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Author Topic: Boat Anchors- How much Transceiver do you really need?  (Read 28207 times)
N8FVJ
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Posts: 866




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« on: December 19, 2015, 03:55:55 PM »

Admittedly the 1960s era transceivers are not a true boat anchor, but are a viable compact transceiver that will perform in todays HF bands.  I had a general class license back in the 1990s. I took a 13 year hiatus due to a busy career. There is a large difference on the bands today. 20 years ago the HF bands were crowded. The WARC bands were welcomed too to relieve some congestion. A new transceiver back then excelled with QRM fighting tools making the difference in-between difficult copy and armchair copy. At night 75 meters was 'wall to wall'. Check ins to net had 250 hams and took hours.

I find the 75 meter band at night wide open now. Although the sunspot cycle is down, upper bands are not in the least congested and the WARC bands are rather quiet. So, under these new conditions, how much transceiver does a ham radio operator need? I am not referring to a DX contest rig, but a simple transceiver like manufactured in the 1960s & 1970s. Frankly, I am very satisfied with my Swan 350D. Only downfall is the drift. The X-Lock VFO stabilizer will bring that drift close to modern transceiver specs or stable enough to not have other hams notice.

The clean fully functioning Swan 350D cost $180 shipped! For reliability I spent another $30 replacing all electrolytic capacitors plus one audio coupling capacitor. A load of electrolytic high & low voltage capacitors exist in this transceiver. I bet it will play reliably for another 30 years.
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G3RZP
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Posts: 1224




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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 12:13:57 AM »

A lot depends on what you want to do, and to some extent, where you live. In a noisy urban environment, some of the modern DSP capabilities can be very useful. If you are a serious DXer, then a remote VFO is pretty well a sine qua non, as most DXpeditions and a number of DX stations work split. Few of the early boat anchor transceivers had real CW capability with a narrow filter. But if your main interest is general ragchewing on SSB, then yes, it's got all you want.

If you are into serious DXing split frequency operation is needed and on CW, a CW filter.
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KC3RN
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Posts: 230




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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2015, 05:46:58 AM »

My main rigs are a 70's era Kenwood TS-520, and a TS-130 from the 80's.  I have a "modern era" IC-718 that for the most part sits unused on the shelf.....  The 718 has all the "modern" conveniences - digital processing, narrow filter, dual VFO's etc.  In reality, it doesn't perform nearly as well as my older rigs.

I work a fair amount of CW DX.  I use the RIT on my Kenwoods just as effectively as the dual VFO's on the Icom.  I also do some contesting with these rigs, and an outboard audio filter (in conjunction with the IF shift on the 130) does amazingly well in these situations.  My 520 has both SSB and CW filters installed, and I find that most times I don't even need the audio filter with that radio.

As far as noise in concerned, I live in a relatively noisy urban environment.  The noise blanker circuits in the 520 and 130 are surprisingly effective in reducing this noise, without negatively affecting the signals I'm trying to listen to.  I can't say that about the 718.  The digital noise reduction seems to reduce everything....

I paid $200 for the 520 back  in 1993, which was a pretty good price at the time.  It's still a pretty good price, since these go on eBay for about $300.  The only work I've had to do on it was to replace the drive tube about 2 months ago.  Not bad for a 40 year old radio.  I bought the 130 earlier this year on eBay.  It was listed as "for parts or repair", and I paid under $200 for it, with an MC-35 hand mic.  Yes, it had a couple of issues, but they were really easy fixes.  So I paid less for these two rigs combined than for my 718.....

I bought the 718 last year when I got back into ham radio after being absent for about 15 years.  I felt I needed a "modern" rig to "keep up with the times".  I was wrong.
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KB4MNG
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Posts: 350




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« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2015, 06:14:49 AM »

I agree that you don't need a modern radio. I have several kenwood 520s and a 530. My main station is a kx3 with the amp. The kx3 is the absolute best receiver I have ever owned, it is amazing. Its nice to have something you can tie to a computer and band hop.

In reality, I could do fine with the 530. Gives me all the bands. I feel the TS 520 would be the "ultimate radio" if it had the warc bands.

I've come to the place in the hobby where I just enjoy getting on any band and making a cw contact. My sb 301/401 station can do that fine....
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G3RZP
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Posts: 1224




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« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2015, 08:27:15 AM »

I run a modern transceiver - built in 1983. An FT102, much modified, but it has CW filters and an external VFO. RIT is OK for a split of 2 or maybe 3 kHz, but especially on SSB where the split can easily be 20kHz, it's not good enough. Although building an external VFO shouldn't be hard - I very nearly did it for my HW101, but I inherited the FT102 first.

The only modes I have an interest in are CW and SSB (AM is to be a separate rig): the '102 has served me well but needs  a bit of work on a more stable screen supply and individual bias controls for each PA tube. It's got me to the #1 spot on the DXCC Honor Roll anyway.

The '102 is competitive in terms of phase noise and IMD performance in this location, which certainly meets ITU rural noise conditions. So there's only bells and whistles that a modern rig would provide - and I already have more memories in remote VFO than I ever use!

One other point to remember is that the older radios with no surface mount and no specialised ASICs are repairable....
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WB0CJB
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Posts: 177




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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2015, 09:23:39 AM »

Give me a TS-520S, Drake TR4C, TS-120S, or HW series rig any day. Or even a Collins. Today's rigs are WAY too overloaded with switches, menus, and other frills that take the fun out of real operating. The vast majority of hams today probably don't use 80% of what their rig does. And if that one proprietary chip goes out and a replacement isn't available anymore then you have lost several functions that you'll never get to use anymore.
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KF7CG
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Posts: 1213




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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2015, 10:57:48 AM »

For a boat anchor, give me a Kenwood (Henry) TS511s that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy and refurbish! I loved that old rig, for heavier duty I will use my FTdx3000. It has better noise reduction but doesn't have the barefoot power.

KF7CG
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G3RZP
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Posts: 1224




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« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2015, 01:58:41 PM »

WB0CJB,

Given my 'druthers, I'd go for an SB series rig rather than a HW series. Just personal preference...

Of course, let's face it, a rig of that period is repairable BUT you need to have some basic knowledge to do it. If you are a 100% appliance operator, then no rig can be regarded as repairable by you, so it's just a matter of how big the pocket book is.

But for anyone with any degree of, or interest in gaining, technical knowledge - and MOST IMPORTANTLY, a willingness to learn about radio and electronics circuitry, the older rig offers many opportunities in learning and operating.

Plus the fact that having an Extra Class licence does not mean that you know very much about radio at all....just that you can remember enough answers to pass the exam.
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JS6TMW
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Posts: 1255




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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2015, 04:50:07 AM »

I've been using an FT-101ZD that I inherited, for about a year. I lived under a rock hamwise for 45 years so don't have much experience with modern transceivers except for a little on club expeditions and my own QRP rig. So I am mainly comparing it with the real boat anchors I owned and loved when I was a broke kid. Compared to them, the FT is a modern wonder!

Objectively what I wish the old Fox Tango had is slower tuning for SSB, the WARC bands, a bit more selectivity for CW, and more effective noise reduction on the high-QRN bands. No retuning for band-changing would be something I could get used to! (I enjoy it with my QRPer+SS amplifier) and if I hadn't also inherited an electronic keyer I would definitely want one in the transceiver.

73 and may Santa bring you the rig you hope for.
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KM1H
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Posts: 5087




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« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2015, 01:24:05 PM »

I went with latest and greatest of the Kenwood hybrids and have 4 TS-830's, 3 are used for transverter platforms from 6M to microwave and the other sits at the customer amplifier repair bench where it also is used on the air for testing and general operating.

With such a large in use base there are many excellent mods for improving it a bit more which Ive done to mine.

I also have a TS-940 and TS-950SD for serious DX chasing and general ragchewing.

Carl
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G3RZP
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Posts: 1224




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« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2015, 03:04:48 PM »

There's no doubt that the last generation of tube PA transmitter/transceivers were far cleaner on IMD, especially the higher orders, than the solid state ones that followed them. Those Yaesu rigs that could put the PA in Class A were an exception, but I gather they had problems with heat dissipation.

Although that is hardly surprising if one does the mathematics about the transfer functions of tubes and bipolar transistors.
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KC3RN
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Posts: 230




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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2015, 05:18:06 AM »

I feel the TS 520 would be the "ultimate radio" if it had the warc bands.

Well, the TS-520 will work on 30 meters.  Just set the bandswitch to 14MHz, and press the WWV button.  The 520 receives WWV on 10 MHz, and will tune from 10.000 to 10.500, so you're good to go.

The 520S will, unfortunately, NOT work on 30 meters.  The "S" receives WWV on 15 MHz instead of 10......

17 and 12 are a no-go on either rig.
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WB0CJB
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Posts: 177




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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2015, 08:33:21 AM »

Using the TS-520 on 30M is fine for a receiver. One will have to have some kind of transmitter for 30M.
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KC3RN
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Posts: 230




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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2015, 10:39:32 AM »

Using the TS-520 on 30M is fine for a receiver. One will have to have some kind of transmitter for 30M.

Sorry - you're quite correct.  I usually use a little QRP transmitter with my 520 on 30M.  My Bad.  The receive is great though.
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KG8LB
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Posts: 408




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« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2015, 06:56:45 AM »

WB0CJB,



Plus the fact that having an Extra Class licence does not mean that you know very much about radio at all....just that you can remember enough answers to pass the exam.

  Of course that applies to all license classes with the exception that, here in the US some older Extra class operators also passed a 20 WPM code exam .  Wink

    Some of the parts for older transceivers of all makes are getting harder to source . Makes for a bit of ingenuity and inventiveness . With the Yaesu there are some folks who specialize and that is a big help .

  My personal BA favorite is the Drake TR4 CW/RIT . Could be just sentiment as that was the rig I used in making my first CW contact . Then again , it is a good performer all around and rather easy to service.
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