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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Vintage amateur | Heathkit SB-303 Help


Reviews Summary for Heathkit SB-303
Heathkit SB-303 Reviews: 13 Average rating: 4.2/5 MSRP: $389
Description: Solid state ham band receiver, integrates with the rest of Heathkit SB-line
Product is not in production.
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KI6EQW Rating: 4/5 Jan 3, 2010 20:08 Send this review to a friend
I was surprised!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Purchased on Ebay for a little over $200. Unit was in nice condition with all three filters. Usual cracks on the dial, but minor in nature. Plugged it in, and no signal/volume. Contacted the seller who said it worked when in his possession, but he agreed to split repair costs--an honest seller. Contacted RTO, and away it went for 45 days. Repairs were $95 bucks. LMO needed lubrication, set needed alignment, everything else was OK. Unit came back, and same problems. The description of work by RTO gave me a clue as to the problem, and the tape along the bottom of the RF, and audio boards confirmed it, the two boards had simply wiggled loose during shipping. I reseated them, and voila,the radio was perfect. I was very pleased with its performance, and the addition of a Timewave DSP 9+, made it all the better. Ebay is a mixed bag, and I usually assume there will be something wrong with the piece when it arrives . I stay away from sellers without call signs unless it is a low cost item. Enjoy the SB-303, it is a very nice unit for its time, and fun to use.
 
WA4AOS Rating: 4/5 Jan 3, 2010 17:22 Send this review to a friend
Almost Decent  Time owned: more than 12 months
As the last reviewer said, it's basically a nice radio but like all of the SB series, the dial mechanism stinks and that's putting it mildly. Many of the examples I have worked on in recent years often have a crack in the dial if not several and are usually have a crazed background.

In my business, I service mainly R 390, R 390A, R 392 receivers as well as some Drake C lines and Hammarlund HQ 1XX receivers.
I often work on SB gear as well and have been considering for some time redesigning and making available replacement dials for the SB series.

I would probably only make the dial KHz and MHz parts available and would strive to have the same visual effect but a more reliable tuning mech.
There are many SB XXX's still in use and with the interest in vintage gear these days, it might be worth my time and investment to make a kit available. I would be lucky to break even on a project like this but who knows.
I would welcome any comments or feedback with regard to interest in an improved tuning mech.

I consider the SB 300, 301 and 303 to be fairly decent receivers, especially if one becomes aware of the need to reduce the RF gain and not keep it at full throttle all of the time. The sensitivity on all of these receivers is well below a microvolt and in the case of the 301 and 303 below half a microvolt. The audio quality is decent and selectivity fine for non contest type operation. With the CW filter available for the 301 and 303, great CW selectivity is available but with no notch or variable bandwidth adjustment, I would not find either of these to be the best choice for serious contesting in today's high performance receiver markets.

Of course in the 70's an SB 301 0r 303 was considered almost top shelf behind a Drake B or C line or possibly a Collins S line.

There is at least one company that sells a digital display that can be installed in place of the MHz indicator of these units but that really detracts from the vintage look.
Anyway, it would be interesting to see if there is interest in a replacement tuning dial. I would probably go with a simular design but use a CNC brass spiral for the ceter and a dial more like the one used in the HW 101.

In my humble opinion, I actually prefer the dial used in the HW 101. True, it's 5 KHz resolution is not as good as 1Khz but at least it is more consistent in performance and gives very little trouble.

73,
Glenn
DSM Labs
 
WA7VTD Rating: 2/5 Sep 28, 2009 14:13 Send this review to a friend
Bad Dial Design Eclipses Fine Receiver  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
PREFATORY NOTE: That negativity which I do have about this receiver is the same I harbor for all Heathkits of that vintage: the main dial tuning mechanism SUCKS! Getting it working properly again is quite a pain. I truly loathe that SB tuning mechanism. Why Heathkit kept right on going with that design rather than something new, different and reliable after a few years of undoubtedly receiving a steady stream of complaints, is beyond me.


RECENT OBSERVATIONS:

I have been burned three out of four times procuring SB-303s on e-Bay. The most recent acquisition was described by a prolific e-Bay seller (the one usually claiming to be THE Resident Collins man) as being "Collector quality!" It arrived with scuffed cabinet, paint flaking off, and 100% slippage of the tuning mechanism.

I managed to cannibalize one along with taking parts from a partial unit (I had bought a 303 chassis without the cabinet but with all the boards for $5 in another auction) and assemble a very cosmetically nice piece with what should have been very good electrical properties.

Unfortunately, the AM filter I pulled from another unit, was defective. The rig worked very well otherwise for about a month, and then died. Thus far I haven't been successful isolating the trouble but haven't put my mind to it yet, having burned myself out on the Heathkit station project after all of the mechanical work on the rig this morning, all because of that &^%$!! tuning dial mechanism!

NEGATIVES:

As with the tuning mechanism, the 303 suffers from the same problem as other SB-series rigs, with regard to the frequency calibration correction indicator. In time, the relatively soft plastic of the movable clear plastic panel inscribed with the vertical calibration correction line simply gets worn down ever so slightly along its edge and ceases to make good and regular contact with the correction control.

POSITIVES:

When working as per specs and with the *&^%$ tuning dial mechanism working smoothly, the 303 is a really fun ham band receiver that works great with the SB-400 or 401 for separate/slaved operation. Personally, I prefer running them separate (i.e., non-slave but otherwise interconnected for transceive) in order to use the SB-650 digital frequency readout on the 303. You can't use the SB-650 and run the two radios in slave, you must choose one configuration or the other. Also, the 303 as wired per standard instructions, won't support the SB-650 (it will produce a readout, just not one accurate to within several MHz and oddball kHz). Note: you must do a very simple mod on the 303 in order for it to support the SB-650. Plenty of extra RCA jacks are thoughtfully provided on the rear of the 303's chassis for that purpose, and the easy mod (involving generally the mere soldering of some capacitors) is well-described and illustrated in the SB-500 construction manual.

It's a hot receiver! The blocking dynamic range leaves something to be desired but what do you expect given the vintage? It's actually pretty good for its vintage. Set it next to a 75S-1 and you'll see why the Heathkits of this era were known to some as the "poor man's Collins S-line).The SSB audio is crisp. If it had a notch filter it would really rock. The 1-kHz frequency resolution is, in my experience typically accurate to within 1.5 kHz across the entirety of a particular ham band after a single calibration on that band's lower edge using the 100 kHz/25 kHz crystal calibrator.

The provision of 15 MHz for WWV reception -- useful in calibration, etc. -- is great.

Another thing on the plus side of the ledger: the 303 is super-light. You can tuck it under an arm and take it anywhere that its size isn't a problem.

As of this morning, I now have no working SB-303s. I spent hours getting the main tuning mechanism working well on two of them, and the one with a perfect tuning mechanism stopped working after re-attachment of the cover.

I concur about the extender boards; if you see them, buy them. Otherwise, troubleshooting the various boards is quite difficult.

On the other hand, the various boards -- removed from other 303s -- are not infrequently available cheap. It's pretty easy to isolate most problems to a particular board and then to replace the entire defective board in literally less than a minute.

Also, this is one kit in which the assembler had few opportunities to screw it up. There is little point-to-point wiring.

I would give the 303 a 3 or 4 (taking into account its price class and design in its era of production) but I simply can't do that in view of the unremedied tuning mechanism problems.

So, it's with mixed feelings and regret that I ultimately urge a "2" on this rig solely due to the ubiquitous and notorious dial tuning mechanism
problem (which you might not encounter, though odds are you eventually will)that should have been remedied by Heath. Otherwise, I'd venture a 3 or 4 (it's no SX-115, so not a 5).

If you get your hands on a good one, keep it!
 
VO1MDS Rating: 5/5 Nov 19, 2006 17:00 Send this review to a friend
Simply the best !!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Well folks,what can i say that wasnt said already??
well for one,this is a great old radio,lots of sensitivity,rock solid frequency stibility,for an analog receiver,this it the most stable analog radio that i have owned to date! now thats saying something,i have owned many,and i mean MANY analog recievers,and nothing that i have owned yet even compeats to the heathkit sb-303. what a great radio,what a great design,what a company.
WAY TO GO HEATHKIT...A JOB WELL DONE.

considering i bought the sb-303 AND the sb-401 for $50.00 i think i got a pretty wild bargin.

all the best folks,have super fun with your sb-303,the best stable analog radio on da go.
PERIOD!!
 
KG6UEQ Rating: 2/5 Jun 11, 2005 07:53 Send this review to a friend
Beware of this one  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This radio's tuning assembly is prone to slippage. A small drive wheel, if not properly aligned, will slip off the larger wheel connected to the tuning mechanism. If you can be sure the radio you're buying does NOT have this problem, then you may be able to enjoy this vintage set.
 
W1FP Rating: 5/5 Mar 1, 2005 21:26 Send this review to a friend
advanced for its age  Time owned: more than 12 months
My wife bought me this rx on our first xmas together. What better gift could you hope for. After 35 years, it still works fine. Yes, the dynamic range is quite poor, and in line with the devices available at the time. But stability of the LMO is excellent, and sensitivity is great. Yes, there is filter blow-by, but matched up with an SB-400 or SB-401, makes for an attractive vintage solid state pair.
 
N7EKX Rating: 5/5 Feb 11, 2005 21:56 Send this review to a friend
Best Heathkit Receiver Out There  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As a Heathkit fanatic, despite repeated warnings from friends, I bought an SB-303 from an eBay auction recently (for $172.00, plus shipping). The specs on its sensitivity were the reason I was ready to "take the plunge" (and the risk it would arrive DOA). Anyway, the seller was totally honest, and I couldn't be happier. Both the receiver sensitivity and the "LMO" stability are far better than the SB-104A that I built, and everything about the radio is high quality. Most old radios drift pretty badly after startup, but not this one... it's rock steady. No tubes, just transistors, FET's and other solid-state circuitry that works as well today as in 1976. There is no backlash in the dial, either. Maybe I just got lucky, but this SB-303 is as sensitive and stable as any analog radio out there, in my opinion!
 
ON4QJ Rating: 5/5 Dec 25, 2004 14:21 Send this review to a friend
Golden classic  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought 6 years back an SB-303 receiver,
It looked ok on the outside,When i opened it
it was like a "warzone",Someone has done a great
job in messing up this radio.
After some months of "patching up" i had a great receiver,On 40 and 80 the RX is better than with my TS 570DG.
Later i found an SB 401 Transmitter to connect it.
And the SB 610 Station monitor.
It is realy a great Rig to use and is for shure my number one radio!!
Only shame is that we don't find much Heath stuff
in Europe,...

ON4QJ,Erwin
 
NO9E Rating: 4/5 May 8, 2004 18:35 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good after minor mods  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got one used. Bad intermod on 40m and poor sensititivity on 15-10m but very good AGC and not bad SSB and CW filters. Needed alignment, attenuator for 40m, and post-crystal_filter amplifier for sensitivity. After that, I liked it very much. Sensitivity as good as any on all bands, and a real DX digger on 80m.
Ignacy, NO9E
 
WA2DYA Rating: 3/5 May 8, 2004 13:35 Send this review to a friend
It's OK BUT--  Time owned: more than 12 months
Very frequently described on EBay as 'Heath's Crown Jewel', 'Heath's finest receiver', etc. Well, it's not!

My receiver doesn't perform well when the bands are crowded and signals are strong. It has poor dynamic range. It sure is sensitive enough; maybe too sensitive. The front panel RF attenuator helps but is not a good answer to the problem. I have seen some actual measurements that confirm my observations.

I don't like the 'tub' style chassis layout. It is difficult to reach in there to service the unit from the top. If you don't have the extender cards, trouble shooting the circuit cards from the bottom is a nightmare. Even with these, it's still not easy because you must extract the switch shafts.

On that subject, the wafer switches are easily broken during servicing. Their mechanical alighment is poor and extreme care is required to get everything right.

Why do EBay bidders go 'Bonkers' over these things?

--- CHAS WA2DYA
 
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