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HF Series Radios

By Mike Smith

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Great British
Lowe HF Series Radios

Lowe HF225
Lowe HF225


During the 1980's and 1990's Lowe Electronics of Matlock, Derbyshire built some of the finest general coverage communications receivers avaliable, designed by the famous team of John Thorpe and John Wilson.  You can navigate to details of some specific models by using the buttons in the panel above.

Lowe Electronics was started by Bill Lowe and John Wilson and the company was initially mainly involved in the import and marketing of the Kenwood range of receivers.  Eventually Lowe Electronics decided to design and build their own high quality British receiver in Matlock, and electronics guru John Thorpe was engaged around 1986 as the consultant to design the set.

The resulting design was the very fine Lowe HF-125, a desktop receiver introduced in 1987 that won many fans and was frequently recommended to short wave listeners (SWLs) by radio journals and magazines.  The HF-125 featured wide coverage from 30kHz to 30MHz in 15.6Hz tuning steps, 30 memories, optional synchronous and nbfm detection board, and a high quality front end. An optional keypad was also available for direct frequency entry, shown in the picture below:

Lowe HF125
The Lowe HF-125, showing the handy little key-pad.


The HF-125 was replaced in 1989 by the improved HF-225, and both receivers are now regarded as classics of British built quality receivers that offered the Lowe hallmark of good reception and exeptional sound quality.   Until I actually heard these receivers in operation at the Lowe showroom in Matlock in 1991 I could not ever have imagined how good they actually sounded.  I now regularly run my own HF-150 though a hi-fi, and it is wise when listening to broadcast stations to play these radios through a high quality hi-fi monitor loudspeaker to really appreciate the effort that went into the design of these sets.  Lowe did supply an optional single Wharfedale Diamond loudspaker at one time, but any loudspeaker from a good quality manufacturer such as Celestion, Mission, Wharfedale, JPW or B&W for example would do justice to the excellence of the HF series audio output.

The Lowe radios tended to be housed in rather plain but very solid exteriors which hid the electronic marvels, designed by Lowe's John Thorpe, inside the box.  The radio circuitry was more than adequate for any SWL (short wave listener) being a double conversion superheterodyne design, and was extremely stable and overload resistant and quiet, while the set was also very easy to use having a useful signal meter and, like the HF-125, offered the option of a neat plug-in KPAD1 keypad for direct frequency entry.  There was also the important option to have the additional D-225 detector board fitted which offered NBFM and the really useful AMS (AM Synchronous) detection.  Of course, the HF-225 sounded fantastic!

Coverage of the HF-225 also 30kHz to 30Mhz but using finer 7.8kHz steps, which made for very smooth tuning indeed.  The radio offers AM, SSB and CW reception with selectivity provided by 10, 8.8 and 2.2 kHz ceramic filters and an 200Hz audio filter for CW reception centred on 800Hz.  Also included in the circuit is a noise blanker to reduce ignition noice which is not switchable, 30 memories and two VFO's.

Lowe later produced the special 'HF-225 Finlandia' to a specification requested by the DX Club of Finland.  Lowe further developed the Finlandia design ideas and went on to release the award winning 'HF-225 Europa' an improved specification design over the standard HF-225 which included tighter and higher specification IF filters, different control software to control the new filter configuration, higher specification chokes and lower capacity diodes and improved 'chip' type decoupling capacitors.  These improvements provided better skirt selectivity and lower noise.  The Europa was also sold with the D-225 FM/AMS board factory fitted and the KPAD1 as standard.

Lowe HF-225


Lowe also produced a professional version of the HF-225 called the HF-235.  The HF-235 was housed in a different case designed for 19" rack mounting which was slightly larger and had a front, rather than top, mounted speaker and a built in keypad for easy frequency entry.

The HF-225 series was discontinued in 1997, by which time the replacement receiver the HF-250 was available and offered a number of improvements.

In 1991 the HF-225 sold for around £430, the HF-225 Europa was around £699, while the professional model, the HF-235, sold for about £1100 in 1993.  These were not cheap radios, but did offer very good value for money considering the quality offered.


In 1991 Lowe decided to launch a smaller cheaper radio also designed by John Wilson and built in Matlock.  The resulting HF-150 catered for short wave listening enthusiasts on a budget.  The radio was initially launched at a price of £329.  On first appearances the HF150 seemed to be a cut down version of the HF-225 being smaller and without the signal meter and minus a few controls on the front panel, such as the tone control and the attenuator switch, which was moved to the rear panel.  The HF-150 is also a double conversion superheterodyne design, but lacks the RF bandpass filters of the HF-225, so while not quite having the large signal handling capabilities of the HF-225, the HF-150 was still a fine and wonderfully engineered and, again, a very fine sounding radio indeed.

Lowe HF-150

The HF-150 had an impressive solid extruded aluminium case, which offered great strength when using it out and about, the tuning knob was also a piece of solid machined aluminium and offered a very nice feel.  Despite its cut price, the HF-150 had the huge advantage of of a better AMS detector than the HF-225, offering Synchronous AM detection with selectable sidebands, something not available on the HF-225.  This helped guarantee stable reception of fading stations, eliminating the distortion apparent when using normal AM mode, especially if only one of the two sidebands was selected, known as ECSS, Exhalted Carrier Single Side Band.  The detector locks onto even the very weakest station, and the stability of the receiver was also a great boon when listening to SSB (single side band) transmissions.  The HF-150 also offered an unusual option of ASF, which is a 'hi-fi' setting of the synchronous AM detector, providing better high frequency audio response.

Lowe also produced a marine version for use on boats and yaghts in the form of the HF-150-M.  This was an HF-150 designed and built for the special demands of marine use and this set can be easily identified by its white casing.

The omission of a signal meter, for me, was easily overcome as an add-on unit can be easily and very cheaply made from a suitable meter available from Maplin and an inexpensive op-amp, see the signal meter page.  John Wilson of Lowe very kindly sent me the circuit diagram for the meter included in the HF-225 so that I could make my own meter.  To improve the strong signal handling of the HF-150, which is not quite as good as the HF-225 due to the lack of any real band-pass filtering, a home built Antenna Tuning Unit (ATU) is also easily and inexpensively added.  The ATU better matches a long wire aerial to the radio and offers a very worthwhile degree of additional selectivity (moderate filtering or pre-selection) in addition to a variable attenuator.  See the ATUs page .

To overcome the lack of front end band pass filtering in the HF-150 John Thorpe designed an add-on Pre-Selector, the PR-150.  Unfortunately the original PR-150 design was not a success since it utilised diodes in the circuitry and suffered problems with intermodulation products.  Lowe soon released a revised and much improved PR-150 design that overcame all of these problems and was certainly a worthwhile addition to your HF-150 radio.

A second add-on unit, the SP-150, was also released by Lowe and this offered a very flexible and high quality audio filter and useful signal meter. 

A higher specification HF-150 was later released named the HF-150 Europa.  This higher specification radio offered band-pass filtering similar to that offered in the HF-225, a back light for the frequency read-out and a black anodised aluminium case rather than the standard brown.  However it is claimed that in use the HF-150 Europa is not as good as the straight HF-150 because the additional front end filtering reduces the ultimate sensitivity of the radio from 0.4uV to 1.5uV.   Additionally while the I.F. (Intermediate Frequency) remained at 45 MHz and thus the 'second channel' or 'image' lies between 90.03 MHz and 120 MHz, depending on where the radio is tuned
(i.e. across much of the v.h.f. Band II FM), because of compromised filtering performance employed in the "E" version this could result in breakthrough of wide-band FM signals if the listener's aerial picked up these frequencies.  For these reasons we would recommend that anyone looking to buy a Lowe HF-150 today should look for the standard (and superb) version of the HF-150, rather than the ulimately poorer performing Europa version.

Lowe released some computer control software for the Lowe 150 receivers - more information is available here >


In 1995 Lowe released the last in the series of 'HF' radios, the HF-250 which essentially replaced the HF-225 series.  The HF-250 was a beautiful looking piece of equipment, looking more like a piece of Hi-Fi than a radio receiver, and took the development of the range of HF radios to a new level offering high specification tuning circuits, infra-red (rather than wired) key-pad and more versatile control software.

Lowe HF-250

Below are some of the adverts that appeared for this series of marvellous communications receivers in the 1990's:

Lowe Advert for the new HF150 in 1991

Lowe advert for the HF225 in 1991

Lowe Advert for the HF150, HF235 and HF225 receivers in 1993

Lowe Advert 1993

Lowe advert from 1995 for the Lowe HF-150, HF-150 Marine,
SP-150 Audio Filter and Signal Meter, PR-150 Preselector, HF-225, HF-225 Europa, and HF-250.


Unfortunately despite popularity among short wave listening enthusiasts and also despite winning many awards for excellence the manufacturing arm of Lowe Electronics was closed for business in 1999. 
The new owner of Lowe Electronics wished to concentrate on the more profitable business of wholesaling equipment and supplying other specialist markets such as Tetra digital communications.

The production rights to the HF-150 radios and parts required to build the sets were handed to a company called SMC (South Midland Communications) who, in return, continued to build the HF-150 and HF-150 Europa and supply them to Lowe for a period of time.  Production did not last too long and was eventually discontinued,
and these fine receivers are very sadly no longer available.

It is thought, though I have not confirmed this, that the last of the HF-150 radios made by SMC were manufactured in black cases, rather than the original copper/gold colour of the original sets.  The quality of the SMC produced sets is said to be equal to those made by Lowe Electronics themselves.

Lowe Electronics remained in businness in Matlock but diversified into other areas. In 2010 Lowe was absorbed into Savox Communications and I do not know what, if any, support they will now able to offer owners of the discontinued range of Lowe HF receivers.

Below you will find what information remained about Lowe Receivers on their website in September 2010 - so please do not ask me for spares or servicing - I will not be able to help! This is presented purely for your information, I hope it's helpful: 

[Start quote] "Lowe Receiver owners ...

Lowe HF receiver Printed Circuit Boards: We have available a quantity of the two pcbs which constitute the HF-150. They are manufacturing rejects. The reasons for the individual rejections are not recorded but the most likely reason is "wobble". The pcb assemblies were tested for short term stability (jitter) during manufacture with a wow-and-flutter meter normally used in the audio industry. Some of the radios could not be made to pass this test. They may have other problems too. The remaining Main Units are fully populated and have the "two chip" PLL divider circuit. £30.

The Control Boards are populated EXCEPT for the microcontroller and the tuning encoder. They do have LCD displays. £20.

These units are a good source of spares - for example each main unit has two of the Plessey mixers. Of the ones we have left it is highly unlikely that a pair will work together as a radio without remedial work.

HF125 Owner's manual £10
HF125 Front panel overlay £10
HF125 Whip amplifier and battery interface £20. We have no more HF225 Whip Amplifiers.
HF150 Plastic painted window £10
HF150 Battery box £10 per pair.
HF225 New top and bottom cases, grey, £20 per pair.
HF225 Owner's manual £10, service manual £17 Front panel overlay £10.
HF250 RC250 infra-red remote controller £25.
HF250 FM/sync-AM detector £35 (there are no HF225 detectors left).
HF250 Plastic painted window £10
HF235 Combined owners and service manual £17
PS12 regulated UK power supply for all sets £17

Knobs for all Lowe radios, tuning £5 on/off/tone/mode £3. The minimum total order from this page is £5.

We have no more stock of the HF-250 main tuning knob drilled for the 1/4" shaft, but a knob for the HF-225 could be used if drilled out from 6 mm to 1/4" on a drilling machine (don't use a hand-held drill).

Repairs, Servicing and Information: We are no longer able to offer a radio repair service. It is more than ten years since Lowe stopped manufacturing HF radios, and we can no longer spare the resources which are necessary for an efficient repairs handling operation (the repair itself is often the easiest part). Spares are still available. We will be happy to discuss any problem with any particular Lowe receiver. However we can only discuss such problems by phone, e-mail is hopeless for all but the very simplest problems.

Yahoo Lowe Forums: There are two seperate Yahoo discussion groups for Lowe receiver owners, but they have no connection whatever with Lowe Electronics Ltd:  lowe_hfreceivers and Lowe_Receivers

There is a lot of technical information there.

Precautions! : Be very careful when using ordinary batteries in the HF-150. When the set is connected to an external power source and is switched off, the batteries will be charged continuously. Ordinary batteries will then leak and destroy the set. Even rechargeable batteries should only be charged for the correct period in this way.

The most common failures of the HF150 and HF225 occur when an external antenna is left connected to the radio during local electrical storms. With the HF150 the first mixer (Q22 SL6440C) fails causing the set to have low sensitivity and/or overload easily.

With the HF225 you get no operation over half the frequency range. Diode D1(BA244A or any low capacitance switching diode) has probably failed, this is in one corner inside the tin box enclosure. The VCO range switching diodes inside the die-cast box can also cause the set to mute over part of the range - they can go "lossy". They might measure OK but can be better checked by temporarily linking out any which are biased on. There is a silk screen print on the pcbs which indicate which component is which.

HF 225 sync AM and FM detector option D225: We have no more of these left, but the D250 detectors are actually made on D225 circuit boards but with a few components moved around. The D225 silk screen is still there. Among other things a 455 kHz resonator and a variable capacitor have been removed. Converting one back to work on an HF225 is not a five-minute job.

For anyone who wants to do this however, we can send a D250 detector, a D225 circuit diagram and layout, resonator, varicap diode and a list of the necessary mods for £35. Other resistors and caps will be needed and the rest would be up to you.

For more information give us a ring on 01629 821474"  [ /end quote] Copied from

Savox Communications
(formerly Lowe Electronics)
Sandyhill Park
Telephone: +44 (0) 1629 820820
Fax: +44 (0) 1629 820800

will now redirect to Savox Communications

South Midlands Communications Ltd
SM House, School Close
Chandlers Ford Industrial Estate
Eastleigh, Hampshire
SO53 4BY
Telephone:  +44 (0)23 8024 6200
Fax: +44 (0)23 8024 6206

South Midland Communications (SMC) website

Chief design consultant, John Thorpe, went on to consult for AOR in Derbyshire who produce his high specification design, the AR7030 HF communications receiver.  The AR7030 bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the receivers that John Thorpe previously designed at Lowe Electronics and had production of radios continued at Lowe there is no doubt that the 7030 design would have been manufactured by Lowe!

AOR 7030
[click photo to visit AOR]

Repairs and Servicing:

I don't currently know of any one who specializes in the repair of Lowe Radios. If you do please let me know.

For more information and help with choosing a new receiver and radio reception in general why not subscribe to Radio User Magazine (formerly Short Wave Magazine) or the British DX Club (BDXC)?

You can click on one of the buttons below to have a look at some more details about the classic Lowe HF-125, HF-150, HF-225 and HF-250 sets:

Wishing you Good Reception, 73,  Mike

[With thanks to Julian Hardstone who helped with some useful additional information]

Home Page Lowe HF-125
John Wilson
Lowe HF-150

Radio Memorabilia
Lowe HF-225
Make A Signal Meter
Lowe HF-250
DX-ing & Short Wave Radio

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