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Author Topic: Best First HF Transceiver Recommendation?  (Read 14099 times)

Posts: 10

« on: December 02, 2001, 08:39:44 AM »

Elmers... you have helped me in finding great 2m rigs and antennas and now I'm turning to you again regarding an HF rig... :-)

I'm currently a Tech Plus and am studying for my upgrade to (at least) my General class. I already own an Icom-2100H and a Yaesu FT-50; however, I do not yet have an HF rig. I know this question has been asked many times before, but I would like some guidance from those of you with the years of know-how and experience...

Which HF rig would you recommend as a "first HF radio"? Most of my hamming will be during the evening or early mornings. I'm not an electronics whiz but I do alot of work with computers and will likely be interested in digital communications at some point. Also, ham radio is not my only hobby so I don't have a ton of money to spend on a rig. I am also definitely considering used equipment. Bottom-line is I would like a rig that is rock solid, dependable, would give years of enjoyable service if I don't decide to replace it, and yet is a radio that has enough quality and features that "whets my appetite for more" and keeps me involved in ham radio.

Too much to ask out of one rig??

Any suggestions, comments, feedback, etc., etc., would be greatly welcomed.


Douglasville, GA (outside of Atlanta)

Posts: 172

« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2001, 09:10:42 AM »


There are lots of good "beginner" radios out there.  You can find them on sites like eBay or here on  Look for something from the late 1980's or early 90's for a good bargain.  Rigs like the IC745 and Ten-Tec Paragon are nice.  You can get one for ~$500.  Look for a rig that has been used by a non-smoker, has not been dragged from pillar to post and has been back to the manufacturer in recent times for refurbishing or re-alignment.

Look down the topic list on this forum, there are several good discussions on used rigs.


Posts: 926

« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2001, 09:38:00 AM »

I'm sure that you'll get many replies to this one...
And as many have posted here before, "everyones's transceiver, etc. is the best..."

Putting that aside, for the moment, I'd recommend buying the rig with the best RECEIVER in it you can get!! Even if that means it won't have every feature know to mankind!!!
Go for the best Rx performance, and you'll NEVER regret it!

Specifics in a moment... But you may want to read a couple of eham articles...
"Best HF Transceivers - Used Bargins"  by N8FVJ 7-23-2001
"High-End HF Transceiver Bargins"  by N8FVJ  8-20-2001

As well as reading a recent elmers thread titled "Best Used Rig for CW?"  from 11-23 thru 11-29....

Now onto the specifics...
My "personal" taste is for my OWN favorite but, that might not be the "best" for you!!!  My favorite is my Drake TR-7!!
BUT I think for what YOU are looking for, I'd say look at the Ten Tec Omni V  ....  On the used market, they sell for $800 - $1000, they are reasonably "new" in design and manufacture, and are also easily serviced by Ten Tec.... Using your criteria, it's "rock stable", "dependable", should "give years of service", and "has enough quality features....." to keep you involved in ham radio....

Some other ideas (other than a Drake TR-7) might be an Icom IC-765  or  IC-775, a Kenwood TS-850sat, A Yaesu FT-102 (if you want a vintage rig, w/tube finals..), an Elecraft K2 (if you want to assemble a kit...)...

There are others that are good but, I think you'll find that you can get more (much more) bang for the buck, buying a high-end used rig than a mediocre new rig!

I hope I helped.
Good luck.

Posts: 628

« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2001, 10:57:22 AM »

I would recommend a new rig since you have limited electronic knowledge.  That way you get new equipment with fewer problems and warranty coverage.  I would also recommend you go with a mid grade rig so you can grow into it.  The mid grade rigs I would consider are the Yaesu 920, Kenwood 570, Ten tec Jupiter and Icom 746.  All excellent rigs with excellent performance.  They run in the $1200 range give or take.  Compare the features, receiver performance and looks and go for it.  Welcome to HF.  Merrill

Posts: 3585

« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2001, 11:19:20 AM »

Hi: Everyone's rig is the best in the world and there's no use of looking further than IKenSu or whatever they own.

   But you really cannot go wrong with Ten-Tec. The later models, the Corsair and later, all share some very good traits. Excellent ears, fast turnaround time for the digital modes, almost intuitively simple to operate, repairable, and the factory will help you fix it. And Dollywood is fairly close to anywhere in 4land.

  Some want to put the Scout down - but it works well and the 50 watts out is not a real drawback. The Corsair is permability tuned, not so good for digital but excellent otherwise. Either of the Paragons will do a great job, as will the Omni V. Ditto the Pegasus and Jupiter. And the Omni VI+ is the best HF rig I have tried, and I have tried most of them.

  73  Pete Allen  AC5E

Posts: 539


« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2001, 12:46:58 PM »

I don't have either, but I plan on buying one of these two when I find a new job.

Both of these radios have multiple modes for HF, 6m, 2m, and 70cm for around $900.  Think of what you get:
1.  SSB, CW, FM (for 10m), etc. for 160m-10m
2.  All of the above for 6m as well
3.  All of the above for 2m and 70cm as well

In other words, you get multiple radios in one.  Not all HF transceivers have 6m.  There are few all-mode 6m radios.  (There are a few 6m HTs, but those are FM-only.)  There are few all-mode 2m/70cm radios.  Remember: Most 2m and 70 cm radios are FM only.  VERY few offer CW or SSB.

In my opinion, the Icom 706MKIIG and Yaesu FT-100D offer the most bang for the buck BY FAR.

Posts: 28

« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2001, 01:22:37 PM »

If I had to pick one rig to satisfy most of your requirements, I would recommend an Icom IC-718. This rig is *definitely* the best bang for the buck in a new radio in it's price class and for many of us is as much rig as you would ever need. I've had two of them (but no longer own one). You should also expect to spend another $170 to buy a crystal filter for it though. It's 100% duty cycle and although it's probably overkill, you can buy an optional high-stability crystal oven for it so it should be ideal for digital modes. It also has a computer interface for control software if you're into that.

In a used rig, I would strongly recommend an older Ten Tec as a starter rig. As I've never used them digital, I can't say how suitable they would be for those modes in terms of stability or TX/RX turnaround time. Corsair is a great rig (I've had two of them too). Omni A thru D or Triton are fine for most things (CW and SSB anyway) and you can pick them up for $300 upwards. Ten Tec still service/repair and sell add-on filters for these older rigs.

I would say, don't spend a lot of money until you *know* (or think you know) what you want and you can only really do that by experimentation.

I've had many used and new rigs and I thought I knew that I wanted each and every one of those rigs; things change Smiley

Also, remember that unless you are a hard-core contester or the like, it doesn't really matter if you are using a $300 rig or a $3000 rig.

For most practical purposes, they do just about the same thing ! A ten year old Chevy or a brand new Porsche, they still get you from A to B Smiley

As regards digital modes, many hams work in computer related fields and the odd thing is that many of them prefer the simplicity of CW to digital modes. Go figure ?

Posts: 42

« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2001, 04:12:37 PM »

I recently made exactly the same choice as you; here's what I went through and here's what I settled on.
First choice: buy used. I looked around and the only used rigs I found for sale were either from unknown people at a hamfest and which I couldn't test before buying (I don't have that much trust), or old rigs from people I knew and could trust, but which would require a lot of maintenance I don't know how to do (where do you go to buy spare tubes, anyway?).

Plan "B": new. I absolutely couldn't spend more than $1,000 and wanted to spend as little as possible. So I narrowed the choices to the Alinco DX-77T and 70TH, Icom 706 and 718, Kenwood TS-50S, and Yaesu FT-840. But I was able to quickly prune down the list. For me it came down to VHF/UHF. If I bought the cheapest HF rig (Icom 718) and the cheapest 2m/70cm mobile I would end up paying about the same as the 706MK2G And adding the digital signal processor to the 718 puts me further behind.

The 706 is a small, relatively inexpensive radio that can be used at home or in a car, and can easily be taken anywhere. It also has a lot of features I couldn't get with multiple radios unless I spent a lot of money.

There are better radios on the market and one day I hope to buy one. But the 706 is pretty good as an all-around radio.


Posts: 1435

« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2001, 04:55:47 PM »

Solid state; WARC bands; built in tuner; non-smoker; never hit by lightning; excellent physical and mechanical condition; excellent stability; computer interface?  Fits your budget.

Posts: 37

« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2001, 05:15:53 AM »

I'd would recommend the Icom 746,could be the only rig you'd need.As there is a new model coming out you might be able to get a  good discount.Just 'cos there's a new model its doesn't make the old one bad !.Probably does not mean a whole lot but I've worked the world with 100w and a bit of wire on HF,4 continents on Six with a small 3 ele beam.If you are really into CW you'd benefit from it having CW filters although for casual operation the peak filter is OK.
Real Radio sized unlike the 706 or 100d,whatever you buy use  and enjoy

73 Noel Ei2JC

Posts: 1045


« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2001, 09:25:10 AM »

Nobody here has mentioned the Yaesu FT900CAT, but if you read the EHam reviews, you will find it a strong contender.  It is no longer in production, but you can find them used for around $600.  Simple to operate, intuitive, great rig.  Sold my other HF rigs and kept two of these. Works for me.

Posts: 21758

« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2001, 02:41:22 PM »

Lots of great answers and interesting opinions.

I've owned or used most every HF rig ever sold in the past 25 years or so, and have no firm opinion other than:

-Regardless of your budget and interests in HF, spend more on your antenna than you do on your radio, and you'll be a happy camper.

-Install, or have an Elmer or two help you to install, the best antenna(s) you possibly can; they are far more important to overall performance than the station equipment could ever be.

-When buying lower-cost used equipment, don't assume that whatever you buy will keep you happy for years.  That's a very confining thought.  I'd recommend you think instead of, "This will get me through for now, and I'll look for something else soon, when I can afford it..." or something like that.  Station equipment, especially an HF transceiver, is easily replaced.

73 de Steve WB2WIK/6

Posts: 7

« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2001, 04:05:32 PM »

I would also recommend buying an Icom IC-718, new. This radio is selling for around $599 and Icom currently has a special where if you buy the radio, you get the optional UT-106 DSP board for FREE. So basically $600 gets you a new 718 + DSP.

Here's a link to Universal's page on the 718:

This radio also has a lot of features that entry level radios of "yesterday" (such as my Icom 725) didn't have: built-in keyer, speech compressor, IF shift, etc.


Posts: 220

« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2001, 09:05:40 PM »

There is a plethora of fine new equipment on the market right now, any of which would be a fine investment in HF hamming, but I am going to recommend a low cost alternative.  Ask yourself how much gadgetry you really need, and if you can live without auto-tuners, digital display, DSP, band-stacking, memories, gen. coverage etc. (as we all did, until about 30 years ago) then a basic transceiver is what you want.  Not junk, but a solid receiver with good basic sensitivity and selectivity, good sounding audio, and an easy to tune and operate transmitter with good transmit audio.  Any old Kenwood TS-520 or 820 will be a good choice and are plentiful and cheap these days. ( If you MUST have WARC bands, get a 530 or 830). Yaesu FT-101 also good choice, as is the Drake TR-4 series (plenty of power).  Keep in mind that the station you are communicating with doesn't much care about your extra features - only how your signal sounds to him.

Posts: 984

« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2001, 12:25:24 AM »

I have used them all I think. I recommend that you stay away fromn the older tube types. I have used and highly recommend a TenTec Onmi-D. Solid state and has the best receiver you're gonna get in an inexpensive receiver. A TecTec Delta II is also a great rig. Uses a Jones variable filter that takes noise to noise heaven when others wont. A Kenwood TS-440S is a great rig and they are available at a reasonable price. And lastly, the wonderful (IMHO) IC-706 Mark II or "G" model. Small, light, runs 100 watts, great track record and the Mark II's are now coming on the market used for a reasonable price as well.  In reality, what you buy is going to be mostly on how you "feel" when you try one. No matter what we tell you here, your emotions when you spin the dial and squeeze the microphone are going to be the final word on what you buy. No matter what you buy, you will like it and we will delighted to talk to you once you get on the air.
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