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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are a few of the kinds of questions we receive daily along with typical replies.
Question: I have an antique tube-type radio I'd like you to restore. What's the procedure? How much will it cost?
Answer: The best way to proceed would be to give us a call when you're in front of the radio anytime between 10am-4pm Eastern Time (7am-1pm Pacific Time) Wednesday through Saturday at (860) 928-2628. If possible, have a good flashlight handy. Please DO NOT plug your radio in. We should be able to determine your set's make and model number and also assess its current condition, as well as give you an estimate of restoration expense. Also covered will be lead times, company policy, and what is normally required in the way of restoration to have vintage radios play reliably over time and to factory specifications, along with information on how to safely ship your radio or chassis to the shop.
Question: What kind of radios do you restore? Do you work on transistor radios?
Answer: We only restore tube type electronics. No transistor or other solid state work is accepted. Our restorations span the early 20's through the early 60's with most sets being either American, Canadian, German or Dutch table top and floor console models, communication receivers or hi-fi amplifiers and tuners and automobile radios.
Question: Do you sell parts? How about tubes?
Answer: We offer schematic diagrams and repair documentation, tubes, speaker grille cloth and replacement knobs and pushbuttons (when available).
All other parts like transformers, coils, speakers, escutcheons, etc. must be kept for restorations and cannot be sold.
Our tubes are quality American and Western European types. All are thoroughly tested prior to shipping. We also have a good selection of globe/balloon tubes and rare vintage types like blue Arcturus. Also offered are Telefunken, Bugle Boy and Mullard preamp tubes, along with industrial, and antique transmitting tubes.
Question: My radio is a 1938 Zenith console. I think it probably just needs a tube replaced. Can you fix it?
Answer: Unfortunately, the days of just having to replace a tube or a defective part in a radio which is 50 or more years old are now part of history. These beauties of yesteryear were never intended to or designed to function for a half-century or more. If you wish to play your radio often, and, in order to have your set play safely and reliably over time and perform to factory specifications, a proper restoration is almost always a necessity. Many of the original factory parts like wax paper capacitors and molded paper capacitors, have by now, absorbed much moisture from the air, becoming as leaky as an old garden hose, shorting out or interrupting the flow of both voltages and signals. Many carbon resistors change their value as they age, and go well out of specification/tolerance, wiring becomes brittle and dangerous, oxidation creeps in everywhere...from tube socket pins, to bandswitch contact points, volume and tone controls, etc. As all these components fail, they provide incorrect voltages and currents to tube elements and can be responsible for an immediate or premature failure of even a brand new tube. Filter electrolytic capacitors lose their capacity and often short out the power transformer secondary winding, creating a loud hum in the speaker just before they destroy the transformer - the most expensive part in the radio. This is why you should NEVER EVER plug an antique radio in unless you know its power consumption and can carefully monitor the current being drawn while slowly increasing voltage to normal operating condition. The best, safest route is to restore it once and do it right, and in such a way as to preserve the antique look of both electronics atop the chassis and all cabinetry work. This is what we at Antique Radio Restoration & Repair are all about.
Question: What is my radio worth now?
Answer: Current value is always changing, and prices differ across the country and the world. There are a number of price guides out there that attempt to place a fair and accurate current value on as-found antique radios. The most popular is the 3 volume "Machine Age to Jet Age" series by Mark Stein. Copies are available online.
Question: What will my radio be worth once it's restored?
Answer: That's a tough one. If it's a family heirloom, it's priceless. Most insurance companies tend to value a restored radio based on replaceability...which is a combination of current book value for an as-found set in addition to any monies invested in the restoration of both electronics and cabinet refinishing. Check your individual policy to be sure.
Question: How will my radio sound once it's restored? Will it get short-wave stations from across the world?
Answer: Once we can determine the make and model number of your radio, I'll pull the schematic diagrams out for a look-see if I'm unfamiliar with your particular model. Characteristics like frequency coverage, sensitivity and selectivity, assessment of audio quality, etc. can usually be readily determined. The sound emanating from tube type radios is often considered much warmer than newer solid-state radios. The Boston Globe summed it up the best, I think in an article they did on us in the January 30, 1998 issue, when they commented that "tube audio sounds as sweet as heavy cream."
Question: Can you help me find and then restore the radio I grew up with as a child?
Answer: We sure can. First, try to find an old photograph of the radio. If you come up short, try drawing a picture as best you can remember it...take your time - think about it for a few days or more. Then, with your picture in hand, scour the Internet (or any of the many books out there) about old radios. Use our links page as a launch point or try any of the better search engines for a picture of your baby. There are lots of beautiful websites with collections in cyberdom. Once you find a picture of your long lost radio or something similar, give us a call at (860) 928-2628 between 10am-4pm Eastern Time (7am-1pm Pacific Time) Wednesday through Saturday. There's lots to discuss. Be prepared to take notes.
Question: Do you sell radios?
Answer: We almost never sell radios via mail-order or the Internet but instead much prefer to sell in person, where we can spend some time with you discussing what you want in your radio... like proper style, size, performance desired, availability of short-wave reception, etc. We always have about 200+ antique radios for sale, many of which are displayed, in our new museum/showroom. These are provided for those of you who want an antique radio, but are having difficulty finding a nice set on your own. A few radios are completely restored and ready to go home but most are still as-found and are in need of restoration. Normal procedure is to visit our shop in northeast Connecticut, pick out what you like, decide if you wish the set refinished or just electrically overhauled, and if so, select an appropriate finish from many examples, decide whether you wish the speaker grille cloth replaced or not, select a pattern if the exact repro cloth is unavailable, and put a deposit on the set. This generates the work order and schedules the set for a target completion date. On pickup day, a live demonstration is given on how to use and care for your radio along with/if applicable, an introduction to the wonderful world of short-wave listening. To view a sampling of radios for sale click here. Best days to visit the shop are always Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays. Please call before your visit to be sure we are not on vacation or at an antique radio show.
Question: How long do tubes last? What's an inrush current limiter?
Answer: Provided tubes are not dropped, shocked, or physically abused in any way, their shelf life is almost indefinite. When installed in a radio, their condition and life span is primarily determined by whether or not their various elements receive proper voltages. As antique radio capacitors age, they become leaky or short and carbon resistors change value. Tube elements then receive incorrect voltages, which can shorten or terminate their life almost immediately. As with any device that is continually heated, cooled and then reheated, failure is, at some point, inevitable. As tubes can and do fail at the worst possible times, any antique radio you plan on using should have a backup-spare set of tubes. Their installation is a snap, eliminating any downtime to just a few minutes. We offer and recommend you obtain a spare set either from us or any of the many tube vendors in the country.
If you are contemplating having your antique radio restored, an inrush current limiter and fuse are worth considering. When any tube type radio is first turned on, tube filament resistances are very low. As a result, they draw lots of current. This high current surge races through the filament string and shocks the tubes and power transformer and can be responsible for early tube failure. There is a modern device which is mounted under the chassis to prevent this called an inrush current limiter. It soft starts your radio with no high current surge. It's a wonderful device that will pay for itself in tubes alone over time. Also worth considering is the addition of an under-the-chassis fuse block or circuit breaker. Most vintage radios had no such protection and its installation will safeguard your precious radio in the event of a future component malfunction
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