First Ham Radio Suggestions.

Started by gil, July 15, 2014, 04:22:07 PM

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July 15, 2014, 04:22:07 PM Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 03:55:02 PM by gil
Choosing a first radio can be a daunting experience. Here is the copy of an email I sent to a friend with a few beginner's radio suggestions. The advise might not apply to you, but it does give a place to start looking...

QuoteFirst, you will want a handheld 2m/70cm. Go on Ebay and get a Baofeng UV-5R V2+.
It's about $45, and the latest version. Indispensable for listening to local traffic.

If you can spend $140 though, the Yaesu FT-270R is more rugged and reliable, not to mention submersible!

Now for HF, with General license... To start, I'd suggest something simple like a MFJ-9420X:

You can add a Morse code module later:
Though a real CW radio would be better.

If you decided to get a CW (Morse) radio, your best bet would be a TenTec HB1B:
or an Elecraft K1 or KX1. Elecrafts are much better IMHO.
Elecraft would be a kit. You could also find a used built one one Ebay.
Note that the KX1 allows short-wave radio listening! That is an awesome feature.
Another good choice would be a Weber Tri-Bander kit:
It is an excellent radio and only $200!

If you just wanted to try Morse code and listening a bit without breaking the bank, then I'd suggest a Rock-Mite 20 kit for $40. It is a pretty simple kit to build. You'd have to buy an Altoids mints box and eat all the mints to use the tin as a case ;-)

Don't forget that for Morse code, you'd also need a key:
or (easy kit).
And if using the MFJ you might want to get a used straight key on Ebay.
I like paddles better myself, it is easier to send good code and most radios these days have a built-in keyer (not the MFJ).

For HF you'll need an antenna. If you have trees around, get a PAR End-fed EF-10/20/40 MKII.
The connector choice depends on the radio you buy. For the MFJ, SO239. For a CW QRP radio, BNC. You can always use an adaptor if you have both types.

If there are no trees around and you don't want to buy a full fledged base antenna, get a Buddistick:

Also for HF you will need a SWR meter:

Later when you get the hang of operating you might want a Yaesu FT-817nd:
It does everything, even 2m and 70cm.

The Elecraft KX3 is better (though the Yaesu is more rugged) but $1K.
The Yaesu also eats batteries at three times the Elecraft rate...
The KX3 does not like rain...

Note that I have no interests in the sites I mentioned, you can shop around... These choices are just a few among many. There are a flurry of old cheap rigs on Ebay, but you need to know what to look for. My suggestions are fool-proof. If you want to get into Morse code, you might want to learn to solder and some electronics to build a kit, as CW kit radios are truly awesome. Also look for them used on Ebay.



Gil, lots of good advice there.  We could spend a week and several cases of beer debating the fine points, but I can't find fault in any of your advice, and most of it I agree 110% with.


Thanks Bob :-) There isn't a solution that will work for everyone. I am a big proponent of Morse code of course, but not many people have the time or patience to learn it. Hence the MFJ-9420, simple one-band radio and cheap. My suggestions are akin to which tricycle and training wheels to get...



The starting point is that the very thoughtful, I wanted to know more.


I would also suggest a few YouTube videos on the subject.

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