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Author Topic: Considering a new rig - Contesting/DXing  (Read 12726 times)
W0GXA
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Posts: 27




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« on: March 04, 2013, 07:31:01 PM »

I'm taking a quick survey.  I've managed to get DXCC with my current station (TS-50 and wire antennas) and I'm thinking ahead a couple purchases.  the next thing is a beam and tower.  The next purchase after that will be a new rig.  I want something with a better receiver for contesting and DXing.  I also want dual receivers so I can better work big pileups split.  Not sure what else may be useful except for a decent computer interface.

I ONLY work CW 160-10m, so SSB performance is of no concern to me.  Keyer functions/adjustments, QSK are all important.

Most things in life have diminishing returns.  There's a point on the price/performance curve where you have to pay a lot for that last 15% of performance.  I'm not that guy.  I want a radio good enough such that I can't use it as an excuse for poor performance (in working DX)...  so it's probably not a $10K radio but it's probably not a $1000 radio either.

So, DXers and contesters, what's your favorite rig/rigs?

73, Bob
W0GXA
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NB3R
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2013, 04:50:58 AM »

Hi Bob,

My favorite DX/Contest Rig....Elecraft K3. CW and RTTY are my favorite modes.  I have two receivers both with optional 2.1, 400, 250, 8 pole filters.  The dual PB filtering is very useful on CW and RTTY. QSK is superb.  Download the manual and take a look.

For working a split you can beat using the IF out to a panadapter. I have Elecraft's P3 panadapter but I also use the LP-Pan (www.telepostinc.com) with my computer.  You and easily watch the pattern the DX station is working.  Easier to anticipate where he is going to work next. 

A loaded K3 is competitively priced with other modern rigs with two RX capabilities.

I also have a Flex 5000 with dual receivers.  I like it too, but it is not in the same league as the K3 for CW.

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K3GM
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Posts: 1824




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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2013, 07:39:05 AM »

Elecraft K3 w/second receiver, P3 panadapter with the SVGA card driving a 24 monitor. 

When working splits, you can here DX calling in one ear, and the pileup in the other ear.
You can run diversity receive off of two antennas; maybe a high antenna, and a beverage.

Is there anything you can't do on HF with the K3?  I haven't encountered it yet.
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WA9FZB
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Posts: 171




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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2013, 11:08:40 AM »

Take a look at the Kenwood TS-590.  it is sometimes criticized for "less than Kenwood" SSB audio, but as a CW rig I think it is a great one.  I'm 99.5% CW.  I have an early release TS-590 (Dec. 2010), and I love it.  I personally feel that the receive audio is easier to listen to than the K-3.  If you don't need dual receivers or bandscope, the 590 may be your best balance between features, quality and cost.
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N6JSX
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Posts: 217




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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2013, 11:27:40 AM »

What ever you buy, pay the lil extra to get "IF DSP", you'll love it. "IF DSP" is built into the radio, it cannot be an external or after market add on.

I first got my taste of DSP with a W9GR DSP II external audio box that was far better than the newer IC-706mk2g audio DSP (that sounded more like an audio attenuator). However, comparing Audio DSP's to IF DSP's is not really fair or possible - audio DSP's  going ot maximum capability all seem to make the audio sounded like a garbling waterfall w/step-down attenuation. IF DSP's have very very little of that affect.
 
Then I came across REAL "IF" DSP in a TT Pegasus - nice and far far better than the plug-in audio DSPs.
Now I have a IC-746P w/built-in IF DSP and its my prime HF base rig - here is what HF OPs should sound like.
Since then I upgraded the 706 to a IC-7000 in my mobile, THEE best upgrade I ever made!!! My BU/spare/go-box/FD rig is another IC-7000.... The 706 will eventually go to my repeater as a remote base.

I doubt more improvements can be made to "IF DSP" other than increasing processing speed/bit counts (16 to 32 to 64), and then I doubt you will hear much real audio difference (other than your bill-fold screaming at the newest 64 bit price). I'm sure the Flex-radios have a better IF DSP but at what price - ouch?

If I ever upgrade I'll not only want IF DSP for my OPs but a non-filtered full-time pan-adapter to spot those signals. I'm considering making my own Notebook USB SDR Dongle tapping into the radios non-DSP filtered 1st IF to make a band pan-adapter. Issue I have now is the 746P 1st IF is 64mhz, higher than most dongles and very few radios, any more, pass the IF signals out to the rear of the radios for us old time radio/gadget builders to utilize. 
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K8AC
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Posts: 1477




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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2013, 11:42:30 AM »

Hi Bob.  I've owned just about all the higher end rigs over the past decade or so and the TenTec Orion II has held the spot on my table for DXing and Contesting longer than anything else.  My idea of which features (for CW operation) are most important has evolved over the years, and is often not in step with what others see as most important.  For example, I find that a second receiver that's on a par with the main receiver isn't high on my list of priorities.  It's extremely rare when I need the same level of receiver to listen to split pileups as I need to hear the DX station.  So, in my Orion II, the original second receiver handles my needs nicely.  In fact, it's rare that I think I need anything more than the ability to occasionally listen to the split pileup frequency range.  I much prefer a good quality high resolution panadaptor to a super second receiver since the panadaptor allows me to see an entire frequency range at one time without tuning.  If I watch carefully, I can often discern any pattern the DX is using to listen to the callers and I'd never be able to do that if I could see or listen to just a single frequency.  Unfortunately, my requirement for a high resolution panadaptor eliminates the majority of rigs available today, with the Orion II, K3 and FTDX-5000 being among the few that I can attach an LP-Pan and good panadaptor software to.  The FTDX-5000 didn't last long on my operating table do to CW transmit problems and I just never liked the display and multi-function controls and compact size of the K3.  While the Elecraft P3 panadaptor is very good, it's just not as good as using an LP-Pan and NaP3 software with an Orion II.  While the main receiver and subreceiver (original) in the Orion II can't be phase locked for dual diversity reception, I find that diversity reception works quite well anyway, certainly better than in the FTDX-5000.  By the way, the LP-Pan setup with any of the transceivers I mentioned is light years ahead of what's available on the $10K+ rigs. 

Another thing I consider is: how much does the beast weigh, and how far do I have to ship it if I can't fix it myself?  Last time I looked, Elecraft and Tentec were perfectly willing to deal with you on a board replacement basis and so you don't have to ship a 70 pound rig across the country.  In the event you really need to ship an Orion to Tentec, it weighs considerably less than the high-end Japanese rigs. 

Good luck with your search.

73, Floyd - K8AC


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KF7DS
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Posts: 191




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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2013, 08:35:45 PM »

K3

Don KF7DS
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K1WJ
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Posts: 460




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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2013, 07:43:39 AM »

I also have a TS-50 - just keeps on ticking.......
TS-50 to a TS-590s sounds like the perfect upgrade - can not go wrong for price/performance.
73 K1WJ David
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20635




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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2013, 03:51:07 PM »

If the focus is CW and having a 2nd receiver, the Ten Tec ORION or ORION-II, or a K3 with the 2nd receiver option would be just about the only two rigs I'd consider to be not only great performers but worth what they cost.

Hard to beat CW performance with anything made by Ten Tec or Elecraft.

There are other rigs that may be better for SSB or digi work, but for CW these two rule the roost.
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AF5CC
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Posts: 1000




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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2013, 07:43:17 PM »

I think for price vs performance it is tough to beat a used Icom 756PROII.  If you look around for a while, you should be able to get one for $1200 or so.  Gives you dual receive and the nice band scope, plus built in CW and voice memory keyers. For a couple hundred more you can add the INRAD roofing filter later, and have a contest quality radio, and it includes 6m, a most excellent band!

John AF5CC
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K0RGR
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Posts: 106




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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2013, 05:55:16 PM »

I was surprised at what a difference it made around here when I added an older Ten Tec Omni VI + last year. I work mostly digital modes and CW and this rig has produced the best contest results I've had from this state, even with far less than great antennas.

I'd probably vote Ten Tec - Eagle, Omni VII or Orion. I've used a K3 in a CW contest briefly and it, too, has an amazing receiver, but I just like the feel of the TT rigs. I have owned a few over time, and have never been disappointed. I've won both CW and phone Sweepstakes contests with a TT.
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KC0W
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Posts: 49




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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2013, 08:14:15 AM »

 
 Yaesu 1000D's & 990's are relatively inexpensive & quite plentiful on the open market. There was a loaded up Kenwood 850 on QRZ a while back for $600 plus shipping. Although your current radio (TS-50) is fine, upgrading will bring a whole new enjoyment to CW.

  I own a pair of K3's but I have never bought into the rabid ownership (gloatingWink  that some owners have. They are wonderful rigs but I'm open minded enough to realize I could enjoy a FT-5000 or TS-990 more if presented the opportunity to A/B them against one another.


Tom KC├śW     
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KB1GMX
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Posts: 813




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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2013, 01:31:51 PM »

I went for the TenTec Eagle.  I also have a older (1978 build) TT triton M540, Tempo-One.
The Eagle brough allt he critter comforts like lid filters (auto notch), speech processor, dual VFO
and WARC bands to name a few.

Besides it looks right at home next to my TT 526 6n2.

Allison
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AD9DX
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Posts: 1509




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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2013, 07:47:48 PM »

I used to own a Yaesu FT-2000D while it is a good radio, I got to use a friends K3 and the next day I sold my Yaesu.  I feel the K3 although not the best looking radio is by FAR the best performing radio I have ever tried.  My dad has a Icom 7800 and even he marvels at what my K3 can do.  I like you operate 99% of the time CW and digital, but will still do some SSB during contests and the like.  A K3 with the TCXO, ATU and some filters will keep you very happy for a long time.  You can save some of the extra money you didn't spend on the FT-5000 for an amplifier.  Although you did not ask about them, if I had to do it over again, I would buy an Ameritron Al-1200.  I own an Alpha 76a (heavily modified) and my only complaint is the tube warm up time.  With the Ameritron AL-1200 the warm up time is reduced to seconds rather than minutes. 
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EX, KC9TRM, KB9IRZ
ZENKI
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Posts: 980




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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2013, 08:46:51 PM »

I would recommend the K3 with  the P3 and second receiver.

I would also recommend the K2 which is an excellent weak signal CW radio. There is just something about the K2's receiver on weak signal CW that makes  signals just jump out at you.

A K3 will almost be a waste of a good radio on CW only, therefore the TS590S would be a  happy all round compromise.
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