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Author Topic: Yesterday's Mobile HF Rigs or, Mobile HF on a budg  (Read 1679 times)
KD4HRI
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Posts: 8




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« on: August 22, 2003, 09:51:56 PM »

OK, everyone agrees, a nice ft-100D, or IC-706 is the ideal mobile HF rig but ... I'm thinking about a less costly route and I'm thinking about a previous generation of Mobile HF .. or thinking of how to go 20 and 40 meter mobile on a budget.

I've been reviewing the Ten-tec scout, an ft-77, old Atlas rigs and even the new MFJ mini rigs.

What are the best of yesterday's HF mobile rigs that can be had at say, 1/3 to 1/4 of a brand new ft-100D?

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K0BG
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2003, 09:06:25 AM »

There's a lot to choose from. I'd start looking for a good used Icom 706 or Kenwood TS50 rather than an older Atlas or anything with tubes. The main reason is size. Unless you're driving a big vehicle, finding room in a modern car is difficult at best. good used IC706s and TS50s can be found for under $300 if you shop around.

Alan, KØBG
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N3ZKP
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Posts: 2008




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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2003, 11:06:41 AM »

Another good, low cost, mobile is the Alinco DX-70. I have two of them and much prefer them to the 706 - too much of the 706 is menu driven to mess with while mobile as far as I am concerned.

Lon
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K7VO
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2003, 11:59:33 PM »

The Ten Tec Scout is an excellent choice:  simple to operate, low cost, excellent receiver, and relatively small.  The Jones filter will allow you to narrow the bandwidth and reduce adjacent signal QRM easily.  A nice one with a mounting bracket and a good variety of modules will run you about $300 to $350.  Make sure you get one with the noise blanker installed.

The Alinco DX-70TH is a very good base rig, but the noise blanker is horrible.  In some cars that don't generate a lot of RFI they are just fine, but in others they are nearly useless.  The DX-70TH is definitely a "try before you buy".

The IC-706 for $300?  Where?  I've never seen it.

I agree with avoiding the old Atlas rigs.  They're orphans, and you are looking at something than will likely need maintenance immediately or at least in the short term.  Besides, in that era of radio, the Swan 100MXA or 100MXB is far more rugged and won't cost you more.  Still, hold out for something a bit newer if you can fit something that large in your car.  In the $200-$250 range you will find rigs like the Icom IC-730, Yaesu FT-747GX, Yaesu FT-77, and Kenwood TS-130S, all of which would be superior choices.  Don't sacrifice the WARC bands.  17 meters is outstanding for mobile operation, as is 12 when it's open.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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KR4JA
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2003, 01:27:16 PM »

I can "second" the vote for a Kenwood TS130S. It was my first mobile radio, simple to operate while driving, and the best noise blanker of any mobile I've used.  You can find these for $250-300.

73, Dave
Norcross, GA
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WD9FSL
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2003, 01:30:54 PM »

I'm just starting out with Mobile HF (been operating fixed base for ~25 years).  However, I was just in the same situation as you, and looked at a lot of HF mobile rigs.

If you can find one, the FT-900 by Yaesu is an excellent choice.  It has a detatchable faceplate, auto tuner (opt) and separation kit.  I just installed the unit in my jeep.  Put the faceplate on the dash and installed the rig in the back cargo area.

Bought mine for $500 used.  You can find them from about $450 - $650 on the used market.  I bench compared it to my base FT-990 and it held right in there.

73's
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2003, 12:53:19 PM »

I prefer the "simpler" rigs for HF mobiling, myself.

Unlike VHF/UHF-FM, which is purely channelized, so once programmed almost never needs to be looked at again, HF-SSB or HF-CW isn't channelized and needs to be adjusted quite a lot.  When HF mobiling, I *constantly* adjust things like power output, mike gain, receiver volume, noise blanker, mode (SSB or CW), receiver bandwidth and keyer speed.  And I mean constantly.  It is rare to have two contacts in a row where the previous settings are the correct ones.

Menu-driven rigs including the IC-706, FT-100, TS-50 and other small, modern radios are not very "make a lot of changes on the fly" friendly.  Maybe I'm just stupid, but I don't find pushing buttons to pull down menus, and pushing more buttons to make changes to things like mike gain, receive filter, power output or operating mode to be much fun when flying down the freeway at 75 mph.  I'd much rather have a rig where I can take a half-second glance down to find the right knob to twist, and then twist it while I'm focusing on the road in front of me.

To that end, the "analog" rigs which are menu-free, for me, are much more mobile-friendly.  I use a Ten Tec SCOUT model 555 for HF mobiling.  It has no menus, and only has half a dozen front-panel controls, which are exactly the ones it needs.  Using those controls, I can adjust RX volume; RX bandwidth; mike gain; noise blanker; keyer speed.  It also has a big, fat, bright numeric display I can easily see from almost any viewing angle, even in broad daylight.  It does not have a detachable faceplate, but doesn't really need one, since it's a small and very lightweight radio that will tuck in just about anywhere.

Drawback is that to change bands, you need to remove a module and plug in a new one.  That only takes ten seconds, but is best done when pulled over, and not zipping down the road.  Since I use the Hustler mobile whips and have to get out of the car to change from one to another anyway, the band module issue is a miniscule inconvenience.

The SCOUT is no longer made, but was sold for about ten years and I see them all the time for about $300.  Highly recommended!

WB2WIK/6
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XE1UFO
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2003, 12:44:41 PM »

Several posts are bashing the Atlas.  I disagree.  I have had the privelege of owning two Atlas 210X rigs over the years.  They are excellent rigs!!  I have worked over 60 countries mobile with mine, all SSB.  
Of course, I added the Heil HC4 mic element.

Also, you might consider if crime is a problem in your area.  If you lose a $150 dollar rig, it is not nearly so painful as losing a $500 rig.  

The basic things that have gone wrong on my Atlas, I have been able to fix myself.  Try that on one of the newer synthesized/digital rigs!  Even the finals can be found cheaply here in Mexico at CB shops, where they are often used for bootleg Criminal Band linears.  Thousands of Atlas (and Swan, also by the great Herb Johnson) rigs are still in daily use today.

The Atlas is almost as tall and wide, but just half as long (deep) as the Kenwood TS-140S (which I also own.) It is also a great rig for quickly setting up in a motel or campground QTH and will also work on gelcells.  

Please check out Atlas+210X on www.webcrawler.com and THEN decide.

I HIGHLY RECOMEND THE ATLAS 210X!!  
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W4KPA
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2003, 10:46:24 AM »

You've gotten lots of great comments here.  There are a lot of radios that will fill the bill for you.  Mainly it's a function of price.  Currently I run an original model IC-706 in a Chevrolet pickup.  It works like a charm and you ought to be able to find one around $400 + or -.  I used an Atlas 210x for a long time, and it worked very well too.  I wouldn't shy away just because the rig is an orphan.  They're pretty easy to work on if you can lay hands on the manual.  But, they do drift like crazy and receiver performance has come a long way over the last 30 years.  If you got one really cheap ($100 or so) it might be worth the investment.  Having said all of this, my bottom line recommendation would be a TS-130.  They sound great.  They can be found for about $300 (sometimes less), and has been said earlier, the noise blanker may be the best in the business -- something you'll really appreciate.
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K7VO
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2003, 01:28:05 PM »

Before considering a drift-o-matic Atlas for $100 I chose to put a monoband rig in the car.  A Kantronics KT-115 (made by Tokyo Hy-Power) for 15m fit the bill for me.  I re-acquired this one for a whopping $75 with the HN-100 noise blanker installed.  I also have the mounting bracket, so that plus a cheap Hamstick-type antenna and I was in business for under $100.  The rig is stable, has a big, bright yellow/green digital display, an effective noise blanker, and an excellent receiver.  The 20W output is more than good enough to make lots of contacts.  Tokyo Hy-Power made versions for 6, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, and 80 meters, and Kantronics (or Amp Supply before that) sold them under their own name in the U.S. in the late '80s.

Another good choice if 15 meters is your thing would be the NCG 15M (made by Panasonic).  Otherwise, check the hamfests and online boards and find the monobander that suits you.

Oh, and as far as the Atlas rigs being easy to fix:  yes, if you are technically competent they are.  I don't assume that everyone is technically competent to do their own repairs.  I certainly am not.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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KD4HRI
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2003, 08:57:12 AM »

Yes, yes, yes, find me a decent mono 20m mobile. :-)

Any and all pointers to where to find one are appreciated!!!!!
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K7VO
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2003, 11:05:51 AM »

The 20 meter ones are the most sought after, and therefore the hardest to find and the most expensive.  I have or have had the Tokyo Hy-Power (a/k/a Kantronics, Amp Supply) monobanders for 6, 10, 15, 30, and 40 meters, but I've always passed on the 20m models because the price was more than I was willing to spend, as in $200 and up.  OTOH, those radios had the noise blanker, mounting bracket, and the CW filter (rare!), so they were probably worth the money.

Anyway, I digress...

How to find less than common radios?  Considering how quickly I was able to build a Mizuho and Tokyo Hy-Power collection when I set my mind to it you may be surprised at how easy it is in this modern, Internet-connected world.

First, post want ads.  Believe it or not, that's how I got my 17m Mizuho HT, and that is a whole lot rarer than a Kantronics KT-120/Tokyo Hy-Power HT-120.  Post on eHam, qrz.com, qth.com, QRP-F, the ARRL website if you're a member, and on various e-mail lists (reflectors) including the For Sale/Swap list at qth.net, QRP-L, and the Tokyo Hy-Power reflector at Yahoo! Groups (see http://www.mizuhoradio.com/personal/k7vo/thp).  Your rig may just come to you that way Smiley

Second, cultivate friendships with hams in Europe in Japan.  The Tokyo Hy-Power HT-120 is much more common overseas than it is in the U.S.  You'll meet these nice people on the reflectors I've already mentioned.

Third, write Rodney Tom, KH7L, at kh7l@yahoo.com  Please do tell Rod I sent you.  He lives in Tokyo now and has been great at helping American hams import rare Mizuho gear and 23cm gear.  He has some Tokyo Hy-Power gear himself, and I think he'd be happy to help.  He's incredibly friendly, honest, and prompt.

Fourth, check eBay daily.  I know how people feel about eBay, but it's amazing how much fairly rare gear goes through that site, and sometimes the prices stay reasonable.

Fifth, check the "for sale" ads at the same places you posted the want ads daily.

It's a fair amount of work, but given a little effort and patience you'll find what you want.  Of course, if you had said 15 or 40 meters instead of 20 you'd have a much easier time of it, but it's doable on 20m as well.

Oh, and whatever you do, avoid the 20m version of the Dentron MLX-Mini.  You'd be better off with the Atlas 210X I've been warning you away from Smiley

One strage but workable possibility is a Mizuho 20m SSB/CW HT.  Yes, it's only 2W out, but with the matching PL-14S amp it'd be 10W, and Ramsey makes a very nice, inexpensive, kit amp that would give you 20W out.  If you go the Mizuho route try to find the PR-3S mobile mount which turns the HT and amp into a mini mobile station that looks quite smart.  You wouldn't save much going this route, but you'd have a wonderful little 20m HT in addition to your mobile Smiley

I hope this helps.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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WA2JJH
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« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2003, 04:08:06 PM »

Of course everybody has their favorites to recommend.
  1)TS-50, I owned one. Many functions are menu's.
It is still offerd new from KENWOOD. I sold mine to a new ham for $450.

  2)I never owned the ALTLAS, however they were the first with a type of A,I.P. What ATLAS did was to have NO receiver RF amp in line to the antenna.
The antenna went right to the mixer/l.o. The receiver would make up for the lack of the rcvr RF amp after conversion. Not a single CPU in it either.
  This design makes for a very low noise floor. It might even prove to be more BPL resistant!

 2)Owned the FT-77. sold it. It was OK. You should get that one used for $200 or a little more.

 3)The old solid state KENWOODS are good. TS-130. You will have an old fashioned VFO in it.

 Just my 2 cents  73 de MIKE
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WA2JJH
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« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2003, 06:35:47 PM »

Sorry, it will be 4 cents.

I would not buy a rig from MFJ. Their antenna tuners are just about OK. Many use the MFJ antenna Tuners,many units are in use. Much varience in quality!

Also rule #1 when purchasing a rig. Make sure you see it working. If a HAM ever says ''IT WORKED THE LAST TIME I USED IT""....RUN!

Rule#2 SOLD ON EBAY AS IS......I do not know if you a gambling man, sir.  However the odds are some what better than playing 21 at VEGAS that the rig will work!

 Good luck on building your shack

  73 DE MIKE
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AA8RF
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2003, 10:58:07 PM »

My Swan 400 sweep tube rig with 12V power supply and mobile VFO could probably be had for a song at a swap and it will get you 200W+ out barefoot.

Of course it is a little on the large side...

-Jim
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