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Author Topic: Contesting rigs vs. non-contesting rigs.  (Read 2030 times)

Posts: 22

« on: September 06, 2005, 07:40:41 PM »

I'm wanting to get into contesting for the first time. I'm not at the level of some of the serious "hard-core" or "cut-throat" competitors out there and don't really expect to be, but I'm more at the level of "enthusiastic beginner" right now. I'll try out all modes of contesting at first and then worry about settling on a favorite mode later on. As we all know, some rigs are more contest worthy than others. But what I wouldn't give to find an article or website that describes and shows which rigs are contest worthy and which aren't. I've searched high and low for just such information with no luck. Indeed, what makes a good contesting rig? What features are a must and what features can be left out? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Posts: 2005


« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2005, 01:25:28 AM »

With all due respect, this is like asking what kind of racing car should you buy? Well that depends on what kind of racing you want to do, doesn't it? Off road? Drag racing? Dirt track? ...and the list goes on. Without know what mode you intend to use, there is no pat answer to this question. You also don't give us any clue as to your budget. You could buy an ICOM 7800 for $10,500 or one of the flavors of the Yaesu FT9000 rigs ranging from $5,700 to $12,050 and never have to worry about buying another rig... ever!

You can contest with any rig, but one of the things that is an absolute must for any type of contesting is logging software. You might want to consider the N1MM package at
There is a review of this software here on eHam at

You also need to have a respectable antenna system. Given a choice, almost any ham will tell you that they would rather have a marginal radio with a fabulous antenna than a fabulous radio with a marginal antenna. The whole point of this hobby is being heard and the antenna is the last place where you have control over how well your signal gets out. Don't skimp here.

Unless you plan to be a full-time contester, buy the best radio and antenna system you can afford. Contesting is a lot about skill and finess. It can take years of practice. A fabulous radio does not win contests. Someone has to turn the knobs to just the right place at just the right times in order to win.

Good luck!

Posts: 56


« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2005, 03:27:37 PM »

NC0B's paper on RX performance should get you off on the right foot:

Blake N4GI

Posts: 24

« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2005, 03:52:45 AM »

Get what you can afford and make due with what you have at the time.

I've used several rigs for contests. My starting rig was an Icom IC-718. It is an entry-level and not a contester's rig, but I really enjoyed the front-firing speaker on it. It did very well in the TARA PSK contests especially.

Upon notice of deployment, I bought an Icom IC-706MkIIG and have used it in numerous contests from Iraq. It isn't a contest rig either, but did a great job for me. I scored very well in the WPX SSB, IARU HF Championship, and WAE CW contests.

I also own an Icom 756ProIII and Kenwood TS-2000. Those radios make operating contests much more pleasurable due to their excellent recievers.

So, get a rig and get on the air. Any experience you gain on the air is worth it.


Baghdad, Iraq

Posts: 691

« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2005, 03:47:03 PM »

You can work the contests with just about anything as long as you have a decent antenna.

You can look at the big Bucks rigs, but the reality of it is, you don't need 90% of what they're selling.

Most calls/replies are done on the same frequency, so your need for a zillion VFO's, a hundred memories, and bandscans are pretty much nada.  

A decent receiver, a good filter, and a decent antenna are really all you need.  The rest is really in the operator.

Find a rig you're comfortable with, and one that does not overload you with gadgets, use it until you're familiar with it's operating characteristics, and you're ready to roll.

If you're a "little pistol" 100 watt guy, don't even think seriously about it until the second day of the contest.  Let the big boys burn each other the first day with their super RF rays, and then you'll be amazed how well they hear YOU on the second day!

If you do hear a station working split, with a pile up, then it's really not a contest thing.  That's chasing DX under the guise of a contest operation.  A contest is about how much you can work in the given time, so stay away from the pile-up's until the contest is over.  Most of the desireable stuff is on the air just before, and often after, the contest. So you can work 'em then.

Actually, contests can be fun things even if you're not a contester.  Sometimes I work a "test, and only work the little signals, other times it's for different reasons. You make it what you want....

Jump in, have fun, and you can get serious later if it proves to be something you consider worthy of you money.

73, Jim/k7unz


Posts: 1490

« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2005, 07:25:48 AM »

I want to comment on contest strategy, from a low power/QRP perspective.  I run 5 watts on HF for a variety of reasons, and for years I would avoid operating in the first few hours of a contest because my QSO rate was low from being lost among the big stations.  

Then I realized that on the highest open bands the openings were more spotty, and I could do better there.  In one particular contest I achieved one of my best QSO rates ever (around 40/hour) in the early hours of the contest, apparently because conditions on the bands I chose favored spotty, point-to-point rather than wide area openings.  

Now I try to be on at the beginning of the contest, but hunt around a bit and see if I can find a band where I can get a good rate going.  If not, I go out to dinner or something and try again a few hours later, but I no longer write off the first hours of a contest wholesale until I have given a try on at least a few of the most likely bands.

BTW, I love my Orion for its great receiver and ability to withstand the CW pileups and screaming contest conditions.  My older rigs sounded like the audio had been run through a blender in the presence of strong signals.  
Good luck, and hope to catch you in the contests.
73 de kt8k - Tim

Posts: 107

« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2005, 11:05:08 AM »

Get what you can afford. I would look at the ICOM 746 (non-pro), they go for around 700 bucks, & gives you 100 watts 160-2 meters, so you can do some VHF contesting also. I have used mine for 5 years now, & made somewhere around 40,000 qso's without a glitch.

Buy a rig like this, & spend any additional money on an amp or better antennas.

73-Chuck KI9A

Posts: 1

« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2008, 09:23:47 PM »

Rig: Yaesu FT-1000MP loaded with crystals

Antenna:  As big as u can get/afford/mount. Directional, but don't forget phased verticals:  Hustler is vy cheap, but 2 or 3 takes some land space.

Coax:  Get the best like LMR-400 or Wireman 1000.

Log:  N1MM

Heil full mufff headset/mic with HC-4 element.

Remember the FT-1000MP was the dream rig of everyone only a few years ago, and a good used one is a great buy.  The best buy in SDR but costs more is the ORION ONE.
de K4VUD or HS0ZCW

Posts: 118

« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2008, 12:14:16 PM »

my thought on this is to get started use what you have any hf rig and antenna will work for a beginner you can start with any thing . the most important thing is to enjoy yourself ,have fun and learn          pat n3idg
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