Newbie with equipment questions

Discussion in 'Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator/Upgrading Privi' started by NUMBIE, Jan 17, 2010.

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  1. W0VYE

    W0VYE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'd advise you not to spend a lot of money until you have a little experience, because that's the only way you're going to find out what you really want to do within ham radio. And your interests may well change over time. It makes no sense to spend thousands on HF gear, and then decide you really want to work DX on 2 meters, or EME. Do you want to chase HF DX, work the traffic nets, or do you think working the world with 5 watts is special because anybody can work DX by throwing a lot of watts at the problem? Do you like contests or hate them? See my point?

    I have a Yaesu 757-GXII built in the 1980's. It's just fine for right now, for me. I can work digital and phone on all bands 160-10 and control it with my PC if I want to. (I don't) But half the hams reading what I just said are going to think I'm crazy, and would weep if this was all they had. You can buy an xcvr of this generation for a few hundred dollars. The trick is finding one that's in good shape.

    New rigs are like new-anything else. The moment you buy one, it drops drastically in value. However, there are a lot of good things about buying new and it may be the best choice for you. If you go that way, I'd say buy a modest rig from Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood. You'll get quality gear you can use for many years, or sell easily later on without loosing a lot of money.

    You can save a lot of money, and learn a lot, building your own antennas. There's nothing wrong with buying a good tribander or vertical, but they're expensive. Buying wire antennas is just plain silly, IMO. Verticals are as good as their radials and grounding. They can be excellent, or next to useless.

    A coax run that long (150 feet) is a concern. Coax is inherently a relatively lossy transmission line and gets worse as frequency increases. There are several types, and if your run is that long, you want to understand the differences and buy accordingly.

    One of the great things about ham radio is that there's so much opportunity to grow and learn, and try different things. Give yourself space and time to grow into it. The transciever is one of the least important items in your shack. The operator is by far the most important. ~73 and remember to have fun!
  2. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Numbie, as a general rule, hams who spend more on their antennas than on their radios have by far the best results. The magic is in the antennas, not the rigs! A $500 radio on a good antenna will vastly outperform a $5,000 radio on a poor one.

    The antenna you choose will dictate who you will be talking to. You mention a vertical. Right now, the only HF antenna I have is a 43 foot vertical in the back yard with about 20 ground radials. I intend to add more radials when the ground thaws out. From here in Minnesota, this antenna makes it easy to work both all over North America. On the lower bands, i.e. 40 and 80 meters, it is a superior antenna for DX. Two of them would be better. Four of them would be superb.

    If I had a low dipole, it I would have a much easier time working the central part of the country, and a much harder time working the coasts. While I might work some intercontinental DX, it would be a real challenge.

    Finally, if I had a nice yagi antenna on a 50 foot or higher tower, with an all-band wire antenna suspended under it, I'd probably have about the best of both worlds, plus the benefits of a 'gain' antenna. On the HF bands, a good gain antenna will make signals stronger by more than an 'S' unit in both directions - the difference is really amazing.

    Another concern for you is what bands to operate. As a Technician, you're effectively restricted to VHF and UHF, with very imited HF privileges. Unless you intend to use Morse Code, the Tech really won't be of much use. I looked up your town in WVa, and I'm not sure what you might find on VHF/UHF. I suspect you would have a hard time finding much activity there, unless you're close enough to Frederick, MD or the Pittsburgh area to get into the repeaters in those regions. Only a local ham can tell you about that. The SPLAT! emulator can give you an idea of the potential coverage for VHF/UHF in your area:

    So, unless I'm mistaken, I'd advise you to focus on HF. Think towers instead of bells and whistles on the radio. There are MANY great HF radios to choose from. I think the Ten Tec Omni VII or the less costly Jupiter would both be enviable starter radios for HF. The Omni would give you both 6 and 10 meters, two bands you can use as a Technician. Add a low cost VHF/UHF FM rig like the FT-7900 or monoband 2900, antenna, power supply, and you're set.

    Icom has a new rig coming out that's a replacement for the IC-746 Pro. The biggest advantage of the 746 is 100 watts on HF, 6, and 2 meters.
    The new rig includes the 1.2 Ghz. band as an option. However, again, I think your focus in WV should be HF.
  3. W0VYE

    W0VYE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Jim, gauge isn't the issue, it's more about the type of insulating material used between the center conductor and the shield. There's solid polyethylene and foam polyethylene. RG-8 comes both ways. I believe RG-8X comes only with foam. One isn't clearly "better" than another. RG-8 with foamed dielectric is the lowest-loss, but it's very fat and has a relatively low breakdown voltage. RG-8X is skinny, but it has the same voltage rating and double the loss of RG-8 FPE. Open wire feed has the lowest loss, highest breakdown voltage, but is very difficult to run and high impedence. Ladder line is very good and easier to run, but ditto the impedence mismatch. And correcting a mismatch can be done, but it will also cost you some loss.

    There's no "best", but there are lots of design issues and trade-offs. Maybe they matter, maybe they don't. It depends....

    NUMBIE QRZ Member

    New rig

    Thanks again guys for your great input!!!! Does anyone have an opinion on Yaesu FT-847? A used unit is listed for $1,000.00, without any options. How does Yaesu rate?


    NUMBIE QRZ Member

    Thanks to KDOJXG and KORGR!! I am about 2 hours west of Frederick, MD and about 2 hours, 45 minutes from Pittsburgh. The antenna choice is concerning me. I live in a rural area and can mount it pretty much anywhere, but I want it to be somewhat inconspicuous. The height of the tower confuses me in conjuction with the type of coax to use. I tend to want to use a better quality coax than maybe necessary, since I will only want to run it once, through my basement wall and into my "shack" in the basement.

    I can't tell you how much I enjoy and respect this site!
  6. KC6DXN

    KC6DXN Ham Member QRZ Page


    When looking for transceivers, I perused, under the REVIEWS sections. Look up the FT-847 (under HF transceivers). They have 16 pages worth of reviews on this rig. I ignore the "5 of 5" crowds and concentrate on the "2 of 5" and "3 of 5" crowds. I feel that the higher scores are generally not analytical enough and the low scores seem more often to be given by those who want to boo-hoo, cuz they got a lemon, or did not do enough research or it was NOT like their old gear.

    The Eham reviews are easy to surf through and it is a VERY popular site.
  7. W0VYE

    W0VYE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm sorry if I belabor. Jim, I understand your concerns. I'm confused, though. Initially you talked about a vert antenna, but here you mention tower. Did I miss something? Three quick points:

    1. A vertical antenna should have radials buried in all directions around the base. You don't want to jam the antenna against a property line and then not be able to bury radials in that direction. A tower is a very different thing from a vertical antenna.

    2. All coax, especially coax outdoors, and especially buried coax, ages. Losses increase over time. Moisture is the main enemy. You will have to replace it every X years, so you want to run buried coax through conduit if possible. Try to find someone who's worked with buried cable to look at your site and advise you.

    3. I promise you that you cannot design a station from scratch that you'll never want to change. More antennas, towers with rotators... Or you may want phased verticals. Design for flexibility, change and growth. Start out simple and work you're way into it. You'll have a lot more fun and end up with a much better station. ~73
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2010
  8. W1WOW

    W1WOW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    First Rig Suggestions for New Ham

    I would suggest a used ICOM 706MKIIG and a nice HT like the Yaesu VX-8DR. Lots you can do with all the bands...

    Just my 2 cents!
  9. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The coax you use depends on many things. I'm becoming a believer in higher quality coax for everything.

    I would never have suggested using a low loss coax like LMR400 on an HF antenna until I put up my vertical, and found that the maker recommends it.
    The low loss cable is also much lower loss if you have high SWR on the line, as compared to lesser cables. It's not that much more expensive than RG-213, and LMR400DB is designed for direct burial - it has extra sealer under the jacket to reject moisture and seal any small holes or cracks.

    For resonant antennas on HF where you do not anticipate very high SWR's - less than 4:1 or so - RG-213 is fine for all legal power levels. RG-8X or LMR 240 is fine for low/medium power applications, and indeed, should handle a kilowatt, but I wouldn't try. Some commercial RG-8X cables stink. You'd probably benefit from learning how to put your own connectors on, buying good or excellent cable in bulk, and making your own. I recenlty bought some commercial jumpers that I think were made with acid-core solder - the connectors are corroding before my eyes! You often get what you pay for and these were cheap.

    On VHF, the cable required depends on the frequency and length. For short runs, less than 25 feet, RG-8X or LMR-240 should work for 6 and 2 meters. For UHF, and longer runs on VHF up to maybe 100 feet, LMR-400 should suffice, though hardline is definitely better. You may be able to obtain 'cable ends' from the your cable company from reels of the small hardline they use.
    Many hams use large heliax at these frequencies but that is purchased at a price of "dollars per foot". You can often find heliax available as surplus.
  10. KJ4IDH

    KJ4IDH Ham Member QRZ Page

    My 2 cents

    Just an idea....

    Yaesu FT-7900 dual band mobile - about $250 + or -
    Yaesu FT-450 HF - about $800 + or -

    Reason for 2 rigs: no all of your eggs are in one basket.

    Both radios are more than adequate for a beginner or an advanced operator and are very cost effective. The FT-450 will make it easier to jump into HF digital modes with its serial port (My Opinion).

    If you would be interested in VHF/UHF weak signal neither would work though.

    You have a lot of options out there so I would suggest getting with someone close and get your feet wet with operating modes, bands, radios, etc.

    Too echo K2ER, “Welcome to the Journey. Don’t try to take it in all at once” and above all else, HAVE FUN!:)
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