View Full Version : What's the best HF Radio?

11-09-2003, 02:08 AM
What's the best HF Rig out there? Got me one of them do it all radios, I wont say which one, and now I'm disappointed with its poor operation on HF. So, I'm thinking I want to get a great HF radio since that's where I operate the most. Looking for some suggestions since I've limited experience with all but two rigs in only 15 plus years of hamming.


11-09-2003, 02:19 AM
This could get ugly. Your gonna have the Collins crowd chime in, the the modern rigs like FT-1000 will say they blow the Collins and Drakes away, then the Collins and Drake people will say "Naaaahhhh" and on and on and on and on.

The best for WHAT? For CW? For phone? For low bands? It will be interesting. I've been interested in a new rig too, but can't afford the FT-1000 or IC-756ProII.


11-09-2003, 03:15 AM
Just put on the popcorn and hot chocolate…..Waiting in anticipation….. #http://www.qrz.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

11-09-2003, 03:45 AM
Yep: That is a big one.

The answer is going to be "What do you want for bells and whistles, and how much do you want to spend"

If you are looking for a good basic rig, you can get one for about $500 to $700. If you want the most exotic unit with all the bells and whistles available, then look to spend $5000 +.

Also on the $5000 + rigs, you better have more degrees than a thermometer to be able to understand the manual let alone be able to operate it.

The Icom 706 series seems to be very popular, and can be found for between $500 and $800.

11-09-2003, 03:59 AM
That's like asking which car is best or which brand of beer is best. Personally, my radios are the best, since they are the ones I can use!

Please tell us what you consider best. I'm picky about the receivers and suitable filters and CW and digital operation. You might be more worried about size, power output, menus, knobs, audio quality, etc., none of which are very important to me.


11-09-2003, 04:56 AM
The Elecraft kit has wonderful specs and a passionate following.

Dxpeditions seem to use the Icom 756 a lot. I don't know how much is preference and how much is Icom's willingness to supply them for promotional purposes.

The flip answer would be "the radio attached to monoband beams on a 150' tower".

11-09-2003, 05:17 AM
To find the best ask the contesters (and DXers). They need (and buy) the best so they can WIN.

I think the big manufacturers really hype their high-end "reasonable" rigs and send them on DXpeditions. You hear all about the 756Pro, but I think they have a IC-775 that will break your wallet. Kenwood has the 870S, Yaesu the FT-1000D. I would be surprised if the FT-1000D was not the "best", but once you are in the $2K range they are all good. How good do you need?

The Elecraft would be way up there in my book: I'd buy one in a heartbeat IF they had a general coverage and AM for SWL. PLEASE, Elecraft; you would double your sales. The receiver has killer specs.


11-09-2003, 05:26 AM
Has to be a Kenwood. TS 850s, TS 870 or TS 950 sdx. Have a look at the reviews on eham. Some interesting reading there.

Personally, Icom are the pits. If I got one for nothing I would sell it fast.

11-09-2003, 02:10 PM
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote (EI7JK @ Nov. 09 2003,01:26)</td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">Has to be a Kenwood. TS 850s, TS 870 or TS 950 sdx. Have a look at the reviews on eham. Some interesting reading there.

Personally, Icom are the pits. If I got one for nothing I would sell it fast.[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
On the other hand, every single Kenwood I have has been back for repairs before the warranty was out. None of my Icom or Yaseu rigs have ever needed repairs.

You see, it&#39;s all opinions.

11-09-2003, 03:57 PM
OK a few replies mention a few radios, and some ask more questions. Here are the radios mentioned so far:
Icom 756, IC-756 ProII, FT-1000, Icom 706 series, IC-775
870S, FT-1000D, Elecraft, TS 850s, TS 870, TS 950 sdx.

To those with more questions I&#39;ll try to narrow the scope a little. First, if its just a very expensive radio with all the bells and whistles that does NOT necessarily make it a great HF radio. As someone said, if I need more degrees than a thermometer to operate the rig, it is prob NOT the best HF radio.

What do I mean by best HF radio? It can do it all to a some extent. Great for phone, great for CW, good filters, well designed, realible, the list goes on and on. I know we&#39;re talking opinions here. Some opinions are just more true than others hi hi.

If you were going to buy your last HF rig, one that would take you into retirement, (even if your&#39;re already there) what radio would it be? And price is no object?

Price is not an object if the radio is worth the price. Doesn&#39;t mean I can afford it, but who knows. One final comment. It&#39;s gotta be a radio you can still buy new. No point in dreaming for something that just isn&#39;t available, cause I really don&#39;t like to buy used rigs.
Hope this helps. Thanks to those respondees so far. And feel free to email me your response off list if you like. Although it&#39;s much more fun here.


11-09-2003, 05:08 PM
This is an intensely personal subject. Almost every radio I have owned or used in the last 39 years has had both good and bad points. I have never owned &quot;the best&quot; radio, but may have owned the worst (Eico 753)
My favorites have been the Kenwood TS-520/530 series of radios for a variety of reasons. The Drake C line was also a favorite and I think that the receiver, with appropriate mods, ranks right up there with the best today. A very good case could be made that the Drake TR-7 might have been the all time best, although I never owned one.

The much maligned Alinco DX-70T ranks up there also. Presently I am enthralled with the Yaesu FT-100. Buying a &#036;3,000 - &#036;5,000+ radio does not mean you have the best unless you know how to effectively use all the capability these rigs have to offer. It is like buying a race horse to use at a pony ride or a Ferrari to use as a grocery getter.

There are hams that will purchase the newest thing on the market claiming to be the best, and only use it for 75 and 40 meter roundtables. Yes, there is pride in ownership, and that could be reason enough.

Most, if not all radios manufactured today are quite good. There was a time when Collins, and Drake (some would say National, Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, and Heath) were the best there was. Which is why there are more flavors than vanilla and more companies than GM in their respective markets. Let us know what you finally decide on and why.


11-10-2003, 06:37 AM
As mentioned, This is kind of like asking what is
the best brand beer or car............... #
My .02 cents worth for the best value HF radio
is the Icom 756PRO. Sure, you can buy a better
radio (IC775, 756PRO II, IC781) For a LOT more
money. But the 756PRO is a tough radio to beat
at its present selling price around 1100 to 1300
bucks.......... # #
For a &quot;new&quot; rig, the little Icom 706 in it&#39;s latest
version is hard to beat, especially if one is going
to go mobil with it.
For a really low price &quot;starter&quot; type radio, The old
Icom 735 still tops them all for value.
Check the reviews on Eham........ # (I would avoid
some of the &quot;cheaper&quot; new radios like the IC746...
just WAY too many horror stories with it........ #
I would never look at ANY radio as one that will be
&quot;the&quot; rig to have in &quot;X&quot; number of years in the future...
Things are changing way too fast. 10 years from now
we may all have COMPLETELY different equipment......
The radios that were &quot;King of the hill&quot; a number of
years ago are now totally out of date and no longer
even close to todays radios in performance.

11-10-2003, 02:43 PM
Well here is my two cents worth. I do like ICOM and I have three and not any problems. I been to Vietnam and asked others on the bands what radio/antenna they had. The biggest thing I learned is the antenna is the key. Spend more time or money there getting a good antenna for that will do the work for you. Even guys with good antennas beat the guys with ok antennas and more power.
As for radios, I bought couple used radios that were good 5 or so years ago. I like my simple and large display numbers on the IC-737 and not a billion buttons. I do like my IC-706MIIG for several reasons. Small, change the pitch of your voice for DX hear you better, and can put anywhere for small. I like my IC-725 for simplest but no processor. Radios for DXing should have processor.
I think some of these radios are too expensive when you can spend the money on antennas and towards a tower and good headset when slightly older or less expensive radios will do.
As for name brands, every band has it&#39;s good and bad. I heard the IC-765 and some of those higher older models are very good radios. I know ICOMs better.
So I thought I&#39;d do my two cents worth. http://www.qrz.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Mike n0odk 73 and have fun DXing

11-10-2003, 05:52 PM
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote (kd6jhv @ Nov. 09 2003,08:57)</td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">OK a few replies mention a few radios, and some ask more questions. Here are the radios mentioned so far:
Icom 756, IC-756 ProII, FT-1000, Icom 706 series, IC-775
870S, FT-1000D, Elecraft, TS 850s, TS 870, TS 950 sdx.

To those with more questions I&#39;ll try to narrow the scope a little. #First, if its just a very expensive radio with all the bells and whistles that does NOT necessarily make it a great HF radio.[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
Hi Noel,

You have a good handle on the problem. Like you, I don&#39;t buy into all the hype about deluxe DSP radios. I want a reliable good-performing radio that works well. I think you&#39;ll find the following comments true.

First, radio manufacturers now tend to spend more time adding useless fancy &quot;features&quot; than worrying about performance. If you look for a good balance in performance (including operating ease) vs cost, look at what the majority of contest ops use. You will find FT1000MP&#39;s largely dominate the contest field. You will find VERY FEW DSP radios, because for the most part they offer very poor close-spaced receiving performance.

The Yaesu&#39;s are not flawless, they click like hell on transmit and have some receive IM issues caused by the NB circuits (see www.w8ji.com about clicks and receiver performance), but they are easily &quot;fixable&quot;.

Some rigs (like the IC775DSP) have issues that are NOT fixable. They make good SSB ragchew radios, but not competitive radios for CW weak signal DXing or contesting.

The IC706 is very good for mobile, but largely unsuitable for serious work.

The list goes on. Many are good nitch radios for a certain nitch, but have serious shortfalls for serious work.

Having had everything from the new TT Orion to the 775DSP and 756Pro and PROII, my all time favorite is still the FT1000D (I modified mine per my webpage) or the bone-stock unmodified TT Orion. The FT1000D is a bit easier to use and works better for noise floor signals, the Orion is better for close-spaced signal problems.

Understand I like performance. I want a radio that works well, and does NOT put out needless garbage that bothers other people. I want a radio that does not click or transmit spurious signals, and that doesn&#39;t overload or have filter blow-by if I want to operate next to strong signals.

I care less if it has 5000 DSP filter settings, 10M of memory, or anything else. I only use a few memories and standard selectivity setting of 200-500Hz on CW and 2-3kHz on SSB. The FT1000 has more than enough filters for anything I ever do.

I&#39;ve been trying desperately to find a better radio than the 1000D for the past 5 years, and the only radio I have found that is on equal footing is the TT Orion. The Orion is better in some areas and not as good in a few areas, but it is the only radio I&#39;ve seen that doesn&#39;t have serious performance shortfalls in either the receiver or transmitter.

I&#39;d be very careful before getting anything else&#33;

73 Tom

11-10-2003, 06:01 PM
For sure, the answer, &quot;The one that&#39;s connected to the beams on the 150 foot tower&quot; is absolutely correct, and hits the nail squarely on the head.

I wouldn&#39;t invest a dollar in better equipment until all my antenna options were exhausted and I owed my creditors as much as I could afford to pay, monthly, for the steel and aluminum installed.

Having said that, for contesting you need not only rigs with great performance but also ones that are easy to operate and have excellent computer interfaces for modern station automation. Thankfully, most all the &quot;modern&quot; rigs do (have the interface), and the larger &quot;base station&quot; sized rigs are all pretty easy to operate, placing the needed controls right in front of the operator, and not buried in a menu.

The IC756 was a bad experiment and intended to be a low-cost replacement for its big brother, the IC-765. It wasn&#39;t. The 765&#39;s a far better rig, although bigger and more expensive. The IC-756PROII seems to have worked out most of the bugs and is now a favored DXpedition and contest rig -- which says a great deal for Icom&#39;s responsiveness.

The IC-775DSP is even better, but more expensive.

The Yaesu FT1000MPMKV is another premier, favored DXpedition and contest rig. Using the two side-by-side, I don&#39;t find a great deal of operational difference, although I personally prefer the &quot;feel&quot; of the Yaesu (the way the knobs turn, the way they&#39;re arranged on the panel, etc).

Far as I know, the FT1000D is discontinued, although it&#39;s a great rig, very contest worthy.

Kenwood discontinued the TS-950SD, and with it, their only real &quot;contest worthy&quot; rig of the 21st century. The TS-870S is pretty good, but lacks some needed features.

People are absolutely raving about the Ten Tec Orion, but I haven&#39;t used one yet and can&#39;t comment.

Rigs with terrific performance but lacking some modern features (like second receiver and computer interface) include the Drake TR-7/7A and the Collins KWM-380. Great rigs, easy to use and exceptional RF performance, but now old and getting finnicky, and again, lacking modern features. I still have a TR-7, purchased new in 1977, along with the second VFO RV-7, the terrific noise blanker NB-7 and other options, and must admit there is little on the market today that can outperform it.

A great compromise rig for me is the Kenwood TS-850S/AT. I have one, purchased new in &#39;89 or &#39;90, and still use it on the air every day. Tremendous performance packed into a package light enough to take portable for contesting at other hams&#39; locations, and I&#39;ve done that so often, my rig probably qualifies for the Million Mile Club by now. It&#39;s modern enough that it does have a good computer interface, and with eight I.F. filters, four in each of the 2nd and 3rd I.F.&#39;s, there isn&#39;t much around that is any better. Also has tremendous transmit audio (modulation characteristics) that receives constant compliments, and always has.

Good luck&#33;


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