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!