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April 4, 2004 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Another Magnificent Obsession is born. The fiance of a friend just gave me her small collection of antique radios that they won't have room for in their new place. While looking for care instructions, I discovered a whole new subculture where art, science, design, and craftsmanship co-exist. They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.
posted by keswick (13 comments total)
One of the most thoughtful gifts I ever received was a 1932 wooden-cabinet 1930s Philco tube radio from my parents. It looks and sounds great.

(Two of the worst gifts I ever received were a pink fluffy bathroom rug and a shower curtain. For my birthday, from a girlfriend. They did not signify, "I want to set up house with you.")
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:52 PM on April 4, 2004

I messed around with old tube radios for a while a few years ago. I had maybe 5 or 6 of them... they are great things to play with, but it can get expensive to maintain & restore them. A $15 dollar yard sale purchase might be a "find" but can wind up costing several hundred bucks to get back into presentable condition.

Of course I went straight from tube radios into tube televisions... I had a great '57 Philco Predicta... but I sold it to a friend when I realized that I didn't have room for such large, heavy and expensive to own and operate antiques...

If you have the space, time and some disposable income... tube radios and televisions are pretty cool.
posted by wfrgms at 9:21 PM on April 4, 2004

shopgoodwill.com usually has at least one tube radio up for auction at any time. Since a lot of people don't know about the site, they can usually be had for less than ebay prices.

The only one I could currently find was this zenith, closing Monday at 8am pacific time.

wfrgms, how much did it hurt to part with such a magnificent tv?
posted by sciatica at 9:44 PM on April 4, 2004

Tube radios are not only beautiful but they can provide hours of joy while fixing them up. I recently discovered that Ebay is a good place to check out old tube radios. I wish I had more money to play around with these things. I hope I can one day own one of these beautiful cabinet radios.
posted by ashbury at 9:46 PM on April 4, 2004

I have a 1950s Zenith in my kitchen. The sound is not as accurate as a modern radio, but it has a richness and feel that modern radios cant touch. The old tubes sound great I prefer it over new stuff, and it looks good. It does drift between stations on occasion I understand this was before a new technology came around to lock the signal.
posted by stbalbach at 10:07 PM on April 4, 2004

What an extraordinary gift! They MUST be in love.

However, let me tell you as a guitarist, finding replacement tubes could be an endeavor in itself. They won't be cheap. Much original stock (iow, very old yet unused tubes) have deteriorated. You CAN find new 'old stock' (NOS), mostly manufactured in Russia and China, but the prices could be quite dear.

Also, make sure you run them periodically, at least once a month, though once a week would be better.

posted by mischief at 2:21 AM on April 5, 2004

One of my proudest moments was getting a 1948 Philips set playing again. The sound it gets from AM is astonishing!
With the voltages in these sets (400 V and up) you will want to brush up on electronics and safety before touching them, though.
posted by thijsk at 2:30 AM on April 5, 2004

Old radios look beautiful. I was so disappointed when my folks secretly threw out all our old (and probably valuable) radios when we moved. I was just starting to earn enough at part time jobs to be able to start learning to repair them. They were amazing from an educational point of view. Almost all of them included schematics and once you learned what the various tubes did you could follow them.

As a decreasingly incompetent guitar player I decided a few weeks ago (after remembering our collection of tossed out radios and hearing a good tube amp live and personal) to build my own tube amp. If you don't hear from me again it's probably because the safety precautions I'm used to for designing circuits with millions of transistors at ~ 1V weren't enough to handle a handful of tubes at 100's of volts :P
posted by substrate at 6:06 AM on April 5, 2004

sciatica - Thanks for the heads up on shopgoodwill -- it looks to be an interesting site for some good deals.
posted by codger at 7:38 AM on April 5, 2004

Play Things Of Past: Vintage Radios

More here.
posted by hama7 at 8:12 AM on April 5, 2004

I found a Zenith Trans-Oceanic G500 at a thrift store and had it restored. It now sits beside my Sony 2010. True - "they don't make 'em like this anymore"
posted by azul at 8:13 AM on April 5, 2004

This thread reminds me of a book cover I saw recently, but I can't remember the name of the book, which bugs me. It's got a white background with a graceful fan-shaped grille of a radio and a girl as its dial. Does this happen to ring a bell for anyone?
posted by of strange foe at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2004

A friend of mine collects and sells antiques, and he found one of these at an estate sale a few months ago. It is the most beautiful vintage radio I have ever seen.

Of course, it goes for about $70-80k, which is a little out of my price range.
posted by bedhead at 11:48 AM on April 5, 2004

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