Are Old Tube Radios Still a Viable Option? The Gonset Communicator.

Started by gil, December 23, 2012, 12:48:28 am

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I love old stuff and restoring old stuff. Not just because it is old, but because it is often better built and simpler. How often do you hear "They don't make them like that anymore.." To some extent, it is true. Not only that, but today, you usually can't fix it yourself. I wouldn't dream of diving into a recent model car or trying to fix a surface-mount components radio. We don't fix things anymore, we throw away. That's probably good for the economy in a way, but wasteful. It also assumes that replacements are available... We don't assume that replacements will always be available, do we? Otherwise this site would be called "" or something like that. So, we often find ourselves evaluating old technology that we can understand and fix with a hammer and a pair of pliers.. Well, sort of.. Although I am only 45, I still remember tube televisions. My Grandmother had one. When the TV started misbehaving, she would open up the back, wiggle the tubes until she found a bad one and replace it. I don't know how she survived all those incursions into high-voltage cold-war era electronics, but the TV worked, and we didn't have to call the serviceman or buy a new one.

The first Ham radio I ever bought, before going nuts building kits, is a Gonset Communicator III 6m AM transceiver built between 1957 and 1961:

First, you have to admit, it is a bundle of cuteness. More importantly though, it is built like a tank. Proof is, it still works! After about 55 years... These radios were built for Civil Defense purposes and intended to survive a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. There are no chips inside, no transistors. Nothing to fry from an EMP. The schematics are rather simple and any run-of-the-mill electrician could probably fix it, especially if he is in his 70s! I just ordered a second one actually, and might still get more to restore or as part sets. They sell for about $60 to $100 and more for restored units. There is also a 2m model, which I hope to get as well. Best thing is, you only need a Tech. license to operate one.

These old radios need some TLC mind you. All electrolytic capacitors need to be replaced, as well as, probably, most or all resistors. A restored set is pretty much ready to go for another half century, assuming you have a set of spare tubes. They are not very susceptible to high SWR. The Gonset will also work on 115V or 12V. It isn't a mobile unit by any means, nor is it intended for long distance communications. The 6m band has it's moments though, and the miracle band earns it's name once in a while. For local communications, with 6W, it works great. Besides, who is going to listen to you on 50.4MHz AM? Right... Nobody! I've been turning it on every night and never head a soul. I wish they still made them, but I probably would not be able to afford one, because they would cost a fortune. I hope some Chinese manufacturer reads this and gets an idea.. Many third world countries could use something like that. Think about it, when you open a modern transceiver case, you're supposed to wear an anti-static bracelet and put it on an anti-static mat.. What does that tell you? The Gonset, short of being hit directly by lightning or thrown off a boat in salt water while turned on, will survive anything.

Are they still a viable option today? I think so. I wouldn't use them as my only option of course. What you get is a semi-portable radio insensitive to EMP, on a seldom used (and listened to) frequency, with a range of maybe ten miles, more with a beam antenna.. For $100, and even for $300 restored, it isn't a bad deal. You also get to bring back to life a piece of the past, and that is priceless.. I will post my restoration progress on this thread, so check back often.


lol, what happened to the guy's post callin the radio a paperwieght or whatever, he mightve been a backstupid mudduck, lol.

but its also a mudduck move to delete the opinion.


Quotelol, what happened to the guy's post callin the radio a paperwieght or whatever, he mightve been a backstupid mudduck, lol.  but its also a mudduck move to delete the opinion.

There has been no answer to this thread but yours, so I do not know what or who you are referring to... Could it be on another site?



nah, there was a post by a guy on both of your threads about that tube radio by some guy, calling it a nice paper wieght, and to get a modern radio, lol.

idk much about tube radios and tube ham radios, but it looks nice :)

maybe the forum got rolled back?


No, nothing on this site was "rolled back" (I know, I own it). Maybe on another thread somewhere, but I don't recall seeing it. Well, newer radios have more features, and might receive a little better, but on the air, there is little difference. When you listen to someone's transmission and there is no drift, you can't know if the rig used is from 1950 or 2012... They are heavy for sure, due to the weight of the transformer and hefty construction. The Gonset has a steel chassis for each module, power supply, transmitter and receiver. They can be swapped from the radio independently. Great design. They sure look cool.

The only downsides are the weight and the high voltages that can still be present in capacitors after you unplug it. I always unplug the radio while it is on if I want to open it up. This way, the capacitors drain. Though that is not a guarantee.. It is good to use a grounding stick and touch all capacitors with it before using your fingers! Also recommended is to start with your left hand in your pocket and use your right hand only.. I hate being shocked so I always take extra precautions.. I certainly wouldn't put my hands in there with the power on!

I can understand someone calling it a paperweight. Probably teasing  ;D In a way, they are, but it's a cool paperweight that does transmit and receive just fine for less than $100. By the pound, it's pretty cheap  ::)