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Author Topic: The Best CW Transceiver?  (Read 101998 times)

Posts: 2

« on: April 26, 2012, 06:59:50 AM »

Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum.  I would like to ask you guys opinion about which is the best CW transceiver (Tube and modern included).  Thanks.


Posts: 4710

« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 07:12:16 AM »

Best in what way(s)?

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 2

« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2012, 07:28:40 AM »

Hi Jim,

I am very new in CW.  Actually I don't know what to look for and hence the question.  I have Collins KWM-2a.  People say it is not a real CW machine.  I am looking at buying a proper setup.  Tube or modern doesn't matter but all other being equal, I prefer tube.

Thank you for your help.


Posts: 202

« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2012, 07:45:20 AM »

I was in the same boat as you when I returned to the airwaves about 2 years ago.  I wanted a tube rig- I wanted to get a bit of the experience I had as a kid in the mid-sixties and smell those tubes cooking in the shack.  Also, I'm a CW only op.

After some internet research, I decided to go with the Drake TR4Cw.  I later picked up an RV-4C remote VFO, so I can work split-frequency.  I have a pair of Drake B-Twins currently out for service that I'm anxious to try on-air.

For a more modern CW rig, the reviews of the Ten Tec Omni 6+ are pretty glowing, as are the Elecraft rigs.  Check out the Reviews section of this website.  You'll get a lot of info there.

Bill in Pasadena

Posts: 461

« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2012, 08:12:29 AM »

Look at any Ten-Tec used gear.

Posts: 0

« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2012, 09:12:25 AM »

Of course you are asking what will be the best tranceiver for YOU, not for other people.

Well simple answer, not some black box with a lot of little knobs, designed with 95% chance by foreign engineers,

The best tranceiver for you is anything you build and designed yourself, mainly based on a selection of parts available in your junk box, not a kit.  A kit is so stupid, when you assemble a kit you don't even know how it works. When you finish assembling you are only sure that your grade is not below the assembling test group  recruited from a day-hostel for the mentally handicapped. Before they marketed it.

Can you imagine what your image will be when you show to be proud on assembling the pre cooked design of a kit.  Just as my gran grand daughter of 4 years old showing to be so pride she baked a prebaked baguette in the automatic oven.

Spent the time for reading books from the ARRL about RF design and building. They start with simple circuits. which you build your self with available materials and understand what you did. at that way you will stepwise become a real ham, not an appliance operator that like a donkey between 2 haystakes is starving from hunger because he can't decide which hay stake to start eating from, and therefore starts asking in eHam CW..

« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 09:26:18 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged

Posts: 4710

« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2012, 10:39:27 AM »

Hi Jim,

I am very new in CW.  Actually I don't know what to look for and hence the question.  I have Collins KWM-2a.  People say it is not a real CW machine.  I am looking at buying a proper setup.  Tube or modern doesn't matter but all other being equal, I prefer tube.

Couple of points:

1) With all due respect, the KWM-2 is really awful on CW. It's a great set but just not on CW.

2) The essentials in a CW transceiver are:

- Good overall radio performance (sensitivity, stability, slow tuning rate, solid construction, etc.)
- Good IF selectivity (400-500 Hz filter, at least 4 poles) Audio selectivity helps but is not is not a substitute for a good IF filter.
- RIT with couple of kHz range.
- AGC OFF switch
- Easy TR control
- Good sidetone
- Clean CW signal

Good but not essential options are QSK, a second VFO, and a built-in keyer if you use paddles.

3) AFAIK, there is no common all-tube manufactured rig that meets all of the requirements. (The TR-4CW with RIT comes close, but it's not common, has sweep-tube finals, and if you find a nice one, it's not cheap).

 If you really want a tube setup, your best options are to homebrew one (like I did) or to get a matched-pair transmitter-receiver setup like the Drake 4-line. These can transceive even though they are separates. 

4) There are some good hybrid sets, if you find one with the CW filter and in good shape. TS-520S, -530S, 820S, 830S. Their tuning rate is too fast for my taste, though.

5) Ten-Tec Omni 5, 6, Corsair 2 and Paragon are good, if you don't mind older SS.

6) Elecraft K2, K3, KX3. 100 watt version if you're not into QRP.

All depends how much money you want to spend.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 4

« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 06:22:31 PM »

I had an ft-840 with the narrow cw filter.  Worked great and was simple to operate.  I "upgraded" to an FT-950.  Works even better, not so simple to operate.  For cw, the FT-950's built-in keyer has "bug" mode in addition to the standard iambic keying.  I can "squeeze" but prefer a bug.  Bought a vibrokeyer and plugged into one of the two key jacks on the 950.  The other has my bug.  Makes it easy since the bug is configured for around 22wpm and I can adjust the vibrokeyer with the twist of a knob.

950 also has a memory keyer  - I don't use it often.  I have a k4 keyer that I don't use much either.

If you can get a 950, you'll like it very much.


Posts: 167

« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2012, 09:25:03 AM »

I have  limited experience having owned a Heathkit sb-101, IC-730, IC-706 with 250hz filter and now the Yeasu FT-950.  The FT-950 is light years ahead of the others I owned.  The ability to change speed with a knob on the front is great.  The filters are very adjustable.  I couldn't be happier with it.

Check with a local club members who are into cw and try out their rigs hopefully one is a FT-950.  73 Mike ke4ilg

Posts: 173

« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2012, 11:29:28 AM »

For the price -- take a look at the current model Kenwood TS-590S.  It is a great CW rig with all the filters and DSP built in.  Much less costly than the K3, and very similar performance.

Posts: 5228

« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2012, 11:55:19 AM »

My 2 cents: if you are looking for a good tube CW station, get a HW-16 and a VFO (e.g. HG-10B). The HW-16 isn't quite a transceiver, it's more like a receiver and a transmitter in the same box. But that means it has truly excellent QSK, in a way that no transceiver has it (and I own Ten-Tecs and have used Elecraft K-2's; while they are pretty good for transceivers in terms of QSK, they are clearly "transceivers" with all the QSK limitations of sharing a VFO/IF Strip between transmit and receive).

The HW-16 is by no means a fancy-pants setup, the HW-16 was a very low end rig aimed squarely at the novice (CW-only) market. But it's lack of SSB-oriented features makes it a lot of fun in ways that multi-mode rigs just aren't.

Posts: 331

« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2012, 06:59:36 PM »

Well, tubes and I parted ways a number of years ago. I have fond memories of them as a novice many years ago, but not my thing anymore. I do like operating CW though, and I have had a number of rigs that were nice CW machines.

I would recommend the Yaesu FT-757GX if money is tight. You should be able to get a nice used one for around $400 or so. Nice QSK, decent selectivity with an optional filter, and the built in keyer is quite good. I had one for a number of years, and enjoyed operating CW with it.
If you are really a CW guy, then I really suggest looking at TenTec gear. The Omni 6 is a first class rig. But they all have wonderful QSK, and in fact they are the standard against which others are judged. I've had a few TenTec rigs over the years and really enjoyed them on CW.

The one TenTec radio I would caution about is the Century 21 series. They're nice, and they can be had for a very reasonable price (around $200 or so for a nice one) but the only selectivity is in the audio channel, and it has a direct conversion receiver, which means you'll hear the desired signal on either side of zero beat. You will have to decide which side is the correct one, and if you guess wrong, the other station probably won't hear you if he has narrow filtering. That being said, it still has the legendary TenTec QSK which is very smooth. I do still have one, but it's definitely an acquired taste. You can have fun with one, but you have to be mindful of its limitations.
Best of luck in your shopping for a rig!

73 de N8AUC

Posts: 24

« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2012, 05:43:15 PM »

No doubt in my mind, I've had a Kenwood TS-590s for the last
year, and it is the best CW rig I've ever used. If your wondering,
I got my ticket in 1960.

Posts: 801


« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2012, 09:27:06 PM »

Until I bought the Elecraft K3/P3, I would have said the Ten Tec Omni VI+.
Both have excellent roofing selectivity, DSP and wonderful QSK.
If you like a full kit, The DZ Kits Sienna has the fastest QSK that I know of.

Dale W4OP

Posts: 875

« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2012, 04:20:25 PM »

Hi Kam,

Welcome to the forum.

Your question is an interesting one, and is a bit like asking which is the best dog breed, as everyone has their own ideas.
And in many cases, the discussion becomes one of discussing the best transceiver overall.

These days, radio transceivers have become so technically good, that improvements are really based on features,
not fitness for a particular purpose.

If you consider CW; it is a narrow bandwidth, pulsed carrier mode, typically used in crowded conditions.
It also has a relatively low duty cycle.

So, what is useful in operating in these conditions?

First, QSK (Full break in), is not necessary.
It was useful for shipboard and coast stations where traffic had to be transcribed perfectly, and both operators were aware that
full break in was available. In ham use, it is rarely employed, unless you have two stations who both agree to use it.
However, having a transceiver which switches quickly from transmit to receive is useful, since some stations, particularly in DX work,
are real speed demons on the switchover, and if your switchover is slow, you may miss some of their reply.

Next, being a pulsed mode, you want to have a receiver which has a variety of AGC speed options, otherwise you would get
annoying AGC "pumping" which spoils the experience.

Next, being a low bandwidth mode, and since stations tend to "snuggle", you want a low bandwidth filter to let in your contact,
and keep everyone else out.

Finally, being a low bandwidth mode, and if you are using a narrow filter, your receiver should be stable in frequency.
A BFO or RIT(receiver incremental tuning) should also be available to allow you to fine tune the receiver for your preferred CW tone,
without changing the transmitter frequency.

On the transmitter side; CW does not need a linear output stage, and Class C amplifiers are perfectly acceptable, providing
there is adequate filtering for harmonics. This means a simple transmitter is possible and adequate.
The low duty cycle of CW also means your finals will be able to handle more power in CW than full duty cycle modes such as RTTY.

The transmitter should however be designed to give shaped rise and fall times for the CW waveform to avoid "key clicks" which
would interfere with other hams.

Transmitter frequency stability is of course also desirable.

So in Summary, a good CW oriented transceiver should have:-

- Quick turnaround from transmit to receive.
- A range of AGC speed settings.
- A low bandwidth I.F. filter.
- Good frequency stabilty of both receiver and transmitter.
- B.F.O or R.I.T. tuning.
- Transmitter keying should be designed to avoid key clicks.
As you can see, this range of options does not mean you need the latest transceiver, an FT101B(with cw filter),
or an FTDX5000 would be equally applicable.

Remember, CW was the first mode used in radio communications, the gear was simple then, and can still be simple today.

That is part of the fun and allure of CW.

73 de Rob ..

« Last Edit: May 05, 2012, 04:24:46 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
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