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Author Topic: Brand New Shack Setup: please advice.  (Read 3647 times)
KK4FSL
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Posts: 10




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« on: December 20, 2011, 01:48:06 PM »

Hi.  I am a new ham with a 20-year history of radio enthusiasm. Got my Tech and will take General exam on Jan 14th. My interests are two fold:  First is HF DXing (SSB, PSK) and second is emergency preparedness VHF/UHF setup. I would like to setup a home station that can be taken down into an SUV for a field day. 

From my research in the last 30 days and reading many posts here is what I have in mind so far: Alinco DM-330MVT power, IC-7000 transceiver and S9V31 antenna. I got a 50ftx50ft backyard edging to a treeline for the radials. I am open for VHF/UHF antenna suggestions please.  I would like to stay around $2000-3000 for the initial setup.  Any thought on the setup and here are couple of questions if I may:

1. Besides the redundancy issues, are there any reasons to get separate HF and VHF/UHF rigs in the same shack? 
2. Should I look into an AH-4 tuner or opt for LDG IT-100 (AT-180 is a bit pricy)?
3. What should I consider for a preparedness mobile unit: 5W Icom D-Star handheld, ~50W mobile dualbander or FT-817?
4. Is D-star worth considering?  I got two local repeaters, but how is D-start has substantial traffic?

I apologize for many questions and I would appreciate any input on my initial setup thoughts.  I am very anxious to get the equipment and on the air, but want to spend wisely and to have a nice setup. Thank you. 73.       
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2406




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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 02:13:24 PM »

For (3) and (4):

. . . Before you buy anything for EmComm, _check with your local ham club_.

Whatever they've settled on, you'd better get it.  D-Star is used heavily by some clubs, ignored by others, for emergency work.

The IC-7000 is a fine "shack in a box".   The ergonomics are not ideal -- the menus are nested -- but it packs a lot of function (including user-configurable IF DSP filtering) into a small package.   It also runs hot -- a small fan will help cool the rig.

            Charles

PS -- there's a very active IC-7000 group on Yahoo!
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KD0BKH
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Posts: 59




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« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2011, 03:50:03 PM »

Hi Sergei -

I'll open by agreeing with Charles on the answers to 3 & 4.  Your local emcomm group is the only place to get good answers to the D-star questions.  In my area there's only a couple of D-star repeaters on the air, and they're not yet included in any local emergency planning.  In most situations, both HTs and mobile radios will be used, and your specific role in emcomm will dictate which is more suited to your particular role.  Again, talking to your local emcomm people will give you a much better feel for what you need than any opinion you'll find here (including mine).

As to your question 1 - I used an IC-7000 for about a year and then opted to go the separate radios route with an IC-746 Pro and a Kenwood TM-V71.  My reason was primarily that I wanted to be able to monitor local repeater traffic while using the HF radio, and that's not possible with the IC-7000.  Both radios are fine pieces of equipment, but I happen to like the larger real estate of the 746 (fewer menus and bigger knobs and switches).  Unless your future plans include taking the radio mobile, the smaller size of the 7000 doesn't give you any significant advantage, and I agree with Charles that they do tend to run hot after extended periods of use.  I decided on the 746 Pro specifically because I wanted 2 meter SSB capability, but wasn't prepared to pay the price for a separate 2 meter all-mode radio.

You said that you'd like to put together a shack that is easily transportable to Field Day - pretty much any radio, power supply and tuner combination will meet that requirement.  Since you mentioned that you're considering an S9V31 antenna, I'm curious if you're planning on taking the antenna with you for Field Day setup.  If so, bear in mind that a vertical antenna is only going to work as well as the radial field under it.  Is your decision to use a vertical based on your back yard space limitation?  If so, a vertical may be a good choice, but I'd suggest that for a first antenna, you just use some cheap wire from the local home center store and make a 10 meter dipole.  You already have SSB privileges on 10 meters, and there's been plenty of DX to choose from for the past several months.

As to your tuner questions - the type of tuner you use is really dependent upon the type of antenna installation you have.  The AH4 is primarily intended as a long wire or mobile whip tuner, while the IT-100 and AT-180 are more suited for fixed station (home) use.  Here at my shack, I use a ladder line fed 80 meter doublet as an HF all-band antenna, and I use an LDG AT-200 tuner with good success.  It tunes up all bands with a reasonable match, although I acknowledge that separate dipoles or dedicated verticals for each band would likely yield even better results.  This is another area in which you'd be well advised to consult with local hams in your area.  See if you can find someone else using the types of equipment you're considering - you'll probably find someone who'll let you come over and spin the knobs to get a feel for operating preferences.

Above all - don't jump in to equipment purchasing without thinking long and hard what you're trying to accomplish.  These are just my thoughts and opinions - I'm sure others on the forum will chime in.  Remember to have fun, and best wishes for a happy hoiday season....

73,

Ed - KD0BKH
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WD5GWY
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Posts: 406




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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2011, 05:43:15 PM »

Don't know why people think the 7000 runs hot. The entire case is a heatsink
and having used mine for extended periods of time, it never gets so hot I cannot
touch it. And the Temp display on screen never gets into the red. It might get that
hot if used for extended periods in digital modes. Overall, the 7000 is a great rig
for the price and for the features it has. Most of the things you need to operate
the rig have buttons on the front and are easy to use. The rest are mostly set &
forget.
james
WD5GWY
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N3WAK
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Posts: 281




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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2011, 06:30:33 PM »

I agree with many of the things written by Ed and Charles. 

I can't give you much VHF/UHF advice, but I echo Ed's sentiments about rolling your own antenna.  It would be a snap to put up an inverted vee for 10 meters, and with a little ingenuity you could perhaps put a larger one up to cover 40/15 meters (two bands with one inverted vee).  You could even put up a larger inverted vee to cover 80, or combine several into a "fan dipole" arrangement.  I am a big "fan" of fan dipoles myself: multiple bands with only one run of coax. 

An inverted vee is horizontally polarized, and usually quieter than a vertical, which I like.  Plus, an inverted vee doesn't require ground radials, as would a 1/4 wave vertical.  I would recommend, at least for the time being, building your own.  You can always buy one down the line, but rolling your own is cheaper and lots of fun.  Google "$4 Special" for a great antenna primer, or click here:   http://www.qsl.net/wb1gfh/antenna.html

I understand your backyard is pretty small, but you could conceivably put up an inverted L with the horizontal portion terminating in the tree line and the vertical portion by your house, or perhaps attached to your chimney.  Feed it with ladder line, or run coax to an auto tuner at the base of the vertical portion.  That way, you can use it on multiple bands.  I also have an inverted L--works great. 

There is lots of theory in the antenna books, and lots of recommendations: ie., be sure that your dipole is at least 1/2 wavelength above ground to work DX.  But you know what?  You can have tons of fun with antennas that are lower, or shortened, or not straight.  Just construct one yourself--you'll see.  Building your own makes you feel like a "real ham."  You will need ground radials for an inverted L. 

I own an Icom 7000 myself.  Tiny and lots of menus.  A very nice mobile rig, but pricey and unnecessarily small for home use.  You can get an Icom 718 for half of the cost of a 7000.  That's where I'd start.  I own other radios--I like a big front panel and big knob for my home rig.  Makes me feel like an astronaut, and I don't have to squint to see my frequency or try to remember how to work the menus as I would on a smaller rig. 

Have fun, and good luck with the General exam!  And remember:  Build your own antenna!  73, Tony
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KG4NEL
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2011, 06:51:54 PM »

Just as a FWIW, I've used an AH-4 as a home tuner for a while - not because I planned for it, just because it sort of worked out that way. I've used it with antennas from an 80 meter inverted-L to a 20-meter full-wave loop fed with 300 ohm twinlead.

I'm sure it's not the most efficient tuner possible, but it does work.
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NA0AA
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Posts: 1042




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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2011, 09:19:04 PM »

Lots to cover, here's my two cents worth:

Multiple rigs are nice when you want to monitor two at once, as mentioned - like the local repeater while listening for DX.

I have two "shack in a box" rigs - FT-897 and FT-847.  Both are OK radios but their HF performance simply cannot compare to a full sized HF rig, but they have their purposes.

Tuners:  The AH-4 type is fine for a single antenna - an inverted L or a vertical or just a random end fed wire.  But it's hard to switch it among different antennas due to the design - it's meant to be located right at feedpoint.  Which is an advantage but the explanation takes pages to explain.

Coax based tuners like the LDG AT-200Pro can feed any number of coax fed antennas with a simple coax switch, which is handy if you use resonant or as I call 'em "Nearly Resonant" antennas - that is a dipole that is resonant but might have a feedline end match of only 2:1 - the tuner takes off the edge and makes the radio happy.

I have both kinds because eventually you will need both.

Pick up an antenna book when you buy the hardware and build your own HF antennas for sure - at least the first couple - you will learn a lot.  Get a handful of insulators and a couple of center insulators, a couple hundred feet of stranded antenna wire and build some dipoles and such.
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K9KJM
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« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2011, 10:36:33 PM »

Congratulations on getting the license!  And good luck with the upgrade.

DO check out the Kenwood TS2000.  A radio that can do a lot more than the little IC7000, Including cross band repeat.  The TS2000 sells good used in the 900 dollar range, and brand new for less than 1500.
Note that the TS2000 is actually two radios in one box, Fully capable of monitoring VHF/UHF on one side and HF on the other at the same time, PLUS cross band repeating them!


For a base station VHF/UHF antenna system, Get a name brand (Comet, Diamond, Hustler) dual band vertical  antenna, Keep the coax feedline as SHORT as possible. (If longer than 20 or so feet, Get TIMES LMR400 coax for it)

A good proven mobil radio is the Yaesu FT8800, Also capable of cross band repeat, And is also actually two radios in the one box.   Can monitor ham on one side, Police fire etc on the other side at the same time.

Good hand held radios include the Yaesu FT60 full power, The little micro size Yaesu VX3 (All that is needed with cross band repeat)
The Wouxon handi for cheap (Around 100 bucks for a dual band!)  BUT they are a bear to program!
If you have money to burn, Radios like the Icom T90, Yaesu VX8 etc are also good.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2011, 09:40:55 AM »

All great advice.  Let me add, TAKE ALL OF THE INSTRUCTION MANUALS WITH YOU when you leave the shack to do emergency work. 
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KK4FSL
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« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2011, 12:52:01 PM »

Gentlemen, thank you all so much for an invaluable insight.  Nothing beats experience and time on air in front of an actual rig.

Since field days will not be so common for me, instead of IC-7000 I will look into getting a separate HF rig for the home shack and VHF/UHF for mobile setup.

I will look into a Kenwood TS-2000.  I have also found used IC-746 Pro on the Ebay for around $1000 (how safe it is to buy used?) and I really like the panel layout of FT-950.

Any recommendations on those three or is it really a matter of personal preference at this point?

Thanks again.  73.  Sergei.
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K9KJM
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2011, 12:18:28 AM »

The Icom IC746 series has a great receiver, And a terrible history of lots of transmitter and other problems.......

One I would avoid.

If you want a better quality HF radio than the "do it all" Kenwood TS2000, Look at getting a good used Icom IC 756PRO, IC756PROII, or the best of the lot, The IC756PROIII.    All now available good used at fair prices.

Ebay is the deep water where the sharks swim.......   For buying a used radio, It is much preferable to buy local, Or from a fellow ham on the classified ads here on Eham.....




« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 12:20:54 AM by K9KJM » Logged
KK4FSL
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Posts: 10




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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2011, 10:48:09 AM »

Gentlemen, thank you for all the suggestions.  I realize now, as wisely mentioned by AD6KA: "Put two hams in one room and you'll get three arguments".  I guess every ham should grow through personal experience.  I am in Jacksonville, FL and tomorrow I am driving to AES Orlando to learn few things, touch couple rigs and hopefully come back locked and loaded.  Since I am just starting my journey and have a Tech license, I need an VHF/UHF rig.  But I am ready to grow into an HF.  I love outdoors and really look forward for field days.

So with all limitations of shack-in-a-box, I imagine being a new ham something like IC-7000 or TS-2000 will blow my every expectation.  Such units will allow me to stay mobile, monitor local repeaters and work DX.  Once I get my feet wet and know exactly what I want, I will look into a serious stationary unit and have "do-it-all" rig as a mobile/field unit or a backup. 

So here are the choices for my 24 hour decision making process: IC-7000, TS-2000, FT-857, FT-897.

Will post my progress and initial impressions over the holidays.  73.  Sergei.       
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N6AJR
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« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2011, 01:53:57 PM »

First off, I have had a 746 pro for 6 years or so and never a problem, and it works well from 6m,2m, and hf.

I also have been using and ft857 in the car for 7 or 8 years and with the ATAS 120 antenna, and it also works well for a mobile radio and the atas 120 eliminates the need for a tuner.  a good compromise  and the ft 857 is under $800 new and $500 used, and the antenna can be had for around 100 bucks used, and 300 new.

If you are only running 100 watts on HF you can use something like the AH n4, but I prefer the SGC 237, into a pelican box for protection and a wire into the trees.

Best bet is to go to the local club and play with some members home shacks, and see what you like.

I had a dstar rig for a while and never could figure out how to program or use it other than as a  standard radio.  I don't like dstar, but you need to check with your local emcom and see what they use.  probably some help there with programing stuff and perhaps some one has a extra radio you can play with and / or purchase used.  lots of options, so do what you find  makes you smile.
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2011, 10:18:03 PM »

My thoughts; FWIW

A ham station is composed of 2 basic elements; a radio and an antenna. It takes both to make it work and they have to work together. It makes no sense to have a Ferrari engine in a model T chassis or the other way around. A 10,000 radio hooked to a G5RV is a joke, my opinion. Radios are easy to change, antenna systems are not. My thinking is to spend all you can afford on the best antenna system you can put up and then with what's left buy a radio. An older radio(read cheap) with a good antenna system will shine but a great radio with a basic antenna is a waste. What good is a Ferrari engine in a model T chassis?? The old model T engine in a GP chassis will beat it every day.

YMMV

Clif
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K9KJM
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« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2011, 11:15:05 PM »

About the best deal on the market today for a good VHF/UHF full power radio is the Yaesu FT8800R.  A radio also capable of cross band repeat, And true dual receive.
(Unless there is lots of 6 meter FM activity in your local area, Avoid the Yaesu FT8900.....   A good working radio but terrible memory channel management compared to the 8800.)

Little radios like the FT857, FT897, (And the Icom IC706 series, etc) are well suited to mobil operations, As they are very small. But they are mosty menu driven, With very few knobs and dials to turn....... None of them are capable of dual receive or cross band repeat.   If you like menu operation, They might be good for you.  I do not like that kind of operation.  The advice to give each of them a try is really good.

And the advice about antennas is also very good.   The antenna system IS the most important part of any station.
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