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Vintage Radio

Philips 196A 4-Valve AC/Battery Portable Receiver

By Rodney Champness

Click for larger image
This is the view inside the set without the bottom chassis cover in place. The label attached to the rear cover details the chassis removal procedure. It also shows the valve locations, the alignment points and the battery details.

THE PHILIPS 196A was produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when many manufacturers were already designing and building transistor portables. However, many customers were reluctant to buy the transistor radios of the era, as their performance at that early stage was far from inspiring.

To overcome this reluctance, some manufacturers built both valve and transistor receivers in nearly identical cases. This allowed customers to choose the type of set that best suited their needs and also gave them time to adjust to the changeover to fully-transistorised sets.

The 196A was one such set. It’s a relatively small, portable valve receiver and was manufactured right at the end of the valve era.

As can be seen from the photos, the case is a little unusual. According to the supplied information (on the inside of the set), it’s made from sandstone-coloured, rippled leatherette over stiff cardboard sheets, a style that was used for many portables of the time. It measures 280mm long x 180mm high x 115mm deep and weighs around 3kg without batteries.

Note that the case isn’t a perfect rectangle, so these are the greatest dimensions in any direction. And although similar in style, the later Philips 199 transistor model used a  case that was slightly smaller and had pushbutton controls along the top.

The 196A valve portable has just three controls: a partly-recessed volume control at top left, a hand-span dial on the front panel and a small lever located under the lefthand end of the carrying strap. This lever controls a 3-position switch which switches the set on or off and selects between battery and AC operation.

This power switch isn’t easy to see and appears to be something of an “add-on”. Philips certainly could have done a much better job when it came to positioning this control.

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