Back in October I purchased a Heathkit SB-200 amplifier. The pictures in the original post show that it was a bit dusty from sitting for quite some time but otherwise it was in good shape and best of all it was not modified through the years. I purchased the Harbach updates but they largely have sat waiting for time to build, install, and test them. With time off for the holidays I was finally able to complete the work and I got the amplifier on the air yesterday afternoon. All appears to be well. Voltages and currents are where they should be in addition to no smoke or loud noises.
With 55 W of drive from my TS-590SG I am seeing a peak of 500 W on 40m SSB which is just where I wanted to be. I’m not interested in pushing the amp to its limit. The first contact with the amplifier was Frank, WA3RSL on 40m SSB late in the afternoon. I started the contact with the amp off and finished with it on with a nice and noticeable signal improvement as reported by WA3RSL. Frank has the same radio and also an amplifier so it was nice to walk through bringing it up with someone with the same radio and experience with using an amplifier with it. Second contact was Scott, K3IVN with a good signal report as well on 40m SSB. Later in the evening I was able to contact ZS6CCY on 40m SSB with a 59 report after only a few calls in a messy pile-up with a fair amount of noise and QSB followed by YV5AL, HI7MC, and J6/NY3B all with relative ease and great signal reports. I was happy with the investment.
I had purchased the power supply board, soft start, keying interface, and cooling fan updates from Harbach Electronics. Once they were all built and installed I brought the amp up on my Variac and there were no surprises and the high voltage looked good at 2250 V. The last step was to build the interface cable for the TS-590SG. Thankfully Kenwood provides the DIN connector with the radio and JG1VGX provided a very nice explanation of all of the possible ways to connect the TS-590 and TS-990 radios to amplifiers.
Here are some before and after pictures of the amplifier:
SB-200 top view
SB-200 bottom view
In addition to the JG1VGX site referenced above I also found the following three sites helpful for this project:
While there is some more testing to be done across a few more bands I’m very happy with the results thus far for the amount of money invested. In 1964 an SB-200 went for $200 which inflating the dollars to today is about what I have in this amplifier. I essentially purchased approximately one S-unit which is all that I set out to do and I learned a lot along the way which is much more valuable than the S-unit.
1964 SB-200 ad
My uncle (actually great uncle) Paul, W9SIZ brought his Collins KWM-2 to my station to try it on my Hustler 4-BTV. He lives in the small town in which I grew up and has used wire antennas on his city lot for many years. He’s 91 years old and has had the KWM-2 station since sometime in the early 60’s. He operates everyday (mostly CW) and is interested in potentially adding a 4-BTV to his station.
We set the two rigs side-by-side and did a bunch of A\B testing with the 4-BTV (and my Cobra UltraLite Senior wire antenna) between the two radios. It was very interesting to hear two radios that are well regarded, though separated in time, operating together.
KWM-2 meets TS-590SG
This was not a highly scientific test. No Sherwood Engineering was involved. What was interesting is that in all but a few cases the Collins could hear about as well as the Kenwood, again no science involved. The Kenwood heard weaker stations consistently better for the most part but that’s not all that surprising as the Collins is 57 years old. Does the Kenwood have more features? Obviously yes, but the Collins stayed with it to large extent in normal operating conditions. One thing that the Collins has that the Kenwood doesn’t is this:
The warm glow of valves
W9SIZ was happy with the test and is more seriously thinking about adding the 4-BTV. He thought his old Collins was hearing better than on his wire antennas at home (given band conditions) and his ears are pretty well calibrated after operating for over 70 years. (Note: the case is off the KWM-2 as he just replaced some capacitors in the power supply and decided to bring it over without the case.)
When we were done with the testing we made a trip to HRO Milwaukee. W9SIZ hasn’t been there since they opened. We’ve made many trips together to AES in the past and this was our first trip to HRO together.
KA9EAK, W9KHO, W9SIZ
Greeting us as we walked in was Paul. W9KHO. The two Paul’s greeted each other as they’ve known each other for a very long time. It’s my understanding that W9KHO has been at AES and now HRO for 49 years. W9SIZ was impressed with the new store and is glad that we still have an Amateur Radio shop in our area. He was tempted by some of the new rigs but he’s been a Collins man for a very long time and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
What did we conclude? Not a lot. It’s better to have more antenna options rather than less and a well-functioning radio is better than no radio at all regardless of its age. I don’t think we can say anything more firm than that. It was simply a fun thing to do with my great uncle and two nice radios and that’s what Amateur Radio is all about.
In today’s mail I received the covers that I ordered from Stan, W6ON of RadioDustCovers.com and they are perfect!
They both are his elite version. The 590SG is a standard cover that he produces and the cover for the VibroCube is a custom version. Did I have to cover the VibroCube? Maybe not but it wasn’t that much for a custom cover for it and it looks nice with the rig cover. Total time from order to delivery was 7 days. That’s fast considering that every cover is handmade to order and one of mine was custom. Yes, I spent the extra money for my callsign. When you’re going this far what’s another few inches.
The outside of the elite covers is very nice nylon and the inside is a medium weight felt material. The rear portion of the cover is left unattached to the sides so you can leave cables connected as you see fit or even fold it under and slide it over a rig that is in a shelf.
Elite cover rear flap
Like many, my shack is in the basement as is my woodshop. Though I have half-decent dust collection and air handling, dust from woodworking still finds its way to the shack. The new radio is too nice to slowly get covered in layers of dust so a cover was in order. I considered a homemade version and some other commercial versions but then ran across these covers while perusing the web. Most all of my other radios have built-in dust covers by virtue of the fact they that they are in racks\shelfs with other stuff including radios on top of them. Not so with the new Kenwood. Nothing is stacked on top the 590SG. I like it at my right hand and since I’ve added a boom mic (Shure SM-58 that was laying around looking for something to do from past music endeavors) my right hand is now free to run the radio while my foot keys the mic which is supported by a Heil HB-1 boom.
If you are in the market for a very well-made cover that is as nice as the equipment it protects I highly recommend contacting Stan. His workmanship is superb and his customer service is excellent.
What happens when you have one of these:
And it has one of these:
RX Antenna input
And you recently acquired this:
And these just arrived today:
Black Radio Disease…
I couldn’t help myself.
I could say that it runs in the family…
W9KKX/SK with his TS-520 station (approx. 1980)
My great Uncle Bob, W9KKX/SK (yellow shirt in the picture) got a TS-520 and all the station bits when it was brand new in the early 1970’s (albeit Kenwoods were gray instead of black back then.)
TS-520 station ad
It was his primary radio for a long time. As a kid he would let me sit at his radio desk and spin that silky VFO knob and listen to that wonderful Kenwood audio. I ask you, did I even have a chance? In the picture with uncle Bob is my other great Uncle, Paul W9SIZ. He was and is a Collins man. He’s in his early ’90s now and still operates his KWM-2 station every day. Every family gathering in those days had the sound of SSB and CW as the mood music. Their social interaction was different from others which led to the inevitable retreat to these men’s shacks. Early on I was encouraged to tag along. This pattern, which was well established years ago continues to this day. I speak with perfect strangers on the radio a lot and apparently enjoy it enough to spend a fair amount of time and money to do it. I wouldn’t call that anti-social.
This early exposure to Kenwood Hybrids led me to my own complete TS-830S station, though it was many years after initial exposure as I couldn’t afford them when I was young.
My Kenwood TS-830S station
As much as I like my TS-830S station and it is filled with memories of times past and will always be a part of my station it was time for an update to my primary station radio. I know that ICOM 7300’s are selling like hotcakes but I’ve got Kenwoods deep in my bones. That and I like as many knobs and buttons as I can afford. This thing is an absolute pleasure to operate. I told my XYL that it’s the last radio I’ll ever need. I’m not sure that she believed me but at least I made the effort. I think that the TS-590S/SG will stand the test of time just as the TS-830S and the entire line of Kenwood Hybrids have. This radio will occupy a space next to my TS-830S as long as I am operating a station. It may well be the last HF radio I ever need.
PS – My older son has Uncle Bob’s call now, W9KKX.