Good Beginner HF Rig

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by N7IFU, May 31, 2010.

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  1. N7IFU

    N7IFU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am hearing some not-so-great things about the G5RV. Maybe I will try and build a fan dipole. Thanks!
  2. AJ4CM

    AJ4CM Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's all a matter of the application you have for the radio. I bought an 897 for my first rig, and I've been very happy with it. I'm active in our local ARES, and I needed a radio that I could grab and run with. The 897 can be easily used as a mobile, and it can work with internal batteries in field use. I can cover the HF hurricane nets as well as our local repeaters with one radio.

    But to put all that functionality into a small box requires that some other things be compromised, and user interface is one of them. The radio is a pain to use stand-alone, due to nested menus, multiple button pushes to get to simple functions, and a small display window. For "grab & go" use, I've programmed everything I expect to use into the memories already.

    For shack use, it'd be a pain to work directly with the radio. Fortunately, Ham Radio Deluxe works very well as a radio controller. I have a laptop in the shack anyway to work digital modes, and with HRD acting as my user interface, operation is a breeze.

    So it works well for me in my application.

    If you just want a basic HF rig, without the need for computer control, something easy to use, and you don't have a requirement for portable operation, something like the 718 might be a much better choice. You'll have to decide just what you want your rig to do for you.

    I'm using a homebrew G5RV Jr (it's a half-size version of the G5RV) and I've been pleased with it as well, but again it's driven by my intended application. I wanted an antenna that could be protected and stay up during tropical storms and hurricanes (I live in central Florida). The G5RV Jr fits nicely under the eaves of my two-story house, so as long as my roof stays put the antenna should remain in place. It works well on 20m and 40m, and I can strap the two sides together and operate it as a T on 80m.

    It's not a world-class performer, by any means, and if I were a serious contester I'd put up something different. Nevertheless, I can consistently work stations from the Carib up the Eastern seaboard to Canada, plus Gulf coast states, and that area is my concern for hurricane season.

    For that matter, I can work all of the US, and with decent band conditions I've worked many European stations.

    So it's a matter of what you're trying to accomplish, what your limitations are, what your budget is, etc. Start by defining your goals, and the radio and antenna choices will follow from there.

  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page


    Build a ROCKMITE...absolutely fabulous little rig. And you'll learn a lot more than just buying a ricebox.

  4. KA9MOT

    KA9MOT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Excellent advice! Then do as I would do, and sell it on QRZ because CW is a pain. Then you can buy another kit, build it, sell it on QRZ because CW is a pain. Use that money to buy another kit, sell it on QRZ because CW is a pain and if you keep this circle going for a while and save your profits, you can buy a kit that is usable and doesn't require knowing CW, because Cw is a pain. LOL :D

    Building kits and other little projects is a BLAST, you gain knowledge and can end up with some really useful stuff in the shack.
  5. N7IFU

    N7IFU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think I have made my decision. The Icom IC-718 looks and sounds like a very good beginner HF rig. So I will go with that, plus, it doesn't cost as much as an 857 or 897. I have heard some bad things about the G5RV, so I will probably pass on that, unless I buy an antenna tuner which I will end up having to buy anyway. Thanks!
  6. N7IFU

    N7IFU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Building radios is where I draw the line. Maybe someday. Unless I can find some good instructions. Thanks!
  7. N0JEF

    N0JEF Ham Member QRZ Page

    A Kenwood TS-480HX is a 200 watt radio that is avaiable for $999 on sale with rebate. The TS-480 has a TS-950 class receiver that has better specs than a TS-2000. Best kept secrete and the best value in ham radio right now. Also, with the free Kenwood software, you do not need to use the computer bogging security risk that is called HRD to control your radio from anywhere in the world (including your desk) via computer. For $100 more - the 857 does not even come close.

  8. KA9MOT

    KA9MOT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree.....But the 480SAT has such a good antenna tuner, and I am not sure 200W is that big of a deal.
  9. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    One thing I might suggest to you is that Field Day is coming up the last weekend of this month. If you can find a local radio club with a big Field day operation to visit during the contest, you can probably have a chance to see, hear, and maybe even operate some of the radios we're talking about here. Nothing beats personal experience. My main rig has been an IC-746 for many years. I saw my first one at Field day and fell in love with it.

    I would agree with your choice of the IC-718 - it's a nice looking little radio that we've used at Field Day, and it's a competent little rig - very easy to use, which is important for a beginner. The lower price of the radio should give you money for antenna, tuner, and power supply.

    Many of my local friends have the FT-857 and love it.
  10. KC8AHN

    KC8AHN Ham Member QRZ Page

    First, I noticed that nobody answered your question. IMHO= In my honest opinion.

    Ok, that out of the way, the 718 I hear is a good rig. I have an online Elmer that uses one and makes all kinds of contacts, its a great starter rig. A tuner will be needed for most antenna, what you will save buying a 718 you can buy a manual tuner or an auto tuner, both for under $200. My Elmer (remember this is an online Elmer, I never met before) actually sent me a tuner he was no longer using for free, it was and still is in brand new condition (see pic below).

    My station cost me right at $1170 to set up, I bought a rig (FT450 without the tuner, for $100 more you can buy one with an auto tuner built in). I had to buy my power supply, antenna (G5RV-JR), coax and a few other odds and ends. Had I bought used I could have got away spending much less.

    I am going to play devils advocate. I am attaching a google earth view of all of my contacts from my log. All of these were made using a G5RV-JR, that is hardly in the air (I had to tie the ladder line up so it would not touch the ground). You will notice a few european contacts, an Alaska contact and a lot of contacts in the 50 states. All made with the FT450, manual tuner and G5RV-JR on 100 watts and usually much less. These contacts were made from April 8th when I got my upgrade to present. I also attached a pic of my station. You will see it is bare bones, the red box is a signal link plug and play
    used for PSK31. Not shown is my laptop that I use at the station for logging and digital modes.

    I suggest checking with a local club, maybe someone has a 718, 857, 450 or any other rig you maybe interested and would let you see it in action first hand. Also, check the reviews section of for reviews of rigs and anything else ham radio related. Just watch them, if the person reviewing says it is the best rig ever and they have owned it for 10 minutes, do not read anymore into that specfic review and move to the next.

    I hope I was able to help some, I am far from an expert, but IMHO, I think all the advice you have been given has been right on.
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