The M31 gallery of... American Classics !
1955 Raytheon 8TP series:
7"H x 9 1/4"W x 2 3/4"D
Why is the 8TP series referred to as the first "serious" transistor radio? And who referred to it that way?
Obviously Regency didn't. For Regency, and for most collectors today as well, the first "serious" transistor radio was the first transistor radio -- the Regency TR-1. Even if its 4-transistor circuit performed more poorly than any tube portable of the day, the TR-1 still was a qualitative break from anything preceeding it. And in the 1990s there are more than a few collectors who have paid over $800 for less common examples of the TR-1, and several who have paid over $1000 for the more rare examples such as the pearlescent cabinet models. No collector on record has paid anywhere near that amount of money for any version of the Raytheon 8TP.
But at the advent of transistor radios in the mid-'50s, Raytheon was able to brand its lunchbox-sized 8TP series model as the first "serious" transistor radio by virture of the 8TP's performance -- and, by contrast, the Regency TR-1's lack of performance. The Raytheon 8TP was the second transistor radio on the market and not the first quite likely because Raytheon took the time to make a quality radio.
The April and July 1955 issues of Consumer Reports separately put these two radios to the test, and concluded that Raytheon had every reason to call its 8TP the first serious transistor radio. The April '55 review of the Regency TR-1 found the $49.95 TR-1 to be a toy-like novelty which didn't come at a toy-like price, and stated that, "[t]he consumer who has been waiting for transistor radios to appear would do well to await further developments before buying."
The July '55 review of the Raytheon 8TP gave the set high marks: "The transistors in this set have not been used in an effort to build the smallest radio on the market, and good performance has not been sacrificed to attain this end." The 8TP series was ranked high in nearly all categories, "falling down only in sensitivity." Audio quality matched or exceeded that of many of the tube portables covered in the review, with speech intelligibility found to be especially good. Characteristically, the Consumers Union's highest praise came for the Raytheon's battery economy. Operating at about 1/6 cent per hour, it was many times more efficient than any other portable available. Regency's TR-1, by comparison, cost about forty times as much in battery usage, and one Arvin tube set reviewed ate its batteries at a rate of 22 cents per hour -- more than a hundred times that of the Raytheon 8TP. Comparing the 8TP to an RCA tube portable, Consumer Reports wrote: "The Raytheon has a high initial cost (about $80 compared to $50 for the RCA Victor 6-BX-63), but the RCA will consume about $38 worth of batteries by the time the Raytheon has used up its 60 cents worth of flashlight cells." There could hardly have been a better endorsement for the 8TP series than this, and over the following year subsequent reviews would find that most new transistor sets approached the 8TP's battery economy, and that the Raytheon really was more unique for being a good performing portable radio which also happened to be a transistor radio.
The Eight-Transistor 1955 Raytheon 8TP Series:
8TP-1: Tan leatherette. All four model numbers came out in '55, but from all indications the 8TP-1 was in fact the first of these...
8TP-2: Dark brown leatherette.
8TP-3: Off-white leatherette.
8TP-4: Red and black leatherette with gold metal: royal colors which transformed an otherwise dumb & clunky lunchbox radio into something quite handsome. If you're going to own only one of these, it should be either the 8TP-1 or this 8TP-4. I've sold all my 8TPs except for the 8TP-4.
Portions of the above text first appeared in a slightly different version in the Transistor Network's November 1992 article, "Consumer Reports," © 1992 by Robert Davidson.
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