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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | Heathkit SB-220/SB-221 Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit SB-220/SB-221
Heathkit SB-220/SB-221 Reviews: 71 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $350.00 - 550.00
Description: a 2kw pep input amp uses 2 3-500Zs
Product is not in production.
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HK3PJ Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2017 14:42 Send this review to a friend
EXCELLENT AMPLIFIER  Time owned: more than 12 months
20 years ago, I bought a SB 220 used, built in 1980's. I made all the modifications available in Harbach Electronics. 1200 Watts with the original tubes.
No problem at all, low Price, and it is nice.
Now I have an ACOM 2100. I am keeping as a back up.
VK2LC Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2017 21:03 Send this review to a friend
built like a tank  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a used SB-220 and it had an interesting history, it spent 12 months on an Antarctic station by an Australian Amateur.
It had most of the mods done, I replaced the tubes with new 3-500zg's replaced the caps and rectifier boards and fitted upgrade suppressors. It had a non genuine plate voltage meter but I found a pair on Ebay so it is now original in looks. It idles along at 750W with 50W in so I don't drive it hard as the Australian maximum is 400W.
I replaced the caps because I figured 40 years for high voltage caps is long enough and Harbach Electronics make an excellent kit for caps and diodes.
Machlett Tubes from Ebay are quite reasonably priced and mine had original Eimac tubes which were getting a bit on and not quite up to the power. I recommend doing Harbach upgrades as it gives it a new lease on life especially the soft keying so it runs with new transceivers.
If you can find a good one, grab it. Might be 40 years old but a set of caps, diodes and tubes with a couple of mods and you have an amp that is well made and performs like the best
W1UFL Rating: 5/5 Jul 11, 2016 18:08 Send this review to a friend
Built like a tank  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Purchased an SB220 off of Ebay from a reputable seller. They produced a video showing all bands into a dummy load which allowed me to watch the tune process and the grid and plate's on the various bands. It had the original Eimac tubes. I replaced both with 3yr warranty RF Parts 3-500zg's. I will cycle the Eimac's in occasionally to help prevent gassing. I can easily produce 1100+ on 120v with about 80 watts of drive. I usually run about 70-75 in and easily cruise at 1100w. It has a few upgrades, new caps, soft start, soft key, parasitic suppressors. Couldn't be more pleased. I owned one back in the early 2000's and when I saw the opportunity at the price I was comfortable with, I grabbed it. The individual who assembled this did a fantastic job. You can't go wrong with an SB220. For efficiency I still think the best bang for the buck is a single 3-500 setup, such as my SB-1000, another masterpiece!
N8MUS Rating: 5/5 Dec 14, 2014 19:50 Send this review to a friend
Original owner K8UA  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am proud 2nd owner of a beautiful SB-220 originally meticulously assembled by Norm Mendendorp K8UA. Norm is now SK and I wanted post this review of his amp.

I purchased this back in 2006 from Norm, he had not used it in some years. Still is was clean inside and out and looked like new. I did the usual start up procedure for an amp not used in a long time. Everything was working and output was at spec. Interior build quality was amazing. It looks factory built. Norm was an electrical engineer and his workmanship is outstanding.

Since the amp worked so well I saw no need to add mods to deviate from what Heath kit originally designed. Then the high voltage started to drop. So purchased new caps, bleeder resistors, rebuilt the filter board, and installed the soft key kit.

Amp is back to full output, I did not buy the expensive caps but caps rated equal to or better and by purchasing the board rebuild parts verses replacing it I saved on that too. (I read all the information I could find first. Both from Harbach as well as Rick Measures. Ended up deciding mostly toward what Rick suggested.)

Though I did not originally assemble the kit it is neat to have a part in keeping this big green machine up and operating as well as making the few small improvements. It makes getting those great reports somehow more satisfying.

I find the layout well done, easy to work on and easy to maintain. Support is available as well as parts are easy to obtain. Lots and lots of information out there on the internet too.

Highly recommend if you can find a decent example to start with.


VA3AQB Rating: 5/5 Dec 4, 2014 16:57 Send this review to a friend
Great Amp  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have a HL2200 which is the newer version of the SB221 but has the 10m MOD done.
I picked up a SB220 for $400 Canadian dollars and was advertised as tubes being old.
Well got it home opened it up and was very dirty inside. I spent a better part of a day cleaning it all up, everything was original inside.
I decided a update was in order, MODS done:

Harbach soft start
Harbach metering board
Harbach soft start
Grounded the grids
Harpen type Nichrone parasitic suppressors.
New Fan from Harbach

I decide I would add 6:1 reduction drives on the load and tune capacitors with pointers like the newer amplifiers. Basically when I set the preset values on a band 99% of the time it is spot on on the lower bands 10m & 12m about 70% of the time, just a little fine tuning which is now very easy with the 6:1 reduction drives.
I have the orignal Eimac tubes in both amps.
SB220 output on 110volts dedicated line 10awg less than 20foot wire run into a dummy load.

Key down:

40m, 1400watts
20m, 1350watts
17m, 1200watts
15m, 1200watts
12m, 1100watts
10m, 1000watts

never did on 80m but assuming the same as 40m.

Output is keeping plate around 600 ~ 650ma and grid around 200~250ma in SSB mode at about 70 ~ 85 watts input. This was just the test after all the mods I do not like to tune on key down anymore than 1KW as scared of burning out the band switch.

The original fan was noisy compared to my HL2200 it had a wobble so some vibration, I replaced it with the Harbach fan but still nosier than the HL2200. The new harbach fan is rated higher then original, faster and higher CFM. I decided to put a 50watt 33ohm resister in line for the fan just to slow down a little and reduce noise and now works like a charm and still a higher rated CFM than original.
I tend to use the HL2200 a little more but the SB220 is my pride and joy.
Future MODS: new caps for both amps from Harbach
If you get the chance to pick one up, go for it you will not be disappointed.
There is a lot of spare and replacment parts still around and a wealth of information on the Heathkit amps Yahoo group who can help you with any issues you may run into.


N0TES Rating: 5/5 Sep 22, 2014 19:11 Send this review to a friend
Work horse! Great for testing the limits  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have this hooked up to a 220v 30a service outlet and purposely melt down antenna systems with it. It's a wonderful, even artistic, piece of equipment. It is fitting that it be used to create antenna systems by testing their limits. My amp gets to destroy and create new antenna systems for amateur radio operators. How cool is that? Now, imagine the abuse this amp has taken, for the last 7 years. It performs without a glitch even after all of what we use it for. So, I know what I am saying when I tell you, it'll serve you well.
N8WGM Rating: 5/5 Sep 10, 2014 22:43 Send this review to a friend
3-500 powerhouse  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just picked up the Heathkit SB220 and it is one hell of an amplifier. Has most of the Harbach mods and outputs around 1400 watts on 80 meters.

Been getting great signal reports using this amp and a home brewed hex beam. It outputs about 1200 watts on 17 meters and 1300 on 20 meters. I really like the tubes, specifically the Eimac 3-500Z tubes that are the originals for this amp. Even though they are over 30 years old, because they were used lightly for most of their lives, they are still strong after all these years.

The original colors of light green and darker green are kind of ugly and so when this amp came up for sale (Black face plate and light gray case colors) I bought it. The amp has all the mods except for soft start. Probably does not need it as the amp and tubes can handle the current surge easily. I may end up adding it anyways as insurance.

This amplifier deserves the "5" of all the reviews. Probably one of the best amps ever made for the price. If money is no object, then the Alpha's would be the amp to get but for the rest of us, the Heathkit SB220 is an amp that can hold its own against all the others.
N4WGY Rating: 5/5 Jul 11, 2014 17:30 Send this review to a friend
Awesome Big Green Tank  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I am the second owner of my SB-221 w/10 meter mod which was was incredibly well constructed and cared for by the original owner/silent key. Have been using it heavily for about 1 year at time of writing this review. I installed the Harbach Soft Start and Soft Key mods as well as the replacement high voltage capacitor board and diode board. Amplifier is currently wired for 120VAC power and still has the original 1982 vintage Eimac 3-500z tubes. The amp works incredibly well and reliably. Even with 120VAC supply it will easily make 600 to 800 watts with 80 watts drive. Amp is not designed for working WARC bands but it will tune 17 meters beautifully in the 15 meter position and 12m reasonably well in the 10m position. Have worked all over the world and USA with many an excellent signal report. The old tubes are beginning to get soft, especially on 10m and 15m, no fault of the amp there, just 32 year old well worn tubes. Only improvement I would have other than new tubes would be reduction drives for the Tune and Load capacitors to make fine tuning a bit easier.
KA4KOE Rating: 5/5 May 5, 2014 10:01 Send this review to a friend
Old warhorse  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Received a very nice SB220 in a trade. I installed the Harbach metering/rectifier and soft key boards. The amplifier has the original Eimac 3-500Z tubes. With 100W drive, the amp will just make 1200W. However, you should remember that the amp is not duty cycle rated for full power keydown. I typically run mine around 175W carrier when working AM. I drive my SB220 with a Flex 5K. The amp is extremely easy to tune, but gets a little dicey up on 10m, where thee power out-poot drops to about 800W.
PE1PMD Rating: 5/5 Nov 25, 2013 03:14 Send this review to a friend
Great amp!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Years ago I sold my SB1000, still regret it every day. About half a year ago this SB220 was offered on a used products website in Belgium.
It was a 3 hour drive but worth it. The previous owner had plans to rebuild the amp but never got time for it.
All Harbach kits were with it and also the retrofit fan. A big smile when I drove back home...
First thing was the cabinet; it was painted black so got it cleaned and powercoated in the original color. The parasitic supressors are replaced by retrofits I found on Ebay. The coolers for 3-500z's are now hyper plate caps.
Rectifier board, softstart, capacitors etc. All the mods have been carried out and the amp performs like new. Recently I bought a brand new matched pair of RF-Parts 3-500ZG's but the original Eimac 3-500Z's are still in good condition. Last mod will be installing vacuum relays.
As you can see some time has been spend on this one... Was it worth it?
Absolutely, every minute! If you can find one at a reasonable price, buy it!
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