Need help w/ choosing a first HF radio

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by KI4ZSZ, Jun 30, 2008.

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  1. KI4ZSZ

    KI4ZSZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey, yall

    I'm looking for my first HF radio. I'm going to be upgrading to general within the next few months hopefully...I got bit BAD by the HF bug last field day...

    I'm looking for something to fit within my budget of $2500 or so (it is a bit flexible, so don't be afraid to suggest something a little over). Of course, the more money I save, the more can be spent on a good antenna, power supply, etc...Let's try to restrict the options to current production radios...I'd like to buy new in this case...

    The radio must put out at least 100 watts, and I will be using it for phone only. I'm not a CWer, and stuff like digital modes, ATV, RTTY, etc is not my thing. I will be using it for ragchewing and maybe light to moderate contesting...not serious contesting...

    I already have a great 2m/440 radio (Icom 208H) so a DC to daylight rig is not necessary...This is also going to be a home station, so I have plenty of room for a BIG radio...

    I've been looking at the options, and here is what I have found that looks good to me, prices are HRO unless specified.

    Icom 746 Pro $1800
    I saw one of these in action on field day and listened to it (I was logging the contacts). Seems to be a nice radio. I think I could deal with one no problem. This also includeds 6m and 2m in addition to the HF.

    Icom 718 $600
    Consensus is that this is a nice basic HF rig for a decent price

    Yeasu FT-2000 $2500
    Well, if anything has enough buttons and knobs to satisfy me, it's this. I understand that these need some addon filters. I do read about the complaints of people, however, and that makes me shy away from the FT-2000D. But then again, I look at one of my friends who has one connected to a very well designed antenna system and he seems to enjoy his FT-2000 in contests. I also know another contester who says the 2000 is junk. I'd like to hear ya'lls opinions about this. It IS at the upper limit, however...

    Yeasu FT-950 $1500
    Again, plenty of knobs and buttons. Opinions? I understand this is a relativly new radio.

    Elecraft K-3 $1850 for unassembled 100W, $2050 for assembled 100W, Elecraft website

    I hear all the time about the great reciever of the K3, and I've heard it's got pretty good transmit. This is a serious contender for me. Modules are supposedly easy to add later, as far as filters, etc. go. I could live w/ that. For the price of the FT-2000, I could add 5 to 7 filters, or a high performance sub reciever, or numerous other accessories.

    Ten-Tec Jupiter $1549 Tentec website

    Looks like a nice radio. I've heard that Ten-tec recieve is good, and then I've seen several posts damning Ten-tec, or at least saying that they are overpriced for what they get. Your opinions?

    Ten-Tec Omni-VII $2650 Tentec website

    See above comments on the Jupiter. Also, I've heard that the Omni-VII's screen has a narrow viewing angle, and some other stuff. Again, opinions please...

    Thanks for your help...I'm going to be agonizing and overanalying this purchase decision, as I do every purchase decision. But I'd like to know what ya'll think...
  2. K5BAQ

    K5BAQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    My first HF Rig

    You remind me of me when I went looking for a HF Rig. Being very frugal, Scots don't you know, I chose the Swan. Good luck and enjoy HF, I sure do.
  3. K2MMO

    K2MMO Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    First rig

    I have an Icom 718 and it is a great rig.....however I use it for CW and never did any SSB work on it..however it is a good basic rig for the money.....also try the Yaesu FT 450 also a very good rig I have that one too but I use that for CW also.........Never did phone on it................both are good rigs to get your feet wet and well worth the money.....if you are on a budget try a qrp rig......they are cheap and you can spend your extra $ on a good antenna.....

    Just a thought
  4. N5XM

    N5XM Ham Member QRZ Page

    some great choices out there...

    I'd be real tempted to go the K3/100 route. I bet some dealer has a 756 Pro II you could get new for under 2500.00. You might even be very surprised at how little more could get you into a Pro III. Some of these places even include a PS at no extra charge. I like Yaesu, and have had a 920 and a 1000MP, but it didn't take long for me to realize that unless you have a full box of expensive filters, you have a very ordinary radio. I'm 99.9% CW so am enamored with my Orion (any Ten Tec, actually) and my friends Pro III. I've owned 23 different HF rigs, and enjoyed them all. Get yourself a little tri-bander and modest tower, beam up about 40 feet, and you'll be well on your way! Good luck.
  5. WB7RBN

    WB7RBN Ham Member QRZ Page


    Find yourself a good used Yaesu FT-920 6-160meters. One of the most under rated radios around and probably one of the best radios Yaesu ever built. Has all the bells and whistles you will ever need. I love mine.

  6. WA7KKP

    WA7KKP Ham Member QRZ Page

    First radio?

    Do some shopping around, you might find a good deal in used. Why pay retail?

    If I were to buy a new radio (God forbid!!!) I'd probably go the Elecraft K3. I've seen the K2, and was really impressed. And that takes a lot, as I'm a retired broadcast professional engineer.

    Put your hard earned dinero into a good antenna system. Radios come and goe with the tides; a good skyhook makes the difference between a marginal signal and armchair copy.

    Gary WA7KKP
  7. KI4ZSZ

    KI4ZSZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, thanks for all of ya'lls help. However, my budget just got wiped out by school costs, so I will not be purchasing any more radios for now. I am still going to get my general, but an HF radio will have to wait...
  8. WB5JNC

    WB5JNC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Don't give up getting on HF so easily

    All is not lost... contrary to what the new equipment manufacturers and dealers would have you to believe, it is possible to make many HF contacts and enjoy our hobby for much less than $2500. A tenth +/- of that will buy you a decent radio, and a homebrew wire antenna in the trees (or attic) will get you on the air. No, you won't break every pileup you hear, but you can still have lots of fun on the bands, especially if you can live without "whistles and bells" and maybe the WARC bands.

    What's available in this "tenth +/-" price range? I like the old Ten-Tecs (especially the Omni-B series and Corsair), but there are others which are probably also good starter rigs: Kenwood '120/430/440/520 etc. or similar Icom and Yaesu products to name just a few if you prefer the "rice boxes". Look at the reviews on this or other ham sites if you want to see what others think of a particular rig (or what problems they have encountered with it). There is even the possibility that a generous "Elmer" in your area might have a spare rig floating around that they'd loan you.

    As the old saying goes, "Where there's a will there's a way." Get busy, pass your test, and put the word out to your local amateur community that you're trying to get on HF on a tight budget. My hunch is that there will be an HF rig on the air from your QTH before long....

    73 es GL (CW for "best regards and good luck'), Al
  9. KI4ZSZ

    KI4ZSZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm still going to be on the lookout for an HF rig, of course...

    I'd love to have a Yaesu FT-747 or 757...

    Going to keep an eye out for stuff...
  10. K8MHZ

    K8MHZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    A great rig in the 300 to 400 dollar range is the Icom IC-735. That's used of course as they will be around 20 years old. They are *great* radios.
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