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eHam Forums => Digital => Topic started by: N6ZZZ on July 30, 2012, 01:16:53 PM



Title: Rig advice.
Post by: N6ZZZ on July 30, 2012, 01:16:53 PM
I'm a somewhat new ham.  Originally licensed in the 90's, I allowed my ticket to expire and I recently retook the tests.  I've been employed in the technology field for 25 years, and have no issues with complex menus, learning curves or opening up things to tinker around.

That being said, I am mostly interested in digital.  RTTY/PSK etc.  Voice and CW would be my second and third priorities.  I live in a condo with the typical HOA Nazi's that one expects these days, and I'm definitely going to have to settle for some type of compromise antenna in the small attic space approximately 20 feet high that I'm lucky to have.   Leaving issues of antenna costs, power supplies, tuners etc out of the equation, I have approximately a $1500 budget for the purchase of a rig.   My preference is to purchase new, but I do not have any particular brand preference.

Any suggestions or advice?

KJ6YPV - Mike


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6AF on July 30, 2012, 05:25:25 PM
I won't make equipment suggestions, but I do have some advice.  If you're going to be emphasizing digital modes, make sure your receiver has IF filtering that can eliminate everything but the signal of interest.  Without such filtering, strong signals within the passband will engage the AGC, lower the gain, and clobber the signal you're trying to copy.

I'm not saying you can't get along without this, but PSK31 and other narrow digital modes are much harder to operate without IF filtering.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on July 30, 2012, 05:57:03 PM
I don't think you can beat an Elecraft K3/100 with a 400hz filter for the money.  That's what I have,.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: N6ZZZ on July 30, 2012, 10:48:01 PM
Thanks for the responses.  I left the radio's I've been considering out of the original post to not influence any advice, but I can understand people being hesitant to make a specific recommendation.  My first choice would be a K3, but even in kit form a base K3/100 would be $500 over my budget.   Right now, I'm leaning towards the Kenwood TS-590S over the Yaesu FT-950.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: VA7CPC on July 30, 2012, 11:04:25 PM
FWIW (I haven't used either of your candidate rigs) --

Going by the numbers, the TS-590 has an edge in receiving weak signals in the presence of strong ones.

A friend of mine (a very experienced DX'er) has an FT-950 and is very happy with it. 

Neither of those two rigs would be a mistake.

I concur with a previous post -- having _really narrow_ IF filters (which usually means IF DSP) will help you a whole lot.   I think either the TS-590 or FT-950 will go down to 50-100 Hz or so.

           Charles
 


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: LX2GT on July 31, 2012, 02:15:23 AM
The TS-590 is a lot of radio for the money, and is what I would suggest to you. For digital modes all you need is the software, and connect the radio using it's USB port, as it provides also an soundcard for the PC.

Luc


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on July 31, 2012, 08:06:21 AM
Quote
K3/100 would be $500 over my budget.

It was over my budget too, but I deferred and finally squirreled away the ducats.  I am really glad I waited.  No interface necessary as the Line In is fully isolated.

It is a formidable digital & CW rig.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: W5DQ on July 31, 2012, 12:50:45 PM
I don't think you can beat an Elecraft K3/100 with a 400hz filter for the money.  That's what I have,.

While a K3/100 is a great radio, the kit costs $1,999.95. Kind of shoots the heck out of a $1500 budget. What about antennas and other needed items like a dummy load, SWR meter, microphone (if he wanted one), digital interface, etc. Sure alot can be homebrewed but still need to buy parts unless he has a well stocked 'junk' box (as all hams should :)

Typically most suggest if you're using a fixed budget, invest in a quality antenna above all else and then the best rig you can afford second. It doesn't really make sense to have the best rig and a useless, crappy antenna system when the antenna does most of the work, especialy on RX. Sure I agree you'll need good filtering and sensitive front end, but a well conceived balance of antenna system to overall station capabilities is definitely something you should not overlook.

Gene W5DQ


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: VE3FMC on July 31, 2012, 01:21:19 PM
I don't think you can beat an Elecraft K3/100 with a 400hz filter for the money.  That's what I have,.

Please tell me and the original poster where you can buy a K3 for $1500.  ;D ( A great rig no argument there but not within his budget)

Now for $1500 I would look at the Yaesu FT-950. Oh wait, I own and operate that rig daily using digital modes! Works fine for me. Another rig I have used for digital is the Icom 7000. Again it worked just fine for digital modes and also SSB and CW (As the FT-950 does)

As Gene states above, quality antennas go a long way to making a radio work well.

Your mileage may vary.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on July 31, 2012, 01:24:33 PM
I had a different philosophy when I looking for a digital rig.  It was over my budget at the time, too.  I'm glad I waited until I saved up the difference.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: W5DQ on July 31, 2012, 01:36:19 PM
I had a different philosophy when I looking for a digital rig.  It was over my budget at the time, too.  I'm glad I waited until I saved up the difference.

Don't get me wrong ... the K3 is a killer rig. High priced with all the extras but still a great rig. I'm only saying by adding a GREAT antenna system to it, it will be part of an excellent overall station that will preform to its peak potential.

I am a serious photographer too and it always amazes me to see beginners rush out and buy the hottest camera body available and then slap on some piece of inferior glass on it and then complain like the dickens that the camera is a piece of junk. It's not the body, it's the lense but they don't understand the system concept.

Same thing here many times although maybe not the level of complaining as there, but surprised none the less that their new whizbang rig doesn't perform like other ham's same rig does. Secret is most likely in the antenna system used.

I'm seriously thinking of a K3 myself. I just have a long way to go before I get enough ducats since I want mine fully loaded.

Gene W5DQ


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on July 31, 2012, 04:21:29 PM
Gene, during the 5 years it took me to save for the k3, I built a series of antennas until I was confident that I had strung up the best performers I could get by the XYL.  I made 7k qsos on a used FT-100D and learned the software.

The learning curve on the K3 is pretty steep, too.  Fortunately the FT100D prepared me for a menu-intensive radio, but the degree of flexibility the K3 offers is not mastered immediately -- at least not for me.  No one is going to be able to take full advantage of the K3 right out of the box.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: G4AON on August 01, 2012, 12:58:49 AM
A panadapter is very useful on digital modes, with a TS590 you would struggle to connect one...

I run a K3 with both Fldigi via a PC sound card and Pactor/Amtor/RTTY with an SCS PTC-IIex modem. The waterfall on the P3 panadapter is great to see what other data modes are around where your radio is tuned, on Amtor you can even see activity on the band while in a QSO...

My vote would be to save up for a K3, or perhaps get a second hand one? The basic 10W K3 kit is $1,549.95 plus shipping and you can easily add the 100W PA later when you can afford it.

73 Dave


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: N3QE on August 01, 2012, 04:56:16 AM
I got a Ten-Tec Eagle last fall and it has worked wonderfully well. Rig interfaces to logging programs via USB cable and there's line-level in and out on the back of the rig to make it easy to interface to a sound card.

I have used it in many RTTY contests and even set an ARRL section record in a very obscure RTTY category :-). Also done some PSK with it.

List price of an Eagle is less than a K3 but still over your price target. A used or demo model might make the cut.

It has very excellent IF filtering (down-conversion rig so has a natural advantage over all those upconversion rigs) and continuously variable DSP filtering. If you were really into brutal RTTY contesting (e.g. trying to run a frequency in between the big guns on 40M in WPX RTTY) a 300 Hz or 600 Hz crystal filter might help but IMHO it is unnecessary 99% of the time even in RTTY contests where things are packed edge to edge. The Eagle's DSP filtering in addition to the stock IF filter is REALLY good.

This bucks a little against your original grain but you might want to go for a used transceiver under $1000, and instead spend your bucks on stealth antennas, specifically a tiny mast with a tiny beam on top that you can set up and then take down and put in a closet before the neighbors can complain, or a flagpole vertical, or something like that. 40M is where most of the stuff is happening on PSK, this is where a flagpole vertical might be appropriate, and for digital DX'ing 20M/17M/15M a very tiny spiderbeam on a portable mast could work very very well.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: N4UM on August 01, 2012, 07:20:00 AM
Check out the IC-7200.  It comes with excellent filtering suitable for various digital modes and seems to tolerate high duty cycles characteristic of digital operation.  There's no need to purchase expensive additional filters.  With your $1500 budget you'll have plenty of cash left over to get a decent remote auto-tuner for your attic and still take the XYL out for dinner when band conditions are poor!


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on August 01, 2012, 10:34:20 AM
DSP filtering is pretty good and in the IC-7200 it probably is very well implemented, but you cannot beat crystal roofing filters for a brickwall bandpass without too much loss.


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: W5DQ on August 01, 2012, 11:01:28 AM
Gene, during the 5 years it took me to save for the k3, I built a series of antennas until I was confident that I had strung up the best performers I could get by the XYL.  I made 7k qsos on a used FT-100D and learned the software.

The learning curve on the K3 is pretty steep, too.  Fortunately the FT100D prepared me for a menu-intensive radio, but the degree of flexibility the K3 offers is not mastered immediately -- at least not for me.  No one is going to be able to take full advantage of the K3 right out of the box.

I know what you mean about the FT-100D. I own one of those for mobile use. Took a while to 'master' (if that is what you call it :) ) the menu system.

My XYL is constantly complaining about the antennas I have in the backyard. I'm on just shy of 1/2 acre and have two 40' towers and two 30' telescoping masts with a myriad of other antennas. She is always asking me 'Isn't what you got enough?' to which I ask 'Don't you have enough shoes already?' ..... the couch isn't such a bad sleep :)

Gene W5DQ


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KG6MZS on August 01, 2012, 11:21:20 AM
While I love the FT-100D, it is not a good digital radio.  It had a 300hz crystal filter that was only available in CW mode.  My only way to get an unwanted strong signal out of the bandpass was to tune it right or left out of the waterfall.  Then, of course, I was often at a very high or low audio pitch and not in the center of the waterfall.

You are lucky, Gene to have a tower.  Some day... I'd sleep on the couch a year for that ;-)


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: W5DQ on August 02, 2012, 11:25:14 AM
While you are 'on the couch waiting', I'd suggest you watch the local swapsheets and look while driving around for people who have older ROHN 25 series towers that used to be used for TV antennas. In some area of the country, these things are everywhere and many times they are FREE for the asking, especially if you're willing to take them down. I have another tower in the side yard on the ground. it is a older Triastao 3 section 55' crankup but someone cut the cables off of it because they were rusty. I have measured and think the cable set from a modern US Towers crank up will work. It is stored for the time being until I move someday and then I will fix it up and install it. I have a bunch of ROHN 25G sections stored in a barn back in Arkansas waiting until I retire back that way and then they are going to be used for some 160M/80M 4 square antenna setup.

Good Luck. A nice eggcrate cushin make sthe couch really comfy :)

Gene W5DQ


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: N3DF on August 02, 2012, 04:00:34 PM
As you are technically-oriented, you will readily understand that each small incremental improvement you can make to your compromised antenna system will buy you much more operational advantage than a large increase in the cost of your transceiver. 


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: W2WAW on August 03, 2012, 12:13:50 PM
IMHO the Icom 7200 is by far the easiest and best rig for any digital work. One usb cord and some free software and you are on the air. Dont overlook it, its truly a great rig. Mike w2waw


Title: RE: Rig advice.
Post by: KH6DC on August 03, 2012, 12:43:56 PM
I have the Elecraft K3 with the 2.7 khz (for voice SSB) and 250 khz filters (for digital) and highly reccomend it.  If you can't afford it, look into the Kenwood TS590 as it's filters and DSP is superb in pulling in weak signals.

73, Delwyn KH6DC