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THE 6M BAND- Six meters (50-54Mhz) is often called the 'Magic Band'. Either you like the band and become an operator for life or leave it after a short period. The magic part is just about every type of propagation shows up on this frequency. Aurora, Sporadic 'E', Tropospheric Ducting, F2 (same as HF), even Meteor contacts during the meteor showers. Fortunately, the newer transceivers have included 6 meters as of late. Now, unlike a few years ago, if the band is open, most likely an operator will be on the other end! The modes are the same as HF- SSB, CW, FM and AM. Yes, 6 meter AM is now used in some larger cities for local contacts using older equipment. Additionally, many 6 meter FM repeaters are either in the planning stages or on the air now. Additional information is available at this eHam site under the Resource section 'Links'.
EQUIPMENT- The article states '6 Meters on a Budget'. The 6 meter transceivers can be quite expensive, thus $150 is a difficult budget for a transceiver, but not impossible! I would want SSB and CW as a minimum and coverage from at least 50.0 to 50.3 Mhz. Most transceivers are equipped with SSB/CW and operate from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. The upper part of the band is used for FM, typically 52.0 to 54.0 Mhz. Digital frequency readout is not a 'must have' issue as the bands are not crowded and it easy to 'get around' on six meters. 'Stellar' performing transceivers are not needed on 6 meters to join in on the fun. Sporadic E, for example, is almost guaranteed in the USA during the spring, summer and fall months irregardless of the sun spot cycle.
Antennas vary from 5/8 wave verticals to yagi type beam antennas. A good used 3 to 4 element beam antenna can be purchased from $50 to $75. A discarded 11/10meter beam can be modified for 6 meters or if one has enough parts, a good performing beam can be built. Three elements result in 8dBi gain on a six-foot boom and four to five elements result in 10 to 11dBi gain on a ten to twelve foot boom. Due to the smaller size of some 6 meter beams, an inexpensive TV antenna rotor can be used. The beam antenna with 25+ watts is somewhat important for Aurora, long haul local work (100+ miles) and weaker DX. Sporatic E, F2 openings and Troposperic Ducting can be amazing using a vertical and 3 to 10 watts RF output.
SSB/CW equipment listed below includes offerings from MFJ, Drake, Heathkit, Ten-Tec, Icom, Kenwood, Alinco, Swan, RCI and others. I will attempt to list a 'ballpark' price, however the price is set by the seller. The condition and options can raise the price above the guide listed below.
Heathkit SB-110 & SB110A- (1965) This tube type transceiver features about 80 to 100 watts SSB & CW from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz on six meters with two 6146 tubes in the final RF amplifier. The receiver is sensitive due to cascaded nuvistor (2) RF receive amplifiers and reasonably selective with 6 pole crystal lattice filters for SSB and CW. I owned a SB-110A about 15 years ago and was surprised by the performance and reasonable stability. A friend actually prefers this transceiver to the Drake TR-6! I am not up to date on used prices as this radio is becoming a collectable. Be sure to ask about the remote power supply when purchasng this radio.
Swan 250C- (1967) This tube type radio operates SSB/CW/AM and provides over 100 watts output PEP on 6 meters. I have never used the radio, however it should perform reasonably well on six meters, perhaps a preamp would be required for weak signal use. Ask questions regarding drifting and sensitivity. As above, I am not familiar with used prices.
Drake TR-6- (1970) This is a collectors radio from the tube era. Part tube and solid-state, that is, 10 transistors and 12 diodes with 19 tubes. The transmitter produces approximately 300 watts CW/PEP from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. The noise blanker was an option and I consider a good noise blanker/limiter a 'must' on 6 meters. This radio can get expensive at $400 on up.
Yaesu FT-620B- (1976) The Yaesu tunes from 50 to 54.0 Mhz in eight 500 Hz bands. The RF output is 10 watts PEP SSB/CW/AM/FM. The receiver is not very sensitive, however a preamp or perhaps a new FET transistor in the receiver first RF amp section will perform well with the FT-620B. Prices are about $150 to $200.
ICOM IC-502- (1977) This is a portable radio tuning 50.0 to 50.5 Mhz. Output is 3 watts PEP SSB/CW. The receiver is reasonable, however a solid-state 'brick' amplifier would help the RF power output. Somewhat rare, this 'fun' radio can cost up to $200.
Kenwood TS-600- (1977) The TS-600 is a well respected radio with a good receiver. Perhaps not the best choice next to an AM broadcast station, however the hot receiver is great for weak signal reception. The radio produces 10 watts PEP SSB/CW/FM from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. Prices range from $200 to $275.
ICOM IC-551 & 551D- (1979) The IC-551 was a 10 watt RF output version and the later 'D' model has 80 watts RF output. Both radios tune 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. The receivers are reasonably sensitive. The IC-551 is about $175-$250 and the high power 'D' version is about $275 to $375.
Yaesu FT-625 & FT-625RD- (1979) These radios are available in the analog dial version (FT-625R) and digital readout version (FT-625RD). The radios tune 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz and the output is 25-30 Watts RF on SSB/CW/AM/FM. The radio can perform repeater splits, however the frequency split is fixed at 1 Mhz. An optional crystal, selectable on the front panel, will allow any fixed frequency split on one of four bands (four optional crystal positions are available). The FT-625 series is considered one of the better radios available for sensitive receive and reasonable selectivity. Using crystal mixing, phase noise is not an issue, however some drift like other radios in the same era is present. The noise limiter is very effictive. I watched a 20 over S9 noise figure drop to a S3 with good audio. The FT-625R has a crystal calibrator installed. Cost is approximately $250 (FT-625R) to $375 for an excellent condition FT-625RD with optional CW narrow filter.
Yaesu FT-680R- (1980) The FT-680R is a mobile transceiver operating from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. The receiver is sensitive and operate SSB/CW/FM. Output is 10 watts. Early radios had a repeater split switch under the radio with later versions selectable on the front panel. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $200-$250.
Kenwood TS-660S- (1980) This radio was called the 'quad bander' with the entire frequency range of the 15, 12, 10 & 6 meter bands available. The modes are SSB/CW/FM. Output is 10 watts PEP. Digital frequency readout. The Price is about $350-$400.
Kenwood TR-9300- (1981) This is a rather rare mobile transceiver with all mode operation, 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz and 10 watts PEP output. Unlike the 2 meter TR-9000 series, this receiver is sensitive for weak signal performance. Digital readout. Price about $250.
Yaesu FT-690R- (1981) This is the original mobile 6 meter all mode radio. The receiver is somewhat less selective than others in the same era, however the receiver is reasonably sensitive. The output is 3 watts PEP. Digital frequency readout. Price is $200-$250.
ICOM IC-505- (1982) The IC-505 is a portable radio that can make use of 'C' type batteries. Modes are SSB/CW from 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz. The radio has a built-in antenna and is not suited to drive an external antenna of 50 ohms. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $150.
Yaesu FT-726R- (1983) The FT-726R is a very good radio that was manufactured with 2 meters standard. Optional modules were available for 6 meters, 430-440 Mhz or 440-450 Mhz and 10/12 meters as well. An optional module would allow full duplex operation. The RF output on 6 meters is 10 watts SSB/CW/FM. The receiver is absolutely 'top notch' and even has an IF shift control. Spec's suggest it will handly outperform a FT-736! Digital frequency readout. Price with the 6 meter module is $450 on up depending upon options.
Kenwood TS-670S- (1985) The TS-670S has the 40, 15, 10 & 6 meter bands. The modes are SSB/CW/FM and covers all the frequencies on the bands listed above. The RF output is 10 watts PEP. The receiver is sensitive. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $400.
Yaesu FT-690R MK II- (1987) The revised FT-690R MK II is an all mode 50.0 to 54.0 Mhz transceiver with 10 watts RF output PEP. In later years, an optional module produced 25 watts PEP RF output. LCD digital frequency readout. Price is $325 to $425 depending upon output and condition.
Note- all radios listed below with one exception covers the full 6 meter frequency range and has digital frequency readout.
Yaesu FT-736R- (1987) This is the FT-726R replacement with many modules available including 6 meters. Full duplex and crossband operation included as standard plus all mode operation makes for an expensive radio. I believe only 10 watts RF is available on 6 meters, yet the 2 meter and 70 cm bands have 35 watts output. Price is $750 on up depending upon condition.
Icom IC-575A & IC-575H- (1987) Two versions were available with the 'A' model producing 10 watts PEP RF and the 'H' version producing 100 watts PEP RF output. The radio is all mode and has a very good receiver. Prices start about $400 up to $550-600 for the 100 watt version.
Kenwood TS-680S- (1988) This is a HF plus 6 meter radio that started the 160 through 6 meter standard often included now in many transceivers. All mode operation and 10 watts RF output on six meters. The receiver performance is good. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $450.
Icom IC-726- (1989) The IC-726 includes 160 through 10 meters at 100 watts and 6 meters at 10 watts PEP output. This all mode radio has rather high synthesizer noise that can mask weak signals. It was replaced with the hot performing IC-729. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $400.
Yaesu FT-650- (1991) This radio is an all mode 12, 10 & 6 meter transceiver. Output is 80 watts PEP RF on 6 meters. QST reported the receiver was just average in performance or not an advancement from the 1980's average performing receivers. With the digital frequency readout and high RF power output, the radio is about $450.
Kenwood TS-690S (1991) The TS-690S is an all mode HF to six meter transceiver. The receiver is sensitive and with average to good selectivity. In the early 1990s, everyone was wanting the 6 meter radios to operate as well as top of the better HF radios under crowded HF band conditions. Digital frequency readout. Price is about $600.
ICOM IC-729 (1992) Icom 'cleaned-up' the synthesizer noise on the IC-726 and produced a very good transceiver called the IC-729. This 160 through 6 meter radio has 100 watts RF output PEP on HF and 10 watts RF output PEP on 6 meters. Excellent like the FT-726R for weak signals on 6 meters. Digital frequency readout. Price is $400 to $500 depending upon filter options and condition.
Kenwood TS-60S (1994) This is an excellent performer (one of the best in this era). The modern chassis is all mode with about every operating feature just like the HF transceivers. Output is 90 watts PEP. The receiver is hot and this radio is desirable. The radio is expensive and somewhat rare, about $600.
ICOM IC-736 (1994) This is an excellent performer like the TS-60S and has an auto tuner as well. Even the power supply is built-in. Hot receiver, all mode operation and 100 watt PEP RF output costs about $700.
Japan Radio- JST-245 (1994) This is an expensive transceiver that is considered somewhat 'high-end' on HF and includes 6 meters as well. All features like the IC-736, be prepared to spend about $1200 on up.
Alinco DX-70T- (1995) The Alinco is indeed a 'sleeper'- defined as not so well known. Hot receiver has excellent specifications, all mode operation and 10 watts RF output on 6 meters. The HF output is about 50 watts. The good news is about $375 used.
ICOM IC-706- (1995) This is the new 'mini' radio that started the HF to 2 meter transceiver era. This earlier radio does not 'spec' as well as the latest '706' version (not as good as the TS-60S, DX-70TH, FT-726R and some other receivers). However, performance is as good or better than most radios in the 1980s. Thus, having all mode operation with 100 watts on 6 meters, at about $450 used, it is a good purchase.
MFJ 9406X- (1995) This was a great idea from MFJ in 1995. Sell a new radio with warranty, a good receiver and 10 watts output for $250. The radio has SSB capacity with an optional CW module. Frequency coverage on the analog dial is 50,0 to 50.5 Mhz. Base or mobile operation, it is a 'fun' radio. About $$150 used.
Alinco DX70TH- (1997) This is the high powered version of the DX-70T with 100 watts output from 160 to 6 meters. About $450 used.
Kenwood TS-570S- (1997) The TS-570S (early version with a somewhat 'less performing' DSP) is an all mode 160 through 6 meter radio with 100 watts output on all bands. A hot performer. About $700 to $800 used.
ICOM IC-756- (1997) The IC-756 is a all mode 160 through 6 meter radio with high-end performance. Perhaps the 6 meters DXers more expensive choice. Prices have been reasonable in the last 6 months- about $850 to $1000.
Yaesu FT-920- (1997) Like the IC-756, an all mode radio with 100 watts output. The HF side of this radio is not quite as hot as the IC-756, but the 6 meter side is as good or slightly better. In fact, I compared the receiver to a Motorola commercial unit and the FT-920 was as good on weak signal FM reception. The FM has greater bandwidth over SSB (poorer signal to noise ratio), thus more difficult to receive on FM over long-haul ground wave. Motorola commercial radios are very serious performers without the budget vs high-end engineering issues. About $750 to $850 used.
ICOM IC-706 MK II- (1997) Slightly improved over the IC-706 on 6 meters. About $500 used.
ICOM IC-746- (1998) A well performing all mode transceiver on 6 meters, includes 160 through 10 meters and 100 watts RF output PEP on all bands, plus 2 meters as well! Not a FT-920 or IC-756, but better than most 6 meter radios. This desirable radio costs about $850 to $1000 used.
Yaesu FT-847 (1998) This radio is a 160 through 70 cm all mode, high FR power output transceiver. Not as good a receiver as the IC-746, but with the extended band coverage and other features, the radio will cost $1000+ on the used market.
ICOM IC-706 MKIIG- This is the ultimate '706' all mode 160 to 70 cm transceiver. The receiver performance was greatly improved and is a leading seller today. Better than a FT-847 receiver, this Hot receiver (still manufactured new) will cost about $725 used.
Yaesu FT-100D- (1999)- The FT-100 had a few problems and has been replaced with the 'D' version. The FT-100D has better receiver specification over the IC-706 MKIIG. (The latest '706 is a hot performer anyways & reliable). I have used this radio ('D' version) and it is simply an amazing performer. I believe the DSP is superior to the FT-920! Dynamic range is around 130dB on some bands! About $600 used and the 'D' version is about $700 used.
Kenwood TS-570SG- (2000) The 'G' version has the improved DSP. About $850 used.
ICOM IC-756 PRO- (2000) 'Top-gun' performer. According to some Ham friends with an array of side by side high-end radios, when the bands 'pack it in' wall to wall, the PRO wins on SSB service! About $1450 used.
TEN TEC- 526 6N2- (2001) This is a modern SSB/CW/FM transceiver with 20 watts PEP RF output. The receiver is very good for weak signal work on 6 meters and has the 2 meter band as well. I have never found a used 526 6N2, but I will guess about $525 used.
ICOM IC-756 PRO II- (2001) The jury is out, too close to call, but some audio receive improvements & a new display.
Ranger RCI-5054DX- (2001) This is a 6 meter version of the 10/12 meter transceivers. All mode operation with 25 watts FR output PEP SSB & 10 watts RF output FM/AM/CW. The receiver is simular to the radios manufactured in the 1980s. I have seen these new for under $300 and has more features including a digital display over the MFJ 9406X. Used? Guessing about $240-$250.
ICOM IC-746 PRO- (2002) Too new to have an opinion.
Many 6 meter transceivers were manufactured in the last 40 years. What does all of the above mean anyways? Not listed were actual test data for a side by side comparision? Too many transceivers were manufactured for all the data in this article and some test data does not exist at least to my knowledge. I would breakdown the radio requirements to what would fit in one's budget and the performance features needed. For weak signal work including Aurora, a better receiver is needed with higher RF wattage output. Nothing less than 20 to 25 watts output into a four element beam is a good guide line. For F2, Ducting, Sporadic E and local communications, any transceiver listed above will perform with perhaps FM as an option. I would have about 10 watts RF output as a minimum requirement, however even 3 watts can bring startling results. I own a Yaesu FT625RD and I am pleased with the performance for weak signal and Aurora work. Perhaps this radio is a good baseline radio for the more difficult communications on 6 meters. I hope to hear from you on the 6 meter band this summer!
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