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Author Topic: Looking to upgrade my radio  (Read 4480 times)
ZL2HAM
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Posts: 52




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« on: May 21, 2012, 08:08:54 PM »

As part of a project to optimize my station for contesting, I'm looking to upgrade my radio, and would be interesting in advice/suggestions.

I have an Icom 756 ProIII. My interests are primarily 20m SSB; secondarily, other HF bands and RTTY. No interest in CW at the moment (actually, I'm interested, just don't have the skill).

My QTH is at the top of a ridge, about 100m elevation and 300m from the ocean. I'm planning to put up a beam; probably only 10m above the immediate ground level. I'm hoping that the combination of being on a hill and being close to the water will help compensate for not having much height. Still uncertain about exactly which antenna. I found a monoband 5-element for 20m I like (OptiBeam), but the 4-band 4-el yagis I've seen are also appealing.

I love the idea of a wideband receiver with a waterfall panadapter. Seems like it would be great for S&P. Haven't done much SO2R, but I'm interested there as well. Diversity RX is another area that looks like it would be fun to experiment with.

Although the panadapter is leading me towards FlexRadio (the 5000 or their new 6700), I'm open to other possibilities. A *good radio* should come first.

I've heard a number of people say they love the FT5000 for contesting. I would be interested in hearing from phone contesters who have used the Icom 756ProIII and either the Flex 5000 or one of the higher-end Icom or Yaesu rigs, particularly with the same antenna. Is the difference really noticeable? Is it actually measurable (S-units)? Are there other rigs I should consider?
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K0YHV
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2012, 08:14:54 PM »

Given that you want to use it mainly for phone, installing the INRAD roofing filter in your PRO3 would probably bring it into the performance range of the FTDX5000 for a whole lot less money.

John AF5CC
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N0NB
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2012, 09:31:35 AM »

Do check out the Elecraft K3 with its P3 panadapter as well.  It is an SDR that is grab 'n go and doesn't need a computer to run.  A K3 with firmware later than 4.51 (still in beta at the moment) has a much improved DSP AGC, correcting some long-standing issues.
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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

SKCC 6225
ZL2HAM
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Posts: 52




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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2012, 07:33:23 PM »

I like the idea of adding a roofing filter -- though the costs to have my Pro3 shipped from NZ and back to have it installed could end up being twice the cost of the filter. That would still leave me without a panadapter, though.

The K3 with the P3 panadapter and the VGA converter for a larger monitor is another possibility. I looked into the K3 a year or more ago, though, and at the time it didn't seem like a good fit -- maybe things have changed. But then I'm back to the same question: how does the K3 compare to the Pro3 in terms of basic RX/TX quality, SNR, etc?

Personally, I don't mind using a computer with my radio, as with FlexRadio. In fact, the large screen panadapter with point-and-click tuning seems like a big plus. What I'm less sure about is the quality of the radio behind the fancy user interface for the Flex.
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K7MH
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Posts: 339




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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2012, 10:46:41 AM »

Panadapters and spectrum displays are neat but I have in the past sat in front of a 756 Pro3 for hours in a couple contests and probably didn't spend 10 minutes looking at it. It is a great feature for sales and marketing as it it visually very appealing and we are visual creatures. In a contest on HF, other than very early or late in the band being open, there are so many signals showing up that it has little usefulness.
The best use I can see is for monitoring 6 meters for short openings. Even then, if you are not staring at the display you will not know anything popped open somewhere. Scanning works better for that.
For a DX pileup, it may show you where the majority of the callers are so you can adjust where you want to be in relation to that.
I think they are largely overrated.
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PD2R
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Posts: 131




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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2012, 11:17:28 AM »

Watch the recorded webinar (May 19 contest radio performance by NC0B) on the following website: http://www.pvrc.org/webinar/webinars.htm
Rob's presentation is very good and I think it will help you choosing the right transceiver for you.

In my honest opinion, during contests the K3 realy outperforms the Pro III. I own a K3 and have used a Pro III in several contests as well.
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N9RO
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2012, 12:15:57 PM »

You can test drive a Flex (PowerSDR) without the radio.  Visit www.receivedsignal.us and download one of the IQ files.  Install PowerSDR and run in Demo, load the file and you are on the air (receive that is).  You can try the filters, Panadapter etc.  If you want some specific IQ data let me know.

Enjoy,
Tim, N9RO
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Real techies don't use knobs.
K8AC
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Posts: 1477




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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2012, 06:14:40 PM »

Quote
In my honest opinion, during contests the K3 realy outperforms the Pro III. I own a K3 and have used a Pro III in several contests as well.

Everyone's opinion is valid of course, but the fact is that the Pro III, in the right hands, is a perfectly fine contest rig.  In the last SS I participated in, my Pro III and I were able to outscore everyone in the local contest club chapter and they were all using K3s, except one who used an Orion II.  Without the Inrad roofing filter, you may run into IMD problems on the bands crowded with the strongest signals -- usually 20 and 80M here.  But, few understand that the solution to that is to just crank in some attenuation (6 or 12 dB will usually do) and the IMD is gone.  The purpose of the roofing filter is to reduce the probability of IMD and it does well in that regard, but isn't necessary.  If you're not a serious contest operator, then it may be a waste of time and money for you.  Normally, I'd recommend one to install the roofing filter themselves, but in the case of the Pro III, it's a rather difficult and risky install. 

While the Pro III panadaptor isn't in the same league as a P3 or PC based solution, it runs rings around the FTDX-5000 panadaptor (SM-5000) as well as that of the Tentec Orion II.  If you want a full feature panadaptor, then go with a transceiver that has a low first IF, like the K3, Orion II or FTDX-5000.  Those will all work fine with an LP-Pan and associated software or an SDR-IQ and companion software package.  But, the scope in the Pro III is perfectly adequate for detecting band activity without having to tune across a dead band, or for spotting stations a DX station is replying to when operating split.  If you like spending money and believe that knobs are useless, then a FlexRadio may be just the ticket.  Just don't expect it to work right 10 years down the road.
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PD2R
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Posts: 131




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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2012, 01:03:29 AM »

Everyone's opinion is valid of course, but the fact is that the Pro III, in the right hands, is a perfectly fine contest rig. 

Can you imagine what a K3, in the right hands, can do?! Wink

All jokes aside, I never used a Pro III with the optional roofingfilter. I used a standard Pro III in Europe, in big World Wide contests with big monoband antennes (@ PI4DX). I know that attenuation can be youre best friend when dealing with IMD problems. Sometimes I even ride the RF gain.
The Pro III is a fine rig and in most contest, especialy in phone contests, you probably wil not notice any diferences in receiver performance.

If I were in Rick's shoes, I would probably go for the best antennas that could fit my location. I would only upgrade my tranceiver if there was any money left.
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