TX sites were separated by many miles; I used to service one which ran a few dozen HRO-60's for the Tropical Radio HQ in MA which was owned by United Fruit Company who had a massive fleet of ships and plantations on several continents. The 60 was an early 60's design with no spectacular signal handling capability BUT extremely reliable.

    Any high end radio met those specs for the desired frequencies which were almost never at the high end of the radio capability, a 15 dB NF was more than adequate below 12-15 MHz. And frequencies for commercial and military use was channelized, unlike Hammy Hambone bedlam. There was no interference, even on shipboard with WW2 era 500-1000W TX feeding antennas 100' or so from the RX antenna and multicoupler. The frequency separation was sufficient to prevent any overloading. When SSB transceivers such as the Collins URC-32 took over CW and AM faded away for the most part for long range comms and except for specific nets the assigned frequencies were mostly clear of QRM and used for short point to point.

    Nope, just using it at its actual capability over decades of experience. Following the MUF down to maintain contact was common and with 500W + over the ocean contact was rarely lost.

    The subject is about analog designs which didnt have the later SS synthesized crud. You were the one to start smacking the R-390A around and now it is my turn based upon decades of hands on experience.

    That can be argued every way possible, not worth a reply

    Why? Since the USA had more experts to chose from we didnt need to go trolling offshore. Apologies to Peter, a good friend.

    KA4DPO likes this.
  8. WZ7U

    WZ7U Ham Member QRZ Page

    The best receiver out there, bar none, is the


    one that's turned on being used!
    K4PIH, AD5HR, N0TZU and 3 others like this.
  9. WW2PT

    WW2PT Ham Member QRZ Page

    If those are your criteria, then my favorite would be the Lowe HF-150. I have never heard a better sounding receiver for AM broadcasts!
    KK4NSF likes this.
  10. W8AAZ

    W8AAZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    IF you consider that back in the day, probably commercial/current mil type receivers were either unavailable, or priced way out of reach for the average person, you are left with what was available commercially to the ham/SWL market. Then to be fair, you might have to consider it by decade. Sorry, none of the prewar sets could compete with a really good solid state radio, if you have to include all of history. That is like asking what is the best car in all history. So the model T comes out looking pretty poor against a Z28 Camaro or something. I have an SPR-4 Drake rig. Made when most SW receivers were tube jobs. In it's era, it was seen as sort of the Cadillac of SWL receivers. Even the gov't purchased them. Witness an FCC monitor station version on ebay recently or maybe still there. Marker allowed dial correction to read to the kc. on the dial. Very sensitive with FETS. Selectivity passable. Sort of a bit wide compared to current ham rigs but SSB sounds excellent with the matching speaker. Covers like 200 kc. to 30 mc. depending on band crystals. Has one hole in SW range due to the IF, where you cannot receive. It would not compete with a contemporary mil spec radio or something built in a lab, price no object. But you could buy them all day every day, not mortgage the house or have friends in high places to get one. But we are talking the 70s here. Not current and not 1955. My general coverage current ham rig certainly can defeat it for SWL stuff but it is rather insensitive below 1.8 MHz and then the Drake can take over nicely.
    KK4NSF likes this.

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