Sat Aug 24, 2019, 08:46 PM

Japanese Secret a.m. dx radio!

The Sony ICF - S5W.

Saw one on epay, there were no others, and wondered if it was rare.

So I did a search...

"I was surprised to read a review of this great BCB DX radio, as I thought its superior performance was a well-kept secret. I purchased my ICF-S5W during a Navy port visit to Hawaii in 1980, and was astonished at its sensitivity and selectivity. It is clearly superior to any portable radio in BCB DX capability, and I have tested it against every competing machine for the past 25 years... nothing even comes close! Sony must have invested quite a bit in the design of this phenomenal radio, and it's a shame that they didn't keep it on the market longer than they did (as I recall, it cost about $150, quite a lot of money in 1980). Anyway, if you have interest in BCB DX and have a chance to snare one of these, stop what you are doing and act quick!!'


"As it turns out, the radio is a Sony ICF-S5, and it has a rather legendary reputation in the broadcast band DXing community, When it comes to pure sensitivity, this radio may be the king of the mediumwave portables. Not only that though, they also had a Murata 455 kHz filter inside, giving them good selectivity as well. In addition, they had that certain Sony touch that the best of their designs always seem to have. In this case, it was a green and red LED indicator on the dial to give you an idea of your best signal strength.

These remarkable radios had an Achilles heel though. All that sensitivity came at the cost of strong signal images in several places across the band. If you thought that local broadcaster was a pest before now, this radio gave you the chance to hear it again on 910 kHz. In spite of this drawback, the S5 developed a cult like following, and is still well regarded to this day. To quote Gary DeBock’s write up on this radio for the IRCA reflector:

For the Japanese, who have far more radio enthusiasts
per capita than do North Americans, the ICF-S5 was an overnight sensation, with AM sensitivity superior to anything else on the market at the time. It gained the nickname of the "Superstar," and when I was stationed at Yokosuka, Japan in the Navy (in early 1980), its photo was displayed in train stations and shopping centers, similar to those of the most popular Japanese actresses
and pop singers.
In other words, how in the world had I not heard of this one before??

Well, that question is an easy one. The S5 was only released in the Japanese domestic market, so there are not a lot of them over here in the states. They did make a North American version called the S5W, but they only made it for one year (1981) before ceasing production of both models. That makes the S5W a very rare beast indeed, and a very expensive one as well. If you can find one, you can expect to pay upwards of $200."

So, of course when I saw one in the $100 range, I bit the hook.

The radio has some very cool features, such as linear a.m. band tuning, and a rolling display that identifies station frequencies across the U.S..

Review is forthcoming.

But of course, in this search I discovered ANOTHER, even more secretive little Japanese radio... but, that's a story for another time.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot -

This old analog set and it's immediate succesor slap the vaunted digital Sony ICF 2010 around when it comes to a.m. sensitivity...

"The S5W has excellent audio for a portable, easily the best of any of these receivers.
It has a relatively powerful speaker with good bass reproduction, and a continuously variable tone control.

In this respect, the EX5, with its single-switch tone control and less robust speaker, comes up short by comparison. Its audio quality is fully adequate for DXing and pleasant listening, but not in the same league as the S5W. EX5 vs. 2010 Obviously, the 2010 is an outstanding receiver, and has a wide range of functions that the analog EX5 cannot hope to emulate. But in a simple test of weak-signal sensitivity, the EX5 was more than a match for the 2010."

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