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Author Topic: radio selection  (Read 3106 times)

Posts: 5

« on: April 07, 2008, 12:43:03 PM »

I am not sure if this is the corect area to ask this, but I am somewhat new at ham radio and i am about to upgrade to general class this weekend. I need help choseing a new hf rig, I am curently saving up money to buy a ft-897d, but my parents sugested that i might get a cheeper rig like the ic718 or the ft 817 or some other qrp rig. the problem I have is my antenna, i am planing to use the apartment antenna from mfj the mfj1625, this is due to the lovely document called cc&r.

And for those who think i shuld use a flagpole ant, the little hill net to my shack that would be oh so perfect, a sewer pipeline is under there...
ps. oh, the reason for the 897 is for the 2 and 440 bands as all i have is a half broken ht

Posts: 21836

« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2008, 01:42:34 PM »

The antenna's far more important than the rig.

The MFJ-1625 can actually work fairly well *if* it is installed clamped to an aluminum window frame, so the entire whip is outside, with the tuner kind of sitting on the windowsill facing inside.

And that's pretty much the only way it will work.  Don't even think about using it entirely inside.

If you can *ground* the window frame, or the mounting bracket for the 1625 (they should be one and the same place), that will help a lot.  Use the shortest possible and fattest possible ground wire to an earth ground or at least a cold water pipe nearby.

Learn how to adjust the antenna carefully, it's a bit of a trick but after a few dozen tries it becomes easier.

Using QRP with such a small antenna could be an exercise in frustration; 100W will work better and make contacts easier.

The FT-897D isn't a bad choice.  An IC-706MK2G would also be a good choice.  An IC-7000 is an even better choice.  The IC-718 is a nice little rig for HF but doesn't cover VHF at all and therefore might not suit your needs.

Really key is making the most out of your antenna situation.  You might find a "nearly invisible" end-fed wire like the PAR EDZ product, or a nearly invisible loop installed under the eaves of the house, or something else, will work better...but it takes time and experimentation!

Good luck.



Posts: 719


« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2008, 03:03:18 PM »

The FT-817 is a fun radio; but, 'WIK is right, using it with compromise antennas will be an excercise in frustration.  Consider one that can do 100 watts on HF.

I suspect that you can create an antenna that is less obtrusive than a properly-installed MFJ whip.  I just pulled up your address in Google Earth.  Are those tennis courts behind your house?  You could probably run some #30 wire out most of the way and tie it off to the top of the fence with some fishing line.  Cheap and invisible.  If it breaks, replace it.

My biggest regrets in ham radio are:  1. that I wasn't more creative with antennas sooner and 2. that I didn't start operating CW sooner.

Good luck!

Posts: 5

« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2008, 09:40:37 PM »

I would love to  run magnet wire to that fence but people walk next  to that fencee and it is only 5 feet high

Posts: 719


« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2008, 12:31:30 PM »

Rats.  That's surprising.  Most of the tennis court fences are pretty tall.  The point, though, is to be creative.  You can get on the air!

Posts: 8917


« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2008, 06:54:45 AM »

"And for those who think i shuld use a flagpole ant, the little hill net to my shack that would be oh so perfect, a sewer pipeline is under there... "


Is it on your parents' lot or not?  You don't need to *bury* the radials if that's what you're worried about, just staple them down to the grass.  Putting antennas and their radials over buried utilities of any kind is fine, in general.

But your parents might not be quite as understanding of all that wire and coax everywhere as mine were ;-)  But in my 13 years as a ham the thing that's allowed me to fill up yards I don't own with antennas and coax and radials all over is lawn work.  

When I started ham radio in high school I did the lawn and so my Dad never really cared that I had three or four coaxes running across it.  I had to take them up and put them back down.  We had a big yard and sometimes we would share the duties, but I would always do the parts where my antennas were.  Now that I'm in grad school and renting a house while I'm here, I said to the landlord "I'll do the yard work if I can put up antennas."  Happily accepted...  ;-)

Forget about that apartment antenna.  

The PAR End-Fedz are a good starter antenna if you can't do radials, and you can buy telescoping fiberglass poles to hold them up (a company called Jackite sells one that would hold up a 20m PAR EndFedz no problem, Spiderbeam sells a great 40' one for about twice the price )  The nice thing about that setup is that it's NOT permanent.  You can go out and string it up in one minute flat on Saturday morning and talk on 20m.  Maybe the neighbors and CC&R enforcers wouldn't care much, especially if it is distinctly not permanent.  Hard to tell.

One of those MFJ apartment antennas with 100W running to it could give you a weaker signal than a simple, cheap 1/4 wave vertical or dipole or PAR antenna with just 5W applied, especially if you can't get an excellent ground for the apartment antenna.

A PAR End-Fedz won't claim to do all bands 40m through 2m, but it will work MUCH better on the band it's intended for than any inexpensive "all band" antenna.  The same would go for a simple single-band half wave dipole hidden somewhere or installed temporarily when you want to operate.

Don't get too caught up in the fact that there are 9 HF bands plus the 60m channels to cover.  You'll have a lot of fun if you pick one to start with and do it well. (20m is good in the daylight hours into early evening, 40m is good if you never can get on before dark)

Don't forget that 40m is a band that's *best* after dark, and even huge antennas on black fiberglass telescoping poles are invisible after dark, and not even all that obtrusive in the daytime:  

Sore thumb during the day, but it's possible no one would even notice you had it up if you only put it up at night.  That's the Spiderbeam pole, the Jackite version is shorter and slimmer.

Just keep in mind that good HF antennas, especially for the lower bands, are somewhat BIG.  Think about how you can hide big antennas, not which small antenna is best for you.  The small antenna market for the new ham on a budget is a bottomless pit for your money.  There are a handful of good, expensive small antennas out there, and a giant financial minefield of poor ones that can be bought for $100 or $200 and seem like a good deal until you can't talk to anyone.

As far as the FT-897 vs. the FT-817, I would steer you toward the 100W radio because you won't need more than 100W for years and years if you put up good antennas, but you will occasionally need more than 5W to make some contacts that you want to make.   I've never run more than 100W and I have 300 DXCC countries worked overall, and I've got 7 more DXCC countries to work on 160m before I have 100 countries or more worked on every HF band except 60m.  I'm closing in on 200 worked on 40m, 30m, and 17m, and over 250 worked on 20m.  You can do that with 5 watts too with really great antennas, and QRP is fun, but 100W is plenty of power to work anywhere in the world with simple antennas.  There are many contacts I would not have been able to make over the years with 5W and the antennas I had.  

My current radio is an FT-857D, electrically similar to the FT-897D.  I think the '897 will make a good starter rig and will stick with you for a long time, whereas if you buy an FT-817 you probably will find that you want more power in the near future.

The only exception to this is if you're really very limited by parents and CC&R's to basically having no antenna.  Then the FT-817 and an excellent portable antenna might be fun, you can go operate from a tent in the woods or something with a dipole strung up 40 feet in the trees ;-)





Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 1042

« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 12:53:29 PM »

I'm going to ring in on the 100 watt radio as well - I have a 20 watt portable and I find that frustrating at times even though my home rig is 100 watts max.

I like the FT-897 I have - if you can afford the filters for it, all the better but if not, you can install them later.

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