My Favorite Things About Boatanchors
Cool Boatanchor Sites
R390A Receiver Home On The WWW (archived)
The R-390A Frequently Asked Questions Page
Fair Radio - military and industrial surplus electronics
Josh Rovero's excellent R-392 page
R-1051/URR Navy Receiver Info
Hammarlund HQ-129X Info
Go to my Hallicrafters page!
Go to my R-390A page!
Welcome to my boatanchor page! Boatanchors (in the metaphorical sense) are very heavy communications receivers which are jokingly said to be able to anchor a boat (hence the nickname). They are usually very large, use multitudes of vacuum tubes, and are often overengineered. Many of the boatanchors out there were produced for the military, but there were some consumer sets built as well (two examples of civillian boatanchors are the Hallicrafters SX-42 and the National NC-183D).
My first boatanchor (actually a semi-boatanchor, since it isn't all that large) was a Hallicrafters S-118. While definitely not a true boatanchor (it weighs only 15-20 pounds), it does use a healthy amount of iron (it has a power transformer, unlike other communications receivers of the early '60s), has five bands (ranging from 190kHz to 30MHz), and doesn't look like a normal consumer radio (with a large slide-rule dial extending across most of the faceplate). More about it can be found on my Hallicrafters page.
My second boatanchor was a R-390A/URR made by Electronic Assistance Corporation (EAC), a subsidiary of Hammarlund (makers of civillian boatanchors), in about 1967. The R-390A/URR was designed for the military by Collins Radio Corp. as a low-cost version of it's predecessor, the R-390/URR, and is considered one of the best communications receivers of all time. Around 65,000 of them were made from 1951 all the way up to 1984. They use 26 vacuum tubes, have a Veeder-Root mechanical-digital tuning display (uses number wheels for MHz and kHz indications), and weigh approximately 75-85 pounds. Of the many manufacturers who produced them under contract from the U.S. government, EAC produced over 15,000 of them (more than any other R-390A manufacturer, even Collins, who built around 10,000 of them). When I first got this set, it was complete for the most part (including original meters), but it was missing two of it's tubes and tube shields, which I recently replaced. I have done preliminary testing on my R-390A, and it appears to be working fine so far. More about my R-390A, as well as a journal on it's restoration so far, can be found on my R-390A page.
PICS: FRONT | BACK | ID TAG | TOP | BOTTOM | LEFT | RIGHT
My third boatanchor was a R-392/URR made by Collins (who also designed the R-390/URR and R-390A/URR, among other military boatanchors). The R-392/URR was designed as a vehicular version of the R-390/URR, and is far more compact. Built as part of the AN/GRC-19 receiver/transmitter set, the R-392 was meant to be paired with the T-195 transmitter, and mounted in the back of a Jeep. Even though it runs on only 28V DC (using no dynamotors or other voltage-boosting methods), it's performance is said to be nearly as good as the R-390. The R-392 uses 25 tubes, weighs around 50 pounds, and is meant to be totally waterproof (mainly due to it's outer case, as well as the specialized connectors used for power and audio). As received, the outer case was missing, and the set had various problems. However, I've since found a replacement case, and the receiver now works perfectly. I've even found a proper power connector, which is fairly rare.
PICS: FRONT | BACK | ID TAG | TOP | BOTTOM | LEFT | RIGHT
My fourth boatanchor was a R-48/TRC-8 made by Espey Mfg. Co. Inc. I do not know much about this receiver, other than it was meant to be part of the AN/TRC-8 receiver/transmitter set. It receives on the oddly-picked 230-250MHz band, which is most likely vacant today. I have yet to test it, since it needs a new power cord, and I have yet to examine it's innards. UPDATE: Due to the fact that it likely won't be all that useful to me even if working, I decided to sell the set. Hopefully, someone else will have more luck with it than I have.
My fifth boatanchor was a Hallicrafters SX-42. A classic postwar boatanchor, this set has the capability to receive BC AM, BC FM, and everything in between! Reading Phil Nelson's SX-42 saga was a big part of my getting into tube radios in the first place. The example I acquired is rather rusty, and in need of an immense amount of restoration, but if I can pull it off, I'll certainly be well rewarded! More info and pics coming later.
My sixth boatanchor (actually a semi-boatanchor) was a Hallicrafters S-38B. The Hallicrafters S-38 series was their entry-level communications receiver, meant for people just getting started with shortwave. It's essentially a transformerless "All-American 5" AM table radio with shortwave bands added. I haven't done much with this radio, but it should be interesting to compare to my S-118 once I get it up and running. UPDATE: I decided to give this radio to a friend. It should make a great introduction to tube radios for him.
My seventh boatanchor is an R-1051B/URR, possibly made by Bendix/Allied Signal. The R-1051 series was designed by General Dynamics Corp. with SSB reception in mind, and to be extremely easy to use. It has five tuning knobs, which allow the frequency to be dialed in 'digitally' (in conjunction with frequency synthesis circuitry to keep the tuning rock-steady); other than that, it has surprisingly few knobs for other functions, since it was intended to be "set and forget" (instead of the various sorts of knob-twiddling required to use an R-390A or the like). The tuning mechanism of the R-1051B is extremely complicated, involving metal chains, gears, and motors in order to provide the digit-by-digit tuning it offered. The R-1051 series is mostly solid-state, but still makes use of two vacuum tubes (and was one of the last tube-equipped military communications receivers designed; my R-1051B uses a 6BZ6 and 6AN5WA in the RF deck), and still manages to weigh somewhere around 70 pounds. It has some minor issues, but works for the most part. A picture of it, equipped with LEDs in place of the original dial lamps, can be found here.
My eighth boatanchor is a Hammarlund HQ-129X. The HQ-129X was introduced shortly after the end of WWII. It sports 11 tubes, and covers 540kHz to 31MHz in six bands. The introductory price matched the model number, just $129, yet it offered an impressive level of performance for what you paid, along with a set of crystal filters (unusual for a set at this price level). This didn't last long, as Hammarlund soon realized that it was going to be near-impossible to make a profit at that price, so it went up to $189, and eventually around $239. Even so, it remained very popular, and stayed in the Hammarlund lineup until 1953. Unlike some of my other civilian communications receivers, the HQ-129X is a true boatanchor, weighing in at a whopping 60lbs! My HQ-129X has the all-white markings of a later model, as opposed to the orange/white markings they used in the first year or so. It could use a set of new caps, and much of the paint has flaked off of the dial bezel, but the set works nicely for it's age, and is in decent shape. UPDATE: I sold this radio to someone who wanted a first boatanchor. I think they'll enjoy it!
My ninth boatanchor is a Heathkit SB-102. Unlike my other boatanchors, the SB-102 is actually a transceiver (a receiver and a transmitter all in one), meant for use on the ham radio bands (it covers 80-10M in eight 500kHz bands). Heath produced amateur radio gear for most of the company's time in the kit market, and the SB-series was among the most popular; more info available here. The SB-102 was the last tube-based model to be released within the series. Unlike its predecessors the SB-100 and SB-101, the SB-102 used solid-state components within the tuning unit (known as the "Linear Master Oscillator", or LMO). My SB-102 came with the matching HP-23A external power supply, as well as a SB-600 speaker cabinet (which houses the HP-23A) and the original manuals. All three are in excellent condition cosmetic-wise, though the SB-102 and HP-23A could stand to be worked on since they're nearly 45 years old. It has some issues on the upper bands, but works quite well for transmit and receive on the lower ones.
PICS: FRONT 1 | FRONT 2 | CLOSE-UP | INSIDES 1 | INSIDES 2 | POWER SUPPLY
My tenth boatanchor is a National NC-183D. National is best known for the "HRO" series of radios, but they also made some sets which were more conventional. Introduced in 1952, the NC-183D was an update of their earlier NC-183, adding dual conversion on the upper bands. It uses 16 tubes, and provides continuous coverage from 540kHz to 30MHz, plus the 6M ham radio band (47 to 52MHz). It is similar in general style to the Hammarlund HQ-129X mentioned above, but cost a fair bit more ($370 compared to $189-239 for the HQ-129X), and offered better performance. I got this set along with its matching speaker, and is in very good shape overall. Unfortunately, these sets tended to have weak power transformers; the one in mine hasn't blown up yet, but I'm going to replace the old capacitors before I use it much more. However, it definitely shows lots of potential, even though some of the bands currently have sensitivity issues. More later! UPDATE: I recently had a chance to take the bottom cover off, and found that the receiver had been mostly recapped at some point; I replaced the remaining capacitors (a few molded-paper types, plus all of the old electrolytic caps), but the hum and sensitivity issues remained. Both of these were remedied somewhat by cleaning the radio/phono switch (not sure why that affected performance), though vestiges remain, along with a new issue with the AVC circuit causing overloading on strong signals. I'm hoping these remaining issues can be resolved at some point in the near future, but the radio is working quite nicely for the time being (particularly on band C, which covers 40M, among others).