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Author Topic: Hamfest Contesting Rig  (Read 38788 times)

Posts: 30


« on: November 17, 2013, 06:21:25 AM »

Dear Fellow Hams,

I'm going to be attending a few Hamfests in the coming year and want to be on the outlook for a decent rig with contesting in mind.  So I'm looking for some suggestions as to what rigs you more experienced contesters would suggest I be on the look out for.

I do like contesting but would not consider serious contester.  I currently use an Icom 707, so most anything would be an upgrade.

I mostly do SSB but have an eye toward some of the digital modes not really cw. 

My budget is going to be between $500-1000 with an eye toward $500.

Thank you in advance.

Bill - KU8K

Posts: 2005


« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2013, 08:38:51 AM »

With all due respect, any time you say, "CQ CONTEST" into the microphone, you have a contest rig!

In your price range, just about anything might be an improvement over your present radio. If you want to go brand new, the IC-718 is a great "entry-level" rig. With a current street price of around $780 you will get a lot of solid Icom technology, but without a lot of "bells & whistles".

As far as a used rig with more features, you may get a lot of recommendations, but buying used can be a real crap shoot. With your budget, I would personally stay away from a used rig unless you personally know the person selling it and they are willing to vouch for its condition.

Posts: 638


« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2013, 04:03:08 AM »

A good overall transceiver that shows up at hamfests a lot at a reasonable price is the Kenwood TS-850. That's was my main transceiver in a lot of contests for 20 years but is now the second radio to my Elecraft K3.

Most radios have most of what you want in a rig that is good for contesting - choices for narrow filters, computer interface for logging software, etc. A strong front end, ie high performance in the presence of strong signals, is a strong selection point - look here for good test rankings of transceivers. A clean transmitter is nice, too - but these days not as much difference in that area.

The final factors are ergonomics - what front panel layout and control choices fit your way of operating in a contest -  and reliability. The formal is a personal choice, not much data on the latter. But the TS-850 met all the criteria for me for many years.

73 John K3TN

John K3TN

Posts: 27

« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 05:43:55 AM »

KT3N is right, it's not just QRM but STRONG QRM nearby that will overload a transceiver.  Which is why I still use my kenwood 940 for contesting bullet proof front end and that
slope tuning is great in presence of strong QRM too.  Wish I still had my 850 that I sold though, the built in Voice recorder/player (DRU) would have come in handy for SS.

Posts: 481

« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2013, 06:15:29 AM »

I was going to suggest the TS850 as well.  The Yaesu FT990 is another popular contesting rig around your budget, but I have owned both and like the 850 a little more.  The Icom 751A would also be a good one in your budget, as would a Ten Tec Omni 5.

John AF5CC

Posts: 719


« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2013, 12:14:47 PM »

Another vote for the TS-850S.  A well-constructed K2/100 might be at the high end of your budget (or bust it), but that is another option.

Posts: 134

« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2013, 07:26:04 PM »

A Ten Tec OMNI 6 loaded with filters is a very worthy. I have one with a full load of filters and the INRAD 500Hz CW roofing filter mod. It holds its own with the new "contest rigs" just fine... very fine.
They sell mid range to your price window.
Vy 73, Don KO7i

Posts: 54

« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2013, 01:08:33 PM »

I had a TS-850 and it was very good.  Sold it only to upgrade other equipment.  However, it appears the Achilles heel of this rig is the DDS chips used on a particular production run.  If you want to buy an 850 read up on this issue and know how to tell if it has the "bad" chips (which apparently invariably die, with no replacements available) or the upgraded chips which Kenwood used later.  I believe this information is correct.  Someone correct me if I am wrong.

The other rigs mentioned (Ten Tec, and the Icom 751a) are also reliable.


Richard, AB4ZT

Posts: 799

« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2013, 04:53:19 PM »

A Ten Tec OMNI 6 loaded with filters is a very worthy. I have one with a full load of filters and the INRAD 500Hz CW roofing filter mod. It holds its own with the new "contest rigs" just fine... very fine.
They sell mid range to your price window.
Vy 73, Don KO7i

Aw, Don beat me to it!

Posts: 806

« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2013, 07:13:54 AM »

If the radio is for barefoot SSB contesting, receiving is not the biggest problem, getting heard is. So one wants a radio with good RF speech processor for that punching contest audio.   TS-850 is outstanding as on top of an excellent processor it also has a High Boost feature that makes the signal contest-efficient even with the stock mike. My guess is that TS-850 barefoot with high processing level and High Boost will be as effective in transmit as IC-707 with 500W amp. If not more.

TT Omni 6 (and earlier), IC 745 or IC751 have less efficient AF processors.

The high end option is Yaesu 1000MP series. They start from about $1200 but the power supply and second RX are included.

Ignacy, NO9E

Posts: 1555

« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2013, 07:01:49 PM »

A TS590S will meet your requirements.

It has got a very good receiver.

It will have all the failings of any other ham radio. Most of the radios recommended all have bad TX IMD including the K2. TS850, K3 and the TS590s.
Thats ham radio equipment these days 500 dollars or 10,000 dollars, they all come with crap transmitters.

Avoid the Yaesu radios that produce Keyclicks. Every contest you can hear the broad clicking Yaesu radios.
I would be in huge trouble if these Yaesu radios were popular in the USSR, I would not be able to contests because of the clicks they cause in Europe.
Yaesu should hang their head in shame for producing such bad click producing radios.

There is no perfect contest radio yet because even todays models have  many design flaws. You cant buy a radio with excellent receiver and a excellent splatter free

If I had a to chose a radio today I would put ergonomics first and place high   importance on non fatiguing phase noise performance on top of my list.
There are many so called high performance receiver contest radios that stink in ergonomics and how tiring their noisy receivers are.
Many hams are deaf to this fatiguing noise but if you have good hearing try and listen to the radio before buying. We still have radios being sold with 15%
distortion audio amplifiers that cost a lot of money.

Its unfortunate the ham radio companies seem to be stuck on their own planets. They seem to be cut off from the day  day technical arguments that goes on
in many technical forums  that discusses making ham radios better. Before talking about something advanced like receiver and transmitter performance,  take the issues
of amplifier keying. You can spend 10,000 dollars on a radio and it cant key you old amplifier because  the radio will be damaged if you dont use a key buffer.
This is an example of  tired worn out and incompetent engineering we get from the ham companies. Asking them to produce a low clean IMD radio when they cant put a 50 cent mosfet into radio that can key any amplifier  shows how  poor the mainstream ham companies are at listening to their customer base. Either this or they very arrogant engineers who think they know everything but know very little about a real world ham station.

You would have thought in the Year2013  we would have  had a radio that close to perfect on receiver and transmitter performance for contesting use. But this is not the case every time they make a new radio the break something in the design or forget to include or fix it. The ham companies are really treating hams with contempt. But that is no surprise since we the  hams who give radios 5 star reviews without even mentioning all these stupid design mistakes. We get the radios we deserve because we vote  for  products with our  money. Its no wonder  they keep producing the same stupid design faults.  We suckers for the same punishment. We lucky ham radios are not dangerous because if it was ham companies producing automobiles we would probably all be dead!

When I  see a ham company take seriously  all the issues that make a  ham transceiver  perfect I might have some hope. At the moment we just seem to have recycled designs without any improvement. Sure receiver performance has got better, but thats about all.


Posts: 1050

« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2013, 05:39:20 AM »

Second hand, TS850 and try to get one with the SSB filters. New, TS590.

Very important is to set your audio up. You want good articulation, not booming audio. So you want to be boosting around 2-2.4kHz and cutting the lows. If you go the TS590 route, the default HB1 TX contour is good. Make sure that when checking the compression you've no more than 10dB on voice peaks if you're going to use the processor and that you've just a bit of ALC - maybe half way up the "good" area, not even to the peak of it.
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