The All American Five Radio Receiver

An interesting bit of American Radio History:

The All American Five.

Introduction and Power Supply.

The All American Five represents a triumph of the bottom line over quality and safety. It was the radio that the Atwater-Kent company went out of business rather then make. Every feature had one purpose, to reduce the cost of manufacture. After World War II there were millions sold under hundreds of brand names from Admiral to Zenith.

Afterthoughts, Three Years Later.

Much scorn has been heaped on the little AA5 by myself and others but the truth is it’s a wonder of design and simplicity. The word is starting to get around and local antique dealers are bringing me their AA5s to put into operating condition. I have had the opportunity to see a great many different radios. The marvel is how well they work considering their construction. There’s no such thing as a wiring harness. Wires go every which way, crossing over, twisted around, power next to audio, audio next to RF, power next to RF. Terminal strips are seldom used or used in great moderation. That sometimes means that wires are just brought together in the middle of the air and soldered together. Yet still they keep on ticken. The design has been so well refined that it seems impossible to build one that won’t work.

It is called the All American Five because all brands were made in America. This was long before the mass exodus of the electronics industry. The five comes from the fact that it used 5 tubes. There were variations using 4 tubes which didn’t perform very well and 6 tubes which costs more. The average person who didn’t stay up late to see how many distant stations they could hear (known as D X ing) didn’t care about the improvements provided by 6 tubes. Consequently the All American Five became a post war standard which did not fade away until replaced by the All Japanese Six, the six transistor radio made in Japan.

The most prominent feature of the AA5 was that it had no power transformer. The result was that the circuit common was connected to one side of the power line. Because there was no polarized plug there was a 50 – 50 chance that the radio’s chassis would be connected to the hot side of the power line. Very late models from the sixties were carefully designed not to have any metal parts on the outside even going so far as to recess screws in deep holes. In the 40s and 50s there was no such concern on the part of manufacturers. It was common to see chassis mounting screws exposed on the bottom of the plastic case. These radios could be, and sometimes were, lethal. All it would take was for an unwary person to complete the circuit between a metal part on the radio to a kitchen sink. I once owned one that was in a metal case. My friends and I called these radios “suicide boxes”.

How They Worked

How did they work? Amazingly well.

via The All American Five. Introduction and Power Supply..

Other links:

I’m looking for an example American Five if you can point me in the right direction!



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