Best entry level HF rig

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by KD8IEL, Nov 16, 2009.

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  1. MM0XXW

    MM0XXW Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Icom IC-718
    Kenwood TS570DG
    Yaesu FT-450

    There's not too much to pick between them but all good starter sets albeit my preference would be the Kenwood;)
  2. N0WUE

    N0WUE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have an internal struggle going on between the computer nerd in me and the ham nerd in me. I keep hoping to find something relatively modern with an IF output on the back.
  3. KE5YUM

    KE5YUM Ham Member QRZ Page

    One option is a used, older Kenwood hybrid, like the TS-520. I have one in my shack and use it almost nightly. I think you can pick one up for about $300, but they are 30 to 35 years old. They do not have the WARC bands, either. In my opinion, they are a lot of radio for the money.

  4. W7ACT

    W7ACT Ham Member QRZ Page

    A good combination for a good radio in the price range your talking about is the Icom IC-718 with an LDG AT-7000 auto tuner on as ah Artron RS-20M.

    With that said my first HF Radio was a Icom 706 MK 2 with a MFJ-969 roller Tuner. The Icom 706 Mk2 G is almost bullet proof. Over the years I've used the 706 as a base, moble, Field Day, Ham Radio Club Open House, and at so many other functions. I've had everything form experienced operators to newbies run the radio and it just keeps on a ticking. As a result of my experience with Icom 706 our local County Department of Emergency Management has gone with the 706 MK 2 G and have also had very little problems with them.

    The only thing that I would cahge in my origional set up would be that I would by the Alinco DM 330 Switching power supply instead of Astron. I have both power suppliers and the Astron is a boat Anchor and the Alinco is lighter and more compact.
  5. KC8QVO

    KC8QVO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Your Astron power supply is probably a linear supply - it uses a transformer to step the voltage down and then is filtered through a rectifier and filter capacitor. The Alinco is a switcher - it uses transistors. Big difference. Linear power supplies are best.

    In any event, back to the OP's inquiry on the best entry level radio - as you have found out, everyone has their own opinion. If it were me I would buy a Yaesu FT-897D because it is an all-in-one radio, compact, and ergonomic. If you need a remote face for mobile use or you need the smallest/lightest radio you can get then go with the FT-857D (which is what I use mobile/portable/backpacking). The 857 and 897 are the same rig, just in different cases.

    I would not suggest the IC-718. This was my first radio - 10 years ago. It is old technology and frankly the yaesu DSP works better (although it is AF in the 857/897). I would also not suggest the 706 series. It is older technology and the menu system on it will drive you bonkers. If you want an easy to use rig - steer clear of the 706. If I had one I probably would beat my head against the wall enough to figure out how to use it, but every time I have layed a finger on one I can't learn the darned thing.

    The FT-450 is a nice rig. The IF DSP works pretty well. I have a buddy that has one and find the rig to be fun to use. I ran it on CW one night and it plays pretty well. I would still suggest the FT-897D over the 450 though - VHF and UHF coverage on the 897.

    I hope this helps!

    Steve, KC8QVO
  6. NI7I

    NI7I Guest

    Actually all of our advice has probably confused the fellow even more. Go to a local ham club meeting. Get acquainted with some local hams and wrangle an invitation to play with their toys. Then make an informn\ed decision.

  7. AE7G

    AE7G Ham Member QRZ Page

    My story

    I agree you should join a local club and try out some rigs hands on before you choose. You will save yourself a lot of money and regrets.

    When I first became a HAM a friend gave me one of his father's old rigs that had been sitting in a box for fifteen years. It did not have a manual and I did not know how to use it. I thought it was a hunk of junk and went out and bought a new Kenwood 2000.

    Big mistake. Turns out my hunk of junk was a venerable old Kenwood 930s in need of only cosmetic work. One of the best receivers ever made and will still stand proud against the best top quality rigs on the market today. I sold my 2000 at a loss. The 930 is still running nine years later and it only cost me $90 to restore to full operating condition.
  8. AE5OV

    AE5OV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's an idea

    Hi Ronnie,
    Maybe instead of buying an off the shelf rig, you could build one.
    Getting a nice kit such as an OHR 100A, or a NorCal 40A, an SW+, or any of the other great kits out there would really serve you well.
    You would learn how a radio works, and if it broke, you would be able to fix it.
    My first HF was a NorCal 38 Special. I learned so much from that radio.
    The kits I mentioned above have a lot of support and assistance networks if you get stuck.
    And by all means, join a local club.


  9. VE2BXJ

    VE2BXJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Be mindful of resale value. Since this is your fist hf radio, you don't know if or how much you'll actually retain interest in the hobby. If it turns out that you become an amateur radio addict, you'll want to upgrade to something better.

    If you buy a new transceiver, you'll lose lots money on resale. If you buy an older transceiver, chances are you'll sell it for the same price you bought it, or you might even make a profit.

    Personally, I'd rather buy a top-of-the-line older transceiver for a few hundred dollars that has been tried and tested by an experienced operator, than a brand new entry-level rig that will lose half its value as soon as I walk out of the store and might have factory defects that haven't been discovered yet.

    Another important factor is what you intend to do. When I bought my first hf rig, I wanted to keep all my options open: 160m to 10m, digital, ssb, cw, mobile operations, etc. Now I look back and realize that all I needed was a cw-only qrp rig, like an elecraft k-1, heathkit hw-9, tentec century 22. Buying any of those rigs used must be considered an investment.

  10. KC8WBK

    KC8WBK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am still at the entry level stage, and have owned an ICOM 718 and a Kenwood TS-130S. Both are good radios, I like the Kenwood a little better.

    The ICOM cost me $400, and the Kenwood $230, both off of ebay. The ICOM died, I stored it in my sailboat over the winter so it is probably my fault.

    A Kenwood TS-130S for under 250 bucks is a good entry level, low cost rig.

    I have not owned a more complex rig than these, so maybe I don't know what I am missing. I get good signal reports with the Kenwood and seem to be able to get out, including DX, such as Chile, Tokyo, Czech., Scotland QSO's on 20m and 40m.
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