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Reviews For: Heathkit SB-102

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - non QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : Heathkit SB-102
Reviews: 35MSRP: 380.00
10-80 tube classic ham transceiver
Product is not in production
More Info: http://
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
HFRF Rating: 2009-10-31
Not bad at all. Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
Compared to the Heath kits of the '50s, it took getting used to the cheezy mechanical construction Heath resorted to using to cut costs in the '60s. But, except for the dial mechanism, this radio wasn't too shabby for a grief kit. I didn't like the dial at all, it seemed really cheapo and that's the control you use most.

The receiver was pretty good, the transmitter audio was excellent, and it had no significant quirks to surprise you. It just worked fairly well.

At the time this radio was sold, a KMW-2 wasn't all that more expensive. And the SB-102 wasn't cheap. An M2 cost a little over twice as much but I think it was 5 times the radio.

I kept the '102 for about 6 months, compared it to my M2, but used the Heath very little. Collins just was so much better.

If a new ham wants a cheap but decent 5 band radio this would be a good choice, but I wouldn't pay more that $100 for one now.
N0CGF Rating: 2009-10-31
Great Rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I agree 100% with KS1U in his comments. I came across a SB-102 5 years ago and bought it. I had to replace many carbon resistors in the circuits, then replace the dial, and it worked perfect. The first builder did a fantastic job building this rig. I first wanted a SB series Heathkit when I was in grade school, but when I finally got my license and had money in 1978 the SB-102 was no longer offered so I had to buy a HW-101. The HW-101 still works Great today. The only difference I notice between the SB-102 & HW-101 is the 1 khz. readout on the SB series vs 5 khz on the HW series. And yes the solid state VFO in the SB-102 is more stable. I did add a AADE digital frequency readout to use with these rigs for a more accurate frequency readout. 73' N0CGF
KS1U Rating: 2009-10-30
Buy or Build carefully. Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The quality of any given SB-102 (or any kit) is directly proportional to the talent of the builder. One of the reasons you get so much range in the ratings of Heathkits is we are not all in possession of the same level of building skills. When I built an EICO 723 xmtr in 1965 I thought I did a good job. When I rebuilt it in the 1970s I realized my skills had improved greatly. The SB102 is a great xcvr for its time. It was not perfect, but all of the few problem areas can be corrected easily. I have used an unmodified SB102 in years past and recently finished a complete rebuild of an SB102 junker. You can see a couple videos on this xcvr I posted on You Tube here:

If you are on a budget and need an inexpensive radio to actually use, then buy this or any radio carefully, looking at the soldering job, the dirt or lack there of, and if possible have the seller fire it up and demonstrate it. This radio only needs RIT to make it truly convenient to use. It receives very well, and the transmit on CW and SSB is fine. I give this radio a 5 rating because it should be compared to the radios of its era. The rebuild I did lets me give it a 5 for radios of this era. The basic design is excellent and if you're looking for a fun project buy one along with a construction manual and rebuild it yourself.
KQ6IG Rating: 2009-07-04
Not Very Good Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
The SB-102 is not a very good radio. Some compromise is necessary with Heathkit to keep the cost low. But, they cut too far with the 102. The electrical design is barely adequate - yet far below that of most transceivers of the time. The highest quality electrical component is the VFO, which came preassembled. Drift is not noticeable. However, a schematic is not offered in the manuel for the VFO. The mechanical design/construction of the 102 is appalling. Most alarming is the friction drive VFO "mechanism". It's understandable why so many slip and otherwise fail. If you are looking to purchase a 102 for purely nostalgic reasons, you may be fine. However, if like myself, you are looking for high quality, high performance vintage gear that will continue to operate trouble free, you will be disappointed with the Heathkit SB-102.
W8ASA Rating: 2006-12-07
Wonderful Rig! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I still have the SB-102 that I built in 1969, and it still works perfectly. I have only replaced one tube over the years. The kit went together without a hitch. I built the transceiver, the power supply, the speaker, and the station console at the same time, and all still work per the specs. I never got the CW filter for it, so for CW I use my new Kenwood TS-570S(G), my first new rig since the SB-102. Quite a change after all these years.
N1MG Rating: 2006-01-25
The dream rig for an early 70's novice Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Great value, solid rig. Picked up one used in 1980 and still have it.
NE0P Rating: 2006-01-13
Seemed OK Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I picked up one of these at a hamfest with the PS and CW filter for $150. This was about 12 years ago and I used it on and off for 5 years or so. It was a back up rig, and to use on 15 meters as my Kenwood Twins didn't work on that band for some reason. Overall, it was a decent radio. It got me a couple of new countries (KP1, TI9). Mine always had low receive audio, and never did figure out what the problem was. Overall, it is a pretty decent radio for starting out if you dont need the WARC bands and don't mind tuning up. It seemed to have a pretty decent receiver on it, and the CW filter was pretty effective at eliminating QRM although 270hz is a little narrower than I like.
VE3CUI Rating: 2006-01-13
The "Heathkit From Hell"!!! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought one used back in the early 80's --- I "hot rodded" it by adding RIT, and a 250-Hz CW filter, & it worked FB as a back-up rig & Field Day station for years...

One day, though, the RF output dropped off ever so slowly, along with the sensitivity...within 5 minutes, it was through! Deaf AND speechless. Try as I might for the longest time, I could NOT bring this thing back to life, even after outright replacing circuit boards! (the "shot-gun" approach to trouble-shooting).

I ultimately gave up on the %$#@^&* thing, & parted it out..

During the course of dismantling this Heathkit-From-Hell, it dawned on me how CHEAP Heath had made things after the generation that gave birth to the much-earlier SB-400: gone were ceramic crystal sockets (crystals in the '102 were soldered directly to the boards). There was no parasitic suppression in the '102 driver tube. The boards were flimsy.

In short, I feel quality was compromised for the sake of cost.

Now, I like the Heath marque, make no mistake about it (I absolutely LOVE my SB-301) --- but nothing pleased me more than the day that the last piece of that horrendous SB-102 passed out through my door!
WB0UGO Rating: 2005-09-17
Favorite Heathkit Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I was just glancing through the reviews and noticed that this rig did not have a very good overall rating. I have two along with the SB101, which does not have the solid state VFO and different tubes in the final receiver stages. These rigs are excellent. The 102 has a very nice receiver and the transmit audio is good. When I set it side by side with my Collins KWM2 thats been totally redone and meets or exceeds all specs the SB102 is as good or better. I think that says a lot. I use a 33 year old 102 and SB220 often on the Heathkit net every sunday at 14.292 20:20 GMT. They work great. I just love the receive audio on this rig. Its clear and punchy. Overall, the SB102 is my favorite Heathkit along with the Heath SS9000 out of 150 pieces in my collection. 73's Steve
K1DWZ Rating: 2005-03-30
Nice Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This is the third or fourth Heathkit that I built. Received the kit in March 1971, finished building it in December 1971. Worked the first time I applied power.(gulp) Was the latest and greatest technology at the time.( a poor man's Collins ) Besides SSB I used it for SSTV a lot at 100% duty cycle without a hitch. I still have it and it still has all of its original tubes and still works great. I also installed the cw filter.