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Author Topic: First HF Rig, budget reccomendations?  (Read 4014 times)
KD0TSA
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« on: December 17, 2012, 01:38:10 PM »

I just received my technician's license back in November, and hopefully I'll be upgraded to a general in January.  Mostly I've been messing around with 2M/APRS stuff, but I'd like to get into HF.

I'm looking for suggestions on a good first rig (used) to keep an eye out for.  I'm mostly interested in CW.  SSB would be nice for trying out some of the new digital modes, but it's not strictly a necessity.  I've been eyeballing Kenwood TS-520s on flea-bay, as there seems to be good reviews here in eHam, and the price is right (~$250).

I'm not looking for all the bells and whistles, just something to get started with around $300 for the rig only.  Any suggestions as to what I should be looking for, or staying away from?  My property is large with a ton of trees, so putting up a wire between two of em shouldn't be a problem.

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VA7CPC
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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 02:23:04 PM »

This may be a minority opinion:

. . . Spend more money if you have to, and get a newer rig.

Icom IC-718, IC-706, Yaesu FT-897, Kenwood TS-570, or something like them.

The TS-520 design dates from the 1970's, and electronics design _has_ improved since then. 

.         Charles
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W1JKA
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Posts: 1714




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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 02:50:09 PM »

         First rig and used? FleaBay is not the way to go.If possible first try contacting local hams or clubs.Local hams in your area can be found on the FCC license data base.Let them know your looking for a rig,someone may have one for sale and you can try it out.Also do not forget your local area Craigs List.Try to keep your search local,less chance of getting burnt.I am not recommending any particular rig because it would tend to be biased.GL  Jim
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 02:57:50 PM by W1JKA » Logged
AC5UP
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Posts: 3875




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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 04:36:07 PM »

While the TS-520 was a popular rig and well regarded in its day, that day was over 30 years ago. Plenty of time for resistors to shift value and capacitors to dry out. You may find one that looks like new, but working like new is another story.

As W1JKA suggested, far better if you can source one locally and are reasonably certain of its condition and history. If you're experienced at R&R there is a chance of taking a fixer-upper back to the glory days of its youth, but the odds are against it and you could end up with a desktop money pit that gives you years of frustration. Do some searching in the forums here and you'll have no trouble finding threads that begin with:  I bought a radio that was supposed to be in good shape, but...

The seller wants nothing to do with the buyer's problems and the buyer thinks it's perfectly reasonable to burden total strangers with a POS radio. After all, just because we can't see, smell or hear the radio doesn't mean we can't diagnose and fix it through the keyboard.... We're amateurs, right? Too stupid to know what we can't do.

I second the motion that you work on the license upgrade first and think about HF later. The more experience you gain the more likely you'll make better choices with fewer regrets.
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NK7Z
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 05:21:18 PM »

I just received my technician's license back in November, and hopefully I'll be upgraded to a general in January.  Mostly I've been messing around with 2M/APRS stuff, but I'd like to get into HF.

I'm looking for suggestions on a good first rig (used) to keep an eye out for.  I'm mostly interested in CW.  SSB would be nice for trying out some of the new digital modes, but it's not strictly a necessity.  I've been eyeballing Kenwood TS-520s on flea-bay, as there seems to be good reviews here in eHam, and the price is right (~$250).

I'm not looking for all the bells and whistles, just something to get started with around $300 for the rig only.  Any suggestions as to what I should be looking for, or staying away from?  My property is large with a ton of trees, so putting up a wire between two of em shouldn't be a problem.

Look to QRZ.COM, and here for used gear!  One tip...  If you are purchasing used, be sure to do the following:

1.  Google the call sigh of the person selling the rig.  Look for things like this person is a cheat etc...
2.  Use PayPal, if you do get burned, and you are reasonable, then PayPal will back you up and assist in getting your money back.
3.  If possible call the person and discuss the rig with them, ask all the questions you can think of.

I have done many on line deals, and maybe one in a hundred goes south is some way.  When they do, if you used PayPal, you are fine...  If not, then you may be one of those folks I see on QRZ with the posts like; "Don't deal with W7CALLSIGNHERE".  There is currently a thread here, where one person has sold the same rig twice, to two different people...  Both of them are now in contact with each other...

Beyond that look for an older FT-101 or something like that...  They are cheap, and as you learn about filters etc., you will not find out you have a pile of cash into a rig, and maybe want better filters...  I bought my rig because of the DSP filters, but  had I not been a ham for decades prior to that, I probably would not have known how good they were...  Good lick and congratz!!!

73's,
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 05:23:56 PM by NK7Z » Logged

Thanks,
Dave
For reviews and setups see: http://www.nk7z.net
N3QOU
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Posts: 29




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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 07:32:38 PM »

KDOTSA,
      I too am having the same problem.. Staying local is great advice! I have
  some elmers that are a great wealth of information!  Along side of the hams ready to help   
  out here also. Some local hams even tag along and help
  not make a big mistake.The appeal of ebay is hard not to bid, I know I am there.   
  Good Luck.
  73's,
  N3QOU
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N3PDT
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Posts: 75




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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 08:23:18 PM »

I own a nice TS 520s. Nice old rig, but as mentioned, maybe not the best choice for your very first HF rig. A used IC718 or FT450, plus a CW filter, would be a much better place to start, in my opinion.

As for waiting... Heck no! As a Technician, you have th*SAME* CW privileges as a General on 10m, 15m, 40m, and 80m! Learn the code and use those bands. You'll be working the world while other Techs are still repeater jockeys and hanging around wishing for 10m phone to open up.

Go to a local club meeting. Make some noise on the repeaters about your intentions. Bug the known CW guys for help. Get involved. Around here, guys come out of the woodwork to help new and aspiring CW ops. I've got a couple keys and an 80m QRP rig out on loan to new guys right now. Denver is a big city with lots of hams. Tons of opportunity to find some help and guidance in purchasing a rig locally, and getting on the air with CW.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 08:26:22 PM by N3PDT » Logged
K8GU
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2012, 10:05:51 AM »

Essentially all of the old Kenwoods are great radios, but repair becomes a matter of "when" not "if" as everyone has said.  Finding a local elmer or local sellers is important for your first radio if you're going the used route.  I freely buy and sell things on eBay, QTH.com, et al, but I have a network to help me vet shady characters.  I think $300 is a bit low, but you can certainly get something in that range especially if you have a knowledgeable elmer.
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W8JX
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Posts: 5881




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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2012, 11:45:26 AM »

Essentially all of the old Kenwoods are great radios, but repair becomes a matter of "when" not "if" as everyone has said.  Finding a local elmer or local sellers is important for your first radio if you're going the used route.  I freely buy and sell things on eBay, QTH.com, et al, but I have a network to help me vet shady characters.  I think $300 is a bit low, but you can certainly get something in that range especially if you have a knowledgeable elmer.


For 300 you should be able to find a TS530 which is old but a good and newer upgrade over a 520. You could also likely get a TS140 which is a solid rig and very reliable.
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NI3S
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Posts: 67




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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2012, 03:15:35 PM »

Quote
You could also likely get a TS140 which is a solid rig and very reliable.   
This is the rig I bought.  If you are interested in digital work there is a direct PC interface available.  It met my needs perfectly.


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N4NYY
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Posts: 4775




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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2012, 03:42:42 PM »

This may be a minority opinion:

. . . Spend more money if you have to, and get a newer rig.

Icom IC-718, IC-706, Yaesu FT-897, Kenwood TS-570, or something like them.

The TS-520 design dates from the 1970's, and electronics design _has_ improved since then. 

.         Charles

I agree. I have heard too many nightmares over used rigs.
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WA8FOZ
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Posts: 192




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« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2012, 07:12:30 PM »

Quote
Icom IC-718, IC-706, Yaesu FT-897, Kenwood TS-570, or something like them.

I agree emphatically. As a newcomer to HF, you want to get something that works reliably and will not impede your learning with breakdowns. Old rigs are a wonderful pursuit when you have more experience, but not now. You want to GET ON THE AIR, STAY ON THE AIR, and learn how to operate  and enjoy the characteristics of each hf band and mode.

You may be able to get a gently used reliable rig from a reliable local source or a trusted ham dealer. These rigs will also be more salable than an older rig if and when you want to move up.

Another thought: the most important thing of all is a good antenna, preferably one that will let you try out more than one band. A tuned-feeder dipole, with a good "antenna tuner," is ideal. Properly erected, it will work well on all bands from the fundamental up.... Even if it is 75% the length of a half-wave on the lowest frequency you wish to use, it will work pretty well. Next choice would be a fan dipole.

Welcome to HF!
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M5AEO
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2012, 11:16:49 AM »

There is only one contender..........it's got to be the Icom IC-718 !
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VE3LYX
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Posts: 141




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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2012, 03:41:45 PM »

Build one. Nothing is more fun then building a 1 tube CW rig and getting your first contact.
Rigs like The Bare Essentials Rig from Electronics Illustrated is almost fool proof. An old discarded Ac Dc radio and a couple of afternoons along with the easy to find 3579 TV colorburst crystal and you will be hooked for life. I still use mine from time to time. Can work east and south with ease with good sig reports. After that build a modulator or a three tube AM rig and if you win the lottery then you can buy a new fridge.(Appliance radio that comes from Japan in a box) 
Don VE3LYX
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AD0AE
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Posts: 78




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« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2012, 09:22:40 AM »

I think this topic has been very well covered, but I will add a bit more. 

1. I agree 100% with NK7Z.  Do your homework on whoever you buy from.  If something feel fishy or strange, break it off.  Paypal is great.  I have also bought a lot of equipment where people asked for money orders from the postal service.  Those work very nicely as well.  IMHO, any reasonable seller will not want to be screwed just like you as the buyer will not want get screwed - hence using things like money orders or paypal.

2. If you haven't already been clued in on this, www.qth.com is one of the best online classified to get a new HF transceiver.  I actually was in a similar position to you a few years ago and ended up buying an IC-718 off of QTH for around 550.  I have been very happy with it.  I will also say I have had a lot of good purchases off qth.

3. I would seriously consider getting an IC-718 or FT-450D.  Those are two of the 'starter' rigs.  And again, for me, I have been very happy with the 718.  I am not sure I would want many more bells and whistles.

4.  I will also echo that local clubs are great places to get equipment.  You may be able to burrow something as well - so keep that in mind.

Good luck and 73s!

Steve
AD0AE
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