Top 10 RCAs
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Radio Corporation of America (RCA) dominated radio and broadcasting from the 1930s to the 1970s. Before the Internet, RCA and companies like it were at the center of American lives in business, communication, and technology.
RCA radio designs are sought after for their simple appeal, quality performance, and serviceability. Very few of their radio styles would be considered controversial. The electrical and mechanical engineering of their radios seems to pass the test of time compared to others. More details about this in a future article. Put it this way, RCA's are easier to fix.
Compared to Zenith and Philco, which seem to stir up more passion among collectors, RCA radios are palatable. However, the real beauty of RCA designs is more clearly seen in the broader context of all radio and its history. In this light, RCA Top 10 radios shine like no other.
Top 10 RCA Radios
10. 1954-1955 RCA Models 4-X-55 series - Post Modern Abstract. The list starts with RCA's somewhat provocative styled radio with an unfathomable name "The Wilshire." Remember, back in mid 50s, a lot of families still listened to their wood console and cathedral radios at home so this radio must have looked pretty fresh. See that, RCA? Calculated risking taking won't kill you!
In forest green:
9. 1938 RCA Model 95T5 - You mean, a radio that sits on top of a table not on the floor? Here's the radio for folks who don't want to choose between a radio and a small chest of drawers in their apartment.
8. 1957-1962 RCA Model 1-RD and 1-RA series - proud and upright. Here's a design form factor that departs from low and horizontal; sleek sloped and vertical. Available in a multitude of color combinations, with clock and without, regular miniature tubes or low power.
In a rare red and white combo:
In pink and white with a clock:
7. 1956-1957 RCA Model 8-X-6 series. Looks very retro radio-ish. Something about this radio proportions and dial looks like the quintessential '50s retro radio. It was available in a variety of colors. Most common was black, white, brown, maroon. But, it was also available in pink, gray, pastel green, and as below less commonly found, in yellow.
6. 1947-1949 RCA Model 8-x-541. Nice balance and universal appeal. Won't rub anyone the wrong way. If you want a vintage radio that sounds great but won't steal the spotlight from your other heirloom furnishings, this is the radio for you. Bakelite cabinet available in brown or ivory. What other color do you need?
5. 1959 RCA Model X-4HE - "The Charmflair" (huh?). RCA's model names are as confounding as their laborious model numbering convention. Little known fact, this model radio, actually this exact radio, was the first radio that started Retro Radio Farm. Picked it up at a flea market for $15. Whoa!
4. 1940-1950 RCA Model 9-X-561, 9-X-562. Hands down, the best sounding tabletop radio from the '40s and '50s. Somewhat demure looks is completely overshadowed by this radio ability to really boom. Upscale version Model 9-X-571 looks like it is was designed to make your eardrums bleed!
3.1953 RCA Model 6-XD-5 "The Glendon." There you go again with that weird name and inscrutable model number. Is it 6-XD-5, 6XD5, 6-XD5, 6XD-5? That's okay. It doesn't really matter when you have dual speakers! Why no dial light?
Available in pistachio green and slate gray blue combination
This is a design that captures '50s (and now) desire for orthogonal lines. It seems to convey high tech and precision. Resembling the egg crate grill of a Cadillac, each outer grid square has an inner grid of smaller squares. Someone had way too much fun with a slide rule!
2. 1946 RCA 75X series. Beautiful, solid as a brick, quality manufacturing and elegant design throughout. This radio has an air of sophistication and refinement about it. Rarely found broken or cracked because you can hit it with a sledgehammer and be okay.
Here with hand painted Oriental theme. This radio is truly a work of art.
Remember at this time after WWII, an Asian sub-continent inspired motif was probably difficult to embrace for an emotionally confused society. So, the fact that a prominent company like RCA would make this statement with a radio shows leadership and courage. Thumbs up for diversity dudes!
1. 1956 RCA 8-C-7, 9-C-7. If you were to compile a list of the top ten 50s radios from all the manufacturers, this radio would be high on the list. Available in pink and turquoise backs, and less commonly found black or beige backs. Looks great from every angle. Easy to service. Hard to argue with anything about it. RCA sold a ton of them so it is still relatively easy to find one in good condition for a reasonable price.
As a side note, it is really hard to pick just 10 RCAs. So many other RCAs are deserving to be on this list like 1939-1940 45X and 46X series, 1945-1947 56X series, 1954-1955 5X560, 564. Late fifties 8-C-6's, C-1's, C-2's. So many radios, not enough lists...
As another side note, RCA mascot the Little Nipper is still one of marketing most enduring symbols featuring an animal. In real life, Nipper was a fox terrier who actually lived in Bristol UK in late 19th century with artist Francis Barraud whose painting depicts the audio fidelity of early gramophone with "His Master's Voice."