A Brief History of Zenith Transistor Radios


Zenith introduced its first transistor radio in November, 1955. The radio was called the Zenith Royal 500. Although introduced almost a year after the Regency TR-1, the Zenith radio had several big advantages. First, Zenith engineers were able to evaluate the shortcomings of the RegencyTR-1, and several other early market entries; and second, they had the advantage of both audio specialists and electronic design engineers who had solid state experience from their hearing aid product line. Wisely, they chose to build a radio that worked well rather than trying to "copycat" earlier offerings. Also, they made the wise decision to use penlight cells rather than specialty batteries. Using standard penlight batteries would serve Zenith Radio well throughout their production.

An interesting difference between the early Royal 500's and the later Royal 500 models such as the E, H, and L, is the upper tuning range. The tuning dial numbering was extended from 1400 KHZ to 1600 KHZ. However, I have found that most early models will tune beyond the dial indication of 1400 KHZ. The AM band frequency allocation changed in 1941 from 550-1500 to 520-1610. Later, in 1983, the upper limit was raised to 1710.

Here is valuable Zenith information from Ray Andrejasich, an engineer who joined the Zenith Radio Corporation transistor design unit in 1957. In a 1996 speech, Mr. Andrejasich discusses transistor design at Zenith in the early days with a focus on the Royal 1000 Transoceanic radio.

Dwight Poppy, who did major engineering work on the Zenith Royal 400, 500H, 810, 820, and 880 radios talks about his work at Zenith. Mr Poppy did the IF design work on the wonderful Royal 500H.

Please click on a date to view the radios in my collection. There are many Zenith transistor models that I do not have. If anyone who would like to add historical information and/or pictures to this library, please contact me by email.

Please select a model year from the tabs below to view my collection.

The First Zenith Transistor Radios Arrive on the Market.
Zenith Transistor Radio Models Are Prolific.
A Good Year for Zenith; Japanese Imports Have Yet To Arrive In Force.
Japanese Competition Begins!!
Japanese Imports Begin Market Domination
How To Be Competitive In A Japanese Dominated Market
Producing Radios In A Japanese Dominated Market
Zenith Starts Winding Down American Production
Zenith Transistor Radios Become a Hard Sell.
Zenith's Other Year Transistor Radios.
My Homebrew Zenith Radio Collection