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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

6 Meters on a Budget

James Benedict (N8FVJ) on July 26, 2002
View comments about this article!

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.

CLASSIC RADIOS 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.

SOLID-STATE RADIOS 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.

SUMMARY 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!

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by NE0P on July 26, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
A couple of corrections:

1. The Icom 505 does have an antenna jack in the back which disables the whip. You can use an external antenna and/or amp with it. It is a neat little radio.

2. The ALinco DX70T puts out 100 watts on HF. The only difference between the DX70T and the DX70TH is the 6 meter output (10 watts vs. 100 watts)

3. Where is the Kenwood TS2000?

73s John NE0P
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by WB2WIK on July 26, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I won't critique the whole article, but the idea is great. I hope this will encourage folks who have never operated the band to give six meters a try.

One "golden oldie" you omitted is the Clegg Venus (1963-68 or so). 85W PEP input power, about 35-40W PEP out from a single 6883 (12v 6146), SSB-CW-AM, Nuvistor front end sensitive enough to be a current rig. Excellent crystal filter (for SSB), too narrow for AM, but tolerable. Slightly drifty but tolerable. Gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to operate. A lot of these were sold, and got people on 6m SSB before the Swan 250 or SB110 ever hit the market.

And one last point which deserves some mention: Antenna, antenna, antenna! The difference between the guys who try six and leave it inside of six months, selling their gear, and those who really succeed and stay with it forever is mostly in the antennas they used. My 18' long 6m yagi at 60' (a pretty minimalist setup) hears a great number of signals that I can't even tell are there when I use a roof mounted dipole, a chimney-mounted loop, or a 6m ground plane.

As with anything else, when the band's wide open, a wet noodle works. But on six, that only occurs rarely, and it's nice to have a radio you can make contacts with the _other_ 300+ days a year.

Good work!

WB2WIK/6
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KE4DRN on July 26, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Hi,

Ten Tec Model 1208 6 Meter Transverter. Uses your HF Tranceiver on 20 Meters to put you on the Six Meter Band.

Many available used right here on Eham.net or new
from Ten Tec.

73 james
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by HB9DRD on July 27, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I owned an IC-505 in the mid-80s when 6m was first released for general use in the UK. It wasn't a bad radio and I worked some reasonable DX with it. My big gripe with it was that it did not have any output to control an external amplifier or pre-amplifier.

I sold it after a relatively short time and bought a second hand TS670, a lovely radio.

Jonathan HB9DRD/G4KLX
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KA6VNU on July 27, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Good article Jim...enjoyed it....
You should have mentioned that this is the
band the "no coders" can use similar to HF...
Also know your "grid square"
I have owned 4 of the radios you mentioned...
Some better than others,but all did the job....
Using the FT 650 at present...
73 Walt KA6VNU (CM88ov)
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by K8DIT on July 27, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I have a budget station that I'm proud of, it's a Ten Tec Jupiter w/ a Ten Tec 1208 Transverter, and the antenna is a 2 el-quad, the add on, to the 5 band (20-10) Lighningbolt quad and it's up 52' on a Hygain 52' crank up tower. I use the N4PY software that gives me the actual digital readout for 6, and the ability to use the sweep function to hunt for sigs. Now if 6 meters were open more often.....
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by WH6LR on July 27, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
6M is a great band that make you pull your hair out and give you a pile-up form hell also. I have own three different 6m radios

1. MFJ 9406X - good performer! almost worked vucc on it, only thing was I like power!----sold it for $75

2. IC-706MK2G - It needed a filter to operate on 6m the reciever was very good. 1.9mzh filter made listening to 6m very fun. ---Traded it for a FT-847

3. FT-847 - A true super multi-mode. On 6M the DSP is better than the IC-706MK2G and the audio I believe is better than the 706 plus I wanted Satellites so I got what I believe is the best of both worlds. 6M with a better DSP and Satellites.

Have fun on the 6M band , they called it the magic band , I believe that. One day last year I was playing on the net and listening to 6m, I had not heard a thing for about 2 weeks on 6m and then the wonderful sound of LU5VV from Argentina was 59+ into EM04 I almost fell out my seat! PS that was the MFJ 9406X my little 2 cents.

73's de Jim
WH6LR EM04
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by K4SUS on July 27, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Another nice article about 6 mtrs. I'm the guy that originated the term "The Magic Band" and promoted it , with others to the point it is used today! The best 6 mtr. DX openings recently were from last Oct. 30, 01 through Feb.02 when I wkd about 40 new 6 mtr. DXCC countries and on this April 6, 02 when I wkd 2 BV/BX (Taiwan China), and 12 JA's LONG PATH on 50.120 from here in Miami, Fl, EL95. That was the highest point of my 40 years of on-off 6 mtr. operating.I have used most of the rigs mentioned and even homebrew and kit tube rigs on 6. Best antennas I have ever used are homebrew 7 element QUAD and the homebrew 4 ele. QUAD inside of my 6 band HF/VHF homebrew QUAD now ,at 60+ ft. 73 All! Have a great time on 6m. Tom K4SUS EL95/EM74
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by WD8MGO on July 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Hello Jim! I really enjoyed your article on the magic band. I started on six meter FM with a Genave crystal controlled transceiver. Soon moved onto a Yaesu FT-690 which by the way has AM mode. Next with the upgraded
Yaesu FT-690R Mark II. Great little radio but needs external DSP to improve receiver selectivity. I have used a simple 54 inch whip for both SSB/CW and FM.
It is really amazing what can be done with only eight watts output(measured on a Bird wattmeter).
 
Taking advantage of your rig's 6m capability is ea  
by W8KQE on July 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice article. I have been licensed since the late 70's, and only recently decided to get on six as a casual operator, given the 6m capabilities of my original model IC-756. I threw up a small PAR Electronics 6m triangle (looks like a loop) on the roof at only 25 feet or so, and proceeded to easily work tons of DX (CW and SSB) during that incredible series of openings we had last December thru this past February! Needless to say, I am now hooked! After putting up the PAR antenna, it was real exciting to then hear my first signal received, which was a beacon from 'OX' (Greenland). Now, I often monitor 50.125 while I am surfing the web or catching up on my reading, and I have been able to work several countries and states running this simple antenna during some openings! I am now considering running stacked PAR Triangles, until I get my 8 or so element 'dream beam' up one day!
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KG6JEV on July 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! However, don't forget the Yaesu FT-767GX. With the addition of a 10w PEP 6m module, this radio offers all-mode operation on 6m. I've worked stations as far away as Florida on my 767 and a M2 3-ele 6m yagi.

73,

Steven
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by VR2XMC on July 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Jim,

It is a very good effort to promote six meter activites. Perhaps, I should add that ICOM IC575A output power can be set at 20 watt all mode. There is a small switch at the PCB of the main unit. A simple flick will make the rig giving a solid 20 watt output. The output transistors of IC575A are a pair of 2SC1972.

The modification is allowed in the circuit design as advised by ICOM Japan.

73

Johnny Siu VR2XMC
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by N0TONE on July 29, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. Six meters CAN be a very magic band. But, like any "extremist" band, you must have patience. At the moment, my attention has turned to 160, which has some similarities - propagation doesn't happen all the time, many inexpensive rigs don't cover the band, etc. Of course on 160, we have the additional challenge that there aren't any good antennas that fit a small lot, but at least, most 160 antennas are relatively cheap since they inevitably are wire antennas or homebrew verticals.

I want to note that on many of the older rigs, you want to very carefully check out the features. They are often missing things you would never expect a radio to be missing. One reader has already pointed out that many of the older rigs (IC-502, IC-505, and others - not just tube rigs, but solid state rigs from the early days have some things missing) don't have a set of relay contacts for keying an amplifier. This particular issue is of little concern; if you're really on a budget, then you either don't have an amp, or you have a very old amp with a slow T/R relay, and therefore you already need to build your own external keying circuit (hint: your microphone trips a relay which keys both the exciter and amp at the same time - takes an hour to build once you acquire the connectors and box).

So, here are a few things that might "surprise" you, that you should ask about before buying an older rig. Not that you should avoid the rig, just be aware that you may have a little interface to build, or will have a limitation in what you can do.

1 - Just because a rig has FM, does not mean you'll be able to use a repeater. For instance, on the Kenwood TS-660S quadbander, there is no built-in repeater offset. You can program a separate TX and RX frequency into the VFOs and take care of that problem, but if you move to a different repeater, you have to re-program both TX and RX separately. The rig has no built-in subaudible tones, so you can't access many repeaters anyway, without adding a $50 external subaudible tone encoder. For my part, this is of little consequence: the entertainment of six meters isn't repeaters anyway.

2. - Some of the early solid state rigs have a fair number of spurious responses in the receiver. Going again from the one I owned, the TS-660S has a "birdie" right on 50. 110 MHz, a weak-signal calling frequency. It's not a strong birdie, and once I added an external preamp, the birdie became inaudible.

3. Just because a rig has CW does not mean it's the most pleasureful thing to use on CW. The TS-660S, again, has CW, but you have to manually place the rig into TX mode. So, push the "transmit" button, then key. No VOX and therefore no automatic send on CW. Again, if you wanted, you COULD fix this with an external interface. In my case, I lived with it since there was so little CW on 6 meters anyway.

4. Many of the rigs (IC-502, TS-660S) offer only USB, not LSB. For most cases, this is simply not a problem, because USB is standard on six meters. However, there was a time when one station was calling CQ on LSB, and I was unable to call him, just to tell him he was on LSB, because I couldn't operate LSB! If you plan to use the six meter rig to transvert to other bands (e.g. microwaves), then having only one SSB selection available limits the mixing scheme that you have to use on the transverter.


There are a few more things that can be done in the field of "inexpensive" six meters.

I know one ham who bought a multi-mode 10 meter rig - a Uniden HR2510, I think, for about $100 used. He changed a mixing crystal, changed some capacitors in the RX front end and TX PA, and had himself a nice six meter allmode transceiver for a total of about $120. I don't know if this can be done with any of the 10-meter only units or not, but certainly it's easier with the older ones, before they started potting the crystals and synthesizer chips to prevent CBers from hacking them.

Amplifiers are not often needed, but if you really need to work everything you can hear, and operate under very marginal conditions, you might consider it. Converting a multi-band amplifier to a six meter monobander is a fairly easy task. However, consider carefully what amplifier to start with. If your rig is only 10 watts, then choose an amplifier with tetrodes. You'll want to take advantage of the tetrodes' extra gain capability if you're only driving it with 10 watts.

The old Heath SB-200 is often available for under $200, with failed bandswitch. That matters not, you'll be tossing out the bandswitch anyway. However, this amp is a triode amp, and must be operated grounded grid, so a 10 watt rig won't drive it to much more than 100 watts. But it'll do a good 500 watts on six if you have a bigger exciter to begin with.

Some of the ceramic triode amps can be modified to get more gain, by changing input swamping networks. There's at least one ham who converted an Alpha 76 to a six meter monobander, and he has the project posted on a website. Get one with blown tubes - should be only $400 or so. Buy a single medical pull 3CPX800A7, and copy the circuit from Eimac's Care and Feeding book, for a grid-driven 3CX800A7 that turns 10 watts into 800 on six meters.

I don't do six any more. Six is a band that demands your availability when the band is open, and my own operating time happens rarely. The six meter enthusiasts I know keep a six meter rig next to their TV chair, so they can listen for band openings while otherwise wasting their time on the boob tube. I don't have a TV, so I can't do that!

Have fun and enjoy the magic.

AM
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KE0VH on July 29, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I am using a Swan 250 that I re-tubed (from Antique Electronic Supply), and re-aligned, and it seems to be working great. Not sure of the S/N ratio, but I have heard and worked Alaska, Louisiana, and into Mexico on a dipole above the garage when the band was open. And I traded an old HT here on Eham for the radio, so give it a try! You might have a lot of fun.
73' KE0VH www.geocities.com/ke0vh
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by W1XLR on July 29, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I just purchased a old FT-620B for $189.00 and a Par 6M Omni new for $63.00 AES. Antenna is 10' off the roof and about 25' off the ground. The band has been opening at apx. 11:30am and 7:30pm and I have been working the Midwest from here in Las Vegas. I find it very exciting! Hope to get a Amp soon and a beam to put on my Van when it cools off then I can do DX while camping and exploring the Desert! I guess 6 is not for everyone but I love it because it takes a little skill. Hope to work you on 50.125 USB, p.s. this radio puts out 20W PeP and about half of the contacts I have made are running the same radio and antenna!

73
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by W5HTW on July 29, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
For me, six is fun to play with occasionally. I wouldn't invest bunches of bucks into it, but when it is open and I catch it, I probably get as excited as anyone, even with my older Icom 706.

I didn't realize there were so many of the older ham rigs that worked six meters. Good article and informative. I, too, went the Motorola method in the early seventies, on both six and two meters, since I could pick up Motran and Motrac rigs cheaply and had a 2-way shop so I could set them up.

Probably the most fun I ever had on six meters, though, was with the old (well, it was new then!) Lafayette HA-something or other -- the six meter AC/mobile transceiver that ran ten watts (input) to a six meter halo. I remember going to the beach and being asked if the halo was a drying rack for the swim trunks. So we used it as such!

These days I'd like to see some good old "local communication" on six meters, FM or AM, or if need be, SSB, for the guys and gals around the area to just get on six meters and talk, the way ten meters is used in local ground wave.

I do manage to spot the openings on TV Channel 2 and 3, and rush to turn the 706 on. As noted, the 706 is not a great 6 meter receiver, but even then, it does well enough for a non-DX hound like me.

It's just plain fun! Thanks for the article - I learned a lot I didn't know, having been stuck in the surplus commercial market for so long.

Ed
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KG4QWC on July 30, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I am currently a technician (passed all the tests for
Extra but waiting till after the summer play time
to get the code part). Anyway, I am having lots of
fun on 6-m. My first contacts were during the ARRL
june VHF contest. During ARRL Field Day the band was
open most of the day and night. I used a discone (btw
we had to trim about 1/2-inch off the 6-m element to
tune it for minimum VSWR at 50.125 and my I-706 MKII-G
and a Yaesu 736R. I was hooked after that
experience. Yes it can be frustrating in some of
the pile ups, I called C6DX (Bahamas) for at least an
hour last weekend and never got thru and then the band
played out. I missed a contact to a HAM in Oregon a
few weeks ago when the band died but I continue to
listen and call CQ. One good thing for technicians is
it is a good place to learn how to operate and call in
the pile ups which will give good experience when one
goes to hf. There are many styles of operation and
you will learn the in-and-outs of operation and build
your skills. I have only gotten out to the single
hop sporadic e limit of about 1400 miles so far but
time will increase that. Don't forget to monitor some
of the beacons that are out there appropriate for your
location.

My curent rig is an I-706 MKII-G. I am using a
homebrew simple 6-m dipole which is incredibly easy to
make and in general seems to get out ok.
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KG4QWC on July 30, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I am currently a technician (passed all the tests for
Extra but waiting till after the summer play time
to get the code part). Anyway, I am having lots of
fun on 6-m. My first contacts were during the ARRL
june VHF contest. During ARRL Field Day the band was
open most of the day and night. I used a discone (btw
we had to trim about 1/2-inch off the 6-m element to
tune it for minimum VSWR at 50.125 and my I-706 MKII-G
and a Yaesu 736R. I was hooked after that
experience. Yes it can be frustrating in some of
the pile ups, I called C6DX (Bahamas) for at least an
hour last weekend and never got thru and then the band
played out. I missed a contact to a HAM in Oregon a
few weeks ago when the band died but I continue to
listen and call CQ. One good thing for technicians is
it is a good place to learn how to operate and call in
the pile ups which will give good experience when one
goes to hf. There are many styles of operation and
you will learn the in-and-outs of operation and build
your skills. I have only gotten out to the single
hop sporadic e limit of about 1400 miles so far but
time will increase that. Don't forget to monitor some
of the beacons that are out there appropriate for your
location.

My curent rig is an I-706 MKII-G. I am using a
homebrew simple 6-m dipole which is incredibly easy to
make and in general seems to get out ok.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by N8FVJ on July 30, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I am glad everyone had enjoyed the article. Appreciate the comments on errors & forgotten gear. Tom, K4SUS, I read your article & observations regarding six meters and your phrase 'The Magic Band' stuck in my mind- very good!
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KC8PMG on July 30, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Your article was very interesting, and I have considered getting a six meter rig, but all of my friends are discouraging me, saying it's a dead band, you won't find anyone out there, etc, etc, etc.

Other friends tell me to save my money, get my code (already have the general theory passed)and get on the H.F. bands.

Since money is at a premium, and my wife thinks this hobby is too expensive (have spent less than $1,000.00 to date), I am reluctant to spend the money on a six meter rig.

However, I also believe that we will lose what we don't use, so that is another reason for getting into six meters.

The fun in ham radio for me, is working the stations you can find with whatever power you have.

I was wondering if there are any six meter operators out there who really love working this band and could give me some feedback.

A very good article, and thanks for writing it. Thanks also to anyone who answers my comments.

73,

KC8PMG
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by N8FVJ on July 31, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I believe the HF bands are a better place to start. Six meters is fun for me as in N. lower Michigan, I can work Aurora a lot. About everyday Sporadic E is available from late May to into the fall. And, when the sunspot cycle peaks, world wide DX is available. A lot of the time the band is not open, however with many new HF radios including six meters the band is much more active than ever. I just do not care about $200 to $400 extra for a 6 meter radio or view it as a waste of money. On a tight budget? Get a HF transceiver first. Read my past articles on this site including 'HF on a Budget'.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by WB2WIK on July 31, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
KC8PMG: Most newer HF rigs cover six meters also, so getting on six, once you're on HF, can be only a matter of an antenna.

Don't underestimate the importance of that antenna, however, if you expect to actually make contacts on six meters. When the band's open, it's true that a wet noodle will work and make contacts, but the _other_ 300+ days a year, it won't.

A shiny new J-pole, ground plane or dipole doesn't cut it very well on 50 MHz, unless you're interested in working local FM repeaters, or you have neighbors (literally) who work the band. An old, oxidized, 5 or 6 element beam up as high as you can get it will work lots better, and can often be found for free, or close to it. Go for the beam. Even then, 6m requires patience. I've worked the band for 35 years, and have heard it "open" for five minutes, allowing 3000 mile contacts, and then close just as quickly. Often, those contacts are S2 in signal strength. If they're S2 on my beam, they are below the noise on a dipole, ground plane or whip. And that's why so many people say "there's nothing on six."

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by N1VLQ on July 31, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
My experiences on 6 are limited to this past Field Day, but wow was it fun! I volunteered to come up with the 6 meter station for our group, then had to concoct something (silly me volunteering-no experience building stuff.... but learning under pressure "inspires" me). After bantering it around with the more experienced hams in the area I decided on a quad, as it didn't need any delta or gamma matchs to add complexity, but could be fed directly to coax. I managed to cobble together a 4 element quad just a few days before Field Day this year, without any time to test it, other than to verify it was close to resonant at the bottom of the band. Well, Field Day came, and once we had the thing up 35 feet in the air, it showed a reasonable SWR and resonance on the analyzer, all we needed now was an opening. Which didn't happen for us until early Sunday morning, when I checked it almost as a lark. After I made a couple of contacts in a row, I looked at the other guys in the area and said "here we go". 2 hours and 80+ contacts later, I decided the 6 meters truly is "The Magic Band"... That was awesome! Now all I have to do is figure out a way to put that antenna up here at home, on my small city lot. But I certainly look forward to getting back on 6 as soon as possible.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by W4DXL on August 3, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I reciently found an inexpensive way to get on 6 meters, a Used Alinco DJ-M06T (10 watts for $100!). I can't believe what this little radio can do! It's connected to a Diamond V-2000 Tri band antenna, a really good performer. The second day I owned it I worked a Texas station from North Carolina. I can hit a 6,000 foot mountain top repeater and there is a local rag chew 6 meter repeater. The folks on 6 are a smaller group but very friendly and enthusiastic. Even when there is no skip 6 seems to go just a little further than 2 meters. The only downside is the band can be a bit noisy sounding like power line static. I've always been able to monitor HF but 6 meters has always been a mystery. I enjoy 6 more than I expected and I'll be looking for more 6 meter gear when my budget allows.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by WD8OST on August 4, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
want to get the most of 6m ssb? I do, yes a beam 6 elm. 100 watts. openings I do well, but no openings? yes local-100-150 miles I do. my grid en76- work each day for 5 years en77-en85-en84 so I get the most I can on 6m ssb. so do it your way dipole than you can say no openings nothing on 6mssb. the band is dead useless not for me. enjoy 6mssb.
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KG4GSC on August 5, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Ah, 6 meters. I've been "around" amateur radio since a kid (too many years ago, hihi) but did not get my licence until a few years ago. Didn't really gravitate towards FM, bought an old 2M SSB rig and had fun with that for awhile. Finally got an old (dead) 6M rig (Swan 250C), rebuilt it and started playing around on 6.

Today I have three 6 meter rigs.....an Alinco DX70T (not bad at all on 6, and will be my vehicular HF rig as soon as CW and I get together!!), my Yaesu FT736R (what a sweet receiver!) and for portable use an MFJ 9406. Caught C6DX the other day while driving down the road in NC....my MFJ sits in a metal briefcase w/the 12V gelcell, the 6M mag mount was just stuck onto the roof of the company car. Heard him ragchewing, gave him a shout.....and got him! Not bad for 8-10 watts into a 1/4 wave magmount!

OK, not the best DX story in the world, but just to show you that 6 can be tons of fun....and helps those who inhabit it to learn DX procedure, proper SSB operations and can interest many Tech class licencees to expand their horizons onto HF. The transverters (way to go, TenTec!) are also good and can expand an HF only radio to 6M, and I'm quite happy to see lots of the newer rigs with 6M included.

Hope to hear you on 6M!
Andrew
KG4GSC (yup, a Tech licencee....but just for the moment, I'm working on CW. And who said Incentive Licencing was a failure?)
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by WB2WIK on August 5, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
The Magic Band was open quite a lot over the past few days...caught 1x and 2x Es on Thursday evening 8/1/02, and the interesting thing was, _not a single station on the band_ until I called "CQ" at about 0000 UTC (8/2/02).

Five weak beacons copies, but zero activity. Called CQ on dead band, 50.125, received a pileup of replies.

Remember, folks, if everybody listens, nobody hears anything.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by W0FM on August 6, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Bob Heil, K9EID, got me hooked on 6M in 1962. I was using a Knight Kit R100 receiver with an Ameco 6M converter and a Heathkit transmitter into a 4 element yagi at about 15ft. With Bob's constant encouragement I managed to work a number of states over the next gazillion years, but no DX.

This past Sunday evening, I was tuning around on six with my FT-847 and attic-mounted 3 element yagi when I heard and worked a TI5 in Costa Rica and and ZF1 on Grand Cayman. What a thrill! Patience guys, patience!

73,

Terry, WFM
 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by N4UE on August 18, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
Jim, you are to be commended for such a great article! I loved it, as I do the 6 Meter band.
I have been on 6M since getting out of the Navy in 1969. Sometimes seriously. I started with 20 Watts of TVI, er, I mean AM.
Here's a recap of some of the rigs that have passed through WA1LZJ, N4KCM and now N4UE:

THEN:

Hallicrafter HA-6 transverter (with preamp). This worked great and I was able to work my first MS contact with Wayne, K8LEE, from the worst QTH on earth!
Used it with a HW-101 I built. I have recently seen one on E-pay.

Swan 250C. I bought this new from Swan, it worked pretty good. I had the now rare TV-2C that matched it and it was fun.

Lafayette HA-460. This was another radio I bought new, and wish I had kept. Although it was only AM, I used it hilltopping on various mountaintops back in Mass. and New Hampshire. I used a collapsible 3 el beam made by Hi-Par in my hometown. Eventually, I used 2 stacked at about 25'. I used the 'armstrong' method of rotation. Boy, was that ever fun! I can still remember hearing the SSB stations just coming on the band. However, I usually would make 50-75 contacts per outing. Took about 10 minutes to set up. I still have both of the antennas, each collapses into a 4X4X40" box. Gamma match, telescoping element, wing nuts everywhere. Henry, W1NEV, used all high quality SS hardware.

RECENT:

Heathkit SB-110A. A real woofer. I had 3, all NG. Sensitive, OK, but too unstable.

Drake TR-6. This is still one of my favorites. I updated mine with more modern JFETs, but it still hears as well as anything I own. Just a fantastic radio. Although pricey, they are worth every penny for a non-mobile application. I just recently acquired a mint TC-2 and all related accessories from a local for almost nothing.

Icom 575H. This was a 'nice' radio. When I realized that the new 706g I bought in Tokyo has just as sensitive a reciever, I sold the 575. Yes, I wish I had it back.

Icom 706g. I bought this in Tokyo a couple of years ago. Just an amazing radio. But, too small for me. I recently bought an Icom 761, now THAT's more my size!
(Steve Katz once said in CQ, that my "shack looked like an Icom ad"). Really strange to use this tiny radio to drive my huge rack-mount kilowatt amp, working scatter.

Icom 551D w/PS/Speaker. Bought new by an ex-girlfriend. This is another staple radio. I added an ARR JFET preamp sent it to International Radio for alignment and worked 350 grids from the last QTH.

Icom 756PRO. I also bought this one in Tokyo. It is my main radio for 6. I just cannot imagine another high end radio without a bandscope! However, it hears nothing the TR-6 or 706g can't. All a wash, sensitivity wise, but the PRO is WAYYYY more fun....

I hope I have added to the collective memories of the group....

Ron (moving to EM80, soon)

N4UE


 
6 Meters on a Budget  
by KG4QWC on August 28, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
I have to post another 6-m note concerning
6-m, dipoles, skip, dead bands, etc. I guess
equipment is only part of the equation.
Luck, perserverance, and listening and
call CQ now and again still is important.
Anyway I was lucky enough to work LU5VV
this weekned with my little 6-m dipole
sitting on my bed inside my house running
signal into from my I-706MKIIG. It was not
the most beautiful QSO I have ever produced
but the exchange was made. At just over 5,500
mile this 6-m contact is simply incredible to me.
Oh, I recently purchased an MFJ-259B VSWR
meter which allowed me to "tune" the aluminum
tubing length to get the best resonance from the dipole. It clearly worked. 73.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by RADIOWEENIE on November 25, 2002 Mail this to a friend!
The comments here to date are all true. SIX is definitely the "magic band". But i would take issue with the ham who calls it a "dead band" (although at times it certainly does appear to be so). However it certainly does appear to be a "sporadic band" (note Sporadic E) and it can also be considered a "lazy band" in the sense that it is not open very often. If you are one of these people who monitor SIX on your way to and from work, you will not be at all satisfied because you will eventually ask yourself the question "What am i doing with this radio?" The way to handle SIX is to keep it on all the time. Monitor 52.525 FM or 50.110, 50.120, 50.125 SSB. Activity on SIX will be sporadic and virtually unpredictable. But it WILL occur. Just do not anticipate it or hope for it. You will be surprised and pleased. I like to keep mine on at home. You are seldom disturbed; but if the band opens, you will know it immediately and be ready to take advantage. Good Luck and may Sporadic E be with you. 73 de
--R.W.
 
RE: 6 Meters on a Budget  
by VE7SZS on May 4, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
I found your post in the threads on this forum but couldn't find your article. Can you reply with a link to it?

I have a 5 watt handheld Yaesu VX-5R. It xmits 5 watts on the 2m and UHF
bands and has FM 6meters as well. I'd like to be able to use its 6meter FM
abilities for emergencies in remote locations where I can't count on
line-of-sight, local repeaters or cell phones. Assuming that the stock
rubber duck is going to be next to useless, I'd be prepared to invest in or
build a suitable antenna if I could have a good chance of raising anyone at
all on 6m FM 100+ miles away.

Is it reasonable to expect any form of propagation on the 6 meter band FM /
Voice for 100 miles or more at only 5 watts? What portable / backpackable
antenna designs might work? It would be easy enough to cut a 300 ohm twin
lead J-pole for this purpose. A yagi would probably be impractical though
it might be worthwhile at the cabin.

Any suggestions or comments? SSB wouldn't be an option with this radio. CW / morse would not be practical because the radio won't work Morse and because I haven't yet learned it.

Thanks
VE7SZS
 
6m... catching openings.  
by W8KQE on June 19, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Being a while after my original post here, I might also add that if your 'HF plus 6' or 6 meter rig has a 'scan' function, it is very productive to have it scan the beacon frequencies up through and including 50.125 MHz. I often leave my rig on constantly throughout the day, especially May thru September and during the Winter months while I am on my computer, reading the newspaper/magazines, taking a shower, puttering about the house, etc. (you get the idea). This method has netted me tons of contacts and has allowed me to 'be there' during many openings that I otherwise would have missed! If your rig is situated within earshot of whatever else you are doing around the house, it is a great idea to leave it on 50.125 or place it in 'scan mode'. Sometimes, I even love listening to the static by leaving the squelch all the way open! It is soothing, and almost resembles 'white noise', which some doctors and other practicioners believe may be healthy to listen to and help reduce stress. That said, my success on 6m using only my IC-756 (original model) and a simple, compact PAR 'Omniangle' triangular 'loop' at 25 feet height, has been unbelievable! I implore all of you whose rigs have 6m capabilities anyway, and who have been curious about 6m, to put something simple up on the roof (or in your attic) and start enjoying some of these fun openings, especially from May thru September, when most occur! It can really become addicting!
 
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