How good do the antique radio's sound?
Ive recently decided to restore my Westinghouse WR-310, Since its not operational, and I've unfortunately never got to hear a vintage tube radio in my life ( i'm 28 ) although being in bands I know the warmth and power a tube driven guitar amp has.
I was just wondering if this will be deep, rich, and warm when I listen to some old Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye doing "Civilization"?
Do the old speakers hinder these sets or were they built to the same attention to detail that the rest of the radio is?
Many of the bigger radios sound quite good as they have large speakers and a good amplifier section. The highs are rolled off a bit, but that is the nature of AM radio. If the original speaker hasn't been damaged, use it as there isn't any reason to replace it with a more modern speaker which could be a headache to do anyway. Harry
THINK ABOUT IT. A SMALL RADIO WITH A SMALL CHEAP SPEAKER WILL NOT SOUND AS GOOD AS A LARGE RADIO WITH A LARGE SPEAKER.
Many of the older radios had large speakers and,especially, heavy wood cabinets. This added substantially to the apparent sound quality, and of course, with generally limited high audio frequency response, they had a soft mellow sound.
However, in my humble opinion, the notion that vacuum-tube circuits sound better and have better fidelity than modern circuits is a colossal crock of baloney. Just about the same as the snake oil they put in some of the high-fidelitry (high-priced) capacitors.
You have to keep in mind that the transmitted signal from most broadcast stations back then was far from being considered hi-fi. So even if you had a top-of-the-line set, the audio from it would still sound "pinched". I think most stations back then could boast an audio range of something like 200 to maybe 4000 cycles per second if they were a good one. Most were transmitting with audio frequencies of no more than 3000 cycles on the top end.
(Connoisseur of the cold 807) CW forever!
It really does not matter how much second or third harmonic distortion a set has. Back then the general idea was to produce a radio that sounded good with the limitations of the broadcast station in mind. Why design a set to have 10kc bandwidth or more if the stations were only transmitting with a bandwidth of maybe 6 or 8kc?
Also the early horn speakers left much to be desired when it came to frequency response. I think that when the cone speakers were developed in the mid-1920's, it was the biggest leap in sound quality.
But back then, the mention of harmonic distortion was way above the heads of most radio engineers.
(Connoisseur of the cold 807) CW forever!
I would guess that since AM stations don't broadcast with much bandwidth these days, the higher fidelity capability of modern circuits is pretty much wasted on them. That leaves the sound quality more dependent on the speakers and their enclosure, and this is where an old console radio or even a large tombstone would have the advantage over a modern radio with its flimsy cabinet and small speakers. OTOH, if you were to feed AM from a modern receiver into some high-quality speakers I'd guess that it would sound as good or better than a 1930's console. Some of this also depends on what 1930's radio you're talking about. My Philco 38-690 sounds noticeably better than any other radio I own, and my Zenith 12U159 is slightly better than any of the others. The remaining radios also have different qualities of sound.
As far as small AA5 table radios, there's a big difference in sound quality even among them. The catalins sound pretty bad, but some of the little wooden Emersons sound surprisingly good. Same thing for the (AA6) Philco Hippo and the RCA 1-X.
My RCA 9K2 console is one of the best sounding radios I have ever heard. Even AM over the air music sounds pretty rich, full...I love using it with my transmitter for just about all music.
When we have dinner guests, that's always playing in the background.
I'm sure RCA would have agreed...it's a fine instrument.
That's been my experience too. I play a lot of 30's & 40's music via my SStrans and it sounds very good. Especially the vocals. Much more pleasing than the same material through my modern stereo, even though the "fidelity" is demonstrably better with it.
But modern music, designed for stereo reproduction and with much high freqeuncy content, and greater dynamic range, just sounds flat through the old radios. Classical music, for example, sounds infinitely better through modern equipment.
Are we talking about directly feeding a digital recording into the audio stage of an old tube radio, or broadcasting a digital recording to the radio on an AM frequency either via SSTran or through an actual broadcast station? I'm guessing that what little music is available on AM radio is likely coming from a digital source (which may or may not be derived from an originally analog recording). Does that material broadcast on AM sound better on a modern receiver than a high end tube radio? It would be interesting to compare the sound using the feed from an AM broadcast station that plays classical music.
Depends on what you're comparing it to. Compared to the high end audio equipment, and speakers, of today the sound will be poor. For its point in time, and playing music it was designed to reproduce, the sound quality will be good.
Thanks to all of you for your input, I had a feeling it wouldn't be the best stereo for cranking on some Snoop Dogg. wouldn't be the best stereo for cranking on some Snoop Dogg.
BTW it's not a stereo anyway, old time radios are monaural.
A little explanation:
Any radio modulation has sidebands. If you understand the phenomenon of hetrodyne, you know that if any two frequencies mix, the result is the two original frequencies as well as the sum and the difference. If you've ever used a tuning fork, you know what "Zero beat" is -- that's zero difference in frequency between the piano strings and the fork. Same concept.
If you have a radio carrier at say, 1,000 Khz, or 1mHz, the sound you modulate it with will provide spurious frequencies above and below this. If your music has a frequency response of up to 20,000 Hz, your channel will be 40,000 Hz wide. The AM broadcast band has channels that are 10,000 Hz wide (US, in Europe it's 9kHz), meaning you can't legally go above 5,000 Hz in fidelity. NOW -- there are nit-pickers out there that will tell me that the FCC DOES allow some modulation above this; actually it's a graphical curve. I can spend an hour giving you the exact details, suffice it to say that an AM radio station gives you 5,000 Hz. Radio RECEIVERS are designed for this, clipping the bandwidth at around 5,000 Hz so as to give it better selectivity, so even if the transmitter DOES give you more, the radio won't sound much better. FM allows better fidelity, allowing up to 15,000 Hz.
Why didn't they allow more? At the time it all was designed, it WAS the high fidelity standard of the day.
This was countered somewhat with radio cabinet design. Unlike today, where speakers are intended to reproduce sound exactly as it's fed to them, back then the speaker and cabinet worked together as an instrument, resonating with pleasant tones. Take the speaker out of the cabinet and it sounds like crap, but installed properly they sound wonderful, though not totally natural.
Of course a large console cabinet will have a richer, bassier tone than a small table radio. But a lot of table radios are very pleasant to listen to. An older radio won't have the crisp highs of an MP3 docking station or Bose Wave radio, but it sounds pleasant nonetheless.
It so happens that my daily listener is a Philco 37-84 Baby Grand cathedral, fed from an SSTRAN. The radio in its cabinet has a warm sound to it. This radio also has a rinky-dink front end, with the volume control on the antenna, no AVC, and a single stage superhet with regeneration. I think the combination of this loust front end, and the SSTRAN with its 20-20,000 Hz signal, combine to make this radio sound a little better than it did back in 1937. But whatever, I like the tone of this radio.
Now -- there are arguments galore, people saying tubes sound better than transistors, analog sounds better than digital, records sound better than CD's, and now even analog TV's looking better than digital. It so happens there is a smidgeon of truth in each of these statements, but in each case it's not the technology, it's the implementation, along with a few "bugs" that have needed to be worked out.
In the case of transistors, people indeed made comments that transistor amps had a raspy sound compared to tube amps. This was investigated, and an answer was found. It was called Transient Intermodulation Distortion, or TIM distortion. Because transistor design incorporates negative feedback for stability, this feedback -- not used much in tube circuits -- created a certain type of distortion formerly overlooked. This was in the 1960's. New amps redesigned the feedback so as not to allow this, and many new stereos have a a TIM distortion level listed right on the spec sheet. No more problem. But -- there are those who still insist . . .
wealth of info, thank you