Wanting suggestions for a good beginner's HF all-mode rig

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KC0BUS, Aug 25, 2013.

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  1. KC0BUS

    KC0BUS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi to all,
    I am a re-activating ham after being in-active for a very long time (a few years now) and was wanting some suggestions for a good beginners HF all-mode rig that is relatively inexpensive and very forgiving of mistakes (i.e. rugged finals, can take high SWR's with no problems, and other goof-ball mistakes and mis-haps), and keep on ticking after taking a licking. In other words; a good rig for beginners and long-time inactive hams to cut their teeth on and learn the ropes with.

    Thanks for any suggestions

    Scott, KC0BUS
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Icom IC-718.
  3. KB4QAA

    KB4QAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ditto the IC-718. Don't forget filters for SSB, CW, as desired.

    The technology of solid state finals is over 30 years old and quite robust. The performance of radios is pretty much the same. I'm not aware of any that are fragile, limited in capability, or require excessive coddling for regular operations.

    *Welcome back! Jump in, the water's fine. Bill
  4. YANKEE495

    YANKEE495 QRZ Member

    Hello Scott,

    I am a total beginner having just passed my General and am waiting to show up in the database. Since I knew very little about the radios available I just got done studying the radios in the $500 budget range.

    The IC-718, IC-735, IC-737 and IC-738 were my Icom choices. Yaesu has the 897GX and 897GXII and another I can't remember. I was also looking at the Kenwood TS-440SAT and TS-450SAT.

    Lots of people will tell you that for just $100 more you can get this or that. I started out with a $350-$400 budget but found you have to really look and most in that price range show some use, which is fine but I had to raise my budget to $450 to get something that looked good and guaranteed to work. That is not to say some ham won't sell you a nice radio for $350 because they will but I couldn't find one. I just went to the Joplin Mo hamfest and a TS-440 was running $350-$400 and I didn't see a 450.

    I had already bought a TS-450SAT on Ebay which has a built in antenna tuner for $530. It looks like new and works good as far as I can tell...I can't fully use it yet.

    I used Universal Radio's web site to read about the basic features. Just Google an exact model number then click their link because they have really good basic descriptions minus the downfalls of course. Then check the rest of the links for problems and opinions.

    I chose the 450 because it had a few features some of the others didn't have, one was FM, but it had the tuner and split, dual VFO, more filter options and they say the receive is killer as is the classic KW audio. Folks told me it is twice the radio the 440 is.

    The Alinco DX-SR8T was also on my list and can be had new for $500...I seen one on Ebay (new) for $450 with free S&H.

    I think I'm going to be very happy with the 450 and I hope my list helps you out. You didn't mention your budget but these radios fit the lower end price range. I just about bought a IC-738 right here but I couldn't email or reply to the guy because I don't have a callsign and it sold.

    Good luck and be sure to study the radios and their faults then pick out a couple and hunt for them. It took me a couple of months.
  5. KA1NOS

    KA1NOS Ham Member QRZ Page


    Another vote for the IC-718. Add a 40M dipole, an Astron 35A linear power supply and a good dummy load. With this setup you will be able to learn/refresh on the basics without having a bunch of variables (multi-band antennas, antenna matchers, amps, etc.) adding to the learning curve. Keep It Simple, Slim!

    Welcome back and hope to get you in the logbook.


  6. W9JEF

    W9JEF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Also consider the Icom 706 (available used, for about $500). This little radio has been my main rig for over a decade. SWR foldback feature reduces power to protect the finals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . If you're proficient servicing vacuum tube rigs, (and don't particularly care about 160, VHF or the WARC bands) the Heathkit HW-100, and 101 are good choices. (I had one before upgrading to the Icom.)
  7. W8GP

    W8GP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Icom IC-735, very simple with more than adequate performance.
  8. KF7VXA

    KF7VXA Ham Member QRZ Page

    A lot of ICOM fans, they are a great radio. The other radio to look at is the Yaesu AT-450 or 450-D. They can be found used for $600.00 and I've seen them for about $850.00 new. They have DSP which the Alinco does not and are a fantastic radio for the price. The Alinco is at the bottom of the food chain as far as new radios go.
    They may not be the most ideal radio for a lot of DX work, but mine does great. I'm short on money and think for way under 1K, the 450 is the best available radio, puts out a full 100 watts, good sounding signal, compact, lots of adjustability,what is not to like. They have a very good reputation for a low cost radio.
    Then if you upgrade later, you have a great HF radio to pack on trips or put in your vehicle.

    73's John KF7VXA
  9. N0IU

    N0IU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Another "ditto" for the 718, but you are also going to need to get an outboard tuner. Even though my radio has a built-in autotuner, I still keep an MFJ 949E manual tuner hooked up to it. It is great for a quick visual reference for my power output and SWR.

    I know you are worried about damaging your rig if the SWR goes off the scale, but rigs today have circuitry that will throttle back the power if that happens to avoid damaging the finals.

    You say you want something that is "very forgiving of mistakes", but the bottom line is that no matter what radio you end up with, don't rely on that radio's ability to compensate for a poorly built or installed antenna system. Rather than have a radio that is forgiving of mistakes, it is much better to try and avoid those mistakes in the first place. As far as SWR, with all due respect, if you just want to throw some kind of slop up in the air and expect to get good results from it, even a $10,000 IC-7800 won't work any better than a $670 IC-718. Put as much thought and consideration into your antenna system as your radio and SWR shouldn't be that much of an issue.

    Also, buy the best quality coax you can afford. Try not to go cheap here since this will also help avoid SWR issues. And while I certainly recommend learning how to install PL-259 connectors, you might want to consider buying cables with the connectors already installed to be on the safe side. Again, a $10,000 radio won't do you any good if you can't get a good signal out to the antenna in the first place.

    As far as other "goof ball" mistakes, other than not transmitting into a resonant antenna, there really isn't a whole lot you can do to damage your radio... other than leaving it connected to the antenna during a thunderstorm. (Yes, this is the voice of experience talking!)
  10. YANKEE495

    YANKEE495 QRZ Member

    That was it, the Yaesu FT-450 and Yaesu FT-450D. How could I forget a 450 when I bought a KW 450? Anyway, that was in the top three after some research. Universal Radio lists the differences right there for you to see. I found that they are priced a little higher but looked to be well worth it.

    Here is the link to the info on the Yaesu FT-450:


    On the left you can click where it says Replaced by the FT-450D to see info on the 450D...it lists the added features with a check mark. Nothing wrong with Icom fans...lots of people love the ones listed.

    I think that is a pretty good list because it is almost exactly what I found with lots of research. I know this thread would've saved me a lot of time.

    Good luck.
  11. N0SYA

    N0SYA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Icom 7200 would also be nice for a starter rig.
  12. KC0BUS

    KC0BUS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you for all the suggestions. Keep them coming. Wow, lots suggestions for current production (new) rigs and recent production rigs, and only a few suggestions for vintage rigs?
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
  13. N0SYA

    N0SYA Ham Member QRZ Page

    What do you consider vintage?
  14. WD4CHP

    WD4CHP Ham Member QRZ Page

    It all depends what you want to do.

    If all you want to do is cw and ssb one of the vintage rigs is the way to go.

    Basic controls and easy to use.

    The more menus it takes to set up, the less that will be used.

    I started with a HW-8 then a HW-101.

    Easy to use and I got on the air.

    Next was an Omni D. great CW rig.

    Next was an Atlas 210X and 215X stable mobile rig.

    Now using an Icom IC-746PRO for my base and an Icom IC-706MKIIg mobile.

    As an aside, If you match your base rig with your mobile then all the accessories can be used on both in an emergency.
  15. KC0BUS

    KC0BUS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Probably 1990's and older (especially 1980's)... I got my license in 1997 and the rigs back then were of a different crop than the rigs of today.
  16. N0SYA

    N0SYA Ham Member QRZ Page

    My suggestion for any prospective rig is to read all the eham reviews on the rig under consideration. Not to become enthralled with all the 5 out of 5 possible points reviews but for all the over and over again malfunctions and design issues inherent to the rig. If a rig seems to be problematic over and over again for the same issue in an eham review, you can't say you weren't warned. Caveat HAM emptor.
  17. K4HYJ

    K4HYJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I bought an IC-746pro (my first HF rig after getting my General Class ticket) for a smoking deal from a local ham who ended up doing a little elmering. It had lots of bells and whistles I didn't use for over a year until I was comfortable enough to poke around. Having the built-in antenna tuner saved the finals and the radio probably. My elmer also recommended I buy a multiband antenna that did not require much tuning like the buckmaster OCF dipole - no tuning needed on 80, 40, 20, 17, 12, 10, and 6 meters. At 35' and flat topped, I have made over 150 confirmed DXCC contacts, and 48 states at 100 watts with those 2 pieces of gear and a 100' of RG-8X coax.
  18. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    With the older radios, the odds of needing repairs are generally higher than on the newer ones. In some cases, parts are hard or practically impossible to find. A handful of older rigs are prized as 'classics' and you can usually find replacement parts for them - in most cases because they used very common parts to start with. More recent radios have a tendency to use limited production IC's, and if those chips are bad, the radio is gone. Some use final amplifier devices that are made from unobtanium. So, if you're going old, I'd suggest you go back to the basics.

    For older stuff, I like Ten Tec. They still have parts for almost all of their older radios, and they will either repair it or tell you how. I've owned a couple older Ten Tec Tritons, that I paid about $200 for. The Triton IV is a really nice basic radio, and if you have interest in CW or digi modes, it's very good, outstanding with a CW filter in it. Like most Ten Tec radios, it's full break in on CW, so you can hear the other guy between your dits and dahs - very nice for working DX or contesting.
  19. AE5JU

    AE5JU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Another vote for the IC-718. But before you spend money on filters, consider just buying the IC-7200 instead.

    Team up with the LDG IT-100 tuner and Samlex SEC-1223 or SEC-1235M and you are in business.

    Antenna, easily tunable to the ham bands, OCFD using 4:1 Current Balun, legs cut to 88' and 46'. NO "vertical radiator". Don't expect it to "work all bands without a tuner", but with a tuner it will work well.
  20. KD8GFC

    KD8GFC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Be ADVISED the Icom 718 has a major design flaw if you live were it gets cold in the winter. If you touch the knobs and you discharge static to the radio the cpu will fry. Also the 718 works very poorly on AM and has a very noisy receiver and there is no way to adjust the ALC. Go with Yeasu.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2013
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