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Reviews For: Hammarlund HQ-129

Category: Receivers: Vintage amateur

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Review Summary For : Hammarlund HQ-129
Reviews: 10MSRP: 173.25 w/speaker (1946)
General Coverage HF Receiver
Product is not in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
KA4DQJ Rating: 2011-12-23
Best in the Collection Time Owned: more than 12 months.
It's big, it's heavy, it's vacuum tube technology. Nothing is automated; notch depth, BFO, crystal selectivity, gain etc. is user selected.

And it works... well. It has more selectivity and selection than any other general coverage receiver I own or have owned, and that's been a few of them. And, it will do it with a indoor dipole strung along the ceiling.

Mine was a freebie in a pile of hand-me-down electronics a friend of a friend gave me. If you find one, and it still has the waxcaps, get ready to replace them before using the radio. After that, check all the resistors to make sure they fall +/- 20% of value (bad ones will have increased in value).

Get the manual and do all the voltage and resistance checks, then do a complete alignment remembering that you need to have a sweep generator for this job.

Replace the dial lights and clean up the inside outside. Someone sells new front panels (so I heard) if the labeling has worn off). And, the old 129 will perform flawlessly for the next human lifetime. The rig is overbuilt, and everything is built to last, and last.

For some reason, the rig performs much better with two random wires hooked to the A1 and A2 terminals independent of ground, than the usual configuration of grounding A2 and running a long wire to A1.

Drift? Minimal during warmup, and non-existent afterwards, IF your 129 has been overhauled. I always zero beat AM stations using the BFO mode, and can come back later to find that the setting hasn't shifted.
N0XE Rating: 2011-10-28
drift over rated Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The Hammarlund single conversion receivers like the HQ 129 will not usually drift much at all once warmed up properly as long as they are serviced, brought up to date with caps, out of tolerance resistors changed and good tubes and good alignment, dirt and dust in tuning caps and dirty tube sockets all can lead to problems, in fact they are rock stable compared to many of the Hallicrafters early receivers which did drift even with new caps, the term Hallidrifter has been around much longer then anything referring to early Hammarlund receivers drifting , a lot of it is assumptions that certain old rigs will always drift and that is not true nor the label always warranted. I have had just about all of the old receivers from both Hammarlund, Hallicrafter, Collins, National , RME and many others the key is restoration and good alignment, if that is done most of them are pretty stable after a good 30 minutes to an hour on, some of the lower tube count receivers may need a touch up once in awhile but even many of them will surprise you. I had an old Hallicrafters SkyBuddy that still works better then it should and I can't tell you why. The HQ 150 is an awesome receiver for being single conversion and with it's excellent Q multiplier rocks on CW, drift in a good restored one is rare after a good warm up and verification it is operating to specs , the HQ 129 is also solid once restored and aligned properly, the Hammarlunds need a few extra steps to be aligned correctly as compared to the typical National or Hallicrafterss, do that and they are all solid radios. I am only talking about the older single conversion Hammarlunds like the HQ 120, 129, 140 and 150, Just my take, opinions do vary, 73 Jim N0XE
K7WXK Rating: 2011-10-28
Great bang for the buck Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Picked mine up (including original speaker) at a local swap meet for song. Rig was totally unmolested. Got it home and shot some De-oxit on the switches, and it worked perfectly. So far, I have replaced the smoothing caps and plan to replace the tubular caps. Its sensitivity is good even at the higher freqs. After a good cleaning and a check of the alignment (no adjustments were made), it is now in my shack and gets used daily. Not a bad looker along side my HQ-150 and R-388. Like many Hammarlunds of the day it is a bit drifty, but not as bad as my HQ-150. A relatively easy rig to work on, this is a great place to practice one's restoration and repair skills. Quality, workmanship, performance are all in the upper echelon, although not at the top. 4 out of 5 is not bad for this sweet old boat anchor. In short, I would not hesitate to acquire any one of the series of Hammarlund classics from the HQ-120, 129, 140 or 150. Given their limitations, I believe they represent one of the best values in the boat anchor class of radios.
N0TES Rating: 2010-06-18
Alot of fun and great ears Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I've had alor of fun with my 129! I have it beside alot of the newest rigs with thousand dollar price tags, but they sound tinny compared to this receiver. I guess that's why professional guitar players prefer the sound of tube over non-tube linears when they play. Anyways, this receiver with speaker is well worth the $275 I paid not that long ago! I know the guy just wanted it to go to someone who would take care of it; otherwise it would have cost alot more. There will never be anymore of these made, so if you get a chance to own one; never let it go, except to someone who will take good care of it.
AC0FA Rating: 2007-08-02
Tough Rig Easy to Repair Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I picked up the HAMMARLUND HQ-129X at the local ham fest.

I first saw it turned on its side being used to hold up one end of a 4x8 plywood table. It wasn't pretty. It had some kind of heat realted paint failure and some extra holes for a tape recorder.

I checked back later, because we were at the fair grounds, I figured the guy didn't want to carry it 5 miles back to his car.
Sure enough I found it in the trash barrel.

I just assumed it would be a project. I ordered a new tube kit off e-bay for $69.99.

I asked the nice folks at Just Radios in Canada to stick all the capacitors I would need to replace in a bag and send them here to minnesota.

Very reasonable $29.00 including Sam Photofacts
instructions. Canadian Air Freight on a seaplane takes about a week.

I put it up on the desk to put in the new caps.
The big knobs on the front weren't turning the dials.

Looking up from the bottom I noticed the botton of the front pannel had been pushed in 1/2 inch
and knocked the big circular tuning cards out of the groove in the pulleys at the back of the knobs.

After spending 5 minutes with a hammer and a carpenters square. The front pannel was straight and the big knobs worked fine.

Before I got started on the project I wanted to see how bad things were.

I installed a 3 prong AC plug, brought it up slow on the variac, and the sound coming out of my 600 ohm vintage headset was solid country gold. The Grand Old Opry sounded like they were right here in the shack.

I was relieved to discover the 129 was not the cause of the smoke damage to the front.

I chose to replace the caps anyway.

It appeared to have been serviced in the 50's with some additional aerovox bees wax caps.

I didn't diddle with the alignment adjustments It sounded Great.

I Put in New Caps and New Tubes.

Crystal selectivity is 500KC good enough to pick up Morse Code on 40 meters at night between the BC stations.

In the end, all it really needed was a felt tip marker and some Battle Ship Grey Paint. Which is a good color for this old boat anchor.

KB2FCV Rating: 2005-08-17
great old receiver Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
This is one of my most cherished radios in the collection. I recently got it from the estate of a dear departed friend John, K2AGI. John was someone who always had that part or piece of equipment that someone needed. I happened to need a receiver to use with my Johnson Ranger II 16 or 17 years ago. Without question John lent me his radio he had lying around his basement (if you ever saw his house, it was packed to the gills with radio equipment, test equipment, parts, tools, wire, etc). I was amazed at the performance of the radio! This radio introduced me to shortwave listening.. it pulled in stations with authority. It certainly had nice looks and the S-meter always reminded me of a 'cheese curl'. I had it a year or so when I got a call and he needed it to lend to someone else who was trying to learn more about the hobby. By then I had already bought a few receivers so I happily returned it.

Sadly, earlier this year John became a Silent Key. At his memorial service I learned a little more about the radio. The HQ-129X was one of his first radios (if not the first). It travelled with him while he was in the military (There was a picture of him in uniform standing next to the radio at the service). A few weeks had passed and we learned that his 'stuff' sales were being handled by a vendor who catalogs and puts the items on ebay. I then asked about the radio. At that time, they thought they had already sold it. My hopes were diminished in ever owning the radio.

Did I mention John had alot of Stuff? A week or so after I was told the radio was already sold, I get a call. Apparently they sold his HX-50 transmitter.. the receiver was still in the basement and they wanted to sell it to me without going to ebay. His wife said all the proceeds were going to medical research. She said I could make any donation I would like and the radio was mine. I paid far more than what the radio is worth, but it was for a good cause.. and now it sits at home once again.

I put the radio on a Variac and it came back to life, working flawlessly. With just a short piece of wire it was pulling in stations from all over. It's a great performer and if you collect old boatanchors, it's a 'must have'.


James KB2FCV
W4PTO Rating: 2004-01-04
Great old rx! Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've owned one for a few years. Teamed it up with a Ranger. FB. Used mostly for AM. I disagree with the previous user with regards to cost of operation. Here's the point: if you are concerned with power consumption and cost, you are, quite frankly, better off getting a total solid state rig. The other tube rx's previously take just about as much power (if not more) than the Hammarlund.

But I digress: get it because it's a classic. She still can perform yeoman service. AM quality is quite good (IMHO).
WB5OAU Rating: 2003-04-26
good cruiser Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Fine old band cruiser. Hard to find one with the original knobs, and there's a reason! They're awful. New replacement panels are available.

Who cares that it costs a 8 cents an hour to run? So does a light bulb! Enjoy the zen of steering a fine old receiver through the bands...

John K5MO
TAILSTRAKE Rating: 2002-12-11
Hot radio, but finiky Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My Red letter HQ-129X was the first Shortwave receiver I purchased, for $35, in 1969, and I still have it. In all the years I have used it, I put up with the quirks of this radio out of not knowing the true potential. I decided a year ago to make this old Boat Anchor the best possible. Having a manual downloaded from the BAMA website is a must.

Since this rig is so old, tubes are scarce, but available from many internet sources. RF parts in California, and Nebraska Surplus are just 2 sources of many. I discovered that after 33 years, that even though a tube tests just great, in a real RF application it may be a dog. If you have a HQ-129X or considering getting one, and using it, obtain a dozen 6SS7's, 3 or 4 6SJ7's, 3 or 4 6K8's, and several 6SN7's as well. Fire up the radio, tune to a local AM station or better yet a RF generator set at 25Mhz, and hot swap the 6SS7's in the first RF amp socket one at a time. You will find huge differences in the 'S' meter readings. Install the 4 best ones, the best 6SS7 as the first RF amp.
Do the same with the others in their respective sockets.

I have found that alignment of the I.F. must be to the crystal selectivity bandpass and not just to 455Khz. This is crucial. If it is not right, using the selectivity kills the radio's sensitivity. Set the RF generator frequency to "S" meter peak with the selectivity on a mid setting, phase at zero. Now turn off the selectivity, and align the IF cans.
Done right, you can split hairs on 20 meters with the selectivity.

With good tubes, and a good alignment, this receiver is a good sounding and sensitive performer. It gets a bit frazzled with images up above 22Mhz, but for what it is and as old as it is, with optimized tubes, it will pull DX stations out of the garbage very well. And the sound of the 6v6 audio in a good speaker sure beats a Sangean, Sony, or a Grundig Yaghtboy any day. Throw on a MOSFET pre-amp/preselector, and a old Heathkit Q-multiplier, and it will run with the best of them, just don't turn it off and let it cool.

It's a great radio if you AM DX, I have picked up a clear channel station in Nashville Tenn. from Southern California fairly regular in the winter at midnight. A good antenna will get you stations every 10Khz from 540Khz up.

For shortwave broadcast listening, it sounds great, you just cannot tune in like the newer digitals, but you can slide up and down from known strong stations to find the elusive stuff.

The downside is that this radio is very old school design wise, and the metals Hammarlund chose for the tuning capacitors and inductors are not comparible to the thermal expansion rates of the insulators. So when warming up, or in a drafty area, it drifts frequency. You have to leave this radio on and warm to become really stable. During this time, the radio is using about 180 watts to just sit there. The higher the frequency, the greater the drift.

If you inherit a working HQ-129X, or have one and just cannot see parting with a working piece of equipment, then fine. Read on. If you are a collector of all original pristine boat anchors, stop here..

The drift can be helped with reducing the temperature change. First take out the rectifier tube, and place it on a shelf to gather dust. Find another old octal base tube, and remove the tube base. Solder in a pair of 600 volt 3 amp silicon diodes into the octal base in equivalence to the tube functional polarity. Plug it in to the chassis tube socket. That gets rid of 18 watts of heat alone, and cuts the old transformer power load. Next, pick up 6.3 volts a/c from a dial light socket wire. Use a 50 volt 1 amp full wave rectifier module and a small electrolytic capacitor to power a 2" 12 volt DC computer fan with the ~9 volts DC. At 9 volts, the fans are pretty quiet. Mount the fan over the louvers in the inside rear of the cabinet so it draws the air in. Now the temperature inside the radio will stay much closer to ambient, the paint over where the rectifier was will not scorch anymore, the old transformer will be a lot cooler, and you cut the frequency drift by 80%, and increase the tube life to boot.

Would I buy one today from someone to use? Nope. The energy costs to operate it don't justify it. Would I restore a non-working HQ-129X? Nope. The cost of repair would not justify it unless it was really special to you for a personal reason. If you are a tube operated equipment collector, go restore a HQ-160, a 600 series, or a collins 390.
But if you get one as a sweet deal (or free), and it works Okay, you might want to keep it. Hey there's new digital tuning frequency displays available that connect to the 6K8 if you want to make a digital/tube Frankenstein, but remember it costs about 8 cents an hour to just heat the tubes.
JAMES_BENEDICT_EX_N8FVJ Rating: 2002-11-03
Great early Receiver Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
A little older than the mid to late 50s receivers, I was somewhat impressed. The receiver performs well. Audio is excellent and every control feels right! Very little drift (all reviews reference AM signals). I understand why so many were sold. Of course, I would rather have a HQ-160 or perhaps a modern version of this single conversion recever, the HQ-140 or HQ-150. In good condition, I would buy another at the right price.