These old tube radios are better sounding than solid state audio devices, in my opinion.
Nothing beats high voltages and heat in generating a warm organic sound that seems to fill the room. By comparison, solid state or digital seems to just approximate this effect. It's for this reason that the highest quality audio equipment and amplifiers used by musicians today are still based heavily on vacuum tubes.
Not surprisingly, rewards come with risks. Old vacuum tube technology until the sixties operate at high voltage and high heat compared to solid state electronics prevalent from sixties onward.
Furthermore, these old designs are 'hot-grounded' to the AC line as opposed to the third prong "cold" ground. Vacuum tubes are an obsolete technology and very few manufacturers are still making them today.
However, old stock vacuum tubes are still readily available for not much money approximately $5-$20 per tube. Contrary to widespread belief, they are not prone to failure. Vacuum tubes are not like an old light bulb that needs to be changed because a filament blew out.
Here is a set of All American Five vacuum tubes typically found in most 50s radios. This set consists of:
50C5 - Amplifier tube. Makes audio signal louder
35W4 - Rectifier tube. Converts household Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC)
12BE6 - Converter tube: Takes incoming radio frequency and converts it to a fixed intermediate frequency 455KHz
12BA6 -Intermediate frequency amplifier. Amplifies and selects a radio frequency and discards the others
12AV6 or 12AT6 - Detector and 1st stage amplifier. Recovers audio frequency from intermediate frequency.
Here is a set of All American Five vacuum tubes typically found in most 40s radios. This set consists of:
50L6 - Amplifier tube. Makes audio signal louder
35Z5 - Rectifier tube. Converts household Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC)
12SA7 - Converter tube: Takes incoming radio frequency and converts it to a fixed intermediate frequency 455KHz
12SK7 -Intermediate frequency amplifier. Amplifies and selects a radio frequency and discards the others
12SQ7 - Detector and 1st stage amplifier. Recovers audio frequency from intermediate frequency.
Very rarely will you ever need to change a tube because it has blown out or because it has shaken too hard. Most of these old radios still have the original tubes that came with the radio when it left the factory and they still work fine. These tubes are not like incandescent light bulbs that blow out after a few months.
Most of the radios made in the forties were wired point-to-point which meant inconsistencies during manufacture.
- Never put your hands inside one of these old radios when it's turned on or plugged in.
- Never leave these radios turned on for an extended period of time unattended. Do not operate these devices on a metal table.
- Do not operate these radios on a wet surface. If the surface underneath one of these radios gets wet, pull out the plug before turning it off and dry everything off before attempting to turn it back on.
- Keep out of reach of young children and pets
For best performance, do not operate this radio near a modern electronic device; computer, microwave, home security, fluorescent light, etc. You will hear a constant humming or whining.
All vacuum tubes take some time to warm up, no more than 30 sec to a minute at the most. The radios available at this site are repaired and restored only, not re-engineered and refurbished.
With the right care and proper use, it should provide a (another!) lifetime of use. Great for décor, a conversation piece, etc.
The antique and vintage radios sold on Retro Radio Farm website are getting more collectible and are increasing in value too. Besides, everyone already has an fancy stereo, iPod or MP3 player!
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