Boat Anchor SSB Receiver

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by W7TAL, Nov 8, 2010.

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  1. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    Apparently you didnt know how to fix them:rolleyes: The 303 xtal controlled 2nd conversion (easily done to the 300), IF filtering and sideband selection give it the edge. All 300's that came to National for service after the 303 came out had the mod done to the 2nd conversion.

    The Drake R-4B is a fine SSB radio as long as you dont need all the extras of the R-4C.

    If you dont mind some overhaul issues, the Racal RA-17 is superb once its running properly.

    Many others such as the HRO-50/60, NC-183/183D, SX-28, earlier 75A series and others work fine with an outboard CE, Hammarlund, RME, TMC, or other adaptor. The NC-400 is already good for SSB and a Collins mechanical filter kit was optional. The last custom run of the HRO-60 in 1968 included a product detector and a Collins RTTY filter.

    Many of the single xtal filter sets will come alive with a BC-453 added and a product detector in the 453 and the IF slugs pushed down. Its a headphones only setup unless you make other changes.

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2010
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I loved the NC-303. It was pretty stable, fun to use, spectacular for AM and still quite good for SSB and CW. Demonstrating the flywheel tuning -- "watch this!" -- was always fun when a visitor hadn't seen that before. I must have spun that end-to-end a thousand times and never damaged it (lucky).

    It was so roomy inside I installed my VHF-UHF converters (like the Ameco nuvistor units) inside the '303, screwing them in via slots in the rear panel, and powered them from the accessory socket on the National.

    It was fun to carry it up 120 steps to the top of the tallest water tower in the County (maybe the State), for a contest in about '66. Built strong bodies more ways than Wonder Bread.
  3. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    It has been over 40 years since I owned/used the NC-300 and NC-303 receivers. Neither one of them was modified and I had no reason to modify them. I got "spoiled" by Collins in 1966 (my first 75A-1) and by the Heath SB-301 in 1967. Over the years I have worked on MANY receivers and presently own well over 40 "boat anchor" receivers many of which I do use. I also have owned a number of other receivers which I either sold or traded.

    I do have both the NC-200 and NC-2-40DT receivers. For their time they are excellent receivers and I have no qualms about using them from time to time today. Frankly, I do not like either the NC-300 or NC-303. There are others who don't like the Heath receivers, Collins receivers, etc. I know that you worked for National for quite some time. I worked for Collins Radio right out of college. Those places of employment are going to have some effect on our opinions of various radios. The NC-300 and NC-303 are better receivers than my first 3 receivers (a Heath AR-3, Hallicrafters S-107, Hallicrafters S-85) and are better than a lot of other low end receivers. Even some middle end receivers. However, I just do not "like" how they operate. That is definitely subjective and others are going to disagree with me!

    The first NC-300 that I used was at my fraternity house on Georgia Tech campus. It had been left behind by a fraternity brother along with a Johnson Adventurer transmitter. There was a small room adjacent to a store room that was next to the main party room. I set up the equipment there and used it for about a year. Then I acquired a Heath MR-1 Comanche receiver and brought down a Globe Chief 90A transmitter from Indiana. Frankly, I liked the MR-1 better than the NC-300. The NC-303 that I acquired I got in a trade for something (I don't remember just what). I used it for a little while and then traded it off. My main receiver then was my first Heath SB-301. About that time I also acquired a couple of Collins 75A-2 receivers which I added a solid-state product detector to. Those receivers worked well. Eventually, I traded both of the 75A-2 receivers for other equipment.

    Glen, K9STH
  4. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    Actually Glen, when I worked for National in 1963-69, I had never used one of their radios and thought of them as obsolete (All HRO's, NC-183D, etc), ugly (NC-400), or junk (NC-190, 270, etc). It was just a job and I enjoyed working on them in the Service Dept or part of a design team in Enginering.

    I started in HS with a HQ-129X, then a Drake 2B and then the same 75A4 I still use; that was 1955-65. The A4 was the mainstay until around 85 when I picked up a pair of Drake C Lines and then TS-930's soon after they came out and then to TS-940's which are still in use. It wasnt until the early 80's that I got interested again in AM and one thing led to another and I have around 300 pieces here which also includes transmitters plus mostly wood table and console consumer sets.

    I didnt say anything about doing mods to a 300/303 to get them to work well, they dont need them. Perhaps 40 years ago you didnt know much about tubes, paper caps, and alignment but that is no excuse to call them nightmares today. I have most of the high end Nationals starting with the AGS and ending with the HRO-500/LF-10 combination. Im continually amazed at how well they perform after a complete rebuild to original specs. I cant say that about the several Collins here, every one requires mods to barely equal a similar era National except for the PTO features. Collins never designed a good CW or SSB AGC for ham use until the 75S3. A NC-300/303 will out hear any on 10M without a front end tube change. The dog was the 75A4 unless lots of changes were made and then it became the best CW radio Ive ever used and its why Ive kept it. It complements the TS-940 on 160/80 when the going gets tough and has pulled out many a new one for me without folding up. Tough luck if the Collins purists get upset when I mention the 7360's in both mixers, gain redistribution, SS Hang AGC, a real NB, cascaded filters, etc. It was an obsolete used radio when I bought it for less than I sold the 2B/2BQ for and it even had 3 filters and the reduction knob.

    The best statement Ive ever heard was "If you want a frequency meter buy a Collins, if you want to hear them buy a National"

    I also have many Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, a few RME, Drake, Racal, and some military. Some do a very good job even today and are cycled thru the various operating positions or parked elsewhere around the house.

  5. W8JI

    W8JI Ham Member QRZ Page

    My first experience with a NC300 was back in the 70's when someone swapped me one for a CB radio.

    I was utterly amazed how well it worked. It was far better than my SX101 and other gear. It was trouble free for many years. I now have a couple NC303's also, and both were great although I parted one out because the cabinet was a mess and it had rodent excrement damage to the chassis.

    I've owned a 75A2, 75A3, and 75A4 also.

    Other than the PTO and conversion scheme that results in good calibration and stability, I'm not so impressed with the Collins. The skirt selectivity, even in the 75A4, is hampered by filter blow by. While they are sharper than the National with L/C filtering, the high pitched blow by ruins it for me.

    The Collins is good, but I have to say overall I like the way the NC300 or 303 works and sounds compared to other gear of that era.

    I tried some other Nationals like an HRO60, but they are unimpressive compared to the NC300/303. I really think the 300 and 303 are among the best receivers I have used from that technical period.

    73 Tom
  6. W1GUH

    W1GUH Ham Member QRZ Page

    'STH said:

    There's another suggestion for a RX to go with an HX-10, either the MR-1 (Commanche) or HR-20 (udated MR-1 for the HX-20. Those were really good receivers.
  7. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    There were Collins Service Notes to eliminate filter "blow by" on the 75A-4 and S-Line receivers.

    Glen, K9STH
  8. W7TAL

    W7TAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for all the info there's some great suggestions here and some receivers to think about.

    I would love to have a 75A4 but my pocked book doesn't agree with that right now hi hi.

    Have any of you have any experience with the Heathkit (MR-1 Commanche) or the HR-20 Receivers? I always wondered how well these preformed.

    I heard that Hammerland's are notorious for drifting, can some one educate me a little on these so I have a better understanding on these receivers.

    A local ham here said that he had a sx-101, that he was willing to sale but he was not sure if it was the "a" or not. What is a fair price for one of these receivers he told me to make him an offer but I want to be to unfair on the price.

    Thanks again for all of the advise.

    Tim W7TAL
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hammarlund made tons of receivers for many years. Some were far better than others. The HQ-170A/HQ-180A (ham band/general coverage) were among the latest tube models and were pretty good.

    Big difference between a 101 and 101A. The 101A has "SX-101A" on the front panel, so it's pretty easy to tell. The 101 in good operating condition and good cosmetic condition is in the $150-$175 range usually. A 101A is worth a bit more, and is a better receiver.
  10. W1GUH

    W1GUH Ham Member QRZ Page

    'TAL said...

    My experience goes back to the early 60's, but in their day, those receivers were well, well respected. Even the MR-1, which wasn't intended as a sideband recevier, had a crystal filter and a product detector and was a really good SSB receiver. The HR-20 was pretty much the same receiver but with a crystal controlled BFO for Upper/Lower sideband selection. You can get the schematic here.

    And, it didn't have the "bad sound" of the Mohawk. Guess Heathkit engineers got better between the Mohawk and Commanche?

    Either one of those is something on my hamfest list. Haven't seen either, so far, but still looking.
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