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Radio Archeology – The Heathkit Broadcast Band Receiver Model BR-2

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Allied Radio and Kits of the Era

When I was a kid my father would take me to the Allied Radio store at 100 North Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  This was a huge warehouse-like building with all sorts of wonderous electronic gear.  At home I would page through the Allied Radio Catalog; I knew everything in the catalog better than the sales people at the store. 

Allied Radio sold radios from Hallicrafters, National, Johnson-Viking, Globe, Ameco, and a bunch more (see).  They also sold kits.  I built a few kits when I was a kid and it was a great adventure to go to Allied on Western avenue which was about 10 miles from my home. (see link below to a great collection of Radio Shack catalogs going back to 1939)

But I missed the whole Heathkit era.  I wonder where I was?  So, anytime I can get my hands on an old Heathkit – at the right price – I usually want to add it to my collection of antique radios.

Heathkit BR-2 (1951 – 1957 )

I recently purchased a working, and in excellent condition, Heathkit BR-2 Broadcast Band Receiver.  This radio was produced between 1951 and 1957.  So, this BR-2 is a survivor of 50+ years.  The radio was all original and included the original Heathkit assembly manual along with all the inserts.

The great thing about buying antique broadcast receivers is that you can use them everyday.  None of my radios sit on the shelf (or floor) for very long.  They all get rotated into service on a regular basis.  My oldest radio is currently an Atwater-Kent from the early 1920’s.

All American Five (AA5)

The Heathkit BR-2 is a very basic 5-tube Superheterodyne.  Or, generically, the “All American Five” (AA5).  The AA5 was the basis of almost every broadcast radio no matter what the manufacturer during the 1930’s-1960’s

The Heathkit BR-2 is a little unique in that it had a couple of different build options.  A single RCA jack in the back could be wired for radio tuner output into an external amplifier.  Or, it could be wired as a phonograph input to use the radios amplifier as an output device.  It also has a switched 110v receptacle in the back.  When an external device, such as an amplifier, was plugged in, it would be powered when the radio was turned on.

The Famous Heathkit Manuals

The Heathkit build manual is the standard style allowing just about anyone to build this radio – as long a you knew some basic soldering techniques.  In general, no knowledge of electronics was required.  I was able to get all the inserts with the manual which also included a pink slip of paper warning you not to use acid core solder.

Manual inserts also included three larger-than-life parts layout diagrams – impossible to make a mistake.

The Goods

Below are a few pictures.  The radio is all orignal.  Plays great.  All stations can be tuned end-to-end across the band.  Alignment seems good.  The slide rule dial is on frequency. No slippage of the tuning dial. Cabinet in great shape.  The speaker grill could use a replacement as well as a few capacitors.  Not bad for a 50+ year survivor.  (Click on any image to enlarge) 

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Written by frrl

September 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm

How it works – Heathkit HA 14 Linear Amplifier tutorial

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The Heathkit HA-14, the compact kilowatt linear amp, is the lessor known of Heath’s linear amplifiers.

But, if one is looking for simplicity, then is the linear for  you.

Check out the video as Dave Larson, KK4WW  shows you the linear and explains the schematic diagram

Here is the full schematic –

Written by frrl

June 21, 2010 at 4:39 am

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“Global” Communications 50 years ago

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Wow.  Try to explain this to a kid with an IPhone

Burt Fisher, K1OIK,  makes a contact from his 50 year old station, the Heathkit DX-40 and Hallicrafters S-76 receiver.

Written by frrl

February 14, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Blast from the Past – Heathkit catalogs and Learn-as-you-build Radio Education Course

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Written by frrl

November 27, 2009 at 1:20 am

The Riddle of Kit Building – why do they do it?

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The Riddle of Kit Building

The Heath Company

There is a popular book that you will see at Hamfests – Heathkit-A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products.  You can also find this book on

The Guide is a very good reference on all the Heath/Zenith products.  In fact, it’s a wealth of information on the history of the company, the products along with beautiful photographs, and a chronological history of the company from creation to decline and extinction.  The book is highly recommended if you are interested in the history of the Heath/Zenith company or details about their products.

Benevolent friend to Amateurs?

Without knowing the history of the Heath Company one might get the idea that the company had some sort of maternal instinct to Amateur Radio insofar as they created quite a popular and successful line of amateur radio products and test equipment.  One might think that the founders of the company had some benevolence for Amateur Radio and then built a company around this core concept and mission.

A good trivia question would be: “What is the first kit that the Heath Company produced?”  This answer is: a kit airplane – a kit airplane in which the founder of the company was killed.  That has nothing to do with Amateur Radio.

In the early history of Heath, the company was a generic profit making business in the sense that they had no core mission to develop amateur radio products.

Box-car loads of government surplus electronics

After World War II the Heath Company found that they could buy box-car loads of surplus electronic parts from the US Government at rock bottom prices.  So, what do you do with box-cars loads of electronic parts?

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Written by frrl

September 28, 2008 at 3:15 am

Collecting Heathkit Models SB-101,102 & HW-100,101

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Going Vintage with Heathkit

Article Update: 27 Sept 2008 Added a couple of resources.  There is an excellent web site by k5bcq on Heathkit repair of many models.  We also found an interesting article “Hot Water for the K2” by k1rfd on how  to leverage the final power anp of the Heeathkit HW-101 (or really any of the SB/HW tube Heathkits) as the final drive for the Elecraft K2 – or any exciter source.  References to both of these articles can be found in the Resouces section near the end of this article.

We made this pitch before and we will make it again.  At the time of this writing a new mid-class HF radio costs about $1,000 to $1,500.  So for that amount of money you would purchase 5 older vintage HF radios and have 5 times the fun.  So why not go “Vintage”.

Going Vintage

A pre-condition for “going vintage” is to have some appreciation for the history of Ham Radio.  If you don’t know anything about the history of Ham Radio maybe this is your chance to learn something about this history of your hobby – or “service” if you prefer that way of speaking.

If you always wanted to know “what’s in the black box” of Radio then this is an opportunity to find out.  If you find yourself as an “appliance operator” – spinning knobs, pressing buttons, and flipping switches into some back box of unknown technology then “going Vintage” can open that box for you and show you what is inside the black box and what makes a Ham Radio transmitter really work at the electronics level.


If you want to “go vintage” and incur the collateral damage of learning about the history of radio and what’s in the black box of magical parts then Heatkit radios might be a good way to start.

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Written by frrl

August 7, 2008 at 4:55 am

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