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Author Topic: Best light radio for DXpedition  (Read 22755 times)
NO9E
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Posts: 711




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« on: February 17, 2015, 08:35:49 AM »

I wonder about the best portable radio setup for an occasional dxpedition.

Goals: 100W with good RX/ efficient TX at small weight, small size and minimal number of cables to connect.
Antennas can be concocted from thin wires to trees. Especially close to salt water this works really well.
Antenna tuner (internal or external) with 4:1 balun.

Choices:
1. IC-7000/7100. Light (5-6.5 lb). But poor receive in pileup/static; mediocre speech processor
2. TS-480. Heavier and needs filters.
3. FT-857. Light and cheap. Needs filters. TX surprisingly effective.
4. KX1. Good rx but needs an amp. Ineffective SSB processor.
5. K3. Light (9 lb) but large. Excellent TX and RX. Can be throttled to 12W for low current. 

K3 becomes more interesting if one can fit batteries with PS inside. 7A PS with supercapacitors (like HPS-1a PS) or 10A LiFePO3. 

There was once a 100W expedition to one of the Antarctic islands. Very successful. They used old TS-50. Reliable and not subject to pulses like the Icoms. There was also a Russian who traveled through a  few African countries and who used TS-50 as well. But TS-50 is obsolete now. 

Any comments?


 




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N6PSE
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« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2015, 09:02:57 AM »

Elecraft K3's have become the choice for all leading DXpeditions. They are light in weight, small in size and they perform very well. In a large DXpedition, multi-station phase noise can be a real issue and the K3's really shine in this area. They couple very well to the KPA500 amplifier which essentially gives you a 600 watt radio.

We will use K3's in our upcoming VP8 South Sandwich and South Georgia DXpedition.
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WO7R
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« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2015, 09:27:37 AM »

K3 for the win.

If you evaluate the radios, the K3 comes out on top.  It is lightweight (which is what the airlines really care about) and it has a great receiver, which improves your DXpedition antennas.

Not being able to stuff a power supply inside of it just isn't an issue.  Everything gets XRayed anyway and the airlines care far more about weight than volume.  If you need to take a boat, too, once you've managed the airline, the boat is not an issue.  The real gotcha, if there is one, are the puddle jumper type airplanes one often takes.  I've ridden "copilot" in what amounts to an instrumented, commercialized Cesna.  But even so, volume wasn't that big a problem compared to weight.

I've looked at some minimalist, fly-in style DXpeditions and you're going to have to check some luggage no matter how light your footprint.  Once you do that, volume becomes secondary or even tertiary.  Weight is king and the K3, besides performing better, wins here too.
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W6GX
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« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2015, 09:40:06 AM »

The OP will be using this radio only occasionally.  For the price I think the Kenwood TS480 is hard to beat.  HRO has a discount now for $920.  I think a K3 will cost considerably more even for a used one.  There's also a 200w version of the TS480 for just a little bit more but it doesn't come with an internal tuner.  But 200w is a 3db gain over 200w so this is something not to be overlooked.  GL.

73,
Jonathan W6GX
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KJ4Z
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« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2015, 09:42:24 AM »

The OP will be using this radio only occasionally.  For the price I think the Kenwood TS480 is hard to beat.  HRO has a discount now for $920.  I think a K3 will cost considerably more even for a used one.  There's also a 200w version of the TS480 for just a little bit more but it doesn't come with an internal tuner.  But 200w is a 3db gain over 200w so this is something not to be overlooked.  GL.

73,
Jonathan W6GX

I use a TS-480HX (the 200 watt version) and it's a very capable little radio.  The receiver is better than I expected.  I did add the 500 Hz CW filter.  I'd rather have the K3, but I only paid $1050 for the TS-480HX.  If price is an object, consider this one.
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NO9E
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2015, 12:19:53 PM »

Thanks for comments. For cost TS480 seems good except the price needs to include 1-2 extra filters.
Otherwise K3 seems to be the king. Built wide range AT. Single-cable CW and computer control. And perhaps place for 10 AH LiFePO3 inside... 

Ignacy, NO9E
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2015, 12:52:10 PM »

Elecraft K3's have become the choice for all leading DXpeditions.

Not so much the choice for DXpeditions but they are the company that is currently sponsoring a lot of DXpeditiions with free radios to use.  Steppir is the company that is now offering free antenna's to use.  Hence why you see those two companies on almost every DXpedition.   Years ago it was Icom and at one point Yaesu.  Obviously any DXpedition will quickly take up the offer of free radios from whatever company offers them, but it's misleading to think that makes them the best radio if your going to actually be shelling out cash.  I know for CW work the K3 may be good, but for SSB work it certainly would not be my first choice of radio.  The listening fatigue alone would shorten my ability to work pileups by several hours.


73s
Rob

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N5PG
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« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2015, 01:56:11 PM »

The listening fatigue alone would shorten my ability to work pileups by several hours.

Please explain Huh
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2015, 02:07:20 PM »

The listening fatigue alone would shorten my ability to work pileups by several hours.

Please explain Huh

When you listen to a K3 Rx even with headphones on it's very hissy and sharp sounding and overall irritating.  After an hour your ears start to  really get tired of it and you just want to stop listening.  Most other radios like my Icom 7600 in comparison have much smoother Rx by bringing in more of the low end they end up much more relaxing to listen to.

« Last Edit: February 17, 2015, 02:20:26 PM by KD8MJR » Logged

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  (Mark Twain)
W8JX
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2015, 02:12:36 PM »

The OP will be using this radio only occasionally.  For the price I think the Kenwood TS480 is hard to beat.  HRO has a discount now for $920.  I think a K3 will cost considerably more even for a used one.  There's also a 200w version of the TS480 for just a little bit more but it doesn't come with an internal tuner.  But 200w is a 3db gain over 200w so this is something not to be overlooked.  GL.

73,
Jonathan W6GX

I use a TS-480HX (the 200 watt version) and it's a very capable little radio.  The receiver is better than I expected.  I did add the 500 Hz CW filter.  I'd rather have the K3, but I only paid $1050 for the TS-480HX.  If price is an object, consider this one.

I have owned a 480SAT for 5 years and find it tuff to beat even today for price. (i have optional 1.8khz and 500hz filters installed too) While it was a noticeable upgrade over my 570DG (with optional filter(s) too), I found it a toss up next to a 590S when optional filters are installed in 480 as 480 uses a new generation of optional IF filter that have MUCH tighter skirts than past generation Kenwood filters.   As stated above there is also a 200 watt version which would be a fine choice for a DX expedition. Make sure you get the optional MB-480 carry bracket that mounts head in front of body and adds a carry handle and comes with a short cable for between head and body. I have one on mine. It is easy to remove head for remote locating it.  
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
W4VKU
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Posts: 393




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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2015, 03:51:36 PM »

IF (money is a consideration) Then -> TS480 + CW + SSB Filter + voice module
Else IF  Money is not a consideration, then Go with the K3 + filters

They both are light weight radios and do well.
TS480 RX is not very sensitive like the K3, but in a large pileup, it will get the job done for SSB.
For CW, you gotta have a K3 with the filters

73s
krish
w4vku
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W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2015, 05:15:46 PM »


TS480 RX is not very sensitive like the K3,


How do you arrive at that? 480 has a excellent receiver/mixer that is very sensitive. 
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
N6PSE
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2015, 05:43:41 PM »

Another good radio for DXpeditions is the Kenwood TS590. With its built in sound card, you can do CAT and CW/RTTY without an external interface. This makes configuration simple and reliable. It saves the expense of an external interface.

With its built in tuner and filtering, this radio is a big bang for the bucks. Its my second choice after a K3.
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ZL4PLM
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Posts: 377




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« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2015, 05:55:46 PM »

The listening fatigue alone would shorten my ability to work pileups by several hours.

Please explain Huh

When you listen to a K3 Rx even with headphones on it's very hissy and sharp sounding and overall irritating.  After an hour your ears start to  really get tired of it and you just want to stop listening.  Most other radios like my Icom 7600 in comparison have much smoother Rx by bringing in more of the low end they end up much more relaxing to listen to.



thought it was just me .. had a K3 .. sold it .. hated it

my TS590 while missing a lot of the bells n whistles is streets ahead audio wise

no second receiver??

I bought a second TS590 and a So2R controller Wink

Likewise the K3 would make my ears ring after a few hours

horses for courses ... like cars but I can think of much nicer receivers

73
Simon ZL4PLM
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W4VKU
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Posts: 393




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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2015, 06:13:59 PM »


TS480 RX is not very sensitive like the K3,


How do you arrive at that? 480 has a excellent receiver/mixer that is very sensitive. 

Based on A/B switch test between my an older Yaesu FT-990 and a TS-480. On receiving weak signals,
the signals are buried in the noise on the 480 and are discernible on the FT-990.

The TS-480 will get the job done for a large pile. But if you are trying to make skeds on low band,
then may be the K3 would be better. But having said that, I have used the TS-480 on 75m SSB to
make QSO's half way around the world.

If additional weight is a non issue, then the TS-590 goes for the price point advantage versus the
K3. K3 ergonomics is a personal choice issue. Some like it and some don't.

73s
krish

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