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Author Topic: First hf radio?  (Read 2788 times)

Posts: 176

« on: January 25, 2007, 11:45:56 AM »

I just passed the 5 wpm code test and I am planning to take the element 2 test at the next testing session in my area and I have a question. What is a good starting radio for a new hf ham? I was looking at the icom ic-718, I heard that it has a good receiver. I was also considering an all-in-wonder such is the icom 706mkIIG or the ft-897d. I have heard these radios are noisy and maybe a bit hard of hearing.

I was also considering used, but I'm not sure if I would be better off getting something new instead of something with tube finals that could go out..

My budget is a big concern I am in the price range of $500 to $1000 but something closer to $500 would be better. I have also heard from some other hams about getting a used tentec series as well.

One thing that concerns me with a low-end radio like the ic-718 is that you cannot stack filters since it only has 1 slot. Again I really don't know anything about filters so maybe I am overstating their impact.

I also have a Kenwood g707a vhf/uhf in the shack right now, so the vhf/uhf capabilities of the dc to daylight rigs are not that important.

As you can see I am quite confused and as I am new to hf I do not know which mode I would prefer.

Posts: 21837

« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 02:22:05 PM »

The little rigs including IC-718, IC-706M2G, FT-897 etc all work fine but can be frustrating to use, especially if you're already used to "real" rigs.  If you have zero experience with HF transceivers, you'll likely think any of these are absolutely great.

Frustrations, though, include:

These rigs don't have internal automatic antenna tuners.  As such, unless your antennas are "perfect," you'll need to buy an outboard one, almost as a certainty.

Due to lack of front panel space, and also to save money in manufacturing, these rigs use menus, rather than front-panel controls, for many adjustments.  Some people don't mind this much, but it drives me nuts.  Especially once you're used to serious operating, which involves constantly adjusting almost EVERYTHING.  

The three rigs you mentioned all have satisfactory "audio" (modulation characteristics) but none of these are great.  Probably the best sounding "little rig" on the market today is the Kenwood TS-480S.  It also covers 6 meters, and has an internal automatic tuner, which may well make it the best deal on the market.

"Little" rigs also absolutely, positively cannot support full-time full-power operation, period.  Doesn't matter what the specifications are -- they don't have sufficient heat sink area to do so, especially if the operating environment is above 77 degrees F, as is pretty common.

I'd much prefer a larger, older (used) rig for home station operation, and leave the "little rigs" for mobile/portable work.  There are some great used rigs on the market for less than $1000, and they're all solid-state (no tubes).  Bigger rig will have internal automatic tuner, larger heatsink, run cooler, more filters and filter options, usually internal memory keyer, many have internal digital voice recorder/playback, better noise blankers, more usable metering functions with larger scales and better resolution, etc, etc.  It's a long list.

However, even though I do recommend an older used rig instead of a cheaper new one, I would not make this purchase via "mail order" (eBay or similar)...find a local seller and go try out the rig, yourself.  Local sellers are everywhere, unless you are the sole occupant of a remote island.

73 & good luck!


Posts: 3

« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2007, 02:28:07 PM »

My first HF rig and still my current rig - Kenwood's TS 570 SG.  I think it's a good rig for the price  73!

Posts: 22

« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2007, 05:50:32 PM »

My first rig is the IC-718, and I prefer it's size, larger than a mobile, but not nearly as large as the big units.  We have a travel trailer and boat I'd like to use it in.  I am one of those with zero experience with HF rigs a previous poster refers to, and I do think it's absolutely great, especially in ease of use.

Given I wanted to buy new, with a warranty, rather than a more expensive rig with internal antenna tuner inside the shack, I preferred the IC-718's lower price, which let me afford an Icom AH-4 antenna coupler I can mount between the feedline and antenna outdoors.  It is integrated into the IC-718 interface like an internal tuner.  It's activated by the "Tune" button and can also be set to automatically tune at PTT after a frequency change.

The IC-718 only has two one-level-deep menus.  One is available at power-up for settings that seldom change and the other is accessed via the SET button for settings that change during operation. Better yet, some of the settings are accessed via push-and-hold off that function's On/Off button.  No nested menus to get lost in or multi-function buttons to have to look at the display to see what they'll do if pressed at this instant, something I don't care about with mobile units.

The keypad is primarily dedicated function buttons, with numeric frequency entry secondary, as I think it should be, not the other way around. The frequency entry is done by pushing the enter button once, entering the frequency, then pushing the enter button again.  It's a very ergonomic layout, easy to learn, and easy to use quickly.

Since I don't have a license yet, I haven't transmitted with it, so I can't attest to the transmit duty-cycle or quality.  You can probably find out something about that in the eHam reviews of the IC-718 from people who have actual experience with it.  From what I noted there, it must run cooler than the 706.  I'm using a borrowed Bencher BY-1 key for code practice (break-in off), and find the Iambic B mode a little non-intuitive than I think an A would be.  But B seems to be more popular, and I'm sure I'll get used to it.

I can tell you that hooked up only to a TV antenna for receive, it impresses me, but again, I refer you to the reviews from folks with more experience.   I didn't order one, but it definitely needs a CW filter, and will probably order an 500 Hz Icom FL-52A or 400 Hz Inrad for it.  With that, I think one optional filter will be plenty for me.  For the size of the speaker I think the audio quality is good, and the front-firing speaker means I don't have to crank it up to distortion levels to hear it.

At this point, I'm only interested in HF, so it's fine for me. With the AH-4 and filter, I'll be in for about $1,000 all new.  I think if I got interested in 6m and/or other VHF or UHF, I'd prefer separate rigs for those so I could monitor them while working HF.

That's another HF newbie's perspective, for what it's worth to you.

Posts: 2415

« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2007, 10:24:24 PM »

Good, Proven solid rigs for HF:
Icom IC 735, Used,300- 350 dollar range
Icom IC 718, Brand new 500 buck area
Icom IC 756PRO, Used, 900-1100 bucks (A LOT of radio)
Kenwood TS-2000, Used, 1100-1200 dollar range.
(Do it all in one box radio, But not near has good
as the 756PRO for HF)
If you buy used, I suggest the classifieds right here on Eham, And avoid places like Ebay.....  Or better yet, Buy local.

Posts: 1

« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2007, 07:41:13 AM »

I just got my first HF rig... Kenwood TS-120S.  Basic, simple, CW ready and 100w... To the door... $230.  That and a free 40m dipole, life dont get much better!


Posts: 100

« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2007, 03:52:04 PM »

I am fairly new to Ham Radio, as well.  I also participate in Navy-Marine Corps MARS, so I needed an HF rig that I could use for that purpose.  I ended up getting the Icom IC-718, and haven't regretted it once.  Read the reviews on the various radios you have mentioned in the 'Product Reviews' forum.
One thing that you will notice regarding the IC-718, is that it is a solid performer, and is often given the misnomer of being an 'entry level' radio.
Here is a quick breakdown of models, average rating, and price (price from Universal-Radio):
706 Mk IIG
354 reviews (4.5 avg rating)

FT 897D
190 reviews (4.7 avg rating)

225 Reviews (4.8 avg rating)

I am a little biased toward the '718, because I own one.  I did a lot of research before taking the plunge, and found that after reading all the reviews, and with the current price, the best use of my money, the most 'bang for my buck' was with the 718.  Of course, you will need an outboard tuner, as the other posts mention, but you can find those relatively cheaply, and you still have money left over that you would not have if you go with a more expensive radio.
Again, this is my first HF rig, and for a 'first' rig, I think it fits the bill perfectly.  As I develop within the hobby, I will undoubtably get other radios with more capabilities, etc, but the '718 will always have a place in my shack.
Best of luck on your decision...Any of the radios you mention will be a fine addition to your stations.
73 and hope to hear you on the air sometime.

NNN0XPD (Navy-Marine Corps MARS)


Posts: 99

« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2007, 01:59:38 PM »

Very simple answer. Kenwood TS-570D(G). You can get one brand-spanking new for under $900. It has a built-in antenna tuner (which the Icom doesn't). It has two antenna ports. Very flexible (AF) DSP filtering that gets the job done very well considering the price point the rig's in. Built-in CW keyer with built-in message memories. A cooling fan you can barely hear. Very easy-to-use menus with a scrolling description of each one in plain English. And Kenwood audio, best of all. It's been on the market for just a few months shy of 10 years, it's bullet-proof and ultra-reliable. (I have owned two over the course of the last 10 years, and toted them to Field Day every year. No complaints.) There are other rigs out there, but none in the price range of the 570 that can compare in longevity, price vs. features, and just plain indestructibility. Go on -- read the product reviews here at

Posts: 352

« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2007, 09:13:12 AM »

I tend to agree with CLEBOT.  The 706 and 897 are portable/mobile rigs.  The 718 is meant to be a base rig and I think will be a little more comfortable to use.

You might even think about an FT747GX.  These lack some bells and whistles, but really are a great, simple-to-use first rig.

My 2 cents.

73, JP, K8AG
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