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Author Topic: First HF Radio?  (Read 6061 times)
KD2CLL
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« on: July 17, 2012, 03:56:59 PM »

I'm a new ham I've only had my call for about 2 weeks. I am planning on looking for my first HF radio soon. I would like it to be CW compatible. Would you guys recommend buying new online or waiting until the local ham fest and buying used? I am expecting to have about $300 to spend. Is it even possible to get a decent usable HF radio in my price range?
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NA4IT
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2012, 04:15:46 AM »

For $300, you will probably have to look at early solid state rigs that will be limited in function and technology. That said, it will probably do CW.

Here is what I recommend. Look at something like the Yaesu FT-450. It's a good starter rig, with modern technology and built in autotuner. Sure, it's going to cost more than $300. If you are looking to do even more, think about the Yaesu FT-857D. All mode, all bands (70CM - 160M).

Good luck finding something. Try to see if there is a local ham that will help you find something. It's better to buy from a ham that will let you see the rig operate.
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AC4RD
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2012, 04:19:02 AM »

There have been a number of discussions of this very point recently--searching eHam will bring up a bunch of them, I think.  Short version is that ANY relatively modern rig will be a fine starter radio for HF, and you CAN find a workable rig on your budget--though having a few more bucks would make it a bit easier to find a good one.

One thing that can help is to get to know the other local hams.  Go to local club meetings, get on the local repeaters if you have VHF, that sort of thing.  Buying your first HF rig will be easier and safer if you do it from somebody local, someone you can trust (at least a bit.)  Talk to the locals and you might find that someone near you has an old rig he's not using that he'll sell--and help you learn to use it, which can also be a big step when you get your first rig.

HTH!  Feel free to email off-forum if you want to discuss it further.  GL 73!  --ken ac4rd
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K1WJ
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2012, 08:03:55 AM »

$300 bucks is tough - save more $$ - you still need a power supply, coax & antenna.

You should look at:

The Alinco SR8T - new at HRO for $530 - shipped to your door. 100w HF rig. See reviews here on eham.

Power supply - Astron RS-35M or the SS-30m - both good to go - Price $189 or $149 at HRO.

Then get some good coax - 100ft is common ( use as little as needed to get job done) however I like to see my antenna at least 50ft away from my operating position. - 213, or 9913 or 8x if want to save some $, but still decent.

Many antenna options - a vertical in many cases is the simple solution - give the antenna type the greatest consideration - But I have operated with anything from a MFJ hamtenna to a 3 element beam, vertical or wire antenna.

73 K1WJ David Cool
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AE4RV
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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2012, 12:17:02 PM »

The Icom 735 is often recommended near this price range. And yes, coax, a power supply, maybe a tuner, wire, a key, it does add up. You're probably looking at closer to $500 for everything needed for a basic yet halfway decent HF station.

Unless you're willing to go really bare bones with a simple, low power CW-only rig, which is what I had at first, but at that time I didn't even have $300!

Good luck! This is a good time to get on HF.
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W8JX
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2012, 12:57:12 PM »

$300 bucks is tough - save more $$ - you still need a power supply, coax & antenna.

Try a Kenwood TS-530. Can be had for under 300 and is self contained. Though 25 years old in design it is still a solid rig and supports optional CW filter too. ALso it hybrid design with SS rig with tube finals and PI L output network is not fussy about SWR and can safely feed and match SWR's up to 3 to 1 or so without fuss. All in one solution. 
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KD2CLL
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2012, 02:39:41 PM »

Thanks for all of the advice. I think I will stick with my little 2m/440 handheld for an extra few months and save more. It looks like if I save up $1000 and get running with the the Yaesu FT-857D I will have about everything I could possibly want.
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W8JX
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2012, 03:20:29 PM »

Thanks for all of the advice. I think I will stick with my little 2m/440 handheld for an extra few months and save more. It looks like if I save up $1000 and get running with the the Yaesu FT-857D I will have about everything I could possibly want.

For 1000 bucks there are other rigs that come into picture too. 857 is a all band all mode rig but it is a compromise rig at best which is fine if that is what you want but if you plan on doing a lot of 100 watt HF it will get quite hot due to lack of mass and heatsink.
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KD2CLL
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2012, 04:55:58 PM »

I don't "plan" on doing a lot of anything. Isn't  the heat problem something that could be remedied with the addition of a heat sink or cooling fans?
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W8JX
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2012, 05:08:58 PM »

I don't "plan" on doing a lot of anything. Isn't  the heat problem something that could be remedied with the addition of a heat sink or cooling fans?

Cannot add heatsink too it and added fans will not help much as it lacks thermal mass and surface area and has to get much hotter to get same heat energy out. Not saying it will melt down but extended key down modes will cause it to get quite hot. Not best choice for a base station. You might consider 897 in its place if you are wanting to stay with Yaesu.
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KQ6Q
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2012, 01:36:50 PM »

If you're willing to use the most effective mode, CW, look for a TenTec Century 21 - 50W CW only 80-40-20-15-10 meters, built in AC power supply, full QSK. All you need is a key and headphones. It doesn't fold back power on high SWR, so any antenna that looks like low impedance 1/4 wave or a coax fed dipole will work.
You should be able to find an analog model for under $200, the model with the digital dial will be a tad more. TT had a single-paddle keyer that worked with it, that should go for $30 or so. Get on the air!
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2012, 02:02:34 PM »

Welcome to H.F.

If you can save enough for an FT897D, it would probably be a good investment.
The FT857D/FT897D are electrically equivalent, but the heatsinking and construction of the FT897D is much more robust.
Also, some other options such as adding an integrated (bolts on underneath) 12V power supply are then available to you.
This all adds to the cost, but, unless you get an A.C. powered rig then you will need a 12 volt (13.8V actually) power supply anyway.

I came back to ham radio and the FT897D was my first rig, and I thought I would buy a more expensive one later.
But I have found, for my operating style, it does everything I ask of it, and is very reliable.
Subsequently I bought another for mobile/portable use, and still use one as my only base station rig.

I can recommend it after many years of personal use - as a "shack in a box" which is a great starter - and perhaps, finisher rig.
As time moves on, and if you find you want a "contest quality" rig with all the latest and greatest specifications - you can always go that path.

But - for the price - it is a starter rig which has enough features and frequency coverage (160m to 70cm) to give you many operating options.
You could, quite happily use this rig for your entire ham career without wishing you had some other band or so forth.

In any case, if possible, save a bit more and then look up reviews, talk to other hams - and then make your own decision.

Again, welcome.

73 - Rob

 
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AC4RD
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2012, 04:14:27 AM »

The FT857D/FT897D are electrically equivalent, but the heatsinking and construction of the FT897D is much more robust.
...I came back to ham radio and the FT897D was my first rig, and I thought I would buy a more expensive one later.
But I have found, for my operating style, it does everything I ask of it, and is very reliable.
Subsequently I bought another for mobile/portable use, and still use one as my only base station rig.

I agree with Rob on that; I bought an 897 used from one of the big ham radio dealers, almost 2 years ago, and I *really* like it.  It cost me $700 with shipping and whatever their standard guarantee on used gear is.  I used it portable all last summer, operating with my riding lawnmower's battery from my back yard, and I had a GREAT time with it.  Smiley  The 897 is a great little rig, especially if you can get one at a good price.  And as I said in my earlier message, if you can find one from a local ham you can talk to face-to-face, and get some hands-on help in using it, that'll make it easier.  GL 73!
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KJ6MSG
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« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2012, 08:40:03 AM »

I know it is outside of your current price range, but I have a FT-450D and I love it. It's an all-mode HF/6m 100W transceiver that's very easy to use and has a lot of modern bells and whistles. I was contemplating a FT-897D, but I ended up going with the 450 due to true IF DSP and more modern, updated technology in general. Go play with one if you can.
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73,
KJ6MSG
@kj6msg
W8JX
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« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2012, 09:06:52 AM »

The term IF DSP is misleading because actually performance varies a lot in terms of noise reduction and selectivity and steepness of bandwidth skirts. The 450 is a entry level rig and it performance is as such as you get what you pay for. The cheapest decent IF DSP you can get is TS-590 and it outperforms rigs costing more too. A mature analog IF rig with good filtering will give better performance than a 450 overall and for less money too. 
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