Author Topic: 1st radio suggestion needed.  (Read 19012 times)

Offline slingblade

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1st radio suggestion needed.
« on: December 16, 2011, 03:00:20 PM »
I'm thinking about buying two radios.  One for me and one as a gift.   I need either portable or handheld as they'll be moving a round between locations quite a bit.  I don't want to buy crap, but I don't want to spend a ton of money either.  Suggestions?

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2011, 03:09:45 PM »
What bands do you want to cover?

Offline slingblade

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2011, 07:39:22 PM »
Good question.  I'm not sure. Whatever is the best bang for the buck.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2011, 09:41:48 PM »
Are you sure you want a ham radio?  An amateur license is required to transmit on the ham bands.  Are you planning on getting licensed?


Offline slingblade

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 10:20:11 AM »
That's the plan.

Offline chezrad

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2011, 12:48:43 PM »
Yeasu FT-60R is dual band (2 meter and 70 cm) that works great if you have local repeaters. Works good radio to radio if you have good antennas. With the little whip antenna (affectionately known as a rubber duck) provided it isn't great. Put a new rubber duck on it and they do alright in a line of sight situation. Depends on where you are and what's around you.

With all that said, my FT-60R is a pretty good little radio. I'd buy another one.

Offline caverdude

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2011, 03:37:32 PM »
My first radio was a yeasu 2 meter radio.. Good radio, but I think I'd like a more expensive radio where I could program it with a laptop and software. Its tedious if you have to do a lot of programming with the keypad on the mic.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2011, 05:11:16 PM »
With the entry-level Tech license, most of us start with a radio that does 2m, maybe a dual-band for 70cm, too, depending on the availability of repeaters in your area.  I've been licensed for only 6 months (Tech, then General), so I'm still very much a noob, and have really not ventured much into the HF bands, but I can tell you what I did and what I would do differently if I was starting over.  Here's the radios I've purchased, in chronological order, and the issues I encountered with them.  All the radios are made by Yaesu, which have a reputation for excellent performance and reliability, and definitely aren't crap.

FT-817ND, $700
This is a very compact "backpacking" radio that covers all the ham bands and has a serious cult following amongst people who like the challenge of operating at low power levels in austere environments.  It only puts out about 2.5w on its internal battery and 5w on external 12v power.  I was drawn to this radio because it seemed like an excellent SHTF radio, which I still believe is true, and I initially thought I just wanted to have one radio.  However, its a little complicated to learn on, and I immediately found that I was unable to get through to any of the local 2m repeaters in my area using the internal battery and it was difficult for me to determine whether it was due to a poor antenna, line of sight issues, low power output, or incorrectly programmed repeater settings.  So I decided I would get a handheld that was easier to move around with to see if I could figure out how to get on 2m.

FT-60R, $160
This is an excellent dual band handheld that transmits on the 2m and 70cm band at a maximum 5w.  It's easy to use and I found that I could take it hiking around my house and hit the repeaters I wanted from high ground...some of the time.  I replaced the rubber ducky antenna with an aftermarket antenna, which helped some, but I still had problems reliably hitting the 2m repeaters from higher ground, and still couldn't hit them from my home.  I did figure out that there wasn't much going on with the 70cm repeaters in my area and that I probably really only needed 2m capability.  So, I decided to get a 2m mobile to see if the increased power allowed me to get through to the repeaters from my house.

FT-2900R, $160
This is what I should have started with.  It's a 2m mobile radio that is designed to be mounted in a vehicle, or used as a base station with an appropriate antenna and power supply, both of which you will need to purchase separately.  It will transmit at a maximum 75w and I have no problems hitting the repeaters from my home with it cranked down to 25w, or even 10w.  Obviously, it's not as portable as the other two radios, but it's definitely easier to use and gets the job done on 2m a whole lot better.  I plan to mount it in a case with a sealed lead-acid battery for easier portability.


In hindsight, I spent way more money at the beginning by buying radios in the wrong order, but I am planning on keeping all of them, and I have purchased two more, the FT-450D and the FT-250R, along with a bunch of accessories and various antennas.  They all have their pros and cons, and all have their place and will definitely be useful to me in the future.  I get the idea that most hams are rarely satisfied with a single radio, and tend to acquire a whole shack full of gear over the course of their interest in the hobby.  But if I was doing it all over again, knowing what I know now, I should have started with the FT-2900R and then maybe the FT-60R second, and saved the others for latter.

Hope this helps, maybe others can learn from my mistakes.




Offline Heavy G

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2011, 06:29:03 PM »
Totally get your ham license.  It's easy to get.  If I can do it ..

I have an Icon 91a.  Happy with it so far.  I'm no radio expert so I can't say it's better than any other one.  I got the 91a because the rest of my crew uses them and we want interoperability.

Offline austinrob

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2011, 07:36:55 PM »
Hope this helps, maybe others can learn from my mistakes.

This is a great post.

I bought a 5w HT (wouxun - $129) first thing, and wish I'd gotten a mobile.  Lucky for me, I live on high ground, and we have lots of repeaters, so I can hit a few semi-active ones from here with my HT.  Of course I really wanted long distance comms, so I got my general and got into HF.  I picked up a 30yo kenwood with a tuner ($325 total), built a rooftop antenna from 14ga insulated wire, and I'm off...  a bit later, throw in $40 for a digital interface and some free software, and I'm doing digital comms from central TX to southern australia (8000+ miles) with a 100W rig.

So yeah, I wish I'd gone for the mobile first (still want one, but they keep delaying the release), but am happy with how it turned out.  I am wanting another HF rig.  Looking at either the FT-817 or an 897.  I don't think I'm going to be much into low-power so I'm leaning towards the 897.  I like the all-modes/all-bands aspect too.  And it's modifiable to transmit out of band (which is only legal in an emergency, but an emergency is not the time to take a soldering iron to your equipment).

Offline ntexastom

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2012, 05:13:55 AM »
+1 on Yaesu FT2900R

This was my first radio and it works great. Still a lot to learn but it gives good bang for the buck.

Offline Medicineball

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2012, 06:14:56 AM »
+++1 on the Yaesu 2900R. Easy to learn on, easy to operate, rugged, and powerful. It's very reasonably priced, so it won't prevent you from buying a wider-band radio later. Plus, after you learn on it, you can move it to your vehicle if you've got a little space. (If you are strapped for space in your vehicle, the Yaesu 1900R is identical except it's a bit more compact and has slightly less power. I prefer the 1900R for vehicle use.) You will not regret the 2900R - it's a tank.

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2012, 09:18:26 PM »
My Technician class starts March 3rd for 3 weeks of Saturdays then the test. I've looked at the FT250R as a graduation present for yours truly. Any thoughts on it's performance for a newb needing to talk 4 miles LOS, I see you have one FreeLancerR ? Thanks

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2012, 11:16:54 PM »
My Technician class starts March 3rd for 3 weeks of Saturdays then the test. I've looked at the FT250R as a graduation present for yours truly. Any thoughts on it's performance for a newb needing to talk 4 miles LOS, I see you have one FreeLancerR ? Thanks

I got the FT-250R to use for hiking with the radio clipped to the sternum strap of my pack.  Given the fact that the display is oriented towards the top, I don't have to unclip the radio to see the display (albeit, I have to read it upside down, but it's better than nothing).  It works just as well as my FT-60R on 2m and has a louder speaker, but the display is about as crappy as those pagers we had in the early 90s.  A bonus feature for me was the fact that the 250R uses the same battery as the 60R and comes with a nifty charging cradle that I could use with both radios.

Bottom line, I'm happy with the FT-250R, but mostly because it fits a specific niche I have, and it shares features and components with my FT-60R.  If you only want one handheld, I think you'd be happier spending an extra $30-40 for the FT-60R.  However, if being able to really reach out in an emergency is important, I'd get the FT-2900R, or something similar, in addition to the handheld. 

Handheld radios are like handguns, they both sacrifice power and ease of use in favor of portability.  I went the long way around with firearms, too.  Should have started with a good 12g pump, then branched out from there.  When will I ever learn?!

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2012, 12:31:43 AM »
Well at least I got getting the Mossy 590 12g first right !  :)
Thanks for the info.

Offline GeorgiaBoy

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2012, 11:55:05 AM »
I'm looking into getting my ham radio license and am wondering if a separate scanner would be required for use with volunteer fire bands (which I'm on) as well as police bands to listen in on so I don't have to carry a scanner and ham...


Offline Medicineball

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2012, 01:31:50 PM »
It's hard to believe, but that's a slightly complicated question. :)

Some handheld or mobile Ham radios have a capability to monitor other bands like police and fire. Some of those same radios have the ability to listen on one band while transmitting on another. But it's truly cumbersome. Given that listening to the fire band is essential to you, I would have a dedicated scanner just for that.

Offline GeorgiaBoy

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2012, 02:27:10 PM »
Well. I currently have rights to talk on the fire band. Which I'd like to continue. but I would also like to listen to police.. but with me getting into Ham now (currently studying for first exam). I would like to only carry 1 radio instead of the three required for... 1 for fire, 1 for police scanner, and 1 for ham

If anyone is in north central, Missouri I'd love to pick your brain/get some help on what to get and what's needed. I'm West of Columbia in Saline County.


Offline austinrob

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2012, 12:12:02 PM »
Well. I currently have rights to talk on the fire band. Which I'd like to continue. but I would also like to listen to police.. but with me getting into Ham now (currently studying for first exam). I would like to only carry 1 radio instead of the three required for... 1 for fire, 1 for police scanner, and 1 for ham

If anyone is in north central, Missouri I'd love to pick your brain/get some help on what to get and what's needed. I'm West of Columbia in Saline County.
while technically possible to modify a typical HT to talk outside amateur bands, it's not legal to transmit outside the rated bands on that equipment.  Now, that said, if you have privs to speak on that band, nobody is likely to get their knickers in a twist over it.

I have an HT that is capable of being software modified to be able to transmit on FRS & GMRS bands.  Were I to actually do that (even at low power) it would be no bueno according to the FCC. 

I have a friend in state guard with the same HT.  He modified his to function on their frequencies, but that is NOT illegal under amateur radio rules by the FCC because he uses those frequencies as part of authorized military operations with his unit. (similar situation to MARS/CAPS mods)

Offline slingblade

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2012, 09:53:47 AM »
Austinrob, which HT(s) are capable of being modified as you and your buddy have done?  BTW, great responses everyone!  It really helps.

Offline austinrob

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2012, 09:31:39 PM »
Austinrob, which HT(s) are capable of being modified as you and your buddy have done?  BTW, great responses everyone!  It really helps.
you can search mod sites (mods.dk or kb2ljj.com) but we're using the wouxun HTs.  The commander software lets you set the transmit/receive ranges.  Love the radios btw.  Not feature rich, but a good receiver, I can make myself heard, it gets the job done,

Offline Hootie

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2012, 05:09:59 PM »
i have a old Radio Shack HTX-202, i got off ebay ($60). It maybe old, but built like a tank.

it is a 2meter (144.000-148.000MHz)
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/1296

Offline z00mer11

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2012, 11:48:01 PM »
I would recommend the yaesu vx-7r handheld.  It comes with 3 bands, including 2-meters and 70 cm.  As to preps and disaster prep, it is also waterproof, (30 seconds submerged).  Also, get the headset attachment that allows for hands-free operation.  This is a must have for those noisy areas. 

73's and good luck!

Offline austinrob

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2012, 01:19:54 PM »
I would recommend the yaesu vx-7r handheld.  It comes with 3 bands, including 2-meters and 70 cm.  As to preps and disaster prep, it is also waterproof, (30 seconds submerged).  Also, get the headset attachment that allows for hands-free operation.  This is a must have for those noisy areas. 

73's and good luck!

I'll second the headset/earphone attachment reccomendation, and the yaesu vx series are nice if you can afford them.  if you'd rather spend the same money and get a pair of wouxun's, or 8 baofengs (only 2w), then take that into consideration.

Offline romeojuliethotel

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2012, 01:23:38 PM »
Before you buy any radio, consult with your local ham radio club.  There's bound to be a club near you.  Some clubs will even provide radio programming files or services.  Hams love to teach others and you could hold and use a variety of radios in person.  All radios differ and so actually seeing it and holding it is helpful.  I made the mistake of purchasing a radio to use to listen to local nets before I got my licenses.  I wish I would have waited as my 2nd radio ended up being the one I carry on a daily basis.

Offline idelphic

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #25 on: April 05, 2012, 02:05:49 PM »
I would recommend the yaesu vx-7r handheld.  It comes with 3 bands, including 2-meters and 70 cm.  As to preps and disaster prep, it is also waterproof, (30 seconds submerged).  Also, get the headset attachment that allows for hands-free operation.  This is a must have for those noisy areas. 

73's and good luck!
I also recommend the Yeasu vx7 or 8 radio.  As z00mer11 stated, it's three bands in one radio.  More if you include the fact that you can receive Marine and HF bands.  the vx7 serious (which I have) has the Marine band and AM broadcast stations - Voice of America, and others in the 5.000 and 7.000 mHz range).

I can listen to AM and FM radio, NOAA, Police, FRS & GMRS and more in addition to the 2m, 70cm and 6m bands.  For the price, it is a excellent starting radio.  It's dual band so you can listen to 2 at once. 

the Yeasu Ft-817 is a excellent radio as well,.. it like the vx7/8 is limited to 5 watts, but has the added bonus of being able to transmit on HF not just VHF/UHF.  While it is portable, it's not a portable as the vx7/8 series... to use the HF bands you'll need a bigger / longer antenna then a 'duck'. 

If you want to use short range, you'll be better off with the HT size radio - regardless of Kenwood, Icon or Yeasu.

Offline idial1911

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2012, 08:17:11 PM »
Baofeng's are good bang for the buck.. Read a review here:

http://www.preparedham.com/forums/equipment-reviews/baofeng-uv3-r-mark-ii-mini-(tiny)-dualband-ht-for-about-$40-$60-depending/

Offline Texas Sawduster

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #27 on: July 02, 2012, 10:24:46 AM »
Just bought a ICOM ID-880D.
This radio has D-STAR which is exclusive to ICOM.
It is a digital voice built within the radio. You have the option of using FM or DV. Of coarse that has to be a D-STAR repeater nearby, but once on, as I was told, you can reach out farther thru the D-STAR repeater network even using a mobile while driving and get other countries that are on D-STAR repeaters.

I tossed buying the ICOM over the Kenwood. I did not have the cash to get an HT and work crossbanding as of yet. If the wife wants to get her ticket, then she will most likey get the Kenwood.


Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2012, 12:14:26 PM »
I've been licensed for only 6 months (Tech, then General)... Here's the radios I've purchased...
FT-817ND, $700
FT-60R, $160
FT-2900R, $160
In hindsight, I spent way more money at the beginning by buying radios in the wrong order, but I am planning on keeping all of them, and I have purchased two more, the FT-450D and the FT-250R, along with a bunch of accessories and various antennas.
Daddy Warbucks, please adopt me :)

A quick public CONGRATS to TX Sawduster who just got his ticket. Here's a modified version of a PM I sent him when discussing options for a 1st radio suggestion:

I only own one radio right now. It's the Yaesu VX-8R, which allows me to talk on 6M, 2M, 70cm and listen on every band. There is a very simple modification you can do (crushing a single resistor) which allows you to transmit on the MARS frequencies and as an added benefit, unlock the ability to transmit on Marine/FRS/GPRS frequencies. It is illegal to actually transmit on the FRS/GPRS services at 5W, but in an emergency, it will get out there on those freqs too - so you could communicate with wife/young'uns on their $20 radios from Walmart but also use HAM bands. Again, illegal to do so in anything except an emergency. I don't know if other comparable handhelds can be so easily modified to meet my emergency needs. Not an issue... I have this one now. Major issue/drawback to the VX-8 compared to the earlier "VX-n" series is the headset/mic interface. You can get a headset/throatmic/etc for the VX-7 and below but the connection for voice input on the VX-8 uses the 7-pin connector. Knowing the pin configuration (available online) you could build your own headset/throat mic, but there isn't one commercially available yet.

I really want to put a dual band mobile into my car, but I do appreciate being able to completely remove the setup. However, I've found I do most of my talking from the car while I'm driving. I drive a civic as my daily driver, so antenna space is an issue. I've looked at both Yaesu & Kenwood... I lean toward the Yaesu FT-8800 or FT-8900 which you can pick up for ~$450 (http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/fm_txvrs/0890.html). They are running a special right now so the radios come with the separation kit so you can mount in trunk, etc. I would REALLY like an "all in one" receiver like the FT-897 which you can get for ~$1000 from the same place. It does almost everything. Literally the only features I WANT that it doesn't do is APRS (definitely check that out) and cross-band repeat. But the thing itself is tiny and can be thrown in a backpack and carried and can even operate on it's own internal batteries similar to the FT-817 that FreeLancer has but at higher power. It's kinda "the nuts" for people who want to go off and DX from some remote island because it literally does it all. This would be THE RADIO to have if you wanted to be able to communicate on ANY HAM band and in ANY mode (CW, SSB, FM, etc.) From a prepper standpoint, it's the HAM radio "tacticool" version of a pimped out .308 AR with night vision scope and IR laser. That said, I lean to the FT-8900 for price:capability. It has 10M HF voice capability, which allow global communications even as a Tech. I just really want to get up on all the HF bands. The 897 could be your first base station. You don't need (and can't use) the HF capability outside 10M yet anyway as a Tech - except for CW.

If I were you, I'd either go for a handheld that will allow you to play around, build antennas, be a future "backup/augment" to your setup or I'd go for a dual band mobile that has cross band repeat. Either way, you're looking at a few hundred bucks, but you'll have equipment you can use for a long time.

I think if I were starting from scratch, I would go with a good dual band mobile with cross band repeat like the FT-8900 for about $450 and also pick up a cheap handheld like one of the Wouxun dual banders for <$150 or even the Baofeng that idial911 mentioned. Then you have the mobile and you also have the ability to go out in the woods and use the handheld, cross-banding into your local repeaters with your car radio. Second round would be to purchase a sweet radio like the FT-897 for ~$1000. You will want to buy an aftermarket antenna for a handheld ($20-50... I use the Diamond SRH77CA dual band for my handheld when it's not in my car). You will also want to buy the antenna for your car unless you are one helluva craftsman.

For HOME antennas... learn how to BUILD them. New knowledge is prepping. You'll learn about the theory, how to solder, etc. They are also way cheaper to build than to buy with most components - PVC, copper pipe, wire, etc. available at Home depot. You can buy them if you really get into it and there is some special purpose antenna. But I have built a few and love it. I even built an antenna while I was deployed to communicate via satellite. Awesome...

Good luck to you. HAM radio is almost worse than a gun addiction. Because everyone is opinionated the same way, but we're all nerdy enough to blather on about our favorite stuff. As a prepper though... it's about CAPABILITY and REDUNDANCY, NOT brand name or whiz bang features that you'll never use. Feel free to ask any questions. As others have said, the HAM community is nothing if not helpful and full of advice.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 12:39:17 PM by AngusBangus »

Offline AngusBangus

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Re: 1st radio suggestion needed.
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2012, 01:10:21 PM »
On another note, I see a good bit of equipment listed here that is sitting/being used in people's shacks. How about some reviews over in the gear review board? NOTE: I include myself in this category... I owe a VX-8R review if I'm gonna complain.