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Author Topic: HF Beginner: New Radio and choices  (Read 3357 times)
KC2KMJ
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« on: June 04, 2011, 04:49:26 PM »

Studying for my General, gents, and looking for a transceiver. We haven't had a "what should I get" thread in a while, have we? Cheesy    Electronics don't intimidate me but all these new radios with all these newfangled features and menu sets...... Can one simply get a radio, hook it up and communicate without needing to mess with 5,000 settings first?   I want to work SSB....not interested att with CW or other modes. I'm looking at the Icom IC-718, the IC-7200, and the Yeasu FT-950 and have glanced thru the manuals of each.

I like the price and look of the 718.  Seems to this newbie to have a decent set of features.
I like the look, price, and what I can ascertain as a nice feature and menuing set of the 7200.
I like the layout of the 950 and the fact that there's a lot of functions upfront that I wouldn't need to go menu digging for, but I could be wrong on that.

What would you recommend for a beginner and why, please.
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AC5UP
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2011, 05:46:21 PM »

You plan to stay a beginner for how long? A month, a year, forever?

It's possible to be licensed for a decade but with one year of experience repeated ten times over. Point being that buying a radio based on where you are now is a short-sighted plan unless 'now' is where you plan to stay... Better to shop for something that's a better fit for where you're going.

What are your preferences? Rag chewer, DX'er, paper chaser, contester, moonbouncer? Do you have the real estate for a modest antenna farm on HF or will you maintain a lower profile on VHF/UHF? If you have no idea what you want or where you're going you can make something of an informed choice based on your attention span... If it's shorter than five minutes, buy the cheapest and simplest radio you can find. You'll learn the basics and no more. Perfect fit. If your attention span is greater than five minutes and you can learn new things, look at something like the new Kenwood TS-590S. Excellent DSP and roofing filters at a modest price. Twice the price of the IC-718 but much more than twice the radio. Ten years ago you'd have paid 3 or 4 times the money for the same performance plus it's a radio you'll learn something new about for months after you buy it.

If it were up to me I'd save up for the Kenwood. But I'm not you. Nor is anyone else. You spends your money, you takes your pick.................

BTW: It's spelled "Yaesu ".  Wink
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N4NYY
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2011, 05:58:50 PM »

I have a Yaesu FT-950. One way I got around the menus was to connect it to Ham Radio Deluxe 5.0. I adjust most of the menus thru my laptop. The other menus settings are mostly set once and forget. You rarely have to access them anymore.

FWIW, I use about 40% of the capability of the rig. I don't use memories and such.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 06:44:08 PM by N4NYY » Logged
KC2KMJ
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2011, 06:07:50 PM »

What are your preferences? Rag chewer, DX'er, paper chaser, contester, moonbouncer? Do you have the real estate for a modest antenna farm on HF or will you maintain a lower profile on VHF/UHF?

Thanks for replying Nelson.  Rag chewing and some DXing at first and then see where it takes me. No mobile work. I already have 2m and 70cm gear and yes, I do have some space for antennas. It looks like I have enough room for at the most a 40m 1/2wave dipole or I could go up onto the garage with a vertical.

If it's shorter than five minutes, buy the cheapest and simplest radio you can find. You'll learn the basics and no more. Perfect fit. If your attention span is greater than five minutes and you can learn new things, look at something like the new Kenwood TS-590S.

In my career I've studied so many telecomm gear manuals that, honestly, I'm tired of it.  I was hoping there was a solid radio that offered a lot of features but didn't require paging thru manuals or deep menus. I guess it's the nature of the beast these days. The Kenwood is outta my price range, and the Yaesu 950 is pushing it for me but doable. So I take it the bigger units usually afford the real estate for more buttons, knobs, etc., which limits the amount of time one has to menu surf?
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2011, 06:19:19 PM »

I don't like menus much, although it's part of the game nowadays.

Kind of like resisting Windows when you were used to DOS.  Once you became familiar with Windows, it really was better and easier, but if you were used to a command line interface you could wonder why anything else was needed.

I think you have some logical choices:

-Buy an older HF rig that doesn't have any menus to deal with; but if so, I would NOT trust eBay etc.  I'd strongly recommend getting "hands on" a rig, via a local deal, so hardware and cash exchange hands once you've used the rig.

-Or get a new rig that has extremely simplistic menus that take virtually no time to learn.  A good example of this is the Ten Tec Jupiter which has exactly ONE menu, and once you press the button, every single menu instruction is written out on the screen in plain English, not in abbreviations you have to go lookk up.  And once you've pre-set things, you almost never have to use the menu again.

The "small" rigs without many front panel controls are very menu intensive, since they need to be. 

Remember software takes time and talent to develop, but costs absolutely nothing to reproduce.
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KD4SBY
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2011, 06:34:21 PM »

Are you interested in used equipment? There are some good older transceivers out there that will not break the bank and may fit your bill.
I am an occasional operator and got myself an IC-718 not so long ago. It is nice radio for the price. Menu driven, but not too bad.
Before that I had a Kenwood 530s with all the important filters, and was happy with that one. Was a simple radio, no memory, no menus, I liked the power the tubes gave me and it had a build-in power supply.
But again, I am an occasional operator.
My advice? Buy the best you can afford, used or new, and enjoy yourself. You can always upgrade later if you have to.
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KC2KMJ
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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2011, 06:35:16 PM »

Kind of like resisting Windows when you were used to DOS.  Once you became familiar with Windows, it really was better and easier, but if you were used to a command line interface you could wonder why anything else was needed.

Come on, Stan,  DOS rules!  Cheesy

-Or get a new rig that has extremely simplistic menus that take virtually no time to learn.  A good example of this is the Ten Tec Jupiter which has exactly ONE menu, and once you press the button, every single menu instruction is written out on the screen in plain English, not in abbreviations you have to go lookk up.  And once you've pre-set things, you almost never have to use the menu again.

Used HF gear is out for me since att I really don't have the knowledge to know if it's working the way it's supposed to.  The Jupiter looks nice but is outta my price range.

Since I don't have anyone to personally ask of this I guess I'll ask it here.  What features (notch filter, NR, PBT, etc) does one utilize the most when actually working HF, in particular SSB? I would imagine the most-used features should be front-most on the radio and not buried in a menu, correct?
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KD8HMO
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2011, 07:36:51 PM »

Menus are for resturants. I like my Kenwood TS-520S and 530S!  Grin
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N1LO
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2011, 07:48:36 PM »

You looked at 3 radios with a wide range of features. The 718 is a beginner radio, the 7200 intermediate, and the 950 is advanced.

You're going to have to read a manual no matter which one you get.

The most versatile radio would have IF dsp and a built-in antenna tuner, for starters. For SSB work, built in dsp/noise reduction helps deliver the cleanest audio. Check the eham reviews and pay attention to comments about the RX audio.

I usually advise 'buy nice, not twice', and would point you toward the Kenwood TS-590. Pick one you can grow with.

Sounds like ease of use is most important to you. You need to find a ham dealer and see them first hand to decide for yourself on that one.

Mark
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KD0LAV
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2011, 08:01:18 PM »

What about the Yaesu 450?  Is a great radio, cheaper than the 950 but in my opinion is just as good especially to start with.  I sold mine after my first year and moved up to a Kenwood 590.  I like the Kenwood more but the 450 was a darn good radio.  Had lots of great reports.
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K4JSR
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2011, 08:44:47 PM »

 Cheesy  Yeah!  Like the HMO said, "Menus are for restaurants. I like my Kenwood TS-520S and 530S!  Grin"

If it weren't for menus I would weigh about 110 lbs less!   Cry

73,  Cal  K4JSR

« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 08:47:35 PM by K4JSR » Logged
KD8HMO
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Posts: 228




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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2011, 09:08:01 PM »

By no means am I a ham radio expert, but with my own experience, I would tell a new guy not to go hog-wild with his first HF rig purchase. I would tell him to start off with a radio like one of the Kenwood or Yaesu hybrids or maybe just a bit younger than that until he figures out what he really wants and needs. Even now, I wouldnt be really comfortable with one of those mega-buck fish-finder radios if I bought one. Eventually, when I am ready and am able to field a REAL antenna (not this hidden apartment crap), I will be ready for a serious contest radio.
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AG6WT
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2011, 09:12:22 PM »

My advice is for not to think about the radio yet. Instead you should be thinking about antennas.

You said you could put up a dipole but how high? If not very high, and you want it to perform you'll need to buy or construct some kind of support system. That costs money.

And the vertical, I assume you'll want it to be multi-band. A commercial one with traps will set you back a few hundred. Or you can make an un-trapped one and use a tuner at the feed point - another 2 to 5 hundred bucks.

Ideally you'll want both as depending on the band and conditions, one may be better than the other.

An don't forget the feed line and switches. Might be another hundred there depending on the quality and length.

The point I'm making is that if you are on a budget, you need to put most of your money into the antenna system then choose your rig based upon what you have left. An IC-718 with a great antenna (properly installed of course) will sound much better than an FT-950 with a compromised antenna.

I have a couple of recommendations for you:

1) Try before you buy, ideally with an experience operator that can show you how to use it. Since you are concerned with menus, see how much button pushing is required to adjust the rig for a typical QSO. Not all menu driven rigs are the same and some have the buttons and menu options laid out in a way that make operating intuitive, others are a nightmare.  If you don't need to buy TODAY, find out which clubs are operating Field Day GOTA stations. It will be a good way to try one or more different rigs.

2) If you have to buy without trying any, I'd go for the IC-718. Use the money you save on more and better antennas, a high amperage power supply, a quality tuner, a desk mic, etc. The IC-718 is a fine rig in its price class and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. If you were used to rigs in the $2-3k price range, you'd find the IC-718 lacking but since you are just starting out, you won't know the difference if you take my meaning.  Also consider that if down the road you want to upgrade, the IC-718 makes a good back up or field day rig, and also has a good resale value on the used market if you treat it kindly.

Ray KJ6AMF
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AD6KA
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Posts: 2238




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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2011, 09:15:02 PM »

If you want a great used inexpensive starter HF radio with NO
menus, HRO Burbank has a superb condition used
Icom IC-745 in their used display case for only $300.

No autotuner or DSP though. But a very nice radio.
The  IC-745 was the first solid state rig I ever owned,
and I bought mine used too, from Jun's.

OTOH while I was there I sat down with the Kenwood
TS-590. I was EXTREMELY impressed with that receiver
and all the EASY TO USE features in that radio. Sat and used
it for 30 minutes and never once had to ask for the manual
to figure out a feature to engage to check out.
(And imagine what MORE good things I WOULD find in the manual).

Sometimes good things are worth working & saving for.

Quote
An IC-718 with a great antenna (properly installed of course) will sound much better than an FT-950 with a compromised antenna.

Don't forget operating and listening skill practice too.
A great operator with mediocre equipment will work
ten times as many stations as a mediocre operator
with great equipment!


73, Ken  AD6KA
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 11:32:28 PM by AD6KA » Logged
VA7CPC
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Posts: 2414




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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2011, 11:26:20 PM »

Quote
In my career I've studied so many telecomm gear manuals that, honestly, I'm tired of it.  I was hoping there was a solid radio that offered a lot of features but didn't require paging thru manuals or deep menus. I guess it's the nature of the beast these days. The Kenwood is outta my price range, and the Yaesu 950 is pushing it for me but doable. So I take it the bigger units usually afford the real estate for more buttons, knobs, etc., which limits the amount of time one has to menu surf?

Yes, that's the trade-off.  For a rig with lots of features, "one button = one function" requires a _huge_ front panel.  And most of the controls won't be touched often.

There are two schools of menu design:

. . . Hierarchical, like the IC-7000

. . . Single-list, like the Tentec Jupiter and the Yaesu FT-450.

I've worked with both, and the single-layer menus are easier to learn and use.

I own a Yaesu FT-450, and I'd pick it over the IC-718 for SSB use.  There's a microphone equalizer, a choice of 3 SSB filter bandwidths, a voice keyer (for calling "CQ" without getting a sore throat), and a bunch of other features.  For "normal QSO's", you won't be touching the menu system.  You _will_ be touching the DSP noise-reduction and bandwidth controls, which are easy to get to. 

The IC-7200 and FT-950 are in a different class.  They both have user-configurable IF filters -- not a big deal if you're doing SSB, but important if you do any CW or digital-mode work.    The trade-off is that you _will_ be spending time reading the manuals.

Enjoy the hunt.  The nice thing is that none of your "candidate rigs"  is a _bad_ radio; they just occupy different points on the "price / complexity / features / quality" diagram.

                    Charles
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