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HF - What to get?

Discussion in 'Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator/Upgrading Privi' started by K4CGN, Aug 29, 2009.

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  1. K4CGN

    K4CGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Being a new ham, I have aspirations of jumping on to some of the HF bands and talking around the world. With that said though, there is concern of spending too much for a first radio.
    So I impose this question to you. What is a good inexpensive radio capable of getting me on the HF bands?
  2. KC7YRA

    KC7YRA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Welcome to the great conundrum that goes along with HF privileges.

    I recommend to folks just starting out, to get a radio that will do almost everything right out of the box. I like the Yaesu FT-100D, 857D, 897D series or the Icom 706 series.

    Both groups will work on 99% of HF stuff and get you onto multimode VHF/UHF frequencies. These types of rigs can be had for under $1,000 new and considerably less in the used market.

    These rigs do have their downfall. Usually more difficult interface which involves menus. They also exhibit some degradation in their receiver specs. You have to break the several thousand dollar barrier to get into high end stuff.

    For somebody just starting out, any of those will work great. I have an FT-100D and the 857D myself. Both are great radios.

    While I (and I bet others will to) offer my opinion, nothing beats hands on experience. Get tied in with a local radio club in your area and try to use some of the members radios. Get a feel of what you like and maybe they can also lead you into a good local deal. They can also help you with antennas, which are perhaps 10x more important than the radio.

    Good luck,
  3. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Depends on what is "inexpensive" in your view?

    If cost is the main limiter in your decision, don't forget to include power supply, maybe a tuner depending on what kinds of antennas you will use, a key if you're thinking about trying CW. If you go for used equipment you might save some money.

    Maybe you can go to one of the ham radio store's web sites and price out a station to get an idea of what you're facing. For example

    I would consider around $900 to $1200 to be "inexpensive" for a lower-end station of new commercial equipment. Less if you go with used stuff.
  4. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Get a general coverage receiver first so you know what band you're interested in..
  5. K5KGB

    K5KGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    The FT-450 is a good bang for the buck. It's a little larger than some of the other HF "mobiles". It is considered "menu driven" but many entry rigs are these days.

    I also hear there are several for sale these days. The jury is still out on why (there's a thread about it here), but it is a good rig. I enjoy mine.
  6. M0WAN

    M0WAN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Maybe we would do well to dispel a myth or two before we go any further:

    Getting on the HF bands won't automatically allow you to "talk around the world." You need to consider frequency/band, the time of year and the point we are at in the 11-year sunspot cycle.

    The lowest frequencies tend to be nighttime bands, and as getting a decent antenna up to a good fraction of a wavelength is not within many amateurs' abilities, the ranges tend to be short - 1000 miles perhaps? (Corrections appreciated.)

    The higher frequencies (10m etc) tend to be daytime only bands, with little or no activity at night. Heavily influenced by the sunspot cycle, worldwide communication is possible at sunspot maximums, but that won't happen for possibly 3 - 4 years yet.

    Bands falling between these extremes exhibit mixed features features.

    So - as for a suitable radio:
    I agree with Brad - try to get hands-on experience of using some different radios, as they do differ a lot. Go for what you get on with.

    I saw, used and liked a Kenwood TS-430S, and bought one. I actually bought two as I liked it so much! (OK, one is for permanent station.)

    These rigs are now pretty old and may develop certain faults, but these are well known and documented. They don't have menus, are a good all-round performer especially with the optional filters fitted and don't cost all that much - I'd recommend you at least get to look at one. If you buy, try to get one with a late serial number.

    But ultimately the antenna will make or break your station:
    A 10,000 pound radio will be mediochre on a poor antenna, whereas a cheap radio will be superb on a large, well-designed antenna.
  7. WA4OTD

    WA4OTD Ham Member QRZ Page

  8. NS8N

    NS8N Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is a very good answer to your question. While I have nothing to add, I wanted to quote Brad so that you may read it again. Hope to work you on the air with your new HF privileges.
  9. M3ONL

    M3ONL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm also in agreement with brad, hope you find a radio to your liking soon and let us know here what you settled for.

  10. PH5E

    PH5E Ham Member QRZ Page

    Try this advanced search page, might be helpful to narrow you choises.
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