Is there really a 6-meter band for radio amateurs?

Discussion in 'VHF/UHF - 50Mhz and Beyond' started by WA7DU, Aug 23, 2014.

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  1. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Several weeks ago, I began thinking about trying 6-meters. I've never owned a radio with 6-meter capability, but tales of the magic band (myth or no?), and the relative ease of erecting an antenna have begun to pull at me. Another thing I've never had is a rotatable antenna. Even that seemed doable with minimal investment; but my "feasibility study" showed that a vertical or horizontal wire would be a reasonable beginning. They are all easier than an HF antenna; 1/4-wave with elevated ground plane, 5/8-wave monopole, vertical or horizontal dipole,...all without the complications of a larger HF antenna.

    With the antenna deemed achievable, I turned my attention to the electronics--the radio. My comfort zone is defined thusly: transceiver rather than separates; vacuum tube, hybrid, or solid state; SSB and CW, other modes optional; 25 to 100 watts; single band preferred to keep cost low, 2-meter and more OK; minimum of new-fangled menu-driven controls (e.g., don't think I need DSP, panoramic display, memories, etc., dual VFOs for split operation would be nice).

    Exploring a bit, I identified two Icoms (IC-505 and -551D), one Kenwood (TS-60), two Yaesus (FT-680R and maybe -736), one Heathkit (SP-110) as possibilities.

    Question 1: Are my "comfort zone" criteria reasonable, practical, and wise?

    Question 2: Are there other radios that should be on my list? Any Drakes? Collins? Elecraft? Ten-tec? Others? (The idea is to search QRZ.com online swap meet, eBay...)
     
  2. W6GMT

    W6GMT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yaesu FT690r /690rII good old rigs 690RII is 10 watts very easy to use. I have one I use for hilltop/portable panterspole and a loop antenna you are good to go. there are also sister rigs for 2 meters and 70cm. You should be able to find one for less than 200 bucks on the web.
     
  3. WA8UEG

    WA8UEG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    All of the above rigs are good, however I would not recommend the IC505. I use the IC551D and it is a great 6 meter radio. The heathkit is a heathkit so a lot of factors to consider however you can easily work on them. I would recommend you read the reviews on Eham of the rigs your thinking about. There are some low band rigs with 6 meters that can be purchased for about the same or a little more then some of the older dedicated rigs and might be something you want to consider. (TS570 and others).

    Successful 6 meter operation depends a great deal on the antenna and the height of the antenna, it is a magic band because when the band is open you can work stations with minimum power and antennas however if your serious and do not want to listen to the hiss of the radio much of the time you need a minimum of 50 to 100 watts (easily done with a small amp), and a 4 element beam up around 40'. I run the IC551D with a 200 watt amp, the antenna is a 4 element home brew quad up 40'. I live at a high elevation and have worked 42 states and 41 countries in the past couple of years but remember I am on the east coast where south and central america is easy to hit with openings, also on the east coast Europe has had openings in the past 6 months.

    You need to have horizontal polarization and I would not recommend a ground plane or vertical. I used a dipole up 80' at my high elevation for a month and was not happy at all with the results although I did make contacts during some openings.

    Drake made a great 6 meter radio (TR6) but they are fairly rare and go for a boat load of money.

    6 meters is a fun band to operate, I am a little biased as I live on the far eastern edge of PA and at an elevation of almost 2000' I can work NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, northern VA ground wave so a call on .125 usually results in a qso. As of late the band has been really open so it's been a absolute ball.
     
  4. N0IU

    N0IU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Is a single band radio really a requirement? Many HF radios today also include 6 meters. For the "budget-minded", the Icom IC-7200 sells for $900 and includes 6 meters. Unless you are serious about using that band and since money is an issue (which it is for just about everyone), why not invest in an HF rig that includes 6 meters?

    And you say that things like DSP are not really a requirement... Use a radio with DSP filtering and you will (probably?) never look back!
     
  5. N3TGY

    N3TGY Ham Member QRZ Page

    my elevation here is close to WA8UEG too, it may be a Pennsylvania thing, but 6 meters has been my favorite band since becoming a ham! my elevation is about the same Mt.Davis is just southwest of me, but I do hope you try 6 meters! one band opening I filled close to 10 pages of contacts in my notebook on a simple vertical dipole that I made with an aluminum shower curtain rod! and the rig was a Mfj adventure radio (MFJ 9406) , I hope to hear you on there with what ever you choose in the radio category. but minimum noise would be good till the DX or the beacons come in through the squelch!
     
  6. WB5YIW

    WB5YIW Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you want to go really old school look for a Swan -250. I had one for years. I often referred to it as a "too drifty". Being a tube type radio, it would wander around a bit as the ambient temperature varied but as long as you were paying attention it wasnt too bad.
     
  7. K0RGR

    K0RGR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm using my IC746 with an ALpha Delta DXCC dipole, that certainly doesn't work well on 6 at all, but it's enough to make contacts with JT65. I just copied a CW from a station in Georgia, so there is some life on 6, even at this late date in the Eskip season. The 746's internal antenna tuner handles the mismatch to the antenna just fine.
    Someday, I will actually put up my 6 meter antenna.
     
  8. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you are wanting a Heath, then the SB-110A and NOT the original SB-110 which had some problems. Fortunately, most of the Heath 6-meter transceivers out there are SB-110A. However, there is no indication on the front panel as to whether or not the unit is an SB-110 or SB-110A.

    I have had an SB-110A for several decades and it is still my main 6-meter unit. I also have a Hallicrafters HA-6 transverter and a Yaesu FT690RII available.

    Glen, K9STH
     
  9. N9DG

    N9DG Ham Member QRZ Page

    While a single band 6M radio certainly isn't a requirement. Having a radio that you can dedicate to 6M duties during the Es seasons while doing other things around the shack, or the house, is well worth the effort. And even better is a radio with a truly good spectrum display or waterfall. Then you can frequently check the 6M radio's display while doing other things on other bands in the shack. Works very well to catch 6M DX. Trying to just monitor the calling frequency, and/or depending on the DX spots alerts will cause you to miss many workable openings that do exist. In both scenarios I have found and worked things when there was no hint of activity on 50.125 at all, and also when there were no postings to the DX spotting networks either for the paths that did exist. These openings were generally of the minutes only duration variety, though in some cases they were longer openings from my relatively sparse population area to another. Because unlike HF, on 6M opennings between two locations can frequently be very limited areas of geography on both ends.

    So having a radio that you can dedicate to 6M is very worthwhile. And if it doesn't have a scope, you can make good use of scanning to achieve pretty good band coverage. What I have done in the past was setup the 6M radio to scan on FM every 10 kHz from the beacon region around 50.060 to about 50.200 (dodging any local always there spurs). By using FM and scanning you can tell when something is happening on a frequency +/- 5 kHz of the scan frequency, because it will break the squelch. You then just flip over to SSB or CW, tune around a bit, and see who/what it is. Works reasonably well in lieu of a good spectrum scope. So at a minimum I'd seek a radio that can scan in FM mode on 6M.

    I have done a similar thing for 2M weak signal as well. There too not all the workable activity will appear on just the calling frequency, or DX spotting clusters..

    Duane
    N9DG
     
  10. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for that tidbit (A-suffix). There is one on eBay right now. It is an SB-110A, based on your V9 "test." It shows some corrosion or rust on the chassis, like it was dusty in a humid environment. I'll have to see where the bidding goes...
     
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