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Reviews Categories | Amplifiers: RF Power - HF & HF+6M | Heathkit SB-220/SB-221 Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit SB-220/SB-221
Heathkit SB-220/SB-221 Reviews: 74 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $350.00 - 550.00
Description: a 2kw pep input amp uses 2 3-500Zs
Product is not in production.
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W5ZYX Rating: 5/5 May 16, 2019 04:13 Send this review to a friend
An even better amp with the Harbach mods  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
A cousin, who hadn't been active on the ham bands for a long time, recently gave me his factory made SB-220 which had been wrapped up under his desk for many years. The finals were gassy and arced internally about 5 seconds after we took it out of retirement, which of course smoked a few components. I shipped the amp to Cal at in Carrollton, TX, who did all the current Harbach mods, installed new finals from RF Parts, new parasitic suppressors (available on eBay from a ham in France), and a standby switch which is something Heathkit omitted from amps of that vintage. I got the SB-220 back today and am extremely pleased with both its on air performance and Cal's fine rehab work. I've decided to only load it up to 1 kw out, which should help ensure that the beast keeps on performing for many years to come. My cousin never had a minute's problem with the SB-220 during his several years of use and neither of us were aware of the reputation of the 3-500's to get gassy and spectacularly fail if sitting for a long time without high voltage applied to getter the internal gas build up.
KE5GGY Rating: 5/5 Aug 12, 2018 06:03 Send this review to a friend
So Good I Bought a Second One!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought an SB220 about 3 years ago after being impressed at how good they sounded on the air. I bought the amp from its second owner, who said that the original owner was an engineer who was meticulous about detail when he built the amp from a kit as well as taking care of this amp. The amp was very clean with almost no wear at any place, including the front panel.

I've been using this amp for almost 2 years on the 3.916 nets on 80 meters, where I regularly participate. It puts out around 1,100 watts with around 90 watts of drive and does this all night long.

I really like the small footprint of the SB220 and 221, relative to other amps. I also like the fact that the 3-500Z tubes are readily available at a reasonable cost. And, there are plenty of people around that can work on the amp. I was so impressed with the amp that I bought a second one as a back up. It was also very clean and was a Heathkit 'store built' amp, based on a certification on the back of the amplifier.

If you can find one that's clean, I recommend buying it. If it hasn't had some of the more common and needed updates/mods completed, you'll want to adjust your offer down to account for the upgrade costs. The more common Harbach mods can really make this amp work well for years.

If you have further questions, join us on 3.916 MHz any night between 7-10P Central or email me at ke5ggy at gmail.

N4UE Rating: 5/5 Mar 22, 2018 17:04 Send this review to a friend
Fun to 're-do'  Time owned: more than 12 months
Last year I was in the process of up grading my 6M position. I had the bones of an Amp Supply LK-500 that I bought years ago with the intention of building (another) 6M amp.
I did a WTB ad here and purchased a very nice SB-220 from a local chap for cheap, minus the tubes.

The amp was in very nice shape and I was going to modify it for just 50 MHz. The front panel, knobs were perfect. And NO shipping!!!!
However, after checking the transformer, etc, I decided to do a full rebuild. I disassembled the amp down to every screw and nut. I'm retired and this was a great project. I had a copy of the Manual and started from Page 1. Polished all the aluminum sheet metal (with flat black paint in the RF area!). All the hardware was replaced with SS.
As I rebuilt it, I added the Harbach mods with my own caps. I even added a fan shroud below deck to cool the tube pins. Directly grounded the grids, etc. Added the Harbach HV fuse (no cost), new cover paint, just a fun project.
I had several spare 'older' 3-500Zs from another amp. Even a few 3-400Zs.

Results, a beautiful, classic amp that works perfectly and produces excellent power as indicated by my LP-100.

Great, older boatanchor.

I just shelved it and did the LK-500 amp which with the Peter Dahl transformer and new 3-500Zgs produces GREAT power.

HK3PJ Rating: 5/5 May 20, 2017 14:42 Send this review to a friend
EXCELLENT AMPLIFIER  Time owned: more than 12 months
20 years ago, I bought a SB 220 used, built in 1980's. I made all the modifications available in Harbach Electronics. 1200 Watts with the original tubes.
No problem at all, low Price, and it is nice.
Now I have an ACOM 2100. I am keeping as a back up.
VK2LC Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2017 21:03 Send this review to a friend
built like a tank  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought a used SB-220 and it had an interesting history, it spent 12 months on an Antarctic station by an Australian Amateur.
It had most of the mods done, I replaced the tubes with new 3-500zg's replaced the caps and rectifier boards and fitted upgrade suppressors. It had a non genuine plate voltage meter but I found a pair on Ebay so it is now original in looks. It idles along at 750W with 50W in so I don't drive it hard as the Australian maximum is 400W.
I replaced the caps because I figured 40 years for high voltage caps is long enough and Harbach Electronics make an excellent kit for caps and diodes.
Machlett Tubes from Ebay are quite reasonably priced and mine had original Eimac tubes which were getting a bit on and not quite up to the power. I recommend doing Harbach upgrades as it gives it a new lease on life especially the soft keying so it runs with new transceivers.
If you can find a good one, grab it. Might be 40 years old but a set of caps, diodes and tubes with a couple of mods and you have an amp that is well made and performs like the best
W1UFL Rating: 5/5 Jul 11, 2016 18:08 Send this review to a friend
Built like a tank  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Purchased an SB220 off of Ebay from a reputable seller. They produced a video showing all bands into a dummy load which allowed me to watch the tune process and the grid and plate's on the various bands. It had the original Eimac tubes. I replaced both with 3yr warranty RF Parts 3-500zg's. I will cycle the Eimac's in occasionally to help prevent gassing. I can easily produce 1100+ on 120v with about 80 watts of drive. I usually run about 70-75 in and easily cruise at 1100w. It has a few upgrades, new caps, soft start, soft key, parasitic suppressors. Couldn't be more pleased. I owned one back in the early 2000's and when I saw the opportunity at the price I was comfortable with, I grabbed it. The individual who assembled this did a fantastic job. You can't go wrong with an SB220. For efficiency I still think the best bang for the buck is a single 3-500 setup, such as my SB-1000, another masterpiece!
N8MUS Rating: 5/5 Dec 14, 2014 19:50 Send this review to a friend
Original owner K8UA  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am proud 2nd owner of a beautiful SB-220 originally meticulously assembled by Norm Mendendorp K8UA. Norm is now SK and I wanted post this review of his amp.

I purchased this back in 2006 from Norm, he had not used it in some years. Still is was clean inside and out and looked like new. I did the usual start up procedure for an amp not used in a long time. Everything was working and output was at spec. Interior build quality was amazing. It looks factory built. Norm was an electrical engineer and his workmanship is outstanding.

Since the amp worked so well I saw no need to add mods to deviate from what Heath kit originally designed. Then the high voltage started to drop. So purchased new caps, bleeder resistors, rebuilt the filter board, and installed the soft key kit.

Amp is back to full output, I did not buy the expensive caps but caps rated equal to or better and by purchasing the board rebuild parts verses replacing it I saved on that too. (I read all the information I could find first. Both from Harbach as well as Rick Measures. Ended up deciding mostly toward what Rick suggested.)

Though I did not originally assemble the kit it is neat to have a part in keeping this big green machine up and operating as well as making the few small improvements. It makes getting those great reports somehow more satisfying.

I find the layout well done, easy to work on and easy to maintain. Support is available as well as parts are easy to obtain. Lots and lots of information out there on the internet too.

Highly recommend if you can find a decent example to start with.


VA3AQB Rating: 5/5 Dec 4, 2014 16:57 Send this review to a friend
Great Amp  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have a HL2200 which is the newer version of the SB221 but has the 10m MOD done.
I picked up a SB220 for $400 Canadian dollars and was advertised as tubes being old.
Well got it home opened it up and was very dirty inside. I spent a better part of a day cleaning it all up, everything was original inside.
I decided a update was in order, MODS done:

Harbach soft start
Harbach metering board
Harbach soft start
Grounded the grids
Harpen type Nichrone parasitic suppressors.
New Fan from Harbach

I decide I would add 6:1 reduction drives on the load and tune capacitors with pointers like the newer amplifiers. Basically when I set the preset values on a band 99% of the time it is spot on on the lower bands 10m & 12m about 70% of the time, just a little fine tuning which is now very easy with the 6:1 reduction drives.
I have the orignal Eimac tubes in both amps.
SB220 output on 110volts dedicated line 10awg less than 20foot wire run into a dummy load.

Key down:

40m, 1400watts
20m, 1350watts
17m, 1200watts
15m, 1200watts
12m, 1100watts
10m, 1000watts

never did on 80m but assuming the same as 40m.

Output is keeping plate around 600 ~ 650ma and grid around 200~250ma in SSB mode at about 70 ~ 85 watts input. This was just the test after all the mods I do not like to tune on key down anymore than 1KW as scared of burning out the band switch.

The original fan was noisy compared to my HL2200 it had a wobble so some vibration, I replaced it with the Harbach fan but still nosier than the HL2200. The new harbach fan is rated higher then original, faster and higher CFM. I decided to put a 50watt 33ohm resister in line for the fan just to slow down a little and reduce noise and now works like a charm and still a higher rated CFM than original.
I tend to use the HL2200 a little more but the SB220 is my pride and joy.
Future MODS: new caps for both amps from Harbach
If you get the chance to pick one up, go for it you will not be disappointed.
There is a lot of spare and replacment parts still around and a wealth of information on the Heathkit amps Yahoo group who can help you with any issues you may run into.


N0TES Rating: 5/5 Sep 22, 2014 19:11 Send this review to a friend
Work horse! Great for testing the limits  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have this hooked up to a 220v 30a service outlet and purposely melt down antenna systems with it. It's a wonderful, even artistic, piece of equipment. It is fitting that it be used to create antenna systems by testing their limits. My amp gets to destroy and create new antenna systems for amateur radio operators. How cool is that? Now, imagine the abuse this amp has taken, for the last 7 years. It performs without a glitch even after all of what we use it for. So, I know what I am saying when I tell you, it'll serve you well.
N8WGM Rating: 5/5 Sep 10, 2014 22:43 Send this review to a friend
3-500 powerhouse  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just picked up the Heathkit SB220 and it is one hell of an amplifier. Has most of the Harbach mods and outputs around 1400 watts on 80 meters.

Been getting great signal reports using this amp and a home brewed hex beam. It outputs about 1200 watts on 17 meters and 1300 on 20 meters. I really like the tubes, specifically the Eimac 3-500Z tubes that are the originals for this amp. Even though they are over 30 years old, because they were used lightly for most of their lives, they are still strong after all these years.

The original colors of light green and darker green are kind of ugly and so when this amp came up for sale (Black face plate and light gray case colors) I bought it. The amp has all the mods except for soft start. Probably does not need it as the amp and tubes can handle the current surge easily. I may end up adding it anyways as insurance.

This amplifier deserves the "5" of all the reviews. Probably one of the best amps ever made for the price. If money is no object, then the Alpha's would be the amp to get but for the rest of us, the Heathkit SB220 is an amp that can hold its own against all the others.
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