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Author Topic: Cheap 6m SSB Radio  (Read 7068 times)
KC9ECL
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« on: June 11, 2003, 12:51:26 PM »

Anyone know of a cheap 6m SSB radio? I'm reading about all these cool openings and long distance DX comms that are within reach of my No Code Tech license, and i want to try it out. However, the only radios i can find that do SSB on 6m are $800 HF Mobiles. Are there any cheap alternatives to 6m SSB like a 6m-only SSB or 6m/VHF/UHF multimode transciever or kit in the $100-$200 range?

73,
John
KC9ECL
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KE6PKJ
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2003, 02:57:20 PM »

Hi John,
MFJ enterprise has a 6 meter sideband radio at $270.00. You can find these used though for about $150.

http://www.mfjenterprises.com/products.php?prodid=MFJ-9406X
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2003, 03:28:09 PM »

There's also the Ten Tec model 526, which runs SSB-CW-FM (and I think even AM!) on six and two meters only, and costs less than the HF+6m mobile rigs.

Finding a used 6m-only rig like a Yaesu FT625RD or Icom IC-551D or IC575H would also be an excellent choice.  The older units are selling for about $300 or so and most likely still work very well.

WB2WIK/6
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N4UE
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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2003, 04:25:50 PM »

John, as usual, Steve (WB2WIK), is on target. However, the 551D is an 80 Watt radio (not that there's anything wrong with that power level!), but you may be able to find a 551 (10W), quite a bit cheaper. The Icoms also have the ability to add a reciever pre-amp very easily, if you find the reception lacking.
If the band is open, the person on the other end is not going to be able to tell much of a difference. Ten Tec also sells transverters that will get you on VHF quickly, if you have an HF radio.
As is the general rule with 6 Meters and up, "good antenna (as high as you can manage), the best feedline you can afford and good timing", are key.
See Steve's next posting on double hop.

Have FUN!!

ron
N4UE
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KC9ECL
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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2003, 05:51:55 PM »

Yea, that MFJ radio looks nice, and the price is halfway decent, but it only covers 50.0-50.3MHz, isn't that coverage a little short?

Looking on Google and eBay for the Icoms, even those old radios used are still asking like $500, which is way too much. Am I looking in the wrong place?

73,
John
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KD5VHZ
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2003, 07:18:43 PM »

You might want to look at the Ranger 6m all mode radio.  Mine is scheduled to be delivered tomarrow UPS.  They make both 25 and 100 watt versions with a price of about $300 and $400 respectively.  Has a frequency readout (which MFJ doesn't) but not as sexy as the Ten-Tec 6N2.  After long consideration and the raiding of the loose change bucket I decided to go with the 25 watt version just to get my feet wet on the "magic band".  I'll be on the air with a homebrew dipole at first (25 feet mast)and have ordered an Antennas and More 6 meter half square wire.

Doug KD5VHZ
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WA9SVD
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2003, 02:20:00 AM »

I'd recommend getting the 100 W. "Ranger" radio if that's what you decide upon.  While the 25 W. version can be quite effective with a good antenna system, the 100 W. will be appreciated if you are using a less than optimal antenna.  
    I have a Kenwood TS-680, which has only 10W out (SSB) on 6M, fed into a dipole strung between the house and garage.  (It's all I can do for now...)  I do not get as good results as I did "back in the old days" with 8 W on AM and a 3 el. yagi @ 15'  I DO wish the radio had 100 W. on 6M.
    Your best bet is to work on the antenna first, but if your choice is or has to be between the 25 or 100 W. radio, I'd go with the 100 W.  That's enough to "get your feet wet" and the expense of an amplifier even to the 100 W. level will be more than the expense of the higher power radio.  (I assume the radio DOES have some sort of power level control, so that you could reduce it from 100 watts, should you ever want to go to even higher power in the future.)
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2003, 12:07:42 PM »

KA9ECL: I'd stay away from eBay for buying any sort of ham gear at reasonable cost.  There have been great deals transacted where all parties are deliriously happy with the outcome, but a lot of horror stories also...and I've never found anything on eBay that I couldn't find locally for a better price -- and I mean *anything.*

Plus, the advantage of the "local deal" is that you can examine and try out the gear before cash is exchanged.

The Icom IC551 (10W model) sells for absolutely no more than $275 around here, and hundreds have been swapped, traded and sold locally.  The IC551D (80W model) has some extra features and extra power, but requires an outboard 12Vdc power supply (which the 551 model has built-in) and usually go for $350 or so.  I bought and sold two over the past few years, they were both excellent and I didn't pay over $350 for either one.

My local resources are the monthly amateur radio swap meets at TRW Space Park, at Cal Poly Pomona and at AB Miller High School in Fontana; plus, the local ARRL Division convention (annually); sometimes the Ft. Tuthill annual hamfest in AZ; sometimes the Visalia DX Convention (annually); and other local annual events; and the local "Recycler" newspaper.  Also, there are used gear personal ads hanging up on the bulletin boards at the local HRO and Juns Electronics stores; a local swap net every Sat/Sun on 7.240 MHz (40m SSB) -- a great number of very local resources exist which keep me far away from eBay...

WB2WIK/6
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KU4QD
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2003, 05:11:03 PM »

Well... I'll start by disagreeing about eBay.  If you set your limits and know what radios are worth you can get some great deals there.  I bid what I think Item X is worth, and if I get outbid so be it.  eBay is like a neverending hamfest, with good deals and bad.  The feedback system at least gives you an idea who is honest and who may have issues.

Having said that, there are lots of inexpensive and truly excellent 6m SSB/CW rigs on the used market.  The coverage of the MFJ (50.0-50.3) is fine, since that's where 99% of the activity is.  The rig is not fine during a contest or crowded band conditions.  The selectivity is poorer than many '80s rigs and the front end is subject to overload.  Those of you who like the rig, try it this weekend or on Field Day if the band is open and see if you still like it.

The Icom IC-551 (10W version) is a really good choice, but believe it or not you can do almost as well for less money.  Here are some other models to look at, with typical used prices ranging from $125 to $250:

Icom IC-505 (10W portable, all mode), IC-560 (mobile, all mode), IC-501 (Icom analog base), IC-502A (3W analog portable)

Kenwood TS-660 (6m/10m/12m/15m all mode base), TR-9300G (mobile)

KLM 661 (analog base)

Mizuho MX-6S (1W handheld!), FX-6 (2W portable)

NCG 7/21/50 (6m/10m/40m SSB/CW base)

Yaesu FT-680R (mobile), FT-690R (2.5W portable), FT-620B, FT-620 (analog base rigs)

Avoid the original Icom IC-502 at all costs.  It is incredibly drifty and fequires the fingers of a safecracker to tune.  Also avoid any old tube gear (a/k/a Swan 250, Heathkit SB-110) unless you want to work all your neighbor's TVs.  The Swan 250 is also notorious for drift.

There are many other great older rigs that attract collectors and are just plain too expensive for the average ham (i.e.: Drake TR-6, Kenwood TS-600, Mizuho MX-606D, Yaesu FT-625RD).  Needless to say, if you can find one at a reasonable price (which is unlikely) you can't go wrong.

See you on 6!

73 de Caity
KU4QD running a Mizuho MX-606D, MX-6Z, and MX-6
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2003, 06:58:27 PM »

Each to his own about eBay, but I don't need anything badly enough to buy it sight unseen from a stranger, even if he's the Pope.

I ran an SB110A with a homebrew 4-1000A amplifier (1.5kW PEP output) for nearly twenty years, with absolutely zero TVI problems.  Don't know why it would generate any more TVI/RFI than any other 100W PEP output radio...and in fact, could well generate far less, since the dual 6146 PA stage has far better transmitter IMD performance than anything solid-state.

I used to solve my "Swan Two-Drifty" problem by just leaving the rig on continuously.  It draws about 100W on receive due to all the tubes, but what the heck...many people leave a light bulb on all day and night -- and leaving the rig on 24/7 certainly stabilized it very well!

73 de Steve, WB2WIK/6

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KU4QD
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2003, 11:27:16 PM »

Hi, Steve, and everyone else,

If you can run 100W or more with a tube transceiver on 6m and not have any TVI/RFI problems you are quite lucky.  I know way too many hams who were not so fortunate, which is why I advise the newer gear.  Most newer 6m rigs have tight bandpass filters that the older rigs lacked.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Some Swan 250s never seem to settle down and stabilize.  It may be that they need work.

Also, the Swan 250 and Heath SB-110 are 25-35 years old now.  If a ham is skilled at doing their own repairs these rigs may be acceptable, but for one who isn't they simply aren't.  They're just too old.  Granted, an Icom IC-501 isn't much newer.  I'll admit to having a phobia about even simple repairs on tube rigs with high voltages.  I stand by my recommendation for newcomers and non-technically skilled hams to avoid these rigs.  That does not say that they don't perform well for you or that there is anything wrong with your on-air signal.

As far as buying sight unseen I totally understand your feelings.  However, the wonders of the internet mean that I can limit such purchases to rigs with clear photos and hams with a lot of positive feedback.  If someone has 100 positive comments and zero negative I feel reasonably comfortable trusting them.  The key to eBay is being able to read between the lines.  Only buy from hams who are clearly familiar with the gear they are selling and can answer questions intelligently.  If I get a response of "Well, I really haven't tested it..." or "I really don't know much about ham radio equipment" I steer well clear.  Unknown or untested condition translates to broken and possibly difficult to repir in my head.

One other thing I've done is correspond with several hams in Japan and the U.K., building on air and online friendships.  Again, I've had time to build up trust, and they've found me radios that are rare over there and almost non-existent hear.  My Mizuho MX-606D, a wonderful 6m rig, is a great example.

I respect your opinions, but I seem to have a different take on some things than you do is all.

73,
Caity
KU4QD
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AG4RQ
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2003, 02:32:11 AM »

The RCI 5054 DX is $259.95 at HRO.
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KB9YKY
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2003, 02:04:54 PM »

"50.0 to 50.3 mhz, isn't that a little short?". No, that frequency coverage is just right. That range puts you on the ssb portion of the 6 meter band...and with the optional CW board for the little MFJ 9406, you also cover that portion of the band. The biggest drawback of the 9406 is the analog vfo which doesn't give you the "precise" frequency. The lack of a squelch on the MFJ makes for some annoying noise at times...and the lack of RIT is sometimes missed. I have 4 rigs that I use on 6 meters...one of them being the MFJ 9406, and it is a really fun rig to play around with...but for serious 6 meter work, I prefer my ic-746 or the 706mk2G. I would stay away from the Ranger, or any other brand, that features such nonsense as "roger beeps" and such aimed at the illegal "CB" market.
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WA9SVD
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2003, 02:19:38 PM »

I'm not sure there's such a thing as a "cheap" (I hope you mean inexpensive") 6M SSB radio, and that depends upon your definition.  It's no longer available, but you can also look for a used Kenwood TS-60, a 6-Meter only rig.  Check out the E-Ham reviews, and the E-Ham ads, and you might find a used rig within your price range.
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W1NCH
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2003, 04:17:21 PM »

I'll second the MFJ-9406 suggestion, and endorse eBay with the caveat that you need to exercise caution and restraint.

I purchased a used MFJ-9406 on eBay for $125 plus shipping. It is definitely used--some of the front panel markings are worn, but I knew that when I bid on it. It works great--I used it w/a homebrew 3-el yagi in my attic to work a guy in Georgia (about 875 miles) last month.

This was a great deal, but you can spend too much on eBay if you're not careful. The important thing to remember is to set your spending limit and be patient. I've seen the same radio go for wildly different prices just a few weeks apart. Much depends on what the seller is asking and how many bidders there are.

73,

Brent/W1NCH
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