Fifty years ago this month, November 1964, Electronics Illustrated reviewed Allied Radio’s Knight-Kit Star Roamer Receiver. I never had one, but this basic receiver was ubiquitous in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and many SWL’s got their start with the four-tube receiver.
According to the magazine, the kit sold for $39.95 and took about 20 hours to build. The receiver’s low tube count was courtesy of a selenium rectifier and solid-state diode detector. The radio did receive CW, but without a BFO. The final IF stage was designed so that it could break into oscillation, making the receiver quasi-regenerative. Interestingly, the radio included a key jack, since the oscillating stage could be used as a code practice oscillator for an aspiring novice to work on learning the code.
The receiver tuned 200 kHz to 30 MHz, but as the review points out, the longwave band was almost useless, and the overall performance left a lot to be desired. But in an environment filled with strong shortwave signals, even a simple receiver like this one would give hours of interesting listening to the new SWL.
Good specimens seem to go for about $50 on eBay. But if you’re in the market, there’s really no sense in getting a working one. The simple receiver is easy to work on, and the full assembly manual is readily available. This receiver would be a good candidate to “re-kit”: Take it apart, and keep the mechanical parts, IF transformers, and variable capacitors. Then, replace the resistors and capacitors with modern replacements. The selenium rectifier is probably best replaced with a more modern silicon rectifier. The old tubes are almost certainly good, and even if they are not, they are all easily obtainable as “new old stock.” Finally, put it back together according to the manual (and the cautions contained in the EI review).