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Author Topic: Recommendation for 1st radio  (Read 1678 times)

Posts: 4

« on: June 07, 2007, 01:16:44 PM »

Alright, I'm sure you get this question all the time; I really did look around some through the older postings, but didn't find much, so....

I just passed the Technician test a few days ago, and I'm waiting now for my call to show up in the database.  In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what sort of rig I should start out with.  My interests are mainly local VHF/UHF stuff, probably getting into some ARES/RACES activity too, but at some point I want to start getting into some DX as well.  I have an old buddy that lives about 400 miles from here and would like to be able to hook up with him and shoot the breeze - that is, if I can get him interested enough to get licensed and set up on his end (even if not, I'll still want to do some DX).

After looking at the prices of new fixed/base HF rigs (ouch!), I thought about getting a dual-band HT first and setting it up in my truck with an external antenna and DC supply, and then adding a used HF rig for home later, as time and finances allow.  But I'm more than a little concerned about the effective power limitations of an HT.  So, now I'm thinking along the lines of a dual-band + 6m or 10m mobile rig initially, with the idea that I can run it indoors in SSB (or CW if and when I get around to picking that up - I *would* like to) using a battery or power supply and a 6 or 10m dipole out in the yard.

Does this seem like a reasonable approach, or is a rig like that too much of a compromise?  I don't really want to spend a gazillion bucks outfitting a station with a dozen different radios plus tuners, amplifiers, rotators, etc. - I'd prefer to keep it simple - but I don't want to be seriously disappointed in the performance of it either.

Counter-suggestions are welcome!

Posts: 501

« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2007, 02:32:03 PM »


Get a HF rig and get on the HF bands where real ham radio takes place.

Its more than plugging in the rubber ducky, turning on the radio, setting the squelch and talking.  

Also remember, the modern HF ham radios are not simple to use.  They are no longer “tune it in with the big knob” and “set the volume control” and sit back and listen to someone talk & ragchew like I did back in 1964; today’s radio, you have to worry about setting 10 to 20 controls, computer menus, computer settings properly or it won’t work, especially for exotic modes like PSK and MT63.  The run of the mill SSB and CW or FM is tricky enough these days, but when you’re doing digital, a lot of little things can kill the signals.  One setting can kill the whole thing.  

Sorry, welcome to the 21st century.  

However, the use of HT’s has done a great dis-service to ham radio; truly, most new guys only know how to screw in the rubber ducky, turn on the volume control, click the channel and push the PTT.  

There’s MUCH MORE to ham radio than that.  

The “HT Crowd” has a LOT to learn!"

HF takes a bit more work than a channelized VHF HT / repeater.  You need to explore by tuning the radio frequencies, listening to different bands, paying attention to propagation etc - it isn't cut and dried like pushing the ptt on the HT and always getting a guy on the repeater channel or making a call on the telephone..... (don’t EVEN get me going about Echolink, I’ll throw up!  Echolink users = polite CB’er to me).


You have HF privileges, use them!  Don’t stay stuck with a darn HT or VHF “base”, get on HF!

Posts: 8911


« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2007, 07:06:20 PM »

"I'm thinking along the lines of a dual-band + 6m or 10m mobile rig initially, with the idea that I can run it indoors in SSB (or CW if and when I get around to picking that up - I *would* like to"

The problem is that they don't make them that do SSB/CW...

FM rigs are much cheaper to build than all-mode rigs.  All mode rigs need bigger final transistors for the linear amp needed for SSB/CW... you need more circuitry overall.

So the affordable 2m+70cm+6m/10m rigs are FM-only, and 6m and 10m FM aren't too hot...

Now if you're talking about a 2m+70cm rig and then a 6m or 10m single-band all mode like RCI Ranger makes or something, that would be OK ... Antennas for 6m and 10m for home use are pretty easy to build from even hardware store materials... so it could be an affordable solution to get you on a good chunk of your voice privileges...

- - - - - - -

Another route for a few hundred more dollars, but more long term payoff, I think:

 get a 2m/70cm mobile for the car and get on the local airwaves.... maybe even just a 2m one... save as much money as you can while getting a quality VHF rig for local FM use.

Then start saving for something like the FT-857D.  It's $600-$700 new without add-on filters... it will get you on 6m and 10m SSB as soon as you get it and will get you on the rest of HF when you get around to that...

- - - - - -

I think spending money on 6m or 10m FM, or even 70cm in some places can end up being VERY disappointing.  The real fun on 6m and 10m is on SSB/CW/PSK31 etc... you'll be able to work the very strongest openings on FM but you'll be crowded into a few repeaters and simplex channels on either band...

I don't know how the single band 6m/10m all mode rigs like the Rangers perform... they might not be great, and I think if you go to the 100W versions, you're going to be paying 2/3rds the price of an FT-857D just for one of thirteen bands.

I think buying a dual-band or 2m mobile rig instead of a dual-band or 2m HT is a good idea for a first rig.  I never use my HT anymore... if you really get into EMCOMM stuff you're going to want to have both... and I think it's worth starting with the extra power and better RX of a mobile rig.



Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 2415

« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2007, 11:25:40 PM »

Yaesu FT-8800 dual band VHF/UHF, Nice power output,
AND it cross band repeats! A really neat feature you might like to have someday.

6 and 10 meters FM is not too usefull in most areas, But if you want it, The Yaesu FT 8900 does them.....

For HF mobil use, The good old Icom 706 series will also do HF and SSB, But will not cross band repeat, And is mostly menu driven.......

IF you get a nice dual band VHF/UHF mobil radio that can crossband repeat before you get a handheld radio, You could get by with a cheap "flea" power hand held like the Yaesu VX2 by using the mobil as a cross band repeater for high power. Works much better than a 5 watt hand held...........

Posts: 372

« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2007, 03:39:38 PM »

I have the 8800 as a mobile radio.  Its a winner in that application.

I have an 817 that gets 5 watts out on SSB.  On PSK that is plenty.  On CW, that is weak.  On SSB, that is painful.   Still its signal out on 6 meters is SSB or FM and it has a great signal on 2 meters.

Might look at these in the fleamarkets or on Ebeast.

I have an HT, but if you want to do more than talk to a repeater that is close by, you are going to need more.

Have fun and welcome to the hobby.

Posts: 4

« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2007, 05:12:42 PM »

I should have clarified a little more.  I was thinking about an all-mode multi-band rig (like the FT-857D) as a medium to long term solution for both the FM and DX areas.  I wasn't really planning on using FM on 10/6m, mainly SSB and eventually some CW.  The local repeater listings are about evenly split between 2m and 70cm, so a dual-band mobile VHF/UHF rig looks to be the best way to get started, and then add an HF SSB/CW rig when finances allow it.

Posts: 2415

« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2007, 11:01:02 PM »

IF I could only have one radio, It would have to be the Kenwood TS-2000, The "Swiss Army Knife" of radios.
AND the TS-2000 also "cross band repeats!"  It is really neat to be able to work HF from a shirt pocket UHF hand held radio while sitting on the back deck, No where near the HF radio!
(I see good used TS-2000 radios selling used around 1100-1200 bucks nowadays)

Base station (Or mobil)  Kenwood TS-2000
Mobil (Or base station)  Yaesu FT-8800
Shirt pocket hand held   Yaesu VX-2R

The little flea power VX-2 can talk out thru either the 8800 OR the TS-2000! So it's 1 watt is plenty of power!

Posts: 6252

« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2007, 06:34:32 AM »


OK.  Sure.  Get a radio that is only useful to a newly licensed ham on one band, and then not with full privileges on that band.

The newbie can listen to his hearts content, but can't really do anything else.  What a fine way to get rid of newly licensed hams--from inability to do much of anything.

VHF isn't perfect--but its fully open to technicians.  HF isn't the only part of ham radio worth anything, and with the attitude of some of the higher license class hams, its worth even less.


Posts: 27

« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2007, 02:16:43 PM »

I agree with K1CJS,I would get yourself a HT dual bander thats affordable,whatever you can afford in your pocket needs.There's alot for a new person to start with in the : VHF/UHF repeaters,Satellites,EMCOMM's,APRS's,packets and on and on.Later on when you get more experience to what you would like to do with the radio,than do what you want to do and not what others want you to do.Check out some clubs in your area and ask them for their opinions on whats a good antenna,p.s.,chargers,batteries,location of your station will be place at,and a magnetic mount 2m-440 antenna for your automobile or truck.Than if you need more power to hit longer distance repaters,you can get a dual bander amplifier for your HT and still have a great time doing it.Have fun out there..........
Carl W2WRX........

Posts: 768

« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2007, 07:04:57 PM »

Opinion are like.... what is that old saying?

Something to consider- will you have to sell this radio at a loss in a few months to finance a better radio? If so, you might want to "buy the best" now to prevent having to do that later...

Anyhow- it depends on how far you want to talk. If you have any aspirations at all of eventually getting your HF license, then you -might- consider (wallet allowing) a Yaesu FT-847 or Kenwood TS-2000. They are DC-to-Daylight radios that cover every band that's worth covering. Keep in mind that if one of these breaks, you're off the air until you can get it fixed (assuming you have only this one radio).

If you can afford to go separates, Alinco makes a fine FM dual-band mobile radio that is affordable and performs well. Their HT's aren't too bad either. I still have and use an Alinco DJ-580 that I bought when I first got my license back in 1991. I gave it's companion mobile away (DR-599) last year when I upgraded to a DR-635 to a good friend who is still using it today. The only work any ever required was replacing the batteries! Then if you're looking at an HF set to pair up with your basic radio, it's hard to go wrong with any of the "big three": Ten-Tec, Yaesu, and Icom. (Kenwood isn't looking too healthy with respect to staying in the amateur radio business these days based on their showing at Dayton.)

If you want to "roll your own", nothing says "fantastic job!" like a completed Elecraft K2, and you can add Elecraft transverters to it for an all-band, all-mode radio! (But be prepared to spend about $3500.00 for the complete set.)

Best of luck to you in joining our hobby! 73, -KR4WM
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