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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Vintage amateur | hallicrafters SX-101 Help

Reviews Summary for hallicrafters SX-101
hallicrafters  SX-101 Reviews: 18 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $395.00
Description: ham band reciever 160-10 meters
Product is not in production.
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K9SUL Rating: 4/5 Apr 12, 2016 15:40 Send this review to a friend
A true boat anchor and a good performer  Time owned: more than 12 months
The weight of this receiver is its strength as well as weakness. In the May 1957 issue of QST, the ad says,

"Big, rugged, the SX-101 utilizes the heaviest chassis in the industry ... an amazing marvel of stability"

The weight gave the receiver the mechanical stability, which contributed a lot to the frequency stability in the typical designs of that era. When Drake came out with a newer design (electrically and mechanically stable small PTO) that was far less sensitive to receiver's overall mechanical rigidity, these heavy radios looked like fools. I heard that shops would demonstrate the stability with a "drop test". Lift the front of the receiver for about an inch and drop. Did the frequency change? Drake rigs easily won the test. The SX-101 might have been too heavy to perform this test. hi. Hallicrafters learned to trim the weight in the SX-111, which was electrically almost identical to the SX-101, but weighed 1/2 as much. The newer high-end SX-115 was also made lighter by using aluminum wherever possible.

The SX-101 is an excellent receiver if you want a receiver to pair with the HT-32. After all, if you have dealt with the HT-32, the SX-101 will feel light, so its weight won't be much of an issue for you. hi. I also recommend it for those who want to experience "boat anchor" amateur receiver. It is sensitive, stable and selective enough to be used in today's casual QSOs. The main disadvantage of the setups like HT32-SX101 pair is poor agility. It takes extra time to move, spot and re-tune. But many people consider it as part of fun.

I see a reviewer complaining about it being noisy. That shouldn't be the case if the receiver is working properly. Although it isn't much of an advantage on the HF bands, the noise floor of these vintage receivers are actually quite good, often better than modern solid state receivers. Check out W1VD's web site for the performance test results of boat anchor receivers. I used it for many DX QSOs pulling faint signals.

Internally, the HFO coils are wound on big high-quality ceramic bobbins. The HFO trim caps are so-called Tol-Timmers. These have a top and bottom section with concentric cylinders. The top section might be soldered to the threaded pole in the center. If you need to adjust it for alignment, you will have to unsolder it. Usually screwing/unscrewing the top while heating the solder makes it loose. It can break, if you force it without unsoldering. These were more commonly used in European radios.

Overall, the SX-101 is a good performer and a fine example of boat anchor receiver. If its weight scares you, you might want to consider the SX-111.
AC6AN Rating: 2/5 Jun 21, 2014 16:06 Send this review to a friend
Noisy Drifter!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a used SX-101 with HT-32 as my first setup in 1981. I was operating an FT-101ZD in a club station but could not afford to buy one.
An ad in the back of a 1964 Handbook had me drooling over this setup so much, that I skipped on a local KWM-1 for the same price. Later I found that the guy who sold me the Hallicrafters bought the KWM-1. I should have known it was a mistake...
I remember one Friday night round table on 20M. I heard the local guys clearly and one of them said that a DX station is calling me. I could not hear it at all on the SX-101 while he came in loud and clear on a TS-520. I knew for sure I have a problem...
The SX-101 was noisy. Whatever I did, the noise floor was high. I have to admit that I knew nothing about tubes and most likely it had a noisy tube in the receiver, which I can forgive.
The drifting VFO I cannot.
There is no excuse for it in a high-price receiver in 1960. The HT32 had literally zero drift and it's puzzling why the company did not share its VFO design to remain competitive with Collins and Drake.
I appreciate the charm of radios that glow in the dark, but I'm yet to find a Hallicrafters receiver that I really like. I never was into dinosaurs as a kid and the behemoth Hallies don't inspire me either...
My verdict for the SX-101 is that it should remain a museum/display piece. It receives ham signals, but so does a Realistic DX-160, which utilizes the same (in concept) flawed VFO design with the same lackluster results.
W1BR Rating: 5/5 Feb 8, 2012 12:14 Send this review to a friend
A dream machine in its day....  Time owned: months
My Hallicrafters SX-101A has an interesting history. It belonged to a local ham, who by chance lived a few miles from my home. I never knew the original owner, nor did I ever have the pleasure of meeting him or talking to him on the air. I do know his name and former his former ham call letters. It came to me when his son was cleaning out the estate and discovered the SX-101A and B&W-5100 transmitter hidden in the corner of the attic—abandoned and apparently unused for decades. Fortunately he knew of my interest in antique radios, since I had restored a vintage radio for the family earlier. He called me asking if I was interested…. and yes, I do have the B&W 5100 and I will be reviewing it separately! This receiver will be used with a companion HT-32 transmitter in my vintage ham station.

It was evident that the radio had seen little use; the original “Hallicrafters” branded tubes were still in place. The major concern was cosmetic damage caused by decades of storage in a poor environment. To cut to the quick, I spent a few weeks restoring the radio. Restoration included replacing all of the original capacitors and out of spec components. The radio used a large number of so-called “bumble bee” type capacitors. Also, many of the carbon composition resistors were replaced with more modern metal oxide or carbon film resistors as needed.

Fast forward to a few weeks later… the receiver is restored, cleaned, and polished to almost new condition! Here’s how I rate the SX-101A:

Based on late 1950s technology, the receiver deserves at least a 4.5 rating. The styling is drop-dead gorgeous! Like the HT-32, the engineers and designers apparently had carte-blanche freedom without regards for cost. The front panel is adorned with a gorgeous cast-metal dial bezel, and a complicated back-lite glass dial scale with reverse painted dial markings. This is a ham band receiver features a very large dial scale that is easy to read, and good tuning rate for both CW and SSB tuning! The dial system must have cost a small fortune! Completely degreasing the tuning capacitor and gear train is essential! I also noticed that the larger diameter dial string could become stiff with age and contributes a bit to dial drag when tuning. It is livable. The radio is extremely attractive; provided you like large boat anchors!

The receiver is a double-conversion design. The first IF is at 1650 kHz. Unfortunately this first IF now falls into the recently expanded AM BCB—so interference for IF bled through is possible if there is a strong local station at 1650 kHz, or at night when strong DX signals my overload the IF. I have had no problems so far… the second IF is at 50.75 kHz, and this is the stage that provides the selectivity bandwidths for CW, AM or SSB reception. This is all done using LC filtering, and by varying the coupling between the 50.75 kHz tuned IF stages. Strong, nearby signals can overload the first IF stage; unfortunately the selectivity really belongs right after the first mixer, but we’re dealing with a late 1950s product and this is the reality of the times. The last IF includes an effective tunable notch filter.

Unfortunately, unlike later SX-xxx models, which use crystal controlled down conversion, the tunable oscillator in the SX-101A is band-switched. This means the LO is less stable on the higher frequencies. This receiver really shines on 80 and 40 meters. 20 meters is acceptable, but drift and warm up time increase on the higher bands. Unfortunately the SX-101A lacks 160 meters, which was included in the earlier SX-101 models. Drop the rating to a 4.0. The SX-101A does include a true product detector, using a 6BY6.

I really enjoy using my SX-101A. It is primitive by today’s standards, and was even obsolete relatively soon after the last one left the assembly line. It can still hold its own for casual CW, SSB or AM operation, or for modest DX chasing. All of this assumes the user does a full and proper restoration, with no shortcuts. If you can overlook a few shortcomings, the SX-101A is a worthy addition to any vintage ham station lineup.
The filtering and selectivity are the weakest points. The receiver drifts during warm-up, and is prone to “wondering” when the AC line voltage changes abruptly. Mine is paired with a companion HT-32 transmitter. I wish I had owned these twins when I was a young ham back in the early 1960s! What a dream station!
SWL377 Rating: 4/5 Jan 10, 2012 16:18 Send this review to a friend
Fun receiver, good audio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought a mint SX 101 locally that was plug and play. It had a few caps replaced but it was not even close to 100% recapped. I paid $200 which was reasonable give the immaculate condition.

I like it. Its big, heavy and looks good. It doesnt have WARC bands, but it does have 160M. Later versions of the SX 101 omitted 160.

It isnt an outstanding receiver but it is pretty good. Sensitivity is adequate. If I can hear the noise increase when I touch my finger to the empty antenna connector I know it isnt going to need a pre amp.

Slightly drifty after startup, a bit worse than my HQ 180, but after a while it gets stable enough. I do find myself retouching tuning every once in a while copying 10M SSB. This old rcvr also has 11M which was a ham band back in the day.

75M AM is a pleasure to listen to. Very nice sound to my ear.

The xtal filters work well and can slice close signals. This is no R 390A with Collins mech filters but its isn't too bad.

The nice thing about old boat anchores in great cosmetic condition is that they are easy to resell. You really dont risk much when you buy a mint set at a reasonable price.

I may look for a mating HT-3? xmtr. The table better have strong legs. Between the two you are probebly talking 130 lbs.

I dont know why this rcvr was made so heavy. They must have tried to make it hefty by using thick steel on the chassis and case. The power xfrmr isn't that massive. I guess back then mass=class.

I'd like an SX 88 or SX 115, but that would require a second mortgage. The 101 offers some good Halicrafter performance at a low price.

I've seen beat up but working SX 101s for well under $100 at swap meets. A beat up SX 88 will run you a couple of thousand probably.

The dial is pretty accurate, but you are still guessing a few KHz. A freq counter sould solve that problem, but I am going to run this 101 totally stock.

K6LHU Rating: 2/5 Jan 22, 2010 16:15 Send this review to a friend
DRIFT PROBLEM  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a NEW SX-101A in 1960. After about a year in my shack, it developed a drift problem every time I changed bands. I had to "fiddle" with the band-selector switch for several minutes before the radio finally stopped drifting. I returned it to the Hallicrafter Factory TWICE and THEY couldn't resolve it. I recommended to the service guys to change the band selector switch. I don't recall (after 50 years) if they finally replaced it, but the problem REMAINED. It NEVER got resolved.
KE4EZ Rating: 5/5 Jan 22, 2010 14:49 Send this review to a friend
Great Rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had my SX-101MkII the one with 160 for 30 years now. I've replaced the 12by7 fil transformer and RF tube with 6bz6 added an active CW filter re tubed it a couple times tuned it up a couple times...It just works every night with Johnson Ranger on CW NTS Traffic nets with Johnson TR Switch - what a great Radio
Turn it on come back next week it'll still be on Freq...Works all the time and looks good doing it- probably one of the best looking Radios...
Yup the Heavy Weight Champ!
This rig is one of the best.
WB5MHA Rating: 5/5 Jan 16, 2010 10:36 Send this review to a friend
57 Chevy of receivers  Time owned: more than 12 months
I used my SX101 from my Novice days (1961) until I was drafted in 1969. An outstanding piece of gear to say the least. When I got interested in VHF I used it with converters on 6 and 2. It never missed a beat or let me down.

Living near Chicago I was able to take it to the factory for periodic allignment, fresh tubes, dial cord replacement etc. The 101 was built (and serviced)with love that is a tribute to US manufacturing of the period. As I recall the service department always returned it in perfect shape with the exterior waxed! This is a time when American corporations took a great deal of pride in a radio that was made 150 percent better than it had to be rather than just good enough to work.

Before my going overseas it was sold and shipped to a guy in Shreveport LA. If he reads this I'll buy it back.

The 57 Chevy of radios, it had about a thousand tubes and weighed the same as a small car. It wasn't a Collins but the best of its type.
N8CMQ Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2009 20:19 Send this review to a friend
Best reciever ever!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had a SX-101A back in the eighties, and like a dummy I sold it for a transistor job, sorry I ever did...
Joy of joys! I was able to buy a SX-101 mark 3!!!
Needs work, but it does turn on and play!
Just building my antenna field now!
If you want a portable, LOOK ELSEWHERE!!! If you want excellent performance, this is the rig!
You won't be sorry to have this rig, and if it needs work, it is easy to get into and do the work!
KD6HUC Rating: 5/5 Aug 10, 2008 12:05 Send this review to a friend
Love my 101A  Time owned: more than 12 months
I traded a Radio Shack shortwave radio for this in 2000 and I sure am happy. At first I though the other guy was a pushover, but now I realize he was trying to get me bit! By the boatanchor bug that is. I had a Kenwwod TS-430S as my primary rig at the time and the SX-101A was pretty close on all the bands in reception strength, but sound was just phenomenal compared to the TS-430! I ran them both through a six inch home stereo speaker to keep the playing field even. Many other HF radios have come and gone, but the Hallicrafters station is still here. IC-746,TS-2000,FT-100D,IC-756PRO have all been on the desk and moved on while I listen to the SX-101A almost daily! As a matter of fact, my shack is being overrun by boatanchors! Recently I purchased a Yaesu FT-450 because I wanted some newer technology, but wanted a small footprint. I was running out of room on the desk and can't part with my big iron! the digtal display and DSP is really nice when the bands are not too good, but mostly I love the nostalgia of radio and "how it used to be." Some of the jewels in my station are older than my parents and you can imagine the kisk I get when somebody just drools or comments "my grandpa had one of those way back when!" Get one if you can find one and you won't be sorry...
N6YE Rating: 5/5 Dec 23, 2005 16:16 Send this review to a friend
A Beautiful Thing  Time owned: more than 12 months
The SX101A was added to my shack when I got my Novice ticket in 1959, (WV2HZI). Used the radio for about 20 years and never had a problem with it. Sold it to some kid who just got licensed. Sure wish I had kept the old girl.

The 101A was built like a battleship and it was a beautiful thing to look at when it was powered up on the bench. Most of my operation at that time was 10 meter AM and 15 and 40 mtr CW.
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