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Vintage Heathkit HW-5400 HF SSB Transceiver Kit
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The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough to warrant an appearance.

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Vintage Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Kit Winter 1983-84 Catalog - RF Cafe Cool Product

Vintage HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver in the Winter 1983-84 Heathkit catalog.

This vintage Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver kit showed up on eBay. I have been saving the images of these unbuilt kits in order to preserve the history. The constantly growing list is at the lower right. The HW−5400 covers the 80− through 10−meter bands as well as the 10 MHz WWV frequency reference signal and the WARC bands. A video tour is posted below. A Web search on the Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver shows mixed reviews. Some people loved it, and others thought it was the worst transceiver Heathkit ever put out. Of course that's the way it is with most things. In the case of kits, a lot depends on the skill of the builder, because even the most proficient operator and assembler of system level parts is not necessarily a great builder and/or tuner.

The first instance I could find for HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver being offered for sale was in the Winter 1983-84 Heathkit catalog (p93), at a cost of $499.95 ($1518.46 in 2023 money per the BLS). The external power supply costs an extra $1.99.95, and the Frequency Entry Keypad would set you back an additional $59.95.

From the Winter 1983-84 Heathkit catalog:

The Heathkit HW-5400 Synthesized HF SSB/CW Transceiver is aprice-performance triumph

Now only $499.95

  • Save $150 more on the world's most fascinating rig and experience performance others only dream of
  • PLL-synthesized stability with crystal accuracy
  • Patented 2-speed tuning knob with 50 Hz resolution
  • Digital display with direct keypad frequency entry, two memories per band and mode/status symbols

The world's first and only kit-form synthesized HF Transceiver: For every ham who dreams of owning the finest quality, multi-purpose equipment they can "get their hands on." Heath has created a special new assemble-it-yourself rig.

A long overdue standard of price-performance payback: Heath breaks the cost barrier to having more sophisticated, dependable talk power and microtech flexibility for use while at home, in the field or on the road. The compact HW-5400 Synthesized Transceiver is a marvel of modern kit-form engineering design. Controlled and monitored by a custom 8-bit microprocessor, it yields quick-change versatility in adapting to uncertain band conditions. From the moment it arrives, you start an interfacing experience that will put the original sense of thrill, skill and adventure back into Amateur Radio.

Three modes, eight bands and plenty of power from HF excitement: The HW-5400 operates in USB, LSB, and CW on 80-10 meters with automatic sideband selection. Completely solid-state and broadbanded, it has full break-in (QSK) for proficient CW ops, sixteen memories, power supply activation at the transceiver panel, defeatable amplifier relay for quiet keying, maximum shielding on the PA, reverse and over-voltage protection as well as high VSWR forward power cutback circuitry for the cool-running finals.

The HW-5400's high-resolution tuning system employs a dual-speed technique so uniquely practical and efficient, Heath has applied for patent rights. An infrared optical shaft encoder and two rotation holes control the scan speed. One uses a capacitive-touch metallic insert so you can rapidly scan a band in 1 kHz increments, while tuning with the other lets you pick out closely-packed calls for more QSOs over a narrow frequency range at 50 Hz per step.

Beats the QRM every time: A tremendously versatile Split-Memory Access function lets you review and change the transmit frequency while in receive without missing a single word or fragment of code from the station in contact.

Total Transceiver status at a glance: Seven mode and function symbols left of the frequency display inform you of current mode, T/R status, split operation, split-access memory handling, and whether the transmit frequency is outside the band edge. They can be set to one of three brightness levels. 

Half the controls on most transceivers, twice the performance of many: The HW-5400 front panel is clean and uncluttered, with all functions marked for easy operation. Three dual-concentric knobs command every aspect of signal isolation and maintenance. Essential vox and sidetone controls are located behind the nameplate, which flips open at your touch.

More microprocessor ingenuity: With the inexpensive HWA-5400-3 Keypad option wired in, you've got extra pushbutton power and signal-capturing advantage. It allows instantly synthesized direct QSY to any position in the band, and permits fast DX, contest and net work when using the Split-Memory function. This cursor-controlled, single-digit, random or sequential access to any frequency and 50 Hz PLL accuracy improves contact agility.

Matched to this Transceiver, the HWA-5400-1 Power Supply/Speaker/Digital Clock provides a well-regulated, 13.8 volt source of DC power.

As you build the 5400 kits circuit by circuit, you'll learn their engineering details with hands-on understanding. The fully illustrated, step-by-step manual guides you all the way through assembly.

For the price- and quality-conscious ham who wants the greater pride, knowledge and performance only hand-crafted gear can provide, these kits offer the highest value fro your hamshack dollar.

With the knowledge you gain to keep it performing at peak efficiency, the HW-5400 is the only rig to make real the dream of every amateur - a greater, more worthwhile return in pleasurable, year-to-year results on a premium investment. The new HW-5400. If you've got the time, this is the Transceiver!

 Heathkit HW−8 QRP Transceiver Front & Rear Panels - RF Cafe

 Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Carton of Packaged Components.
(eBay photo) 

Map of Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Carton Contents - RF Cafe 

Map of Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Carton Contents.
(eBay photo)

Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Components Unpackaged and Arranged - RF Cafe

Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Components Unpackaged and Arranged.
(eBay photo) 

Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Carton Shipping Label (c1985) - RF Cafe 

Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Carton Shipping Label (c1985)

Heathkit Winter 1983-84 Catalog Cover (wolrdradiohistory.com) - RF Cafe

Heathkit Winter 1983-83 Catalog Cover

HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Documentation - RF Cafe

 Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver Documentation
Download the Heathkit HW−8 QRP Transceiver manual here.
(eBay photo) 

Heathkit HW−5400 HF SSB Transceiver video by Bob Frick

Heathkit products were well known for the completeness of its instruction manuals, with clearly illustrated instructions. During the writing and editing process, Heathkit employees were given pre-production kits to take home and build, while annotating any difficulties or errors encountered. Doing so helped minimize the situation where the writer inadvertently assumes his own familiarity with the process is shared by the customer. Having built a few Heathkit products myself in the 1970s when I did not have a lot of experience with electronics assembly, I can attest to the user friendliness of the instructions. Heathkit still sells many of its vintage manuals for around $15, which is what you would pay on eBay.


Contact Info

Heath Company (Heathkit)
Operations: PO Box 15, Ottsville, PA 18942
R&D/Mfg: PO Box 3115, Santa Cruz CA 95063
Phone: +1 (831) 480-4368
E-Mail: info.2015@2015.heath.company



Posted November 27, 2023

Exodus Advanced Communications Best in Class RF Amplifier SSPAs - RF Cafe

About RF Cafe

Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster

1996 - 2024


Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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