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Reviews For: Heathkit HW-101

Category: Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W

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Review Summary For : Heathkit HW-101
Reviews: 48MSRP: 399.00
The HW-101 is an HF (80 to 10 meter) amateur band SSB transceiv
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
K7LZR Rating: 2017-02-27
Good, basic, functional radio Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned & used 5 of these radios over the years. Most of them needed repairs, and after performing same and using them for awhile, I eventually moved on to newer rigs.

I had one left, and it sat on my repair shelf here for just over 5 years. I finally decided to restore it and try it out. Took about two weeks to find all of the problems - it had many - and acquire needed parts. After finishing, it sits proudly on the operating table here and works very well.

I had forgotten just how well these rigs can perform. My HW-101 puts out 100-125 watts and sounds very nice on SSB with a high impedance ceramic hand microphone. The transmitted CW carrier is also very sharp & clean. The VFO is very stable after a 5-10min. warm up period. The receiver is quite sensitive as well, and it seems to hear most signals as well as my modern radios do.

To compare this to other rigs from its own time, I have also owned/used several Collins KWM-2 and Drake TR-3/4 series radios. I find that a properly built & aligned Heathkit HW-101 performs just as well as any of them for casual operating.

The HW-101 is also very easy to work on with its pc board construction which places most all of the parts on top of the chassis and within easy reach. The KWM-2 & Drake rigs use point-to-point wiring and component density is very high underneath the chassis which can make them hard to repair when needed.

After using many modern radios for years, I find that returning to the HW-101 feels wonderful. Even in this day of digital everything, the HW-101 is still a usable and enjoyable rig.
KI7AQJ Rating: 2016-06-09
Great fun & valve powered to boot! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I can't compare this to a modern transceiver just like I won't compare modern vacuum tubes made in China, Russia, Slovakia, or the Czech Repulic to new old stock vacuum tubes. These used a 6146 as a final RF power tube, and a 6146B should drop right in and Shuguang is making those. Besides the Shuguangs, a pretty good assortment of NOS used valves are still out there, and at decent prices. I have built, rebuilt and modified quite a few Heathkits, going back to when there was a Zenith Heathkit store about a mile from my house. These are just a solid little kit radio! I say little and I own a Yeasu 857 & 897, but I remember old hams that had transmitters the size of a refrigerator. I was building crystal radios as a child, and rebuilding guitar amps as a teenager, and I mean starting at age 13 too. If you follow the instructions, use an antenna tuner, or analyzer, these will work just fine. Grabbing an old one and firing it up expecting it to work, may be a problem. Bring it up on a Variac, and see what happens, read the manual, & work from there, and these are quite serviceable transceivers. If you have the speaker/power supply, BONUS POINTS! Not bad audio, but there are some tubes that can be substituted with or without rewiring sockets that make 10 meters work better and more reliably. I could not legally transmit until fairly recently, but I built a lot of Heathkit stuff for a lot of people, from TVs to clocks, to ham equipment, and I have probably repaired far more than I have built. These are a joy to repair. No microscope, no special SMD tools, just some basic test gear, hand tools, & solder. Follow the instructions, and these can last a very long time, and give quite good service. This stuff is old, so it will drift, but it is still very usable, repairable, and it just works. You can fix it and it will work again, and again. A neat old transceiver for back when electronics still had "user serviceable" parts inside. These were made back when things were made in such a way they could be repaired, and not just thrown away! I don't know how much about electronics you actually learned from building Heathkit stuff, aside from soldering skills, but you learned how to properly operate a valve transmitter with this one, or you wound up having someone like me fix it. Will components go out on these? You bet! Either they are getting old, you are doing something wrong, or both. Make sure you have the manual with this one! Be sure and read it too! Follow the instructions contained therein, and these are darn good little transceiver, especially for the time they were built, and at the price they sold for.
N7BAV Rating: 2016-03-27
Very Dated Design Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My first exposure to the HW-101 was in the 70's when my Elmer Leo, W7TMI (SK) lent me one to get me on the air. I worked over 20 states that year on CW with my Novice license using that radio. More recently I found one at a hamfest and with the help of a friend brought it back to life. I have it side by side with some other vintage equipment that allows me to do A/B comparisons with the flip of an antenna switch. The HW-101 receiver always loses in these contests. I love the old thing just for what it is but it is not a great radio. The design is very dated but easy to work on. Any used solid state radio in working condition is a better choice if you are looking to get into Ham Radio. If you do buy one, remember it will not work without it's own specialized power supply. Don't pay to much, these are not much of a collectors item.
KK4MRN Rating: 2015-03-27
Good HF transceiver that glows Time Owned: more than 12 months.
A ham gave me his old Heathkit HW-101 and HP-23 power supply. It did not work. Some local hams (Elmers) helped me get the receiver working. Then eventually the transmitter. One ham came over to show me how to set it up and make a contact - first contact was a ham in the state of New York on 40 meters. So from Richmond, Virginia to New York is not bad.

If you REALLY want to learn about HF and what it takes to get on the air - this is a radio to learn. I had to learn how to tune the radio for receiving before you do anything else, such as, use the Preselector to peak the noise. The Manual for the HW-101 tells you how to do this in the chapter on Operating. The manual also tells you how to diagnose issues and fix them. This same manual was used by a ham in the past to build the radio - so you KNOW exactly what is in the radio.

I have a Heathkit SA-2040 Antenna Tuner too. So, I learned how to properly tune the radio for low SWR.

This is not something you can get from a book or watching a video online. Well, maybe you can, but there is nothing like getting hands on advice from various Elmers in person showing you how to properly operate a radio.

Sure, the HW-101 does not compare to the bells and whistles in modern solid state radios, but this radio was a great starter rig for me.

Yes, the HW-101 drifts, but you just leave the radio on for awhile to warm up then it is not so bad. Besides, if you get on a rag chew on 80 or 40 meters, most hams won't care that you drift if they know you are using old gear.

Plus, the radio glows in the dark... lights up the room... And has that old tube smell after using it awhile...
K4JPN Rating: 2015-02-25
Great Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Built my HW-101 way back in 1976 and used it continuously for the next 26 years till I built my K2. Developed a number of mods for it and have all the service bulletins on my web page.

Mods and Service Bulletins at:

Pictures of my HW-101 at:

I saw someone wanted a RIT for it, send me a EMail and I will send the 73 Magazine article for RIT. I put it in and worked great. See the picture of my web page of the two knobs on either side of the S Meter, this is the RIT.

Along the way I picked up the Heath Digital Readout which made it really sweet.

I used a D-104 mic, found that the 6EA8 in the first stage of transmitter audio could be a problem with spurs on 10M and lack of drive. You can swap out the 6EA8 for a 6CQ8 with no rewiring and get plenty of audio drive and eliminate the problem of spurs on 10M.
N5KPK Rating: 2015-02-24
Love it! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Can it compare to my FT-950? No. But there's something about the tube radios the beckons. I don't know if it's the glow, the smell, or actually having to work to tune it up. I have spent many enjoyable hours with this radio. Mine came from the estate of a SK. I'm the 3rd owner and the two previous owners took very good care of her. Mine came with the manuals and SB-600 pwr supply/speaker. I did do the mod for the headphone jack to allow "modern" headphones to be used. I have had people with $multi-K radios remark how good it sounded and when they ask what I'm running and I tell them, you can hear crickets chirping. No it doesn't have the fancy stuff we're all used to and take for granted and spoiled with. But when it needs work, you will be able to work on it and have the room to do so. Do I still use it? Yes. Will I ever stop using it? I seriously doubt it. If you are new to the hobby and new to HF, get one and keep it at least for a while and learn how a real radio works ;)
WB7QXU Rating: 2013-12-04
Great Transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I love to use my Hw-101 it is really fantastic and hears well. Great Audio and Great overall. The Receiver is every bit as sensitive and my Collins and Drakes. It is a Hot Receiver and amazing for a Kit back then and the cost was so much cheaper than more expensive rigs. As far as I am concerned it will hold up to any more expensive rig in its day and even do well with Icom. I also have a SB-102 which is also amazing. This is no slouch but a tough Rig. 6146 are real great finals and it takes a beating and still works.
KG4LLQ Rating: 2013-12-04
Great Transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned my HW-101 for 5 years. Bought it at a hamfest & sent it to Ron Oxley, RTO Electronics for a complete rebuild, alignment, etc. Ron does excellent work & his work on my HW-101 was no exception. I rebuilt the power supply myself with parts from Bought an Astatic high impedance mike with stand for a true "vintage" look. I still get on the air with this rig every week and enjoy getting great audio reports. Mainly I operate CW so I'll drop down the band to have a CW QSO too. I love twisting knobs so tuning this radio for operation is fun & rewarding.
N2DM Rating: 2012-06-30
very fine rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Update to my June 2005 review: This rig still plugging along well.
6HS6 tubes hard to find. May be replaced by 6AU6, with loss of gain on 15m and up. OR: may be replaced with a pair of 6AH6's. Hardly notice difference of gain compared to 6HS6's. A whole lot cheaper and eaiser to find. Plug and Play replacement, I did not find realingment needed(YMMV). Good rig.

Earlier 4-star review posted by N2DM on 2005-11-16

In 1976, purchased and built the HW-101 kit. Didn't work at first, passed all the resistance measurements in the manual. Took it to Heathkit store in Buffalo and they found I had received defective 6au6 tubes. They gave me replacements and we were off and running. Was main rig until 1981 when I got a Kenwood. Still have the HW-101 today, works as good as it did in 76 and it can be fixed by an old guy with failing vision (me). This will be the last item to go before they plant me. Just used it in the 2005 November SS, CW contest. Good solid, user friendly rig. 73, Dale.
YC1RHS Rating: 2012-06-10
wew.... vintage transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My first antique transceiver from Heathkit that I get from one station in the amateur club usa, reception is very good and quite sensitive. where we only have two people who use this device other than me is my friend joy/yb0nsi.