"Does price buy performance or satisfaction in an HF transceiver?" - now on YouTube

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VA3ON, Feb 1, 2021.

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  1. VA3ON

    VA3ON XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The Cycle25 Hub (not Club) ZOOMcast was recently visited by Frank Howell, K4FMH, who was kind enough to share his talk "Does price buy performance or satisfaction in an HF transceiver?"

    The recording can be found at the Cycle25 YouTube channel at:

    Image 2021-02-01 at 13.59.jpg

    Does Price Buy Performance or Satisfaction in an HF Transceiver?

    When hams think about buying an HF transceiver, the three principal aspect they tend to consider include the price point, how well it performs, and how other hams who already own a rig think about it. The sources of this information tend to be advertising in amateur magazines, websites, hamfests, and clubs. Hams tend to juggle how performance ratings compare among rigs, how much the rig costs at retail and whether the overall impression by other hams at large is good or bad. But it is a significant challenge to assemble detailed data for rig candidates. I use the HF rigs bench tested by Rob Sherwood and attach the manufacturer’s suggested retail price at the time of release to the market, a composite of all of Sherwood’s tests, and the average eHam rating at the rig level. I use graphics and other statistical methods to examine trends over the 50-year span of the rigs in their price in 2019 dollars, their receive performance and the consumer satisfaction from eHam ratings. I also examine the performance-to-price ratio as a measure of relative value of each rig. Quadrant analysis is used with the rig level data to ascertain high performance, high satisfaction, high value rigs at specific price levels. Finally, major manufacturer brands are compared to other manufacturers in terms of these factors with surprising results relative to conventional wisdom. This study is appearing as a two-part article series in the ARRL National Contesting Journal.

    Author Bio:

    Frank M. Howell K4FMH is Professor Emeritus at Mississippi State University. He is a General Class license-holder, Life Member of the ARRL, and serves as Assistant Director of the ARRL Delta Division. Frank blogs at k4fmh.com, syndicated via AmateurRadio.com, and is a Presenter on the ICQ Podcast. He is good on QRZed and lives in Ridgeland, MS.

    About the Cycle25 Hub:
    Building on the central idea of a presentation by
    Like minded Hams from Ontario, Alberta and California meet weekly to discuss topics of interest and share information. The group has grown to include members from the UK, Bermuda and several States & Provinces. They record content and post it on their YouTube channel which can be found by searching "Cycle25 VA3XXV" on YouTube - Be sure to subscribe and set the "alerts" bell for future content.

    Image 2021-02-01 at 14.06.jpg
    PE1KWE, KI6ADA, KD1JT and 5 others like this.
  2. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes. It buys performance.

    That is because the ham rig prices are artificially deflated, with razor thin margins. Thus the few 'super rigs' can afford to have better rejection, and so on, because the competitive aspect is lessened based on price.
  3. W0XA

    W0XA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Price should buy performance AND satisfaction.
    In the last 6 months I bought 3 of the latest HF rigs.
    Sold 2 and kept the one I was satisfied with.
    My $.02
    MW1CFN, 9A5O and K9GLS like this.
  4. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    One important clarification. Only if you have good antennas.

    However, some enjoy showing their radio / car / girlfriend to others, and seeing envy.
    HL4CAF, AK5B, W4HWD and 13 others like this.
  5. K8DO

    K8DO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Excellent presentation. I have no quibble with his data (even the extrapolations) but I do have some specific comments, especially on satisfaction ratings.
    The rise of Elecraft was in response to the withdrawal from the recent (recent being relative to my age) ham market by Heathkit, Drake and Ten Tec, they being the major remaining domestic manufacturers of HF ham radios after the loss of Hammarlund, Johnson, etc.. Those withdrawals were due to poor decisions (engineering, business, financial, marketing, and others) that resulted in those products leaving the market. Elecraft was/is the shining jewel on the hill to do battle with foreign makers. They produced an excellent product (for the times) and it was American. So it was a winner. Associating oneself with a winner usually results in satisfaction in public statements, et. al. QRZ and eHam. Recently, they vastly underestimated the cost and sheer misery of producing a new and very complex software driven rig, in the K4. It appears they will survive but lost a lot of luster in the delays.

    The Flex, et. al. Is a different breed of cat. Yes, Flex owners will rate the rigs highly because these owners are, for the most part, computer hobbyists who revel in searching out obscure drivers, dll’s, etc. and do not hold that battle against Flex - whereas I am an electronics guy and will not put up with the miseries of things that won’t boot, obscure drivers, blue screen crashes and on and on, for more than one microsecond. The other driving need for Flex owners (my personal observation) is the production of broadcast quality wide band audio to the exclusion of other topics. The Flex ratings between the various flavors of Flex are valid, but most likely should be in a different category from the more traditional turn-on-and-run-without-a-computer radio (no matter how many menus are hidden behind the facade) The analogy would be putting the ratings of hi fi amplifiers in with the ratings of our linear amps. They do the same thing, but for completely different reasons.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2021
    K9KQX, AK5B, K4FMH and 7 others like this.
  6. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's a great time to be an amateur radio operator with all these excellent rigs that are out there.
    Instead of watching this for 1&1/2 hours/ I got on the air and made 10 good QSOs
    W9FL, WM7C, AK5B and 12 others like this.
  7. N1IPU

    N1IPU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think if you wait for a while after a new rig comes out, read all the reviews and comments you can make a sound choice. Everybody rushed in on the 705 and after the hoopla died down I tried one out. Just wasn't the rig everyone is saying it is at least for me. Just bought another 891 as it received better and sounds better on transmit out of the box. Your mileage may vary.
    AK5B, K4FMH, 9A5O and 3 others like this.
  8. M0TTQ

    M0TTQ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    There was a very good book called "The Buyer's Guide to Amateur Radio" published by the RSGB in 1986, by G3OSS, explaining performance review and with detailed reviews of contemporary pieces of equipment. It was clear even then that there were a couple of outliers for being dud radios, but that the average test and subjective performance of reecnt top-end HF rigs was within a fairly narrow band. Ergonomics were a big factor in the decision. That is still true today and Frank's excellent presentation suggests that ergonomics are even more important now than then, given the relatively close absolute performance of rigs and the wider range of controls.

    It was fascinating to see the statistical analysis and while some might think 90 minutes is a long time, it was well worth the investment of time and has changed the course of my own thinking about what my next purchase might be.
    KA2K, HB9EPC, 4X1ST and 3 others like this.
  9. K6MIT

    K6MIT Ham Member QRZ Page

    i compared my ts 440 to the 12,000.00 kenwood....stations received the same...same
    sig to noise ratio....same audio clarity....to me high price radios a rip off.
    K7AMJ, K0IP, W4FLX and 4 others like this.
  10. KR3DX

    KR3DX Ham Member QRZ Page

    The best performing rigs: K3S, TS-890, IC-7851, FTdx-101, FTdx-10
    The best "bang for the buck" rigs: TS-590SG, FTdx-10
    The most "grossly overpriced for mediocre performance" rigs: TS-990, all Flex models

    There's my opinion, and I didn't ask you to spend an hour and 37 minutes watching a video.
    KI4WCA, AK5B, W4HWD and 8 others like this.

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