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Author Topic: My favorite HF contest rig is...because...  (Read 15233 times)

Posts: 109

« on: September 11, 2009, 10:57:40 PM »

What is your favorite contest rig for HF contests?  What about this rig makes it a contender?  You need not necessarily own the model you recommend--maybe you used one of Field Day or as part of a multi-op.

I currently have four rigs and each has it's uses/advantages.  I like my Drake TR-7A as it has a great receiver and is loaded with filters.  But it's heavy, doesn't have a lot of the more useful bells and whistles, etc.  So for contesting in the home QTH I give the nod to my 756 Pro II.  It has IF DSP filters which are easily adjusted for optimal response to current conditions, a useful bandscope, voice recorder, dual watch, and other useful features.

For mobile contesting such as QSO parties, I like my 706 MKIIG.  I suppose if I had a chance to try an IC-7000 then I might change my opinion.

For portable QRP operation, my FT-817 is the go to rig.  It also gets a lot of use for VHF/UHF portable QRP operation in ARRL & CQ VHF contests.

What about you?

Posts: 402

« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2009, 03:36:29 PM »

I am a fan of some of the older Kenwood radios.  I really liked my TS-930.  Currently I use a pair of Kenwood TS-850S radios.  I find them to work very well on both CW and SSB and even though they are older radios they have very good receivers.  

In fact the Sherwood tests on this receiver put it up there with some much newer radios.  

I have used the Elecraft K3 radios in a few contests now and I find them to be very fine radios - there many things I like about the K3 and I am looking at replacing my Kenwoods with K3 radios for a number of reasons.  But after using a pair of K3s in the IARU contest on SSB I came away with one overriding comment.  The Kenwood TS-850S is still a very fine SSB radio and I do not feel like l am missing any contacts by using them instead of the Elecraft K3 or some other newer radio.

George - K5TR
« Last Edit: January 27, 2010, 03:40:21 PM by K5TR » Logged


Posts: 523


« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2009, 02:54:52 AM »

Of the same reasons given. I have owned every radio listed by other posters.

  OK TR-7/A/R7-A. Drakes first attempt at all solid state and digital readout. Back in 1977, the TR-7 series could be filled with 4 extra 8 pole filters, the TR-7a must have a S/N of 10,400 or it is a TR-7 with an 80K resistor for 2nd AM xtal. A real tight 500hz CW filter and improved NB are stock.

  As noted, no fancy memory VFO's. Why were they considered not only a contest radio, but an almost mil spec built performer.

Only my TS-950SDX sounds as good on TX and RX. Drake made commercial HF radio's. The Drake R4245 is really an r-7A with a DDS synth and VFO. The radio is built into a rackmount. Drake made a TR-77 for HF maritime use. It is a TR-7A. It is built into a more water resistant case.

  The TS-850S was the right radio at the right price and time. 100 mems dual VFO's. The  excellent twin slope PBT gave one the ability to crush the IF signal against filter cutoff freq. You could make the IF smaller in 30 clickstops. You shifted the pass band from above and below by 2 different B/Ws.

   You really cannot appreciate how good he 850 is untill you add the 1.8khz and 500hz filter. This gave you an improved RX on SSB. The TS-850 was good for CW too. However add a 3erd party 250hz filter, you have better cw than the much touted K2.
   The K2 is good because its rx front end filters are tight for the Ham bands only. Couple that with 10 poles of monolithic xtals. Tight RX. Good for QRP CW contesting. On SSB.....ehhhhh, so so.

  I have an FT-100D. It is not a great radio. has too any menues. Makes it a poor choice for contesting.
The stock IF is a whooping 2.7kc wide. The TR-7 is 2.3kc wide.

  I mention the FT-100D(LX) late serial number only.
When the radio was being discontinued, Yausu added a DSP, TCXO, and 500hz CW filter. The abilty to have every mode and ham band for the sellout price of $649 makes it a real bargain. Add a decent external speaker or head phones for contesting.

  OK..THE KING OF KENWOODS......I was so impresssed with the TS-850, I purchashed a used TS-950SDX just before Kenwood stopped making them.

  It will do everything and perform better or as good as a TS-850. It comes with a few 8 pole filters per IF.
  The DSP filter on rx works well with a proper 8 pole filter. I can make the radio 50hz wide on CW! Great for digital modes.

  There are a number of hidden menu features. The most important is a menu selection that will allow a different IF width on TX and RX.
   On SSB RX, I use the 1.8khz, 2.4kc, and set the DSP
for 90-4K for AM RX. Single 10K for FM.
   On TX, I use the off air demod. I found I sounded best with a low roll off of 300hz. The DSP limits SSB TX to 2.7kc. The speech proc sounds crummy with a slimer b/w of 2.3kc.
 No speech proc, I can reduce SSB TX B/W to less than 1.5KC. This is the FCC spec for narrow band SSB.

  The SDX is the best contest radio, beause it simply does it all and all is done well!!@

Posts: 621


« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2009, 04:28:11 AM »

TS-850 - because that's the only one I have, unless you want to count the eensy beensy FT-817.

The 850 is a great contest radio because of the receiver but it has several annoying "features" like the RIT control being an analog pot with no reset, and the hokey way you change filters at each IF. I did a write-up on it for the Contesting wiki - see

It is a great Field Day radio. I added the DVR board and with the 3 keyer memories and the built in antenna tuner, pretty much all you need to add is a battery and an antenna.

Of all the modern radios, the K3 is the only one that tempts me. I'm not a big fan of spectrum displays and thousands of tiny little knobs that you really only need to touch once every solar cycle. Since I got back on the air I made a vow not to spend money on a rig until I had increased my TX/RX gain at least 6db - meaning something directional vs. just the wires I have up now. Then I will buy that K3.

John K3TN

John K3TN

Posts: 107

« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2009, 10:52:33 AM »

Starting with and in order....

DX-40-VF1/NC57 (Hey, you have to start somewhere)
HW-100 (what I could afford)
FPM-300 (Ha!)
SB-102 (because that is what I had)
TS-820 (because I thought it was better than the sb-102)
TS-830 (because I thought was better than the TS-820)
TS-440 (total mistake)
TS-850 (because it is a great radio - period)
IC-746 (total mistake)
IC-765 (because it is a great radio - period)
FT-1000MP (because I thought it was a better radio - a very good radio)
IC-756 PRO II (because I thought it was a better radio - a very good radio)
K2 (because it was fun to make and use - worked great too)
K3 (because I know it is a better radio that most of the previous radios I have used - a subjective opinion)

I've had other rigs but not used in contesting.  Like the TS-140 - good, but pretty lightweight.  Also the IC-735 but never contested with it.

Posts: 203

« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2009, 02:00:09 PM »

Well, RTTY is my contesting mode, some SSB. Haven't been able to contest for a few years because I work weekends now. But....

I loved my Kenwood TS-940S because it has a great receiver and never got overly hot, even running RTTY all weekend. But adding a Timewave DSP-599zx to the audio stage helped copy crowded stations. Won SOAB HP Africa with this setup in 2000 CQ DX RTTY.

Wanted something more modern w/filters and got the Icom 756 PRO II. Love the twin peak RTTY filters. But in extended RTTY operation the rig gets really, really hot and I run external fans against the back of the rig.

Still got the 940 as my backup rig, will never sell that rig.

Posts: 109

« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2009, 02:27:37 AM »

What RTTY software do you use with your Pro II?  What computer interface?

Posts: 787

« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2009, 11:30:42 AM »

If the budget permitted, I would buy a K3/100, including the second receiver. That not being the case, I am quite happy with my FT-1000MP.

Posts: 9

« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2009, 06:16:40 AM »

Icom IC-761 and my Tl-922A for when I contest at home. Mostly because it is my primary everyday rig. It lacks a little when being used with computer control as you can not change vfo's or work split without working the front controls on the 761 but it works well and I am use to it.
I am using my FT-817 for the PAQSO party this weekend and it's my first time going qrp start to finish, but I have used it with HRD and DM780 and love it hooked up to a PC. I have the 500hz CW filter installed in it and plan on giving it a workout.

Posts: 170


« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2009, 02:37:04 PM »

I really like my 756 Pro II, my favorite contest mode is RTTY and the 756 Pro series rigs are really the best for RTTY IMHO, twin peak filtering down to about 250hz bandwidth makes for some excellent RTTY contesting. The scope has gotten me many Q's I would not have "seen" otherwise. The 756 is also very easy to setup for RTTY all the connections are on one handy acc connector.
I normally run high power driving the amp with about 30-40 watts, heat has not been an issue with mine. I use N1MM with the MMTTY engine. I find this is pretty good, it runs dead even with the built in decoder.

It is also a nice CW and SSB contest rig as well. I like the layout, it's a very user friendly rig, all the menus are pretty much set and forget, the DVR is nice and also a stock item, also the tuner is stock and works great. The price of the Pro II has came down in the past couple of years making it one of the better values on the contesting market.

I have owned quite a few radios in my years of hamming, the TS930 and 940 are nice radios and can be found at very nice prices, would make an excellent back up or even a primary contest rig, with the addition of the Piexx board for PC control.

Posts: 118

« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2009, 05:20:02 PM »

FT-1000MP Mark-V Field

Cause it's a big radio with a button or a knob for almost everything - I can adjust everything without ever entering a menu.

FB for contests.

de AI8P

Posts: 167

« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2009, 05:26:02 AM »

ICOM IC781  for cw.  Great rig with lots of good filters and an Audio Peak Filter which helps bring the weakest signals out of the noise.  I run it barefoot in the low power categories 90 percent of the time.


Posts: 242


« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2009, 09:51:49 AM »

I like the Yaesu FT1000MP MKV for split, and for S&P you can't beat the band scope on the Icom 756ProIII.

Posts: 36

« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2010, 02:31:08 PM »

Flex 5000A with 2nd reciever.

Posts: 39

« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2010, 07:36:14 AM »

K3 does it for me.  It's quick to move around the bands, sensitive and the low noise floor makes quite a difference when working weak stations.

With an LP-Pan adapter, I get a real-time visual of what's going on else where, and with a simple mouse click & drag... there I am.

On the other hand....  the best radio can become really discouraging without a GREAT antenna.  When trying to squeeze into a pileup, the radio helps, but a good antenna gives me that extra advantage of good reception and efficient power transfer.   These poor guys with tiny roof top loading coil antennas can't compete with a 1/4 wave antenna.

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