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Reviews For: Heathkit HW-16

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

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Review Summary For : Heathkit HW-16
Reviews: 39MSRP: 50-100 on E-Bay
A golden oldie-Get the VFO too!
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W9RNA Rating: 2022-05-16
My first HF rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I got my novice ticket 3/1978. And I built the HW16, and HG10B vfo. This was not the first Heathkit that I had built. I had also built the Gr98 vhf police receiver, and a 25in color tv for my dad. I was about 13 years when I built the TV. Boy that took awhile to finish that one. But when we sold dad's house. It was still working in the basement bedroom.
Anyway I Had the HW16and HG10vfo. For about 7 years or so. I did not have any issues at all. I did a mod, to by pass the filter. So I could listen to SSB on 15m.
That radio was the best CW rig I have ever owned. And it did not have the chrip problems some guys had. My Elmer made a circuit up to remove that issue.
I have owned a few of the 16's over the last 45 years. But they were not as nice as mine. Like they say. You get what you get. On how well you put it together. I have moved onto newer radios. But the HW16 and HG10B VFO. Still hold a special place in heart. 73, W9RNA
WB0FDJ Rating: 2021-02-14
Back to the future! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Update: I've had it going on 2 years now and have to say I am still amazed at how good a radio it is. With the sensitivity mod I can keep the RF at 12 oclock and hear everything. Receiver is quite stable, checking it this afternoon from turn on til 18 minutes later it drifted 70 Hz then none at all. Today I've been running in the SKCC Week End Sprint and have been making more contacts then I usually do. This is not a novelty radio. It's the real deal and if it was the only rig that I had that would be just fine. For the ham who wants to get into the old hollow state stuff this is a real gem. Earlier review follows.

I'm an OT. In 1971 I was chasing other WN call signs with an HT-40 and a Heath HR-10B. The "cool kids" had HW-16's and I always liked them. Fast forward 47 years. I found myself cooling off in the hobby and was looking for something to light that spark again. So I got one of these.

Getting an old rig like this one is a crapshoot. I took my time looking and found one in great shape, with the Hayseed Caps in place from its second owner. I popped the hood and looked around, did some safety checks and all was well. So I plugged in one my several crystals and fired it up. Well it worked. Good output. Two of my crystals sounded decent on another receiver. Most chirped and a couple sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher: Wa wa wawa wa. As he would say, "Good grief!"

I changed the voltage source to the oscillator as recommended by many. It did zilch. I tapped a cap from the screen grid to ground. A little better. Long story short I obtained N3ZI's DDS VFO, built and two transistor amp and made a step up voltage transformer. Now it is rock stable and drives it easily down to 15 meters. And it cost less than an old, used HG-10.

There are lots of mods for this rig. As one wag said, "some of them even work!" I did the receiver sensitivity mod (change two resistors) and the receiver is markedly improved. Also replaced the moribund neon relaxation oscillator and the one transistor. The QSK on this rig is remarkable.

I'm looking forward to using this in the next SKCC WES. It's a fun rig and even a caveman like me can work on it. I got my mojo back!
KG4LLQ Rating: 2020-12-06
Great Vintage Transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I just installed a capacitor & resistor repair kit from Hayseed Hamfest and my faithful HW-16 now works like new. No more chirping or a/c hum in the signal, or a weak receive.
While newer rigs sport all sorts of gadgets and gizmos, nothing beats operating a trusty vintage tube rig. It's operating skill that makes the difference; not new-tech "stuff". I love my HW-16.
K0CXF Rating: 2019-12-18
I loved it Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I got my ham ticket in 1979 while in high school. Mowed lawns to support my ham hobbie lol. Used for 3 months with a hand full of 40m rocks until I got a HG10B vfo.
Most fun of my life! The HW-16 could handle anything including my badly tuned antennas. Deeply regret selling it!
W4NNF Rating: 2019-08-07
I love it mostly for nostalgia, but it's not a bad little ri. Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I went on the air with an HW-16 in 1969 thanks to daddy, who was an old-timer of a ham and wanted to start me right. I actually wanted the Heathkit DX-60B transmitter and the HR-10B receiver, but the pair was more expensive than the HW-16, and while daddy wanted to start me right, he no doubt wanted to keep the price down--especially since I don't think he was completely sure radio would "take" with me.

Anyhow, with his help (or with me helping him occasionally to be honest) we got the radio together easily. To my eyes back then it was a marvel of technology--the receiver was on a genuine printed circuit board--but today it is almost laughably simple. Moment of truth?

It worked from my first shaky QSO and worked well. I was able to work the world on 15-meters with a minimalist dipole I put up that summer (it was a time of high solar activity).

Naturally, being a ham, I eventually sold it to help finance the more-better in the form of a Swan 500c. But I always missed that little radio. And not just for nostalgia. I remembered it as being a good CW rig. I also remembered it as having a hot receiver. While it was not really a transceiver, but a transmitter-receiver, for a rock-bound novice it--with full break-in--felt like a transceiver.

About 25 years ago, I decided to leave boat anchors behind and focus on current technology. And that is just what I have done. But then, this past spring at our local hamfest, I walked by an HW-16 and its companion HG-10b VFO on a table. The little girl seemed to whisper, "Rod, please take me with you; I know you'll give me a good home." It appeared the op selling it was in the mood to clear out his surplus gear, and was willing to let the pair go for 50 bucks. He mentioned he'd recapped the rig, which was good, and also done some modifications--which made me raise an eyebrow. But for 50 bucks, how could I resist? I often have a weekly bar tab considerably larger.

I gave the rig a quick once over at home. Didn't look too bad. The original builder's soldering wasn't bad, though certainly not up to daddy's standards. The previous owner had rebuilt the high voltage power supply, and done a good job. He'd also installed what he called a "keyer protector mod." What that was was a circuit board with a relay to isolate the key jack from the electronic keyer-frying voltage of the old rig's grid block keying. I looked at the mod, and it seemed OK, workmanlike, anyway.

Otherwise, I did some cleaning, removed all the tubes, checked/cleaned the tube sockets, and also cleaned the tubes, being careful not to clean off their labeling.

OK, my second HW-16 moment of truth. I brought the old girl up on a Variac, nothing bad happened, all the tubes lit, and when I attached an antenna the receiver spring to life with plenty of CW on 40. Hooked up a dummy load, and tried transmit. She tuned up normally and output around 50-watts, more or less normal for the 6GE5 final, a sweep tube.

Alright, let's try a CQ. "CQ CQ CQ de W4N------". I was stuck in a key down state. It was obvious what had stuck was the relay mentioned above. I opened her up, tapped the relay, freeing it, and tried again. I hoped just exercising it would fix the little (sealed) relay. Nope. I had just about finished my QSO with a nice ham in Florida and gotten a good report when it happened again. I could either find another relay or get rid of the mod. I chose to do that latter since I prefer "stock" anyway. It only took a few minutes to return the HW-16 to standard grid block configuration. I put her on the air and immediately worked a feller in Cincinnati, receiving a 579 on a late weekday morning on 40.

So, now that she's working, how is she? The HG10B VFO (I don't have any appropriate crystals even if I wanted to try them) seems surprisingly stable and so does the receiver, just like I remembered. The break-in is indeed a joy. And the receiver is really quite hot. There's not that much bandspread despite the fact the HW-16 only covers the CW portions of 80, 40, and 15 (as they were in the 60s), but it is OK. There is no AGC, so you'll soon learn to ride the RF fain control.

Next step? There's a little hum in the receiver that I need to run down, but it's minor enough that that's a "do that sometime" thing. Maybe a little more cosmetic work, though she's in surprisingly good shape despite being almost as old as I am. What I really want to do is try her on 15 some day when that band is open and relive those glory days as a novice.
KC8Y Rating: 2016-12-24
great item to learn radio :) Time Owned: more than 12 months.
About 46-years ago, I built one and learned all amount ham radio. Loved the CW-mode. Now-with all the digital modes, getting back into using this mode-again. Just can't away from CW

Earlier 5-star review posted by KC8Y on 2003-11-23

This was my 1st radio, when I started my caeer back in the late 70's. My 1st DX-station was a guy in Japan, on 15M CW. Also worked a guy via two-way (CW & SSB) at airbase in North-West Territories. Was only on 40 & 15M CW, always with xtals (couldn't afford the VFO, at that time)and a 40M dipole. This radio had a 500Hz filter and great on receive. AWWWWWWWW the memories. Wish I still had it.
AA4MB Rating: 2012-05-24
Great basic CW rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The HW-16 was my first CW rig. I felt like a king, because I wasn't tied down to crystals, as I also owned the companion HG-10B VFO. I bought it from an awesome local ham who helped me construct and erect a drooping 40 meter dipole that was my mainstay antenna for several years. As a Novice, I worked every conceivable location within the US on 40 and on 15 meters, I quite a few countries with the thing before upgrading to Heath twins (SB-303/SB-400) a year or so later. The thing that still sticks out in my mind is that the QSK was quite simply the best I've ever used. I don't remember any noise between character elements and the receiver recovered instantaneously to full sensitivity between each dot. Heath hit a home run with this rig.

I picked one up with a companion HG-10B off of eBay a couple of years ago. I have yet to put it on the air for a QSO (other than to verify it still worked), and I plan to re-cap the rig, plug in a straight key and let a little deep nostalgia set in some day soon.
AJ4BP Rating: 2012-03-08
Love my HW-16 Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I recently bought an HW-16 at the Orlando Hamfest for $40.00 in unknown condition. Once I got home I tried to bring it up with a variac but the power supply voltages were low. Further inspection showed that I had bad electrolitic caps.I ordered a set of caps and resistor kit from Hayseed Hamfest and the parts were at my door in three days. Yesterday I completed recapping the rig, the voltage levels are up and I made my first QSO today with a Cuban station on 40 meters! I love the way this simple rig works and it is very simple to work on. I am glad I finally got my hands on an HW-16!
KD0QV Rating: 2011-10-10
My first kit & it worked great! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
In 1975 the XYL gave me my Heathkit HW-16 as a Xmas gift. I still have the Heathkit HW-16 & the catalog & it was just $100.00 + shipping. I was not even a Ham yet, but I wanted to learn The Morse Code & to have a Short Wave Radio to listen to it on. This little Transcever had everything A newbie could ask for, & at such a reasonable price! I put the kit together with no troubles at all. My Elmer, WA0IYT--RUSTY,(sk), aligned it for me. I used it all Winter on recieve & got pretty good at copy. I took the Novice test & passed in 1976. Waiting for the ticket, I put up an Inverted Vee for 40-M on a 40 ft. pole. This also worked great on 15-M. When the ticket arrived in the Mail, I was ready to operate! I had several XTALs for 40-M & 15-M, & burned up the Airwaves. The HW-16 was a pleasure to operate. Later that year, the F.C.C. allowed Novices to use V.F.O's. My Elmer Rusty found me a used HG-10 VFO unbuilt Kit. I bought it & put it together also. It worked very well also, & was the perfect addition to the HW-16. The station was lent to my Brother who got his Ham ticket also. I still have both the HW-16 & the HG-10 VFO, and they are still in great shape. Many of my Ham friends have used Heathkit products & there are still lots in use. Sure miss their Kits, as they were fun to build & run!
KA4DQJ Rating: 2011-05-21
Nostalgia is a heck of drug..... Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I remember when the HW-16 was the rig to have for the ham who worked CW on a budget. Three bands (80/40/15), CW only, crystal OR VFO tuning, and 90-watts input to a single final tube. I always wanted one but never did, now to make up for it I have four of the beasts. :)

The HW-16 was specifically targeted for the Novice licensee who in those days was restricted to crystal-only transmit, and 75-watts input to the final amplifier. And Novices did use the HW-16 enmasse. Of course you needed a double-handful of those pricey crystals in order to cover all the frequencies on those three bands. The front panel even accomodated two crystal sizes... the older FT-243 and the then newer HC/6 size. When tuning, the Novice was supposed to be careful not to advance the drive past the red mark on the plate current meter, so as to prevent surpassing that 75-watt limit. When run at full power the HW-16 would easily go past the power limit.

Another interesting thing to note is that the HW-16 is not a transciever except in name only. It is a separate transmitter and receiver housed in a single cabinet which happens to use the same power supply. Which leads to another note... the HW-16 uses an integral power supply on the chassis. You don't need to possess or go looking for one of the HP supplies to run it.

The HW-16 was designed not to go obsolete once the Novice upgraded to General. The rig could of course now be run at full power, and more importantly the crystals could be stored away because the HW-16 accomodated a grid-keyed VFO via connectors on the rear panel. Heathkit recommended the HG-10 VFO, which was "rig ready" for the HW-16, DX-60 and others. You could also use the older Heath VF-1 VFO (from the AT-1 transmitter days) after converting it from cathode-keying to grid-block keying. If you hear a VFO-equipped HW-16 on the air today, it's almost always going to be one of these two VFO's that are powering it. Getting a VFO "air-ready" requires a separate treatise I won't go into here.

If you get a run-of-the-mill HW-16 today, you've got some work to do in order to get on the air, and you need to be savvy with electronic repair, or have a good friend who is.

First, the filter capactitors are almost certainly on the brink of destruction. You may get some hum in the receiver... you will get a LOT of hum on the transmitted tone. And, if you keep the rig powered up without replacing the capacitors right away one will do the Pop'n Smoke Boogey right in your face. It may take a few hours after powerup, but it will happen and leave a very oily mess to clean up to say nothing of the stink and the wife's nagging.

There are three "cans", an aluminum one and two black "cardboard" ones. The first one to go "POP" is the cardboard one nearest the front panel. The other paper capacitor will follow in time. So, you've got to replace these three capacitors as a minimum.

Get the construction manual and do whatever voltage/resistance checks you can. You'll have some resistors which have changed value and which must be replaced, any you may find a leaky AC cap here or there.

Of course check the tubes. If you can't check 'em, then do substitution checks. If you plan on keeping and using the HW-16 you'll need to stock up on some replacement tubes.

Sidetone. The HW-16 uses the infamous neon relaxation sidetone oscillator. It growls rather than beep when you key the transmitter... some rigs more than others. One cure - the one I use - is to snip out the neon bulb and partially unmute the receiver during transmit. This allows you to hear your transmitted signal as well. If you want to keep the thing original, there's a wealth of information on the Web about Heathkit's idea of a sidetone.

Replacing the filter capacitors should eliminate any hum in your signal, and it may/may not eliminate the chirp. I would expect a small amount of chirp in this HW-16's signal anyway. Some HW-16's have more chirp than others and despite much discussion on the subject I still don't know exactly why, despite everyone having an opinion on the cause. As long as the rig doesn't go "whoop" when you key down you may have to live with it. If you find the cause and cure, I'd love to hear it!

There are some modifications on the Internet which claim to eliminate chirp by powering the oscillator from the receiver's share of the power supply instead of the higher powered transmit side, and/or using an 0A2/0B2 voltage regulator tube on the power line. Experience tells me this doesn't have much effect. I've asked around on the Yahoo users group and that seems to be the consensus with others too.

There are a load of mods for this rig. Be careful when using them. I've tried them all. Some mods don't work at all, others work/don't work and induce entirely new problems. I always try to remember that the Heath engineers who designed the rig might have considered alternate ways to build it, but chose not to due to the Law of Unintended Consequences. The only modification I wholeheartedly recommend is the sidetone modification which involves the replacement of a single resistor located nearest Q1... the ONLY transistor in the entire circuit.

Finally, realign the rig and try it on the air. How good it is? Depends. Appliance operators will tell you it stinks compared to their megabuck, wash-the-dishes-after-dinner, Model SUX-10000 Made-in-Asia rig. The tone might not be oscilloscope pure, it drifts for the first half-hour of warmup (and may drift afterwards too!), the transmit and receive don't track together, you can use the cabinet for a coffee warmer if you place the cup over the final, and operating the thing keeps your hands busier than a Tokyo traffic cop.

If you are nostalgic, have a minimalist approach to hamming, ultra-patriotic (Made in the USA), or just like seeing old things breathe new life, you might like it. For reasonS I can't put into words, I've been using the HW-16 in the evenings rather than my later-model Kenwood. I just find it more pleasurable.

Last, how much to pay? For me non-restored HW-16 is in the $30-60 range. If its really super clean I might spring for a bill. Peek thru the top cabinet holes at those two black paper filter caps at the rear middle of the chassis. If they are still there, it is guranteed that you will be adding to your purchase price (although I have seen some previous owners who have disconnected the factory cap, and installed non-standard replacements underneath the chassis). Unless you want to make a YouTube video of a capacitor smokefest. In that case just turn the rig on, leave it on and start the video. :)

If the rig has had the caps replaced, the sidetone fixed in some manner, and been re-aligned (and the seller can prove it all!), I'd go $175 or even $200 if the VFO is also present. Although remember that the VFO is another topic altogether.

Well, that's it. I wrote this all up late at night so hope it makes sense. I noticed that some hams are taking another look at the HW-16 these days, myself included, and wanted to tell what little I know about the experience.