Ekco

Although most famous for their round cabinet sets (which I have not yet encountered), Ekco produced a number of good quality sets over the years. The electronics is generally well designed, and the company did not seem to cut corners to save a few shillings on the cost of a set.

Thanks to Graham Oliver for the following interesting information:

EKCO stands for Eric Kirkham COle? I use to work for a company called EKCO Instruments in Southend. I don't know if they are still going, they were in dire straits when they made me redundant back in 1980. They made electronic safe load indicators for mobile cranes. Eric started work by making cat's whiskers in his garage.


A52

Wavebands - SW1, SW2, SW3, MW, LW

Valves - ECH35, EF39, EBC33, EL33, AZ31

Date - 1947

Status - Repaired for a customer

This was clearly a top-of-the-range set when it was released in 1947 - costing over 27. It featured three bandspread SW bands, as well as four MW and one LW station presets.

I repaired a set some time ago, and cannot fully recall its reception and sound quality. It cannot have been exceptionally good or exceptionally bad otherwise I would have remembered it!

I do remember the annoying design arrangement whereby two valves, two IF cans and the related components are mounted on a separate subassembly, which must be removed from the main chassis to carry out any work. Due to the wire lengths, several need to be unsoldered before the subassembly can be lifted back sufficiently to get underneath.

The preset tuning is arranged with variable inductors and trimmer capacitors, which are accessible from the rear of the set when the back cover is removed. On the set I repaired, the ferrite cores on the inductors had become separated from the adjustment screws, and it was quite a fiddly job to fix them back in place with Superglue.

This photo was taken from the Vintage Radio Database website


A274

Wavebands - VHF

Valves - ECC85, EF89, EF89, EABC80, EL84, EZ80, EM80

Date - 1956

Status - In my collection

This VHF only set is reputed to give very good sound quality when working properly. It contains two speakers in parallel. Although there is no form of crossover network between them, I assume the round speaker deals mainly with the bass while the other speaker dies the midrange and treble.

I purchased this set for £15 from Past Times Radio at the Spring 2002 NVCF. The original asking price was higher, but this price was agreed when we discovered upon examination that the output transformer had been replaced with an RS type. Normally I wouldn't be that bothered, but in a set intended to give good quality sound, the output transformer is fairly critical. However once I got it home and looked more closely I realised that the replacement transformer was actually replacing a choke. The output transformer is underneath the chassis and looks to be original.

The speaker fabric needs refixing in one corner, and the cabinet is fairly battered. Two of the knobs are also missing, but I have now received replacements from a kind website visitor.


A320

Wavebands - MW, LW, VHF

Valves - ECC85, ECH81, EF89, EABC80, EL84, EZ80

Date - 1957

Status - No longer in my collection

This is one of those sets that is generally fairly good but does not stand out from the crowd.

The sound quality is generally good, but it seems to be a bit lacking in bass for a wooden cabinet set. I found that removing the output valve cathode bypass capacitor gave a worthwhile improvement in quality (due to adding more negative feedback) - and there is still no shortage of volume!


AC76

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves - FC4, AC/VP1, 2D4A or V914, AC2/PEN, UU3 or IW3

Date - 1935

Status - Contributed description

Mark Else provided the following description:

Another 'round' receiver, this time a superhet. The cabinet was plastic with a choice of finish - Walnut or Black and Chromium.

Valve V2 performs three functions as follows:

Valve V3 contains a double diode and nothing else (which looks a bit odd on the circuit diagram, but which is not uncommon on sets of this period or later).

This photo was taken from the Vintage Radio Database website


AD36

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves - SP13, HL13, PEN3520, 1D5

Date - 1935

Status - Contributed description

Mark Else provided the following description:

One of the classic 'Round Ekco' receivers. This model is a TRF and features an aerial input 'backing off' control, featuring a variable capacitor, to improve 'control action' by neutralising some of the input signal thus providing a 'zero input balance'. This, in plain terms, prevents signals from a powerful local transmitter swamping the receiver input. Unusually (when compared to superhets) the volume control consists of a variable capacitor in the aerial input circuit.

This photo was taken from the Vintage Radio Database website


AD65

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves (early version) - FC13, VP1321, PenDD4020, UR1

Valves (later version) - FC13, VP13A, 2D13, Pen26, UR1

Date - 1934

Status - Included for information

This is probably the most desirable of the famous Round Ekcos - although the prices any round Ekco fetches (£600+) are way out of reach of most collectors (including me!).

The design of this set was modified during the course of production, due to changes of valve types. The later version has separate double-diode (2D13) and pentode (Pen26) valves, whereas in the earlier version both functions are contained in a single device (PenDD4020). There was also an intermediate version which was similar to the early version but with a VP13A in place of the VP1321 (IF amplifier).

This photo was taken from the Vintage Radio Database website


BPT351

Wavebands - MW, LW

Transistors - OC44, OC45, OC45, OC78D, OC78, OC78

Date - 1959

Status - No longer my collection (sold at NVCF Autumn 2001)

This is one of the trannie radios from a batch of several I bought as a single lot in an auction a couple of years ago, for very little money! It's a nothing-special MW/LW set operating from a PP9 battery.

The one interesting point is the tuning scale, which is calibrated from both sides. This allows it to be readable with the set laid on its back in a car glovebox. The set has a car aerial socket for this purpose. The rear panel fixing screws have shoulders which I assume are to mate with a plate of bracket that can be fixed inside the glovebox or under the dashboard of a car. Obviously, I don't have this bracket!

The set popped when switched on, but didn't work. However this turned out to be nothing more than a couple of dry joints on the PCB. Once they were resoldered it worked about as well as could be expected.


C78

Wavebands - unknown

Valves - TH21C, VP13C, TDD13C, Pen36c, UR1C

Date - 1937

Status - Contributed photo and description

Martyn provided the photo and the following description:

This radio gave me the collecting bug, I swapped it for a record player some time in the late 60s. This radio has always worked in the time I have had it. Last year I gave it an overhaul and replaced all the electrolytic capacitors, which were on their way out.

The chassis was fairly easy to work on and didn't cause any problems and the wiring was in remarkable condition. My main problem was tracking down a circuit diagram, the C78 is in fact a console version of the 1937 UAW78. This radio is quite rare and mine has the wrong knobs and speaker cloth.


PT310

PT378

Wavebands - MW, LW, SW, VHF

Date - early 1970s

Status - Contributed photo and repair

Details of Pete Roberts' repair to this set are in the Recent Repairs section.


PT378 and PT378/1

PT378 Wavebands - MW, LW

Transistors (Mullard) - OC44, OC45, OC45, OC81D, OC81, OC81

Transistors (Newmarket) - NKT152, NKT153, NKT154, MKT254, NKT251, NKT251

Date - 1961

Status - In my collection

According to the Trader sheet (number 1546) set was available in two different variants - one with Mullard transistors and the other with Newmarket devices. There were some circuit differences, primarily to accommodate the different transistors.

My set is different again, in that the final IF stage is also used as a reflex AF amplifier - this is the PT378/1 version

Full details of the repair and restoration are given in the Recent Repairs section.


U195

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves - UCH42, UBF80, UL41, UY41

Date - 1953

Status - In my collection

This is an unusual set in that it does not have a conventional tuning control. Instead it has four presets which can be selected by means of a switch on the front. The other control is on/volume. The presets are set up using adjustments accessible through holes in the rear cover. The logic behind this is that most listeners only listened to a few stations and it was felt it would be easier to be able to switch between them rather than tuning manually. The idea never caught on though, probably partly because the user could not retune to compensate for drifting. It may have been useful for the blind and partially sighted however.

This set was a gift from Richard Newman (thanks Richard). As you can see, the cabinet is broken in the bottom right corner. The section was apparently badly glued into place when Richard sent me the set, but came away in transit. This is fortunate because it will allow me to clean the surfaces and glue it more accurately. There is a small piece missing by the break, along the bottom edge towards the right where the cabinet joins the front panel. I will probably fill this with car body filler, and paint just that area with a suitable brown paint. Also, the gold EKCO lettering has worn away.

The cabinet moulding is identical to that used on the U245 below, so I may be able to use my spare U245 cabinet once I have finished one U245 out of the two I have.


U245

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves - UCH42, UF41, UBC41, UL41, UY41

Date - 1955

Status - Two in my collection

This was clearly one of Ekco's cheaper sets - although it still gives good quality. However it does run very hot, and many examples will have cracked or broken cases, and scorched, broken or missing rear panels. Note that later models had a carrying handle fitted to the top of the cabinet.

The output valve biasing is slightly unusual, and is described elsewhere on this web site. The main electrical problem with this set (apart from the usual capacitors) is open-circuit sections on the dropper resistor.

On my set (left photo) there was a large chunk missing from the top of the cabinet, above the output and rectifier valves and dropper. I have repaired this with car body filler and painted the whole case with Vauxhall Brazil Brown car paint. I have also modified the circuit by including a silicon rectifier diode in the heater chain, to reduce the dissipation in the dropper. The value of the dropper had to be reduced to suit. I'm not sure it's correct, so the set is on the list for further attention in due course and I am not using it.

Some of the printing is missing from the tuning scale. The remaining printing has been secured with spray varnish. Somewhen I will attempt to paint in the worst of the missing bits - in particular the line across the centre.

I bought another of these sets (right photo) at the Autumn 2001 NVCF for about £5. It is missing all the valves (there was a label to this effect on it) but is otherwise complete. The tuning scale is in good order, which was the main reason I bought it. It is a slightly different design in that it is printed in two colours only (the white sections are printed in gold). It doesn't have a handle on the top so must be an earlier variant. The cabinet has been badly painted white, but I have now cleaned it off and the Bakelite underneath is generally presentable. It also has a back, whereas my other one doesn't. The aim is to make one good set out of the two.


U319

Wavebands - MW, LW, VHF

Valves - UCC85, UCH81, UF89, UABC80, UL84, UY85

Date - 1957

Status - No longer in my collection

This is clearly the little Bakelite AC/DC brother to the A320 above. Not only to they have sequential numbers, they are also very similar in styling and, bearing in mind the series heaters, have a very similar circuit arrangement.

The comments about the sound quality of that set apply here too - although the lack of bass is not significant with a smaller Bakelite case. This set sounds nicer without the output valve cathode bypass capacitor too.


U332

Wavebands - MW, LW

Valves - UCH81?, 19FL8, UCL82, UY85

Date - 1959 ?

Status - No longer in my collection (sold at Autumn 2001 NVCF)

The cabinet for this set is actually made in two parts - the speaker grill being a separate moulding, which is fixed into the main cabinet with spring-clips. Maybe the plan was to use the same basic cabinet for several sets, some of which may have had a conventional wooden speaker board covered with cloth. The waveband switch is on the right side of the cabinet. The loudspeaker is a good-sized oval unit and the cabinet is Bakelite (as opposed to one of the softer plastics), so the set should give good sound quality for its size.

My set was missing one valve, but I would assume this should be a UCH81. The 19FL8 is clearly a substitute too. I have not yet looked it up but I would assume it is equivalent to the UBF89 or possibly the UBF80.

There is a heat deflector mounted on the back panel, which is intended to direct the heat from the output and rectifier valves and dropper resistor out of the back of the set, rather than heating up the top of the cabinet. The inevitable drawback with this approach is that, on my set, the back cover is somewhat delicate due to the effects of heat. There is also a lined recess for use as a carrying handle.

There appears to be two variants of this model, the one I had (left) has a plastic speaker grille and lighter design on the tuning scale, while the other variant has a fabric grille and darker scale design. It also appears to have a white cabinet, compared to cream.

Thanks to Jon Evans for the right picture, and to Timothy Cannon for confirming the date and details of this variant.

An email from "Rhamphoryncus" suggests there are more variant:

This model is also available in Post Office red. I used to have a black model as well. Unfortunately the red one had been dropped and had a broken case, which had been repaired with something resembling dog food! I bought it in the Gloucester cattle market boot sale for £1, but it worked.

Paul Earland added:

I have had a cream version for a number of years. Picked up another one this morning which I would call a dark maroon colour. Looks as if the colours were put on top of brown Bakelite. Never know if it is best to try to colour match any missing paint or leave as is.

Has anyone got any other variants?


U353

Wavebands - MW, LW, VHF

Valves - UCC85, UCH81, UF89, UABC80, UL84, UY85, DM70

Date - 1959

Status - No longer in my collection

This is an interesting set; in that Ekco clearly tried to produce a very good quality AC/DC set, but did not quite succeed!

The circuitry has all the bits some others leave out - negative feedback, additional decoupling on the HT supply and the AGC line, a tuning indicator (of sorts), a heat deflector around the output and rectifier valves and the dropper, and a good sized speaker. However the cabinet is made from a softish plastic, which, although tidy looking, is not solid enough to do the speaker justice. Because of this, the sound quality is somewhat hollow and lacking in bass. If the set is connected to a decent speaker the quality is improved considerably - but there is no option to mute the internal speaker.

The tuning indicator is a DM70, which was originally intended for use in battery sets. Its heater is powered from the output valve cathode circuit. On the DM70 the line reduces in length as the signal strength increases, this is the opposite to that expected.

One thing I found annoying is that the on/off switch is part of the tone control, instead of the more usual volume control. John Ackroyd offered the following explanation:

I noted your comment about the on/off switch . I recall that some sales brochures of the time made a point that there was an advantage in this. It saves the volume control track from wear. A worn and noisy track on the tone control is not as obtrusive as the same problem at the front of the AF amp.

I guess this would work if the tone control worked backwards (highest treble anticlockwise) because wear at this high resistance end would not be significant. However I recall the control worked the normal way, so there would be wear over a greater range of the track (assuming people didn't like the sound too muddy). I guess it still isn't so bad as a noisy volume pot, and it was probably a good marketing point at the time.

In this set the overall resistance of the track forms the grid leak for the output valve, so we wouldn't want too much wear here otherwise the resistance would increase and the valve biasing would be affected.

However I remain unconvinced from a users point of view, and the fact that it never really took off suggests that the public of the time weren't convinced either! The correct solution would have been a separate on/off switch, but they would have to fit this into the set's styling.


U362

Wavebands - MW, LW, VHF

Valves - UCC85, UCH81, UF89, UABC80, UL84, UY85, DM70

Date - 1961

Status - No longer in my collection

This set uses the same chassis as the U353 above. With a wooden cabinet I would expect it to sound much better than the U353.

I bought the set privately. It is in near perfect condition, the only damage being a tiny chip in the veneer in the top right corner of the front and slight distortion to the trim above the right knob.

I have now sold it to a local collector who was specifically looking for this model because there was one in his family when he was a child.




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The types of equipment discussed on this website may contain high voltages and/or operate at high temperatures.
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Last updated 14th April 2006.