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Reviews Categories | Receivers: General Coverage | National HRO500 Receiver Help

Reviews Summary for National HRO500 Receiver
National HRO500 Receiver Reviews: 8 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $1500.00
Description: National Radio's all-transistor HRO receiver from the early/mid 1960's with the unmistakable HRO dial.
Product is not in production.
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K9FLY Rating: 5/5 May 23, 2019 15:17 Send this review to a friend
A great receiver, warts and all...  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have one. I have owned it for 7 years or so. It works well and looks great. It was a hamfest buy that I took a chance on. After some initial cleaning and TLC it has performed well. It sits next to several Collins, Watkins-Johnsons etc for comparison. True the SSB audio suffers a bit but there is a fix for that. I also own several National big dial boat anchors, like the 50 T and the 60 so the dual geared stainless steel tuning dial on that magnificent front panel blew me away. It also likes to be used, not sit.......

One has to remember this was National's first solid state attempt in the 60's and from that standpoint it deserves a 5 for originality and accomplishment.

I also was a communication officer in the Navy so was exposed to the the best of boat anchors in the 1960 era...... Quality seemed to be measured in pounds then....

Thanks for reading....
WA0OQW Rating: 3/5 Jul 18, 2017 21:10 Send this review to a friend
Buy one that has been overhauled and calibrated properly.  Time owned: more than 12 months
It has been two years since I put a review of this receiver on I brought one of these receivers (with LF-10 VLF adaptor) at the Dayton Ham fest in May 1998 and I owned it until 2003. Like one of the other previous reviewers of this receiver back in the 1960s (I was a teenager then, I am 65 now), I also lusted for this receiver. Like most things that you lust for; once you obtain it, it is not as good as you thought it was. Originally, when I reviewed this receiver two years ago, I gave it a poor review but I decided shortly afterwards that I was being too harsh so I deleted most of my review and put in the review that has been on this web site over past two years. Having spent 36 years in the military and 54 years as an amateur radio operator, I have acquired considerable commercial radio equipment, military grade radio equipment and amateur radio equipment over those 54 years. I repair all of my equipment (most much more complex than this receiver). There are major issues with the quality of parts that National Radio used in these receivers. Please read the multiple web posts on problems related to this receiver. A previous reviewer of this radio from the mid 2000s claimed to have worked for National Radio in the mid 1960s through the early 1970s and he stated that one of his jobs was to repair these receivers. In that review, he commented extensively about the quality of the components that were used in these receivers. When I got my receiver, it was in original condition and was not operational. Most of the resistors in the receiver were 20% tolerance (no tolerance band). I started with checking the resistors and found that 15-20% of the resistors were 50% to 100% (or greater) off from their stated values (either too high or too low). I was able to get the radio to work by replacing those components and other components that were bad but I could never got the synthesizer to work on all of the bands. At that time, I did not know that there were problems with the quality of all of the bypass capacitors and some of the other components in the receiver. The synthesizer is bolted to the middle of the chassis and to get at half of the components of the synthesizer, you have to take it completely out of the chassis. The synthesizer is difficult to repair properly because of this. You loose your synthesizer calibration and it is difficulty to recalibrate. If I brought the receiver tomorrow, I would completely replace all of the resistors and capacitors in the receiver with new quality components. That would have saved me many headaches that I experienced trying to trouble shoot all of the problems that I had with this receiver. If one is considering buying this receiver, I would strongly recommend buying one that has been properly overhauled and calibrated correctly unless you like radio projects and do not mind doing a complete rebuild on this receiver. There is a safety issue involved with this receiver. The AC power connector is a two pronged plug, the type used on old cheap TV sets from the 1950-1960s. There is no three prong power cable that allows proper AC grounding of the receiver chassis. I can't believe that this would have passed electrical safety standards even from the mid 1960s! Unless you like handling ungrounded radio equipment and do not mind the potential for electric shock to whoever touches the metal cabinet, this should be rectified in any overhaul for this receiver. I know that some hams feel that the design of this receiver is better than the Collins 51S-1, The design is only one of the issues that you look at when you buy a receiver. Quality of components, ease of operation and repair are other issues that should be considered in buying a receiver. The Collins 51S-1 receiver lasted 30 years of service in the Federal Government, both on the civilian side and on the military side where they were used in signal intercept in mobile and fixed stations and as signal intercept in aircraft. The HRO500 could never meet Military Spec standards. The only use I could see this in the Federal Government was as a Signal Intercept receiver and they were replaced with other better receivers within 10 years of their purchase. The National Radio military big brother of this receiver from the mid 1960s, the FRR-59/WRR-2 Naval receiver was too complex to operate and was very difficult to repair and was replaced in 10 years by the mid 1970s by the Navy R-1051 receiver which lasted as the primary Navy HF radio receiver for 30 years. A Submarine Contractor (General Dynamics) was able to build a much better radio receiver than National Radio Company that was in the radio design business since the 1930s. The National Radio HRO-600 was a much better constructed receiver but it came too late to keep National Radio alive as a company. If you buy the HRO-500 receiver unrepaired, you are buying a project radio that will require considerable effort to get it operational. You are best off buying one that has been properly repaired by someone who has worked on these receivers before. Thank you for reading my review of this receiver.
KM1H Rating: 5/5 May 31, 2017 10:06 Send this review to a friend
Most should buy one already restored  Time owned: more than 12 months
At the time it was on the market it was far ahead of any other commercial receiver that Ive owned or fully evaluated including the Collins 51S1 and Racal RA-17 on a decent antenna. Those were designed for either point to point and signal monitoring on compromise antennas such as short verticals and the T2FD or similar negative gain antennas.

The HRO-500 also sold out all 5 production runs with no difficulty and only a very small percentage went to hams/SWL's who were not the targets.

I currently own and use a pair of late production HRO-500's plus a RA-17 and 117.
SWL377 Rating: 3/5 Jan 10, 2017 15:43 Send this review to a friend
A complicated, hard to fix but intriguing rcvr  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Against my better judgement I just bought one. Price was simply too low to resist. The condition of purchase was "no post buy complaining, AS IS period!!!" What hooked me is that it did rcv well on some band segments and all dial lights worked. It has some probs which I am gradually sorting out with the help of an HP 8285A. Tuning is a multistep process but actually kind of fun. Peak the preselector, tune the synth for PLL lock, read the Mhz off a mech tab and the KHz off the HRO epicyclic dial. A $150 SDR will vastly outperform this set in most (but not all) applications. Still, something that is hard to define beckons. The radio sirens called. I tried to resist but I just wasn't strong enough. Bit by bit I am restoring full functionality. I do enjoy listening to it and looking at its striking front panel is a true pleasure. I remember lusting after one of these as a kid after seeing a magazine ad. It seemed like the ULTIMATE at the time. An R 390 is a far better value, better performance, easier to use and far more reliable but it's just not as sexy as the HRO 500. I'll likely play with the HRO 500 for a while and then pass it on to another dreamer. This is a rcvr you probably should date, not marry. Her less attractive and less moody cousin from Cedar rapids Iowa is simply a better bet long term.
CT1DGN Rating: 5/5 Oct 25, 2008 18:58 Send this review to a friend
A reference!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I started my ham activities at CT1TX home, living in a small town north of Portugal (Viana do Castelo). He had one of those great receivers, with robust construction, wonderful service manual!!! Remember that at that time (1965 the 1st issued)there was no strong competitor with a full solid state and such 1KHz dial resolution!
K7NG Rating: 4/5 Dec 18, 2006 11:25 Send this review to a friend
Unique, limited  Time owned: more than 12 months
I had access to (but didn't actually own) a HRO-500 in the 1977-1979 time frame. During this period I spent a lot of time in front of the receiver and had good opportunity to observe it, for better or worse.

The receiver was unique for its' time in the design of the synthesized local oscillator. To be honest, I really think the LO performance wouldn't be thought of too badly even today. The LO was quiet and very stable. The many many LO ranges was due to the synthesis method. Remember that National in those days made a lot of military stuff and they borrowed some of the designs to make the HRO-500. The readout...well you had to know about where you were supposed to be and the fine resolution came from the HRO dial. The feel of the tuning knob was...HRO. They don't make 'em like that any more.
The rest of the receiver was - mediocre. Bipolar transistor RF amp and mixer...cross modulation was a common problem. BCB stations showed up here and there due to the X-mod plus minimal front end selectivity. Not real good on the audio quality, particularly on SSB.
Bottom line - I thought the receiver was a lot of fun to use, but I wouldn't want to count on it for applications that placed great demand on performance.
KA8DLL Rating: 5/5 Oct 23, 2006 07:22 Send this review to a friend
very nice radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
All chrome front, man size knobs , excellent construction,accurate dial,pass band tuning, variable selectivity, excellent notch filter. very pretty light blue case. Performance at least equal to a R390A. Truely a classic from the 60's.
KA9P Rating: 3/5 Apr 26, 2004 22:31 Send this review to a friend
Looks good, sounds OK  Time owned: more than 12 months
Someone had to review this wonderful old radio. Like many, the thrill of the hunt somewhat exceeds the experience of ownership. Having drooled since I first saw one in Trigger Electronics as a teenager, the chance came and I bit.

The radio I acquired had came straight from an ace HRO500 mechanic, and works flawlessly. Unfortunately, what you read about distortion on SSB is true, at least in this version, and it's not that pleasant to listen to on SSB. My 60 year old HRO-MX sounds wildly better with the gain turned down - turning the RF gain down on the 500 doesn't make the distortion go away. See Electric Radio for a purported fix to balance the detector xformer if you like to fiddle. AM is much better and sounds great through a big speaker.

These radios often have synthesizer quirks, but a properly aligned, properly functioning version locks right up with no fussiness whatever.

Unfortunately, the two speed dial drive is tiring to drive for long periods, so it's not a band scanner. But I'd do it again just for the chromed micrometer drive, and the feel of the hefty synthesizer setting knob. A neat piece of history, but not to die for if you only want to listen, especially to hams or ute's.

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