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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Always Listen to Pete! Second Thoughts on the S38-E

After working a bit on the Hallicrafters S38-E receiver, I am forced to admit that Pete was probably right about this receiver when he warned me that I'd be putting lipstick on a pig.  For those of you who have a sentimental attachment to this receiver, please don't take offense -- I understand.  But while I had one of these as a kid, I never really BONDED with it. That Drake 2B was stiff competition for my radio affection. So I can be more objective about this thing.  And I now think Pete was right. 


-- It is mechanically rickety.  It jiggles around mechanically and, as a result, electrically.

-- The front end is no match for Northern Virginia RFI.  All it has between the antenna and the converter tube is one puny LC circuit.  Not enough.

-- The LO mixer and the LO are stuffed into one 12BE6 tube.  The IF amp and the BFO cohabitate in another tube. In each case there  just seems to be too much going on between one plate and one cathode. 

-- The whole AC/DC transformer-less thing is kind of nuts. You have to get used to TWO ground symbols on the schematic: one symbolizes B- (and is not attached to the chassis).  The other is to chassis ground.  Turns out that my E model is not really a "widow maker" -- they have a 470K resistor and a cap between B- and chassis ground, so the damage you could do to yourself was quite limited.  Still, it is all kind of goofy.  I have an isolation transformer on the chassis, ready to move this receiver into the 1960s if the spirit ever moves me.  KB2WIG commented:  "At closing time, I don't care if the S38 has lipstick."  

As I worked on this thing, I began to realize that the little homebrew 6U8 receiver I have next to it on the bench is a much better receiver.  So I began to lose enthusiasm for putting lipstick on the S38-E.  At least for the moment.  I do like the cool 1950s place names on the S38-E's front panel:

Edmonton (!)
And of course, the CD (Civil Defense) frequencies. (For when you wanted to do some shortwave listening while ducking and covering. )

But for  now, me and the S38 are on a break. 


  1. Hi Bill,

    But you need an S-38E as a model wherein you can say I can scratch build a better receiver use discrete components! So it does serve a purpose to gently force the S-38E appliance ops toward a better pair of ears.
    Pete N6QW

  2. Fascinating! Rome is missing, Milan never had shortwave. Prewar radios often had Schenectady (first GE SW station http://www.radioworld.com/article/schenectady-shortwave-transmitters-1941/278353) and Wilno. The latter was not this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilno,_Ontario, which puzzled me until I figured it obviously meant this https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilno .

  3. Tim Analog SprouseApril 27, 2016 at 11:09 AM

    I recently gave away a perfectly good working S38-E. I still feel guilty for giving it to someone else, even though I relayed all of the usual cautionary warnings to the new owner. I understand the nostalgia for this receiver as I still miss my first shortwave receiver, a Heathkit AR-3.

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