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Author Topic: looking for HF transceiver recommendation  (Read 1594 times)
NEVBEN
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Posts: 110




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« on: November 30, 2017, 11:13:09 PM »

I'm looking for a commercially-built HF rig.  It will be my first such rig, so I'm looking for advice from people who have more experience.  So far I have built kits, QRP, and so on. I'm looking to expand beyond 1W and one band.  I think I will benefit the most from a very good receiver that is better than what I can build myself.  I can't say the receivers I built are on the Sherwood list.  I was just happy they worked.
I'm still mostly interested in CW but want SSB capability.  Some criteria:

- narrow CW filter
- Full QSK
- SSB-capable
- need 20, 30, 40 and prefer 160m also
- minimum 5W, 10W or even 100W ok
- built-in automatic tuner desireable but could use external
- will be used with open line and wire antennas, primarily horizontal dipole, G5RV

I want to be able to operate without a PC.  I totally see the point of SDR and using a PC.  But my career is on a PC and I get more than enough of it. Just ask my dog. Whether it's SDR or not, I at least need to be able to operate without the computer.  I could maybe do something Arduino or Pi-based, but that's probably not what I'm looking for this time.

I prefer to buy used but have also considered some newer radios that are hard to find used.  Some of the transcievers I've considered are:

* K2
* KX2 (modern but no 160m)
* Argonaut VI (no tuner)
* Eagle

Obviously, there are many more radios for $1000 and up but I could get a nice example of one the above for $600-900.  If I could find something nice closer to $500 I would jump on it sooner.

I have a feeling there are some other nice radios out there I am overlooking. Like the LNR LD-5 or 11 maybe.  But the 5 doesn't have 160 and the 11 compares in cost to used Elecraft and I just don't see used LD-11 for sale.  What else?
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OZ8AGB
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Posts: 348




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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2017, 03:59:08 AM »

My first real HF rig was the K2 that I put together myself. I then added SSB, ATU, RS232 and DSP. I built a 180W amplifier for it. It was my main rig for over 10 years. It was originally built for CW and has a great receiver.
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KD0ZGW
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Posts: 738




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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 05:18:51 AM »

A very good radio available used  well below $1000 is the Kenwood TS-590S (not the "SG").  Does everything you want well and is reasonably easy to operate.  Output power is easily adjusted and internal tuner works well.  Only real negative is adding a bandscope takes a little more effort than usual because of the design of the receiver.

KD0ZGW
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G8UBJ
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Posts: 486


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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 05:48:08 AM »

Maybe have a look at the FT-891 as well? You may like or hate it depending on your tastes but its not too expensive even if you have to buy an ATU to complement it?
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K7RBW
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Posts: 488




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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2017, 06:03:50 AM »

The $600 market is pretty slim. For new rigs, you're looking at an Icom IC-718, Yaesu FT-450D or FT-891. Any of which are solid radios.

Or, you could just wait and watch eBay to see what pops up.
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K0UA
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Posts: 1466




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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2017, 09:55:21 AM »

Icom 7300 is one heck of a rig . Now $989.  I have one and whole heartedly recommend it.
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NEVBEN
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Posts: 110




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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 03:39:12 PM »

A very good radio available used  well below $1000 is the Kenwood TS-590S (not the "SG").

Icom 7300 is one heck of a rig .

Is the relay switching slow in QSK mode?

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WB6BYU
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Posts: 17192




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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2017, 07:04:04 PM »

There are a number of older rigs in that range. 

My primary rig is a TS-450SAT:  10 - 160m, 100W but I regularly run it at 5W, digital display, built-in autotuner
(with a fairly wide range, but doesn't work on 160m).  Narrow filter for CW is an option, and it does well at QSK
(though not perfectly silent), at least to 30 WPM or so (as fast as I have tried it.)  They are getting a bit long in
the tooth, but one in good condition could be a keeper.  I wouldn't go for one of the earlier versions (TS-430 or
TS-440) without giving it a thorough checkout:  I had a TS-430 and didn't like it as much.

Many of the older digital Ten-Tec rigs would fit your criteria, except they may not have built-in autotuners.
But if you're going to be using open wire line, you'll probably need a wider matching range than many of
the built-in tuners provide.  I recently picked up a Ten-Tec Corsair for $125 including the CW filter, and
there are a number of models in the Omni series.    It is physically large, with knobs rather than menus,
and the main tuning is faster than I'm used to (though that can be fixed with a homebrew remote VFO).
There were several models in the Omni line that were well regarded.  Do your due diligence in searching for
potential problems: some of the PTOs and microcontrollers had issues.  Make sure it has the WARC bands:
ones before that era weren't as good.  Ten-Tec has always been legendary for excellent QSK.


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K5LXP
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 10:12:16 PM »

I'd say go big.  Think outside your limited/QRP paradigm.  There are lots of nice 100W rigs you can get for $1K or less.  If you're looking at used, you get more bang for the buck at hamfests than you can online.  I've seen some excellent deals well below auction and classified site prices at every hamfest I go to.

Don't mess around with old junk.  You want IF DSP, a nice display, stable reference oscillator.  In other words, not old, not portable, not mobile, not a novelty radio.  I have a K2, and while it's nice for what it is, I would never want one as a primary radio.  Something like a 746Pro is quite affordable today, 756's are starting to come down.  Or just check the box and get a 7300.  You never regret getting the best you can afford.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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VK6HP
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Posts: 186




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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2017, 01:29:33 AM »

I'd second the suggestion to take a look at the Kenwood TS-590S, if you could get one for a good price. During the recent international CW contest I gave a few of my classic radios a good checkout, using the 590S as a reference.  The 590S always won on the weak signal, crowded band test and the Kenwood NR2 DSP noise reduction algorithm also worked very well indeed on CW  I usually use the radio for SSB and find a few of the other features (such as receive antenna input) useful.  About the only thing to watch for is that early serial numbers exhibit ALC overshoot, upsetting some linear amplifiers.  If that bothers you, Kenwood have a free service modification available or just look for a later serial number radio.  The overshoot is common across a number of the popular brands, by the way.  There are various SDR workarounds if you feel you absolutely have to have a bandscope but bear in mind that the architecture that makes bandscope implementation awkward also contributes to the 590 excellent receive performance.
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WA9RHD
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Posts: 7




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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2017, 05:17:31 PM »

I would also suggest the TS-590S.

I know, I owned one for the last two years and only sold it recently, as I got a good deal on a K3.

As for your criteria:
narrow CW filter
- Full QSK
- SSB-capable
- need 20, 30, 40 and prefer 160m also
- minimum 5W, 10W or even 100W ok
- built-in automatic tuner desireable but could use external
- will be used with open line and wire antennas, primarily horizontal dipole, G5RV

The only one of your criteria that it doesn't meet out of the box, is the antenna tuner. If you use open wire (i.e. balanced line) antennas you would need a balun and at that point I would say spend the extra money and get an antenna tuner that has a balun built into it. Then you can tune the antenna, see the SWR and the power output on one device!

I just sold my TS-590S for $750 (plus shipping), which compared to what I paid for it new, ($1,400), is a steal.

The other concern, as you previously mentioned is the panadapter. Now you mentioned you don't want to operate without a computer. I completely disagree with this. For $120 you can buy a
SDR Play and assuming you have a computer, with the Crystal Radio Mod you can have a Panadapter --- plus Kenwood offers free control software for the radio. You can also use the SDR Play with the Rasperry Pi now! While the Panadapter is not essential, it sure saves a lot of tuning around AND with the bands as bad as they are, allows you to quickly see if there is ANY activity on a particular band of interest.

The receiver is very hot (see Sherwood's list) and the receive audio is excellent.

I'm not a big CW operator but if you read reviews from others that are CW ops, I believe that they love it!

Jeff
WA9RHD
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WA3SKN
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Posts: 6526




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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2017, 08:10:01 AM »

Do you plan mostly desktop, mobile, or portable operations?  What modes are you most interested in?  Any favorite bands?

-Mike.
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NEVBEN
Member

Posts: 110




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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2017, 11:06:39 AM »

desktop or portable, not mobile; I have primarily desktop in mind because I already have portable QRP rigs (though fairly weak kits and stuff)
modes: CW primarily, but I don't want a CW-only rig.  SSB.  I don't need other modes (AM, FM, or any digital mode) native on the rig.

No favorite bands, but I don't really need it to work with 2, 6, 10, 12, 17, or 60m.  I do prefer it work with 30m and 160m.
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WY7CHY
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Posts: 650




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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2017, 01:38:11 PM »

I know it's "Technically" a mobile rig; but I really like the Yaesu FT-857d. I use it at home. But if you want a real base station, the FT-897d is the exact same radio, except a base station case instead of a mobile.

The think I like best about it, is it does ALL BANDS and MODES. Not just 10-80m; but also 2m and 70cm for the local vhf/uhf traffic. It also does all the Am/FM/SSB/CW/RTTY/Digital modes.

It is a little more money that some other rigs, but you save money if you want to do any local vhf/uhf contacts. You won't need a 2nd radio. And the reason I like the FT-857d, is in case some day I WANTED a mobile, or retired and became a SNOWBIRD and was in an RV, or temporarily moving between different locations, or for field day; etc. the FT-857D is about the smallest all in one radio available. Full 100 watts of power. It's the "Jack of all trades" radio. (In my opinion).

There's a lot of places with it on sale; e.g. gigaparts has it for $799. A little more than you wanted to pay; but you wouldn't have to buy a another radio later for mobile; or for vhf/uhf 2m/70cm. The only drawback is that many of the settings are in a menu; vs knobs on the front. (Thus, the difference between a base station and a mobile). I do have other radios; e.g the ICOM IC-718. It doesn't do as much; e.g. no FM, 2m/70cm, etc. but my friend bought it new, never used it, and sold it to me because he was retiring. Sold it to me for $200. Couldn't say no. I also have 5 other rigs. But honestly; the BEST rig that does it all, is the FT-857d or something similar. You'll save money in the long run.
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Born Wild - Raised Proud: 73
Cheyenne, Wyoming
N9KX
Member

Posts: 2063




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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2017, 02:34:25 PM »

A very good radio available used  well below $1000 is the Kenwood TS-590S (not the "SG").  Does everything you want well and is reasonably easy to operate.  Output power is easily adjusted and internal tuner works well.  Only real negative is adding a bandscope takes a little more effort than usual because of the design of the receiver.
KD0ZGW

While the 590s is a very good radio with a plethera of features; i think you will find far less listening fatigue with a Ten-Tec Jupiter, Argo VI or Eagle.
I bought a 590s when they were closing them out for a great deal when the 590SG was soon to be released, and while it is a very good rig i truly missed my Jupiter and ended up selling the 590s and re-acquiring a Jupiter.  The 590s has far more features and buttons but the Jupiter is extremely quiet (and excellent) on receive and has far less buttons to fiddle with -- and -- to my ear it sounds infinitely better than the 590s on CW.  If you were only looking for SSB and digital the 590s might be a better choice... 
per usual ymmv...
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