|One of the hottest
and most popular shortwave receivers around are the Drake
R8 series radio manufactured by RL Drake.
there is more that can be done with this radio!
To really make these radios sing a software control package
is essential. The package that I have found works the best
for me is the SMART R8 Control by Fineware. Economically priced, the Smart R8 Control
gives me complete control over the R8. There are too many
features to mention but some of my favorites are:
Selectable Band Scan with Spectrum Analyzer.
of logs, and CumbreLite supplement.
control over memories and alphanumeric display.
(the R8B has 1000 memories!)
shortwave broadcast schedule database.
Download my memories for the R8B. *Note you must be using the Fineware Smart R8 Control program and have an
R8B to use this file. Let me know if you would be interested
in sharing your memories.
I have not seen a lot of modifications for the
R8. Perhaps it is because Drake got it right with
the R8. My biggest gripe with the R8 is it's VFO
(tuning knob). When tuning around the VFO lacks a
flywheel effect and the knob feels very light.
Thanks to the Drake R8 Listserv someone
recommended the following tip. (Sorry I don't
remember who it was)
VFO Modification for smoother
tuning. Its very simple, remove the VFO tuning knob from
the R8. It is does not come off very easily and requires
some hard pulling. Fill the inside of the knob with lead
shot and epoxy over the to hold the lead BBs in place. Make
sure not to get the epoxy over the hole that plugs back
into the radio. Let the epoxy dry and push the knob back
on the radio. It's very easy and you will notice a big difference
in how much smoother the knob turns. While you won't get
a true fly wheel effect, the modification does make a difference.
Subject: Drake R8B --- Encoder Repair Notes
Date: 2003-01-22 16:18:05 PST
finally got around to fixing the encoder problem (erratic
tuning) that's been bothering me for awhile.
of the encoder board from the front panel was fairly straightforward;
just time consuming. The inner and outer panel came apart
surprisingly easy and making the repair somewhat enjoyable;
re-assembly wasjust as easy.
first attempt was to unsolder the encoder from the board.
However, like many of you, I bent back the tabs of the encoder
with a small screwdriver and pulled it apart for servicing.
Even though I had a replacement encoder it was difficult
to unsolder the part from the board---plated through holes!
It might be that replacement of the entire encoder would
be required at some later date anyway.
I had mentioned in a previous post, I was interested in
learning why the encoder failed. After removal of the encoder
wheel from the body of the encoder I examined the contact
surfaces under stereo microscope (Leica SZ-4) at 40X magnification.
I could plainly see what appeared to be normal wear patterns
in the conductive surfaces that matched the position of
the contact fingers in the mating part.
contact fingers were examined next. Using similar magnification
and upon carefully rotation of the part, I could plainly
see that the contact points were worn through their silver
plating and well into the brass base metal. The contact
surfaces were burnished to a bright, mirror finish. Furthermore,
the first two contact points were clean with a clear grease
residue while the third inner contact (electrical common?)
had a dark brown/black greasy residue about its contact
the realization that I rarely used the tuning knob I wanted
to understand why the wear on the contact fingers seemed,
in my opinion, excessive. I observed that the third contact
finger (electrical common?), the one with the dark residue,
was in continuous electrical contact with the wheel more
so than the other two fingers that rode on the 'spokes'
of the wheel. Furthermore, the surface that the contact
was moving against had a rough surface consisting of striated
tooling marks with uniform depth and spacing that suggested
the result of rough polishing or grinding. Close study of
the wear patterns on the wheel clearly revealed hills and
valleys and that the hills were the surfaces that had been
worn into the wheel by that contact finger but had not yet
reached the depth of the valleys. It was this observation
that led me to think that the brown/black residue on this
particular contact was an accumulation of silver and brass
from the contact finger and wheel that had oxidized and
mixed with the grease. The rough surface of the wheel was
simply acting as an abrasive surface and was wearing the
thought I would reuse the old encoder and see how long it
would last after a bit of maintenance. I cleaned the encoder
with electrical solvent cleaner and with the help of a very
fine brush I cleaned the contact fingers as well. The parts
were carefully blown dry then re-examined under the scope
and were found clean. A small drop of DeoxIT contact cleaner
was placed on the wheel surfaces then worked by pressing
the assembly together and rotating the wheel against the
was another problem with the encoder that I need to take
care of as well. Ever since I got this receiver I had been
bothered by the viscous, squishy feel of the tuning knob.
While I had the encoder opened I carefully cleaned it of
all grease with electrical cleaner. The designers of the
encoder had used a relatively large quantity of grease to
gain the damping action that had bothered me. On the reverse
side of the wheel (shaft end) the grease was easily removed
with a probe and the remainder was readily soluble in the
electrical solvent. However, before re-assembly, I placed
very light film of fine grease on the shaft. After the front
panel was replaced I placed a small felt washer on the encoder
shaft. The knob was positioned against the felt washer to
get the desired feel. Now the knob turns with a dry, positive,
precise, clean feel with no wobble or endplay. Furthermore,
I replaced the R8B knob with that of the R8---the aesthetic
enhancement that the old R8 knob adds to the receiver is
the front panel was detached from the chassis, I also removed
all controls and added a drop of DeoxIT into them and worked
it in. The tone control was beginning to get scratchy and
I've had a problem with the volume control in the past.
the process of working on the front panel I learned how
the readouts are backlit---just a bunch of green LED's on
a circuit board. I have always been upset by the lime-green
color of the display. Drake had been known for decades for
their use of a distinctive blue for illuminating the meter
and dial displays of their older equipment and I liked it
very much. I guess when the receiver was designed there
weren't any blue or white LED's and those that are available
now are expensive. I intend to experiment with blue and
white LED's as well as blue filters. The closest filter
color I had on hand to match the Drake blue on my vintage
pieces of Drake gear is the blue tab on 3-ring binder notebook
separators or hanging file tabs. I' ll take a tab to the
art supply shop and see if I can match it.
receiver has been re-assembled and everything is working
properly; tuning is as it should be. It will be interesting
to see how long the repaired encoder lasts. I had the encoder
replaced under warranty repair by Drake twice before.
summary; apparently the encoder failed as a result of intermittent
electrical contact resulting from dirty contact surfaces.
Others have suggested contact bounce and poor electrical
design. My personal opinion, although based on this one
example and comments from others, suggests that the encoder
is poorly designed or not able to take the continuous wear
and tear it experiences in its application as a main tuning
control for a radio receiver. Quite possibly it should be
replaced with a part more suited to the task.