...The radios we'll always remember


 Posted By: Robert Nickels (W9RAN)
Posted: 04/26/2022

Looking Back 1 Comments 04/26/2022 

The Knight Kit T-60 Transmitter

A Vintage Product Review


As the Novice ham license was closing on it's 10th anniversary and the number of new hams was growing as fast as the rockets taking off from Cape Caneveral,  the engineers at Allied Radio's Knight Kit division knew it was time for a replacement for the "T-50" which had only been given the official designator if "83YX255".    Of course no one called it a "T-50" until there was a T-60 to differentiate it from, which is the object of  this article.  

It's worth nothing that the "T-50" or "50 watter" was a copy of the Johnson Adventurer with different cosmetics.   Whether Knight Kit paid to license the design or just copied what were industry-standard circuits is unknown, but it was clearly a good choice as the Adventurer was perhaps the most popular, and many would say "the best" commercially-made Novice transmitter.  It was stable and reliable, put out a good usable amount of power, and most importantly, was affordable even on a paper-route budget.

The T-60 was going to be Knight Kit's own design, and as their first original ham transmitter needed to make a big splash.   If one could go back and peek at the goals tacked over the engineer's drawing board in Chicago, it might read something like this:

  •       Compact size
  •       At least 50 watts input, ideally a bit more
  •      AM modulator built-in
  •      Easy to tune
  •      Six meter band coverage to attract Technician class buyers
  •      More BANG for the BUCK!

The competitive rigs that had to be in the center of their sights were the Johnson Adventurer at $54.95 and the Eico 723-K at $49.95, both 60 watt CW-only rigs.   Hallicrafters HT-40K at $89.95 and Heathkit DX-60 kit at $82.95 were in a different price range -- but the challenge was:   Could Knight Kit offer a transmitter that could compete with the the AM/CW rigs BUT at an "Adventurer" price?  That's just what they did!

The "T-50" had been sold for $44.95 and yet maybe with good engineering and careful selection of parts they could add a controlled carrier modulator and six meters without raising the price too much.     Technology helped - solid state rectifiers would eliminate a tube and socket, reducing space, wiring, and heat production.   While 807s were still probably cheap, the switch to a 6DQ6 TV sweep tube for the power amplifier allowed the cabinet height to be lowered, saving money and creating a more modern appearance.   Pennies counted - every metal shield or electrical component that could be eliminated in the new design helped.  The 6DR7 used for the modulator also came from the vertical deflection section of a TV and the loading capacitor was a standard BC radio unit.   It also helped that by the time the T-60 came around, Knight Kit's business had grown and was able to benefit from economy of scale as well as the buying power of the parent company, Allied, which was the largest electronics distributor in the world at the time.  

The introductory price of $49.95 had to be an eye-opener to many who instantly did the calculation and determined that this indeed was a "DX-60 at a T-50 price".    The addition of six meters was also a smart choice since the "magic band" was hopping with activity at the peak of the sunspot cycle.    And while Novices were restricted to CW operation, the presence of that mic jack and VFO input right on the front panel was a sign to new hams that this transmitter could grow with their ham careers.    Granted, the controlled carrier RF output wasn't going to penetrate any pileups in "AM Alley" but it would put you on FONE and that's what was important!

It would be interesting to know how many T-60 kits were sold by Knight Kit but the number had to be significant judging from how many showed up in Novice ham shack photos at the time, and the fact that they turn up frequently at hamfests and internet sales today, and even unrestored rough examples command prices quite a bit more than the original selling price.      And they work great!   In fact, AM operators who put a T-60 into a linear amplifier find themselves receiving excellent signal reports.

73 Magazine thought it was a good rig at the time - take a few minutes to read their review below.

And thanks to Nick K4NYW, you have a chance to enjoy the "out of box" experience that a T-60 buyer would have had, opening the T-60 kit for the first time.

 

 


   

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