New General looking for HF transceiver advice

Started by StoneyHill, October 10, 2012, 05:25:01 PM

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I have operated/owned a lot of radios in my time. Everything from tube types to modern ones. TenTecs, ICOM's, Yaesu's, Kenwoods, Collins, Drake's, Hallicrafters, Heathkit's, even some Radio Shack stuff, and a whole host of VHF/UHF only makers, from ham to commercial conversions.

I think you need to more closely define what you want to do with the radio. You mentioned grid down operations. Even though I love QRP, I would hesitate to recommend it for when you really need to get communications established in an emergency. Low power is a lot of fun and very rewarding as a hobby, but not really ideal unless one is forced to use low power for other reasons - especially unsuited if lives may be on the line. That is not the time for hobby operations, IMHO.

The Yaesu FT-857D is generally thought of as the Swiss Army Knife of ham radios. It has HF from 160 up to 6 meters, general coverage of the shortwave bands, and VHF/UHF so it can (and does) work satellites, AM, FM CW, SSB, and digital modes. It is small enough to go in a sturdy box, sturdy enough to survive reasonable abuse, will operate from a picnic bench, car, or home, has power levels that can be varied between about 4 and 100 watts on all HF bands, 50 watts on VHF, 20 watts on UHF, and although the considerable number of features are buried in menus to an extent, in operation it is very close to the Yaesu 450D (which I also have) - or anything else out there unless you want to spend a LOT of money. It has DSP and accomodates both CW and SSB filters. Given a fair level of operational skill and a decent antenna, it will provide communications anywhere at anytime.

The only real difference between the 857D and the 897D, in practical terms, is that the 897 can have internal batteries. Many have found their usefulness and longevity to be of dubious value. I've not owned an 897, but have operated one and it is identical to the 857, but is larger.

I have owned numerous TenTecs (Century 21, Argonaut, Omni-D and probably something else I cannot remember) over the years. They are generally excellent for CW, however only an afficiando of CW will notice this. SSB is about the same as any other rigs of the period. At this date, I cannot recommend them (new radios at least) as they have experienced a rash of quality issues that they used to never have.

I currently have an ICOM 718 with all the options, but have owned/operated almost everything they ever made up till the last couple of years. Quality radios. More expensive and generally don't do anything any of the others do.

I don't currently have any Kenwoods, but they are also excellent equipment.

I have not owned any Elecraft stuff. Great equipment, but very pricey.

Even though some cry foul and useless, I have found that the reviews section of is very good to help people decide what equipment to purchase. Also please remember that no radio will work well without a good antenna system. Shop wisely. My opinions, as usual.


THanks guys for all the help.  I need to look at the Ten-tecs.  Otherwise, I think I have narrowed my decision to the Yaesu 857 and the Icom 7200.

BTW, I got a perfiect score on the Extra exam this morning.  (Had to brag a little :)  )


White Tiger

Whoa! A PERFECT score...on an Extra exam!?

That is AWESOME and you DESERVE to brag!
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.

Jim Boswell

Can you find a local club? Most club members will let you check out their radios, also field day is great for that. With over 38 years of electronics repair exp. I think an older TenTec makes a great first HF rig. A TenTec Corsair makes a great first rig. The Corsair has everything you need out of the box, and you can add extra filters as needed.
An Icom IC-730 or IC735 are very good also. Now we are talking about 20+ year old rigs. I have a new IC-7200 and I like that radio very much. The IC-7200 is built like a sherman tank and not too hard to use. If you have the 1Kbuck I would buy a 7200. Add a powersupply or gel cell batteries a manual MFJ tunner and antenna and you are set.
I will be happy to help you pick a rig.
Take Care,  73'S  KA5SIW


I have an 817 with an HF packer Amp, with 5W in i get 35-40 out. I have been able to talk all over Europe with a end fed and a simple wire dipole. It doesn't get any easier to carry or power this radio.

Jim Boswell

When considering a radio, question is how are you going to use the radio. I would sort the radios into 3 size lists. Desk rigs, compact/mobile rigs,  portable rigs. Just about any rig can be used as a desk rig, but do you want to carry a full sized rig up to the top of a mountain?? Based on my personal experance, all of these radios I have owned for years, here is what I suggest:
Desk rig: Tentec Corsair, Tentec Omni-C,
Compact/mobile rig: Icom 730 Icom 735, Icom 718, Icom 7200, Tentec Delta
Portable rig: Tentec Argosy, Icom 703, Yaesu 817
If you use SSB, you need 50 to 100watts. Yes, I have used a Icom 703 on 20 meters, but to fight your way into 40meters you need more power. Do you plan to learn CW? The Youkits 4band CW rigs Tentec sells are getting good marks.
Do you require a general coverage receiver? When SHTF, you may need to get your news from BBC shortwave.
My togo kit has an Icom 7200 and 703, with wire antennas and a MFJ mobile tunner. I do not like auto tunners. I string-up and wire antennas and cut them to correct length. The tunner is used to adj for CW or SSB sections of the band. I have two different sized gell cell battery packs with solar panels to go.
For VHF work I will use my Icom IC-v80 and thrown a good scanner too.
I hope this helps,  73'S  KA5SIW


MHO...I run the Yaesu 857,897,817 family. All the "bells and whistles",auto tuners, add on's, programming software, et al are pretty much interchangable. The menu tends to need a learning curve, but once mastered, pretty easy. All of the above work pretty decent in a Battery only enviroment.


I second the recommendations -

If you want to get a big bang for the buck , a used Ten Tec of almost any stripe. 

For new or nearly new the 7200 is SUPERB and saves you a bundle in that you do not need to buy add-on filtern, digital mode interfaces r anything like that.  You can operate CW (Yay!), Voice, snoud card data (Yay!) and it's also a very, very good sounding shortwave receiver for general coverage.  Add to that, the fact that it's build like a TANK, yet is only medium size, it's what I would choose .  I know this, because it's what I installed on my sailboat back when I was a cruiser. Very, very good manufacturing, tough and capable - like a good woman. ha ha

de RadioRay ..._ ._
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry