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Author Topic: Soon to be new HAM. Overwhelmed with choices on hardware.  (Read 6852 times)
WA3SKN
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Posts: 5526




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« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2012, 05:05:12 AM »

Don't spend your money yet, there will be plenty of time for that later!
Find out what repeaters are in your area.  Find out what clubs are in your area.  They can lead you in the right direction.
Assuming a repeater is within reach, FM is a good place to start.  Get a mobile rig, not the cute HT that you see in the ads.  And invest in a large power supply (20+amps) to power it with.  You can use this for the future HF rig down the road.  You can make or buy a VHF type antenna... a fairly easy project. Investment is less than $200 for radio (single band) and $200 for power supply.  You get a radio that covers the VHF or UHF band that your local repeater is on.  This leaves about $600 for future HF radio and homemade HF antenna.
There are plenty of used HF in this price range, plus take a look at the Icom 718 and Alinco HF radios in the new market.  Plus this gives some time to determine whether to save up a little for your "dream radio" of the future.  Note that on HF, the antenna system is both what makes it work well and is inexpensive too!  But talk to some of the local hams before investing in the HF radio, they have good advice!
73s.

-Mike.
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20636




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« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2012, 09:35:57 AM »

Join a local, active ham radio club ASAP if you're not already a member of one.

Attend meetings, ask questions (hams LOVE to be helpful -- maybe too helpful, sometimes), and most of all, VISIT other local hams' stations to see what they're using and let them brag about it.  It's all good info, even if loaded with opinion.

If I relied on the internet to tell me how to do stuff, I'd have removed my own liver by now and have to use the computer next to a big machine. Cheesy Tongue
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KJ4FUU
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Posts: 162




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« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2012, 10:03:27 AM »

My first rig was a Yaesu FT-817ND, which I got in 2008. To be able to hit the local repeaters reliably, I got a mobile antenna and mounted it on a cookie sheet (I've since put some metal yardsticks underneath to improve the ground plane). My HF antenna is a random wire out of my 2nd floor bedroom window, and down along a wooden fence, since there is a power line crossing the yard between me and the only good tree. My first HF contact wasn't until August of 2010, during a NAQP, when I heard a Texas station calling and getting no response, for the heck of it, I went ahead and responded. To my utter disbelieve, he heard me. I'm still learning what the 817 can do. I'm up to 49 DX entities, 47 confirmed, and 45 states, 44 confirmed.

That said, do I recommend the 817 as a first rig? No, not really, unless you know CW (I'm still learning, all my contacts on HF have been SSB).

I, too, recommend you find a local club. For one thing, they can let you know about hamfests, and how to buy used gear, and what to avoid. Our club had an estate auction, and I picked up a Yaesu FT690 (6m portable), a FT212RH (2m mobile), and a Kenwood R-1000 receiver for a total of $250.

If you want to talk more than 50 miles, I would suggest an HF rig, and as a tech, you are limited to a slice of the 10m band (unless you know CW). There are used Radio Shack HTX-10's and HTX-100's out there that can be had at a reasonable price. Don't forget to factor in the cost of a power supply, be it linear, switching, or just a battery you keep charged.

Many cheap mobiles may be found in the used market for your VHF/UHF needs, but make sure they have tone capability, or you may not be able to open up your local repeaters. HT's are nice, but unless you live very near the repeaters you want to use, may be difficult to use.

Good luck,

-- Tom
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AE4RV
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Posts: 963


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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2012, 12:22:15 PM »

Excellent advice, Tom, and I salute your QRP accomplishments.

73, Geoff
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K9KJM
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Posts: 2415




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« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2012, 09:26:29 PM »

If you are considering a Yaesu FT8900, DO check to make sure there is lots of 6 meter FM and/or 10 meter FM in your area first!    The memory channel arrangement on the FT8900 is miserable compared to the dual band FT 8800.   IF little 6 and 10 meter FM in your area, you will be much further off with the slightly lower cost FT 8800.

A great "do it all" radio is the proven Kenwood TS2000.    Now selling good used in the 900 dollar range, And brand new for less than 1500 bucks. (While the TS2000X also covers 1.2Ghz, That is a kind of specialized band with little normal use)

(I HAD an Icom IC910 and got rid of it and now use the TS2000 for VHF/UHF, There was so little difference in performance, The ability of the TS2000 to cross band repeat was worth the switch.)

Good luck with the exam!   And I also agree with the posts to not be too hasty to spend money! Take your time before you buy! 



« Last Edit: June 22, 2012, 09:32:43 PM by K9KJM » Logged
BLAZBLU82
Member

Posts: 10




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« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2012, 01:02:23 AM »

I really appreciate all of the advice.

I will be waiting a bit before purchasing a radio. I have an odd housing situation at the moment which could change in a month or two. If it does change, the house I will be moving into has metal siding. What kind of effects will that have on Tx/Rx? In the mean time, if I do end up buying a radio, would a tri-band mobile antenna work ok as an indoor antenna? The nearest relay is less than 5 miles out from my current location and at the other house. At this point, I'd settle for an HT until I get somewhere more permanent.

I do want to end up getting the TS2000 or the IC-9100, but only after I get General Class and some money saved.

The local clubs are having field day today; however, I am uncertain if I will get to go. I work in the evenings, so if I go, it will only be for a short period.

Thanks again for the feed back.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2012, 01:07:22 AM by BLAZBLU82 » Logged
AC5UP
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Posts: 3928




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« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2012, 02:49:51 AM »

...the house I will be moving into has metal siding. What kind of effects will that have on Tx/Rx?

Like living inside a Farady cage, meaning you will need an outdoor antenna.

Older stucco houses are also stinko for radio reception as the stucco is applied over a chicken wire mesh... Which does a pretty good job of protecting the inside of the house from the radio signals outside the house.
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Never change a password on a Friday                
VA7CPC
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Posts: 2406




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« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2012, 06:25:19 AM »

. . .
Then join the local radio club and ask the members what their interests are
in ham radio.  Maybe visit their shacks to see what equipment they use and
ask why they chose that particular model.  See what others use for antennas,
especially in constrained situations.  You may find yourself fascinated by APRS,
working DX on 160m, EME, QRP, building your own equipment, contesting,
emergency service, radio direction-finding, traffic nets, antenna design, or
any of a number of other options.  As you do, you can focus on extending
your equipment to suite those interests.

You don't have to start with everything all at once - it gets overwhelming.


Amen!

You'll learn more by visiting local club members and talking to them, than you will by reading catalogs and asking broad questions here.

A very simple, "stealthy" antenna for 2m and 70cm can be made by taping wires to a glass windowpane, to form a dipole.  19.25" long (each wire) for 2m.   That should work even with metal siding.   And it will reach 5 miles with the 5-watt signal from a handheld transceiver ("HT").

The same idea works with stick-on copper tape, available in craft and hobby stores.

         Charles 
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K0YHV
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Posts: 179




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« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2012, 09:27:46 AM »


Amen!

You'll learn more by visiting local club members and talking to them, than you will by reading catalogs and asking broad questions here.

Maybe, maybe not.  Depends on what the local club is into.  I have belonged to some clubs that would have been useless to get HF advice from, because all they did was the shack on the belt thing.  Other clubs I have belonged to loved HF and never did FM, so if you wanted to get FM mobile rig advice, you wouldn't have gotten it there.

In terms of the FT8900, you can do lots more than local FM activity on 6m and 10m.  10m FM is a blast when the band opens, like it will be this winter.  The FT8900 does crossband repeat, so you can get on 10m FM while using at HT while walking around the house or neighborhood and work people all over the country and world!

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BLAZBLU82
Member

Posts: 10




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« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2012, 12:05:16 PM »


Amen!

You'll learn more by visiting local club members and talking to them, than you will by reading catalogs and asking broad questions here.

A very simple, "stealthy" antenna for 2m and 70cm can be made by taping wires to a glass windowpane, to form a dipole.  19.25" long (each wire) for 2m.   That should work even with metal siding.   And it will reach 5 miles with the 5-watt signal from a handheld transceiver ("HT").

The same idea works with stick-on copper tape, available in craft and hobby stores.

         Charles 

 If you don't mind me asking, how would I build this window antenna? Thanks
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2825




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« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2012, 04:21:35 PM »


Amen!

You'll learn more by visiting local club members and talking to them, than you will by reading catalogs and asking broad questions here.

A very simple, "stealthy" antenna for 2m and 70cm can be made by taping wires to a glass windowpane, to form a dipole.  19.25" long (each wire) for 2m.   That should work even with metal siding.   And it will reach 5 miles with the 5-watt signal from a handheld transceiver ("HT").

The same idea works with stick-on copper tape, available in craft and hobby stores.

         Charles 

 If you don't mind me asking, how would I build this window antenna? Thanks

BYU gives you some pretty detailed instructions on how to build it right in his post: two wires, each 19.25" long, taped to the window pane. OR two pieces of stick-on copper tape (same lengths).

He did leave out the part about connecting the feedline: use alligator clips.  Then connect the other end of the coax to the radio.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KD4LLA
Member

Posts: 463




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« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2012, 07:02:37 PM »

Welcome!

Before you buy anything you need to find a local ham and see what is being used "locally".  Field Day is an excellent time to experience ham radio.  I don't particularly like just jumping into a strange situation either, but you got to take the plunge sometime.

I started by taking evening classes given by a local ham club, so I had a great group to start out with.  As my call is KD4LLA, I know who LLB, LLC, and LLD are.

At some point you will need to find a nearby ham to use to bounce "ideas off".  You might mention the city you live in, maybe there is someone who would be willing to assist you.

Mike
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N5XM
Member

Posts: 242




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« Reply #27 on: June 23, 2012, 09:47:19 PM »

I think it's natural for a new Ham-to-be to have the enthusiam you have.  Whatever you do, remember that it takes time to get a good collection of gear, unless you are wealthy.  It also takes time to acquire the skills you need to be the best op you can be.  Myself, I wouldn't get a shack in a box rig.  There is a lot of great used rigs out there to be had for under 500.00.  After I got my Tech, I bought a nice used TS-520, and used that as an excuse to start studying for upgrading, so I could get on HF.  I would get a Ringo Ranger 2 for VHF, put up an 80m inverted Vee (they are easy to make, and cheap) for HF.  Even though you won't be able to transmit, you will be getting yourself immersed in how an HF QSO sounds, and this will make it easier when you upgrade and get all the frequencies others have.  It also motivates you to study.  Enjoy yourself!
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2406




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« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2012, 08:05:37 AM »

Here's something about copper-tape antennas:

http://i3detroit.com/wi/index.php?title=2m-window-loop

IMHO, a full-wave loop is fancier than you need.   To build a dipole:

. . . Find the center of the window;

. . . Run one strip vertically up from the center;

. . . Run one strip vertically down from the center;

. . . Feed with coax at the center -- center conductor connects to the top strip, braid to the bottom strip.

Either alligator clips or solder will work to connect the coax to the copper strips.

The strips should be mostly vertical, not mostly horizontal -- the antenna is polarized, and repeaters usually use vertically-polarized antennas.   Running along the diagonal of the window will work OK -- you'll lose one or two dB in effective signal strength.

        CHarles

PS -- antennas are one of the areas where we can play around without limiting ourselves to what the manufacturers offer.  It's neat to string some wire out a window, and have somebody hear you halfway around the world.
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BLAZBLU82
Member

Posts: 10




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« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2012, 11:03:03 AM »

I think the only antenna I need is a 4 to 6 ft vertical that I can keep near my station. I have an older Bearcat scanner and picked up the closest repeater easily from my basement with its 6 inch whip. Keep in mind, I need to make my shack somewhat temporary as a possible house move could happen in a month or two. If anyting, I'll make a 2m ground plane antenna based on instructions I found. I can worry about improving my antenna setup later once I know for certain what my housing situation will be.

If I have to move back to the other house, will the window antenna still work regardless of the metal siding?

Thanks again!
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