The Drake R8 Receiver
Tune in the world with this hot new receiver.
A Drake, a real Drake! The folks from . Miamisburg have finally produced a new product for the radio hobby market—a high grade communications receiver aimed at the lucrative and popular SWL market.
Before I started this review I looked back into radio history and found that from about 1979, the Drake R7 communications receiver was the last available Drake HF receiver. The last piece of HF ham equipment from Miamisburg was the TR7 from 1978, from which the R7 got its general appearance and features
Prior to the R7, Drake communications receivers included the DSR1 (1971) and the DSR2 (1974). One of their most popular receivers was the SPR-4 from the early 1970s. All solid state and featuring a linear PTO and vernjer dial providing 1 kHz readout So much for history; let's look at this new release from Drake.
The R8 has a very functional, businesslike look, sporting few manual controls, and a black finish. The lack of radio-like appearance is due to the heavy reliance on state-of-the-art digital control. There are only six standard analog controls on the unit, as nearly every possible selection that can be made by switching is accomplished via the dual-purpose keypad or a function switch.
The most apparent feature of the R8 is the very complete LCD display. Measuring 5.5" x 1.5". it displays ali functions and settings in bright characters on a black background, making status checking super easy.
The layout of the function buttons places them directly beneath their corresponding readout points, making selections of AGC, bandwidth, mode, etc., very easy to use as well.
Frequency control is via direct entry on the keypad, with the UP/DOWN buttons (in 100 kHz steps), or a TUNING knob (with a choice of tuning speeds). The frequency reads out to 10 Hz (user selection). When put on a frequency, the rig can be locked and it will remain there indefinitely. It's very stable. There are two VFOs which you can select instantly via function switch, and 100 nonvolatile memories. This means no batteries are required for memory backup; power interruptions will not erase the memory.
Scan features allow scanning of all memories, selected memories, or the frequencies between the settings of VFO-A and VFO-B. The SQUELCH control greatly enhances the use of SCAN, and is active in all modes.
Bandwidth from 6 kHz to 500 Hz can be selected in all modes. This is a very good feature for crowded band conditions, and for fidelity during better times. After all AM does sound better at 6 kHz wide than at 1.8 kHz. But each bandwidth has its place and use.
The controllable AGC, NOTCH FILTER (manually operated from an analog control), NOISE BLANKER, and RF input controls (analog and switched attenuator/preamp) all combine to make the receiver very flexible. Unlike ham equipment, the R8 has a built-in clock/timer with an output port on the rear for remote control of a tape recorder (or other hardware). This time feature is very popular with SWLs for recording odd-hour programs, and it can also be used in a clock-alarm-radio scheme (though a very expensive clock-radio). The clock also displays time on the LCD when the unit is powered off.
The fold-down front feet make table placement and viewing of the LCD display and S-meter clear and easy.
In many ways, the R8's control and display system is not far from that of a modern, full-featured 2 meter HT. Loads of bells and whistles provide extensive flexibility.
The manual that comes with the RS is very well done, with complete explanations about each feature and control A section is included that delves well into computer command of the digital switching system, and a log is included to write down the pertinent information about what is entered in each of those one hundred memories. It is, however, without block and schematic diagrams.
Operating the R8
The R8 was tested on a 180 meter Carolina Windom antenna (about 265 feet long) at 50 feet, and also on a 40/75 meter dipole at 35 feet, ft was compared, via an A/B switch system, with an ICOM R71 A. 1 selected the R71A due to its excellent reputation as a "world SWL standard."
The tunability and stability of the R8 are excellent; however, although the tuning knob has a good weight, it's a little small for my taste.
I am a real believer in keypad frequency entry, It is quick and accurate. The rubberized keypad is easy and flawless to operate.
When in the AM mode, I found the SYNCHRO (synchronous detector) to be great when fade-caused distortion became a problem. This is a feature that really works.
The NOTCH filter, although effective, was disappointing in depth and in its analog operation, I cannot understand why any manufacturers produce receivers with manually operated notch controls today. My Datong ANF (Automatic Notch Control) knocked out tones the R8 could not—and with no manual control input!
The PASSBAND OFFSET was, as expected, effective in removing interference from nearby signals. Selecting a narrow bandwidth made it all the more effective.
I was not impressed by the internal speaker with its typically poor fidelity. An external speaker is a must for real enjoyment.
The S-meter read as expected, and compared in accuracy to other receivers.
The tone control lacks real BASS/TREBLE authority.
The R8 is a natural for computer control, since all controls, except for those in analog form, can be commanded via the RS-232 port. Command information about
computer interfacing is given in the manuai (this section is very good). Suggested software for computer control includes PROCOMM PLUS™ and BITCOMM™ operated on an IBM XT/AT or clone. Optional software is available from Drake for use with the R8 (not available for this evaluation).
On a warm summer evening when the popcorn (static caused by distant thunderstorms) was popping heavily, I listened to my regular nets with the R8. The R8 held its own very well, being less affected by the static than my ICOM IC-751A transceiver. It was not as quiet as the Ten-Tec Corsair II, but then, these pieces of equipment are of a very different design and purpose.
The choice of bandwidth made it fairly easy to reduce nearby signals, such as those that abound on 75 and 40 meters. Add the passband filtering, and you can just about eliminate any adjacent signals as much as is possible.
Speaking of bandwidth, you should hear what a real strong LSB signal on 75 sounds like through the 6 kHz filter. Just like broadcast AM! Too bad I couldn't locate the mike plug on the R8.
A Few Comments
After carefully evaluating the Drake R8 receiver, I must say that I am well pleased with its performance. Over the years more than a few pieces of Drake equipment have passed through my shack, and I still think you have to go a very long way to beat the receivers of the R4 series. They were quiet, stable, selective, and sensitive. The R8 compares favorably with these older receivers, as few digital-type receivers can, Modern digitally-controlled receivers make lots of internally manufactured noise—noise that adversely affects their operation. The Drake R8 does not suffer appreciably from this problem.
The R8 is like a breath of fresh air, with its ground-up engineering and up-to-date digital control from the front panel. I am very pleased to see a quality HF receiver of American manufacture that should successfully compete on the world market.
Oh yes, a public question for Drake: Where is the T8 transmitter to go with the R8? The world is waiting! - review by Bill Clarke WA4BLC . 73Amateur Radio Today 1991 - fotos by Steve Tardi