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Author Topic: What is going on with modern rigs  (Read 7883 times)
M6YDB
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« on: November 01, 2013, 01:38:04 PM »

Looking at the reviews section there seemed to be a golden age of transceivers around the late 80's / early 90's with many of the rigs from that era scoring 4.8 - 5.

The newer rigs from the big 3 are scoring around 4.5 - 4.7 for the mid range and 4.6 / 4.7 for the more advanced rigs (590S, FT 2000, 7410 etc).  Yes I know the FTDX 1200 is on 5 at the moment but its only got 6 or so reviews.

So, what is going on?

I have a couple of theories.

1/ The rigs from the 'golden age' were built to a spec and not to a price.  No expense spared, careful consideration of design to get the absolute most out of technologies of the time and above all simple to use.  Take the Kenwoods of the era - the 430S, 830S, 870S, 930 & 950S - all the controls there in front of you right where you need them to get the best possible RX / TX.  No digging through 40 levels of hell which are modern menus.

The new all singing all dancing rigs need users to play around with the settings to find those that suit them best.  They could almost be accused of giving operators too much control and too many options.  Without studying the manuals in depth and really getting to grips with the equipment being used people are disappointed in the end result.

2/ People are inherently more impatient (would it be rude to say lazy?).  They just expect the rigs to work out of the box with no work required.  Hey, the latest idroid phones do that, why not rigs.  Coupled with point one above it means that people just do not take the time to get their radio set up properly, do not study the rig in depth and really learn the features inside out and are ultimately disappointed that their $$$$ rig will not pull in signals from Jupiter and beyond at 59+ on a shoestring antenna.

The basics of HF RX and TX haven't changed.  Propagation still affects things, signals drift in and out, being a ham operator still takes effort.

Which leads me to

3/ People's expectations are just too high.  They think that the latest and greatest $$$$ rig should be able to defy the fundamental laws of physics.  That modern DSP's will be able to pull signals that don't exist out of the noise floor and that they somehow mean that the hobby no longer requires work on the part of the operator.

But hey, I am new to the hobby so I may be way off the mark.  Anyone else have any thoughts?
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WA9FZB
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2013, 02:17:38 PM »

I think that many of the reviews of vintage gear are "calibrated" to rate the gear versus the expectations for equipment of that era.  The reviewers are comparing a Drake 2-B with a Collins 75A4, not with a Kenwood TS-990.  So, vintage gear that is only "decent" compared to today's better rigs can be rated very highly versus its contemporaries.  Also some, not all, reviews of vintage gear are written from vintage memories of how that gear performed, rather than from current tests and measures.

With reviews in "real time" of the current rigs, I think people compare gear to their current recollections of new equipment, and to what they believe that technology today is capable of.  I would personally bet that (with some exceptions for the real classics of the past decades) if we compare a 40 year old rig rated at 4.8 with a new rig rated at 4.0, we might be surprised to find that the newer rig is actually more competent.

Case in point - compare rigs like the KWM-2 with the Kenwood TS-590S reviews.  I wouldn't trade my 590 for the Collins any more. . . regardless of the ratings.
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M6GOM
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2013, 02:18:56 PM »

I think option 3 is the one that hit the nail on the head.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2013, 03:37:42 PM »

I don't think you can realistically compare radios by comparing their average ratings on the reviews. There are just too many variables. The exception may be if everyone is giving it a very low rating because it just didn't work reliably out of the box.

The guy who purchases and reviews a KWM2 today probably loves it because it brings back memories of his earlier radio days, not because he believes that has better stability than a top of the line synthesized,  DSP based radio today. Most people compare the radio they are reviewing to whatever they had before rather than putting it on a fully equipped test bench and doing a technical analysis. You really have to read the reviews to pull out the points that may be relevant to your purchase decision rather than looking at the score.
 
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2013, 03:51:09 PM »

Would #2 be the guy that gave the Kenwood TS990 a low score after playing with it for less than an hour at his local ham store. Really accurate review there.... Makes me wonder about a lot of them. The new high dollar rigs can't be evaluated in that amount of time, that won't even let you find out what it can do much less set it up.

Clif
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K8AXW
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2013, 05:57:43 PM »

YDB:  You pretty well covered all the bases.  I think one of the worst things that has happened to the ham transceiver market has been the menu driven rigs.  There has been an ongoing competition to add more features with each new one until, as you point out, you have to "go through 40 levels of hell" to reach the needed functions.

My last, and hopefully the last, session with one of the 1+KBuck rigs that has an instruction manual 1/2" thick was mind blowing!  There's no way in hell a typical ham can use this radio effectively within a WEEK! 

In order to get to the "button and knob" logical function class of radio we now have to spend really BIG bucks.  In other words, we have to spend more to get what we used to have!

No only that but we're also getting into the specialized ICs which are used to make these menu driven rigs work.  That one is going to bite a whole buncha people in the ass in a few years!

I had an offer of a menu driven Icom recently, at a price that was incredible.  After a moment of thought I turned it down and told the guy "I wouldn't take the rig if it was free."  The reason was it would have turned my enjoyable "button and knob" rig into a session of frustration every time I went on the air.

Sure, I could eventually learn to use it but at my age whenever I get away from my gear for a week or two, which happens quite a bit, I then have to go back through the "40 levels of hell" once again.  No thanks.

Al - K8AXW
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KH2G
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2013, 06:19:50 PM »

Speaking only for myself, after 60+ years of hamming, I enjoy most any radio that does what it is designed to do. I have a TS-2000 that came with a thick manual but it didn't take but a short time to have it running well in the modes I was interested in. Over time, I would try some of the newer modes and that took a bit with the book but since by then I already had the basic of the rig it wasn't painful. It seems to me that we may need to slow down and try just enjoying the hobby. I like the old tube rigs for nostalgia purpose but I also wouldn't like to be rock bound as in the old novice days. I pray I will never be too old to learn and try new things. (Got to admit I don't have the patience for moon bounce - hi). Guy told me he didn't like the new stuff because the things were too small to work on - I told him SMD soldering is just another new skill and magnifying glasses work wonders. 73,
Dick KH2G
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M6YDB
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2013, 02:06:43 AM »

I should have perhaps clarified a little.

Many of the negative reviews seem to be things like 1/5 as a rig with an average PEP meter isn't showing 100W, 2/5 as they don't like the sound with no mention as to whether they have tried to adjust it to their liking and yes, those ridiculous 'I have owned this YaeKenComm for 5 minutes and I haven't made contact with outer Mars yet we I could on my 2 buck in completely different climatic conditions'.

That let me to the conclusion that may be a fundamental misunderstanding by some people over how to use their rigs and I wonder if that it because these days we just expect things to work (if you got HF like usability from you iDroid you'd be upset) and people have forgot (or plain just don't appreciate) that HF comms is much much more complicated and affected by so many factors other than the number of flashing lights and dials and cost of the rig they use.

You are bouncing a radio wave off the edge of space afterall - its not always going to be perfect!!
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W4KYR
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2013, 11:13:52 AM »

I should have perhaps clarified a little.

Many of the negative reviews seem to be things like 1/5 as a rig with an average PEP meter isn't showing 100W, 2/5 as they don't like the sound with no mention as to whether they have tried to adjust it to their liking and yes, those ridiculous 'I have owned this YaeKenComm for 5 minutes and I haven't made contact with outer Mars yet we I could on my 2 buck in completely different climatic conditions'.



Two of the worst reviews (of a review) I have ever seen was with the IC-706 , one ham gave it a 0/5 and called it a steaming pile of crap and then never told us why it was a 'steaming pile of crap'.

Another ham also gave the IC 706 a 0/5 because (get this) it only had 100 memories...that was his beef with the rig...

What kind of a reviews are these?
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2013, 11:31:27 AM »

"What kind of a reviews are these?"

The kind I simply ignore. Also the ones that give 5 of 5 saying the rig is great because I worked some DX within the first 10 minutes of use.

« Last Edit: November 02, 2013, 11:33:30 AM by AA4PB » Logged
K8AXW
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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2013, 06:33:22 PM »

Whenever I read reviews on anything, rather it's a transceiver, a camera or whatever, I always filter out the reviews that were obviously written by an idiot or someone with an ax to grind.

As for this later one, no matter what the product might be there are those who automatically find fault with it because of ignorance or they suffer from delusions of grandeur.

One just need to read and evaluate those who seem to be providing a truthful and objective opinion on a product.  The final thing to remember is, it's just an OPINION because in 99% of the cases no technical measurements or comparisons were made.

Al - K8AXW
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G3RZP
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« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2013, 03:06:49 AM »

The only reviews I bother with are those from a trustworthy source that come with measured performance figures.

But one thing about 'new' radios is their comparatively poor transmitters in terms of high order IMD  compared with the last generation of transceivers that used tube PA stages. The exceptions are those Yaesu rigs that can have the final stage running Class A. The results of SM5BSZ's measurements show some well known transceivers even fail to meet the requirements of the Radio Regulations.

Some SDR based transmitters are exceedingly bad for high order splatter and noise.

73

Peter G3RZP
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W1JKA
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« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2013, 04:49:55 AM »

Nothing is going on with modern rigs, they are just keeping current with today's technological advances in order to meet the needs of the operators holding one of the three classes of learners permits issued by the FCC.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2013, 04:55:37 AM by W1JKA » Logged
K8AXW
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« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2013, 06:33:06 AM »

Quote
to meet the needs
  Jim, How about "take advantage of?"
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NA0AA
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« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2013, 06:39:28 AM »

IMHO, it's simply the nature of amateur equipment reviews.  Most amateurs are pretty poor judges of the technical qualities of the radio, and few of them do extensive A/B testing.

Lots of readers see numbers and don't really understand what they mean, or more importantly, how much measured differences mean in real operations.

I would go so far as to say that most amateurs in a black box a/b would be hard pressed to tell the differences on the air.

I bought my current radio partly because of its good reviews, partly because of prior brand experience, and partly for the ergonomics of the design.  The latter is actually the most important on a day to day basis.
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