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Author Topic: Newbie looking for HF transceiver advice  (Read 31019 times)
N0IU
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« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2013, 12:32:28 PM »

This is not a fair characterization of simple antennas like a dipole.

True, but you made your comment without even knowing what kind of antenna the OP is going to end up using. Plus keep in mind that he is brand new (and I know I am going out on a limb here) and he has most likely never built an HF dipole before. We have to keep in mind the experience level of our audience.

So, what you're recommending is an SWR/wattmeter... 

Well yeah, that is probably a lot closer to my intent, but I still stand by my original remark that he should get a tuner (but maybe this time not in all caps and in bold typeface!)
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KB1WTY
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« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2013, 01:48:22 PM »

Yeah, in addition to my problem of being an absolute newbie to this, I also have antenna limitations, in that I live in an apartment building with no outdoor space for an antenna. Per advice I've gotten on the eham antenna forum, most likely I'll either build a wire antenna or buy/build a magnetic loop antenna. If I'm going to be spending in excess of $1K on everything else, I might as well spring the $100-$200 for a tuner, even if I could do without it (at least for the piece of mind that my improperly-designed antenna won't destroy my radio, assuming I build one myself).

Do transceivers not have fuses to protect against a no-load condition, or is that unfeasible for some reason?
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AF6WL
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« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2013, 06:32:02 PM »

Yeah, in addition to my problem of being an absolute newbie to this ...
Do transceivers not have fuses to protect against a no-load condition, or is that unfeasible for some reason?

Even though you are new to this, if you are thinking about spending $1000s on something, there is no excuse for not doing some background reading: the ARRL handbook ( 2013 edition is on sale and 2014 is out soon - take your pick ) and the General Exam books are a start.

TCVRs normally have a limited amount of foldback protection against minor mismatches, but lots of power into an open or short will instantaneously either create lots of volts or lots of current.
Silicon is the fastest acting fuse known to man  Wink
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KB1WTY
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« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2013, 08:35:33 PM »

Even though you are new to this, if you are thinking about spending $1000s on something, there is no excuse for not doing some background reading: the ARRL handbook ( 2013 edition is on sale and 2014 is out soon - take your pick ) and the General Exam books are a start.
Definitely. I've had the 2014 ARRL Handbook on pre-order for a little while, Amazon says it will be shipping 10/1. My plan is to work through it and then upgrade my tech to a general before doing anything else.
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KB4VVE
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« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2013, 05:35:47 PM »

My recommendation is to get with one of the local clubs.  You'll find a lot of helpful hams and many have 'junk boxes' of just the stuff you'll need - in many cases for free as they would rather give it away than throw it away.
Tuners are wise and they can be very inexpensive.  Power supplies can be a battery and small charging unit to get started.
Lots of the ham club members have loaner radios - not the newest but work fine.
And the Club will often be willing to have an 'antenna raising' party.

Best of luck,
Gerg
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K5TED
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« Reply #20 on: September 26, 2013, 06:42:06 PM »

I use a MFJ-1786 Magloop. It works well in a restricted space.

You can buy or build.

Depends on if you want it today, with a relatively expensive but tried and true device, or at some undetermined point in the future, after much crafting and calibrating your own homebrew magloop.

I paid $150 for my MFJ-1786 at a local swapmeet. You can buy one new for about $470. Much of your ham experience will depend on how married you are to the idea of brand new vs. good used, and the fear of failure tempered by a warranty vs. you make the choice and live with it.

My observation is that if you are in that dilemma to the point of inaction, then you probably don't really have the expendable resources to even be considering this hobby.

Look for good deals and take advantage of good used when possible, and buy new when it is the most sane thing to do.


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K8GU
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« Reply #21 on: September 27, 2013, 05:14:08 AM »

True, but you made your comment without even knowing what kind of antenna the OP is going to end up using. Plus keep in mind that he is brand new (and I know I am going out on a limb here) and he has most likely never built an HF dipole before. We have to keep in mind the experience level of our audience.
Well yeah, that is probably a lot closer to my intent, but I still stand by my original remark that he should get a tuner (but maybe this time not in all caps and in bold typeface!)

Ha.  True on all accounts.

A mag loop is a situation where having an additional tuning network (on top of the one built into the antenna itself) would definitely invite problems.  For example, if you don't get a match with the antenna itself, it's a bad idea to use another tuner to force-feed it.  Perhaps that's obvious, though.

I use a MFJ-1786 Magloop. It works well in a restricted space.

You can buy or build.

Depends on if you want it today, with a relatively expensive but tried and true device, or at some undetermined point in the future, after much crafting and calibrating your own homebrew magloop.

I paid $150 for my MFJ-1786 at a local swapmeet. You can buy one new for about $470. Much of your ham experience will depend on how married you are to the idea of brand new vs. good used, and the fear of failure tempered by a warranty vs. you make the choice and live with it.

My observation is that if you are in that dilemma to the point of inaction, then you probably don't really have the expendable resources to even be considering this hobby.

Look for good deals and take advantage of good used when possible, and buy new when it is the most sane thing to do.

This is really, really sound advice.  One thing I might change is to say, "If you are in that dilemma to the point of inaction, then you probably don't really have the expendable resources to consider that purchase."  Anyone who can afford to spend any money on a hobby can afford ham radio...it just may not look like an IC-7800 and multiple towers of stacked monobanders...or even an IC-706 and a magloop.
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KB1WTY
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« Reply #22 on: September 27, 2013, 01:47:46 PM »

My observation is that if you are in that dilemma to the point of inaction, then you probably don't really have the expendable resources to even be considering this hobby.
That is a good point. While I can afford to do some spending on a hobby, it's more a matter of, "is this the hobby I want to spend that much on" or even "what's the wisest way to spend it on this hobby".

I'm considering going with a low-power HF kit to get my feet wet (specifically the Peaberry SDR). My interest in ham lies on the electronics side of things (as opposed to ragchewing), and I know eventually I'm going to want to build radios. I wanted to buy a commercial unit to have a sense of how well a "good" radio works, but considering a Peaberry is $150, it might make sense to get it first (along with the antenna and tuner) and get a transceiver later on if I feel the need. A lot to think about. Luckily, I'm pretty clear on what my next two steps are: 1) read the ARRL handbook when it arrives next week, and 2) take the test to upgrade my ticket to a general, and then I'll have to do some deciding... hopefully with a better understanding of the trade-offs than I have right now (which is already way better than the understanding I had a month ago).
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KZ1X
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« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2013, 05:43:29 PM »

The single most important part of your station is the antenna.

(I know, you asked about what radio to get.)

I have a Peaberry (it's for sale if you are looking) ... and a loaded Elecraft K3, too.  As well as other rigs.

But none of them are more than fancy looking paperweights until I hook them up to the aerial!
I don't think it is unreasonable to set a 1:3 or higher ratio for radio cost to antenna investment.

Since you live in an apartment (I once did also) operating on HF there is going to be challenging.
Not impossible, but, challenging. 

That means every contact is a real, true accomplishment!  You just have to look at it the right way.
CW & PSK / similar modes are going to be WAAAY better than SSB voice, as you'll no doubt find out.

You may consider mobile or portable operation is what floats your boat more, especially
 where you live (I used to live nearby in the mid 80s).

In those days there was a great club in Brookline.  LOTS of terrific, helpful hams, right in that part of town.
Is it still there?
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K5TED
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Posts: 780




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« Reply #24 on: September 27, 2013, 07:27:21 PM »

Regarding the danger of used rigs, in 2005, I purchased a "good used" vintage 1989 station consisting of a TS-140S, PS30 power supply, AT-250 auto-tuner, and the SP31 speaker, plus all the cables, for the princely sum of $600. Subsequently, I added the Piexx serial board for about $80.

8 years later it's all still going strong. I feel it was a good $680 spent on used gear.





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AF5CC
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« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2013, 09:19:43 PM »

I think the one thing I'm sure of is that I don't want to start with a used radio. I'm sure there are good deals for radios in excellent condition, but I'd still prefer to go with something new and with a warranty. .

Most ham dealers sell used radios and they come with a warranty.  One upside of buying a used radio is that if you decide you don't like the hobby, or the radio, you can get your money back on it.  You can't do that with a new radio. Also, you can get a much better radio for the same price. Given the choice between a used Kenwood TS850 or a new Icom 718, I would take the Kenwood in a second. It will run rings around a 718. 

73 John AF5CC
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K5TED
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« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2013, 07:37:45 PM »

Another solution for condos/HOA is a length of wire, as long as you can get away with, and a SGC autocoupler. Not the cheapest route, but again, if you don't mind shopping a bit, you might find a "good used" SG-230 for around $150, as opposed to nearly $600 for one. Or, maybe a SG-237, retail $360, good used price under $200. You'll need at least 8w to drive them to tune properly on a short antenna, btw. The advantage is you can have a multiband antenna in a restricted space with tuning at the feedpoint, rather than in your face.

The SG-237, in particular, is capable of operating 40m-6m with a 4ft. diameter 5 turn wire loop. No DX magnet, but it'll make some contacts.
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KB1WTY
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« Reply #27 on: October 04, 2013, 07:38:16 AM »

Thanks for the last few posts, sorry for my delay in responding. I'm certainly more open to getting a used radio than I was, at least if it's from a dealer that checks it out before selling it. Unfortunately I got word that the ARRL 2014 Handbook has been delayed by 2 weeks, so I'm still waiting on that. Antennas seem like a very important topic and the one that I have the worst grasp of, so I will probably start there (maybe by building a few antennas for my HT).

KZ1X, I'm not sure which club you mean. There are a few around here that seem pretty active to me based on my listening into regular nets of theirs on local repeaters. I might look into joining one eventually, but since I work full time and go to school in the evenings, it's pretty hard for me to have a regular commitment (and I don't see the point of joining if I'm not going to be somewhat active).
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M6YDB
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« Reply #28 on: October 04, 2013, 09:53:33 AM »

If you are not sure about staying with ham as a hobby then certainly look second hand.

Look at my thread on a new hams station to see just how much you can get for your money second hand. And, if I came to sell any or all of it I would break even at worst.

One advantage of being in a club is that there are often people looking to sell gear and will strike a deal to help get a new ham on the air and even help set your station up and check everything is working.

Don't discount old but we'll looked after gear. Some of these classic rigs are built like battleships and are from a time when things were built up to a standard and not down to a price.

Good luck with it all...
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K5TED
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« Reply #29 on: October 05, 2013, 12:43:15 PM »

Just do it, man. Armed only with the formula for antenna lengths, with the information trove that is the internet, and what you learned in the General pool, you are ready.

Again, seems like way too much prep time vs. action here. Maybe, what with work and school, you really are in the position of being too busy for this sort of hobby?

Seems you've already positioned yourself for the hobby not working out for you.

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