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Author Topic: Ham Radio On A Budget  (Read 851 times)
IRISH_JOURNEYS
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Posts: 20




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« on: December 21, 2003, 05:26:39 PM »

Hi all,

I'm not licensed yet, but I'm scheduled to take my first exam January 14.  That said, I've been looking at the HF rigs on the market (for when I pass the General).  

What I'm looking for at the moment is a good, reliable rig for use as my base station.  I don't care if it has the UHF/VHF frequencies.  My main draw to ham radio is working the world.  I've been looking around on eham.net and reading the many reviews for both older and newer radios.  

With my budgetary constraints, it looks like I'm going to have to get an older, used rig.  I'm currently looking at the Kenwood ts-520s and the ts-830s, which seem to be well-liked by veteran hams as well as newbies on a budget.  The prices are right and they have a reputation for being reliable.  I'm tracking one of each of these radios on Ebay right now, and they are up to around $260 each with about 4 days of bidding left.  I figure they'll reach about $350 or so.  Since I've never owned one of the more modern rigs, I figure I won't miss the newer features not offered on the older workhorses.

As far as antennas, tuners, and amplifiers, I don't know much and would love some advice.  

I live in a rental house where CC&R'S prevent me from having ANY kind of visible antenna, and the houses are close together (within 30 feet).  I've ordered the ARRL's book, Stealth Amateur Radio in the hopes of finding solutions to my antenna issues.  I'm also concerned about causing radio interferance with my neighbors' tv's and radios.  Everyone in the area has cable tv.

Well, that's all I can think of right now.  I would welcome any suggestions.


Sincerely,

Jody
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20611




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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2003, 06:16:52 PM »

Jody,

Glad to hear about your interest, and welcome to ham radio!

Good luck with the test.

The TS-520, 520S, 820, 820S and 830S are all solid rigs, but only the latest one (TS-830S) of that group has advanced features and band coverage that nearly keeps up with modern equipment.  The other stuff is older, much older, and although still revered by many, is getting pretty long in the tooth.  If you can find a TS-830S in good working condition for an affordable price, I'd recommend it far above the others.  (I've owned all of these.)

But...if you're a new (to-be) ham with no troubleshooting experience, unless you personally know and trust the seller, I sure wouldn't buy any of these from an eBay auction.  Too many risks.  The rig may not be worth its price; it may not even work; or, it may work great before it ships, but be damaged in shipment, which can be a huge disappointment.

I'd recommend:

-Find and join a local ham radio club -- no matter where you are, there's likely to be one or more near you.

-Visit some of those members' stations and get a feel for what they're using, and how they like it.

-Find out if someone local to you happens to have a rig for sale that you'd like to buy only after a personal demonstration.

-If no club member has something suitable, ask around and find a "local" deal; or, even if shopping on eBay, or eHam, or QRZ, or QTH, or any other website with private ham gear sales, find a "local" deal there.  Just because you found it on the web doesn't mean it has to come from far away.  There are hams everywhere, including close to you.

Having owned almost everything built and sold in the past 30-35 years, and with 38+ years experience building and repairing ham gear, I won't buy anything via eBay.  Life's too short to wonder if it's going to show up, or what condition it will be in when it does.  I can *always* find the same stuff, locally to me, where I can achieve the instant gratification of handing over cash while taking the rig under my arm -- after seeing it work!

73 and good luck!

WB2WIK/6

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N7NBB
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Posts: 380


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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2003, 11:00:45 AM »

Several factors you state would have me suggest a slightly newer (although still old) Solid State (transistors) rig.  Although I firmly believe you SHOULD LEARN how to "tune-up" tube finals... perhaps this is not such a good idea for the present situation you are in... namely:
VERY CLOSE APARTMENTS  (TVI, RF Exposure, Etc. Etc.)
NO "real" antennas only Compromise antennas (stealth)
Limited Budget.
 
By "Tuning Up" that old rig (even into a dummy load) at close proximities, you are going to cause some UNwnated RF - bathing your neighbor's (TV, DVD,BODIES, whatever) a solid state rig would lessen this problem by eliminating tuning the radio (you would still need to have an antenna tuner (in not built in) and there may be a bit of TVI as you tweak that...
A Stealth antenna may increase the RF to the neighbors problems, but there  are some very efficient and great antennas...
Replacing Tube Finals you have accidently barffed by inexperienced tuning can get expensive) as can buying RFI filters to "keep peace in the neighborhood".


I echo the warnings about E-bay, and most other online Swap meets.  You never know what you are getting into, and without a solid troubleshooting background, and I might add, access to SCHEMATICS of the item, and knowledge of how to obtain replacement parts.... Huh it is NOT for the faint of heart.

I got a very good Icom IC-735 for about $300.oo which has served me very well. (for I too am on a tight hobby budget) and there are other older solid state rigs out there to to had for about the same outlay.
The other side of the coin is a NEW HAM here bought an older rig (online) and later he found out that it had been abused.  No visible damage, but electrically and RF wise it was garbage.. someone got "inside" and tweaked things, replaced componets with other values, etc., and the radio created all sorts of RF problems up and down the band.  as an additional problem, he found he needed to replace the TUBES, which were said to "be very good".  

Bottom line is WELCOME and don't think for a minute I am trying to discourage you,  I just want you to understand what you may be getting into... Look around.. find a local ham club and ask for a budget HF rig.  heck I know it may be out of the question dollar wise, but the ICOM (and others) have entry level rigs you can find for about $500- or less and they are NEW !

Although quite a bit more of an investment than you )or I can handle) but a ham friend of mine was forced to move to a very restricted neighborhood, (and he solved the problem by selling all his "base" equipment and creating a "KILLER" mobile set up.  When he wants to operate he just drives his station to wherever... be that an empty parking space at the mall... or a mountain top. (where he can string wires to his heart's content.

Best Of Luck !  There IS a solution... and remember ANYTHING is BETTER than nothing.

73
CAM
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K7CSM
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Posts: 12




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« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2003, 02:35:00 AM »

Jody,
I have to agree with WB2WIK.  Follow his advice.  It is sound and you can't go too far wrong, plus you will meet HAMs in your area.  You might even latch onto an Elmer,  You could do worse. Good luck on your test and welcome to HAM radio.
Tom Detchemendy
K7CSM-The Lead Sled Dog
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K7VO
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Posts: 1010




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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2003, 04:46:17 PM »

I collect some fairly unusual equipment and I use eBay.  If one uses common sense (see the current article called "Buyer Beware!" on the eHam home or articles page) you can get really good deals there and be reasonably safe.  I respect Steve, WB2WIK/6, and his opinion and I know he is knowledgable, but this is one area where we disagree sharply.  I would never have found some of the equipment I have now if I had ignored eBay.

I believe you would be much better off with a solid state, no tune rig.  Tubes are getting expensive and good quality tubes are getting harder and harder to find.  Time and technology have moved forward.  You can get a good solid state rig for the same price with equal or better performance compared to the Kenwoods you are looking at.

Take a good long look at rigs like the Icom IC-740, IC-751A, IC-735, and IC-730, Ten Tec Corsair and Corsair II, Kenwood TS-930S, NCG 10/160m (if you are fortunate enough to find one), Yaesu FT-890AT, and probably a dozen others I can't think of right at the moment.

Good luck!

73,
Caity
K7VO
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KG6EJT
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Posts: 82


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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2003, 03:01:49 PM »

If the price difference is small between a new rig and a used one, I would go for the new one. However, since you are on a limited budget, as I was, there is a big price difference between new and used HF rigs. If you do opt for a new one, I don't think the Icom IC-718 can be beat for the money.

I tend to agree with K7VO. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have put together my whole shack via eBay. I purchased my TS-140, MC-60 Mic, B&W Tuner and Yaesu FT-470 ht all from hams on eBay. Its a gamble, but I think you can lessen the odds on eBay by reading between the lines in the subject descriptions and paying close attention to the posted feedback.

No disrespect to Steve (WB2WIK). He's one of the most knowledgeable sources on here and a great help to many hams, me included. He's also a neighbor of mine Smiley

I also echo the view that a newer rig is probably better than one of the older ones. I think I paid $350.00 for my TS-140. I would look for one of those, or even better, a IC-735 or TS-450. TS-440's can be a good choice too, but they have some known display issues.

Best of luck on the exam.

73,

-Larry (KG6EJT)
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IRISH_JOURNEYS
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Posts: 20




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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2004, 12:33:22 AM »

Hey guys, I just wanted to say thanks for the advice you've given.  I'm definitely going to look into the radios you mentioned.  Your responses to this thread have shown me how helpful and kind hams can be--which is one of the many reasons I want to become a ham (public service).

Thanks again!

Jody Mills
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N8UZE
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Posts: 1524




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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2004, 03:58:31 PM »

The Kenwood TS-130SE and TS-140 are also good older radios if you are not interested in 160meters or VHF/UHF.  Note that they are CW & Sideband only, no AM or FM but you can do the digital modes.
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KG6EJT
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Posts: 82


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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2004, 05:23:47 PM »

A small correction, the TS-140 has FM capability.

73,

-Larry (KG6EJT)
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VE3BWA
Member

Posts: 31




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« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2004, 10:20:58 PM »

Hi Jody,

I'm a new ham as well - licenced for HF only since Sept 03.  Money was an issue for me as well - 2 kids at university, mortgage, etc.

I agree with the cautions about eBay, but I've been careful and I guess lucky to some extent.  I got a Kenwood 520 there and loved it - moved up to my current 830S when I saw another eBay bargain and soled the 520 via eHam.  Both are great radios.  Tuning is no big deal and you're unlikely to burn out finals learning how to do it.  With a dipole up about 25 feet, and some spare hours on the weekends, I've worked about 40 countries and had 100s of great QSOs with hams all over North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe

There's lots of good advice on this site about stealth antennas

IMHO, the important thing is to get out there.  There will always be a next project - have fun now is my approach

73
Chuck
VE3BWA
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