The Drake R8 is a microprocessor controlled, synthesized, all mode, world band receiver offering excellent sensitivity, high dynamic range and other features for the most demanding listener. It has been designed as a "complete package." You get many items as standard-equipment, that would be extra on other receivers. Multi-mode reception (AM, FM, USB, LSB, RTTY and CW) is featured throughout the range of the receiver (100 kHz to 30 MHz). A high-Q, 8-pole, electronically switched IF filter provides a range of five bandwidths. Later "firmware" permits user selection of bandwidths independent of mode and 100 Hz readout in AM (in later production only). The front panel liquid crystal display provides visual feedback to the operator of the current status of the receiver. In the AM mode, a selectable synchronous detector (SYNCHRO) allows for enhanced reception by eliminating or reducing distortion due to fading signals. A Passband Offset control also aids in reducing or eliminating interfering signals by electronically shifting the receiver's IF frequencies without disturbing the operating frequency. This action allows the operator to electronically move interfering signals out of the receiver's passband thus utilizing the degree of selectivity provided by the high-Q, 8-pole IF filter. The Passband Offset is also coupled to the synchronous detector (SYNCHRO) allowing the passband to be altered while the detector is in use. Other reception aids include selectable AGC, wide/narrow noise blanker, RF preamplifier for enhancing weak signals, RF attenuator for further improvement of strong signal handling capabilities and an adjustable RF gain. A Notch filter is also supplied as an effective tool to eliminate offending tones (heterodynes). A muting control allows operation with a transmitter or transceiver. The R8 provides exceptional audio to the built-in speaker.
Two VFOs (tuners) called A and B, are provided on the R8. Selection is made with the VFO function key. Frequencies can be directly entered through the keypad. A programmable memory area allows for 100 non-volatile memories segmented into blocks of ten. The following may be stored in any memory location: frequency, mode, bandwidth, AGC setting, RF setting, antenna, notch on/off, noise blanker setting and synchronous detector on/off. As a result of three scan methods and three scan modes; nine distinct scan functions are supported in the R8. The three methods are: Stop at carrier detect, Pause 5 seconds on carrier and Pause at carrier until carrier drops for 5 seconds, then resume scan. The three modes are: Scan all memories, all unlocked memories of user-selected list or Scan from VFO A to B.
A built-in 24 hour clock-timer allows the R8 to turn on and off at preset times. In addition, the rear panel Timer connection (5 pin DIN), allows control of small recorders, etc. to record a favorite program. The R8 rear panel provides a common DB-9 connector for standard RS-232C data communications with a terminal or personal computer (9600,1,7,1,even). This interface provides control and programming capability of the R8. Only the analog controls such as volume, RF gain, etc. are not controllable. There is also antenna inputs for coaxial lead in for wire type antennas. A variety of AC input voltages may be selected as well as 12 VDC input. The R8 is a worthy successor to the earlier Drake R7A.
The R8 sells for a rather luxury price, used, usually around $600-800. People could (rightfully) debate the bang-for-the-buck aspect, but it definitely isn't your average consumer general coverage/SWL rig. Its a serious receiver, has a host of options useful to the Dx'er - 5 excellent bandwidth choices, a passband adjustment control and manual notch, to name a few - yet it also has fantastic audio. Often in the radio world there's an inverse relationship between serious performance and great audio. The R8 manages to do both. If you absolutely can't stand the harsh sound that typical communications receivers give then chances are you'll really appreciate the R8.
I purchased the Drake R8E Communications Receiver for £450 from a dealer in the UK in 2005. To date it has performed flawlessly and I've had no problems whatsoever with it. The principle difference between the R8E and its american counterpart the R8 is in frequency range. The R8 coverage begins at 100khz whilst the R8E starts at 150khz to exclude some european NATO frequencies.
Although the R8(E) leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically, it is built like a tank and I expect it to go on forever. The synch detector can be taxed by extreme fading on the SW bands. The notch filter is ineffective except for eliminating some white noise. The radios speaker emits rich, warm sounding audio but can sometimes sound muffled requiring the use of an offset control to clarify things. However, the radios sensitvity and selectivity are second to none and this has enabled reception of some very weak signals over the years. In fact I have worked much rare DX with this fine radio including many low powered stations from the australian outback.
During my time owning the Drake R8(E) I have been in touch with RL Drakes Technical Department in the U.S many times and have had ample opportunity to ask them questions concerning comparisons in the R8 series. The men at Drake reliably informed me that given a choice between the R8(E),R8A and R8B they would choose the original R8(E) every time. This is because most of the money went into making it a very well built and well made radio. Indeed, it has very little spurious contains an optical encoder and uses the heavier non plastic flywheel
So there you have it, some interesting information from the RL Drake Technical Department.
Today, the Drake R8(E) is becoming harder to find but if you can get one in reasonably good condition my advice would be to snap it up. It is a classic receiver that has earned its place in the radio hall of fame and though an oldie it certainly is a goodie. They don't build them like this anymore. The R8(E) was made to last and certainly will not disappoint that's for sure!
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Based on historic data, today's second-hand price of the Drake R8 is around: