Kostas pairs his Collins 51S-1 with a Heathkit SB-620 bandscope

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kostas (SV3ORA), for sharing the following guest post which originally appeared on his radio website:

Collins 51S-1 band scope using a Heathkit SB-620

by Kostas (SV3ORA)

The purpose of this project, is to connect a Collins 51S-1 receiver with a Heathkit SB-620 “scanalyzer”, so as to give the 51S-1 band scope capability. Right into the schematic presented below, a slight modification is needed to the 51S-1. I usually do not do modifications to old equipment unless absolutely needed and even when I do so, I take care for them to be easily undone and to modify them as little as possible.

The modification to the 51S-1 is simply a small coupling capacitor connected to the plate of the mixer tube V4A and a short run of thin coaxial cable, connected as shown, to one of the several SPARE RCA connectors at the back of the 51S-1. Collins engineers were smart enough to include SPARE RCA connectors at the back of the radio, which are not connected to anything inside the radio circuit, to be used for different future purposes. So we do not have to drill any holes to the chassis of the precious receiver, which would be catastrophic.


Click to enlarge.

The coupling capacitor is just 5pF, so compared to C125, this presents only a tiny fraction of the loading to V4A plate, i.e. not affecting the normal operation of the receiver. Note, you cannot take directly the 500KHz IF output that is originally provided by the 51S-1 RCA in the back of the radio. This is because this IF is AFTER the filters, so it is a narrow IF. We need WIDE IF for the scanalizer to work properly, so you have to perform this tiny modification to the 51S-1.

No need to say that the SB-620 needs to be re-tuned for 500KHz instead of 455KHz. I was unlucky and my SB-620 did not have the appropriate L3 to be tuned to the IF of 455/500KHz. Mine had the L3 used for an IF of 5.2-6MHz. I converted the SB-620 to work down to 500KHz by using this original higher-frequency L3 and adding two additional inductors to it, one at its bottom and one at its top, so as to make L3 larger. The additional bottom inductor I added (connected from the bottom of L3 to the ground) was a 15uH choke. The additional top inductor I added (connected from the top of L3 to C3 and C5), was a 455KHz IF CAN transformer (the one with the adjustable yellow-painted cap) taken out of a transistor radio. Of course I have removed the internal capacitor of the transformer before using it. My transformer had something like 200-300uH in the mid-set point. It is not too critical as this is a tunable transformer.

By making this modification to the SB-620 you can bring the 5.2-6MHz L3, down to 500KHz. Of course the slug of L3 now has limited tuning range. But we can coarse tune the hybrid L3 now, by tuning the IF transformer that has been added. This solution worked like a charm and the original L3 is still fit in place, looking original and helps in fine tuning if needed. For the optional mixer input (points A, B, C on the SB-620), I used circuit #1, but I did not notice any real difference from circuit #3. RFC1 is 304uH and I connected three 100uH chokes in series to make this RFC.
The solution described in this page, will add a huge value to your vintage receiving station. SWLing feels just different by having an all-tubes computer-free band scope. Here is a picture of the setup, nicely glowing in the night. That P7 CRT blue phosphor with its green afterglow “memory” effect looks amazing! Narrow resolution is actually only achievable, because of this afterglow of the CRT, which allows for much slower sweep rates.

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4 thoughts on “Kostas pairs his Collins 51S-1 with a Heathkit SB-620 bandscope

  1. Kostas

    Thank you. The units cooperate nicely since the post has been done, no problems, no loading, just stable and nice. The spectrum is so useful, that I switch it ON every time the receiver is switched on. That’s 23 vacuum tubes and a CRT in total, so quite a lot of heat and glow. But you know what they say… real radios glow in the night 🙂

  2. Jock Elliott

    Wow, that looks soooo nice!

    (I think I just broke a couple of commandments.)

    Nice work . . . enjoy!

    Cheers, Jock

    1. Andrew (grayhat)

      Jock … which commandments, if I can dare to ask 😀 ?

      Anyhow, my dear friend Kostas (SV3ORA) did an outstanding job in restoring those old beauties and then finding a way to couple the heathkit to the collins to obtain a “boatanchor style” spectrum display !!

      Now he’s hunting for a KWM-2A to add to the shack and then, maybe he’ll replace his current antenna with a skyloop 😀

      1. Jock Elliott

        Andrew (grayhat),

        Commandments? Well, covet, for sure . . . and there ought to be one for radio lust . . .

        I just love the way the two units look together, like they were designed to go together, yet from two different manufacturers, plus it has the whole retro thing going on . . . to say nothing of the technical chops necessary to bring the two together. Wow!

        Cheers, Jock


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