Heathkit: Live, Die, Repeat

There is no company that has earned more goodwill from electronic tinkering hobbyists than Heathkit. For more than fifty years, Heathkit has been the measure all other electronic kit manufacturers have been compared to. Kits for everything – from televisions to radios to computer terminals – were all sold by Heathkit, and even now, nearly a quarter century since the last kit left the warehouse, there is still a desire for this manufacturer to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Heathkit lives once more, and this time it might be for real.

In recent years, Heathkit has had a confusing, if not troubled business plan. The company started manufacturing its signature products – electronic kits of every kind – in 1947. Production of these kits ended in 1992, and the company went on for another few years manufacturing educational materials and lighting controls. In 2011, Heathkit said they were back in the kit business, before shutting down a year later.

In 2013, an official Heathkit Facebook page was launched, a reddit AMA was held, and a mysterious stranger in the Hackaday comments section found a geocache placed by someone at Heathkit in a Brooklyn park. Absolutely nothing happened in 2014, or at least no one cared enough to hire a PI, which brings us to today’s announcement: Heathkit lives yet again.

This morning, the president of Heathkit sent a message to the ‘Heathkit Insiders’ email group explaining the goings on and new happenings:

We’ve designed and developed a wide range of entirely new kit products. We authored the manuals for these kits, complete with the beautiful line art you rely on, preserving and respecting our iconic historic Heathkit style. We developed many new inventions and filed patents on them. We relocated Heathkit, and set up a factory, and a warehouse, and offices, in Santa Cruz, California, near Silicon Valley. We built the back office infrastructure, vendor and supply chain relationships, systems, procedures, operations methods, and well-thought-out corporate structure that a manufacturing company needs to support its customers, to allow us to scale instantly the day we resume major kit sales. All this effort enables us to introduce a fleet of new kits and helps ensure Heathkit can grow, prosper, and continue to bring you great new products for a very long time.

The new Heathkit shop features their newest product, the Explorer Jr. AM Radio Receiver kit, a small kit radio available for $150. It’s actually a rather interesting kit with a nice design and an air variable cap for tuning, just like radios from a century ago. Whether anyone will pay $150 for an AM receiver in this century is another question entirely. The 21st century rebirth of Heathkit doesn’t just mean kits; they’re making apps now, with the first release being a crystal design tool for Android.

Virtually everyone in this little corner of the Internet, from Adafruit to Sparkfun, to Make magazine to everyone with a 3D printer owes a debt to Heathkit. This is the company that first turned DIY electronics into a successful business. Heathkit was the first, and they deserve to be recognized as the pioneers of the field.

The Donner Party were pioneers, too; just because you’re breaking new ground doesn’t mean you’re successful. The Heathkit of the 90s shuttered its doors for a reason. The factors behind the 1992 closing – cheap stuff from China, and the fact that not many people want to build their own electronics – are still with us. Still, the market for DIY electronics may be big enough, and Heathkit’s back catalog may be diverse enough that I won’t have to write another ‘Heathkit dies yet again’ post in a year or so. We can only hope.

88 thoughts on “Heathkit: Live, Die, Repeat

  1. Except it isn’t ‘our’ iconic line art is it, someone just bought the Heathkit trademarks and has started a new business with it. It is good to see the old name used again but it has no relation to the old Heathkit, the engineers that created those kits are long gone.

      1. It hasn’t been 80 years since they have been out of business. I used to go to the Heathkit store near me in the ’70s and ’80s. Also, their HERO 1 robot got a tremendous amount of press when it was released in 1979/1980.

        Also, to be realistic, wasn’t that a Radio Shack brand?

    1. True, those engineers are long gone but ironically their product debut is an AM Radio; they must be channeling them. I’m not sure why they chose such a … lackluster product. I’m not sure why their charging $150 for it either; my cost estimation for producing it, engineering aside, is something between $15 and $25 per unit. I get that they need to recover a lot of start-up costs. I get that [they think] they’ll be lots of demand for reasons of pure nostalgia. I just don’t think they hit they right price point. And certainly not the right product for the modern age. I’m not sure what is.

      Anyway, I’m not hating on them.

      1. A simple AM radio is a very easy thing to build. And yet.. it actually does something. It’s a bit of a stretch but you might even find something you actually want to listen to. On the other hand you can only watch an LED blink for so long.

        Now a $150 AM radio… Yah… I’m at a loss to defend that one. If that’s representative of what they have to offer I won’t be getting my hopes up for a Heathkit revival.

  2. I’ve got a Heathkit DC power supply sitting on my bench and it is one of my most favorite things. I really hope they get their act together and keep it going again. Adafruit’s project kits and instructions are the only thing really close nowadays and it would be great to get a little more into the analog side.

    1. “They” are no longer around. This is an entirely new entity with the same name. The new “they” would do good to focus on addons for the latest hobby fad, say, IOT or whatever fruity device is all the craze. Like the writer stated, $150 for an AM radio is pricy and who would want it? Not saying its a bad idea, just saying I would frown if I was looking for a first electronic kit to learn by. But, something that kids can build, code, learn and show off, mommy and daddy might throw in for. Just saying, design for the present, what’s hot, what’s “now”.

      1. I understand that Heathkit as it was no longer exists and that it is just a rebrand. But, what made Heathkits awesome were how the projects and instruction manuals were laid out.

        As far as jumping into new technologies like internet connected jazz, they are going to struggle. There are endless other big name competitors like Adafruit, Sparkfun, Seeed, and buckets and buckets of small name guys. Connecting a microcontroller to another I2C or UART device and get them talking is not terribly hard to do – most digital comms and devices are exceedingly simple compared to anything analog. This is where I would love to see the Heathkits come in – for analog devices.

        True, an AC radio is perhaps not the most exciting thing, but that is far from the point. It’s about getting a chance to play with and learn things you would not otherwise have the opportunity for. I can’t say there is an AC radio kit on Sparkfun… There are a bunch of great analog things that they could go to like tube guitar amplifiers and effects pedals.

        1. ^ This.
          Furthermore, if they were to develop ham radio gear and test equipment like they used to, they would be filling a couple of niches that are currently somewhat vacant in the marketplace. No one makes decent ham radio kits, it’s all QRP stuff, and no one at all (as far as I know) makes test equipment kits at this time.

          1. Put me down for a Vector Network Analyser (VNA) that does 100KHz – 500MHz, with options to reach the GHz range.
            I’ll happily start with something like the Poor Hams Scalar Network Analyser (PHSNA), then build it up and extend it.

          1. Eh…. I’m not sure I agree with that. Almost all Velleman kits are just different configurations of LEDs and a pre-programmed microcontroller. They are fun for sure, but not really much of a learning platform or educational experience beyond learning soldering skills.

            (Side note, but Adafruit doesn’t sell Velleman kits anymore.)

          2. Responding to A_Steingrube comments…
            I DAGS on Velleman just before I posted the above comment and was pointed to the Adafruit website. I didn’t follow it.

            20 years ago I built a Velleman DVM kit, but when I tried to test the 120 VAC wall outlet it gave a loud BANG! and went blank. Opening it up I discovered one of the resistors mounted vertically from the PCB touched the grounding shield on the back cover. Replacing the blown resistor and jumpering a blown trace put it back in business for another 10 years or so…

            I also built a Velleman wireless doorbell kit which didn’t work.

          3. Velleman is a passable effort to fill an empty niche, but their decision-makers were never bold enough to take risks… and we can see where they ended up. They’re mediocre and completing one of their kits doesn’t leave you wanting to build another.

            Ramsey really was the most worthy heir-apparent, and they’ve done pretty well for themselves for a good while. If the new Heathkit can surpass Ramsey’s level, they’ll be just fine.

  3. I built a number of their kits back in the day. I’d love for them to come back, but I won’t hold my breath. More teasing, most likely. They really need to step up and do it right, or let it die while us old timers still have a fond memory of them.

  4. When I was a kid (mid 60’s-70’s) I wanted Heathkit kits soooo bad but there was no store anywhere close (eastern Canada). Twice we travelled to the states where there was a store (Boston or Portland or somewhere) and I was definitely the kid in the candy store.
    Only problem then was I had very little money.
    The only thing I ever was able to purchase was a resistance substitution box.
    I think I had there catalog almost memorized I flipped through it so many times dreaming…

  5. I don’t know if they’ll ever be back like they used to be. When TH parts were big and PCBs were rare, manual assembly was the biggest cost of a finished product. To assemble it yourself meant you were potentially saving money.

    Now, sourcing parts that an 8 year old can assemble themselves costs more in parts alone that buying SMDs and paying for a pick-n-place to assemble them. I feat the golden age of, “Yup; I made it myself!” is long past, never to return. Those of us that still appreciate that sentiment no longer want or need someone to gather parts into a kit for us when we can order our own PCB and components so easily.

    It’s the same reason Radio Shack died. They made their name as the place to go to pick up that 10k resistor you need to replace. When the throw-away economy and the internet rose up, it rolled right over them. They tried to reinvent themselves several times without success. I fear HeathKit is following the same path…

    1. Except that your unstated assumption is that hobbyists can’t do pick-n-place and reflow.

      I used to think so too.

      I was wrong.

      It’s not only possible, but it’s easier than you think, and it’s quicker than TH assembly even if you aren’t a robot.

    2. Even picking the SMD parts for shipping is more expensive than the automated manufacturing. So, parts are more expensive than the finished product. One does not DIY electronics to save money, but to make something different or to learn.
      Given that the kit is always the same (or is it?) it will be for learning.
      But there is a good future in ‘makeing something different’ from mostly higher level components. A single board computer, some standard I/O and some custom electronis go a long way. That would be the kit to design. If arduino/raspberry aren’t there yet.

      1. Fortunately for the DIY enthusiast today’s commercially built electronics pretty much suck. There is no originality, no imagination. It’s mostly just endless copies of whatever is most in style at the moment. So.. there’s plenty of opportunity for a DIYer to build their own “something differents”

  6. Something just doesn’t sit right with me. I used to work in Santa Cruz and looked up the FBN, trademark, corporation, business license, and none of it jives. The trademark was recently updated and lists a Delaware Corp. When you search for the Corp, it shows up in Michigan. I can’t find any audit trail for a Heath company in Santa Cruz. It’s odd that Santa Cruz would be chosen, because warehouse space is scarce and expensive, living is expensive, labor is expensive.

    1. Yeah, the Santa Cruz thing struck me as a little odd too. The website lists their address as a PO Box so it may very well be not located in SC. Mail just goes there to get forwarded elsewhere. Not hard to set it up like that.

      So I searched around for a bit with the address of:
      PO Box 3115
      Santa Cruz, CA 95063
      and it comes back to a tech business ghost writer that had it last year?

  7. i ordered the radio today but did not get a confirmation email (they paypal transaction via their site worked) so i called and left a message, did not get a return call yet, so i emailed and the email bounced.

    This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.
    A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of
    its recipients. This is a permanent error.
    The following address failed:
    ****@heathkit.co

    we’ll see how it goes, i’ll post up when/if i hear anything or get my radio!

    1. Me too, Phil. I ordered one. I’m absolutely giving them a chance!

      Sure, it’s not necessarily the kit I would have released first out of the gate, and it’s kind of pricey, but it’s Heathkit dammit and I’ve wanted to build a Heathkit for as long as I’ve been smart enough to hold the right end of a soldering iron.

      Ironically, I guess, there’s no soldering required for this kit, but that’s OK. It looks like they’re really wanting to grow the Jr. line along with their future customer base, and that’s fantastic! There will be some excited kids this Christmas, getting to build a kit with their dad or grampy… It’s hard to put a price on that combination of joy and nostalgia. I’d give anything to have that opportunity if I could be my childhood self again (trying not to tear up now).

      From a historical perspective, starting with a TRF AM set is quite accurate. That’s what was being built on some of the earliest hobbyist breadboards. It all grew from there. Choosing to start with that kit is a solid nod to electronics history. Oh, and for what it’s worth, many early breadboards were wired point-to-point with connecting wire wrapped around terminals and nails (nails hammered into the breadboard make fine junction points, as do brass screws), so the choice of making this beginner kit solderless is both accurate and genius. The fact that they have that long-view perspective gives me a lot of confidence in their future prospects. A. Lot.

      Bigger, more complex kits (I agree with another poster that analog is where it’s at for them and they would be wise to embrace it whole-heartedly as their core market) will be along soon enough. Give it time. I have faith in new Heathkit.

      1. Rob,
        I agree totally. I also am buying 2 of them. I really want to see the company come back. I am starving for radio kits.
        I mean starving. I have rebuilt Heathkit HW-101 and the other stuff they sold just so I could relive my earlier years.
        There is something about a Heathkit. It is like a time machine for the mind. I love it and I will continue to support them. We need to get back to basics in this country. Cell phones and all that crap bore me stiff. Take care Rob. And have fun building it. 73, Mike.

  8. So there is a physical address in Michigan but a PO Box in Santa Cruz:

    Domain Name: HEATHKIT.COM
    Registry Domain ID: 1421005_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
    Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.networksolutions.com
    Registrar URL: http://networksolutions.com
    Updated Date: 2015-10-08T07:34:12Z
    Creation Date: 1995-12-08T05:00:00Z
    Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-12-07T05:00:00Z
    Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
    Registrar IANA ID: 2
    Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
    Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.8003337680
    Reseller:
    Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
    Registry Registrant ID:
    Registrant Name: Heathkit Company
    Registrant Organization: Heathkit Company
    Registrant Street: 2024 Hawthorne Ave
    Registrant City: St Joseph
    Registrant State/Province: MI
    Registrant Postal Code: 49085
    Registrant Country: US
    Registrant Phone: +1.2699254499
    Registrant Phone Ext:
    Registrant Fax: +1.2699253895
    Registrant Fax Ext:
    Registrant Email:
    Registry Admin ID:
    Admin Name: Administrator, Domain
    Admin Organization: Heathkit
    Admin Street: PO Box 3115
    Admin City: Santa Cruz
    Admin State/Province: CA
    Admin Postal Code: 95063
    Admin Country: US
    Admin Phone: +1.84HEATHKIT
    Admin Phone Ext:
    Admin Fax:
    Admin Fax Ext:
    Admin Email: heathkit-domain-name-mgmt-15@yellow-tulip.com
    Registry Tech ID:
    Tech Name: Administrator, Domain
    Tech Organization: Heathkit
    Tech Street: PO Box 3115
    Tech City: Santa Cruz
    Tech State/Province: CA
    Tech Postal Code: 95063
    Tech Country: US
    Tech Phone: +1.84HEATHKIT
    Tech Phone Ext:
    Tech Fax:
    Tech Fax Ext:
    Tech Email: heathkit-domain-name-mgmt-15@yellow-tulip.com
    Name Server: ANIRBAN.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
    Name Server: BONNIE.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
    DNSSEC: Unsigned
    URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/

        1. Worse than GoDaddy. Do a search for Network Solutions reviews and you find things like, expensive, bad customer service, they do almost anything to prevent you from transferring your domain to another registrar. Anyone who does some basic research steers clear of Network Solutions.

  9. Like others, as a radio ham in the 1960s, I dreamed of owning—and did own—Heathkit gear in addition to my Command sets for WWII bombers.

    Alas, if there’s a market for electronic kits, it probably lies in products so specialized and unique that mass production and Chinese factories are not interested in making them.

  10. I had a Heathkit analog scope for a while. It was big, heavy, power hungry, full of dangerously high voltage, had only one channel and (IIRC) made an odd whistling noise in operation. These days a cheap digital scope has orders of magnitude higher bandwidth, at least two channels, is small, light, economical on power, but, and here’s the rub, relies in large part on complex surface mount components. Interested novices can’t build them, or anything close, because of the complexity of modern designs. That is I suspect why they won’t last long.

    1. Hobbyists can do SMD. I’ve not done it, but I’ve even heard of hobbyists doing home reflow with BGA parts and the like.

      I’m sure there are limits to what hobbyists can achieve – 0402 is asking a lot – but I think hobbyists hard built very complex SMD things. HaD had all sorts of pages and projects that demonstrate that.

      1. I used to think that but it’s far from the truth. A hobbyist can easily do SMT. I use a cheap $30 lamp with magenifying lense, a $20 temperature controlled iron, an X-acto knife and my own DIY flux and regularly do parts down to the 0805 range. I’m fairly confident I can do 0402 parts should the need arise since I can solder that ridiculous o.o1mm enameled wire you see all over eBay.

        What put me off for such a long time is the thought of the initial investment. 3D microscopes, ovens and the like aren’t exactly the cheapest (at the time). But once I realized all the fancy shit wasn’t necessary to actually *get started*, working with SMT became an easier pill to swallow.

      2. There’s a difference between a hobbyiest and an interested novice. SMD is possible but not trivial at home, and by the time you’ve reached that stage you’re past Heathkit kits IMHO.
        The ‘scope was something you built without a great grasp of the subject, that would be useful if you took it further. You couldn’t build a modern scope today as a starter project.

          1. Agreed.. for a kit. People designing PCBs and sending off to board houses just to do a one-off or a as part of their initial design testing process… that I don’t get. But.. for a kit.. where there are many produced that are the same.. I’ve built an SMD kit and it was amazingly fast and easy.

    1. but, it comes with a small roll of solder!

      (lol)

      I grew up building heathkits. the sb-104 ham xceiver with digital display, broadband, solid state and no tune was revolutionary. it wasn’t high performance but it was a fun build. I was a teen at the time but my father was also doing the ham radio thing and he bought the heathkits for us both.

      the heath panaplex digital clock is still holding good value on ebay, too; I have one that I bought and with some small resistor tweaks, its working fine again. probably ran for 20 or more years and I’ll get at least another 10 more from it.

      sometimes I will search for nixie freq counters (to steal the tubes) and heath counters were a good source for that.

      old (40’s and 50’s) heath decade resistor and cap boxes were nice. old ones had wooden cases and funky old chickenhead knobs.

      real heath is long gone; but I would welcome the spirit of heath coming back with similar manuals and a subject matter that translates well to current times.

      as for santa cruz, that would be great if they really did setup corp HQ here. SC is a great hippie town (well, used to be) and it would fit well with the craftmanship idea of building your own kits and being able to fix them, later. I’m commutable distance away and I’d consider working for them if they ever materialize and start to hire locally.

  11. I have fond memories of Heathkit and built several kits back in the day, but something feels… off.

    Like the AM radio kit for $150? Do you need 6 colors? Do you need hand-milled and rubbed Afro-Asian Padauk wood? Custom-machined tuning knob? Anodized solid aluminum case?

    It’s a AM radio for goodness sake, we’re not building an heirloom audio system. The point, as I see it, is to build interest in electronics and experience in soldering and building stuff. Slap it in a decent plastic case with a faux woodgrain finish, sell it for $50 and sell three times as many.

    And the Android app requires Android 4.3 and up! My smart phone and tablet are two or three years old and neither will run it. Is there any feature that REQUIRES a later version of Android? Or they just lazy and locked out any Android device older than two or three years?

    It all seems… not well thought out.

    1. The tuning capacitor alone makes it impractical to make this a $50 radio. My guess is that the exotic wood and “custom machined” tuning knob didn’t cost all that much extra, and help justify the high price.

        1. icanhaz: apples and oranges. The cheap eBay caps you linked to are the 1/2 turn polyethylene caps that are used in $5 radios. The ones “Heathkit” is using are quality, solid parts with ball-bearing planetary drive for multi-turn tuning. If they used $0.38 tuning caps, they wouldn’t even be able to get $50 for the kit.

          1. Then perhaps that’s what they should have used, as very few people will pay $150 for an electronics kit for their kids. Just sayin, 49.95 would have a lot more mass-market appeal.

          1. Thanks Rob,

            That about answers that. You will buy a Heathkit because it is a Heathkit and you want to build it. Price is second, but not that important to me. I will buy it because of the fun of it. Go Heathkit!! If people want to pick it apart go ahead, but that is not going to change my mind. I am a true Heathkit fan.

    1. There is still one less than 1/2 a mile from my house. It sells the same stuff that it did before the bankruptcy. I think RadioShack gets more of a Monty Python ‘not dead yet’ joke rather than a ‘too soon’ one. Although… the… ‘i’m feeling a little better’ part probably does not apply.

  12. This feels way too slick and shiny, and lacking in technical details. All of the specs on the radio page are ‘TBD’.

    Now, I’m not too much of a seasoned engineer, but I’d think that if you’re selling a product like this as an educational tool to makers and electronics folk, you’d do your homework BEFORE releasing the hardware.

    Sensitivity and selectivity would probably be one of those things that exists in a design document that you shoot for, and verify before saying it’s good to go. Do they not have the lab gear to measure this stuff?

    1. This is not meant to be the kind of technical marvel that classic Heathkit designs were. This is a tuned-RF radio, and from the picture has only a single-section tuning capacitor, so that means only ONE tuned stage. Not a superheterodyne by any means. This means very poor selectivity and sensitivity, so in most locations the three or four strongest radio stations in the area will drown out all others. Notice also that there is NO VOLUME CONTROL. Aside from being able to drive low-impedance headphones, I doubt that this would outperform the average crystal radio.

        1. I don’t think it’s an omission. I think that just as in a crystal radio, a volume control just isn’t necessary because it’s never going to be too loud. Back in the crystal radio days, we used either high-impedance dynamic (2k ohm or so) or crystal (even higher impedance) headphones that were extremely sensitive, so we could hear radio stations without any amplification at all. I think the amplifier in this radio is only there to get the same kind of performance with today’s less sensitive headphones.

          I’m not criticizing the design, by the way. Keeping it simple is also a very good way to introduce someone to electronics, since there is a high probability of success. I can see two transistors in the pictures, and maybe there are another one or two outside the camera view, and I think this is a reasonable component count for a project that will actually do something. I mean, something beyond blinking a light. Radio kits are among the best starter projects because the thrill you get the first time you plug in the headphones and twist the knob and actually HEAR something, is huge.

          I don’t know for sure whether these guys are out to make a fast buck from a revered trademark, or are genuinely interested in resurrecting the high-quality electronics kit industry, but I’m rooting for them.

  13. It kind of looks to me as though they purchased a warehouse full of the physical assets of the old Heathkit and now are hoping to auction them off to generate some revenue.

    On the other hand, I think there is a great gap between what we hackers do now, which is basically attaching sensors to processors, and what they did in the heyday of Heathkit, which was build and tune analog circuits. I can’t remember the last time I saw a true analog circuit featured on HaD. (no doubt I’ll get corrected here, but as an old guy I can throw the “I can’t remember” card with impunity).

    So maybe there’s some space in analog, though I’m not sure what that would look like in terms of something compelling enough to sustain the company.

    I still have 30 pounds worth of Markus’ Modern Electronic Circuit Reference Manual and it has done nothing but hold up my monitor.

    DougM

  14. Okay, I’m lazy – I didn’t go through all of the pages on the heathkit.com website, but is there any reason to believe that the entity calling itself Heathkit Tools and selling Android apps is the same as the one calling itself Heathkit and selling radio kits? Their websites have considerably different looks and feels.

  15. I got very excited by this – until I went to their website and saw the offerings. This looks to me like step 1 of at least 5 that should be taken before opening this up to the public.

    I would like to see it take off and bring in some great kits. A nice bench power supply I’d pick up in a minute… as long as I can get it at roughly the same price as the PC power supply doing the job today.

    1. I hate to disappoint you, but the reason PC power supplies are as cheap as they are is that they’re produced in huge quantities, and are designed to produce fixed voltages. These are useful as bench supplies because for most projects, the few fixed voltages will do for many projects. Making PC power supplies in kit form would only make them more expensive, and nobody in their right mind would do so anyway, since the voltages and currents involved would be a huge liability risk.

      But maybe you want a bench power supply with continuously-variable voltage, and maybe continuously-variable current limiting as well. Guess what? These are going to cost more, which is why even cheapest bench supplies cost several times as much as PC power supplies, watt-for-watt.

      You can’t think about electronics kits as a way of saving money. As somebody else pointed out, the modern production methods that have made todays complex devices affordable do NOT translate to kits, because even packaging the components for the kit would cost more than actually building the product.

      The point of kits was NEVER to save money. Sure, Heathkit sold assembled-and-tested versions of many of their kits, but I think this just a marketing ploy, showing how much money you could “save” by building it yourself. In reality, the Heathkit kits were sold at prices comparable to finished products from other manufacturers.

  16. I can believe what people say about Network Solutions, as for some reason their SSL is so badly setup I can’t access their pages, even via Chrome. Maybe being outside of the US… who knows. Their ebay store isn’t anything to write home about either.

  17. How common are the old Heathkit devices they’ve made the repair/upgrade kits for? If I had an old and loved Heathkit stereo receiver and the vacuum tube 7 digit display was defekt, I’d definitely buy their LED display kit.

    How many of those old weather stations are still out there, still installed but unplugged and unused due to broken anemometer cups and failed, irreplaceable temperature sensors?

    Apparently there was *some* demand for all those. The company did have a thing where people could send in suggestions for what they wanted.

    $150 is pretty steep for an AM radio kit, but if it sparks the electronics bug in a bunch of kids then it’s worth it. If they later release a significantly price reduced version with the same innards but a plastic case and plastic knob, that would be a good thing.

    They’ll have to expand their product line pretty quick. One kit and a few repair/upgrade kits for some vintage equipment isn’t going to support the company.

    1. Those upgrade parts are from the company that they acquired (referenced in their insiders e-mail). They have been around for a little while, they’re not newly created by the new Heathkit. That said, there are a number of similar upgrades/retrofits that could be done throughout the Heathkit line of kits from the past, so having the design compamy as a division of new Heathkit just makes sense.

  18. You are paying a lot of money for a very nice box. I can not see it doing very well. In the UK there are lots of simple kits around at halve that price, and for interesting bands as well. I recently built the G-QRP club “Sudden” single band receiver:-

    http://www.gqrp.com/sudden.htm

    very nice and about $70 to buy, including a box…

    Or the “Soft Rock” kits

    http://www.fivedash.com/

    in the US. No cases but starting at $21.00…..

    So don’t say there are “no kits out there” without looking…
    … perhaps no single supplier with the range Heathkit had, but technology has moved on.

    1. There never WAS a shortage of kits out there. There are two things that were unique to Heathkit:
      1) foolproof instructions and stellar technical support,
      2) a commercial-quality look and feel in the finished product.

      The latter is what has been missing since Heathkit left the scene. There are plenty of kits out there that are little more than bare PCBs, and even those that come with cases are unlikely to be mistaken for commercial products.

  19. Santa Cruz? Really?

    Come on, can’t the midwest have anything? Heathkit belongs in Michigan. Besides… as a potential customer why would I want to pay the overhead of them sticking their warehouse in such an expensive state?

  20. Dont’ know if it is a good idea to necro here, but just thought I should report that I received my package from Heathkit this weekend.

    It came in a USPS Priority Mail box indicating $17.03 postage to my address. Inside a sturdy looking box with a nice logo and GR-150 Explorer Jr. ™. Upon opening, inside the lid is pasted a basic instructions/congratulations kind of thing, then in the box a letter personally signed (really) by Andy and the Heathkit team. Below that a very nicely produced and bound manual of assembly and operation. Then inside all of the individual parts all placed into separate little manila envelopes. It is very classy. I never did a Heathkit back in the day, but I would guess they were just like this.

    I have to say, I’m quite excited to start working on it, been busy this weekend with other things but my evenings this coming week are going to be dedicated to this. I’m thinking to put together a build log of some sort on a blog.

    Overall, so far I am impressed. Yes, the cost at $150 for an AM radio is somewhat extreme, there was a small feeling of it being vaporware for a while, and there may be a lack of confidence of their ongoing success, but the quality just of the package, instructions materials, etc… to me it seems worth it and if somehow they can garner enough interest in this and future products, really it could be a great thing.

    1. I came here looking to post essentially the same thing [Spritle], my Explorer Jr. came yesterday. I was really impressed by the box & logo, the hand-signed letter, the manual, the individually labeled manila parts envelopes, etc… Super Classy. Almost made my eyes leak a little. It’s a think of simple beauty.

      Plus, if you noticed in the letter, they include a special limited-edition Heathkit tool kit for use with this and future Heathkit kits as a thank you for being one of the first buyers. They also indicate that each kit is personalized to some degree and comes with a private link to their website that’s specific (not sure how yet) to that particular product. They promise in the future that the website will be updated with updates, hacks, etc… for each kit. I’m excited to see them making that effort as part of their growth strategy… that’s very forward looking and I commend them for that.

      I’m looking forward to starting in on this kit, seeing what the tool kit looks like, etc… Finally some motivation to clear off a patch of my work bench!

      And as far as the cost goes (for sake of anyone revisiting this thread and wanting some further food for thought), I realize that $150 for an AM TRF kit seems a bit steep, but consider that $150 in today’s money was just under $23 in equivalent money in 1969. Looking at the 1969 Heathkit catalog, I see a “Deluxe 6-Transistor AM Portable” kit (not apples to apples here, but similar enough for a quick comparison) for $28.25. Bring forward that value to today’s dollars and that kit cost the equivalent of $186.85 today. Honestly, in perspective, that makes the $150 price tag not all that unbearable. Sure, it’s out of reach of some folks who have other priorities with their available funds, but that’s OK… that’s how life works. Not everyone was buying that Deluxe 6-Transistor Kit back then, not everyone is buying the AM TRF kit today. But perspective helps. :-)

      So to return to the original point… I’m really excited to have the kit in hand and to know that the new Heathkit was able to successfully launch the kit. I’m excited to see what they do next. I’m excited for this generation’s budding makers. It’s a good day! Congrats, Heathkit, well done!

      1. I have seen similar posts on other sites.
        So far, not one person has shared information on an actual build of this kit.
        It has been mentioned elsewhere, that the price for this kit is very high.
        It has also been argued that you must take into account inflation.
        However, the cost of electronics over the years traditionally goes DOWN with time and production. Look at flat screen Tv’s of a decade ago.

        O.K. back to the kit in question. A kit of a radio that doesn’t require soldering? (or so I’ve been told….so far no definitive info.
        A kit that to this date does not have complete specs.
        A kit that does not make the manual available for review before purchase, not even the schematic.
        A Kit of a radio comparing it to American classic radios that doesn’t even have a speaker.
        A kit of a TABLE radio that runs on BATTERIES.
        A Kit build by a NEW company whose owner is afraid to tell us his name….other than ANDY?.
        For those that remember Heathkit as it was….consider buying other kits out there.
        Hope that there is a revival of interest in kit building for the millennium generation and a newer company rises from the ashes of this incarnation to carry the legacy forward.

        This LLC company is not Heathkit.

        Buyers be where.

        1. From what I can see from people’s pictures of it, it is a very simple radio – it’s not a superhetrodyne, and it has only a one variable capacitor and no other controls, so it can’t even be a superregenerative. Thus, it can’t be anything more than a crystal detector with one or two stages of audio amp. There’s not even a volume control. This is the sort of radio that’s been found in many project books, and as a project in many “100 in one” kits, that would cost about $10 to make, and that’s only because of the expensive tuning capacitor.

          I would agree – buyers beware.

          1. I don’t disagree that it can be seen as overpriced and not sophisticated and all that. My reasoning for jumping onboard early was in support of the Heathkit name in hopes that I could in my (relatively) small way help the new company on it’s path to becoming if not “the great company it once was” then at least a source for interesting and well executed electronics kits. For me, so far, so good. YMMV. I wouldn’t expect a startup of any kind to not have some curve to come up on, everyone has to learn the best way to do stuff. I am looking forward to whatever they put out next, I would be saddened to see this current effort falter once again into oblivion.

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