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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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K8WV Rating: 5/5 Apr 29, 2003 23:17 Send this review to a friend
Well worth it!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built my 102 in early 1972 while I was in the service. I took my time and it went together perfectly. I did have one occasion to return it to Heath and when it came back they included a note congratulating me on the construction. (I had worked as an electronics tech while in college, and had previously built an SB-303.)

When properly built these were excellent radios for the day. They used the same solid state LMO as the SB-303 and the two could be connected, although the 303 served more as a remote "VFO." The 303 and 102 would not be on the same frequency using the 303 LMO to control the 102, and the 102 would not control the 303. But I could and did use the 303 to control the 102, and could work split. They made a very nice pair, and I miss them. (Ok, having a 102 AND a 303 was probably overkill.)

I replaced the pair with an Icom 740 and don't regret it at all. I suspect if I had a 102 now it wouldn't be a great as I remember it. But it was certainly worthy at the time, and a very good deal if you had the time to build them properly.

For the going price, if you are inclined to do a rebuild, I think it would make a very nice project.
KE1MB Rating: 4/5 Feb 10, 2003 21:14 Send this review to a friend
Fun Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I collect Heathkit gear. This is old but fun stuff. A heathkit is never really finished. It is a very good design on paper. But if you really want it to scream then take to it as a kit. First you will find that many of the resistors used are 20%. This adds for a lot of error. Locate the bad ones and replace them with 1% or better parts. The reason the Heathkit makes a better tube rig is because all of the tubes are cheaply found. No strange odd balls in there. I am working on a web site that will decribe my ideas and mods for the HW101 and SB102. This is a great radio if you love to work on stuff.
WR4Q Rating: 5/5 Feb 10, 2003 19:43 Send this review to a friend
Good design!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I was on waiting list and got mine in April 1970.
I could not solder worth a crap. Had to send it
back to Benton Harbor. They said it worked fine
and sent it back. Guess it just wanted a ride on
Rail Express. REA? The express long ago run out by UPS. They were only shipper that would insure it. Six weeks each way. This was a state of the art rig in 1970. I have 50 or 60 boatanchors from this era. Sb-102 still my favorite.
My Collins radios KWM2-A and VFO and 30-L1 and
two 51-S1 receivers are built in a MUCH MORE solid
mechanical manner. But the KWM-2A sucks on CW.
Sends a tone through the mic. The dial on the Heath actually works better than the Collins!
The problem is just a delicate adjustment on the
split washer drive and how tight it is set. The belts are crappy O rings. You have to get dial cord and little springs from auto place.
I have used mine for almost 33 years. I have replaced 1 6au6 if tube (still working but some noise) and 2 6cl6 drivers. Same finals for 33 years and still good output. Get 110W 80M CW
down to 80W on 10 meters.
I have had to have a resistor party about every
ten years. The carbon resistors go up in value.
This is critical on cathode resistors. Be sure yours are slightly (10%) lower than schematic values. The most critical are the 6hs6 rf amp
(will give low gain esp on 10 meters) and the
6au6 first if amp.
The radio is very easy to work on. It will perform
very well indeed. This radio is great for the ham
that wants to be able to maintain his own.
Only complaint I have is lack of 160 meters and
WARC bands.
73, dee wr4q

KW7F Rating: 4/5 Feb 6, 2003 14:59 Send this review to a friend
Very nice for the price  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought the kit in 1973. I enjoyed building it and have had no problem with it since. It has survived being moved all over the country and still works great. Except for the 6146 finals, it still has all of the original tubes. It took a bit of tweaking to get the dial to work smoothly, but once done it is fine. I miss having Heathkits to build.
KD2E Rating: 5/5 Sep 10, 2002 13:31 Send this review to a friend
beats the KWM2!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was a kit. The quality of the rig you own thus depends on who built it. The complaints about the dial, tight switch, drifting, whatever...are due to shoddy construction.
I have Heath stuff that has all the usual Heath problems. I also however, have a few that were meticulously built. These have precise tuning smooth as silk. controls that turn effortlessly, and solid as a rock operation. Taking the band coverage, cw filter, and lack of spurs on 75 meters into consideration..It has the KWM2A beat out by a wide margin.
N5UV Rating: 2/5 Sep 7, 2002 23:25 Send this review to a friend
Use for parts  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'll give this a "2" only because, in the hands of a good technician, this would have been a great cheapo radio. I bought one in 1992 for $100 dollars. The main reason I bought it is to get it's power supply and 2 prong Shure 444 mic for my HW-100 (see that review, it's interesting). So, expecting the receiver to be a lemon, and buying it from a ham from Greenville, TX that suddenly was unreachable after I bought it, I would say that it was almost worth the money. It did receive well, audio output was not as tinney as HW-100, but the power output voltage must have been off. I tried tinkering with the bias adjust for days and could only manage to get it over 50 watts one time. The rest of the time, I was lucky to push 7 watts. After checking the tubes with good ones from the HW-100, I pretty much gave up on it and used it for parts. Then, some locally took it off my hands for free, along with a home-brew supply that came with the HW-100. Judging from other reviews, one thing can be said about a's only as good as the ham who built it.
K1JAD Rating: 3/5 Aug 4, 2002 08:09 Send this review to a friend
Fair overall performance with a poor dial mechanism  Time owned: more than 12 months
As a Ham that has been inactive for more years
than I care to count, my first and only rig was an SB-102. Although I had satisfactory results with this rig as a DX'er, there are some shortcomings in the design of the SB-102 incuding the dial mechanisms which were lless than adequate for ease of operation. In addition rotating the band switch required the aid of a sledge hammer, and the knobs are flimsy. However, overall it is a fair performer. Incidently, it now lays dormant on the table in the shack waiting to pump RF into an antenna system that will hopefully be rejeuvenated in the form of a beam antenna with a TK-40 adapter that was a casualty of a violent storm that snapped the driven element guyed with a cheap rope. I have been inactive ever since. Hope to be resurrected soon.


KO4NR Rating: 4/5 Jun 18, 2002 15:27 Send this review to a friend
Stability Issues!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
The one I had was a real pain in the %%$$## as far as stability was concerned until I finally got sick of it and fixed it. It took a near complete tear down. I resoldered most very joint, replaced all the carbon type resistors I could get to with Metal Film or Metal Oxide Film, replaced all the trimmer capacitors and potentiometers, and replaced all the diodes and electrolyitc capacitors. Anything else that looked questionable got repalced. All in all a hell of a lot of work that took over a year to complete, doing it as I could find the time. The rig was in like new conditon but had been assembled poorly!! The circuit boards are cheap but can be salvaged if you are careful. If you need a new circuit board you can send the old board to FAR Circuits and Fred will make you a new high quality and exact replacement. I've had him make a lot of boards for various amplifiers for me.

Nice rig if you don't mind tinkering and soldering. Find one that has been assembled properly is the way to go but due to age you will eventually have to replace a lot of the same components I had to replace, especially the carbon resistors, diodes, potentiometers and trimmer capacitors.
Anonymous Rating: 0/5 Jun 18, 2002 15:20 Send this review to a friend
Piece of junk  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This was the worst piece of ham equipment I ever owned. The dial mechanism was el cheapo crap, the circuit boards were el cheapo material, the receiver sucked, the xmit audio was poor. The only xcvr worse was the HW 100. After I built mine 30 years ago, I sold it about 3 days after I finished it and bought a used 32s1 and 75s1. What a difference and the used Collins pair was not much more than what I paid for that SB102.
K8DE Rating: 2/5 Jun 18, 2002 14:38 Send this review to a friend
SB-101  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had one of these in about 1968-72 or so. Built it myself in high school. Like everybody else, a Collins KWM-2A was what I hoped this would approximate. Its 1khz readout and dial was close, as was its transmit quality. Its receiver and mechanics overall were not. On the other hand, it was abt $360 when the Collins was $1250 (Big money when the minimum wage was $1.25).

One of the issues in this radio as these things age, and it may be part of the peculiar instabilities people mention,is the construction used for the tube sockets.

As was true in the 60's and early 70's, there were radios that were "not quite tube/not quite transistor" circuitry hybrids as well as "not quite the old point to point wiring" vs "not quite the newer printed circuit boards" mechanical hybrids (PCBs being more usually seen in transistorized circuitry).

While the SB100, 101 and 102 were tube radios (with the exception I think of the LMO in the 102), they did come up with the less than great idea of mounting tube sockets on pc boards. On the one hand, it did save a lot of point to point wiring, and some potential errors for kit builders. It also added a durability issue or two. The boards were made of a relatively inexpensive substrate (vs, say a fiberglass substrate). The tube sockets were soldered into the board through holes in the board, much like you would with any other component. Unfortunately, over the years, those connections which are pretty good size, have gone through a lot of expansion/contraction cycles as the tubes throw a lot of heat into the region of the soldered connections. Add to the mix that a lot of new kitbuilders might not have made such great solder joints in the first place. As a result, if you look at any well used 100 series radio, the boards will have gotten pretty dark colored, especially ariund the socket pins, and some of the joints will look funky. Those joints can easily become intermittent and change from conductive to semi-conductive to open with vibration, heat and/or current flow through them. With about 20 tubes, you can figure on abt 160 such opportunities...and that's just with the tube sockets.

I'd never buy one of these without taking it out of the case and carefully examiniing the workmanship -- people were real variable in how they put them together.
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