Electrical drafting is primarily done on a computer today, with software such as EAGLE or KiCAD. This wasn’t the case back when tube radios ruled the airwaves, though – schematics were drawn up by engineering draftsmen by hand. And as with any process with a human element, they didn’t always get it right.
I’m working on a 1934 Philco 66. It came to me in excellent original condition with little evidence of having been service, and throughout the process, I’d been relying on the schematics to guide me in the right direction. Unfortunately, along with a laundry list of other issues, my reliance on the schematic to be “the truth” led me around in circles longer than I needed to be to resolve a power supply problem.
Below is a schematic snippet of the power supply and audio sections of the 1934 Philco 66, with the RF chain to the left of the #75 Detector/1st Amplifier tube hidden for simplicity’s sake.
In green, I’ve highlighted the path B+ (high voltage) is supposed to flow from the rectifier cathode to the plate of the first audio amplifier. It’s a very straightforward path…if the draftsman had indicated that tube was supposed to be connected to the power supply. In red, I’ve indicated a missing connection symbol. Without it, there was no power being supplied to the first tube in the audio amplifier stage and the audio signal was being killed at that point before it could make it to the final output amplifier. Using an alligator clip, I restored that connection to test, and the radio sprang to life making noise on the next power-up.
The second filter capacitor should have been connected to both B+ and to the plate path for the #75 tube, rather than just the plate path. (Incidentally, the two capacitors are both at the same potential, so under the correct connection scheme could have been replaced with a single capacitor of a larger value.)
It’s not done yet, but I’m inclined to believe the final wiring issue has been corrected, and it’s on to performance.
I’d like to take some more detailed photos, and do some analysis, on a Bose 901 Series 1 and Series 2 equalizer. Since I don’t have any lying around my shop right now, I’m extending a special offer: $75 Full Reconditioning including free return – 40% Off regular service!
If you’re interested, visit the Bose 901 Active Equalizers page to see a description of the service and send me an e-mail! The offer is available until I note otherwise in this post.
I recently had the pleasure of working on a 1934 Silvertone 1708A which was brought to me for repair locally. This was great – having a radio repaired can be a big decision, so I’m happy to show off my workspace and chat for a few minutes and go over the radio briefly in person. This particular radio itself is very interesting, too. Sears, owner of the Silvertone brand, liked to re-use model numbers. I discovered 2 completely different radios, one with two slight variations, both sharing the same model number so it also involved a bit of detective work.
The Silvertone 1708A is an 8-tube radio with a dedicated oscillator and two IF stages for additional selectivity, and a tube line-up that showed it was still in a bit of a transition period: 6A7 78 78 37 37 37 42 83V. In most radios even just a year or two later, the 37s would likely have been replaced by 76s in a high-end radio like this one. The 83V is a bit unusual, too. It’s functionally not much different from an 80, and in fact upon a close inspection, it even had an 80 in place when it came to me.
The more knobs the better, and with five, this is near the top of the line. Power, volume, tone, tuning and AM/Shortwave. I went through some intake checks and found 4 tubes were bad, and that transformer looks especially nasty and tested an open winding as well. Underneath was otherwise in decent condition.
It showed evidence of being worked on a few times, and one of the filter caps was put in across a failed capacitor (as was common, but still very bad, practice back then) but no major issues. The speaker was fine too:
Testing showed the other components to be good, so off to replacing parts. I tested the resistors; within tolerance were left alone but others were replaced:
A 2W flex resistor broke along the way. These are incredibly fragile and break if you look at them wrong; they can be replaced with a standard resistor.
With most of the parts erplaced and ready to go, I replaced the bulb and managed a first power-up using a bench clipped replacement transformer.
The lights are on but nobody’s home – and despite good voltages coming off the unloaded transformer, and a normal current draw, there’s only about 20V B+ available. Closer inspection and testing of the bias circuit revealed the resistor in the B+ was cracked and reading very high, around 500K, when it should have been 350 Ohms. I replaced it with a very close substitute with some extra capacity.
She powered right up after that, and while I was poking around, I discovered the original transformer appeared open because of a break just a little ways back; I was able to re-solder the connection to the rectifier and all was well. In my opinion this was one of the nicest radios I’ve worked on – there was plenty of room to work and attention was paid to make sure everything was wired neat from the factory. (Contrast with the Simplex Model P Dual Band from the same year.)
I also added a line input; a simple resistive stereo to mono converter into the high side of the volume control. This way, you can use the radio’s volume control for the input source volume too.
It was time for an RF and IF alignment using my vintage signal generator and digital storage oscilloscope.
The generator puts off a messy waveform, but it comes out as a nice sine on the radio side. Tube AM circuits are pretty forgiving.
While I was working on the electronics, the radio’s owner spent some time reconditioning the cabinet and it came out incredible.
This radio is going to play beautifully for many years to come and will look great in anyone’s living room – especially with the upgrade of adding a stereo line input, it’s also future-proof.
I’m seeking a replacement power transformer for a 1931 Westinghouse WR-8 Columnaire grandfather clock-radio.
The radio uses the tube line-up 24 24 27 24 24 27 45 45 80; any similar 9-tube radio with a similar tube line-up is likely also sufficient. The Westinghouse radio uses the same chassis as the Radiola 80, shared by many models.
The main power transformer from any of these contemporary models will work:
RCA: Radiola 80, 81, 82, 86
Westinghouse: WR-5, WR-6, WR-7, wR-8
Graybar: 700, 770, 900
General Electric: H-31, H-51, H-71
Majestic: 90-B (*90 with no suffix is not compatible)
Period service replacements are:
Stancor P-713 (direct replacement)
Stancor P-6006 (universal replacement)
Line to 700V (350-0-350) @ 120 mA
5VAC center-tapped 3A
2.5VAC center-tapped 12.5A
2.5VAC center-tapped 3.5A
Please reach out via the e-mail address on my About Me page if you have one of these components for sale!
I recently got to fix up another Bose 901 Series 1 equalizer which I received for repair. These are some of my favorite electronics to work on – they’re easy to work on and each one has its own history. Every one of these I’ve seen has been slightly different and this one was no exception.
This one in particular has 4 separate repairs. One is especially interesting.
The last one is somewhat clever. A 10K resistor, probably 5W, across those terminals is the modification to run this equalizer on 240V in Europe or similar. It’s been jumped with a solid piece of copper bus wire taking it out of the circuit but still leaving it in the equalizer if conversion ever needs to happen again.
Top-off testing was next. The neon indicator lamp in the power switch was flickering badly – it had likely been losing neon through the metal-glass interface very slowly over the past 40 years. It’s a neon lamp attached directly across the AC mains with a voltage dropper/current limiting resistor in series. The total power consumption is a few mA at line voltage.
Here it is removed from the circuit. The lamp/resistor combination is actually a single component – they’re welded together. I replaced it with an NE-2A/150K resistor combination, I believe the resistor is 1/8W the draw is so small. The envelope size of the new bulb is about half that of the old one, but it fits in well from the bottom to let wire tension keep it in place better.
After burn-in testing, the equalizer checked out perfectly! It has incredibly clean switches. The others I’ve serviced are much improved after cycling but can hang up the first time they’re used and these didn’t even need cleaning.
This one is going to be a great performer for a long time, and these are a lot of fun to work on.
I recently had a chance to repair another Bose 901 Series 1 equalizer. This makes quite a few of these that I’ve written up on here. One of my favorite things about seeing copies of the same model is getting to pick out the individual variations that happened in the production run and any repairs that have happened over the years, and this one is no different.
This one is new to my bench, it’s a 240V model! I haven’t had this one across my bench before – but the circuitry is identical except for the addition of a single extra resistor. Fortunately, I’m equipped for that!
This one looks like it’s in great shape except for a tiny corner that’s cracked but not yet separated.
It’s an incredibly simple switch. A 3W resistor dissipating about half that amount in series with the AC and the transformer, dropping the line voltage to 110V and feeding the standard circuit. It doesn’t look like this model has been repaired.
Capacitor replacements went according to plan, although one set of capacitors ended up being defective from the factory so I ordered a different set. Shown below are the good replacement filters.
All replaced! Precision 2% tolerance resistors, German-manufactured film capacitors, and modern replacement electrolytic capacitors. This equalizer powered right up and sounded great on every setting immediately with no further troubleshooting required.
Quite a few parts were replaced during this process.
I love old hi-fi stereo equipment, especially the larger stuff which really had a lot of personality. While doing some research on Klipschorns, I discovered a striking reinterpretation of the classic Klipsch design:
An Altec Lansing multicell horn in place of the integral horn on the classic design. That looks incredible, really commands the room!
Check it out: retro vintage modern hi-fi
While browsing Hack-a-Day, I ran into an awesome hack for the original Pong game. One enterprising hobbyist built his own Pong from scratch following the schematics. It’s a big job but it’s manageable since it’s all discrete logic. I’ve just been re-watching That ’70s Show and in one episode Red and Kelso modify the Pong to make smaller paddles. I was shocked to learn this is both feasible, and even somewhat believable for them to have done in their garage with a screwdriver and a soldering iron.
I’ve had this Grunow 460 sitting in my queue pending for a little while and it’s finally on it’s way home looking great! There was a fun extra bit of detective work to identify and solve the issues that came up along the way.
The Grunow 460 was made by the General Household Utilities Company at the height of the Great Depression, in 1934. I follow eBay for Grunow radios specifically and saw a few of these for sale last year and have been curious what they’re like to work on. The cabinet materials do reflect being made at a time when many consumers were incredibly cost-conscious, and this was the most economical radio offering they made that year. The General Household Utilities Company did deliver an attractive design though with the contrasting color diamond in the center of the grill cloth and a light bevel around the dial face.
The design is a very simple 4-tube superhet receiver using the tubes 6A7 6F7 42 80. It’s functional, and would’ve worked well enough for daily use in cities with near-by radio stations. The 6F7 tube contains both the pentode section IF amplifier stage and a triode section Detector/1st Audio stage. There’s a lot of space under the chassis but a lot of components are stacked into one side.
The chassis tags were in pretty good shape.
Unfortunately, one tube broke in shipping, the 80 rectifier. It turned out, with further testing, that all 3 other tubes needed to be replaced as well, so this radio got a full set of replacement tubes and should be good to go for many years.
Intake checks revealed a few problems and evidence of dubious repairs using highly variable components:
This connection to a floating ground lug wasn’t even soldered.
an IF transformer was loose
The exposed antenna coil was broken in several places and partially unwound. Fortunately, there are universal broadcast band antenna coils available, so I ordered one of those from my supplier and continued working.
I replaced the antenna coil with the universal model, attaching it to a terminal strip by a solder lug and reusing the existing screw and chassis hole:
You can clearly see where the power transformer was replaced previously in the radio’s life – the new one uses a vertical core; the stock Grunow transformers use a horizontal core and the bell housing end fits through the chassis. There’s no difference in how the styles work, just a different shape. The replacement is held on with only 2 of the screws since the base won’t line up anymore, but it’s a small transformer and the two mounts are plenty strong.
Also note there’s only one visible IF transformer can. Most radios have two (or more) of those cans which provide shielding and protection for the IF transformers. This Grunow has a single shielded IF transformer with the second IF transformer unshielded under the chassis, another way they saved costs in manufacturing and passed the savings onto the consumer.
This radio needs about a 6′ wire antenna attached to the white wire antenna terminal on the back. The radio was missing tube shields when it came to me, which were absolutely necessary for proper operation, but I was able to supply them from stock. They’re important to keep the tubes from picking up interference directly, or introducing interference to the other tubes – some generate a fair amount of noise if you leave them unshielded, and you’ll end up with a radio that squeals but can’t receive much else.
Not pictured, I also replaced the cord with a new polarized cord, the old one was cracking.
That did it! It was time for an alignment. I peaked up the IF trimmers which were off by a fair amount – the volume increased significantly after the adjustment – and fine-tuned the other adjustments. The dial tracks quite nicely within 10kc after the adjustments. I didn’t take photos of this process, unfortunately – doing an oscilloscope stage alignment on this radio would take a lot of time but not give any benefits over doing the classic signal generator/output meter checks.
At this point, I had the radio up and playing and was getting ready to send it along when it cut out. Back to troubleshooting. It turns out a section of the candohm resistor had opened. It’s likely it just failed at a terminal lug as nothing was shorting anywhere else in the radio to have caused a damaging current draw, it just died. Fortunately I had resistors on hand to replace it and mounted a terminal strip to use as new tie points.
The antenna coil is pretty cheaply made, and the solder lug was only weakly glued onto the cardboard coil form. The glue separated when being adjusted, so I was left with the last resort of wrapping it with electrical tape. It’s not readily visible and doesn’t harm the operation and is the most cost-effective fix for the problem.
This one will polish up nicely and look great on its owner’s shelf! I really like working on these Grunow radios – they have interesting cabinet designs, circuitry that usually has a couple of interesting tricks to it, and very good published schematics. I’ll be fixing up my World Cruiser when my workload dies down a bit.
Up next are two more Bose 901 Series 1 equalizers, a Philco 66, and a Silvertone 1708! Expect to see new articles more often than the last couple of months.
It’s interesting working in a radio that’s been repaired before in its life. The quality of the work varies greatly. I’m working on a Grunow 460 (which will be written up later) and I found a late 1930s repair attempt which hadn’t been soldered – just wrapped around the end of another component’s connection to a lug.
I doubt this helped the radio’s operation much.