This little receiver is the Heathkit AR-17. Measuring just 10 3/8 x 3 x 12 inches it packs a small punch with just 10 watts per channel RMS from 25-35,000hz at +/- 1dB and 5 wpc of continuous power output. But, for those that liked to build their own equipment the Heathkit AR-17 was a great option. For just $69.95 you could buy the kit, without a cabinet, and build it yourself. Or, if you had no excess cash you could buy it with no money down and pay only $8 a month. There were two cabinet options available. A beige metal cabinet for an additional $3.50 or a genuine walnut veneer cabinet for only $9.95 more.
A 6-position source switch allows the user to choose between FM, Phono and Aux in both mono and stereo. The Phase Control let you fine tune your chosen FM station. The Tone control is a tandem design and acts as a power switch when pulled and tone control when turned. The clutched Volume knob also has a dual function. You can change the volume of each channel separately or both simultaneously. There is also a stereo indicator light and a headphone jack.
The AR-17, available in 1968, is FM only and is a solid state design. By 1971 it had been reduced to $69.95. The purchaser had to assemble the kit but most of the critical components, including the FM front end, were already factory aligned. The kit was estimated to take 15 hours to assemble. Inside is really just a single circuit board, a flywheel tuner and a transformer. Wire those in, mount the front panel and add the knobs and you’re done. The board has 28 transistors and 7 diodes.
The Heathkit AR-17 isn’t an audiophile’s dream. But, it wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to be an affordable, rewarding, project stereo designed to bring FM stereo broadcasts into your home. It’s 5 microvolt sensitivity isn’t bad and it will tune in local FM stations easily. Just adjust the tuning and watch the stereo indicator light glow brighter until it’s at its maximum. That will be optimal tuning.
At 5 watts per channel and total harmonic distortion of a less than impressive 1%, the AR-17 isn’t going to bother your neighbors when at full volume. In fact it will have difficulty powering larger sized speakers. Smaller, bookshelf sized, efficient speakers will work the best. It is rated for 4 through 16 ohm speakers however.
The Heathkit AR-17 is about as small a vintage stereo as you can find, in both size and power. But it does it’s job. Who knows how many kids that built one of these back in the late 1960’s grew up to be electronic engineers, computer scientists or audio techs. All because of their experience with the AR-17. It’s an intriguing piece of audio history and definitely worth trying out if you find one.