click to enlarge
(click image to enlarge)

by William Eric McFadden

From the manual:

The Heathkit Model HW-8 Transceiver is a solid-state, four-band QRP (low power) unit covering the CW portion of the eighty, forty, twenty, and fifteen meter amateur bands. The direct-conversion receiver features an RF stage, a balanced product detector, and an active audio filter wide or narrow selectivity.
Other features include diode band switching which is controlled by pushbuttons and a method of premixing the variable and heterodyne oscillator signals to provide the same dial read-out on all bands. This also provides excellent stability and a fixed frequency offset on all bands while you are transmitting.
In addition to indicating Relative Power, the panel meter is used during alignment to assure proper adjustment of the transmitter tuned circuits.
The HW-8 Transceiver may be operated from the Heathkit Accessory Power Supply Model HWA-7-1, an equivalent low impedence power supply, or from batteries.


Frequency Coverage 80 meters, 3.5 to 3.75 MHz

40 meters, 7.0 to 7.25 MHz

20 meters, 14.0 to 14.25 MHz

15 meters, 21.0 to 21.25 MHz

Frequency Stability less than 150Hz/hour drift after 60 minute warm-up

Frequency Generation premixed VFO and HFO

Power Requirements 13.4 volts DC, nominal. 90mA receive mode and 430 mA transmit mode

Dimensions 9-¼" wide x 8-½" deep x 4-¼" high, including knobs and feet

(23.5cm wide x 21.6 cm deep x 10.8cm high)

Weight 4 lbs. (1.8kg)


DC Power Input 80 meters -- 3.5 watts

40 meters -- 3.0 watts

20 meters -- 3.0 watts

15 meters -- 2.5 watts

Frequency Control built-in VFO

Output Impedence 50 ohms unbalanced

Sidetone built-in, adustable volume

Spurious and
Harmonic Levels
at least 35dB down

Transmit Frequency Offset approximately 750 Hz lower, fixed on all bands


Receiver Type direct conversion with RF amplifier, balanced product detector, and active audio filter

Sensitivity 1 microvolt or less for 10dB (S+N)/N 0.2 microvolt provides readable signal

Selectivity Wide -- 750 Hz at 6dB down

Narrow -- 375 Hz at 6dB down

Passband Center Frequency 750 Hz

Type of Reception CW

Audio Output Impedance 1000 ohms nominal

scan of HW-8 Manual Cover from Technology Systems

The HW-8 was the second QRP transceiver offered by Heathkit. It replaced the HW-7 and was offered between 1976 and 1983. While it looked similar to and was the same size as the HW-7, the HW-8 featured a much more sophisticated direct-conversion receiver design and included 80 meters. In all respects, the HW-8 is a rig far superior to the HW-7. The original price of the HW-8 was $139.95.

I have owned two HW-8 transceivers. An unmodified HW-8 was the first rig I purchased following the 1989 fire. This was my only HF rig for some time and many contacts were made with it. I implemented several simple mods within this HW-8, including a fix for transmitter offset and the installation of an internal 100kHz crystal calibrator.

I sold this rig to help pay for the QRP Plus but soon regretted having let it go. After I purchased an HW-7, seeing it on the shelf only served to make my longing for another HW-8 stronger and I finally purchased another HW-8, the one I currently own.

The HW-8 is designed for use with high-impedence mono headphones. Before I found a proper set of vintage Trimm Featherweight headphones, I used modern low-impedence stereo headphones with an impedence adapter (image) built around a Radio Shack #273-1380 audio transformer.

from 1978 Heathkit catalog -- click to enlarge

I have installed a Small Wonder Labs Freq-Mite (link) in my HW-8; this clever frequency counter announces the VFO frequency in morse code in the headphones at the press of a rear-panel button, allowing me to know my precise frequency no matter where on the dial I am. Because several hams have asked about this installation, I've written up instructions.

An extremely useful reference on the HW-8 is Michael Bryce's HW-8 Handbook, Second Edition. This book provides circuit descriptions, schematics, board layouts, alignment instructions, Heathkit service bulletins, and modifications for the HW-7, HW-8, and HW-9. It is available at Michael Bryce's The Heathkit Shop, at Kanga, USA, and at QRP ARCI. The older, First Edition, HW-8 Handbook has modifications for the HW-7, HW-8, and HW-9 but lacks the other valuable content.

The articles written by Adrian Weiss, W0RSP, for CQ Magazine (May, 1977; August, 1977; October 1977; January 1981; and October 1982) are also valuable resources worth looking for.

NOTE: I've been asked about a source for a replacement tuning capacitor for the HW-8. Here follows the official word from Oren Elliott Products (link), the maker of the original OEM capacitor for the HW-8. (Thank you, WD4E.)

We do offer a replacement for the Heath part number 26-152 capacitor, but it's actually a kit consisting of a different (but similar) capacitor, a bracket, and a bushing.

There are two reasons we can't offer a direct replacement for the 26-152:
  1. That configuration, the NS-51, is obsolete -- we're in the process of replacing the image on our online store with an image of the kit, with updated pricing;
  2. The device had a design flaw that caused the cap to be twisted apart frequently: The cap was driven with a separate planetary drive unit that had a very high output torque and smooth feel. The operator couldn't tell that he'd reached the end of the capacitor's travel at min or max capacitance, and the large torque would pull the blades out of the cap.
So we now offer an N50. Because the N50 is a little longer than the NS-51, we also had to redesign the aluminum bracket to which the cap is attached. We were also able to free up some real estate for the longer capacitor by replacing the high-torque planetary ball drive with the N50's built-in planetary ball drive, that's designed to slip at a torque low enough to avoid damaging the capacitor. Finally, we need to supply the bushing to which the user can mount the original unit's dial, and the portion of the capacitor's shaft that moves with the capacitor's rotor.

Here are prices on this kit:

Part number: N50-19PTX-KIT
Price, one kit: $74.64
Price each, 2 kits: $51.81
Price each, 5 kits: $38.11
Lead time: 3 weeks plus transit

Payment options include Visa and Mastercard. To pay with credit card, you could call us at 419-298-2306 between 8am and 5pm eastern US time, or fax your credit card info (along with ship-to address and the details of your order) to our secure fax line any time, at 419-298-3545.


Steven Elliott
Oren Elliott Products, Inc.

UPDATE 2022-09-23: Don Lawson, WB9CYY, has asked me to publish an updated article he has written on how he fixed several common problems in his HW-8:

Don's most recent version of the article is available here in PDF format: WB9CYY_HW8_Mods_20240403.pdf.


HW-8 Links


HW-8 Instruction Manual cover found at Technology Systems.
Heathkit 1978 catalog page found at Technology Systems.