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Reviews For: Heathkit SB-301

Category: Receivers: Vintage amateur

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Review Summary For : Heathkit SB-301
Reviews: 18MSRP: 260.00
Amateur band receiver
Product is not in production
More Info: http://
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
AF7EC Rating: 2018-01-24
Great receiver for its age Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
To be up-front, I really like Heathkits, but I also know how to be fair when comparing things.

The SB-301 is a very nice older tube (valve) receiver. The circuitry and layout is much simpler than my solid-state Heathkit SB-303 receiver, which makes repairs easier. This receiver seems pretty solid and is sensitive enough for most situations, although I don't have scientific numbers to prove it.

The metal can cap was very warm when I first fired up this receiver after purchase, so I ordered the recap kit from Hayseed Hamfest and installed that along with some newer diodes and resistors.

Alignment is so much easier in this radio than some others. The tuning slugs are just a open hinged cover away and aren't buried under the radio like some others (like the SB-303).

The wafer switches were very noisy at first, but I brushed some DeOxit on everything which helped greatly.

If you love tubes, Heathkit and the smell of old radios, the SB-301 is hard to beat!

Will B
KC6USM Rating: 2017-08-04
Sb301review Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I just received this from eBay. The receiver is
Very sensitive. I can turn my service monitor all
the way down and still hear the signal. 20m to 10m
Works well. 80m and 40m is almost deaf. Wonder if
The wafers are tarnished. Not making contact..
Cabinet is in good shape. Gary Kc6usm
N4UE Rating: 2017-05-09
A 'bulletproof' radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Hi. I've been a ham for 56 years and I'm a retired Engineer. One of my favorite things to collect, are boat anchor receivers. It reminds of my Novice days.
Anyway, since Heathkits vary widely in quality, depending upon the builder, I've been interested in the SB-301 for a long time, but been wary.

BTW, I've built a lot of Heath stuff through the years, including such dogs as the HW-17A and the long since forgotten, 2 Meter FM hand held. UGH

I found this SB-301 on eBay and the seller said it was 'mint' but was listed as 'parts only'. It had all 3 filters and looked pretty nice.
When I removed the radio from it's double box, I was flabbergasted. Not a speck of dust, and the original paint was without a single scratch. Even the knobs were spotless, a rarity these days!

Anyway, when plugged in, all 10 tubes lit up and after the usual tube wiggling, etc, I had a very nice cal signals on all bands but one.

The 'bullet proof' part? When I pulled the tubes and ran them through my tube testers, 7 of them either had VERY low emissions or a grid short.

I had all but one tube in my collection. Found some NOS ones on eBay.
The radio did have 2 mechanical faults. The pre-selector shaft was cracked and the 0-5 band position cam follower is in the wrong groove.

I'm still amazed the radio heard ANYTHING with those tubes.

VE3WGO Rating: 2015-02-17
A Very Nice Receiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I like the SB-301 for several reasons: it is an easy to use radio, the big tuning dial is smooth and very easy to read, the audio is good, and the AGC generally works well. The front panel controls are very logically organized in a pleasing, well-designed layout. And as with the rest of the SB-line, it is a very good looking receiver, and definitely attractive on a shack desk. On air A-B testing shows that it is about as sensitive as any of my 4 more modern solid-state radios. Others have published actual measured results which tend to agree with that observation. The IF filtering is very good, although my ear wishes that the crystal filters (SSB, CW, and AM) were each just a little bit wider. I have a good condition SB-301 that I repaired and got running again, and still use it once in a while for band surfing. I plan to finish repairing its buddy SB-401 soon and ready for an on-air trial run.
W7MBR Rating: 2013-12-21
Fine Receiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've collected vintage radios for over 55 years and I find the Heathkit SB-301 overall to be a very good Ham band only communications receiver. It's laid out very neatly and with it's crystal control front end and well built LMO assembly it has very good dial readout and extremely adequate stability. Certainly, the slip tuning can act up but as a previous reviewer stated, a simple O-Ring can easily solve the problem. Collins used a similar tuning system on it's S-Line and KWM-2's. Its sensitivity, with a low internal noise floor,is right up there with the best of them. Add the CW filter and its hard to beat on that mode. The AGC pumps a little on strong signals but that's why there is an RF Gain Control. Adding voltage regulation to the LMO does very little good and is not necessary. As far as comparing it to the newest HI-Tec radios I will only say this: I can QSO as well on the SB-301 as I can on the newest radios priced in the 1K+ dollar range. For 98% of normal contacts the SB-301 is more than adequate. This receiver is definitely NOT a "2".
W1DLA Rating: 2011-11-07
Great BA option...Easy Tuning Dial Fix Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
This is a great receiver for the going price and fun to play with. Get the filters and it will stack up nicely with more expensive boat anchor options.

I decided to write this review, not as a complete review, but, because I don't quite understand the griping about the tuning assembly. TenTec makes a PTO that needs regular rebuilding at up to $50 a pop and gets off easier than reviews of the SB line. Slip one or two rubber o-rings into the tuning pulley on the SB-301 and it will tune smooth and steady for years...that converts it from the unreliable pinch mechanics to an edge friction dial that works great.
WA7VTD Rating: 2009-09-28
Mechanical Flaw Obscures Performance Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
Please see my review of the SB-303 for an explanation of why my rating is "2" notwithstanding the generally favorable remarks in this review of the SB-301. In short, as much as I regret such a result, I am compelled to provide a "2" because of the problematic mechanical design flaws in the tuning dial and indicator mechanism and the dial calibration correction mechanism. All of the joy otherwise derived from operation of this otherwise fine receiver is vitiated by those design flaws which continued unabated for years and frustrate the Hell out of the operator when the dial slippage recurs at the most inopportune moment. Repair of this problem requires removal of all of the front panel controls and the front panel itself, as well as removal of the feet and the case. The part that slips then must be restored to proper position, which is not a simple task, and maintained in that position as the disassembly steps are performed in reverse, usually resulting in the repositioned part once again moving from the precise positioning essential to proper dial operation. Various shimming techniques can prolong the fix but inevitably it starts slipping again. Additionally, the soft edge of the clear plastic mechanical calibration correction enunciator eventually wears down, so that it no longer makes good contact with the frequency indicator index line calibration correction control knob's contact cam. The upshot of these problems is inability to know what frequency one is on and inability to QSY except by erratic, imprecise lurches up and down the band.
Why Heath did not ever fix this problem is a mystery to me.

With that off my chest, I otherwise really like this receiver! It is very sensitive and has very little internally generated noise. If it only had included a basic notch filter such as was standard in the Hallicrafters SX-115, SX-100 etc., it would have been right up there with the best of 'em.

The 301 (properly aligned) is very sensitive, easy to tune, and fun to use. It is great to use separately or slaved with the SB-400 or 401 transnmitter, and is very much like operating a 32S-X/75S-X Collins xmtr/rcvr combo in that configuration. The variable RF gain and CW & SSB filters do a respectable job of helping one pull out the weak ones from beneath the cacophany of QRM bedlam. It can be used with the SB-650 digital readout, but the 1 kHz dial resolution should make that unnecessary. Once it has warmed up for 30 minutes or so, I've found that there is little drift and that the frequency is within about 1.5 kHz of accuracy from one band edge to the other when calibrated using the 110 kHz/25 kHz crystal calibrator at one edge of the band.

As with all Heathkits, the performance will depend largely upon the skill of the person who assembled the receiver from its kit. Purchasing such rigs online therefore entails not an insignificant level of risk. Always ask for high-res photos of the point-to-point wiring buses, if you aren't able to do an in-person inspection. And be sure to procure a copy of the assembly/operation manual.

There is a mod occasionally performed on the 301 in which the RF Gain is converted to a variable-depth noise blanker. The blanker circuit used in that mod is, surprisingly, relatively effective, but I personally prefer to have the unmodified 301 with intact RF Gain control.

I'd rate the SB-301 a 3 or 4 (I wish there gradations, as most likely I would rate it slightly above a "4") but for the aforementioned tuning mechanism design flaws. Consequently, a "2" it shall be.

73 de Kevin WA7VTD
Oregon City, OR
W6OU Rating: 2007-11-23
Good performer Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This receiver has a nice linear accurate PTO (VFO). It covered 500 kHz so you could manually sweep through the ham band without having to switch every 200 kHz and reverse the tuning direction like the S-line receiver. It was easy to align and its performance was first class! Some negative points are the green color (ugh), the cheap meter, and having the components on top of the chassis where dust and dirt settles.
AH6FC Rating: 2006-08-10
I loved this rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I used this receiver in the early 70's, built from kit. Boy was this the best! There was no way I could afford a built rig, even a Swan transceiver, so it was Heathkit for me. This rig was nearly as good as the Collins S line receiver, except for the notch and crystal filters of course. I spent many hundreds of hours listening and sometimes working the world during a decent sunspot cycle in 1970 - 72.

My brother (KH6RY) sold this rig, my SB-401, and SB-200 to buy a Yaesu xcvr when I was away at college....I still want to slap him up side the head for this move!

Never had the opportunity to compare the SB301 next to a modern xcvr but maybe some day. I suspect it would do reasonably well, considering it's vintage and price.

JLH63UK Rating: 2006-03-05
very good why do they not make sets like this any more Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
very good for a 70,s radio i love the valve sets their alive.
picks up well quite stable, signal meter lazy as hell and no way to adjust top end no am filter and you won,t get one i have tried. dial is good but stiff and dead heavy.
the thing that i like is it is very very well made not like the plastic junk nowadays this set is like new it was my friends uncle by the way he.s dead radio still alive good one...jeff