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Author Topic: Too many radio choices!  (Read 16886 times)
pmraiders

Posts: 47




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« on: April 30, 2013, 11:54:13 PM »

I probably should have purchased the first radio I saw at HRO, but instead I did what I usually do and researched. This research got me from deciding between the FT-817 and FT-857 to consider the FT-897 then looking to the ic-7000 as a more complete solution and finally looking at the KX3 with its 100W amp.

The idea of portable QRP operation intrigues me, but as my first station I also think that I would always wonder what I was missing. Also, the amp option for the KX3 is expected to cost $700... for ~150 more I can get a FT-857.

My shack parameters:
I have tall trees behind the house that I could string an antenna up in. The problem is that anything QRP would likely lose the signal in the feed line. (~200 ft worth of feed to be safe)
My 'shack' would be on the second story so anything ground-mounted would be going down ~16 feet. That being said I can hang things from the eves of the house.
I would like to be able to operate HF portable in some capacity. Think camping, not backpacking, though it would be nice to take a HF radio on the trails.
I currently own a FT-60R as my only radio, so I have HT coverage of 2m and 70cm bands.
I expect to have my General class license this weekend.

Pros/cons to each radio:

KX3 + amp
+portable/base station in one package
+SDR is very appealing as I want to do digital modes and waterfall visualizer makes finding transmissions easy.
-Expensive. The radio equipped with some starting addons is going to run 1200 + ~700 for the amp + antenna tuner for the amp (150 for external, internal will be ~300).
-Features or quality sacrificed for a smaller rig

FT-817ND
+Portable
+Less expensive
-Low power output
-AMP option from THP only puts out 45 watts
-Menu driven so changing options is cumbersome
-Starting to get a little old, she's been out 9 years now.
-Need to add filters and DSP

FT-857
+Powerful rig
+Portable size, though you would have to lug a battery
-Menu driven
-Need to add filters
-DSP isn't that great

FT-897
=Same as FT-857 except bigger footprint and better controls.
=Internal battery pack is cool, but given the price to add it on I would just run external gel-cells
-Need to add filters
-DSP isn't that great

IC-7000
+Color screen and more intuitive controls, less menu driven
-Power draw on receive is the highest out of any of the radios I am looking at. Portable operation would make less sense.
+Better DSP and built in filters, the price difference between this and the YAESU offerings makes sense.

The KX3 is attractive because I can add to it over time as funds allow. The IC-7000 looks good as a solid home radio with portable being questionable, either needing more batteries or tethered to the car. The FT-817nd is lacking the newer sound processing features. The FT-857/897 are also lacking filters and DSP isn't stellar.

If there are any other alternatives that seem to fit my needs, or other less expensive amps that I could consider for the KX3 please let me know. Also, its hard for me to figure out exactly what I'm sacrificing in features by going from a radio like the ic-7000 to the KX3. I guess I am looking for some personal experiences on what to start with, and what to expand to later on. Perhaps I am putting too much weight on DSP and fancy new features. The only information I have is from reviews I have read.

Thanks for reading that mess, I hope you can understand why I'm stuck wanting to buy two or more radios but can only afford one Smiley
Jordan KG7DBM
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W8JX
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Posts: 6037




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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2013, 09:05:31 AM »

I would suggest the 897 from your list as best/cost effective rig. While bigger than 817 and 857 it is a sturdy design for portable use and will handle 100 watts on demand at better duty cycles than 857 because of larger thermal mass and heatsink and can still do QRP too. If you wanted to consider a Kenwood in mix you could look at a TS-480S with built in tuner and if you order optional MB 480 (abt 40 bucks) it provides a bracket with a handle to mount rig and control head together to grab it and go. 480 has a very crisp/clean receiver and great xmit audio.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 09:52:21 AM by W8JX » Logged

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N4DOV
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Posts: 52




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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2013, 11:18:13 AM »

If your budget is closer to $2000 than $1000, you should look at the TenTec Eagle, which has rather impressive performance, usually reserved for the "big rigs". It is small and very portable, simple to use (only one menu to set color of display and turn tuner on and off), big display, quiet and incredible receive audio, excellent transmit also. Easy up to 100 watt output. Excellent "local" support.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 11:28:24 AM by N4DOV » Logged
pmraiders

Posts: 47




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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2013, 01:38:12 PM »

W8JX:
The IC-7000 appeals to me over the FT-897 because I don't have to add filters and it comes with superior DSP. Again, maybe I am placing way too much weight on filters and DSP, all I know is that filters help with CW/SSB/Digital trasmission because you can narrow your bandwidth and DSP makes things clearer.

Please give me your thoughts in this regard.

N4DOV:
Thats a bit of a stretch, I will look at that rig and consider it, though I am very impressed with Elecraft's business model so I would definitely consider a K3 at that price point.
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W8JX
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Posts: 6037




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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2013, 03:23:51 PM »

W8JX:
The IC-7000 appeals to me over the FT-897 because I don't have to add filters and it comes with superior DSP. Again, maybe I am placing way too much weight on filters and DSP, all I know is that filters help with CW/SSB/Digital trasmission because you can narrow your bandwidth and DSP makes things clearer.

The 7000 has a reputation of being a hot running rig temperature wise. With filtering you have what is a shape factor which is the ratio between 6db down and 60db down band width. 2 to 1 or less (500hz@6db/1000hz@60db) is considered pretty good and 7000 does not do bad in this area but it lacks a internal tuner because of size/price.  Small rigs run hot at high power levels as they lack mass for proper cooling. This is why I suggested 897. Also again on Kenwood you can even get a 200w version of 480 for less than Icom but no 2m or 440. The 480 HX has twin cooling fans and keeps its cool even at 200 watts. If you plan to do a lot of full power operation i would get a bigger rig than 857 or 7000. A hot running rig can be disconcerting. The fit all bands in a small box compromises have to be made.
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KF7GFL
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Posts: 44




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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2013, 05:43:29 PM »

I looked at the FT-857D, the FT-897, and the IC-7000 and decided to settle on the FT-857. It is not much more expensive than the FT-817 but puts out 100 watts vs. 5. I really liked the IC-7000 but couldn't justify the $500 price difference for a radio that I plan to take camping. My thought was that I would try the less expensive unit and if I found it lacking, I could use it as a backup and get a more expensive one.

I just spent the weekend helping with the Salt Flats 100 long distance race where we used my FT-857 for a solid 36 hour stretch. It performed flawlessly the entire time but we only used it on FM. I am still in the process of getting up a decent HF antenna but am very pleased with the experimenting I have done using a dipole on the floor of my bedroom.

I hope this helps. In reality, I think you will be happy with any of the radios you originally suggested.

Matt - KF7GFL
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pmraiders

Posts: 47




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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2013, 05:51:45 PM »

Thank you KF7GFL for your reply. I suppose the question is QRP or not QRP. The FT-857 is a good price, but I would likely consider the FT-897 for its rugged construction, better controls and heat dissipation.
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W8JX
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Posts: 6037




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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2013, 06:49:06 PM »

Thank you KF7GFL for your reply. I suppose the question is QRP or not QRP. The FT-857 is a good price, but I would likely consider the FT-897 for its rugged construction, better controls and heat dissipation.

While not on the cutting edge of technology, it is a solid rig and well suited to portable and base use. I would suggest getting optional internal switching power adapter so when 120 is available portable you can use it without lugging a power supply too. 
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pmraiders

Posts: 47




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« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2013, 08:54:38 PM »

I just spoke to a kind operator on a local repeater who owns an FT-897 (not D) and an ic-7000. What he was saying makes me tend toward the ic-7000 for its sound processing and filters. The only problem is its receive power draw and its less rugged casing. I know w4rt sells DSP and filters for the FT-897D that I will research and take into consideration but I imagine that after those addons it will be right at the price of an ic-7000 and I don't have to mess with shipping a thousand dollars of radio across the USA.

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W8JX
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Posts: 6037




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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2013, 06:53:55 AM »

The only filter the 897 really lacks is a CW filter. The reason for low power consumption on receive is because of analog IF and simpler displace. You will get about twice the receive only time off batteries with a 897 than you will with a 7000 and even more if squelched. There is nothing wrong with a analog IF and good rock filters. Analog rig tend to have better receive fidelity in this price range too.
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N4OGW
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Posts: 308




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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2013, 09:44:06 AM »



My shack parameters:
I have tall trees behind the house that I could string an antenna up in. The problem is that anything QRP would likely lose the signal in the feed line. (~200 ft worth of feed to be safe)
My 'shack' would be on the second story so anything ground-mounted would be going down ~16 feet. That being said I can hang things from the eves of the house.


200 feet of coax really isn't a problem below 30 MHz. If the trees are tall enough a dipole strung up there will far outperform something hung from the eaves of the house. And you will have less RFI to and from other electronics in your house.

Tor
N4OGW
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W8JX
Member

Posts: 6037




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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2013, 09:57:01 AM »



My shack parameters:
I have tall trees behind the house that I could string an antenna up in. The problem is that anything QRP would likely lose the signal in the feed line. (~200 ft worth of feed to be safe)
My 'shack' would be on the second story so anything ground-mounted would be going down ~16 feet. That being said I can hang things from the eves of the house.


200 feet of coax really isn't a problem below 30 MHz. If the trees are tall enough a dipole strung up there will far outperform something hung from the eaves of the house. And you will have less RFI to and from other electronics in your house.

Tor
N4OGW


I do agree, 200 feet or even more is not a problem on HF and a great way to mitigate/prevent RFI in house too.
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pmraiders

Posts: 47




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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2013, 03:32:17 PM »

One of the employees at HRO suggested I use ladder line with some twist per length instead of coax and I would get zero loss. Coax seems MUCH easier to manage though.

Jordan
KG7DBM
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W8JX
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2013, 04:44:03 PM »

One of the employees at HRO suggested I use ladder line with some twist per length instead of coax and I would get zero loss. Coax seems MUCH easier to manage though.

Jordan
KG7DBM

The loss will never be seen down range on HF. If I was going 300 feet or more then I would consider ladder line or high dollar coax. Ladder line can bring problems of its own to table though. Also long as antenna is reasonably resonant coax will do fine here.
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N3JJT
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Posts: 31




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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2013, 04:51:29 PM »

Hello Jordan!  This is always my advise if I am Elmering someone just wanting to start into HF.   Get on HF with a used rig.  Hopefully someone locally will have one for sale at a good price.   Build yourself a couple of wire antennas, and learn about that part of the hobby.  Put your rig on the air, make contacts, and learn how all of the things you have read and talked about go together.  Turn your rig down to 5 watts, and play QRP, experiment with this part of the hobby, learn what it takes to operate, hone your skills.  Still interested?  While this is going on, keep throwing those pennies in the jar.  When you are ready to look for radio number 2, maybe this time a dedicated QRP rig, start looking, and then buy.  This gives you plenty of time to decide on exactly what you want for a QRP/portable rig.  I have nice rigs for home, all 100 watt rigs, and a nice K1 I like to take to the park, camping, and portable type operating.   Take your time, slide in to the hobby, gauge your spending, watch for deals, talk to other hams, go to your local club and see what other hams are doing for this type of operating.  Most times, you will find someone that would be happy to let you operate and try out various set ups.

Good Luck!  de Scott N3JJT
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