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Author Topic: Dazed & Confused Newbie  (Read 6702 times)

Posts: 16

« on: January 22, 2013, 11:00:22 AM »

Hello across the board. I'm in need of a few directions maybe an "Elmer" or two to help me build a shack properly. Having recently passed the Tech license and missed the General by 1 question on 2-3 attempts, I'm just a tad frustrated to say the least. Needless to say, I'll just keep plugging away at it.

After reading multiple articles on older & newer rig comparison & trying to decide on the best radio for my anticipated needs, taking into account my past mistakes and all, I'm leaning toward the purchase of the KX-3. I know some might consider me be reaching for that "Brass-Ring" but my reasoning is to acquire the latest technology and still be somewhat mobile. Having more radio "whistles & bells" to learn and grow into is most important to me as well.

Budget consideration is a concern but I would rather plan well ahead and stride to not have to replace items just because I want something newer. Having interest in ARES & RACES activity, the ability of a Multiband radio & world-wide coms, HF/VHF/UHF seems the way to go. Hopefully the 2M module will be available this summer.

The other radio for consideration is the 897D with FC30 tuner I am wresting with.
And the 817  both would be good at my present level but, that inner voice keeps coming back about all these benefits can be had with the KX3 ! Just a tad more saving is needed.  Another worry I have is purchasing any used electrical item. Been burnt one or two times before mostly online purchases.

One fellow on this site listed his Z100 tuner but made no mention that no jumper cables or anything else were not included. Claimed it was new with a few hrs. of testing. So much for truth in advertising ! I guess I'm just experiencing information overload most times. Not a biggie I can whip the cables together with no problem but really now should i have to ? Not that it was a bargain-basement sale after all.
I guess the first thing I should do is get more involved with the local clubs and look for some direction.
Sorry for the rant guys, just a little Dazed & Confused at this point. 
Any pointers or suggestions will help me put things into perspective. Many Thanks  Undecided

Posts: 2483

« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 11:17:30 AM »

Almost anybody who has been in HAM radio as long as I have will suggest that you spend most of your $$$ on the antenna / tower.  For example if you have $5000 to "blow", spend $4000 on a tower and yagi etc and spend $1000 on a rig.

Even the $10,000+ rigs from ICOM and Yaesu will not perform well without a good antenna.

Assuming you already have a good antenna / tower (you did not say) then most any rig you mentioned will work great.  IMO there are subtle differences between the $10K rigs and the $1K rigs, but not night and day.

K3 is well thought of.  The 897 is a good rig too, but not quite up to the K3.  No matter which rig you buy and we all like the best and the latest rig with the most features, the most important part of any receiver still lies between the operator's ears.

Good Luck

Dick  AD4U

Posts: 17480

« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2013, 11:30:04 AM »

A lot of rig choice comes from personal preference, which, of course, is difficult to acquire
until you've actually use a few rigs.  If you can get to a ham radio store, sit down in front
of the various rigs and see how they feel to you.  Can you read the display?  the labels on
the knobs?  how convenient is it to navigate through the menu system?  Are your fingers
too big for the knobs?

Lacking that, get to know the hams in the local club and ask them to show you their
rigs.  Ask them what they like and don't like about each one, what features they really
find useful, and what ones they never use.

Remember that there are many different facets to ham radio, and each ham will have
their own operating preferences and priorities:  some features that appeal to the
hard-core DXers won't be of interest to rag chewers.  Don't expect even a vague
general agreement on any subject, but see what feels right to you.

Personally, I prefer to have separate rigs for VHF/UHF FM and for HF/VHF/UHF SSB/CW,
as they fill different roles.  Most of our ARES operation is on VHF/UHF FM, but we also
use portable HF occasionally when we are at the bottom of a canyon with no repeater
coverage:  I have the FM rig mounted in my car, and the HF rig with wire antenna in
a bag for a Go-Kit.  Sometimes I might be chatting with friends on 2m while tuning
through the HF bands to see what I can hear.  That's not to say that a "DC-to-daylight"
rig wouldn't work for me, but I might still have a separate FM rig.  Meanwhile, if you
separate the two functions, you will have more options to consider for each, and you
might find that the combination costs you less than a single rig that does it all.

My primary HF radios are a Kenwood TS-450 and an Elecraft K-2.  The auto-tuner in
the Kenwood has a wider range than may newer ones, and is sometimes handy when
I need to improvise an antenna, but generally I use wire dipoles that are already
cut to length and don't need a tuner.  The one feature that I really miss on the K2,
however, is a built-in SWR meter, so I don't need one in my tuners.  (I have several
manual tuners, both commercial and home-brew, that I've acquired through the

There are two basic approaches to antennas:  design and adjust them to have a low
SWR so you don't need a tuner, or use any convenient wire and slap a tuner on it to
make it work.  If you do use a tuner, make sure that you know what the SWR on your
antenna is without it:  I've seen a number of cases where the SWR was way high
(sometimes because the coax wasn't actually plugged into the antenna) and the tuner
would still match it, but it didn't seem to work very well.  A tuner at the shack end of
a length of coax isn't a good replacement for a properly matched antenna, but can
work well as long as you pay attention to the feedline losses.

Every station is going to require a number of patch cables to connect the equipment
and accessories.  You don't always know what you need until you start to assemble
all the bits and pieces.  Again, having a local ham who can help you (and might even
have some spare bits laying around).  The same is true for DC cables, etc.

Buying used equipment can be chancy:  as a teenager I spent my whole summer's
earnings on my first SSB rig, only to find that it didn't work.  But by the time I fixed
it, I had learned so much about the internals of the equipment that I upgraded
straight from Novice to Advanced.  Here again, get the advice of technically competent
local hams who know the rigs, and try to buy from a local if possible so they can
demonstrate that the equipment works before you buy it.

Posts: 116

« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 12:05:39 PM »

I understand your confusion.  I have a K3 (not the KX3) and until recently had an FT-897D as well.  I've had other radios as well.

Here's my suggestion.  Get a Kenwood TS-830S in good shape, with an SSB filter if you can (sometimes can be had for $450 or so) for HF, and a Baofeng UV-5R for VHF/UHF (less than $50).  Total investment before antennas about $500.  Leaves you lots of room to spend on wire, and you can sell the Kenwood later for close to what you paid, if you ever decide to sell.  You can take the Baofeng wherever you go, and with those two radios, you will have plenty to enjoy for quite some time.

Posts: 2085

« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 12:12:11 PM »

tuners don't really add any amps to the antenna... what they do is warm the shack instead of passing reflected power to the transmitter when adjusted so the rig "sees" a 50 ohm 1:1 at the power amp.

you may well get a tubload of QSLs from a random wire and tuner, but that's because things were copacetic for low-power contacts.

which is fine.  solve for X,Y,Z all you want, if you are making contacts, the math is optional.

Posts: 6642

« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2013, 01:15:58 PM »

First... congratulations!
Next, check out the clubs in your area. can help you here... lots of good advice available. I see about 8 in your area.  And they can tell you about local activity (ARES/RACES,etc.)
Then check out the repeaters in the area. And, then decide your interests.
Now you can plan on what type station you wish to build. And get a budget together.
Repeaters are a cheap way to get started, and there is a lot of ARES activity there too.
Are you planning desktop/mobile/portable operations?  HF or VHF/UHF FM operations?
You will need a power supply to power most rigs.  Getting one that will later power the HF rig is a good plan.  You can build both HF and VHF/UHF antennas fairly cheaply.
Welcome to the hobby, its an adventure!



Posts: 17480

« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2013, 01:54:38 PM »

Quote from: KD0REQ

tuners don't really add any amps to the antenna... what they do is warm the shack instead of passing reflected power to the transmitter when adjusted so the rig "sees" a 50 ohm 1:1 at the power amp.

Oh really?  You think so?  Then try this experiment:

Connect a 100W light bulb on the end of a length of coax.  Plug the other end into a
tuner with a bypass setting that goes to the rig.  Adjust the tuner for best SWR.

Now transmit at 100W and compare the brightness of the lightbulb when you use the
tuner compared to when you don't:  which one causes the highest current to flow in the

Posts: 2100

« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2013, 02:17:57 PM »

     You mentioned the KX3 along with the 817 so are you mainly interested in qrp ops? and if so any favorite mode? Also what is your current antenna status or plans for same?

Posts: 16

« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 03:11:14 PM »

Thanks guys for a new perspective. I have a good power supply, working on a dipole and a few others at this time. The Baofeng 2m HT seems a cheep enough investment for a throw-away.

Not sure if I would want several dedicated radios for working other freq's ? Maybe someday if I were to get more involved locally. Seems like I'm spending more & more time reviewing the multitude of antennas available when I should be concerned with passing the general !

In an effort to keep things simple and not go overboard on all these shinny new toys I think I'll just stay the course & look forward to the KX3 & get the proper antenna  placement figured out. I'm "guess ti mating" on a budget of $ 2,200-2500 startup for this shack. Splitting between Rig & Antennas

Looking toward learning cw when I get my head screwed on propertly. LOL 
Slow & Easy does it.  Got to learn how to crawl before I can run with you big guys. LOL 
Thanks for all the input.  Jim

Posts: 2808

« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2013, 04:16:34 PM »

The KX-3 and FT-817 are both QRP (low-power) rigs.

You can have a lot of fun with QRP radios, but you have to understand their limitations, and develop ways to deal with them.  With a beam and a tower, you'll do great.  With any kind of "compromised" antenna -- mobile, or shortened, or badly-placed -- you'll be frustrated.  With a well-located dipole (vertical or horizontal), you may be happy, or not.

I'd recommend a 100-watt rig -- _any_ 100-watt rig -- over those two.  A "basic" 100-watt rig -- IC-718, Yaesu FT-450D, etc -- will be a lot more fun.

.          Charles

PS -- I own an FT-817


Posts: 16

« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2013, 04:46:46 PM »

O yea Charles, that would mean allocating another 1,200 to 1,500 green stamps ! But a tower & beam, sure would be the way to go. For sure !

Have not heard much on Moonrakers . How to they rate with some of the present day antennas. Still a good choice ?

Posts: 1725

« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2013, 08:11:44 PM »

Let me echo Charles' recommendation.  As an owner of an Icom 703+ with a whopping 10W out, QRP can be very frustrating.  Many days go by that conditions are such that I can't be heard well enough to carry on a series of QSOs.

I'm very patient.  And perhaps you will be too.  But, being new to HF, you need to be able to make a lot of HF contacts, and that's not easily done with a KX-3, FT-817 or IC703.  At least of the quality needed for routine QSOs.




Posts: 16

« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2013, 04:29:02 AM »

Thanks Lee, so I guess the general consensus is to operate with some power !
100 W or better to start. Naturally antenna placement & type is critical as well.

So maybe I should seriously consider the 897D for its power, coverage & being somewhat mobile then maybe a VX-8 HT for local COMs.


Posts: 2808

« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2013, 03:54:05 PM »

For emergency comms, the FT-897, or FT-857, and a tuner will do nicely.  With that, and a hand-held VHF rig (for walking around), you'll have all bases covered.

The Icom equivalent was the IC-706, but it's out of production.  The IC-7000 which replaces it (as a "shack-in-a-box") is rather costly. 

.              Charles

Posts: 188


« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2013, 04:15:00 PM »

  Consider the Kenwood TS-590.   USB connected, software controlled, down conversion receiver and generally, easier to understand than some radios.   As far as antennas go, the S9 V31 with ground radials seems to work better for me than some of the shortened dipoles out there. 
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