Hallicrafters SX-71 receiver

Hallicrafters SX-71 receiver

The SX-71 is a 5 band communications receiver covering AM broadcast and shortwave from 538 KHz to 34 MHz in four overlapping bands. A fifth band covers 46 to 56 MHz directly on the bandspread dial which is also calibrated for the 80, 40, 20, and 10 meter ham bands. A later version, Run 4, also has calibrated bandspread for the 15 meter ham band. The left slide-rule dial is the main tuning dial and the right slide rule dial is for bandspread and the 6 meter band.

SX-71 receiver with substitute tuning and volume knobs and missing push-on round metal "H" symbol.
Hallicrafters SX-71 ad pic

The earliest SX-71 from 1949 has its dials in white with black markings. .

1949 Ad picture for Hallicrafters SX-71
Hallicrafters SX-71 ad

The following year, Hallicrafters changed the SX-71 dial to black with white markings. Bands 1 and 2 (538 KHz to 4.5 MHz) are single conversion. Bands 3, 4, and 5 are dual conversion. IFs are 455 KHz and 2.075 MHz. Like all Hallicrafters receivers with an "X" in the model number, the SX-71 has a crystal filter. The 455 KHz figure is nominal. The IF is aligned at the actual crystal frequency. A voltage regulator is used for the critical oscillator voltage.

Ad for Hallicrafters
Hallicrafters SX-71 ad Hallicrafters SX-71 ad

Introductory price of the SX-71 in 1949 was $179.50. The price rose to $199.50 in the January 1952 Newark ad and $224.50 in the Henry radio ad in December 1952, and $249.50 in the 1954 ARRL Handbook. Like most higher-end communications receivers, the SX-71 uses an external speaker. The matching speaker for the early white-face SX-71 is the R-44B. The matching speaker for the black-face SX-71 is the R-46.

This SX-71, likely a Run 3, was in only fair cosmetic condition as purchased. The cabinet was in need of paint. The two tuning knobs and the volume control knob were missing. I substituted similar knobs as shown in the picture above but will be on the lookout for the exact knobs as well as the removable metal push-on "H" symbol which normally covers the S-meter zero adjustment. The bandswitch shield was missing, but a replacement was found.

A preliminary resistance check showed substantial leakage from chassis to the power line. That was traced to a leaky line-to-chassis micamold cap. I replaced it with a proper cap rated for line voltage applications. The screen grid caps and most other caps in the set were ceramic and in good shape. Many of the tubular caps in the main IF section (the opposite side of the chassis from the power supply side) are in low impedance cathode bypass circuits. None needed replacement. I replaced all tubular caps that see high voltage including the cap at the voltage regulator tube, the cap at the high voltage switch for BFO, and the 0.25 MFD cap for the B+ feed to the 6SH7.

As usual, I used a bit of contact cleaner sparingly on the controls and the tube pins and sockets. The toggle switches were all open. The switches were successfully repaired by applying Deoxit at the bat handles while the chassis was on its back, switches pointing up, letting gravity help.

I connected a speaker and tested the unpowered set with an ohmmeter between B+ and the plate connection of the output tube. That check tells me whether the output transformer and speaker connections are good. In this case, the expected scratchy noise did not happen. Something was wrong. Was it a bad output transformer? I found a broken connection between the accessory socket ground lug and the speaker ground terminal. Soldering that connection solved the problem. I then powered up the set slowly while monitoring current draw and B+ voltage. The electrolytic reformed properly, and I heard some AM broadcast noise. Band 1 and 2 worked to some extent. The BFO was not working and Bands 3 to 5 were almost silent.

The biggest problem turned out to be poor overall alignment with serious misalignment of the second IF (2075 KHz) making Bands 3 through 5 nearly deaf. Someone had apparently gotten in there with a "golden screwdriver", (ham-radio-speak for attempted alignment without the proper tools or knowledge).

After completing repairs and a careful alignment including the BFO, I was very pleased with the final performance. I listened to various 20 meter SSB conversations. Tuning was very stable after warm-up. The dual conversion design helps greatly with image rejection on the upper bands. The 6 meter dial markings on the bandspread scale were also very accurate after alignment. I listened to the local 6 meter AM ham radio net on 50.4 MHz. The SX-71 received it well, although, obviously not at the sensitivity level of transceivers such as the Gonset Communicator 4 previously on the bench.

For narrow-band FM, I aligned the ratio detector by clipping in a temporary circuit as shown in the alignment instructions using two selected 100K ohm resistors closely matched in resistance based on actual measurement. I used a 10 megohm digital meter in place of a VTVM since accurate small voltages can be read as either plus or minus on a digital meter. The Run 4 manual notes the use of a pair of 1 megohm resistors in place of the pair of 100K ohm. The actual value of those resistors is not that important, but the two provide a virtual center tap on the ratio detector and must be closely matched to obtain the proper zero voltage alignment point.

Manuals, including a Sams Photofact, can be found on BAMA although the scan quality is relatively poor. The Sams schematic shows the two 100K ohm resistors needed for FM alignment in dotted lines, but does not mention the need for a temporary lash-up of those resistors.

Here is a December 1950 Hallicrafters service bulletin from w9wze.org available via the web archive.

Here is an excellent PDF copy of the SX-71 Run 4 manual from Julian Bunn.
Here is Julian's SX-71 page with more information and some very nice pictures.

SX-71 in vintage hamshacks
Here is a picture of the SX-71 in K5LN's novice hamshack. See more of K5LN's various shack pictures over the years at QRZ.

SX-71 in K5LN novice hamshack - 1963
Hallicrafters SX-71 in K5LN novice hamshack

A picture of the SX-71 with KT0M as a novice in his dad's hamshack. Also a beautiful Viking I. See more of his shack pictures at QRZ.
SX-71 with KT0M as a novice
Hallicrafters SX-71 in KT0M hamshack

And a picture of the SX-71 in the WN7WLL novice hamshack. To the left of the SX-71 are an RME DB-23 Preselector, a Heathkit AC-1 antenna coupler and a homebrew transmitter. W7WLL has more information and other shack pictures on QRZ.
SX-71 in WN7WLL novice hamshack, Summer 1954
Hallicrafters SX-71 in KT0M hamshack

Earl W3SQE sent a picture of his mom, Fran, in his dad's hamshack with an SX-71 and Johnson Viking. Earl now has his dad's ham call. A Heathkit tuner is on top of the Hallicrafters speaker, probably for Conelrad monitoring purposes with the meter on top likely monitoring the AVC voltage or volume units of a broadcast station.
SX-71 in W3SQE hamshack, June 1956
Hallicrafters SX-71 in W3SQE hamshack

Bob WA3TVH sent a couple of pictures of an SX-71 and the long history it has had in his family. His dad W3YML purchased it in 1957. Bob used it as a novice in the 1970s when his call was WN3PEP. The radio is currently in Bob's ham shack joining a Johnson Viking Ranger I. The 1957 picture shows his dad's Heathkit VFO and homebrew transmitter which is believed to be based on a 1953 ARRL Handbook schematic, using a 6AG7 oscillator and an 807 for output.
SX-71 in W3YML hamshack, 1957
Hallicrafters SX-71 in W3YML hamshack in 1957

Update 8-5-19: Bob reported that his dad is now SK and "sharp right to the end ...a peaceful ending for him with no regrets, he did it all! I have been going through his QSL cards and found this unsent one from 1955 indicating the transmitter he was using."
W3YML QSL card 1955
SX-71 and WA3TVH as WN3PEP in the 1970s Hallicrafters SX-71 and WA3TVH as WN3PEP in 1970s

Do you have a good picture of your SX-71 in an early ham shack? Send me an e-mail to the address on the home page.

date: 4-8-12, 12-22-13, 8-12-15, 3-8-19, 8-5-19

A Gonset Communicator IV 6 meter transceiver was the previous item on the bench.

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