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Author Topic: Good HF radio for new ham  (Read 70284 times)
KJ6IVM
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« on: August 30, 2010, 04:41:51 PM »

Hi, Im a new ham who got my license a little while before my 13th birthday and was wondering if anyone had any ideas about a good radio to look for used. I would like 40 meters, 20 meters and 10 meters,  and preferably would be under 200 used on qth or the like. By the way, what is the purpose of VFO and what would it mean for a radio that has "a very jumpy" VFO?

thanks in advance!
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WA9UAA
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Posts: 319




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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2010, 11:15:23 AM »

Hi Chris,
Unfortunately, $200.00 won't get you a lot in used gear from a business. In a private sale you might do better; though, you would want an "Elmer" there to help check out the gear. Many of the guys will tell you the antenna is the heart of the station, it's true. I know this sounds backwards  Shocked but work on getting a dipole out there for the bands you named. Higher is better, straighter is better. While you are planning the antenna see if you can get involved with a club, often older club members will part with some used gear at a fair price. Again get a demonstration. The question about the $200.00 rig applies to SSB. If you are willing to learn and work CW the price becomes doable.
73,
Rob WA9UAA
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WB8YYY
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2010, 09:56:18 AM »

I can imagine a basic solid state transceiver from the mid-1980's being available for around that price, and being useful to get on the air. 

If you contact your local radio club and mention your interest (and budget) something could emerge. 

VFO=variable frequency oscillator.  this is what tunes the radio.  modern rigs (like for the last 2-3 decades) use an optical shaft encoder that recognizes movement of the knob, and converts it to a digital signal to tell the VFO how far to move in frequency. 

rigs typically have two of these VFO's (A and B) that are really just two digital settings for frequency it can toggle between.  this is used whenever a QSO requires receiving and transmitting on different frequencies (often used for working DX). 

jumpy VFO.  maybe they mean that the VFO tuned frequency jumps some as the knob is turned (instead of being smooth).  In fact I have an old rig that does this!  It is still useful but it is annoying.  Maybe this is what they mean. 

Best wishes in finding a rig, meanwhile focus on getting thru another year of school.  Get to know hams nearby, and maybe they will invite you to operate. 

73 Curt
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K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2010, 10:47:10 AM »

Just my own thoughts, of course, but look for a Kenwood TS120 or TS130.  My first HF rig was a TS130SE--and I still have it AND use it.  One of those is a good basic solid state rig with the controls that are most needed.  A good rig to get your feet wet with.

73 and good luck!
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ZENKI
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2010, 03:54:55 PM »

Try and find a ICOM IC735. Its a very solid and reliable radio that will meet all your requirements.
It has a reasonable receiver and a decent transmitter. The IC735 was one of the best and most reliable radios that Icom ever built.

I used one of these radios on a Sailboat that went around the world. When I moved back onto land I used it for many more years.
I did another cruise across two oceans and the IC735 worked very well, unlike my Icom type approved marine radio which had several faults
and corrosion problems.

I still have the IC735 and use it on my test bench.  I am still impressed with this little box.

The TS120S and TS130s are very good radios, however I would be hesitant about buying one. The mechanical band switches on most of them that I have seen are basically close to being worn out.


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AE5JU
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Posts: 230




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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2010, 06:27:44 AM »

Hi, Im a new ham who got my license a little while before my 13th birthday and was wondering if anyone had any ideas about a good radio to look for used. I would like 40 meters, 20 meters and 10 meters,  and preferably would be under 200 used on qth or the like. By the way, what is the purpose of VFO and what would it mean for a radio that has "a very jumpy" VFO?

thanks in advance!

Jumpy VFO means when you turn the dial, frequency change is not smooth and even as it should be.

While there are a number of radios, older or more recently made, trying to find a particular model used, in good condtion, will be difficult.  You would really need the advice of an "Elmer" (an experience ham who mentors a new ham, basically, any ham that knows a little more than you do).

Join a ham club that has a club station.  You should be able to use their equipment.  For example, we have a number of antennas, and three radios set up ready to use.  Each radio can be switched around to any of the available antennas... an 80 m dipole, a 20-15-10 m Tribander with 40 m add on, and a 80-10 m Windom.  Radios include an Icom IC-718, IC-735, and IC-751A, as well as several 2m rigs.

A club member may very well loan you a rig until you can afford to buy your own.  Two days after I took and passed the tests for my license, a box showed up on my doorstep with a radio, tuner, and power supply with the note, "Use this until you decide what you want to buy, or I'll make you a good price on it if you want to buy it."  And the club members made the insulators, gave me coax, and directions for putting up a multiband dipole.  That's what a club does, help each other in this hobby.

And unfortunately, older hams pass away.  We have a table at our station with several rigs for sale by the families of SK's ("Silent Keys"). 

Antenna!!!  You do not need to spend a lot of money for an effective antenna.  You can make an antenna from scrounged materials.  A great place for ideas is to look at the antenna section of www.hamuniverse.com, which is quite a resource.

So, find a local ham club, let them know you are licensed and want to get on the air.

73
Paul - AE5JU
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W6RMK
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Posts: 656




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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2010, 09:55:48 AM »

One thing to be aware of.. ham rigs last forever.. but replacement parts and skills to repair them do not.  A ham might have had their rig for 20-30 years, and be very familiar with its idiosyncracies (sort of like having an old car.. you know how to jiggle this thing just so, etc.).  A comfortable favorite chair or piece of clothing.

I liked my old FT757.. but frankly, its frequency stability and other features are sadly lacking by today's standards.  Technology DOES advance, and fairly rapidly.  The RF properties of old and new rigs are going to be about the same, but usability, stability, etc., are significantly better on newer rigs, particularly for a new ham. You'll find lots of opinions one way or another. 

For instance, someone who's used to the way the AGC works on a particular rig, or how the IF filtering works, or how the radio handles strong signals next to small signals, will prefer that way, which might be better for their operating style and kind of things they want to do.

You're just starting out.. you've got literally decades to develop preferences.. Find something that works, doesn't need fixing, for which there is a decent user manual or someone to ask questions about.  You definitely want something that can't be destroyed accidentally if you mistune or forget to have the right antenna hooked up.

If you might want to operate mobile or portable, think about that, too.

If you want to fool with PSK31 (loads of fun.. work the world on 20 watts) you want a rig that can be connected to the computer without a lot of trouble: google for how other people have hooked up to the rig you're thinking of: some are easier than others; some require oddball connectors or clever improvising.  Frequency stability in the short run would be important too (some older rigs are notorious for changing frequency during the first few seconds of a transmit.. no big deal on SSB, horrible on PSK31)
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KQ6Q
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2010, 10:45:13 AM »

Watch for a used TenTec Century 21. 50 watts on 80-40-20-15-10 meters, doesn't need an antenna tuner, built in AC power supply, and should be well under $200. If it has a digital display, it might be $200. it's CW only, but that's a lot of the fun!
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N5RWJ
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Posts: 461




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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2010, 01:29:18 PM »

You should look at the IC 718.
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KU2US
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Posts: 74




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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2010, 10:34:48 AM »

Yes! I have an Icom IC-718. A good starter rig, reliable and it can be jacked up to 200 watts output if needed. It has dual VFO's for split operation. VOX, and a Digital Signal Processor that works! + other goodies. Maybe hard to find used in good condition for under $200.00 though. They are still in production. I would never part with it. Granted, it doesnt have all of the whistles and bells the more expensive rigs have, but it is solid, dependable and the best buy for the price. Wait a little longer and save up your pennies, you will be glad you did.
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N2RRA
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2011, 11:22:07 AM »

I'd simply list these starter rigs under possibly $600. new or used:

1. Icom 735
2. Icom 745
3. Icom 751A
4. Icom 718
5. Icom 706mk2g

6. Yeasu 101E

7. Kenwood TS-120S
8. Kenwood TS-440AT

GL and 73!



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W2WAW
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Posts: 12




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« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2011, 01:07:40 AM »

Chris, If you can find any of the Kenwood hybrids for a decent price, they have proven to be good transceivers and will give you some experience with the tube finals. If you can't the ic718,735 would be good choices. Spend as much time and energy as you can on your antenna system, the radio is secondary. Have fun,73 w2waw
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W4PAH
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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2011, 06:44:43 AM »

My first rig (in 1999) was an IC-735. It puts out 100W on 10m through 160m. You can use all modes (FM, SSB, AM, CW) and it's not too tricky to work on. I've added a 400 Hz filter for CW as well as an internal iambic keyer (not included in this rig, but standard on most rigs today).

I think I bought it for about $350 (including shipping) from a seller on eBay who was moving to a retirement home. He was the only owner of the rig, was a non-smoker (always good to ask about this when you are buying something sight-unseen), and had treated it well.

You can still pick up accessories for this rig from PIEXX (iambic keyer) and Inrad (replacement filters for CW and SSB).

I still have this rig and use it as my back-up rig now that my Elecraft K2 is finally complete.

Good luck with your decision!
-john W4PAH
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KU2US
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Posts: 74




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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2011, 07:28:06 AM »

Yes I agee with the Kenwood hybrid radios for being a good starter rig. The Kenwood 520, 520S, 520SE come to mind. They can be had for around $175.00 to $300.00+/- in good operating condition. If you want to go recent, the Icom-718 is a great rig. A little more expensive though. I will not repeat what has been said here before-"The Antenna", this is the key to successful communications.
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AD5TD
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Posts: 113




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« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2011, 05:14:03 AM »

Try and find a ICOM IC735. Its a very solid and reliable radio that will meet all your requirements.
It has a reasonable receiver and a decent transmitter. The IC735 was one of the best and most reliable radios that Icom ever built.

I used one of these radios on a Sailboat that went around the world. When I moved back onto land I used it for many more years.
I did another cruise across two oceans and the IC735 worked very well, unlike my Icom type approved marine radio which had several faults
and corrosion problems.

I still have the IC735 and use it on my test bench.  I am still impressed with this little box.

The TS120S and TS130s are very good radios, however I would be hesitant about buying one. The mechanical band switches on most of them that I have seen are basically close to being worn out.




I couldn't agree more with this. I found one that was "as new" still in the original box for $200.  It is a gret rig for anyone much more for a new ham.


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