New price in 1970: USD 550.-
I, John, w3ik, I have owned four GT-550 transceivers over the years, all of those were complete lines with the Remote VFO, VOX Unit, XTAL Calibrator, CW FILTER, SC550 Speaker Console, and both the AC and DC Supply. I have used them base and mobile. I rate the radio at a 4.9 out of 5.0 due to the band switching mechanism which is a copper belt on rotary pulley system to change bands with the assorted stages, to include the amplifier tank circuit. Over time, the copper belts due to its twisted angles from pulley to pulley will break. I have replaced them numerous times, a modest task. One time I converted the GT550 amplifier section over to use as a linear amplifier for my QRP rigs (easily and quickly returned to original condition). I have had the full 800 volts plate voltage go through me and survived (stupid teenager I was), and repaired one from a lightening strike to boot. To say I am familiar is a mistake, I am close to an expert on these rigs. Because I have passed the dumb and dumber and dumbest tests in restoration. READ ON: To ANYONE trying to restore an old vintage rig, know what you are doing. For example, I have learned over the years that some Collins gear for example uses water based paint for their window dials. The inside dial is water based paint, and when I went to clean the inside of a Collins 75A1 I was restoring, one spray of Windex cleaned the whole display, absolutely clear not a speck of dirt OR any paint left EITHER. In one second the entire calibrated painted print was gone!!!!) Also, old I.F. transformer coils, etc. etc. freeze in place over the time of decades, and I twisted one thinking the iron core slug inside was turning, but I had twisted it and the paper tube shredding --- thus destroying the cardboard tube! This is a part almost impossible to get. BUT, I took an old milkshake straw and wound the coils on it, put the iron core slug in it, and with great difficulty, melted wax, and time, I got it positioned and the rig working again. ANYHOW, the GT550 rigs I have owned were excellent designs of the time, and so stable after warm up with the exception of one which has a slight drift. Today, I am down to only two complete GT550 lines now(and to make other vintage collectors drool, one was given to me in perfect condition (minus the band switching problem) An entire GT500 line of all accessories to boot was FREE, other than shipping costs). They are not a Collins, Drake, Hallicrafters, or Hammurland in build. I would rate them somewhere in mechanical build as being somewhere between the solid structure of a Drake and a Hallicrafters. Electronically they were superb rigs, a delight to operate, easy to tune, and a power house. Using wire antennas, these half kilowatt plus rigs in a box, could hear just as well as my modern Yaesu or Ten Tec receivers, and at times better with less noise interference picked up. BUT the rig produced more than three fold the power output on SSB. The color scheme is rich in appearance, and esthetic appeal is somewhere between modern and retro 70's. When lit up, the glow from the tubes and lights is a joy, and the solid state vfo provides the stability you need. Tune up is fast and easy, very easy and fast once practiced just a few times. Calibration is accurate to marked 5 kHz, but with the calibrator adjusted and zeroed properly, I felt comfortable as close to about an estimated kilohertz to band edges on cw, if I had calibrated my calibrator against WWV. properly. This baby is a titanic power house using sweep tubes in the amplifier. If your rig is tuned quickly, properly and acceptable swr, the finals will last. I felt comfortable using it at 2.5 to 1 swr or less for lengthy transmissions, but no problem with higher swr for short bursts in a pile up. This is a nice advantage of a tube rig, wider antenna matching, no infinite swr protection shutting down the auto antenna tuner or reducing your power. Mind you, I love those features on my Yaesu, but on the tube rigs, they do give some advantages besides keeping you warm in the winter, and getting your spouse to let you buy an extra window air condition unit for your shack in summer time. Pluses include the smell of ozone, and emanating light through the chasis cage decorating the ceiling. The rig is modestly large, and will have questions flowing from visitors, the shiny jet black front against slick silver, and bright illuminated panel is awesome. The mechanical drawback as mentioned is in bandswitching. You won't need to replace or solder or rewire any wafer or switches. Just the mechanical pulley belt made of copper. For an extremely unemployed 1971 HS graduate who sat on his butt hamming hours and hours all day and night for two years, this meant replacing the belt once about two years. Probably five or more years for normal use??? Just guessing. I had forgotten how quiet electronic switching is. This radio has some big relays in it, that clank and thump. Well, 45 years ago when this radio was made, it would be considered a whisper. Scared me to death when I was using the rig for the first time after decades...and decades earlier with much more sensitive hearing back then it didn't bother me at all. I may be exaggerating, but if you operate semi-break-in cw with this rigs VOX keying, it will be annoying most likely to you, as it is annoying to me now, as I am a Ten Tec CW buff, and you know Ten Tec leads ALL radios on its pristine CW FULL BREAK IN. But I remember operating high speed CW nets as a Teenager, and how cool it was that I had break in cw, even if it was semi-break-in, it was still so efficient to use. CW Sidetone is good, but not the pristine tone you have out of modern day rigs. I prefer to operate manual transmit switching on this rig now to avoid the clanky relays, but if it is a DX pileup, I use it in break in. This is a rig when compared to new rigs, it is a rig with a built in linear amplifier. It is a work horse, you can push it to about 640 watts PEP, 800 volts while pulling ironically 800 milliamps. Thus, about four hundred watts out. On mobile, your car headlights will dampen or flicker in proportion to your voice peaks. Using the Hustler series of resonators, I worked the world from the car. While stationed in California, I could talk from the car sitting outside the barracks, to my friends back in Florida late at night on 75m SSB (midnight west coast, 3 am east coast time). Around midnight it was not uncommon to hear ZL1AB (I think or ZL2AB)come in typically 10db over 9, often 20 over. The tip of my 75m resonator came off, and I got a corona off the end of the antenna. For those unfamiliar, a corona is just like it sounds when you think of the sun. In this case though it was a blue flame, directly proportional to the rf coming out of the radio. Well running 640 watts PEP, holding a piece of paper nearby would burst into flames. Club members never believed me, until they came to the parking lot and I fired the rig up. Mind you, at this power level, your car has to be running, only a brand new battery is capable of doing this when new. The motor has to run to keep amperage levels up to run high power. But don't you just love it? Ham radio at its best. The Optional VOX is a credit to its time and works for both SSB and semi break in CW. There is no AM mode for this radio. With the remote VFO you can work split frequency. However, since it uses shared receive and transmit circuits, signals received further and further away from the transmit frequency will lose sensitivity. You are either tuned for transmit or tuned for receive. You can detune the transmitter for less power out and compromise between transmit and receive. SPLIT operation though will not be a problem for most hams or most hams even 99 percent of the time, as most split operations today are usually only 1-10 kHz or so separation. For major split frequency operations of more than 40 kHz or more, you will compromise either transmit out or receive signals in. Again, for most hams this will be very rare. CW only in reverse sideband receive mode except for forty meters. This means you can copy 40m LSB while operating CW. The other bands, will not be so, example 80m CW will have upper sideband receive. The CW filters were an uncommon option for transceivers back then. I have two different CW filters for the Galaxy, they are both external units, one for 500 HZ the other a 300 HZ. Both are too me not worth the fiddling. If you open the filter units up, one of them is just a two transistor unit, and get this, the transistors are about the size of the palm of my hand? Geez, two simple audio transistors that are King Kong in size..... and poor performance for a cw filter, but for its time, I guess they were superior... For its time, there were other comparable desk top high powered radios, the Swan 500 series, National NCX500, the new revolutionary Yaesu FTDX560 with its bells and whistles. The Galaxy was well built and solid...and the others darn close, and ALL were American made. There were just as many other super American made rigs, but not offering the power level this rig did with the excepted notables aforementioned. Yaesu had just introduced their gear not many years earlier, and the FTDX560 would soon be running all American companies under....Swan, Eico, Hammurland, Hallicrafters, Drake, Collins, Eldico, Lafayette, Allied, Heath, and on and on, mainstays of American craft would be gone. The Yaesu FTDX560 in my mind was the avalanche that did it. Even Drake had begun its outsourcing to China with their 2m Drake TR22C, and the term "Rice Box" for Asian radios was now firm in amateur vocabulary. To summarize, the GT550 is an astonishing and still awesome radio to use...great selectivity on SSB, and with a modern outboard DSP filter it would be awesome on CW. Audio quality on transmit and receive are so pleasurable, whether it is true or psychologically induced appealing to the "tube technology" being supposedly superior. I can tell you this, the receiver can hold its own and often better at times than my new Yaesu or Ten Tec gear, perhaps due to less noise with its tube receiver components. Selectivity is perfect on SSB, some desire needed on CW easily curable by a cheap DSP kit from Vectronics for $40. You won't need a linear in most cases, maybe never, unless you are a dx perfectionist who needs the legal limit. But with over half a kilowatt you will leave the typical 100 watt guys behind, and even if you are using a wire antenna you have half a kilowatt, and can compete against the 100 watt guys with wire antennas and often hold your own or do better. These rigs are still moderately priced for vintage gear, but going fast. Grab one if you can. You may have worked me at some time using this gear under my calls of HP1XJC, KF9N, DA1ON, WN4OAA, W3IK, WB4OAA, or AD2L. Incidentally, the Galaxy V Mark III, note I said, Mark III is almost the exact same rig other than the vfo display is inverted, and about fifty watts less of power. But when you are pushing more than half a kilowatt, what is fifty watts less, and also a much more cheaper and affordable price. Contact me if you have questions, email@example.com JOHN
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