Watkins - Johnson, Gaithersburg, Maryland

WJ - 8888 / "Quad 8"

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überarbeitet am 2.11.2010

The WJ-8888 is a quite rare bird here in Switzerland, it's a professional grade communications receiver based on a PLL synthesis circuitry - I could get one in perfect condition together with some accessories, tnx to OM Franz in St.Gallen!

Tripe conversion superhet, 1st I.F. 82,805 MHz, 2nd I.F. 10,7 MHz, 3rd I.F. 455 kHz

Digital display, max. 10 Hz


10 kHz - 30000 kHz

Selectivity -6 dB
0,5 / (opt. 1) / 2 / 4 / 8 kHz

Sensitivity < 1 uV

RF gain, AGC auto/hold, 4 (optional 16) memories

optional external speaker S-9903E, optional tuning knob WJ-9588

The professional shortwave communications receiver WJ-8888 is contructed as a 19 inch rack receiver in a matching cabinet. Even the rack version itself measuring 483 x 133 x 495 mm has a weight of 18 kg. With a total weight of over 20 kg, the two handles at each side of the frontpanel do make sense...
The basic receiver has only a 600 ohms line out output with adjustable level and a headphones jack, You need an external active speaker. The Speaker Unit S-9903E in my possession has the dimensions 483 x 92 x 160 mm; as an optional accessory, Watkins Johnson offered a remote tuning knob, the Tuning Control Box WJ-9588. In a similar way, as found in modern video recorders, You can tune the receiver up and down with a largo rotary control, the speed increases, the more You turn the knob to the right or to the left side. So it's a remote tuning aid connected by a cable and not an external VFO.
In the later variant of the receiver, the WJ-8888/B, You find four pushbuttons for different tuning speeds on the frontpanel, the classi WJ-8888 has only a standard metal tuning knob with a wonderful half mechanic and half electronic flywheel effect.

In the right lower corner, You find the main power switch, which will be illuminated in red when the set is turned on, press it to start the receiver similar as You would start that exclusive sports car by pressing the start button.
The red LED frequency display located above the main tuning knob, will show You the frequency, the radio is tuned to, with an accuracy of 10 Hertz.

Most of the controls are illuminated pushbuttons, the will be illuminated when the function is active.
In the top row of front panel controls, You find in the left upper corner the signal strength meter which can be set to display the R.F. signal or the audio signal level, it is calibrated in dB. At the right, You find a long row of "detection mode" buttons, the WJ-8888 does not only demodulate standard AM signals, but also CW with fixed or variable BFO frequency, USB, LSB and ISB (independant sideband) and narrow band FM. In the independant side band mode, on both sidebands of a signal, a different content is transmitted, this mode was used for feeder signals to shortwave relay stations in other continents, e.g. to feed the french content on one and the english on another sideband.
The pushbuttons in the middle row at the left are used to select manual or automatic gain control, the special function "Hold AGC" will keep the receiver on the R.F. gain amplifier level from the moment when You press the button. The six pushbuttons at the right let You select the i.f. bandwidth filter, as standard, the receiver comes with 500 Hz, 2, 4 and 8 kHz filters installed.
In the bottom row, You find the headphones jack, the line out level control which will act as volume control as the receiver has no internal speaker. A switch lets You select the sideband in ISB mode (I love this to select the less disturbed sideband of an AM transmission when in ECSS mode). There is a squelch active in the AM mode also, the R.F. gain control and the BFO control.
The remaining pushbuttons are used to manage the content of the internal frequency memory. The standard version of the WJ-8888 comes with four memory channels, all functions like AGC, reception mode, selected bandwidth filter are all stored together with the frequency. In "Receiver Control Local" mode, the '8888 is controlled locally, when You press the ENTER button, the receiver setting is stored in the memory. When You press the MEMORY key, the button will start flashing an the memory content is indicated on the display, with a press on EXECUTE, the receiver is tuned to the new settings. In the REMOTE mode, the WJ-8888 can be remote controlled.
There has been a memory option to increase the receiver's memory channel to 16, You can select the memory channel with the BCD switch. At the time, when the WJ-8888 was constructed, memory elements seemed to be so expensive that even with highest grade receivers, some money was saved by reducing the memory channels.

The operation scheme something You have to get used to, the WJ-8888 has this in common with other professional receivers:
first You have to connect an external active speaker to the line out jack at the rear of the receiver, or You just use a pair of headphones.
After switching on, You have to set the receiver in standard reception mode by pressing the buttons NORM AGC, 4 (kHz) and AM, so that You can receive standard AM signals. Use the main tuning knob to tune the receiver to the desired frequency, the electronic flywheel will make this tast a bit easier. But it was not before Watkins came out with the WJ-8718A/MFP with the "Microprocessor Front Panel", when direct keypad frequency entry was possible.
At least You can store four (or more, when the optional memory is installed) interesting frequencies / receiver settings with the WJ-8888, the WJ-8718 (version without MFP) still came without frequency memories.

The performance of the WJ-8888 on the shortwave bands is extraordinary, I just love this rig. It's sensitivity seems to surpass the sensitivity of my NRD-525 / NRD-535 and the mechanical filters have an excellent skirt selectivity, I just would like to have a 3 kHz filter. I did compare the performance on the same antenna with the annual Radio St. Helena transmission, when I could identify a male speaker or the rhythm of some music with the NRD, I could easily write down the complete postal address, understand the listeners greetings from what came out of the speaker and could even enjoy the music... the set is rock stable even in SSB mode.

© Martin Bösch 10.6.2005 / transl. 14.11.2010