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Author Topic: Passed General, final radio equipment decision.  (Read 4669 times)
KC8IUR
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« on: March 23, 2011, 06:33:43 AM »

I passed my General exam the 20th of March (without studying) and came three away from passing Extra (without studying). Now I need some equipment.

I've been mulling over several radios over the past months, but i'm still not certain what radio to get. I was set on building a K2, but to spec one out like I want would take at least $1200 and more like $1500. I just can't justify that kind of cash for 10 watts out. I could get a K3 or a Flex 3000, but i'd like to have portable and mobile operation possible with my first radio.

This has brought me to the Kenwood TS-480HX. It seems to be a decent radio for base and mobile stations, and ok at portable due to the higher power draw, even when scaled back. So there's the radio, but i'll need more than just a radio to get on the air.

Being that the HX has no antenna tuner, i'd either need a LDG 200p, or resonant antennas and a SWR meter.

I think that in a base and portable situation, i'd like to construct a fan dipole with maybe four elements. I think that will get me resonance or acceptable harmonic resonance on everything but 160. So then I would need a SWR meter, a feedline and two power supplies. Add to that some cabling to hook up to a computer. Balun?

For mobile operation, I think that I would need a screwdriver antenna, an antenna controller, power distribution and cabling. I'm more or less at a loss as to which antenna controller is going to work best with the TS-480. I'm probably not going to set this radio up as mobile until I get a true base station.

So what glaring holes are there in my plans? Could I reasonably expect to walk in to AES Cleveland, lay down plastic, and walk out with everything I need? Are these answers in the books I bought to study with, and then didn't get time to read? Probably. :V
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K8AC
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 10:51:30 AM »

If I were you, I'd rethink the HX model.  The 480SAT at 100W out is more than enough, and of course the tuner is built in.  Power supply requirements are quite a bit higher than with the SAT.   I've used the 480SAT for both fixed station operation and vacations and was very happy with it.  No need for an external SWR meter - the 480 has that built in.  For portable operation, I use a 40M dipole fed with open wire line for 40 and above, with an MFJ auto-tuner at ground level with a balun for the open wire feed.  Coax from there into the house. 

For mobile, I'd start out with a Hamstick or two for the bands you want to try - 17M is good for mobile as is 20M.  Considerably less expensive than a screwdriver antenna and associated hardware, and likely as good on 17 and 20.  You can buy a bayonet mount for the Hamsticks that allows you to swap bands in 10 seconds when stopped. 

If you're going to operate CW with the 480, I'd suggest getting the 500 Hz CW filter with the rig. 
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KC8IUR
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2011, 11:00:39 AM »

If I were you, I'd rethink the HX model.  The 480SAT at 100W out is more than enough, and of course the tuner is built in.  Power supply requirements are quite a bit higher than with the SAT.   I've used the 480SAT for both fixed station operation and vacations and was very happy with it.  No need for an external SWR meter - the 480 has that built in.  For portable operation, I use a 40M dipole fed with open wire line for 40 and above, with an MFJ auto-tuner at ground level with a balun for the open wire feed.  Coax from there into the house. 

For mobile, I'd start out with a Hamstick or two for the bands you want to try - 17M is good for mobile as is 20M.  Considerably less expensive than a screwdriver antenna and associated hardware, and likely as good on 17 and 20.  You can buy a bayonet mount for the Hamsticks that allows you to swap bands in 10 seconds when stopped. 

If you're going to operate CW with the 480, I'd suggest getting the 500 Hz CW filter with the rig. 

This is the internet, so I am supposed to disagree and ignore all advice.

I know the 100W of the SAT is enough, but the 200W is 3dB gain. I have a stonking huge pickup, so mounting a screwdriver would be no problem. Finding a good spot for a hamstick would actually be more difficult. My thinking on the lack of a tuner was that it would be made up for by the physical tunability of a screwdriver.

Why the 500hz over the 270hz for CW?
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K8AC
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2011, 12:03:05 PM »

Nah - this being the internet, you're supposed to tell me I'm stupid before you ignore the advice!  Nothing wrong with disagreeing, but it's beneficial to you to have valid reasons for doing so.  I seldom agree with my DXing buddies on choice of rigs, antennas, etc., but we all arrive at the same place.

In a mobile installation, my opinion is that 3 dB difference is of no practical value.  Every time you turn a corner, go behind buildings, etc., your signal strength is going to vary more than that.  If you were sitting at home with the 480 and working weak DX on 30M CW, then I'd concede that there would be isolated cases where the 3 dB might put you above the noise level so you could make the contact.  That's why some of us have 200W rigs for 30M. 

Keep in mind that any mobile antenna (except for a 10M 1/4 wave whip) is going to have a fairly narrow bandwidth and the shorter the antenna for the band in question, the worse things get.  If you're using a screwdriver on 40M, I'd bet your bandwidth is no more than 20-25KHz or so, if that.  So, unless your screwdriver controller is able to track the transceiver frequency and make the necessary adjustments (are there any that do that today?), you might be better off with the 480SAT where the antenna tuner WILL track with frequency and make adjustments as needed.  Not sure why you'd think finding a spot for the Hamstick would be more difficult.  A three or four magnet mount would hold the Hamstick on top of the cab - a very good location - with no problems.  Suitable Hamstick mounts are available for clamping onto the side of the bed, etc.

In my travels, I found 20 and 17 to be the most useful, but of course there are a lot of guys who routinely use 40 and 75 meters mobile and I suppose it just depends on how you intend to use the rig.  If you tend to check into one of the nets that service mobiles, those are on 40M. 

By the way, if you haven't seen this publication yet, you ought to find one.  It's called "Everything You Forgot to Ask About HF Mobileering" by Don Johnson, W6AAQ.  It has a ton of info on the best places to mount antennas on various types of vehicles, the best way to handle grounding, etc.  Lot's of stuff that you'd never think of on your own.

There are a few reasons for choosing the 500 Hz filter over the 270.  Most of us CW ops find that a 270 filter gets fairly limited usage.  It's just too narrow for most CW work and you'd likely spend most of the time with the 480 bandwidth set at 400-500 Hz.  In that case, the 270 filter would be out of the picture entirely and the SSB filter would be the only bandwidth limiting device ahead of the DSP filtering.  So, you're prone to get some AGC pumping from strong signals that are far out of the passband you're listening to.  With the 500 Hz filter, it would be in the circuit almost all the time you're on CW and you could still narrow the bandwidth way down using the DSP filtering of the 480, without exposing yourself to problems caused by strong signals outside the 500 Hz filter bandwidth.  One nice thing about the 480 - as you narrow down the bandwidth using the DSP bandwidth control, it automatically switches in the right filter for the bandwidth selected.  So, with the 500 Hz filter, as you decrease the selectivity from 600 to 500 Hz, the 500 Hz filter is switched in automatically. 

In my fixed station rigs, I usually have 500 (or 400) Hz filters as well as 250 Hz filters, but the 250s are used only when trying to dig out the weakest CW signals on 160M, or when working in search-and-pounce mode in contests.  In a contest, calling CQ with very narrow filters can result in you not hearing someone called just slightly off frequency - a rather common event in many contests. 

Anyway, those are my opinions and the next guy who comes along will have a slightly different opinion on each matter.  I've owned a couple of 480SATs and used them both mobile and for portable vacation stations.  There are few if any other mobile rigs with the same level of performance.  I see that many guys these days buy IC-7000s as mobile rigs, ignoring the experiences that Rob Sherwood documented well a few years back about the shortcomings of the 7000 in a mobile environment.  There ARE differences in the rigs and it's wise to search them out and understand them ahead of time.




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AI4HO
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2011, 02:00:04 PM »

Eric,

I have a Kenwood TS-480HX in my 2009 Ford Ranger, I'm using a Tar Heel HP-40A 40-10 rated up to 1500 watts.  This is by far the best mobile HF set up I've had.  True, I had to get creative in how, and where I mounted the radio, how I routed the coax and antenna control cable.  It took me 3 rewires of the 480, and several different tries at running the feed line and control cables.  After all the trials, troubles, and tribulations, I have reduced RFI in the cab by about 90%, I still get some RFI, but as long as I'm not listening to music while trying to work someone on HF it really isn't a problem.

I am using a Turbo Tuner by N2VZ  as the transmatch between the TS-480HX, and the Tar Heel, the Turbo Tuner in my opinion is a hell of a deal, one of the few automatic  tuners for mobile that I've seen that actually works.  They are a bit pricey (I think the latest price is $269+ shipping), but, they work.  The TS-480 is an ideal rig for mobile, its what it was designed for mobile operations. 

Now then, if you ever decide you want to use one as a base, which I have also done, you need a power supply capable of 41 amps continuous output to power one of these bad boys, its a beast to be sure, not in size, but just as a 200 watt rig that doesn't weigh 48lbs or what ever some of these monstrous base rigs weigh that will do 200 watts. Do your research, figure out what you want of a rig, do you want something with 2/70cm as well, you want an inboard autotuner, find out what you want in a rig, what kind/s of antennas will suit your needs.  Then once you have all your information...review it, make sure this i what you want.  After that, shop around, there are a lot of retailers that have great prices, personally, I got mine from R&L Electronics, and have never been disappointed in their prices or their shipping rates to Fl. 

You may decide at some point in time that you want a rig that will do 2meters/70cm's as well, the Kenwood TS-2000 is another fine product that can double as a base/mobile rig.  For my own needs, as I don't do CW, especially in a mobile environment I didn't bother with a CW filter, I do have a SSB filter and have given some thought to getting the voice guide storage unit.  The computerized female voice gets annoying at times, but you can always turn it off...;-) gonna keep my mouth shut after that one.  Any way, you'll figure it out, lots of possibilities.


73 de Mark
W3LZK
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KC8IUR
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2011, 04:56:55 AM »

So being that the HX pulls so much amperage, using it in a portable setting is not really feasible? How low can you throttle the PO?

The thought so far for mobile is a screwdriver mounted dead center of the bed. Sidewinder has a quick disconnect so that I could still pack the bed full of stuff when necessary. The reasoning behind this position is that the Tundra has a LOT of frame/bed twist, the center of the bed will be the most stable. The chassis will go under the back seat, probably on the rear wall. The head will probably get mounted on some sort of flex stalk mounted to a passenger seat bolt. I'm going to use the center channel speaker opening for the HF speaker. It's centered on the top of the dash, firing up into the windshield.

I will want 2/70, but i'm very likely going to get the TM-D710A for its APRS side. Larsen NMO2/70 in the center of the roof. I am not all about magnet mounts. I have no aversion to drilling holes.
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W8JX
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 06:15:01 AM »

So being that the HX pulls so much amperage, using it in a portable setting is not really feasible? How low can you throttle the PO?

The 480HX can do from 5 watts to 200 watts output. It is also capable of being a 100 watt rig when run from a single power connector on back of unit. One connector actually draws more power than other as it powers both radio and one final section while second connector just powers second final. 
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K6RMR
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2011, 06:26:04 PM »

The difference between 100 watts and 200 Watts is Bearly Noticable. To hear a noticable Gain you need to go to 400 Watts. That is one whole S Unit .
I have a 480SAT and I love it.
           Stan K6RMR
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W8JX
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2011, 07:03:56 PM »

The difference between 100 watts and 200 Watts is Bearly Noticable. To hear a noticable Gain you need to go to 400 Watts. That is one whole S Unit .
I have a 480SAT and I love it.
   

Well not barely but not a large amount. 200 watts is 3db which is one half a S unit which is generally considered the minimum amount for a discernible difference in signal strength. I also have a 480 SAT but some like the extra kick of 200 watt version.
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WA9UAA
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 07:04:20 AM »

I have felt it was an advantage to run my TS 480 HX at 100 watts because I'm not stressing the system to it's maximum output. Then of course, the extra power is there if you need it.
Best,
Rob WA9UAA
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KC8IUR
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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2011, 12:02:49 PM »

Oh yeah, one more note. I'll be picking up whatever radio I buy in person. I live in Ohio, and apparently every mail order outlet has a store here. I'm not going to pay sales tax AND shipping.
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W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2011, 02:43:19 PM »

Oh yeah, one more note. I'll be picking up whatever radio I buy in person. I live in Ohio, and apparently every mail order outlet has a store here. I'm not going to pay sales tax AND shipping.

Just tax and gas?
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KC8IUR
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2011, 07:09:39 PM »

AES is a 30ish minute drive.
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W8JX
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« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2011, 07:53:34 PM »

AES is a 30ish minute drive.

HRO is not in Ohio.
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KE8G
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« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2011, 02:06:30 PM »

AES is a 30ish minute drive.

HRO is not in Ohio.

Nor is Texas Towers in Ohio & they usually offer free shipping on radios.

Personally, I'd go for a K3... get the basics and build it up as time & the pocketbook allows.
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