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Remembering Table Top Radios

table top radios

During the late 1990’s, reading Passport to World Band Radio got me excited about premium table top radios. So, I took the plunge.

Early in the last decade of the 20th century, I had two radio receivers. First, my ancient Racal RA17, which was almost as old as I was. Second, a brand new ICOM IC-728 transceiver. I used these occasionally with an R7 vertical and 100′ dipole mounted on the house. Very busy with kids and work, so not much time for hobbies.

In the mid-90’s, I had a health scare. While recuperating, a family friend bought me a copy of Passport to World Band Radio. This book provided a paper data base of all the SWBC broadcasts, sorted by frequency. So, I started to tune around. Back at that time, there were still lots of stations and English content. My Racal was very stable and had a great sound, which I supplemented with a home brew synchronous detector fed by the 100 kHz IF.

ICOM’s IC-728 was my first truly modern transceiver, with up-conversion, frequency synthesizer and passband tuning. I found it worked great on ham bands, but less so for SWBC. It just used a broad 70 MHz roofing filter for AM. And, for some strange reason, I found that zero-beat on AM signals was always 1 kHz off. Finally, it’s AM demodulator was meager and muddy audio resulted.

As I started paging through Passport, I came across Larry Magne’s wonderful reviews table top radios. And, to be honest, I started to salivate. Could modern table top radios really be that much better than I had experienced in the past?

At the same time, my hobby computing led me to start remote control programming with the ICOM CI-V port. Could this lead to a new aspect of SWL combined with PC software? So, I saved up some bucks and dug in.

Table Top Radios with PC Control

Some of you may remember that the mid-to-late 1990’s were glorious days for table top radios. While expensive, all the premium table tops gave broad coverage with up conversion driven by DDS frequency synthesizers with 1 Hz accuracy. First IF frequencies were in the 45-75 MHz range, followed by a lower 2nd IF where the real filtering took place.

Furthermore, all of these new radios offered computer control capabilities though an RS-232 serial port. I thought there was room for more PC control solutions. Ideas for my Ergo Radio Control Software germinated.

Over the next few years, I bought the NRD-535D, AOR AR7030, Drake R8B and NRD-545 table top radios. And I will tell you about each of these next.

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