Author Topic: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...  (Read 4383 times)

Offline SkyLynx

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Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« on: January 16, 2016, 06:47:36 PM »
Got my Technician License but will soon be moving up into big boy world. What I'm looking for is a radio that can hit HF and all those bands in between, but not make me  pull my hair out trying to find menus and submenus etc...

Thank your for any suggestions,
Skylynx

Offline TerryFrench

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2016, 11:01:47 PM »
Welcome :-)

Summary: you need to refine your requirements. Go with something used and not too expensive.

You need to add more info so you can be helped.
For instance, are you looking at portable or static operation? What's your budget range? (remember that the antennas and related equipments (cables at least, but possibly an antenna tuner) all cost money. I think the saying is to try to not be an alligator: big mouth (lots of transmit power), with small ears (inefficient antenna). So "investing" in good antennas is usually seen as very much worth it.
Assuming a base (home) station, do you own the place? Is this a single-family home or an apartment complex? Do you have much limitations in term of antennas?
I'll take an example: you have an acre or more somewhere: 160m, 80m... can be a reality. But if you have 0.25 acre lot with some HOA restricting what is visible, you will pick something else. Note that you can build your own antenna for cheap. either regular dipoles, or OCF off-center fed antennas, with mostly some cheap copper wire, a good balun, good coax...

Do you know what modes you want to use? (digital vs voice, vs CW) Do you have any specific passion? (contact ISS, play with amateur satellites, do moon bounce...).
Do you like building electronic kits? or want to avoid that? Do you want new or used?

Now typical recommendation: a used 100W transceiver made in the past 20 years from any of the main brands, coupled with an antenna tuner, some coax and some cheap antenna to start and see what you like. Add (or build) some interface to be able to connect it to a laptop or PC and use the digital modes. You need the guarantee that the transceiver is good (some kind of warranty by the seller if possible), as you will not be able to know on your own (need to make some contacts and see that all works). Check http://www.eham.net/ for the reviews for any model you consider buying. Check each and every knob for good operation. A bad knob could mean a very poor experience with an otherwise good transceiver.
That would be a good middle ground: cheap, relatively easy to use, no kit building, no QRP operation... then you can decide what you want to focus on, and sell it for not much loss when you buy something else. If you buy new and "latest and greatest", you will get some very good tech, but like a new car, the value will go down fast.

Offline Carl

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2016, 04:23:22 AM »
Almost any good,used radio will be a good FIRST radio...remember....it is your first....not your last.
Narrowing the field is the ICOM IC 718 and ALINCO DX SR8 , among others ....can be found in the $500 to $700 dollar
range and come free of the occasional problems found with USED radios.
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

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Offline SkyLynx

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2016, 05:58:35 AM »
 I'm looking for an HF all band radio that I can learn on. Willing to spend $800.00-$1500 for one. I would like it to cover the 2m and 6m bands in one radio if possible but not necessary. You know that "Jack of all Trades Master of None" lol.. I just don't know with all my other preps going on if I will have the money to spend in the near future on another rig or two. I know people have there opinions on different radios for different purposes but I'm limited right now on what I can do. I'm trying to make this one shot count. I do own my own property so antennas are not a problem. I would like to have something somewhat portable but not solely dedicated to that. Yeah, I know vague, but in case I had to get the heck out of dodge, I could have a way to make it a mobile unit without to much trouble.

Thanks for the help again!!
SkyLynx

Offline Carl

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2016, 07:06:56 AM »
I'm looking for an HF all band radio that I can learn on. Willing to spend $800.00-$1500 for one. I would like it to cover the 2m and 6m bands in one radio if possible but not necessary. You know that "Jack of all Trades Master of None" lol.. I just don't know with all my other preps going on if I will have the money to spend in the near future on another rig or two. I know people have there opinions on different radios for different purposes but I'm limited right now on what I can do. I'm trying to make this one shot count. I do own my own property so antennas are not a problem. I would like to have something somewhat portable but not solely dedicated to that. Yeah, I know vague, but in case I had to get the heck out of dodge, I could have a way to make it a mobile unit without to much trouble.

Thanks for the help again!!
SkyLynx

You would really be better served by a VHF/UHF radio AND an HF radio with possible inclusion of VHF/UHF like the Yaesu FT857D.
AN HF radio is not complete without a power supply ($100-$200) and a antenna matcher/tuner ($150 - $250) .
The tuner PROTECTS your radio and the power supply powers it.

 The duties of VHF/UHF are for short range communications(under 100 miles) while HF is used for long range comms though understand that your HF signal is subject to the whims of propagations and while long range is good ....the intermediate range
 is often missed...the HF radio is not 'point to point' reliable as often portrayed in videos.

The Icom IC 718 is a good ,easy to operate,capable radio with many perks ,like Digital Signal Processing...and the radio is
very capable of being your first AND last radio...the Yaesu FT 2900 can be had for $129 and is a 75 watt bargain for VHF.

 http://www.randl.com/shop/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=250&products_id=67287
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Offline SkyLynx

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2016, 08:09:48 AM »
Thanks for the Response Carl. Do you have any suggestions for a UHF/VHF combo? I do have a handheld, but not exactly what I'm looking for. I checked the prices on the 718,2900 and after reading the reviews and the suggestions here, I will just go against my original idea of just one rig. Not looking to get frustrated with one big purchase item then parking it in my closet.

Thanks Again,
Skylynx

Offline Carl

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2016, 08:32:38 AM »
Thanks for the Response Carl. Do you have any suggestions for a UHF/VHF combo? I do have a handheld, but not exactly what I'm looking for. I checked the prices on the 718,2900 and after reading the reviews and the suggestions here, I will just go against my original idea of just one rig. Not looking to get frustrated with one big purchase item then parking it in my closet.

Thanks Again,
Skylynx

\You will find a frst radio thread are two already in the Ham radio part of this forum. Depending on your local usage ....VHF is most used and UHF a bit less in most areas...many radios from CHINA cover both bands well for a low as $100,see link

http://www.randl.com/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=72611

While power is good ,(you may have already seen limitations of the Handy Radio) ,it rarely makes much difference for FM radios of 20 watts and over, so you can get a GREAT VHF (FT1900) and a fair dual band radio at a bargain...and a lower end NEW HF radio at good budget...remembering added antenna tuner and power supply concerns.

I would go for the Yaesu FT 2900 and an entry  (IC 718) HF radio to begin with and you will be well served as you learn what
knobs and buttons you may want for your first last radio....you will either lose interest or go radio crazy and that is up to you.

I have been a Ham over 25 years and made about all of the mistakes one can make,so feel free to ask ,though understand that ,much like religion,their are many opinions as to what is RIGHT and mine is but one....though mine is most often the right one . :)

Remember that accessories can often DOUBLE the cost of a radio and I have found that many accessories are not as effective as one might think.
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Offline jerseyboy

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2016, 05:54:12 PM »
Thanks for the Response Carl. Do you have any suggestions for a UHF/VHF combo? I do have a handheld, but not exactly what I'm looking for. I checked the prices on the 718,2900 and after reading the reviews and the suggestions here, I will just go against my original idea of just one rig. Not looking to get frustrated with one big purchase item then parking it in my closet.

Thanks Again,
Skylynx

I have this thing about ssb on VHF. The Yaseu Ft897 does a good job with this. Also the icom 706mkiig.

The 897 has an AC cord so its power supply is built in, but you can run it off of battery or Power supply if you want.

Any of the kenwoods with a built in tuner is one less accessory you have to buy. But you have to buy a power supply.

My first HF rig was a Drake TR3 and it was and old rig then.

If you believe two is one and one is none, you may want to see if your stated budget can get you more than one radio to cover each frequency.

Good luck

Jerseyboy

Offline armymars

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2016, 06:24:12 PM »
  I have used the IC 706 MIIG for many years. It was the radio I used for portable operation every Wed. morning for Mars. It is menu driven, but not as bad as many radios. It has one weak spot. If running mobile all the time the coax jumpers inside will begin to fail from the vibration. This takes two years or so. The Yeasu 857 is small enough for mobile or portable use. I haven't seen the 897 so I don't know about that radio.
  Manual tuners will match a wider range of impedance's dollar for dollar at higher power, but take longer to tune. Still there are no relays or much else to fail.  If you can use open wire feed it doesn't get much better. Like Carl said everyone has an opinion and that was mine. P.S. I like Ten-Tec radios. 

Offline Canadian Prepper

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2016, 10:11:08 PM »
As someone who's benefitted from the advice of the likes of Carl and armymars, I have to say that I concur with the advice given thus far.

I started off with a Yaesu FT897D and picked up the power supply that fits to the bottom of the radio where the optional internal batteries would go. It's a great rig but has since been discontinued so it's a matter of luck to find a new one at this point. The matching LDG897Plus Autotuner is a great accessory.

I like Carl's suggestion of the ICOM 718 and Yaesu 2900 which would certainly do a pretty good job of covering the basics and leave more time and money for putting up a good backyard antenna and some portable options. While simplicity and the benefits of a single rig are real, it might be better not to put all of your eggs in one basket.

I picked up a clean used Kenwood TS440S with matching power supply and auto tuner for $450 almost a year ago and once I got a friend to figure out how to work the tuner some months later it became my favourite go to rig for most of my HF. Another ham friend loaded a bunch of repeater and simplex net frequencies into the Yaesu so that's what it's primarily used for at the moment, and I like the idea of having two rigs set up and good to go simultaneously.

If I was really on a tight budget, something like the 440S setup for $450 and one of the low cost Chines mobile rigs (I saw a dual band mobile that does 25W for $79 on sale about two weeks ago), plus some coax, an end fed antenna for HF and an N9TAX Slim Jim for the dual bander would cover all the bases for about $600 and change. A bit more could find a good new or used dual bander, or buy a newer HF rig like the ICOM 718. I think that some time visiting the local ham club could pay huge dividends, as hams are quite willing to help newcomers and can often point you towards or away from deals based upon how useful they'd be to you.

Carl lead me through the process of putting up a highly effective, simple end fed antenna setup and steered me away from some expensive, less effective alternatives. So I'm confident that you'll find the advice to put up a rather effective setup within your price range.

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2016, 06:58:49 AM »
As Canadian Prepper said, lots of good advice so far.  All I can add is a suggestion to take a look at a Yaesu 450D.  Lots of people start with those.  They have a one level deep menu system, it's not bad, nowhere nearly as bad as say the 857's.  The main thing is that 450D's have enough faceplate area that you can see what you're doing without having to dig through some menu system.  They can be had for $650 right now with free shipping from places like MTC Radio, HRO, etc.  That's including a $100 rebate; it expires at the end of this month, btw.

Terry said it before, but it bears repeating: stay away from QRP rigs this first round.  You don't want to bring a fencing foil to a broadsword tournament, at least not at first.

I'm a little leery of used equipment, especially when you're just starting out.  However if you have somebody to guide you hands-on with a used purchase it'll be fine.

I swear, there are times it seems like "Baofeng" is Cantonese for "hot mess."

Offline MaddoginMass

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2016, 07:12:39 AM »
I'm going to second Alan Georges recommendation of a FT450D.  I just researched this not two hours ago based on a suggestion from another forum.  It looks like a solid radio that has good customer feedback.  What I also like is that it has an antenna tuner built-in so no additional expense there.  I just added this to my buy list.

Offline SkyLynx

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Re: Suggestions for A Newbie looking for an HF radio to learn on...
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2016, 07:17:17 AM »
Thanks everyone for the responses!  It really helps talking to people who know what they are talking about!

Skylynx