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Author Topic: First HF rig  (Read 819 times)
W6ONV
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« on: November 13, 2005, 10:38:01 PM »

Is using a Drake TR-7 as a first HF rig worthwhile? I have read the reviews on eham regarding the transciever and as expected it got glowing reviews. But should I consider a new rig over the Drake?
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K7VO
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2005, 08:13:17 AM »

The Drake TR-7 was a fantastic radio when it came out in the late '70s.  By today's standards the receiver performance would be just OK.  Any of today's better, newer radios will be able to pull out signals that the Drake simply won't hear.  The other issue is the age of the radio.  Can you do your own repairs are parts age out and need replacement?  Do you have a well stocked test bench?  Can you do an alignment yourself?  If the answer to the last three questions is "yes" and you enjoy fixing radios then there is no reason in the world not to own a Drake TR-7.  It is a classic.  If the answer to any of the above questions was "no" then you want a new radio.

My personal recommendation for a starter HF rig would be a Ten Tec Argonaut V.  See the reviews here:  http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2353  Don't worry at all about the 7dB difference between 20W and 100W.  You'll still work most everything you hear if you have a good antenna up, and that radio will hear lots that a TR-7 won't.

That brings me to my final point:  the most important part of any ham station is the antenna.  With good antennas even a mediocre radio (and the TR-7 is NOT mediocre) will do fine.  The best radio in the world is useless with a poor antenna.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2005, 08:53:17 AM »

The TR-7 is a great rig, but now that it's going to be about 27 years old (it's from 1978), how great it is depends entirely on what's happened to it over those 27 years.

I'm an original TR-7 owner and have never taken the "golden screwdriver" to mine, ever; hence, it still works like it's brand new.  It has never required service or alignment, and the only thing that's ever been replaced in it is the S-meter pilot lamp ($0.15).  That's the total extent of the service the rig's required in 27 years, and I use it all the time.

I bought the Drake service manual and the service extension boards for it when it was new, and that was a wasted investment since I've never needed either of them.  But then, I've also never "messed with" this rig, which probably explains why it's never failed.

BTW, the TR-7 servicing is actually pretty easy, since it's built like a PC, with "mother board/daughter board" construction.  At least, it appears it would be pretty easy, compared with many rigs.  The PS-7 power supply is a "brute," and I've never heard of one failing.

For a solid-state rig, the TR-7 is more "forgiving" of an antenna mismatch than any other I've found.  Mine can transmit ~100W into a 3:1 or 4:1 VSWR just fine, on any band.  It runs more than that into a perfect match (about 120-150W output, depending on band and match).  My other SS rigs will "fold back" to maybe 20W or so with a 3 or 4:1 SWR.

It also has an absolutely amazing receiver.  Of my three HF "home station" receivers, including the TS-850S, TR-7, Ten Tec OMNI VI+, the Drake in many ways is the best one, where the rubber meets the road (that is, copying weak signals amidst strong interfering ones, and also amidst horrible noise/QRN).

However, it *is* old, and I'd be very, very careful about buying one.  I'd want to use it first, and use it on the air, on each band (remember to try out the WARC bands, and even the 60m 5-channel "band" -- it will work all these), for probably an hour before deciding to buy one.  I'd want to check for PTO stability (which you cannot do in 5 minutes), receiver operation and transmitter operation on all the bandswitch positions.  If it passes all these tests and gets good reports on the air, and the seller has the original documentation for the rig (like the manual!), I'd buy it for a reasonable price.

If not, I'd pass.

"New" rigs that cost less than $1000 or so may not be all that full-featured, but many are still very good and at least you get "modern," and you get a warranty.  

As Caity rightfully pointed out, the *ANTENNAS* do most of the work, anyway.  With good antennas, in the hands of a skilled operator, the world awaits and can be worked most any time.  I'd rather have a 30 year-old klunker and a great antenna than a new $10,000 rig and a poor antenna, any time -- and I think so would most anybody who's tried both situations.

WB2WIK/6
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W6ONV
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2005, 11:24:06 AM »

Thank you both for the information and input. As for the previous ownership, it was purchased new by my father and was used as his primary rig for years. When he stepped aside from radio, he loaned it to a personal friend who uses it as a backup HF rig. It would probably cost me nothing to get into it, but as you said, there are other factors to consider. Thanks (I'll check out the review as well of the Ten-Tec).
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K7VO
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« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2005, 12:39:00 PM »

For Steve, WB2WIK/6:

I had a Drake TR-7 and most of the matching accessories and I did love that rig.  I never did sell it.  When I moved to California in 1995 the movers destroyed it.  I was very, very upset by that.  I was the second owner and the rig did come from a trusted source.  I think it was in excellent shape.

I did open it up once.  Mine did not have the AUX-7 board and I did the mod to make it general coverage transceive, which involved cutting one trace.  I also installed an Inrad CW filter at the same time.  It never needed service.

I have no doubt that you take outstanding care of your rig.  My reason for warning people off 27 year old rigs is the very one you explained.  On rigs that old I expect to do some repair work and/or undo somebody's less than brilliant mod.

I though the TR-7 receiver was good but I do not think it would outperform a new rig.  Mine also had some birdies.  Not many, mind you, but one loud one in just the wrong place on 40 was enough to annoy me.  Perhaps mine was due for an alignment to bring the receiver up to the level you describe.  I'll never know now, will I?

All the best,
Caity
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K7VO
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« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2005, 12:39:15 PM »

For Steve, WB2WIK/6:

I had a Drake TR-7 and most of the matching accessories and I did love that rig.  I never did sell it.  When I moved to California in 1995 the movers destroyed it.  I was very, very upset by that.  I was the second owner and the rig did come from a trusted source.  I think it was in excellent shape.

I did open it up once.  Mine did not have the AUX-7 board and I did the mod to make it general coverage transceive, which involved cutting one trace.  I also installed an Inrad CW filter at the same time.  It never needed service.

I have no doubt that you take outstanding care of your rig.  My reason for warning people off 27 year old rigs is the very one you explained.  On rigs that old I expect to do some repair work and/or undo somebody's less than brilliant mod.

I though the TR-7 receiver was good but I do not think it would outperform a new rig.  Mine also had some birdies.  Not many, mind you, but one loud one in just the wrong place on 40 was enough to annoy me.  Perhaps mine was due for an alignment to bring the receiver up to the level you describe.  I'll never know now, will I?

All the best,
Caity
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K7VO
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Posts: 1010




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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2005, 12:41:11 PM »

How did I double post?  Anyway, my apologies for that.

W6ONV:  You can get a free or nearly free TR-7?  It was your father's rig?  By all means try it out.  Under those circumstances even if it needed a little work I think I'd go for it.  If you're not sure it's up to snuff you can always consider a new rig later.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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K8AC
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« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2005, 08:49:44 AM »

In your situation, I'd recommend you give the TR7 a try first.  Other responders have given you good answers and I won't repeat any of that.  I recently acquired a TR7 as a restoration project and now having it working fairly well.  The most striking difference, and one that others haven't mentioned yet, is the KHz change per revolution of the tuning knob.  The TR7 tunes at approximately 25 KHz per knob revolution, a value similar to the Japanese rigs of that era.  Tuning rates today are substantially slower, say, 10 KHz or less per revolution making the receiver "easier" to tune.  SSB stations can be tuned in accurately more quickly with the slower tuning rate, and when operating CW with a narrow filter it's easier to zero in on the signal with the tuning knob.  If you have the opportunity, tune around with one of the modern transceivers and then try the TR7.  The difference is quite noticeable.
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