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Author Topic: Returning CW op; what gear to find?  (Read 3219 times)
WA2EHV
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Posts: 21




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« on: April 21, 2010, 08:14:25 PM »

Hello, friends.

I've been QRT for almost 20 years (lots of reasons) and now I want to get back on the air. Boy, has ham radio changed since 1990!  Back then, I ran a homebrew XTAL 6L6 rig (really!) with a Drake 2B receiver, a 40m dipole, and a Vibroplex Standard.  (I worked 23 states and 4 DX with that setup...)

What can you recommend for new gear? I'm looking for a HF all-band transceiver in the 100 watt range.  I am 100% CW, and have no interest in SSB, VHF, or anything digital.  I'm used to crystal control, so I don't need any bells and whistles.

Advice welcome...Thanks and 73!

Greg WA2EHV/1   (Wellesley, MA)
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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2010, 08:49:51 PM »

Wow, Greg...  I'd love to give you some great encouragement, but [for me] it is TOUGH on The Music Mode these days. I have a few QSO's under my keyer and don't stay up very late in the eve anymore. Kinda kills 'low band'.... which seems to be where the CW Survivors cluster mostly.  *I* need a band that works in my W7 fore-noon, and there have been a lot of days with NO QSOs, working 17 meters mostly. If I had anything to offer for gear, reasonably priced, it would be to contact Ten-Tec, see if they have any 'traded in' stock. My last three Corsairs came that way, and very good prices. Thirty day warranty [never needed], and by anyone's requirement, good CW rigs. I think my last was around 400 Bux.

Here's hoping you get on soon, and we can rag chew.....  Need a few of those bloody 'Spots' though; been at ZERO for several days now.

VY 73

dm
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WX7G
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Posts: 6035




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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2010, 11:29:03 PM »

If a good rig at the lowest price suits you I recommend the Yaesu FT-450AT transceiver at $750 new. 160-6 meters, 100 watts, DSP CW filtering, and no CW crystal filters to buy.

If you want to go with the best radio for CW get the Elecraft K3 with a CW roofing filter. About $2300 new.

I have owned both rigs.



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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2010, 02:26:03 AM »

Hello, friends.

What can you recommend for new gear? I'm looking for a HF all-band transceiver in the 100 watt range.  I am 100% CW, and have no interest in SSB, VHF, or anything digital.  I'm used to crystal control, so I don't need any bells and whistles.


Elecraft K2/100. (www.elecraft.com) You can find a used one, or build one yourself from a kit. Manual is free for the download. Not the least-expensive rig in the world but very good CW performance and you don't have to add things you won't use. While it has lots of features, you don't have to use them.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2010, 04:17:58 AM »

Wow, Greg...  I'd love to give you some great encouragement, but [for me] it is TOUGH on The Music Mode these days. I have a few QSO's under my keyer and don't stay up very late in the eve anymore. Kinda kills 'low band'.... which seems to be where the CW Survivors cluster mostly.  *I* need a band that works in my W7 fore-noon, and there have been a lot of days with NO QSOs, working 17 meters mostly.

Well, I dunno about 7 land or those higher bands.

But 80 and 40 have been incredible this winter from EPA. At least in the evenings. Worked a YO8 and a UR3 last night on 40 with my little setup (see qrz.com)

----

Despite all the new gear, there are still hams using the old stuff with good results. A 2-B is still a decent receiver, for example.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2383




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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2010, 05:38:39 AM »

I'll give another vote for the FT-450.  It has everything you need except:

. . . _really narrow_ CW filter (it goes down to about 350 Hz, with "tweaking" using the notch filter)

. . . _quiet_ full-break-in QSK (it uses a relay for T/R switching); if you use semi-break-in QSK, it's fine.

Get a Bencher paddle from eBay (or another bug) and you're good to go.

There's nothing wrong with a 100-watt K2, either, if you can find one.

             Charles
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VE3WMB
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Posts: 288




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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2010, 06:36:26 AM »

I agree that the Elecraft K2/100 is a good choice and if you are not into building it yourself there are lots of good builders for hire who have literally built hundreds of K2s. All you would need is the basic K2 (a CW only rig) plus the KPA100 internal 100W amp. Should you desire you can on more options at a future date.
As far as receiver performance, the K2 is still world class, only surpassed by the K3 and possibly a couple of other rigs that are several thousand $$ more in price.

Check out www.elecraft.com

Another option to consider is Ten-Tec. The Jupiter is priced around $1600 and it is a very nice CW radio (hard to beat Ten-Tecs QSK capabilities). The nice thing about the Jupiter is that it has a well laid out and spacious front panel and it is simple to operate, unlike many of the current rigs where you have to go through "menu hell" just to change a simple setting. If you have the money to spend the Omni is a exceptional radio.

http://radio.tentec.com/

Best of luck and welcome back.

BTW Vibroplex is still in business and still making bugs !

Michael VE3WMB
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WX7G
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Posts: 6035




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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2010, 06:37:22 AM »

N7DM,
set up for all bands one can find CW DX most hours of the day or night. Follow the MUF. When 17 starts to die move to 20 meters then 30, 40 and finally 80. With the summer noise coming up DXing on 80 is tougher than it was. During the winter 80 meters was good worldwide.

The big contests are when the CW ops appear. CW Contest participation hits new records every year. The next big on is the CQ WPX in late May.

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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2383




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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2010, 07:09:19 AM »

On second thought:

I was thinking about the 'feature set" of the Yaesu FT-450, which is their current "entry-level" HF rig.  It's loaded with capabilities that you may never need.   It's not expensive, but it's not simple, either.  It's got a memory keyer, for example, but setting it up involves some tricky menu operations.

If you're _only_ interested in CW, why not get an Icom IC-718, or Yaesu FT-840, with a narrow CW filter?

They're basic, compact rigs, not very expensive (the IC-718 is still available new, the FT-840 is out of production), and should work fine.

If you're going to do serious contesting, or hunt rare DX, you might need better front-end selectivity than those rigs have.  But for casual CW, if there's a CW filter installed, they're more than adequate.

One change in the past 20 years is that _inexpensive_ automatic antenna tuners are available.  LDG has a pretty good range of them.  I use an LDG Z-11 Pro, and have heard good things about the Z-100.   They will work with most rigs, and tune over a pretty wide range. 

               Charles
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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2010, 10:08:35 AM »

TNX WX7G....I understand how The Game is played, and I understand Critical Frequency/Maximum Usable Frequency. [just info, not angry reply]. I hate/detest Old-Timer-Itis, but I suppose it may clarify what goes on here at Radio Free Delta Mike. I'll be 73 in a few days, been on air since February 1952, but in THESE years and physical abilities, my daily window of On-Air time is severly compressed, thus MY High Band ops, and hours.  I promise I wont mention it again ! 

VY BEST 73

dm
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W5HTW
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2010, 06:12:48 PM »

Darn!  You're in about the same boat I am, at 70, been doing the ham radio thing since 1956.

There are quite a few good choices of radios.  But at this time, were I looking to get back into HF CW, I wouild probably be looking at vintage gear.  Why?  Well, for one thing, for the nostalgia factor, recapturing my youth.  For another, though, the simplicity, and ease of use.  I doubt I'd want to be crystal controlled, but a Johnson Navigator and a Drake  2B would be an ideal station for me.  Not too large a footprint, 40 watts input, VFO, excellent receive.  Plug in a keyer and paddles, add an antenna, and I'd be in Vintage Heaven. 

As it is, I settled for an FT897D, since it has VHF and UHF on it, and covers all ham bands including 60 meters.  And it isn't expensive, though you have to factor in the cost of a power supply (150 bucks?) and maybe an antenna tuner (200 bucks) and a paddle.  Still just a tad bit over $1100 if all bought brand new.   Buy it used and save 400 bucks. 

OK, I admit, I would much rather SEE a vintage rig there on the desk, than the 897.  So perhaps the appeal doesn't appeal as much as it should appeal!   Perhaps I sit down at the radio and look at it, and then look away, get up, and go eat a burger.  I didn't do that when I still had my Drake B-line.  Even though I had the 897.  I went to the shack, turned on the B-line, and got on the air.  Then, as an afterthought, I just might turn on the 897, but probably to VHF to listen to the police and fire. 

So were I sitting here with no gear, after all these years, I'd head vintage.  Have even considered getting rid of the 897 and going back to vintage, to put the 'dream' back in. 

Good luck on whatever you do.  The 897 is not a bad CW rig.  As it comes, it has DSP filtering down to 120 hertz, and with CW Reverse, can quickly cut out the guy on the unwanted CW sideband.  It has full or semi breakin (I never use full, too much relay stuff) and a decent 90-95 watts or better on all the HF bands. 

But it lacks the "look!" 

Ed
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N5XM
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Posts: 242




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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2010, 09:40:43 AM »

I guess I'm a Homer, but I don't know how you could go wrong with a used Ten Tec.  An Omni V with a couple of filters would be great for you.  I love the Corsair II, and the Omni D Series C.  This has a single conversion rcvr, which has little noise.  The AGC pops a little, but all you have to do is fiddle with the RF gain a little to quiet it down.  The Corsair II has a built-in keyer, but not the Omni V, for some reason.  I would be happy to any of those rigs in the shack right now, and I have an Orion and Omni VI+.
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20595




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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2010, 09:41:41 AM »

Hello, friends.

What can you recommend for new gear? I'm looking for a HF all-band transceiver in the 100 watt range.  I am 100% CW, and have no interest in SSB, VHF, or anything digital.  I'm used to crystal control, so I don't need any bells and whistles.


Elecraft K2/100. (www.elecraft.com) You can find a used one, or build one yourself from a kit. Manual is free for the download. Not the least-expensive rig in the world but very good CW performance and you don't have to add things you won't use. While it has lots of features, you don't have to use them.

73 de Jim, N2EY



I sure agree.  You can buy the K2 without the SSB option altogether, and what you have is a great little CW-only rig that does more than your old station used to, while occupying about one-fourth the space.  It's also quite inexpensive.
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K7MH
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Posts: 337




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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2010, 10:56:11 AM »

Quote
What can you recommend for new gear? I'm looking for a HF all-band transceiver in the 100 watt range.  I am 100% CW, and have no interest in SSB, VHF, or anything digital.  I'm used to crystal control, so I don't need any bells and whistles.

There have been a lot of good replies but you are going to get answers to this that are all over the place unless you narrow things down some!
Check out what the major players have to offer if you want a new rig.
TenTec
Yaesu
Icom
Kenwood
Elecraft
Alinco
A lot depends on what you want to spend. New? Used?
If you do want a rig more specifically tailored to you needs then Elecraft is a good way to go.
You are not going to defeat a price tag by not wanting ssb vhf etc. with most manufacturers. All that is just pretty much there these days in HF rigs.
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IK0YGJ
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Posts: 43


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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2010, 02:04:36 AM »

Regarding the paddle I would go for a Begali Simplex as a starter.
A great key with reasonable price.
73 Carlo

---------------
Download your free copy of "Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy" here:
http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/index.html
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