A Review of the Realistic (Radio Shack®) 12-719 Deluxe AM/FM Radio

Just for the record, I do not own the featured image on this page.

Rather, I cropped it out of the 1987 Radio Shack Catalog.

The two books of which I have the most knowledge are of course The Bible and [most of] The Radio Shack Catalogs.

Unfortunately, I know the latter much better than the former.

Well, from 2001 until most of their stores were shut down, I was a very loyal patron to Radio Shack.

I witnessed their very last days of true glory before they became just a glorified mobile phone store and therefore put all other electronics on the back burner.

That, I believe, is what killed them, honestly.

Well, using cheaper components in their products was also a factor.

In 2014, there was an attempt to restore Radio Shack to its 1980s glory, but it never was fully realized. Too little, too late.

So, as of the past several years, eBay is my go-to “retailer” for just about any vintage or discontinued product my heart may desire.

eBay, by the way, is amazing because I can usually find what I am looking for and many times in fairly decent condition, sometimes even mint!

I own several AM/FM receivers that came off the assembly line from the 1980s to the present. I also own quite a few Weather Radios with production dates ranging from the 1970s to the 2010s. And I have some scanners dating from the late 1980s to the mid to late 2010s.

This piece will be about a pocket-sized AM/FM radio, sold at Radio Shack from the latter parts of 1986 until some point in 1992. It was first seen in the 1987 Radio Shack catalog. The model number is 12-719.

Mine is not exactly the same as the one pictured in this featured image.

How do I know this?

Well, the unit featured in the 1987 Radio Shack catalog features an AM frequency range of 53*10 KHz to 160*10 KHz.

However, my particular unit which according to the sticker behind the battery door was made in January of 1991 and it features an AM frequency range of 53*10 KHz to 171*10 KHz.

What strikes me as odd, though, is that I thought the AM (or Medium Wave) band in the United States was not expanded to 171*10 KHz AKA 1710 KHz AKA 1.71 MHz until 1993. At the time, I was too young to know the difference nor did anyone around me care about such a thing anyway. My family on both sides is very technology ignorant, unfortunately. Some family members of mine are even downright hostile to technology. The only immediate family member of mine that was as keen on technology as I am was my Maternal Grandpa, Hughie Gauslin, but he died almost 29 years before I was born. I’ll just say that he would have seen some wonderful things had he lived to be an old man. So, if anyone is willing to inform me about this AM broadcast Band Expansion of the early 1990s, I am well open for correction and/or enlightenment…

All in all, I had purchased this particular radio on eBay in the latter parts of 2019, mostly as a sentimental collector’s item.

However, I have found an everyday use for it, hence my desire to write this review.

I’ll explain:

I moved to my current residence in May of 2018.

Since the Spring of 2017, I had been listening to NPR on and off, usually tuning in All Things Considered while doing laundry. I would go to an ex-in-law of my now ex-in-laws’ house where my now ex-wife and I would use his equipment to wash and dry our laundry. In turn, we would cook a meal for him and, also, I would do shopping for stuff he needed. There was a Dollar General near his house, of which I would frequent to purchase groceries and supplies. It was on one of these laundry days in 2017, that I thought about my joke in which I started referring to Dollar General is “Ruble General.” My basis for that statement was that shopping at Dollar General must have been what shopping in the Soviet Union was like. Multiple sources present in detail the product shortages, long lines, and sub par merchandise. The official currency of the USSR was the Soviet Ruble. When not operating the laundry appliances or cooking, my now ex wife would watch television with his kids or play on her phone. I, on the other hand, when not shopping or folding the laundry was sitting on the back porch, listening to NPR on a small Sylvania boom box that had previously belonged to his recently deceased daughter. She was, in fact, the fellow aspiring writer whose untimely death provoked my desire to launch this very blog! While I do watch broadcast television now and then, I detest what subscription-based television has devolved into. Therefore, I neither subscribe to any television service or streaming service (mostly because of my low-speed home Internet connection) and therefore, only use an antenna. Usually, though, I am either listening to a scanner of some sort or NPR. Even NPR irritates me when they become biased in their reporting and especially their editorials and commentary. NPR is supposed to serve the entire US population, not just certain political factions, whichever they may be. Maybe, if they were more neutral, they could attract more listeners and therefore could have more revenue to budget with. Yes, I do listen to NPR for the news, sometimes at least, but I take it with a grain of salt. As a Christian, I am convicted when they start with their dissenting of the current administration and I continue listening. So much so, that one Wednesday Evening in February of 2020, I was listening to “All Things Considered” afterward I had walked to my church and was sitting outside waiting for the Pastor to arrive for the evening’s prayer meeting and Bible study. I was reading my Bible and came across Proverbs 31:3 which clearly states, “Don’t spend your energy on women or your efforts on those who destroy kings.” The Bible was written during a time when the only heads of state were indeed royalty, namely kings or queens. However, NPR like many other media entities is trying to destroy the current American head of state, even though he’s a president, not a king. I will go as far as to say that God has even the most oppressive rulers in power for a reason unbeknownst to me and that all government was designed by God to deter wickedness. If the private media wants to dissent, that’s their choice but public radio which is supposed to serve every American ought not to do it and God’s Word commands me to avoid them because of that. This can be a difficult command at times because I appreciate NPR much more for their content which covers the disciplines of technology, culture (especially the culinary aspect), and medicine rather than their political dissent or sometimes biased reporting. It is definitely of a much higher caliber than most of what is available on pay television, yet it’s free. And not only that, if I listen to NPR enough, my writing will be enhanced. Well, I was listening to it a few hours ago and I’d like to think this piece is well written.

So, yes NPR is heard primarily on the lower portion of the FM broadcast band, but you, the reader are probably asking, “What does it have to do with the review of a vintage radio receiver other than the fact that it can receive FM broadcasts?”

I’m glad you, the reader, asked, or at least, I assume you’re asking.

Remember how I briefly mentioned that I moved to my current residence in May of 2018?

I do enjoy living there for the most part.

I get along fine with the overwhelming majority of my neighbors, it’s relatively peaceful and safe, I am within walking distance to my church and a few retailers, just a short drive away from other retailers, medical care and family members. My one complaint is that my FM radio reception is terrible due to my residence being located in close proximity to an FM broadcast transmitter facility. This means that the signal from that transmitter bleeds all across the dials on most of my FM radio receivers.

Listening to NPR is impossible, even though the NPR transmitter tower I of which I receive the signal from is only a few more miles away as the crow flies.

There are, however, the radios in my possession which are pretty much immune to these ill-effects:

My car radio.
My kitchen radio, of which I had written a review of almost two years ago.
And the one I am currently reviewing in this piece.

The first two have high-quality frequency synthesizers that can filter out the overbearing nearby transmissions.

However, this radio I am reviewing features an AFC or Automatic Frequency Control circuit which enables it to lock on the desired frequency and reject all other frequencies no matter how close the offending transmitter is.

Therefore, because of its portability and rugged enough design, I can take this radio, a Realistic 12-719, anywhere in my residence and even outside and still hear most FM broadcasts within reason. I don’t have to be tied to my kitchen or my car. I also can sit in my bedroom and listen without needing the kitchen radio to be on so gosh durn loud and disturbing my neighbors.

I forget exactly how much I paid for it in late 2019, but it retailed for $19.95 throughout its run. That would be the equivalent of $36.66 (1992)-$46.93 (1986) in terms of 2020 Dollars.

This product was a success for Radio Shack, being in production as long as it was. Furthermore, there are plenty of them that show up on eBay still in good condition both cosmetically and performance-wise. Mine works better than just about all of my modern radios in a similar, modern equivalent form factor.

It was considered the deluxe model of all pocket portable AM/FM radios sold by Radio Shack during the time.

Some of the features include:
Aluminum Trim-Makes the cabinet reasonably rugged.
Built-in AFC-FM-This feature alone is why I am still using it in 2020!
Hi/Lo Tone Selector Switch-Lo for News and Talk, Hi for Music.
Rotary Tuning and Volume Controls-Self explanatory, but the Rotary Tuner is considerably accurate. The volume control needs to be dusted out, but that can be chalked up to its age of almost 30 years at the time of writing this!
Telescoping FM Antenna-I would rather a wire antenna because such an antenna is miserably flimsy, but it does pull in the FM signals generously!
A Monoaural Earphone Jack-Good enough for everyone except a die-hard audiophile.
2.25 Inch Speaker-Large enough to provide decent audio, yet small enough to be compact, at least to some degree I mean it was the 1980s and early 1990s.
The physical dimensions are: 5.1875 Inches High by 3.5 Inches Wide by 1.25 Inches Deep-Not as carrying friendly as modern standards dictate but semiconductors and other components weren’t as discrete as they are now.
Its power supply was a standard 9 Volt Battery-Most pocket portable radios of today are powered by AA or AAA batteries, but from the late 1950s until the very early 1990s 9 Volt batteries were the power supply of choice for many pocket-portable radios.
The frequency coverage was roughly 88 MHz to 108 MHz on FM and, depending on the year it was manufactured, 530 KHz to either 1600 KHz or 1710 KHz on AM.
For those of you who are curious, it was manufactured in The Phillippines to Radio Shack’s custom standards-As of the late 2010s there seems to have been a resurgence of manufacturing in that country but I don’t think it is up to what it was in the 1980s, 1990s, and very early 2000s.

Unless I want to receive broadcasts in stereo or high definition, this radio is still useful in 2020 and hopefully will still be useful for decades to come.

The audio quality is superb, especially considering that it is a mere pocket portable.

It beats most of my other radios because I can get NPR and any other FM broadcast without interference. AM performance is fairly decent as well. Before discovering NPR in 2017, I was more of an AM DXer. Talk radio, particularly on the AM band was wonderful in New Orleans until a very wicked woman named Katrina did her wicked works.

I have to quit now because my back hurts.

So this, therefore, concludes my review of the Radio Shack 12-719 Deluxe AM/FM Radio.

I hope you, the reader, have been informed and entertained.

May God richly bless you!

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