SideBand Engineers - The Company
Compact, Lightweight, Rational
Until late 1950s, American radio amateurs loved equipments like American cars in 50s - by all means big, heavy, with bunch of knobs and switches, and many tubes as possible. Typical example would be the combination of Hammerlund's receiver and Johnson's transmitter - the things we now call them BoatAnchors.
Collins introduced the design of new generation, which obsoleted such big and heavy equipments - the famous Collins S line. The new trend was set for the compact, lightweight and effective design.
The Gonset company had been already famous with its compact design of their mobile radio equipments. The founder of the company, Mr. Faust Gonset, founded another new company SideBand Engineers in 1962. Its goal was to create ideal mobile equipments with latest transistor technology and advanced design.
In 1963, SBE started to sell their first model, SB-33 transceiver. It is known as the first practical transistorized rig; one of the important milestones of the amateur equipment history.
The SB-34 was born in 1966. Its basic concept was almost same as SB-33, but having cleaner looking and improved design. At this moment the company was located in South Sanfrancisco, CA, and was a subsidiary of Raytheon. The advertisement of SB-34 could be seen on amateur radio magazines for several months, and considerable amount of the radio was produced. SB-34 became the most famous and popular model of the company, along with its companion linear amplifier.
Withdrawal from the amateur market
In the early 1960s, most of imported Japanese rigs were just poor performers. While american companies enjoyed their golden age, JA firms worked very hard with the transistor technology, made the products not only cheap but also performing well. In 1970s, all of the U.S. amateur equipment manufactures were under attack of the Japanese made rigs. SBE started to sell the SB-35 and SB-36 which were manufactured in Japan, but they could not save the company. Reportedly very few SB-35 manufactured. Even though the SB-36 was again of the advanced design such as nixie numerical frequency display, not many rigs were manufactured.
SBE withdrew from the amateur market in late 1970, kept manufacturing high quality - high performance CB radios and scanners for a while. Sometime later however the company completely disappeared from the consumer radio equipment market.
One said the reason of U.S. radio manufacturs could not compete with Japanese firms was the ignorance of the compact and lightweight design and sticked with the heavier-biggeer dream. However this statement does not fit to the SBE. Compact and lightweight in mind, with most advanced futuristic design; SBE was aiming always one step ahead.
Honestly speaking the author has limited knowledge of the company. Any comments, corrections, or additions to this page is greatly appreciated.