Zenith Competes in a Japanese Dominated Market


In 1961, Zenith introduced a small number of radios in face of the Japanese dominated portable transistor market. One 1961 model would turn out to be the best pocket-style radio Zenith ever manufactured.

Zenith reintroduced the Royal 50 as the Royal 50H at a price point of $19.95. The radio features a more decorative cabinet style and was available in 4 colors-red, beige, white, and black. Also, Zenith introduced the Royal 90 at $21.95. This radio features a decorative metal grill rather than the all plastic cabinet like the Royal 50 model. By 1961, transistors must have improved in performance. Both the Royal 50H and Royal 90 play quite well but the sound quality is limited by the small speaker.


Here is the Royal 50H model; it still has the external tuning knob making it unsuitable for pocket use.
Royal 90 features chassis 6JT40Z and is powered by 2 AA batteries. This is the solid white model. Also, this radio has the external tuning knob making it unsuitable for pocket use.


The next 1961 Zenith in my collection is the Royal 400, an all-new model, quite innovative in design and cost control. To save cost, the radio has a 7-transistor chassis with no RF amplifier stage; also, the radio has a plastic cabinet. However, the radio featured the all new 3" x 5" oval ceramic magnet speaker with an off-center voice coil design that prevents a naturally resonant speaker frequency. Because of the speaker's size, it is mounted at an offset angle. Some Zenith ad literature claims it is the largest speaker ever installed in a pocket sized radio. The new speaker was marketed under the name of "Extended Range." Like the many Royal 500 radios, the 7GT40Z2 chassis is powered by 4 "AA" batteries. The radio sold for $39.95. Because of the speaker and cabinet design, the sound quality is very good.

While the Royal 400 radios are plentiful, there are very few that do not have some dent damage to the thin, perforated metal front. Also, about half of ones I have seen are missing the bottom logo plate which must have had a poor glue compound. Also, many of these radios suffer from chipped top corners where owners--not realizing the back is secured with a back screw and a recessed bottom screw--have tried to pry it off for a battery change.

Here is a frontal view of the "Extended Range" speaker.

Here is a rear view of the "Extended Range" Speaker.

In 1961, Zenith introduced totally new Zenith Royal 500 model called the Royal 500H model. The radio maintained the original dimensions of the Royal 500 series radios. The radio includes an RF stage along with a much improved intermediate frequency amplifiers. The two IF stages with quality IF transformers gives the radio about a 10 KHZ skirt, permitting reception without adjacent channel interference. The radio uses the new "Extended Range" 3" x 5" oval speaker. Although I have never seen a production development budget for this radio, it must have been substantial. Much time and careful attention was spent developing the smaller components for the more complex circuits within the radio. I have read in some literature that engineers from the hearing aid division were involved in the cabinet design to maximize the sound quality from the extended range speaker. This radio is without a doubt the most sensitive, selective, and best sounding pocket sized radio ever developed. This radio was developed for a niche market for up-scale consumers demanding only the highest quality in a portable radio. The radio sold for $59.95 at a time when some transistor radios had broken the $20 price point. Read here how Catherine came to own and enjoy her first Royal 500H radio.

Here is a picture of my Royal 500H which won a first prize ribbon in 2004.

Here a picture of the vented cabinet rear, showing the sound louvers.

Here is picture of the 8HT40Z2 chassis; notice the smaller components compared to earlier Royal 500 models.