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Monday, October 23, 2023

Bringing a Faulty Herring Aid 5 Receiver Into the Light -- Fixing the AF Amp Schematic Error (video)

I picked up this old homebrew receiver in March 2023 at the Vienna Wireless Society's Winterfest Hamfest.  It is a Herring Aid 5.   I was surprised to see that the builder (who was he?) got the windings on the VFO transformer right.  Later, I learned that he had also substituted MPF-102s for the original Radio Shack FETs called for in the QST article. This allowed him to overcome the PC board layout problem at Q5 (VFO).  With an MPF-102, he was able to get Q1 working by kind of shoe-horning the leads into the proper holes.  FB OM.  Whoever he was, he seemed like a really competent builder.

The Hamfest Herring Aid 5

But then I started wondering:  Did he also overcome the big problem in the audio amplifier?  You see, there is an egregious error in the QST schematic.  Between the collector of Q3 and the base of Q4 (the two AF amplifiers) they have a 10uF capacitor to ground.  That would send most of the audio to ground. This is clearly a mistake.  Not only does it not make any sense, but this cap to ground does not appear in the PC board drawing, nor in the photograph that went with the QST article.  I included this cap in my 2014 built of the Herring Aid 5, but with it, I found the receiver to be exceedingly deaf.  When I clipped that capacitor out of the circuit, my 2014 Herring Aid 5 sprang to life.  Did this hamfest Herring Aid 5 have the error capacitor?  Would it too be brought into the light by clipping one lead?  

Sadly, the erroneous third capacitor was there, and it was wired into the circuit.  The receiver worked,  but just barely.  It was very deaf.  You could not hear 40 meter band noise, and you could barely hear strong CW signals.  Builders may have thought that this was normal with such a simple receiver. 

3 10uF caps. The center one is an error.  I have clipped it out

In the video above you can see what happens when I cut the lead to the mistake capacitor.  Suddenly, you can hear band noise, and CW signals.  The receiver comes to life -- for the very first time!  

This was an error that echoed through the decades.  As far as I know there was never a published errata.  The erroneous capacitor is there in the 1977 ARRL book entitled Understanding Amateur Radio.  In 1998,  NORCAL QRP redid the Herring Aid 5.  Incredibly, THEY INCLUDED THE OFFENDING CAPACITOR in their new and improved schematic.  

NORCAL's 1998 Schematic included C14

I'm fixing up this old receiver a bit.  It was nice to have it playing 40 meter CW yesterday.  Better late than never.  

This morning I was feeling kind of guilty about paying so much attention to a receiver from 1976.  But then I opened the paper and read about the recent find of a DeLorean car.  Heck if a DeLorean from the early 80's is worthy of attention, so is a homebrew receiver from the late 1970s. 


  1. They probably intended the capacitor to be 0.01 or something like that to give some high pass filtering? Thanks friends

  2. No, I don't think this is a case of a mistaken value. This cap to ground does not appear in the PC board drawing, nor in the photograph that went with the QST article. If they intended to put a cap of another value to ground at that point, we would see it on the PC board pattern and in the photo. We do not see any cap to ground off the base of Q4 nor from the collector of Q3.

  3. I wonder how many young hams or potential hams built this and couldn't get it working and gave up on radio as a hobby.

  4. Hi Bill, as punishment for focusing on an HDR from 1976, you now need to build an SDR! ;) 73 de PA1SDR. P.S. I love both

  5. With the SDR, as I understand it, it goes like this: Buy ADC chip. Plug chip in. Connect chip to computer. DONE! That just doesn't sound like a lot of fun. But hey, whatever floats your boat! 73 Bill


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