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Author Topic: Best radio for cw  (Read 9645 times)
KJ4BSU
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« on: July 09, 2012, 12:54:24 PM »

This might be asking for trouble. Been learning cw for some time copy pretty good W1AW my curent radio is a marine ssb no cw. Would like to get started. Thinking second hand around $500. anybody got an opion on what might be the best second hand radio for cw only in this price range. I live on a boat so am limited in power and antenna size.   
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W5INC
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 01:34:51 PM »

 There will be many opinions on this thread to be sure, I will go with a FT-102 hybrid rig from Yaesu. This radio has 3 6146 tubes in the final PA stage and has good PWR out (200+) if you don't have the room for an amp on your boat. The receiver is very sensitive on this radio. The shift/width controls on this radio, will allow for passband tuning which does work really well in this rice box. The downside to this radio, is it is known for having relay problems, which is rather a minor fix, IMO. I use the 102 myself and have made many CW contacts with it, since coming back to AR.

 The same Engineer that developed the FT-1000D for Yaesu, was a major player in getting the 102 to market also. The 102 was sold at a time when new radios were coming to the market place at a very fast pace. Not many were manufactured and these radios are still sought after today. This web site has a very good Reviews section for HF transceivers and you can see the opinions from end users of this radio. I have attached a link to the bottom of this post so you can see some of the benefits of this hybrid radio.

 I would spend some time thinking about a way you can get a good antenna in the air for your CW work. This is the most important part of the station IMO and deserves very carefull deliberation so you can get the most enjoyment from your CW work. If your boat is moored close to salt water this will be an extra bonus when operating. Good Luck on your quest and Welcome to the CW parts of the bands.  Smiley

http://w8kvk.com/nc4l/page2/page2.php
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M0LEP
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2012, 01:57:56 PM »

You'll find plenty of discussion in the previous incarnation of this:

See http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,82617.0.html
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 02:30:39 PM »

I work CW a lot and other than some small QRP rigs there really aren't any "CW only" transceivers.  You'd have to go back decades to find "CW only" stuff and you probably wouldn't want most of it.

Now, the Elecraft K2 starts out as CW only and 15W; with options, you can add SSB and 100W and lots of other stuff.  It's also a kit, so once you're finished building it there's a good chance you can fix it for a very long time, should the need arise.  But even in its most basic form it's more than $500.  If you don't mind stretching that to $750 or so, it might be a very good choice.  One huge advantage it has over older gear is its "receive" current drain is extremely low, so it doesn't drain a power source (like batteries) much at all compared with many other rigs.

There's lots of used rigs to choose from, though, and many can be found for $500.  I'd say the "best choice" is a LOCAL DEAL, where you're buying from someone you personally know or at least lives close by so you can go look at the gear, try it out, get some instructions and advice, etc.  To me, this is worth much more than finding the "best deal" on the internet.
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AC4RD
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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2012, 02:44:33 PM »

There's lots of used rigs to choose from, though, and many can be found for $500.  I'd say the "best choice" is a LOCAL DEAL, where you're buying from someone you personally know or at least lives close by so you can go look at the gear, try it out, get some instructions and advice, etc. 

This is REALLY good advice, IMO.  If you've got a local ham club, join it, start going to meetings, and talk to people.  You'll do MUCH better finding a rig that way.

If you're really interested in working some CW, try to find a rig that either has a narrow filter installed, or one modern enough that you can find a narrow filter for.   But even that isn't really a dealbreaker, IMO--I worked hundreds of CW contacts as a new Tech with an ancient Griefkit with no filtering to speak of.  :-)

Good luck--working HF CW is a world of fun!  And you do NOT need anything fancy to get started, but it'll be a lot easier if there are people local to you who can help you choose gear and get your feet wet.  GL 73!
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AB9NZ
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« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 02:48:01 PM »

  With limited power I wouldn't go with a tube rig. You'll probably get advice to get a direct conversion rig too. Since your life could depend on your decision, for safety at sea I'd go 50 bucks over your budget and get a brand new Icom 718 with 100 watts, a built in keyer, WARC bands, and cetera. Mine has been very reliable.
  Brock, it's very admirable that you've learned Morse and choose to be a cw op. Since new cw ops are as rare as hens teeth could you take a minute to tell us how you came to be a cw op please? It's incredibly cool whenever I get the chance to work a ship at sea, I look forward to working your station. Very best of 73, de Tom, AB9NZ http://radiotelegrapher.posterous.com/
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KJ4BSU
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 10:09:38 AM »

Hi Tom  yes how I came to learn cw. About 40 years ago I learned code. In those days it was common for ships in the merchant service to make contact with a light called an aldis lamp. The contacts we made were for the sake of practice as we all had to pass a test as part of getting a captains licence as I recall was 6 words a min.  Also in those days we carried  radio operators and the sound of morse was always in the background. I took my ham licence about 5 years ago and at that time it was a no code test. A lot of guys were going for it and the general opinion was thank god they finally got rid of cw. My opinion at that time was good technology abandoned prematurly. So learning the code in my spare time. biggest problem was breaking 10 wpm that took major effort and determination. I use an MFJ code tutor am on my second one now wore the first one out. Also use a MFJ practice key. and a little digital recorder my sending is not that great yet Listening to W1AW when I can get it ( living in southern Chile for the past year) and of course listening to other cw opps. I have good and bad days for cw can,t copy well if I,m tired or hungover but normally I copy easy 12 wpm no strain can copy 15 wpm as sent by W1AW and on a really good day am copying a couple words behind at 20 wpm. as sent by W1AW though not for long can copy 5 or 6 words at this speed befdore I trip over my own feet.  Thanks for your advice and interest Brock
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N5XM
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2012, 10:39:06 AM »

Congrats!  My friend let me use his 718 for a month or so, as he wanted me to check it out on CW.  I really liked the rig, but I'm telling you it is critical that you get a CW filter if you get one.  The front end is so wide open that you'll get sick of the noise in about 15 minutes or less.  Otherwise, it's a neat little radio.
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W5INC
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2012, 11:02:44 AM »

Quote
One huge advantage it has over older gear is its "receive" current drain is extremely low, so it doesn't drain a power source (like batteries) much at all compared with many other rigs.
Very astute observation there Mr. WIK, as usual.  Smiley

 Since you do take your boat on real voyages to distant shores, the newer SS radios is the only route to take for your CW rig. With just 100 watts output, a decent antenna and in the middle/close to salt water, you will have no problems making CW contacts from your vessel. The K2 does get great reviews on the CW side and can be expanded to 100 watts output. Some CW OPs like the K2 over the K3 on the CW side, so this might be the way to go.

 I would put up an antenna and get on the air KJ4BSU, when you do get your CW rig. Your sending might not be perfect as of yet, but don't let that sway you from making contacts on the air. Don't worry about making mistakes, everyone does, even the best CW OPS still do. Don't rush your sending of the Morse, with practice the speed will come, just like on the receiving part of it. There is no real progress made, without a struggle. I know this 1st hand, since I have been torturing some CW OPs here recently myself, learning how to use a bug again. Don't be too hard on yourself and enjoy the hobby for what it is.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 11:14:19 AM by W5INC » Logged
W7ASA
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« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2012, 01:29:00 PM »

Another factor to consider is your antenna coupler (AKA: "Antenna tuner") . Because you already mention having a marine SSB (but without CW capability) you know that your marine SSB rig powers and controls the automatic antenna tuner aboard.  Many Icom rigs can plug RIGHT into the most popular Icom marine antenna couplers, so if you already HAVE an Icom antenna coupler, you will not have to rewire your antenna coupler to work with your CW rig. 

QQQ:  What are you using for your antenna?  Are you running a backstay? 

For me, the Century 22, a 'vintage' Ten Tec draws VERY little power on receiver (critical because you make your own juice) and is a lot of bang for the buck.  If you could afford more like $800, then the IC-7200 was what I used aboard and you can often find them used for this. Well made, o-ring enclosed compartments on most critical electronics, fine for CW and digital, can serve as an EMERGENCY back-up for marine SSB, should your primary fail (with Mars mod) VERY good filters, very good DSP to cut noise, and it was the best shortwave listening receiver I've heard in a very, very long time.  The digital capabilities also let it serve as your HF WEFAX anf FEC weathertext/NAVTEX  receiver to your laptop. 

>>> The 7200 worked perfectly with my boat's Icom automatic antenna coupler with no modifications.


For three bills over your budget (used), it's a LOT of radio and very much more 'survivable' than a radio made for use in an air conditioned office or den.  It's what I had aboard.


Fair Winds & Friendly Natives,

de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2012, 04:11:48 AM »

This might be asking for trouble. Been learning cw for some time copy pretty good W1AW my curent radio is a marine ssb no cw. Would like to get started. Thinking second hand around $500. anybody got an opion on what might be the best second hand radio for cw only in this price range. I live on a boat so am limited in power and antenna size.   

I'm surprised that your marine SSB transceiver doesn't have CW capability.  I thought it was a requirement for "type certification".

. . . What make and model is it?

. . . Does it have a "MODE" switch?  what modes does it support?

. . . Does it have a "KEY" jack?

Maybe there's a "no-cost" solution . . .

           Charles

PS -- I concur with previous posts saying "Buy something new, rather than tube-based or hybrid gear".  You could find an Icom IC-706, or Yaesu FT-857, for a reasonable price.  They're both more "boat-friendly" than anything with tubes.  Put a CW filter into either rig and it will give you all the CW (and SSB / RTTY / PSK31) you'll need.
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2012, 04:31:39 AM »

Check your transceiver manual for any mention of "A1A" --

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_radio_emissions

           Charles
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KJ4BSU
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2012, 12:15:02 PM »

Hi Charles
My radio is an Icom M700 and it does have a key jack at the back of the radio. As to what modes it suppports maybe a1a 3 or 4 altogether variations of upper sideband. I took the radio in for serviceing some years ago and was told it was,nt worth fixing. As for the key jack, its for keying something for sure but not cw as far as I know. I found the loose connection and the radio works fine along with the auto tunner. Paid $300. for the radio and tunner about 10 years ago. I don,t use it much. Typically once a week contact the transcon net on 14.3 also had one emergency during which it was very good to be able to talk to someone. As for using the radio for cw I,ll look into it but don,t think it would be good for casual contacts as it just uses to much power.

Thanks Brock
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KG4NEL
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2012, 12:26:06 PM »

Yep, no mention of A1A in the service manual: http://www.scribd.com/doc/37299767/Icom-IC-M700-Service-Manual

I'd have to recommend Elecraft too - they come up used fairly often, although it's a bit of a chance as to how much care the builder took - I owned 2 K2s at one point last year, neither of them built by me - and the difference in construction was eye-opening.

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VA7CPC
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2012, 08:54:11 PM »

Hi Charles
. . .
As for using the radio for cw I,ll look into it but don,t think it would be good for casual contacts as it just uses to much power.

Thanks Brock

Yup.  One control the M700 _doesn't_ have is an "RF POWER" knob.  It transmits at 150 watts all the time.

Bye-bye batteries . . .

A K2, Icom IC-706 (I used one on my boat for years), or something similar -- compact, all-solid-state -- will fit your needs better.

          Charles
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