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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Heathkit SB-104-A Help

Reviews Summary for Heathkit SB-104-A
Heathkit SB-104-A Reviews: 12 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $694.95 (Kit )
Description: SSB & CW solid state transceiver for thr HF amateur bands
Product is not in production.
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ZS6DJD Rating: 5/5 Jan 6, 2018 10:12 Send this review to a friend
A good radio works well for DX  Time owned: more than 12 months
Hi guys I decided to review this radio again after I reviewed it in 2016 and it is with me for sometime now.

I usually use this radio to talk local guys in South Africa on 40 m. There is often a lot noise on this band in South Africa due to thunder storms which happen from time in my area. So it was the other day when I was on 40 m I heard some guys were going down to 20 m so I decided to give it a try. The band was wide open from South Africa to the middle east. Stations coming in 59 +40. So I worked a few guys and had a rag chew with a guy in northern Israel. Wow they all came through so clearly on the Heathkit Sb. 104. This radio works really well. I was 59+5 in the middle east with about 100 watts out into a 2 element 5 band mini yagi on 18 m tower.

Normally I run 1 kw with a big linear and Icom 7410. So this fine old radio really dose work well and seems to pick up DX better than the local guys.
NB9M Rating: 4/5 Sep 3, 2014 17:10 Send this review to a friend
Latest version w/updates: solid radion.  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Chuck Penson, in his HEATHKIT: A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products, state this regarding SB-104(A): "...has a tortured engineering and political history and suffered from a list of problems so long they can not all be listed here. Any SB-104(A) series transceiver should be regarded as having one or more problems solvable only by the most skilled technicians, and claims of their being in good working order should be regarded with a degree of skepticism." Indeed, when I advertised here on QTH.COM that I was looking for for good SB-104A, I received unsolicited emails informing me that a "good" one doesn't exist.

Nonsense! These radios ended up solid, reliable performers. They were innovative in a number of ways, and clearly a lot of effort when into every aspect of their design, during a tumultuous time in consumer electronics history (I know - I was there). An "A" model, properly built, with the Heath updates found in their bulletins, are credible performers. Though lacking in features which the Japanese had employed(like RIT and memories) the receiver is excellent, and rates still rates surprisingly high in the Sherwood engineering reviews. It is stable, with excellent recovered audio intelligibility, AGC action and sensitivity. Moreover, spurs are no more a problem in this radio than any other of the period. It is heavy, solid, forgiving and very, very useable in day-to-day operation.

The old gas-tube readouts are huge and legible to aging eyes, and the transceiver is really distinctive looker (especially when paired with the SB-604, SB-614 and SB-634 accessories). If you want your shack to look like a control room in an Irwin Allen production, the SB-104(A) is on the short list.

There are several good resources on the Web if you want to get yours up to where it needs to be, and you'll need lots of contact cleaner (as well as a hard-to-find card edge extender board). Ron at RTO Electronics does an EXCELLENT job one these (see his reviews).

Bottom line: I love mine for its uniqueness, performance and character.
K5LG Rating: 5/5 Jul 23, 2012 09:09 Send this review to a friend
good old rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
Good radio in its day. And I still use mine some, works great, just not a new radio. Great audio and easy to use. Just wish it had rit
5B4AIY Rating: 2/5 Oct 27, 2010 02:14 Send this review to a friend
Nice TX, but RX badly suited to European conditions.  Time owned: more than 12 months
The SB-104A! Ah, yes, I built one of these when I lived in Belgium in about 1978 and was ON8WV. I thoroughly enjoyed building this kit, and the final result certainly looked smart. My disapointment came when I first tuned over the 80M band after dark. The levels of BCI and QRM in and around the Brussels area was fierce at that time - with my Tektronix 'scope connected to my 80M trap dipole I could see several hundred milli-volts of RF! The original receiver section simply could not cope with this, and, to be fair, H-K offered us a free upgrade. The new boards were somewhat better, but still the receiver performance on 80/40 was very poor unless a receive pre-selector was used.

On the plus side, the TX was excellent, good speech quality, a full 100W, and despite the relative fragility of solid-state PAs, a reasonably tolerant final amplifier. In retrospect, this was a bold design, offering, for the time, something quite different from the wide range of vacuum tube rigs. Despite its shortcomings, H-K is to be commended. I often wonder if H-K had survived, just what its successor would have been like. Even so, fond memories - happy days.
KT9O Rating: 5/5 Dec 31, 2008 18:46 Send this review to a friend
Another classic Heathkit !!  Time owned: more than 12 months
The SB-104A is another classic Heathkit transceiver that was full of innovation and cutting edge technology for its day. The nicest surprise of all is that many of them are still on the air and working perfectly. The radio, along with the matching accessories, makes for a classy station.
My transceiver works perfectly, gets greats reports on the air and has an excellent receiver, even on 10 meters. It's a keeper at this qth!
K8AG Rating: 5/5 Aug 18, 2006 09:11 Send this review to a friend
For its day.  Time owned: more than 12 months
This was one of the last Heathkit bargains because it was in kit form. Price and features beat everything at that time. I built the unit and it worked perfectly straight through for over 20 years. In the last few years I did get some newer radios but couldn't see simply shelving the SB104A. I donated it and hopefully it (or its parts) are still in use today.

Great for its day. But today's rigs are really awesome.

73, JP, K8AG
KA3CJX Rating: 5/5 May 16, 2005 09:16 Send this review to a friend
Old reliable  Time owned: more than 12 months
Built my SB104A in 1978-1979 and used it until 2004. Had to replace a crystal once and one of the display driver chips. One of the electrolytics in the power supply shorted, less than one year old, and also took out the bridge rectifier. Has been a reliable rig. I'm sure I will fire it up and use it once in a while. For the most part it's in a well earned retirement, replaced by the FT-1000D and FT-847.
N7EKX Rating: 4/5 Jan 22, 2005 20:17 Send this review to a friend
23 Solid Years  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built this rig from a kit in 1982, one of the last in Heath's production run before the ill-fated HW-5400. The rig was pretty easy to build, with the plug-in circuit boards and wide-open spacing. Everything worked OK after building, and I made thousands of CW contacts before the final transistors went out in 1986. Heath sold me the parts (even a blank circuit board), and I was back in business. After a few more thousand contacts, the finals again went out in 1997, and RTO sold me the replacements. Since then, I've had to repair the power supply, the digital readout, the driver board, etc., but all these were pretty easy because of the troubleshooting charts in the Heathkit manual (I'm an ex-Navy sonar technician, and these 1970-vintage boards are exactly what I was trained to fix). However, if you are tempted to buy a basket-case SB-104A from Ebay or wherever, you better figure in the cost of RTO getting your rig going, because it's unlikely that the average ham can solve the common problems (even with a manual). Having said that, the SB-104A has generally been a solid and reliable rig for me, staying on the air for 23 years of heavy usage. It still has the place of honor in my shack, right next to the matching SB-221 (and other Heathkits).
WA2DYA Rating: 4/5 Dec 12, 2004 10:27 Send this review to a friend
Very pretty  Time owned: more than 12 months
The SB-104 became available in 1974 just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, kit builders experienced lots of problems with the early radios. After a few years of turmoil, the design began to mature and the SB-104A varient was introduced. That radio remained in Heathkit product line into the early 80's.

Kit prices from the Fall 1981 mail order catalog are:

SB-104A $694.95
SBA-104-1 Noise Blanker $ 32.95
SBA-104-3 400 Hz CW Filter $ 44.95

I bought a pristine SB-104A on Ebay. It didn't function on 75 meters and the VFO hopped around within a 500 Hz band. I fixed both problems; they were caused by unsoldered connections.

How well does it perform? Receiving, there are too many 'birdies' and a bit more sensitivity would be nice on 10 meters. The transmitter performs as advertised, generating close to the specified 100 watts on all bands and I get good audio quality reports.

The SB-104A is very easy to operate because it has a minimal complement of controls and the Sperry neon display is clearly visible.

Its a fun vintage radio thats also very pleasent to look at.

--- CHAS
WB8RKQ Rating: 5/5 May 22, 2004 16:40 Send this review to a friend
great radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
this is one of heathkits best transceivers it is solid state broadband no tune dig-readout 100 watts out vox cw filter qrp switch it is just a great radio you will love it. i have all kinds of new modren radios but i have more fun running my heathkit sb-104a it is just a good looking radio it hears good and everbody tells me i got beter audio then my new hf stoff what more could you want for around 140 bucks on ebay i think it is the best radio out there for the money nothing else even comes close to it its like a modren radio just put on freq,and talk no tune deg-readout all for a little over a 100 doller bill and if it ever brakes you can send it to rto and get it fixed for around 130 bucks. its a great deal well 73
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