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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Heathkit SB-102 Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit SB-102
Heathkit SB-102 Reviews: 33 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $380.00
Description: 10-80 tube classic ham transceiver
Product is not in production.
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KS1U Rating: 5/5 Oct 30, 2009 18:17 Send this review to a friend
Buy or Build carefully.  Time owned: more than 12 months
The quality of any given SB-102 (or any kit) is directly proportional to the talent of the builder. One of the reasons you get so much range in the ratings of Heathkits is we are not all in possession of the same level of building skills. When I built an EICO 723 xmtr in 1965 I thought I did a good job. When I rebuilt it in the 1970s I realized my skills had improved greatly. The SB102 is a great xcvr for its time. It was not perfect, but all of the few problem areas can be corrected easily. I have used an unmodified SB102 in years past and recently finished a complete rebuild of an SB102 junker. You can see a couple videos on this xcvr I posted on You Tube here:

If you are on a budget and need an inexpensive radio to actually use, then buy this or any radio carefully, looking at the soldering job, the dirt or lack there of, and if possible have the seller fire it up and demonstrate it. This radio only needs RIT to make it truly convenient to use. It receives very well, and the transmit on CW and SSB is fine. I give this radio a 5 rating because it should be compared to the radios of its era. The rebuild I did lets me give it a 5 for radios of this era. The basic design is excellent and if you're looking for a fun project buy one along with a construction manual and rebuild it yourself.
KQ6IG Rating: 2/5 Jul 4, 2009 21:53 Send this review to a friend
Not Very Good  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
The SB-102 is not a very good radio. Some compromise is necessary with Heathkit to keep the cost low. But, they cut too far with the 102. The electrical design is barely adequate - yet far below that of most transceivers of the time. The highest quality electrical component is the VFO, which came preassembled. Drift is not noticeable. However, a schematic is not offered in the manuel for the VFO. The mechanical design/construction of the 102 is appalling. Most alarming is the friction drive VFO "mechanism". It's understandable why so many slip and otherwise fail. If you are looking to purchase a 102 for purely nostalgic reasons, you may be fine. However, if like myself, you are looking for high quality, high performance vintage gear that will continue to operate trouble free, you will be disappointed with the Heathkit SB-102.
W8ASA Rating: 5/5 Dec 7, 2006 19:15 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful Rig!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I still have the SB-102 that I built in 1969, and it still works perfectly. I have only replaced one tube over the years. The kit went together without a hitch. I built the transceiver, the power supply, the speaker, and the station console at the same time, and all still work per the specs. I never got the CW filter for it, so for CW I use my new Kenwood TS-570S(G), my first new rig since the SB-102. Quite a change after all these years.
N1MG Rating: 5/5 Jan 25, 2006 17:07 Send this review to a friend
The dream rig for an early 70's novice  Time owned: more than 12 months
Great value, solid rig. Picked up one used in 1980 and still have it.
NE0P Rating: 3/5 Jan 13, 2006 09:07 Send this review to a friend
Seemed OK  Time owned: more than 12 months
I picked up one of these at a hamfest with the PS and CW filter for $150. This was about 12 years ago and I used it on and off for 5 years or so. It was a back up rig, and to use on 15 meters as my Kenwood Twins didn't work on that band for some reason. Overall, it was a decent radio. It got me a couple of new countries (KP1, TI9). Mine always had low receive audio, and never did figure out what the problem was. Overall, it is a pretty decent radio for starting out if you dont need the WARC bands and don't mind tuning up. It seemed to have a pretty decent receiver on it, and the CW filter was pretty effective at eliminating QRM although 270hz is a little narrower than I like.
VE3CUI Rating: 1/5 Jan 13, 2006 04:17 Send this review to a friend
The "Heathkit From Hell"!!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought one used back in the early 80's --- I "hot rodded" it by adding RIT, and a 250-Hz CW filter, & it worked FB as a back-up rig & Field Day station for years...

One day, though, the RF output dropped off ever so slowly, along with the sensitivity...within 5 minutes, it was through! Deaf AND speechless. Try as I might for the longest time, I could NOT bring this thing back to life, even after outright replacing circuit boards! (the "shot-gun" approach to trouble-shooting).

I ultimately gave up on the %$#@^&* thing, & parted it out..

During the course of dismantling this Heathkit-From-Hell, it dawned on me how CHEAP Heath had made things after the generation that gave birth to the much-earlier SB-400: gone were ceramic crystal sockets (crystals in the '102 were soldered directly to the boards). There was no parasitic suppression in the '102 driver tube. The boards were flimsy.

In short, I feel quality was compromised for the sake of cost.

Now, I like the Heath marque, make no mistake about it (I absolutely LOVE my SB-301) --- but nothing pleased me more than the day that the last piece of that horrendous SB-102 passed out through my door!
WB0UGO Rating: 5/5 Sep 17, 2005 16:45 Send this review to a friend
Favorite Heathkit  Time owned: more than 12 months
I was just glancing through the reviews and noticed that this rig did not have a very good overall rating. I have two along with the SB101, which does not have the solid state VFO and different tubes in the final receiver stages. These rigs are excellent. The 102 has a very nice receiver and the transmit audio is good. When I set it side by side with my Collins KWM2 thats been totally redone and meets or exceeds all specs the SB102 is as good or better. I think that says a lot. I use a 33 year old 102 and SB220 often on the Heathkit net every sunday at 14.292 20:20 GMT. They work great. I just love the receive audio on this rig. Its clear and punchy. Overall, the SB102 is my favorite Heathkit along with the Heath SS9000 out of 150 pieces in my collection. 73's Steve
K1DWZ Rating: 5/5 Mar 30, 2005 05:31 Send this review to a friend
Nice  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is the third or fourth Heathkit that I built. Received the kit in March 1971, finished building it in December 1971. Worked the first time I applied power.(gulp) Was the latest and greatest technology at the time.( a poor man's Collins ) Besides SSB I used it for SSTV a lot at 100% duty cycle without a hitch. I still have it and it still has all of its original tubes and still works great. I also installed the cw filter.
KY4Z Rating: 4/5 Sep 2, 2004 14:53 Send this review to a friend
5-band HF workhorse  Time owned: more than 12 months
The SB-102 was my second HF rig, and the one I owned had been well built and it operated as specified. Equipped with the CW filter, it wasn't a bad rig for CW. I used a matching HD-1410 Heathkit keyer, which performed well. I had the matching speaker (which housed the power supply) and the matching VFO.

The rig seemed to put out quite a bit of heat; of course it didn't help that my second-story shack didn't have air conditioning. I worked dozens of countries with my "Benton Harbor S Line."

The heat did cause a few problems with the rubber belts used to connect the tuning shafts to the shaft of the variable caps. The rubber turned brittle over time and eventually broke. I used Superglue to repair the o-rings in a pinch (usually while chasing DX in the wee hours Zulu). I bought replacements at a local auto parts place that sold rubber o-rings. Worked fine. I later purchased an SB-101 and someone had replaced the rubber belts with a dial cord arrangement that probably lasted longer than the original belts.

A decent rig that was fairly stable once it warmed up. The 102's solid state VFO improved the SB transceiver's reputation for stability.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy one in known good condition, they're not a bad rig to use if you don't mind time-warping back to 30-year-old technology. I think if you judge it against similar offerings of that period, you'll find it wasn't so bad a rig.
WB8RKQ Rating: 5/5 May 23, 2004 13:36 Send this review to a friend
cool radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
this was my first heathkit transciver i loved it i was only 16 yrs old got it new from heathkit it was a great looking radio i think it is still the best looking ham radio ever it looks beter then a collins i is a work horse radio to it has big nobs love it it is a mans radio it is fun to tune and to operate they are a great value rig you can get them cheep on ebay and allways if they dont work that good send them into R.T.O. and they will go throu the radio and fix it up for around 120 bucks now this a great deal to have a radio sent in and fixed and went all throu i think so you cant go even thinking of buying one my self just to bring back memorys hihi.well 73 all
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