By Michael Stevenson
| To continue with the story, the year is late 1974 and I was beginning to out DX my current receiver, the Lafayette which I cannot remember the model of (I guess that is how good an impression it left with me), I was sick of not having a receiver with an inaccurate dial that made it guesswork as to what frequency you were tuned to, especially when trying to identify a station you think you are hearing and looking it up in the WRTH, you had to look up a number of frequencies either side of what you thought the station was that you were tuned to.
I was managing to save up quite a bit of money and this time I wanted a really good receiver with a more accurate frequency readout, unfortunately, I still did not have enough money to buy a commercial grade receiver with digital readout such as Watkins Johnson or Racal, reading the Australian Electronics magazine which advertised many different brands of receiver at this time, I spotted the Drake line-up of semi professional Amateur receivers, there was the "4" series, the R-4A, R-4B and R-4C. They also had a dedicated shortwave listener receiver in the 4 series but it did not have as many useful features as the R-4 series. I remember receiving a black and white QSL card from Radio Nederland in 1972, it showed Propagation Officer, Ben Loog and his assistants standing beside a receiving console and there I saw a Drake R-4B, now if this receiver is good enough for Radio Nederland then I thought that it should be good enough for me.
The R-4C cost around $750 Australian dollars which I could just about afford, in comparison, the commercial receivers in the Racal and Watkins Johnson and Plessey etc. cost around $2,000 Australian! Anyway, I purchased the Drake R-4C and was very excited upon it's arrival, it was a fairly heavy black perforated metal box with a very nice professional business looking front on it.
The Drake is a triple conversion receiver with 3 different IF frequencies to avoid images. It was also a hybrid circuitry receiver in that it had valves (or tubes) in the front-end, mixer and first IF stages and transistors in the rest.
This means that the Drake was bomb proof in the front-end, valves have a huge overload tolerance which means that the Drake could not overload or cross modulate when strong transmitters are in close proximity (such as when an Amateur transmitter is used).
|Needless to say, the Drake did not suffer from images or overload or cross modulation. The only problem with using valves in the front-end is a slight lack of sensitivity in comparison to a well designed receiver using MOSFET transistors, I overcame this by using an active preselector (or antenna tuner) in front of the Drake which then brought it up to par, I used a Codar from England PR-40.
The Drake was a very stable radio being fully crystal controlled, it had many band positions with which to switch between, each one bringing in a crystal suitable for the frequency you want to tune to, the main dial then bandspreads 500 kHz with frequency readout to 1 kHz on a rotary analogue dial, there were also crystal markers every 100 kHz so you could make sure the analogue dial was spot on frequency. I chose a heap of crystals for all the shortwave bands as well as for some of the ham bands and some frequencies in-between. Selectivity could also be chosen, there were 3 positions, I chose 1.8, 2.7 and 6 kHz filters which worked really well, in addition to having a very good IF notch filter, there was not much QRM that really bothered me except for strong stations on the same frequency, the Drake was a real pleasure to use and I had a lot of fun logging heaps of stations and listening to heaps of Latins, Africans, Asians, Pacific, all over the place, I was living on a farm in the middle of nowhere with not much TVI, no computers (in those days), very little electrical power line buzz or car ignition noise to worry about, it was really bliss and I could tune into and identify very weak signals due to the lack of noise. The Drake did not come with a built in Speaker, the matching speaker that Drake supplied was far too expensive for me so I just bought a cheap one from Dick Smith which worked fine and also used headphones. The picture below shows my DX shack with the Drake, speaker, Codar preselector, headphones, two old style digital clocks (one for local and one for GMT), I also used an old reel to reel tapedeck for recordings which can be seen on the right side and of course some of the pennants and certificates that I displayed on the wall at the time which I still have, to the right and in front of the Drake is the "Bible" the WRTH, would have been the 1975 or 1976 edition.
I would have to say that the Drake was one of the finest receivers that I have ever owned and was an excellent radio for the era, it served me well until about 1978 when major changes took place to my listening hobby of radio, this will be my next Chapter, till then, good listening!
Chapter 6| Chapter 7| Chapter 8| Chapter 9A| Chapter 9B| Chapter 10| Chapter 11|
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