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Vintage Radio (domestic) Domestic vintage radio (wireless) receivers only.

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Old 20th Apr 2021, 12:09 am   #21
Lucien Nunes
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

I would say there is a spectrum of willingness and desire to mod/hack/upgrade, rather than simply two opposing camps. Personally I am rather at the conservation end of the scale; like PaulRK, I feel no need to get 'superior' performance from a vintage receiver, nor 'futuristic' sounds from a vintage organ, etc.

It is interesting on a technical level to understand the limitations and compromises made at the time and to reflect on what might have been done differently. Sometimes, one comes across shortcomings or mistakes in the original design that can be rectified easily and reversibly. I can see some justification in doing that (and documenting it, as mentioned by @kestrelmusic) as a pursuit in its own right, to compare the accepted performance with what might have been achieved with the same resources given the benefit of experience and hindsight. But if I want fundamentally different (better) results, I'd start out with a different (better) set.

On a historical or philosophical level, every mod or 'upgrade' advances the inexorable ratchet of progress round one more click away from the very essence that we were trying to capture by collecting old stuff in the first place. I prefer to enjoy it unclicked.
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 10:23 am   #22
unitelex
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

My approach is to review any safety issues first and modify/correct to at least the standards of the time for the set. I would also recommend further safety provisions/modifications to modern standards to the owner.

The extent of other functional modification is driven by the owner's requirement.

If it is left to my decision I try to add while leaving original parts in place albeit disconnected so that originality can be restored. I prefer the set to be outwardly unchanged, and operate 100% as originally intended. If additional features are added I try to add these as options without removing any original features for example hidden switching. Often it is possible to switch in Bluetooth for example using existing waveband pushbuttons by having two buttons pressed simultaneously. The original single button functions continuing to operate as intended.
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 10:32 am   #23
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

One thing to consider is the future repairer of the set.
If the set needs work in the future, the repairer will hopefully have access to the original service sheet. If he/she finds significant modifications within the set, components moved or new ones added in different locations and no updated schematic it makes the repair task significantly more difficult.
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 10:40 am   #24
Gabe001
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

Others have mentioned leaving a note with the modifications in the case. Is it just a matter of gluing a paper to the side of the case with standard PVA glue?

Gabriel

Last edited by Gabe001; 20th Apr 2021 at 10:52 am.
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 5:49 pm   #25
Al (astral highway)
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

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Others have mentioned leaving a note with the modifications in the case. Is it just a matter of gluing a paper to the side of the case with standard PVA glue?

Hey Gabe, there's no particular convention for this. But yes, if you could lightly tack it somewhere where it won't overheat and burst into flames, that would be a useful thing for a future owner to contemplate, even if it doesn't make sense by then!
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 9:22 pm   #26
Richardgr
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

The beauty of older things, for me, is that they were not designed with built in obsolescence. Look at those pre-war electrical appliances - they cost a fortune, but it was a long term investment.

Inherent with something that does not have built in obsolescence is that it has to be easy to maintain. The circuit diagrams were often affixed inside, and components were generic and readily available.

Any set that anyone has from the 1930's is likely to have seen the business end of a soldering iron at some time, and that means contemporary replacement components from the time it was repaired.

Therefore a consequence of owning a device that was built to last forever is that it was never intended NOT to be improved over the decades of its life.

There are some sets that were hardly used and put away, and are museum pieces, and those are a special case.

Last edited by Cobaltblue; 20th Apr 2021 at 9:28 pm. Reason: Automotive removed
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Old 20th Apr 2021, 11:05 pm   #27
Paul_RK
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

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Therefore a consequence of owning a device that was built to last forever is that it was never intended NOT to be improved over the decades of its life.
I'm not sure what you can be thinking of as improvements, unless you just mean made to work again after they stop, or to work well again after their functionality deteriorates - which is a different matter from making them work "better" than their original design allowed. Not that that's wrong if anyone wants to do it, but as this thread shows there are quite a few of us to whom it doesn't appeal.

I've a few pre-war electric heaters in use, but in general I've changed nothing about them aside from replacing mains leads where necessary. On the radio side of things, valve sets did sometimes require service in the course of their intended working lives, but almost always the requirement was for like-for-like replacements - a valve or capacitor fitted say in 1940 to a 1932 radio would be doing the same job as the original, not doing it in a different way or to a higher standard. I can't think of many electronic items that tended at all to be "improved" from their original design by the people who kept them going, unless you count the many radiograms in which 78 rpm turntables were replaced by three- or four-speed decks to refresh their usefulness.

There's also a difference between manufactured items that give the impression they were built to last forever, and any intention on the part of their manufacturers that they should! My memory's vague, but I think I've seen trade publications from the latter half of the 1930s devoting considerable space to the matter of how to persuade owners to replace their radios from the start of the decade: often not too difficult, at least when the owner could afford it, because radio design was advancing at a breakneck pace.

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Old 21st Apr 2021, 6:17 am   #28
Gabe001
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Originally Posted by Paul_RK View Post

I'm not sure what you can be thinking of as improvements, unless you just mean made to work again after they stop, or to work well again after their functionality deteriorates - which is a different matter from making them work "better" than their original design allowed. Not that that's wrong if anyone wants to do it, but as this thread shows there are quite a few of us to whom it doesn't appeal.

I've a few pre-war electric heaters in use, but in general I've changed nothing about them aside from replacing mains leads where necessary. On the radio side of things, valve sets did sometimes require service in the course of their intended working lives, but almost always the requirement was for like-for-like replacements - a valve or capacitor fitted say in 1940 to a 1932 radio would be doing the same job as the original, not doing it in a different way or to a higher standard. I can't think of many electronic items that tended at all to be "improved" from their original design by the people who kept them going, unless you count the many radiograms in which 78 rpm turntables were replaced by three- or four-speed decks to refresh their usefulness.

Paul
According to"Old time radios", my go-to reference book, it was not unusual to replace EM speakers in 1930 sets with PM speakers. I'm sure this was probably driven by availability and cost of repairing like for like, but it's likely that a new "modern" PM speaker improved the sound quality somewhat and made for more enjoyable listening.

I would be tempted to do the same if I had a speaker with an OC field coil, unless the set is particularly rare or valuable
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Old 21st Apr 2021, 6:48 am   #29
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

Having read through this thread with some interest, I've come to the conclusion that there is a wide definition of "improve" here & rightly so. In my day job we have strict guidelines as to what is considered repairable, again, rightly so. If looked at from a monetary view then, unless the radio is as rare as hens teeth, we're all losing money! I can only speak for myself on this really so here we go. I like the challenge of taking what is potentially a write off & getting it back to a working, safe condition. If it pleases the eye as well then that's a bonus. During that process I may well come across potential weak points in the design, like slightly under rated parts etc. I'll then fit something a little beefier. That, to me, is an improvement as it may well add to the reliability of the radio. I have, in my collection, radios from the 30's through to the late 50's, they all sound different, they all have different ways of doing the same thing. I've had to replace EM speakers with PM one's on some of them & the difference is quite stark. Would that be seen as an improvement? I really don't know! It will be interesting to see how this thread develops.
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Old 21st Apr 2021, 8:19 am   #30
Richardgr
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

A simple example of an improvement is the substitution of difficult to source valves with equivalent, later alternatives, that were invariably rated a bit higher then their forbears. Or using X and Y rated caps as replacements, or any replacement of a out-of-spec passive component with a modern alternative.

What would an extreme example be? I suppose gutting an old device, and just using the housing, with a modern device 'under the skin'. That would not be acceptable, IMO.

I think it is dangerous to be over zealous about 'originality', otherwise these old record players and radios will not be repaired, and will end up being dust collectors, and safety organisations will have us declare them on our insurance policies and put cages round them.

At the end of the day it is how 'inclusive' we see our hobby, as time progresses and the ability to 'keeping it original' becomes ever harder.

Last edited by Cobaltblue; 21st Apr 2021 at 8:22 am. Reason: Automotive
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Old 21st Apr 2021, 11:13 am   #31
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

If you're going to improve something a lot, why not just make a whole new one from scratch? Put it in your own box. It's your handiwork, show it off. Show the world what you can do. Be an originator!

David
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Old 21st Apr 2021, 12:43 pm   #32
mark2collection
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Default Re: Keep radio original, or improve it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
If you're going to improve something a lot, why not just make a whole new one from scratch? Put it in your own box. It's your handiwork, show it off. Show the world what you can do. Be an originator!

David
Ooooo you'd never catch me doing anything of the like David(!) <looks left at his own avatar ... This was an empty scrap cabinet, made useful again. Original post for those who've not seen it https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...d.php?t=142162

If a purchased set turns out to be 100% complete, original but non-functioning, I try my level best to ensure as many of the factory components as possible can be retained, with the end result, a fully functioning set. I have re-stuffed caps, and I like the idea that a set of 70+ years is still providing family enjoyment and using (where safe/possible) most of its factory fitted parts. If parts are missing, I try to obtain originals to make the set complete.

Some types of music lend themselves to HiFi, other types work surprisingly well through a vintage set - Gugak/Pansori - through an 'original' (non-modified/non-improved) set can 'add' a certain something to the enjoyment, even if it is the faint mains hum, the aroma of warm bakelite & a dusty dropper!

This is part of the reason I have a collection of audio equipment spanning a few decades, HiFi for some types of music, vintage sets for other types ... it creates a mood, and the family approve too.

The other part is the interesting engineering aspect of things.

Mark
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