Drake 1-A Receiver


Drake 1-A Receiver

The famous 1-A amateur band receiver was manufactured by the R.L. Drake Company in Miamisburg, OH, from 1957-59. The 1-A was followed by the 2-A in 1960, the 2-B in 1961, and the 2-C in 1966. The 2-C finally ceased production in 1974. The 1-A's innovative triple-conversion design started a movement toward lightweight high-performance SSB receivers that continued for more than twenty years. Weighing only 18 lbs, the 1-A outgunned its heavyweight peers, the National NC-300 (57 lbs), the Hammarlund HQ-170 (45 lbs), and the massive Hallicrafters SX-101 (70 lbs).

Selling new for $300, the Drake 1A receiver was styled to be as tall as other receivers and transmitters of its day, so as not to look out of proportion when placed next to them. The receiver pictured above is serial number 494, one of about 1100 manufactured.

There are few Drake 1-A's still in existence, and the remaining ones are greatly valued by collectors for their historical significance, rarity, and performance.

Description: The 1-A is a 13 tube amateur band receiver that covers 80-10 meters plus WWV in 8 ranges. It is designed for SSB and CW reception only, with a two-speed tuning dial calibrated every 10 kHz. The receiver features a rear-firing speaker, plug-in crystal calibrator, and passband tuning (PBT). Interestingly, PBT had been introduced only two years earlier (1955) in the Collins 75A-4.

Drake 1-A Front Panel Controls

Having only six knobs on the front panel, the 1-A stands in stark contrast to today's microprocessor-controlled radios, with their many dozens of buttons and knobs.

Drake 1-A Interior

The interior of the 1-A (above and below) is neatly layed out and uncluttered. The large aluminum module at the left is a capacitor-tuned VFO. Starting with the TR-3 transceiver, Drake abandoned this kind of VFO, in favor of its now-famous Permeability Tuned Oscillator, used in generations of Drake receivers and transceivers until the mid-1980's.

Bottom View of the 1-A

Circuit Features: The 1-A is a triple conversion receiver, using a 6BZ6 low-noise RF amplifier with fixed tuned plate and grid circuits. Input signals are mixed to 2.9-3.5 MHz through broad-band overcoupled tuned circuits, and then mixed with the 4.0-4.6 MHz PTO to a fixed 2nd IF frequency of 1100 kHz. The 3rd mixer down-converts the signal to 50 kHz, where selectivity is provided by a 4-section LC filter. The receiver uses a 6BZ6 IF amplifier, a 12AU7 product detector/AF preamplifier, and a 12AQ5 audio output stage.

Operating Impressions: Although lacking bells and whistles, the 1-A has the feel of a modern receiver. The mechanical and electrical stability is excellent, even from a cold start, and the passband tuning is less clunky than that on the Collins 75A-4. The 2 sec AGC time constant is great for SSB, but too slow for CW. The audio is crisp and hum-free, and the selectivity is adequate for single-signal reception. The 2-speed tuning (a combination of friction drive and antibacklash gearing) is velvety smooth. All-in-all, the 1-A is easy to use, sounds great, and is a lot of fun.

Rear Panel of the 1-A

Winner of the Most-Useless-Feature Award is the 1-A's rear panel attenuator slide switch, which inserts 30 dB of attenuation in the antenna input.

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