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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Vintage amateur | Heathkit HR-1680 Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit HR-1680
Heathkit  HR-1680 Reviews: 16 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $349.95
Description: Heathkit receiver...companion to the HT-1680
Product is not in production.
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NB9M Rating: 4/5 Feb 25, 2018 15:12 Send this review to a friend
Good Receiver, Great Looker  Time owned: more than 12 months
Some have said the HR-1680 is ill-conceived. When it was introduced, the matching HX-1681 was not yet in production. It's not fair to call it a successor to the HR-10 (virtually any other Heathkit receiver could outperform the HR-10). But as a stand-alone Novice receiver, and properly working, it's a good choice. It's quiet, sensitive, and selective enough. Plus, it has those gorgeous orange dials, as found in the HW-104.

Matched with the HX-1681, the original intent of the HR-1680 is apparent. This would be a dream setup for the Novice in the late 1970's, with QSK as slick as any Ten-Tec. My "CW twins" are my goto for some relaxing QSOs on the low end of 40M to this day.

If you get an HR-1680, make sure you get a parts rig. Non-working ones are cheap and plentiful.
N4UE Rating: 4/5 Jul 9, 2017 13:42 Send this review to a friend
One good, one not so good  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I wish I could give this receiver a 4.5, but.....

I recently acquired a 1680. It was pretty deaf but in fixable condition, being the "2 wire pre-selector" version. I had an issue on Band 10A.
Thanks to the friendly folks on the Yahoo Group, I was advised to do the Service Bulletins. That fixed several issues.
One thing nice about this receiver, is the tuning mechanism. An order of magnitude better than the SB-30X radios!!!

I just purchased another 1680 in excellent condition. This one has better sensitivity, but was dead on 20M. Swapping boards, it appears the 20M xtal is dead.

Once the 'beater' radio is fixed, it will be something to listen to while working in my shop.

K6BRN Rating: 5/5 Oct 28, 2015 01:12 Send this review to a friend
Elegantly Simple  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
My first HF receiver was a Heathkit HR-10B tube job, with crystal calibrator. It was almost deaf on 10 meters, but OK on 20M and below. The dial calibration marks were notional, even after calibration, and it drifted a lot, even after warm up. Frankly, it was a crummy design. I had fun building it, and listening with it hooked up to a quad beam, but lusted after something better and moved on to an HW-101 later on. The HW-101 was light years ahead of the HR-10B: much more sensitive, dial calibration was a bit better and it was a transceiver. I actually ran AMTOR on that rig. But it drifted so much I had to keep one had on the tuning knob during the contact to keep the link frequencies reasonably aligned. Fast forward a few decades and I happen to see a forlorn ham selling just this HR-1680 at the monthly NG swap meet. It looked nearly new. After haggling a bit I walked away with the receiver and an old Heathkit mobile speaker to go with it, for $60. Once home, I powered it up and plugged it into my A3S beam. And it came alive on 80, 40 and 20 meters. Dead on 15 and 10M though. Opening it up, I cleaned and carefully tightened the band switch contacts - voila, all working! But sensitivity was not so good and the pre-selector seemed to do nothing at all. So I went back into the rig and found the very long wire to the preselector needed to be routed AWAY from the case and all circuits - sort of had to be hanging up in mid air. Closed up the receiver, adjusted the now-working pre-selector for maximum RX noise, and WOW. It performed. On all bands. No alignment needed. The tuning dial, once set via the built-in crystal calibrator, was dead on, on all bands. Plus, very little drift after warm-up. I searched the web and read about S-meter problems and thermal/power supply issues with earlier HR-1680's, but this one was now fully sorted, with an S-meter that read appropriately and running as cool as a cucumber. It was said on many sites that the HR-1680 was the solid-state replacement to the HR-10B. Criminey! It made the HR-10B sound like a Coherer Detector from 1912. And the internal design is simple and elegant - just a few plug-in boards and a small power supply. An op-amp active filter in the AF stage for CW narrow filtering, NO NARROW IF CRYSTAL FILTER - and it works well!. Supports USB, LSB and CW. Brilliant, really. A study in simple, inexpensive design using techniques from the tube era (like the tunable input preselector) and all of the benefits of the semiconductor age. I use this alongside a TS-440SAT with CLRdsp noise reduction unit and an FTDX1200, as a search receiver. Pretty much anything the newer rigs can hear the HR-1680 can hear - and it exhibits VERY low noise even without DSP and very mellow RX tone - very relaxing to listen to SSB with. Oddly, the companion HX-1681 transmitter was CW only, and used 6146 tube finals. Disappointing to me. Seems half finished, by a toally different designer. I did discover that Heathkit prototyped an all solid-state companion transmitter that I believe provided SSB operation as well, but it never went into production. Regardless, hats off to Heathkit - this was a superb product, and still is, decades later.
W0EMS Rating: 5/5 Aug 8, 2015 15:17 Send this review to a friend
EXCELLENT VINTAGE RIG  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was the last of many Heathkits I built. Assembly was straight-forward and fun. I paired it with the matching HS-1661 speaker which I also built. Regretfully, I sold both when money got tight. Two years ago, I found similar units on Ebay, purchased them, and refurbished them to near new condition. Love their look and audio. They sit proudly in my shack next to my Elecraft K-Line group. Obviously they do not match up to the K-3 selectivity, but sensitivity and sound is more than adequate.
WB8ICU Rating: 5/5 Jan 1, 2012 16:03 Send this review to a friend
great cw rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built mine when heathkit first came out with it, hoping to get the promised transmitter coming soon. Fially gave up, sold it. Then Heath came out with the hx1681! A few years later, bought one at a swap. Looked familiar, opened it up, had my mark on the inside! Got a tx the hr1681, and had them both ever since. I have had this rig for over 25 years, and still use it more than 2 more modern rigs. Its obviously made for cw rather than having cw tacked onto an ssb rig.
W8QZ Rating: 4/5 Nov 4, 2011 10:35 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good ham receiver  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I had a friend in high school who was curious about radio. I talked him into buying the HR1680 kit. He built it, and did a good job, generally. But it still wouldn't work. I took it to do the troubleshooting. Found a blown mosfet in the front end. With that replaced, it now was unstable - tuning the preselector made it go in and out of oscillation. (Maybe my replacement mosfet was higher gain than the original?). Anyway, the kit called out a specific length of wire to run to the preselector variable cap. This was too short, by several inches - it ran right over the front end circuits. I put in a longer piece, routed it carefully away from the front end, and, voila! A great performing receiver, once aligned. (I wonder if my friend still has it?)
W0XEU Rating: 4/5 Nov 4, 2011 06:51 Send this review to a friend
Great receiver (at the time) if you could not afford the SB-303  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built one of these when new, then the companion HX-1681 (matching CW transmitter). Nice QSK. The Receiver was easy to build, repair, modify. I changed/moved the voltage regulator to the back panel (heat and obscure part), changed the audio amp to an LM-380, changed the dial lamps to (and added a switch) LED's, changed the RF jack to a BNC, added a (switchable) digital frequency counter behind the red filter, moved the AC switch to the rear panel to avoid AC along the wiring harness, added an external fuse; experimented with SBL-1 mixers in-place of the dual-gate MOSFETS (a good mod), added another filer position using the existing op-amp (moved the calibrator switch to the rear panel). This is a great platform for experimentation! What's next? If I get-around-to-it, an internal DSP (audio) filter, changes in stage gain to improve big-signal handling / blocking, improved AGC. Still have it, but want another ('stock'), for sentimental reasons.
K9MHZ Rating: 4/5 Jun 29, 2010 20:31 Send this review to a friend
Nice, Simple, Nothing Exciting  Time owned: more than 12 months
Nice radio. I would definitely NOT get this radio with the intent of using it on AM, though. Sure, anyone can tune an AM sideband with a SSB receiver...what's novel or new about that idea?'s a SSB/CW receiver. Tuning an AM sideband will disappoint. If you're an AM enthusiast, get an AM receiver. What a concept.

The radio is solid, simple, and does an adequate overall job. Probably one of the best backup receivers you'll find. If you have a cottage, workshop,'s perfect. I use mine in my plane's hangar, and it's great fun. It was definitely a nice recovery for Heath after the HR-10B fiasco.

If you can get a nice one for less than say, $100, you'll be very satisfied.

N0XE Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2009 19:56 Send this review to a friend
AM no Problem  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had many SSB,CW only radios over the years that I listen to AM on just fine. This radio should be no different and is a pretty decent receiver even today , careful tuning and zero beating and you can copy AM just fine. NO it will not have great wide bandwidth quality like you find on some nice old Boat Anchor but perfectly usable. Zero in on WWV with any of SSB only rigs and test it, or any of the AM power house broadcast stations on 40 meters some night, works fine. In fact some hams have checked in to SSB nets while TX on AM making sure they were perfectly zero beat and many times the SSB station net control never even new they were actually on AM. Yes if they moved a tad off freq you would notice the carrier, but my point it works and it has been done many times and been a part of ham radio for ages, The HR-1680 can be used with your DX 60, or any other AM TX and will get the job done, you just may not like the way AM sounds on SSB, but for CW and AM communications it will be good enough, 73 Jim N0XE
WB1PIX Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2009 19:03 Send this review to a friend
Built like a tank  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought the HR-1680 used for $30 from an estate. The original owner had passed away. He noted on the manual that the unit was built in April 1978. Strange thing is - even though he passed away he left the unit perfectly calibrated and the tuning dial calibrated dead-nuts on - as if he knew he had to get it ready for the next person (me??).

I bought an adapter to get my coax (attached to a wire dipole) to plug into the phono plug on the back of the receiver. I also connected some computer speakers because my first test with headphones - I found some of the crackles, pops and tones were hard to take through the headphones. The speakers mellowed it out.

Needless to say, this receiver has a better, cleaner receive than my Kenwood TS-570D. My theory is, if someone is willing to put the work into building a kit they'd better get a damn good radio out of it and this is truly a great receiver.

The tuning dial is as smooth as butter. A very slow, progressive tune. Signals are tuned in very well with little background noise. If there's an adjacent signal, the preselector helps get rid of it.

The "function" allows to pick between wide, narrow and calibrated. The narrow is probably good for CW. As I listen to SSB, I keep the function on "wide".

I put the RF gain on full, the AF gain at 50 percent and the PC speakers at 50 percent. Everything just feels perfectly calibrated (almost spookily so).

The red light up on the dial and S-meter is pretty cool. Great for late night listening. The case is very heavy (the unit weighs about 10 pounds) and it has that cool Heathkit paint job which is hard to beat.

All in all, this is a very good receiver. I plan to take it out on my screened-in porch and hook up an 80 meter dipole in the back yard and do some late night, almost in the dark listening.

During the day I listen to 20 meters while I'm working. I can really appreciate listening to some good operators who have a good voice tonality, good manners and good operating technique.

All told, if you can get this unit used as a "vintage" listening station, I would say go for it. I'm going to try to get the HR-1681 transmitter at some point.
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