HF - What to get?

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

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  1. K0CMH

    K0CMH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Again, without knowing your budget, we are only guessing.

    So far, no one has mentioned the IC-718.

    If you do not want to gamble on used equipment, the IC-718 new is in the $550.00 range, with the usual new radio guarantee.

    I have one, like it very much and use it often as my "base station". It has many of the most popular whistles and bells.

    An HF station on a limited budget could be:

    IC-718 $550.00
    MFJ 4125 25 amp Power supply $110.00
    MFJ 941E Tuner $140.00
    Home made dipole antenna (hardware store items, 14 ga copper wire, some rope, some nuts/bolts) $20.00 (look up "dipole antenna" on the internet, very easy to make yourself)
    Approximately 50 feet of coax with one pl259 connector $20.00

    Entire station of new equipment under guarantee (except dipole antenna): $840.00

    Many of us start out with a station like this (modest but very effective) and as we save up our money, upgrade to better and more "stuff".

    Hope this helps and good luck.

    Good advice is to go to Ham radio club meetings, explain that you are new to HF and want to see different radios. You will be suprised at how folks will want to let you see their.
  2. KC5PSD

    KC5PSD Ham Member QRZ Page


    I would say don't get a build in tuner.
    Save your money for a good tuner.
    My ts940 have a build in tuner an i don't use it.
    When you do get antenna tuner get one that will
    handle 1500 watt or more.
    Like most ham you may want to get an amp.
    A smaller that 600watt tuner won't do the job with an amp.
  3. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    In general, there's a big difference between the kind of station you need to casually strike up a conversation with someone in say, Borneo, and one you need to have a nice ragchew with a guy in LA. LA can be worked with fairly little effort, using a wet noodle and slightly upgraded tin can. Borneo usually can't.

    So, if you have budgetary restraints, the first thing should really be an assessment of what you want to do in ham radio.

    Do you want to only 'talk' on the radio, or are you willing to use non-voice modes, which includes both CW and the text modes, like PSK31?

    A CW rig capable of 'working the world' is a much different affair than a SSB rig with similar capabilities.

    Antennas are a much bigger consideration than the radios these days. There are few modern radios that won't do very well if attached to a decent antenna. There are NO radios that will work well if attached to a crummy antenna. Particularly at this point in the sunspot cycle, you will need an antenna that is good to excellent on the 40 and 20 meter bands. If you are going to use CW or digital, 30 is also a good band to have. A roof-mounted vertical with radials will do fairly well at this point in time.

    I'd spend a little bit more money to get a radio that will really serve your needs for a long time to come. Buy a very good power supply (I like the linear Astron units). A good, wide-range manual antenna tuner will let you make the most of your antennas.

    Finally, the radio itself. If you can afford it, go for one of the mid-range rigs, like the IC-746, IC-756, the new IC-7200, or Ten Tec Jupiter. In my opinion, the better the receiver, the happier the user. I think I'd also consider the mid-range software defined radio PC3000 from Flex, because of it's outstanding receiver. However, you need a fairly fast PC for that rig, and it's just plain 'different'. But, I suspect the Flex will be around for a very long time, and will remain current through software upgrades.
  4. K4CGN

    K4CGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am willing to spend $1500-$2000 for radio, antenna, tuner, etc. I have been looking at the Yaesu FT-450 as a starter HF rig. Buying this radio I should be able to invest the rest in a nice antenna.
  5. KC2USH

    KC2USH Ham Member QRZ Page

    the 101 has some tricky tubes to mess with i dont recommend it ..and to the original poster i was i the same spot a month ago untill now .. after a fellow ham does a tune up i will have a kenwood ts 820s and hams around here belive its a good starter rig
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2009
  6. K0CMH

    K0CMH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Since you have $1500 - $2000 for a radio, you may well want to consider something above an IC-718, unless you want to start with a radio with minimal menus to deal with. Sounds like you can get a pretty decent station with the money yo have to spend.

    PS: I have "talked around the world" on my IC-718, in CW, SSB, and PSK (with a little rtty thrown for fun). Maybe I can't always dig out those weak signals, but I have documented contacts with all of South America, most of Europe, and much of the Pacific Rim countries. Maybe I could do better or easier with a "better" rig, but that little 718 suprises me a lot. All my HF antennas are wire (dipoles and an 130 foot end fed).

    You will probablyl do better with the next level or two up radios.
  7. K4CGN

    K4CGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    My total price for everything is $1500-$2000......not just the radio.

    The problem with spending a lot on a radio is I am limited with the antenna I am able to put up. I live in neighborhood that restricts towers and even rooftop mounted antennas. So I would hate to spend $1500 on a radio and only be able to put up a small ground antenna that won't be able to use the power or features of a more upgraded radio.
  8. K0CMH

    K0CMH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ahhh, the antenna restriction issue. Yes, I live with that also and still seem to "talk around the world" (contrary to what others here seem to think).

    There are many options out there for this situation, but basically fall into two categories: purchased stealth antennas and homebrewed stealth antennas.

    There are the "flag pole" vertical antennas. Force 12 makes and sells very effective verticals that are designed to also be working flag poles, but are not cheap. A google search for "flag pole antenna" should find a number of plans for making your own.

    I have been pretty successful with attic dipoles and an antenna made from 130 feet of insulated 14 ga stranded wire that is end fed with TV twin lead (300 ohms). If you want specifics, send me a personal message. Others here have heard my story to many time to put them through it again.

    There are loop antennas that consists of a wire ran around the outside of the house.

    There are "electrically short" antennas tha use loading coils, that can be put up and taken down quickly (night time operations).

    There are plans available (free on the internet) for a purple martin bird house vertical antenna.

    Also, a search for "stealth antennas" will yield any number of plans for making your own and purchasing.

    Contrary to what some people will say here, you do not need a 30 element, 100 foot long beam on a 70 foot tower to talk outside North America. I do it all the time, on 100 watts max. A great, large, high-gain antenna certainly helps and makes more contact, but the lack of such does not mean you will not be able to make "DX" contacts yourself.
  9. NE6PG

    NE6PG Ham Member QRZ Page

    What to buy

    Well, having just got my Extra a couple of years ago I did a lot of research on antennas and radios.

    I chose the ICOM 706 MkIIG, as a matter of fact I have two of them, picked one up for $600 with an AT180 auto tuner for $150 used and in great shape. If you have a tree you have an antenna, the Icom AH-4 auto tuner $200 will work with a single wire and a ground connection, it is designed for mobile mount but works well on a wire up a tree, 60' works well. I have a Tarheel Antenna Screwdriver that works 80-10 meters on a tripod with radials for portable operation,for my RV. I have a single end fed wire strung from the chiminey on the house to the neighbors tree in the corner of the lot 80' with an MFJ969 tuner. And lastly I have a Hustler 5 or six band vertical that is stuck up the same tree with a few radials laid down, I have made contacts on all continents with that antenna and the 706 / AT-180 combination at 100 watts. UHF/VHF can't beat a dual band j-pole like an Arrow j-pole or a jpole made out of twin lead inside a piece of PVC 60" long. You can make a loop that runs along the top of the fence. I am working on a design using a yard umbrella and a small screwdriver antenna mounted on top. I also have a 164' dipole that I string up between trees and drive with the AH-4 when in the forrest.

    I made a 6m loop out of old lawn chairs, a 6m Jpole (192"), and a 6m dipole out of 300 ohm twin lead and pvc pipe.

    Power supples I use a couple of old 10amp motorola bench supplies feeding with an isolation diode to a pair of 47 Ahr gel-cells.

    Just experiment and see what works and you can get away with. Be creative.

    good luck
    NE6PG (send me an email if you need additional information)
  10. K4CGN

    K4CGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have no trees, single story home. I posted another thread asking specifically about an HF antenna and hope to get some ideas from there.
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