Rare Radio Receiver Teardown

We’ll admit we haven’t heard of the AGS-38, it reminds us of the shortwave receivers of our youth, and it looks like many that were made “white label” by more established (and often Japanese) companies. [Jeff] found a nice example of this Canadian radio and takes it apart for our viewing pleasure. He also found it was very similar to a Layfayette receiver, also made in Japan, confirming our suspicions.

The radio looks very similar to an Eico of the same era — around the 1960s. With seven tubes, radios like this would soon be replaced by transistorized versions.

[Jeff] gives us a look at the inside and the always interesting hand wiring under the covers. As is often the case with radios this old, it appears this one had a repair done to its power switch and it didn’t mean [Jeff’s] approval so he redid the repair. He also had to replace the filter caps, another common failure on these old radios. Otherwise, the radio still seemed serviceable after all these years.

There isn’t much to hear on the shortwave bands anymore, especially during the day. [Jeff] did manage to demonstrate picking up some AM broadcast stations, though.

This radio reminded us of the Radio Shack DX-160, although that one was solid state. If you want to learn more about restoring old radios, we have just what you need to get started.

14 thoughts on “Rare Radio Receiver Teardown

  1. At that low end, “communications receiver” is hype. It made the kids spending all their money on one feel like they’ve got something great, and are in a league beyond what they got.

    I got my Hallicrafters S-120A (the solid state one) fifty years ago this month, it was awful, and was only useful because there were strong sw broadcast stations. The slide rule dial was labelled with all kinds of exotic places, and utilities ( “aerocom”), and even if those were theright frequency, you weren’t likely to hear them. It was completely unuseable for ham radio. But it was a “communication receiver”, though unlike the DX-160, no external speaker.

    About April of 1972, I upgraded to an SP-600, a real communications receiver.

  2. Like I explained on your post on Diaspora, a lot of comm recievers/transcievers were manufactured to milspec, like the Collins 390A/URR–the milspec which renders the manufacturer’s name irrelevant. I’ve got a Stewart Warner 390A/URR and because both are to milspec, they’re identical in parts and performance and milspec mods. I’ll bet you’ll find this Lafayette a dead ringer for this one, and I’ll bet you’ll find the schematic/parts list rather handy.
    https://usermanual.wiki/Collections/magnet/files/500 Ham Radio Manuals/LAFAYETTE HA-63 RECEIVER/LAFAYETTE HA-63 RECEIVER.pdf.html

  3. Michael, comm equipment of a certain age were modular like that, giving you a choice between the commonly used headset OR speaker. Military comm gear was exclusively headset once. Headsets were preferred back in the day. High end Drake comm equipment even made speakers optional once upon a time.

    1. The DX-160 had an optonal matching speaker. The ads made it look so appealing. But I suspect the speaker cabinet was plastic, and the speaker tiny. A further iillusion of high grade, like the real communication receivers.

      I have no nostalgia for those low end receivers. I got my Grundig YB-400 for about as much as I paid for my S-120A, but 40 years later, and the Grundig is so much better. I paid $3 for a Grundig Mini-300 used, as bad as the S-120A, but forever better because of digital readout, and small tuning bands.

      I used the plastic back of a clock radio (with the speaker still mounted) as the speaker with the SP-600.

      1. I used a DX-150B (predecessor to the DX-160) as the receiver for my Novice station in the 70s. I had the matching speaker from Radio Shack and it a metal cabinet and face plate.

  4. We now live in an almost embarrassing abundance of extremely high quality electronics. At the time this radio was built I bought a”real” communications receiver, an NC 300 National which had similar specs but much better tuning. IIRC I paid about $100 for it (about $1000 today) which was a whole lot of money from a paper route job. I remember seeing the Lafayette model at the time and it was considered to be a very solid SWL radio.
    Very nice article.
    Good to see people who value vintage electronics.
    BTW the NC 300 still works.
    Although the AGS 38 says only AM, you can use the BFO to inject a carrier to receive SSB as well.

    1. The NC-300 was National’s top ham receiver at the time in the fifties. They ran a contest to see what.people thought should be in it. So it was presented as a “dream receiver”. It was double conversion, getting rid of pesky images.

      And it wasn’t designed for SSB, coming a bit too early, hence the NC-303, a slight upgrade on the “dream receiver”.

      So it must have been some other model that you had.

  5. Officially by the post office I live Laff,In. You bet your sweet bippy that our local independent Lafayette Radio Supply got lots of calls back then from people thinking they were connected with the Lafayette that is in the link above. (sp) Checking I see that Allied has many stores in many states but is parts only now. Both were consumer electronics then with the “white label” brands and parts via catalog sales, like Newark parts only which not only is still around but swallowed up MCM.

    Back then Japanese goods like these had the image that Chinese goods have now. I remember that local store as a kid growing into a hobby and then getting parts there. The hot dusty smell of tubes! À la recherche du temps perdu, memory of my time at Purdue. Proust reference, so went Garrison Keillor on PHC. I was in engineering, well EET.

    I used to surf the globe with these while quite young and not only hear music from allover but I dug industrial and noise-electronica with all those ancient forms of data Telex etc. that peppered the gaps between the international bands. Play with the BFO and modulate the sounds, almost like having a synth which came later. Those genre were decades away. I wish I could put on a live show mixing those sounds and voices then live from a few radios, but now I’d have to do it in church.

    Check David Byrne-My life in the bush of ghosts, he uses both.There are others, Holger Czukay of Can did the best shortwave mix ever Persian Love.

  6. I remember when I was a kid we had a floor console radio, I think it was
    a Philco. I used to listen to shortwave on that.
    My first real “digital” receiver was a Radio Shack DX-392.
    Now I have a Grundig G3 by the bedside.
    When I was a kid, I sooo wanted the Realistic DX-302.
    There is still a fan base for that radio today.
    Who knows? I might yet still get one.

  7. I own a Trio 9R-59 which also has an AGS sticker on it. I have the original schematics and it still runs fine with original tubes. Bought it in Toronto in 1980 when I was starting Ham Radio. I would sens a pic, but no provision for it here.

  8. This prompted me to go dust off my first SW receiver: The Zenith Transoceanic. Push button selection for 7 bands including AM radio. I spent hours in front that of that thing in my basement with a rudimentary antenna getting QSLs from Quito Ecuador, Voice of America, Radio Nederlands, Radio Moscow, BBC London and many others. Surprisingly, it still works! But, I have to agree that the amazing abundance of scanners and SDR radios is amazing.

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