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Author Topic: Your vote for the best CW rig(s)  (Read 3841 times)

Posts: 10

« on: October 15, 2004, 10:42:42 PM »

I have been very satisfied with my Icom IC-746, but I've been thinking about what my next radio might be.

99% of my operating is CW using a straight key.

For those of you who operate primarily CW - what do you consider to be the best HF CW rig - and why?


Posts: 720


« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2004, 11:15:29 PM »

Does the radio really matter? :-}

The older Ten-Tec's are "supposed" to be the CW operator's dream rig...but if you are running a straight key, I'd be more concerned about using a quality key and having a good fist!!

Posts: 21758

« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2004, 06:15:59 PM »

A straight key?  Either you're a great operator with a lot more skill than I've ever had, or you're going slowly, hi.

I operate about 50% CW, and always have for 39 years, and I think the IC-746 isn't a bad rig at all.  The Ten-Tecs do have smoother QSK (so does my old Kenwood TS-850S), and of course the Elecraft K1 (CW only, QRP) and K2 (CW with SSB optional and 100W optional) are also wonderful CW rigs.   The Orion is hyped to be maybe the best CW rig ever built, although the jury might still be out on that one.

My take on "rigs," though, after a long time in this hobby, is: I only spend money on a new rig after I've invested all I can in antennas.  $100 in antennas is worth about $1000 in radio equipment, usually, so I never suggest anybody buy a "new" rig until they've done all they can in the antenna department.  Once that's done, then definitely blow the piggy bank on new gear, and try stuff out before you buy to see what you like.  

I see you're in Irvine, so you can easily drive to HRO to try out almost everything on the market *except* Ten-Tec gear, and Ten-Tec has a "try before you buy" policy that allows you to "buy" a rig and try it for 30 days before you actually commit to paying for it (you pay for shipping, either way).  Not a bad policy.  Between HRO and the Ten-Tec "try out" policy, you can pretty much try everything there is and decide what you like best!


Posts: 48

« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2004, 07:53:07 AM »

wow, with an ic-746, i surprized you're considering
a new rig already. i have a ten-tec omni 6 that i
enjoy alot, but it's probably older than what you've
already got.

for something a bit different, perhaps consider
trying your hand at putting together one of the qrp
cw transceiver kits on the market. many are available
from wilderness radio, small wonder labs, elecraft,
oak hills research, etc. these are inexpensive, and
you can use them in addition to the '746. take
them on outings and operate from the great

nothing can quite compare to the experience of
making qso's using a unit that you've put together

73 es have fun,
scott nj0e

Posts: 105

« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2004, 04:22:52 PM »

I think the best rig for CW is the one that gets used.  That aside, the rigs that offer the quiet Full Break-in are held in high regard.  Maybe someday I'll operate in the Full Break-in mode, but I don't see it anytime soon.

Some basics for a good CW rig as I see it.

It must sound good on transmit.
It must have a good receiver.
Adjustable AGC.
DSP noise reduction
A pass band filter, 2 is better, etc.
Memory Keyer
Band Scope

These are just some basics that I can think of.

Nils N6PEH

Posts: 16

« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2004, 08:00:44 AM »

Everybody seems to put a premium on the reciever in Ham Radio rigs and with good reason, but don't forget the transmit side. Some of these modern rigs have terrible transmit characteristics. Noise, clicks etc.... The Yaesu FT-1000MP, MK-V, and MK-V Field are fine examples of "noisy" transmitters.

Elecraft K2/100's post serial number ~ 3900 are very clean rigs, so are the new Orion and Jupiter transcievers from Ten-Tec.

Posts: 2981

« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2004, 04:04:50 AM »

One feature not always provided in some of the older radios is an adjustable pitch control with a sidetone that matches the chosen pitch.  The trusty TS-850S has this. Very useful!

73 de Chuck  NI0C

Posts: 17411

« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2004, 02:16:12 PM »

My thoughts on what a "good CW rig" should offer:

Slow, smooth tuning control.
Full break-in: smooth, without a lot of relay noise.
Adjustable drive level (not just ALC level).
Clean, crisp keying without clicks.
Wide/narrow selectable IF filters.
Clean receiver, so weak signals aren't burried in IMD crud.
Adjustable sidetone pitch and level.

My TS-450 does pretty good for casual operation, in
spite of the number of relays being keyed.  But for
Field Day or other serious operating, I pull out my old
Ten-Tec Argosy in spite of the problems with the dial
drive cord:  it just sounds better at full filtering
on a crowded band.

Posts: 325

« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2004, 05:46:39 PM »

The Ten Tec Argonaut V gets my vote.
For the price you can't beat the performance on CW.
This is one very sweet little rig.

Michael VE3WMB

Posts: 5


« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2004, 05:09:09 PM »

I like the Ten Tec jupiter a lot, very user friendly. I currently have a Kenwood TS950S Digital and I like it even more!! There are things in ham radio that just have to be expierienced . . .

If you plan to continue to use a straight key then just about any radio with a key input will do.

I also have an Elecraft K1 that I take on vacations and setup on the porch from time to time for this reason or that, and I like it real well too. Simple yet feature rich at the same time. Mine is the two band unit with 40 meters and 20 meters in it. I sold the jupiter for the same reasons that it sounds like you are wanting to mave to another rig for, you just want to use something different since there are so many differeent radios out there.  That was my reason.

Until then, get on the air.

David Saylors

Posts: 349

« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2005, 09:54:44 PM »

Don't laugh!  My favorite CW rig that I have ever had is my Icom IC-706mkiiG.  I have installed the 500 Hz and the 250 Hz optional filters, both of which work like a charm, and do not ring.  There is a DSP that comes standard on the North American models of the IC-706mkiiG which does wonders in picking out weak CW signals from QRN such as my "S7" powerline noise QRN.  Yes, there is a variable pitch sidetone, as well as an IF Shift feature.  For strong signals I can disable the receiveer pre-amp and if the signals are really strong, insert 20 DB of RF attenuation instead.  I have the optional TCXO temperature controlled xtal oscillator and this is guaranteed to stay on frequency +- one part in two million, i.e. I could be all of 3.5 Hz off frequency on 40 meters(!)  Of course the IC-706mkiiG has full QSK, even if there is a little (quiet) relay chattering.  Although there is no antenna tuner in the IC-706mkiiG, it couples with the Icom AT-180 fully automatic antenna tuner which works like a dream.  No VSWR on 80 - 10 meters, and no actively having to go and manually tune the AT-180, it memorizes the settings for a tuned frequency, and tracks the IC-706 even in receive mode.  If the AT-180 has to do a tune, it uses QRP and only takes two seconds, a minimum of QRP to my fellow amateurs on or about the frequency(!)

Posts: 123


« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2006, 03:31:46 PM »

Most any of the Ten-Tec line are excellent CW radios! I'm a 100% CW op and I've been using a Corsair II with the outboard VFO for years. Before that it was the Omni series D/A. I'm just now "up-grading" to an Omni V.9 and I'm sure the newer Ten-Tec radios are a dream to operate. The newest radio or the one with the most bells & whistles is not necessarily the best.  For my money you just can't go wrong with Ten-Tec and their service is legendary. Wheather it's rag chewing or jumping into the pileups Ten-Tec's are fun radios. Quiet receivers, silky smooth QSK and logical control placement. Just read the eHam reviews. Oh sure you'll get a few 'sour grapes' reviews but ask most CW ops about US made, Ten-Tec and you'll get glowing reports. Good luck on your quest. W6FG

Time flies like arrows...
Fruit flies like bananas!

Posts: 81

« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2006, 10:50:14 PM »

My vote is for a great Radio that is celebrating it's 20th Birthday this month The Mid-sized Masterpiece as Icom called their IC-751A introduced April 1986. I have 2 of these gems and new radio temptation really does not enter my mind. I have a FL-53A on it's way for one of these just in time for Field Day '06 and I will be one of VE7NA's cw ops. I bought my first IC-751A used 6 years ago and I was blown away at its great receiver and how nice the radio switches between LSB and CW modes seeminglously. I operate a net called the Wrong Button Club here in BC it is a CW and SSB rag chew net on 75 meters in the morning so I get a chance to really test the old rig out. I enjoy the letter breakin and built in keyer of this rig a lot. All other cw rigs I operate have 1 really annoying thing on cw the VOX delay gets shorter and shorter as you rag chew. The IC-751A's delay stays the same all thru a qso. I like all Icom rigs I used on CW and owned but the IC-751A I find is a joy to use on CW which makes it a Great CW radio. No annoying same pitch as you tune a station in like the newer radios have. I also like cw on lower side band versus upper sideband like Kenwood and Yaseau  have.
Gerry VE7BGP
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