Heathkit SB-301 vs SB-303 Opinion

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by KM4HNF, Dec 25, 2016.

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  1. KM4HNF

    KM4HNF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello all and Merry Christmas,
    I have been using a Heathkit SB-301 receiver, and it receives pretty well, considering I am using a 103' dipole only about 12 ft off the ground. Cant get it higher with the trees I have, so can't even get it high enough to keep the ladder line off the ground. I know that sucks, but what I have at the moment.

    I recently purchased a very nice Heathkit SB-303 that receives equally well on SSB, CW, and AM too. I want to sell one or the other, but besides the issue of tubes vs non-tubes, are there any other reasons why I might want to keep one vs the other. I realize that it might just be a matter of opinions or personal preferences, but still would like to hear what you guys think.

    Thanks and enjoy the holidays.

  2. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    That is a good question;
    I built an SB-301 back in the early seventies, it was an outstanding receiver on a resonant antenna. I currently own an SB-303, I also have a 301 that is awaiting restoration. Unless you live where there some very strong stations I would say it is a toss up.
  3. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I'd say I have to agree with Sue, but with one caveat: The SB-303 I once owned was prone to lots of intermittent issues, due to the nature of the way the boards work - all the many boards plug in and pins can become intermittent. I currently have an SB-301 (paired with an SB-650, used with my SB-401 transmitter on CW) and love it.

  4. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Most SB-303 receivers have a high internally generated noise level. They are VERY prone to overload from strong signals and the "attenuator" is a joke! It is nothing more than a potentiometer between the antenna input and ground. Besides problems with the plug-in boards, the audio output transistors are very prone to failure.

    To work on the circuit boards, the shaft, that goes through the various wafers of the band switch, has to be removed. Without the extender boards, which are very rare these days, it is extremely difficult to work on the SB-303.

    The SB-303 was Heath's first real attempt at building a fully solid-state amateur band receiver and the engineering staff had a lot to learn!

    I have owned an SB-303 as well as having serviced several other examples. A number of years ago, I was in the process of re-creating my 3rd primary station and got an SB-303 before I was able to obtain an SB-301. In this area, with a high concentration of amateur radio operators, any time there was a strong signal on the band, the SB-303 overloaded and reception was severely compromised. Because of this, I doubled my efforts to find another SB-301 and just as soon as the SB-301 was obtained, I immediately got rid of the SB-303 and have never looked back!

    Frankly, as far as owning another SB-303, I would not touch one with a 3.048-meter pole!

    Glen, K9STH
    N2EY and AF6LJ like this.
  5. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have to agree on all counts, especially the higher internally generated noise, which is only problematic on twenty, fifteen and ten.
  6. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    One more consideration about the SB-301/303: "Maintainability".

    The SB-301 was very popular and shares many parts with other SB-series equipments. About the only really "rare" parts are the Compactron tubes and sockets. Note too how much empty space there is in the SB-301.

    The SB-303 was much less popular, and many of its parts are unique to the SB-303. So, if something fails, the only source may be another SB-303.

    Not a deal-killer, but a consideration if your goal is to use an SB- pair long-term.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    W7UUU likes this.
  7. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Another reminder about the internal noise (HISS!!)... I had forgotten that my SB-303 had a "hissy fit" every time I used it.

    AF6LJ likes this.
  8. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think that could be fixed, I haven't done a real investigation, but the problem sounds like too much audio bandwidth after the product detector.
    N1WVQ and K5RT like this.
  9. K5DH

    K5DH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've owned a few of each over the years, and I can echo everything the others have said. Some other things I don't like about the SB-303 are its rather harsh audio and what I feel is poor AGC action. I'd keep the SB-301.

    With a big nod to the Season... Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow...
    AF6LJ likes this.
  10. AD3G

    AD3G Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would say keep the 301 and ditch the 303. Not to beat a dead horse here,but 303 not as good as the 301 for all the above mentioned reasons. I've owned both (at the same time) and preferred the performance of the 301 by far. Just my 2 cents
    N2EY and AF6LJ like this.

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