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Reviews Categories | Keyers & CW Keyboards | Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer
Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer Reviews: 7 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $110 (for Kit)
Description: Memory keyer with integral iambic paddles
Product is in production.
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You can write your own review of the Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer.

KB1GMX Rating: 3/5 May 28, 2014 16:30 Send this review to a friend
works for me  Time owned: more than 12 months
Mine was given to me by an OM that ran code like no tomorrow. I've had mine for more than 8 years.

I never used the touch paddles, too flaky. With an external key it is very good and the general features are adequate for FD and contests. I had to reassemble it when I got it and sort out a few minor things that were broken. I still use it.

Its a good keyer. Compared to new it uses more power so battery operation is not handy. It does have outputs suitable for many radios of the tube and solid state era.

The sound of the sidetone is not pleasent but the radios I use ahve sidetone so its easy to defeat this with a dummy plug to disconnect the internal speaker.

I have yet to use a modern keyer that has the user interface this does but then again nwer ones use less power and are smaller.

Good and still going, rates a 3 at least maybe more.
KB4QAA Rating: 2/5 May 28, 2014 11:12 Send this review to a friend
Great Features Unreliable Paddles  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built the Heathkit uMatic Keyer in 1983 and found the basic function to be inconsistent and unreliable. The rest of its features e.g. memories, code practice etc are excellent though.

There are two basic failings:
-The idea that an operator can keep his fingers really close, but not touching the paddles for more than a few minutes without direct concentration.

-Unreliable actuation due to variation in humidity, skin dryness, paddle surface and contact oxidation.

I tried wetting my hands, using hand lotion, buffing the paddles and contacts befor each use, applying Brylcream to the paddles, applying contact enhancers to the paddle contacts.

If I was to experiment further I would try making paddles from copper PC board for better resistance and better conductivity. This probably has a good chance of working.

A neat concept implemented in solid state was innovative for the early 80's, but just proved unreliable. I love all the rest of the features it has.
WF2Q Rating: 5/5 May 18, 2014 03:19 Send this review to a friend
Really Great  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my kit on January 25, 1982. It was the most difficult Heathkit I ever built because of the proximity of the many solder joints. I ended up using a magnifying glass to make sure everything was OK. It worked perfectly, and has continued to do so for the past 32 years. I have other keyers but this one is still used regularly because it is easier to use.

I never liked the supplied paddles and have always used outboard paddles. Users should be aware that there are 3 LR44 memory batteries inside which might leak if not replaced. The keyer must be disassembled to replace them. Be careful when re-assembling since the 7805 5V regulator is mounted on the metal base and its leads go through the circuit board.
AA7FV Rating: 5/5 Sep 7, 2010 21:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent keyer  Time owned: more than 12 months
I agree with the other reviews. I have had this keyer for many years - bought used at a hamfest. I have three other (2 different MFJ, 1 homebrew) keyers, but none of them compete with the SA-5010.

Annoyances: I wish the monitor pitch and volume could be adjusted more easily. It would be nice to have more memory space, although when the keyer first appeared on the market its memory would have been considered more than adequate. The capacitive paddles do wobble a bit, but that's easy to fix, and I much prefer to use external paddles anyway.

Favorite aspects: I like being able to enter the precise speed (and weighting and spacing) via the keypad, so I can always very quickly come back to a known speed. My other keyers have an analog knob to adjust speed, which is never as precise. It is very easy to adjust all parameters (apart from pitch and volume) via its keypad, and to program its (admittedly limited) memories. I like having alternative keying outputs (positive and negative, for grid block keying or for an RS232 port). I also like the cheat-sheet on the underside of the keyer, although it's rarely necessary to consult it.

This keyer can often be found at hamfests, at a bargain price. If mine ever breaks down, if I can't fix it then I would certainly try to replace it with another SA-5010. It's a nice keyer.
K6JEB Rating: 4/5 May 3, 2006 16:45 Send this review to a friend
Works terrific, sometimes touchy  Time owned: more than 12 months
I first bought a fully-assembled Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer circa 1987 as sort of a small high school graduation present to myself (always have a good reason stored up for why you buy every piece of equipment). The keyer served me very well when I was CW Traffic Net Control back in Minnesota. I could set the preamble for starting the net and that would allow me to get all my other paperwork and traffic ready. The pause feature is useful for all sorts of things, stopping for checkins, inserting text or numbers manually. As well, it comes in mighty handy for pile-ups as well as contesting.

The very first one I had fell while I was carrying it across the room. It had fallen flat on its weighted bottom. The fall destroyed one of the power transistors, which Heath Inc (which was still around at the time) was more than helpful replacing.

I love the touch-paddle. It is the BEES' KNEES! No having to adjust the paddles. No 'slapping', no parts to wear out or stretch over time. (I do own a Bencher paddle and I love it too) Mine Heath keyer came with an extra set of paddles someone had machined out of thick, heavy-duty brushed stainless steel and some sort of plastic spacer in between to completely dampen lateral movement. This was a winning combination since the weighted keyer, the stainless-steel, and no lateral movement made for the "dream keyer."

I mention the extra paddles because when using the paddles that come stock with the keyer, the feel, as another person here has said, is not quite right. Each paddle tends to wiggle a bit in the socket. As well, I think the paddles feel a bit 'light' and they don't seem to be as sensitive or conductive as the custom paddles I mention above.

Side story: while I was in the Army stationed in Germany, I was deployed to the Persian Gulf from 1990-1991. One of my friends in a non-deployed unit, also a ham, offered to 'babysit' my uMatic Keyer. When I got back to Germany, he kept 'forgetting' to get it back to me. I can't recall which of us got out of the army first, but despite repeated attempts to get it back, it was never returned to me. So Dan, if you're reading this right now, I know it's a great keyer and all, but I still want it back! :)

(proof that this keyer rocks?)

Last year sometime, I got back into ham radio after about a fifteen year hiatus. I immediately started looking for a replacement for my trusty SA-5010. I believe it was right here on eHam that I found the one I have now.

So back to the 'stock' paddles: I have tried using some sort of separator between the paddles that won't change the capacitance of the paddle too much (compared to using the stock paddles by themselves). I decided I wanted to keep using the stock paddles since they tuck neatly into a little slide-in 'drawer' that is held together with velcro (sounds weird but it's pretty well-done). Perhaps I will cut a small piece of plexiglass or maybe even mold some epoxy.

My main issues with the touch system of the paddles is sometimes I find it will get 'stuck' and start sending out dahs or dits repeatedly until I turn off the keyer. This can be a horrible thing in the middle of a QSO or running a net, or even just listening. I know my station is well-grounded. I have had this same experience with both the keyers I have owned. One way to curb this in the past seemed to be when I placed the keyer over a grounded sheet of copper and also rest my sending hand on the sheet as well. This is to create better body capacitance, assuring a change that can be 'sensed' by the keyer without setting it to be ultra sensitive (which is what causes the inadvertant sending mentioned above).

There may be some other fixes that work.

It's a bit of a drag that the paddle sensitivity and volume and pitch are only controllable by flipping the keyer on it's top to get at the bottom, where there are four too-small holes (you'll have to find yourself a very tiny flat-headed screwdriver, but it may strip out the plastic wheels of the pots that control these settings). Sometimes I've even had to open up the case itself and adjust. Currently I'm considering making stems that would extend through the case-bottom that would allow me to make adjustments with just my fingers. A really ambitious individual might try just re-wiring these to the top of the case where the controls belong. Still another approach would be to drill the holes out larger so you can use a proper-sized tool to turn the thumbwheels.

Last weekend, during the 2006 QRP To The Field contest, my SA-5010 served perfectly.

However, for contesting, usually we expect a one-touch button to send the string stored for that memory. I know this will sound like splitting hairs to the non-contesters out there, but hear me out. In order to send any other memory buffer except buffer 0, you have to first push the buffer number, and then the SEND button. Not a huge deal to the casual operator, but when you send out a string a thousand times, any reduction in movement can really help reduce fatigue. Never mind the timing aspects of this issue.

Still, I haven't found a keyer/paddle combo that I love as much as this. It's tempting to start snapping them up to make sure I never have to go without one. Hopefully someone designs something of a 21st Century equivalment/improvement on Heathkit SA-5010 uMatic Keyer. Until then, I'll be content to use the one I have.

Parallel with my uMatic Keyer I also have my straight key, a Bencher paddle with an MFJ-490X, and even my computer. Other than Straight Key Night, you will amost always hear me on the Heath keyer if I'm sending by hand. That ultra-light touch makes it a pleasure to send CW. And with all the other parameters you can control, such as weight and spacing, you have yourself a keyer that still gives even new models a run for the money.

Get one of these little buggers while you can!

73 de K6JEB
N9ESH Rating: 5/5 Jan 11, 2006 19:01 Send this review to a friend
Possibly ideal!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I second K3GM’s opinion of this little gem. Built mine around 1985. Never had a problem with it. Did run into a glitch once on field day. It got very cold (40F) and we had to wear gloves!

The difference between this keyer and a set of paddles is similar to the difference between tuning a receiver with a tuning capacitor and one with an optical shaft encoder.
No need to slap it around! Just a gentle touch will do.

I was just recently thinking, wouldn’t this make an ideal keyer for the mobile? No moving parts. No extra dits or dahs when riding over a rough road (such as I-90 at 70 MPH in Minnesota.

If you ever see one for sale, grab it.
K3GM Rating: 5/5 Jan 11, 2006 17:36 Send this review to a friend
The best little box....  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is/was one amazing little box for its day. It could do almost anything as far as spacing and weight was concerned. Sending Farnsworth style was a breeze, like 25wpm characters with 17wpm spacing. It could send the prosigns BK, AR, SK, etc. With a little weight and space customizing, you could add a some personality to your fist. The uMatic keyer had a pseudorandom code practice built into it. It was great for practice and without a doubt, helped me get my 20wpm back when it was a little harder to obtain Extra than it is today. The build manual had a number of pages in the back that had the printout of the random code sent, so you could check yourself afterwards. The box held 10 memories which could be chained, and could generate sequential numbers which could be inserted into a contest exchange. It had a pause feature and could be set to send a sequence of memories. It also had a beacon feature which would send a memory, pause for a set time, and resend. The amount of memorized characters was limited when compared to today's units, but it was enough to send a basic QSO and had more than enough room for contest exchanges. The keyer had a set of fixed, capacitive touch aluminum paddles which were plugged into the front of the unit. This was the only weak feature of the unit. They had terrible feel and didn't function very well with dry fingers. But there was a jack for external paddles, and the unit's paddles could be removed from the front and stored in a pocket on the bottom. My uMatic recently died after 23 years of service. I decided to open it up and discovered that the only thing wrong with it was blown diode. It lives again today. I had several keyers over the years and use a popular modern keyer today. Although it's easier to operate, it can't compare to the flexibility and feature offered by this wonderful Heathkit offering. If you can find one of these gems at a hamfest, grab it.

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