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I Engineer
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52 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
So I finally studied enough and took my Element 3 exam to upgrade to a General License. I'd been putting it off for far too long. I've done some looking around but not having a lot of hands on experience with HF I'd like some opinions about HF gear. I need a radio and antenna, probably an antenna tuner while I'm at it. I may get a power supply at some point but I've got a couple of mini solar systems built which I plan to use for now. If you give me a make and model I'd appreciate some reasons behind the selection. Better sound, easy to use, etc. I'd like to stay sub $1000 for the whole setup. As for the antenna, yes I could build one but as I'm just starting I'd rather have a dependable one correctly sized to start with and I'll mess with building my own after I've done more studying. Thanks in advance. 73
 

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Si vis pacem, para bellum
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7,428 Posts
A good starter radio that will serve later as a second/back up unit as you progress upwards is the Icom IC-718. Shop around you should be able to find it for about $600 after the current $30 mail in rebate.

It has a front facing speaker which allows you to mount it in a tight space yet still get good sound. Currently it comes with the DSP module installed/included in the price. The receiver is the equal of radios three times the price. It doesn't depend on multilevel menus to change basic operating parameters.

LDG has a plug and play tuner for the Icom radios that cost about $160. Again shop around, you may find it at a better price. IT-100 it the model number.

That leaves you a lot of room to buy feedline/antenna parts, or a pre-made antenna.
 

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Comm Monkey
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566 Posts
Being a Yaesu person myself I'm going to recommend the FT-857 it runs well on batteries and runs UHF/VHF/HF (2m and 70cm). They can be found new for 799 at HRO.

If you want to run completely on battery then there is the ft-817nd. It's also a UHF/VHF/HF rig but only puts out 5 watts so an amplifier is advisable. they run 669 at HRO but you have to figure on an amp to boost your power out.

Both the 857 and 817 are smaller radios so they are easier to pack and operate away from the ham shack.

You mentioned running it off solar panels I'm assuming that you have a battery that is charged by the panels otherwise I'd look at one. I've never seen a solar panel that I would call mini which can output the needed amps (reliability) that can run a transceiver.


Respectfully Submitted
 

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Rather than recommend a specific radio, I'll ask "what's your tolerance for used equipment?"

If you can get a used "mobile" HF rig, that meets your needs, that will save you a lot of money that you can use for other things like amplifiers.

If you prefer new gear, I recommend any of the 100-watt-class transceivers available from Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, etc. Please believe me when I say you need to spend the extra money for the built-in antenna tuner, and I recommend you consider buying the matchine power supply/speaker from the same manufacturer: both options will help resale value a lot.

Although you might prefer store-bought antennas, why not try to make a dipole, and see how well it works? Every penny saved will come in handy when it's time to upgrade.

HTH.

William Warren
 

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Si vis pacem, para bellum
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7,428 Posts
Being a Yaesu person myself I'm going to recommend the FT-857 it runs well on batteries and runs UHF/VHF/HF (2m and 70cm). They can be found new for 799 at HRO.

If you want to run completely on battery then there is the ft-817nd. It's also a UHF/VHF/HF rig but only puts out 5 watts so an amplifier is advisable. they run 669 at HRO but you have to figure on an amp to boost your power out.

Both the 857 and 817 are smaller radios so they are easier to pack and operate away from the ham shack.

You mentioned running it off solar panels I'm assuming that you have a battery that is charged by the panels otherwise I'd look at one. I've never seen a solar panel that I would call mini which can output the needed amps (reliability) that can run a transceiver.


Respectfully Submitted
As the owner of three 857s I respectfully disagree that they make a good beginner radio. Too many of the basic functions of that radio depend on navigating a menu to make a change that you can change with a knob on the front "simpler" radio. For the Yaesu person the FT-450 would be a better beginner radio that the 857/817(setting aside that a low power radio is never a good idea for a beginner).
 

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As the owner of three 857s I respectfully disagree that they make a good beginner radio. Too many of the basic functions of that radio depend on navigating a menu to make a change that you can change with a knob on the front "simpler" radio. For the Yaesu person the FT-450 would be a better beginner radio that the 857/817(setting aside that a low power radio is never a good idea for a beginner).
My first radio was the 857d and while I agree with your point that larger faced radios do have many of the controls on them versus the need to use menus I don't think that means it is much more difficult to operate.
If you can pass a ham license test you can spend 30 minutes reading the manual and keeping it nearby when you use the radio until you memorize the most used operations like adjusting power output or changing the repeater access code.
Many people complain the 857 is too simple and lacks many of the features of fancier more expense radios which is why I actually like it for beginners.
I also like that it can be used as an all band base station but is far tougher and lighter than sat a 450d for field work.
That said I just heard the IC-7200 is back in production if you are looking for a great HF only field radio with many of the easy to adjust features on the face plus by most accounts a better receiver than the Yaesu.
 

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I agree with JDH and the IC-718. I still have mine and its a great radio. I also have two FT-857D's and, while they are great radios for experienced users, they are quite complicated for the new user.

For an antenna, I would suggest a G5RV fed by LMR-400.

I used am MFJ manual tuner with my 718, but now all I use are LDG autotuners. Its nice to learn to use a manual tuner, sort of like its good to know how to drive a standard transmission on a car, but the autotuners make life so much easier.

Best of luck and 73's from Texas.
 

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I'll throw in a vote for something I have... an Icom IC-706MKIIG. It's an all-bander with outputs of: HF - 100W, 2m - 50W, 70cm - 20W. I don't have a lot of experience with HF rigs (this is my first), but from what I've read, this is a good rig. They're discontinued, so you'll have to get one on the used market. There is also the 706, and 706MKII. I'd go for the MKIIG, it has more output on 2m, and it's the only one in that family with 70cm cabability. They're going for around $550 on ebay. You'll also need an external tuner. When I get my antennas installed, I expect to have about $1000 in my whole HF/VHF/UHF setup.
 

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I Engineer
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52 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Being a Yaesu person myself I'm going to recommend the FT-857 it runs well on batteries and runs UHF/VHF/HF (2m and 70cm). They can be found new for 799 at HRO.

If you want to run completely on battery then there is the ft-817nd. It's also a UHF/VHF/HF rig but only puts out 5 watts so an amplifier is advisable. they run 669 at HRO but you have to figure on an amp to boost your power out.

Both the 857 and 817 are smaller radios so they are easier to pack and operate away from the ham shack.

You mentioned running it off solar panels I'm assuming that you have a battery that is charged by the panels otherwise I'd look at one. I've never seen a solar panel that I would call mini which can output the needed amps (reliability) that can run a transceiver.


Respectfully Submitted
My solar system is 100W panel with currently 1 but soon might be 2 100Ah batteries. If I add the battery I will add additional panels. I realize this would limit how much transmitting I could do to about 6 hrs a day but that seems like well more than I'd ever be talking. I enjoy listening more most of the time but that may change. I've got a Yaesu 2m radio and while it works very well I do dislike all the menu scrolling so I might try Icom this time around. I can always have more than one later right!?
 

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Banned
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My first radio was the 857d and while I agree with your point that larger faced radios do have many of the controls on them versus the need to use menus I don't think that means it is much more difficult to operate.
If you can pass a ham license test you can spend 30 minutes reading the manual and keeping it nearby when you use the radio until you memorize the most used operations like adjusting power output or changing the repeater access code.
Many people complain the 857 is too simple and lacks many of the features of fancier more expense radios which is why I actually like it for beginners.
I also like that it can be used as an all band base station but is far tougher and lighter than sat a 450d for field work.
That said I just heard the IC-7200 is back in production if you are looking for a great HF only field radio with many of the easy to adjust features on the face plus by most accounts a better receiver than the Yaesu.
My first radio was an 857d, and I also own an ic-7200.
Between the two, I find the 857d easier to use. Especially at night.
The 857s few physical controls ensure that the user figures out how to "work" the radio very quickly. You'll only lose time in sorting through the 100+ menu items, but everything is "there". The if-7200 on the other hand, has a lot of buttons, and each button does 2-3 different things depending on whether you press it, hold it, or press it, then turn a knob. Combine that with no back-lighting, and it's downright difficult using this radio in the dark.
Just my 2 cents.
 

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Si vis pacem, para bellum
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7,428 Posts
My first radio was the 857d and while I agree with your point that larger faced radios do have many of the controls on them versus the need to use menus I don't think that means it is much more difficult to operate.
If you can pass a ham license test you can spend 30 minutes reading the manual and keeping it nearby when you use the radio until you memorize the most used operations like adjusting power output or changing the repeater access code.
There is truth to what you say. However, it is my opinion that a new operator is better served with a radio he can operate without having to stop frequently to RTFM to make simple changes to the radio when he should be concentrating on learning how to make contacts.
 

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Comm Monkey
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566 Posts
My solar system is 100W panel with currently 1 but soon might be 2 100Ah batteries. If I add the battery I will add additional panels. I realize this would limit how much transmitting I could do to about 6 hrs a day but that seems like well more than I'd ever be talking. I enjoy listening more most of the time but that may change. I've got a Yaesu 2m radio and while it works very well I do dislike all the menu scrolling so I might try Icom this time around. I can always have more than one later right!?
When I'm doing my power budget for comm gear I usually figure on 90% listen and 10% transmit for power needs. Even doing events and disaster drills unless you are the net control then most of the time you are listening.

As far as Icom vs Yaesu they are both good gear and I have no real brand loyalty as far as Comm gear. I'm installing a IC-7100 in my car this weekend and so far I like it. I have to get spun up on DSTAR and the Icom menus but it doesn't look too bad.

Respectfully Submitted
 

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Grumpy Old Bastard
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2,106 Posts
I've got a pair of ICOM 706's, one in my truck and one in my wifes Jeep. Nice that they cover HF and vhf as well. I've got the remote cables so I can put the faceplate on my dash and have the main part of the radio behind my seat.

Decent radios, I've worked all over Europe when I was in Fairbanks, AK with a wire dipole antenna but, that's mainly the antenna doing all the work.

Remember, you can have a big fancy rig with all the bells and whistles but, if your antenna is crap, so will your transmitting and receiving.

If you can find a mobile that has HF as well as VHF and UHF and it will do crossband where you can have a walkie on UHF, and your signal will repeat on VHF to extend your reach, that would be best in my books.

We used 70cm walkies doing comms for the Yukon Quest Sled Dog race when I was stationed in Fairbanks, had a crossband mobile in the nice warm cabin and it had the big fancy antenna to reach Fairbanks Control 50 miles away. So we would talk on UHF, it would be sent to the mobile, switched over to VHF, talked into Fairbanks, they'd reply on VHF, then our mobile would convert it back to UHF.

That also allows you to carry one of those little handhelds with milliwatts of power and still get out and receive so long as you can connect to your mobile.
 

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1, 2, 3 - HAM I am!!
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400 Posts
Being a Yaesu person myself I'm going to recommend the FT-857 it runs well on batteries and runs UHF/VHF/HF (2m and 70cm). They can be found new for 799 at HRO.

If you want to run completely on battery then there is the ft-817nd. It's also a UHF/VHF/HF rig but only puts out 5 watts so an amplifier is advisable. they run 669 at HRO but you have to figure on an amp to boost your power out.

Both the 857 and 817 are smaller radios so they are easier to pack and operate away from the ham shack.

You mentioned running it off solar panels I'm assuming that you have a battery that is charged by the panels otherwise I'd look at one. I've never seen a solar panel that I would call mini which can output the needed amps (reliability) that can run a transceiver.


Respectfully Submitted

I second this motion. I own two 857d's. Awesome radio and well proven. If I could, I would lend you one of my 857s or even pass it to you, but I am in love with them.
 

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Padre in the woods
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1,280 Posts
I agree with Darkwing. FT857 (which are on sale in some stores), and think about how you can make it portable. Then on vacations PRACTICE setting it up in the field.

I have an FT-857D in my truck, (sometimes run PSK31), and one in a backpack for camping.
 

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As you can see...opinions, everyone has them and they don't all agree. That does not make the opinion wrong, just how the person delivering it feels.

I am not a fan of the Yaesu 857, I can't even put my finger on exactly why, but having used them several times (never owned one) I just do not place it high on my list. Odd, because the majority of my gear is Yaesu. The same with the Icom 718. I can't say it is bad, and the price point is very nice, but again not high on my list.

Basically the recommendations have been all radios under $1000. Keeping with that price point I think the Kenwood TS480SAT is very hard to beat, it comes in at just a bit over $800, typically below $850.

Of the under $1000 transceivers it has generally the best receiver of the bunch. This is both my opinion and supported by third party testing (such as Sherwood Enginering and various ARRL lab reports).

It has a remote head, and is sold with the remoting kit. And unlike some of the others, when you remote the head you do not have to have a separate speaker, as the speaker is in the factory head.

It has an antenna tuner. All built in factory tuners tend to be a bit limited in what kind of antenna (how bad a mismatch) they will load but in general the TS480SAT tuner seems a bit more capable than some of the others in the price range. And several other radios that are just a bit less expensive than this have no tuner at all.

The radio has a lot of buttons on the face of it, this is both good and bad. The buttons tend to be a little small, and can be a problem to operate in gloves. The small print can also be a bit hard for older eyes to make out in less than perfect light. However, the reason for the multiple button setup is simple, many of the most common functions can be accessed pushing a dedicated button, no drilling through menus required. Once you learn the location of the buttons I prefer this approach. And yes, the function (primary and secondary functions) of each button are clearly marked, so if you leave the manual at home you can still figure out how to change modes or activate the antenna tuner.

On the negative side, it has a somewhat large remote head.

I think as either a base or mobile solution the combination of a Kenwood TS480SAT with something like a Yaesu FT-7900R makes a nice combination. The radios themselves come in at about $1000 combined cost (not counting antennas, feedline, or power supplies), give you HF plus 2 m / 70 cm, and are solid radios. I have, and have had for several years, exactly this setup in one of my 4x4's (another has the Kenwood TS-2000X with RC-2000 remote head for all band/all mode operation).

T!
 

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Grumpy Old Bastard
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2,106 Posts
Yaesu's and Icoms, and Kenwoods.. Kinda like Fords and Chevys, and Dodges..

Remember when you'd pick up a tool, turn it over and hope it didn't say "Made in Japan" on the back? And now you're excited that it's "Made in Japan" and not "Made in China".

I'll stay with the Japanese radios for as long as I can..
 

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Premium Member
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492 Posts
I renewed my license about 5 years ago after a very long time away from ham radio. I knew nothing about newer equipment.

My first radio this time around was an Icom IC-7200. It seemed to do about everything I felt I needed at the time. I would do it again. It is a great radio, but unfortunately it is no longer made.

I have since acquired two more Icoms, both used. I am not really all that attached to Icom, they were simply deals that were too good to pass up. One is a IC-7700. I love it, but it is really overkill. But I really like the spectrum monitor.

The other is an IC-7410. It is a super nice rig that I found priced right. I actually think it has a better receiver section than the 7700. I installed roofing filters in it and it is very selective. If you could find a reasonable deal on one you would probably really enjoy it. It is no longer made, so you would need to shop around. It has a built in antenna tuner, but can also utilize the LDG IT-100 autotuner which has a greater matching range than the one that is built in. The 7410 allows you to switch between inboard and outboard tuners at the push of a button.

The IC-718 is an excellent beginner's rig, as are the Yaesu 857 and 817 mentioned by others.

Good luck in your search and welcome to the world of Ham Radio!
 
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