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My First Truly Terrible Radio Receiver

truly terrible radio

I often write about wonderful shortwave receivers. So, it is only fair to recall my first truly terrible radio receiver from 1965.

As my interest in shortwave radio expanded during the 1960’s, I thought it was time to own a good receiver. Lots of my friends in the radio club had good radios (for the time) so I should do the same. Right?

I managed to borrow $60 for a Knight Kit R55A, shown above. I thought this would be a good deal for three reasons. First, it covered all of medium and short waves, as well as the 6 meter ham band. Second, there was a matching transmitter that might be in the future. And third, by building it myself, I would save about half the cost of comparable gear.

The R55A was a six tube, single conversion receiver with IF transformers at 1650 kHz. Honestly, at 15, I did not have a clue what that meant. But it looked nice, and I could afford it.

So, I learned to solder and put it together, and attached a wire antenna. Guess what? All it received was local FM stations leaking through. After a lot of trouble shooting and fixing some mistakes, I got this truly terrible radio to work.

Yes, it picked up strong signals but selectivity was terrible. Band spread was hopeless. No fun at all. I ended up giving it away and bought a used RCA AR-77 instead.

Truly Terrible Radio – Looking Back

I never did figure out whether R55A poor performance was built in, or did I just do a lousy job of building it. Probably a bit of both. In hindsight, I should not have built a receiver as my first foray into the hobby. Live and learn.

Now, sixty dollars was a lot of money back in the mid 1960’s. Equivalent to nearly $600 today. I now have some really great radios like the SDRplay RSP2 and RSPduo at half that price.


  1. jdmcscotty says:

    John –
    As a long time Chicago resident and fan of Allied Radio, I have to defend the R55A. But about all I can say to defend it is at least you didn’t have a Star Roamer! The R100 wasn’t all that much better.

    But I did start with a used T60, the mate to your R55, and it was a darned fine transmitter in comparison, running it for 3 years, DXCC, WAS and tons of fun, with nary a tube replacement.

    Still I envy you the AR77, I have an AR-88 in the vintage shack, and other than not being able to move it, it’s a very fine receiver. I imagine the 77 must have been almost as good, and a great beginner’s receiver.

    73 Scott

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