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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Heathkit HW-5400 Help


Reviews Summary for Heathkit HW-5400
Heathkit HW-5400 Reviews: 20 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $499.95
Description: Synthesized 100watt 80 thru 10m CW/SSB HF
Product is not in production.
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K9MHZ Rating: 0/5 Apr 2, 2013 09:40 Send this review to a friend
Not good at all  Time owned: more than 12 months
Since it's now becoming a "vintage" radio (circa 1983), most of the reviews that include an acknowledgement of not "having a fancy DSP, fancy this or that...." are a little curious, since the radio is a thirty-year-old design, and should be rated in its own right for something produced even then. It was then and is now a loser.

In 1983, there were some very well-designed and produced radios of the day. They were head and shoulders above the 5400, which is part of the reason it was Heath's last effort. Band switching was miserable, and a very common complaint fellow builders/owners was the inability to access 10 and 15 meters at all. Heath knew they had a big problem with the wafering of the long-stafted band switch, but would just send you new, cheap 10 meter coils which were no help at all.

The lack of filtering options was gross, and inexcusable even in 1983. The design philosophy was an amalgamation of the simple, lackluster features from their earlier SB and HW lines, while trying to keep up with the solid state wave that was taking off, so it was caught in the middle and didn't do much of anything well.

Yes, it's 30 years old, but so are the Icom 730 and 735 for example, which are much, much better radios of the day. The novelty ("Satisfaction" as Heath described it) of building a kit wore off soon after realizing that you now owned a real C student of a radio.

A "Crown Jewel"? Well maybe, if you don't mind costume jewelry.
 
NN3V Rating: 5/5 Jun 22, 2008 06:14 Send this review to a friend
Crown Jewel Of Heath kits  Time owned: more than 12 months
The crown jewel of Heathkit and of kit building. I built mine in 1983 after starting out in 1976 with the SB-104A. When I started thge HW-5400, I decided I would pay extra attention to detail. Challenged myself to make sure things were inserted in a like manner (like the resistor tolerance bands in the same direction, etc).

The final consturction looks Industrial and ISO9001 quality!

First time I turned the power on, it worked on all bands, in all modes, just like the manual said.

In my shack, it sits proudly between my Yaesu FT-1000MP MK-V and the SB-104A. I am not a contester, but I do enjoy CW rag chews, and when I am in a mood to have real CW fun, it is always the HW-5400 on the air.

My experience with the SSB mode is mixed. It works, but I do get distoriton complaints. A few years back a bunch of folks emailed and snail mailed a lot of material on how to cure the SSB problems, but I did not follow up.

No "digital" bells and whistles on this rig. But slap a clearspeech DSP on the audio output, AND ONE HECK OF A NICE RADIO.

Oh, and it is a delight with my SB-230 linear!

73 de NN3V ...-.-
 
WA2DTW Rating: 4/5 Sep 12, 2007 07:04 Send this review to a friend
Does what it is supposed to  Time owned: more than 12 months
Perhaps my pride in this rig comes from the many hours I spent building it. It performed very well as a 1980's rig, and remains reliable today. It does not have DSP or a built-in keyer like today's rigs. But it is relatively simple and intuitive to operate, and does not require trips back to the manual as more modern rigs do. The main problems are the lack of 160 meters and the lack of AM.
Heath is sorely missed.
 
N6KYS Rating: 1/5 Sep 11, 2007 21:26 Send this review to a friend
Heath's beginning of the end  Time owned: more than 12 months
I hate to rain on the parade of rave reviews, but I had a much different experience with the HW-5400. It was a very complex kit to build, requiring much attention to detail, which was OK......most experienced hams would have been up to the task if careful. The instructions were well-written, and Heath did a nice job of separating and identifying zillions of very small parts. The problems came when everything was completed. This rig was notorious for bandswitching problems, especially on 10 meters. It had a big, mechanical shaft that turned different sections of switched, NOT electronic switching, even though electronic switching was NOT too much to ask by the time the 5400 came out. What resulted was a very common problem of unusable bands....usually the upper ones...10, and sometimes 15 meters. Heath had a flood of complaints and service bulletins came flying out of Benton Harbor, but they were of marginal value in trying to fix a bad design. Concurrently, Icom, Yaesu, and Kenwood were hitting their stride and people flocked to them to get better performing rigs with no headaches. The HW-5400 came at a very unfortunate time for the Heath Company, as the rig's problems only compounded their sinking ship company problems.....it was NOT highly regarded even back then. I sold the rig, bought an Icom, and never looked back....building and owning the 5400 was not a pleasant experience.
 
K2FDR Rating: 5/5 Aug 11, 2007 22:15 Send this review to a friend
Worth Every Dollar  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I give the 5 to Heathkit and another 5 to the ham who built this rig. Whoever he was did a pro job. The 5400 works as it did back in the mid 80's. It recently went through a full check up at RTO and happily sits side by side with my Kenwood 850S. Not many bells or whistles, but a nice receiver and a nice transmit audio. I've put mine in line with the W2IHY 8 band EQ and a Marshall 990 microphone....wow, what a difference. Paid 250.00 with matching power supply and the "accessory" direct frequency imput pad.
 
N5YPJ Rating: 5/5 Oct 16, 2006 16:05 Send this review to a friend
Great rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
My first solid state rig; I got it already assembled. This is a very nice rig, very solid. Not many bells and whistles but in the last two cycles I worked my share of contacts working whatever was heard. Mine had to go due to divorce but when another is found I'll get it. Sure wish Heath were still around.
 
N2ZDB Rating: 4/5 May 30, 2006 13:49 Send this review to a friend
Not bad for a Transceiver Kit  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built the HW-5400 kit back in the early 80's after about 2 - 3 weeks of assembly. To my surprise it worked upon initial power up! My only complaint was the SWR protection could have been better. If you turned up the power gain high enough it would overide the protection...not good! Maybe a better ground would have solved the problem but I never had a chance to try it.

Of course even though this Heathkit was a fine radio you couldn't really compare it to the Japanese rigs that were available at the time. They offered more far more features in a smaller package and at a better price...plus it was already assembled and tested!

I ended up selling it in QST Magazine to a guy in Rhode Island. I wonder if the HW-5400 I built is still up and running??? I actually still remember the guys name I sold it to!

Michael
 
FORMER_K0PD Rating: 5/5 Jan 23, 2006 16:56 Send this review to a friend
A neat little radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Bought this HW5400 about 3 month's ago on E Bay.The description given was quite accurate as the cases were scratched up and the leg's were dented in some spot's but a can of spray paint (glossy brown)took care of the cabinet's and a little rebending took care of the leg problem. The radio look's absolutely great now with the only other problem it had was the on off switch had been replaced with a stsp swith that i replaced with a push on and off red colored switch so it look's less noticable and blend's in with the radio. The 6 pin molar plug's need to be replaced that goes in between the pwr supply and radio but is still functional.When i recieved the radio enclosed was a reciept for tune up and repair's from RTO in 2001 with a notation stating the radio and pwr supply were not packed properly and damage to the cabinet's were noted.Now as to the operation's,the radio has a hot transmit audio using my shure 444D mic and the recieve granted is not upto newer radio's but is still very usable. I like the medium size of the radio and it's simplicity in using. These radio's were definately in my humble opinion designed for someone who wanted a modern but uncomplicated radio. I use it alot and like other's have noted i find the dual speed indention's on the VFO knob a true help and to bad the other's did not pick up on the idea. To conclude this if i was asked to sell it the answer is i might but would hate to see it leave my desk.If you get a chance to pick up a working one do it as it does make simplicity fun again....
 
N8NSN Rating: 5/5 Oct 20, 2005 09:54 Send this review to a friend
Way to go Heathkit !  Time owned: more than 12 months
I was not aware that this was the last HF radio produced. Knowing that now; I am even more pleased in having an HW-5400. At Dayton Hamvention 2000 I was looking for a radio with the WARC-79 bands that I could afford. Didn't have much money but I did have a very clean set of Kenwood 599 twins, the matching speaker and an extra non-functional transmitter (599) that I gutted and made into a matching antenna tuner ...clever hi hi. Ended up trading the 599 twins for the HW-5400. Some were saying I got taken in the deal but I was quite pleased with the transaction and still am to this day. Even more so when I got the 5400 home and on the air and noticed what a better receive the 5400 had than the ole 599 twins.

The HW-5400 sits right beside a TS-850 S/AT here at the shack. Usually getting less usage than the 850 but none the less gets a lot of use. There are times that I like the sound of the 5400 RX better than the 850. Primarilly on CW here but when using the 5400 for ssb work I use a Shure 545-SD and receive excellent audio reports. Both rigs are run through an Autek Research QF-1A filter which is a good addition to the compliment of the HF-5400 RX. Also used is a heathkit HD-1410 electronic keyer for the 5400 with a set of H.B. paddles. The direct input for frequency option is a nice addition to the rig. The narrow position for CW is attiquate as well.

I don't know who built this particular radio but if it wasn't a factory built demo model i would never be able to tell. Looks GREAT ! ...very clean and works perfectly since taking ownership in 2000. Not ever a single problem.

I would have to close by saying for the age, features and economy of the HW-5400 this is a really great rig for the beginner or the experienced amateur operator.

Way to leave the market Heathkit ! ! !

73,
jimmie
kc8byf
Dayton, Ohio
 
WB8RKQ Rating: 5/5 May 23, 2004 12:48 Send this review to a friend
very nise radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
this is a great radio i built one of these back in the 80,s it was the hardest kit radio heathkit ever made many of them went back to heath to get finished mine worked great. it has very nise rec, very nise trans, it does not have a noise blanker that was why i sold mine i had bad line noise so i bought a ts-850s with noise blanker man that took care of my noise proublem hihi.but the 5400 is a great radio i loved it. used it for many yrs it has a lower noise floor then my ts-850s side buy side the 5400 could hear everything my ts-850s did. if you fine one in good shape that is working good i would say buy it.it is only ssb and cw it has 2 memory channels it allso came with a freq entry keypunch on the front plus a opt. 1.8 ssb filter it had 2 vfo,s you could work slpit but the coolest thing this radio did is it had 2 notches in the flyweel to put your finger in to tune the vfo one had a silver insert in it the other one was just a hole to put your finger in to spin the nob. if you put your finger in the silver color one and turned the vfo it would change freq very fast if you used the other hole it was fine tune that was so cool i dont know why the others dont use that idea it worked so good. i used a sure444 mic with mine.the 5400 was heathkits last kit radio.
 
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