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Author Topic: "Old" SWLer looking for first ham rig  (Read 8298 times)

Posts: 2

« on: November 24, 2012, 11:21:19 AM »

By old, I mean how long I've been in the hobby, not necessarily my age, although they do kinda go hand-in-hand, yes?  ;^)

I've been SWLing/DXing on and off since around the late 70s, and really got into it in my college days, starting around '79-'80.

List of radios I've owned for SWL/DXing:

Realistic DX-160; DX-302
Grundig YB-400
Drake SPR4
Drake R7
Sony ICF-2010

Also, I have a Yaesu FT-757GX that isn't working on anything but AM (no audio on the other modes). I may start another thread for that, but just thought I'd mention it. I'll also mention that I'm not crazy about the sound of it on AM. The audio is a bit "hashy", but then, it's not a full-working radio either, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I still have everything listed above except for the Realistic stuff. Believe it or not, I miss the DX-160. It was a nice little radio, even with the interpolation one had to do to figure out what frequency you were on.

I've been doing a lot of reading of the reviews here and elsewhere to see what kind of radio I'd like to get. I am leaning toward getting an older one instead of a newer/new one, because I don't like menus. I've played with a few rigs that have them, and maybe it's just a matter of not having played with them enough....  I also just like the look of a "classic" rig - just the right mix of a lit-up S meter, buttons, switches, frequency display, some shiny things....  I know some of you understand! :^)

Anyway, the radio I use the most for serious DXing on shortwave is the Drake R7. It has passband tuning, and a nice notch filter, and between the two, I can dig about any signal out of the noise.

Whatever radio I end up getting, I want to have that same kind of functionality.

Also looking for:

--Nice audio; minimal "fatigue" from listening
--General coverage recieve - I'd still like to use it for general SWLing and DXing shortwave stations from time to time.
--Base station, mainly. If I want a mobile unit, I'll make that my second rig.
--No need for high power - 100W or under is fine with me for now.

I have my Tech license, but am studying for the General. Don't yet know CW, but would like to learn.

I have to say, from looking at the reviews, and from what the few hams I know have told me, that I'm probably going to be a Kenwood guy, at least for older rigs. So that's where I've been focusing my research. My "dream" radio from what I've been reading is probably the Kenwood TS-940SAT. It looks like it would be a good radio that would allow me to still do shortwave listening and DXing, while slowly getting my feet wet (or jumping in cannonball-style!) in ham radio. That gives you an idea of my budget too I guess.

I have trees and room for antennas, but so far only have random length long wires and a dipole that is in need of repair or retiring.

I have no qualms about doing mods or replacing caps or anything like that. Or I can always bribe my brother into it - he lives next door and has been wielding a soldering gun since the days of tube TVs and mechanical tape recorders.

I'm not liking the prices at eBay right now for Kenwood equipment. Is it always that high? Is it the time of year? Is demand going up for some of the older Kenwoods?

That's all for now..... Thanks for any guidance you can provide!  I plan on getting with some guys from the local amateur radio club as well for advice.

Posts: 100


« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2012, 11:26:46 AM »

You might want to tell us what your budget will be as far as the radio goes. Remember you will also need a power supply unless the radio you buy has a built in supply. So you will need a supply that can handle 25 amps, 30 amps would be better. Two of my supplies are good for 30 amps, the other is good for 35.

I am partial to Yaesu radios, but I have owned Icom and Kenwood (although the Kenwood rigs were not general coverage, TS-520, TS-530 and TS-830)

A good starter rig is an Icom 718. Easy to operate, DSP included, general coverage and won't break the bank. You can buy a new one for $730 and have a rig with a warranty.

I don't blame you for not wanting to buy on EBay, the bidding wars get way out of hand on there and drives up the prices of older radios.

There is a good Swap listing here, on and Check those out for used rigs.

Posts: 3

« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 05:18:01 PM »

If you like the operation of your R7, you might consider the Drake TR7.  They can be connected for transceive operation.  I have this setup and enjoy it.


Posts: 2575

« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2012, 02:04:09 PM »

I as well have had good luck with used Yaesu equipment. Purchasing on eBay is indeed problematic and you are as likely as not to buying someone's problems or some rig that was hack-tivated. If you have an elmer nearby that you can take a look at their setup and maybe give the dial a few spins might help you narrow down your quest.

If you are careful you can find a HF/VHF/UHF multimode capable radio in the $200-$400 range and I would suggest starting out simply. Think of this as your first car, you did not get a Lexus or some other high end vehicle, it was probably used, had some quirks and maybe a dent in the front fender. As you evolve into the type of amateur radio operator you want to be you can supplement that with a TNC or computer for digital modes, a key for CW and other accessories. Fortunately many of those accessories can follow you along as you grow into another type of radio and you may keep your first "clunker" around as a piece of memorabilia.

For antennas there are amazing things you can do with a wire. As an SWL'er you already know this, if you have been winding your own baluns (or not) you can make just about any antenna get you out there to some sort of audience. Just do not expect to work one hundred seventy countries in thirty days. Enjoy your tech privileges in VHF/UHF and the tiny little slivers on HF, learn the theory behind what is in a general license (memories can be forgotten, learning usually leaves scars <lol>).

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
Free space loss (dB) = 32.4 + 20 × log10d + 20 × log10 f

Posts: 270

« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2012, 02:59:39 PM »

There has never been a better time to learn CW than today. There are many programs and websites like LCWO that mean that learning is rather different than it would have been 50 or even 20 years ago, at least for learning the basic character set. The odd thing with CW is that it "gets ya". I thought it would only be a small part of my radio life once I had started on it and it had become my radio hobby entirely almost.  Grin

I'm only a pretty new ham (2 years) and am still on my first radio, an Icom 718. I like its ease of use and intuitive feel, and the price was right (near new). What I don't like is mine came with no CW filter.  Sad

Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell

Posts: 376

« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2012, 12:26:05 PM »

You'd definitely want to stay away from radios like the FT-857, IC-7000 - they are meant as mobile rigs, and although they work well as base stations too, you have to dive into a menu for everything. (Don't get me wrong, the IC-7000 is a great radio for example, but it was infuriating trying to find ones way through the various menus without a manual just to set the TX power.)
Have you looked at the Kendwood TS-2000 or Yaesu FT-2000? These are current models, but with a fairly old school look and I especially like the user friendliness of the TS-2000. Although some settings require pushing the function key, almost everything is clearly labeled on the front panel.

Maybe consider the IC-9100 or IC-756 pro too; although they're a bit more complicated than the TS-2000 I like that they have dedicated rotary controls for stuff like RF power and CW speed.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2012, 12:32:39 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
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