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Thread: Advice on my first radio

  1. #1

    Default Advice on my first radio

    So as I stated in my introduction thread, I'm currently borrowing a radio from my university, which will have to be returned at the end of the semester - so I'm looking to get one of my own. But I have no idea where to start looking. Mostly I'm looking for something cheap - preferably under $300, $500 as an absolute max. I figure I don't need much power, as there's a repeater right across the street and I'm new to this, so I'm just looking for something basic and cheap to get started. And I'll probably be upgrading the antenna, so that's not a concern either.

    As of right now I'm looking at the Yaesu handheld radios - the radio the university gives us is a VX-1R, and it's pretty nice, and I've seen a few models on eBay in the $200-$300 range. But I was wondering if anyone has any other suggestions, as I don't even know where to start looking. I have no problem building one either - i've got a soldering iron and am fairly capable with it, though I wouldn't be able to do anything surface-mount. But basically, I'm new to this whole ham radio thing and looking for advice.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator ei7gnb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    some advice: shell out as much as you can now and put it into something that wont limit you when you upgrade your licence - you dont have to use all of the features from the beginning - that's what I did, bought a 100W HF transceiver and got someone to reduce the power out to 10W (which was all I was licensed for at the time)

    73 Jon MIØ??? pending
    Jon, EI7GNB/MIØJVI http://www.jonsmyth.co.uk

    Beware the lightning that lurketh in an undischarged capacitor lest it cause thee to be bounced upon thy buttocks in a most ungentlemanly manner!

  3. #3
    Super Moderator m0bov's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Do you have access to a roof or something for putting up antennas? Do you have a car? When and where will you be using it???
    73
    James
    http://www.m0bov.co.uk
    HamRadioForum founding member and moderator

  4. #4

    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Well, the reason I was looking into the Yaesu handhelds is because that, while they're low power, they seem to have a very good range of frequencies. And they're cheap. I don't really want to sink money into something now because I'm not sure how much I'll be using it, and I'm trying to get it for Christmas, so the budget is not so much how much I'm willing to spend as how much my parents are willing to spend. Which is around $500.

    As for where I'll be using it - For the next three and a half years at least (or until I buy something better) - at college mostly, no roof access, though as I said there are several repeaters within a few miles. And I don't have a car yet, though I should be getting one some time next year.

    Size is also of some consideration, though not much. But I can't be setting up any huge amount of equipment in my dorm

  5. #5
    Super Moderator m0bov's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Well, an HT sounds like a fab idea, I started out using an HT. There is also the 817, if you have a park nearby or something, then you can make up some sort of HF antenna and play /p on the HF bands.

    Don't discount the new VX8r when it arrives!
    73
    James
    http://www.m0bov.co.uk
    HamRadioForum founding member and moderator

  6. #6

    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Thanks for the suggestion of the 817. From what I can tell (which I admit isn't much...lol) it appears to be quite nice. Perhaps I can even manage the ND model, though it's a bit expensive.

  7. #7

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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    I'm new to amateur radio myself and my advice is as follows:

    1) Don't spend anything yet. You'll make mistakes and waste your money.
    2) When you do start spending, don't spend much. At the end of the day, you're sending and receiving electromagnetic waves and the laws of physics are just the same now as they were when Marconi was doing his thing. You do not need all the bells and whistles and they'll just eat away at your budget.
    3) The antenna is king. Work out what you can achieve/get away with as far as antennas are concerned. Don't buy a radio until you know what antenna you're going to be plugging it into and where it's going to be.
    4) Once you've established what and where your antenna is going to be, identify where your radio will be put.

    If someone had told me that two months ago and I'd followed their advice, I'd have been a lot richer than I am now and would probably be enjoying amateur radio a lot more too.
    David

  8. #8
    Code Monkey 2e0sql's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Like David says antenna is key! so you need to work out what's do able with the space you have.. as you say your at University your either living in a dorm/house where big antennas might not be possible so that might knock HF on the head.

    But still means you can access VHF/UHF using handhelds if that's the case a dual band handheld is probably the best investment you can make with a decent antenna for it.
    Peter, 2E0SQL - http://www.2e0sql.co.uk

  9. #9

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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Hello Brian,

    As a Ham Operator for 40+ years now I understand your plight wondering what you should purchase as your first Amateur Radio for a base station. a mobile or for portable usage. There are many considerations to make on your part, first you have Technician License which allows you to operate all of the VHF 50~54 MHz, 144~148 MHz &
    222~225 MHz / UHF 420~450 MHz (Limited to 50 W on U.S. Coastal Boundries), 902 MHz & 1296 MHz / SHF Microwave
    bands with up to 1.5 KW P.E.P. SSB and/or 750 W AM / FM / CW / Digital RF Output!.

    David's comments:

    The antenna (system) is king. Work out what you can achieve/get away with as far as antennas are concerned. Don't buy a radio until you know what antenna you're going to be plugging it into and where it's going to be.
    I'll add to David's comments, not only is the Antenna critical but so is the Coaxial Cable Feedline so you should use a minimum of Belden 9913, LMR-400A, 1/2" or 7/8" Andrews Heliax to prevent high dB line Losses. For an example, i.e. RG-8/U or RG-213/U Mil. Spec. measured at 144 MHz has -2.5 dB Per 100 Feet or 45% of your RF Power Output is dropped across the Coaxial Cable. Belden 9913 / LMR-400A has -1.8 dB Loss or 33% of RF Power Output is dropped across the Coaxial Cable 1/2" / LDF4-50 Andrews Heliax has -1 dB Loss or 20% of RF Power Output is dropped across the Coaxial Cable. 7/8" / LDF5-50 Andrews Heliax has -.5 dB Loss or 10% of RF Power Output is dropped across the Coaxial Cable. A minmum of RG-8/U, RG-213/U or 8214 should be used on VHF, UHF or Microwave bands.

    RF connectors are very important too, the UHF PL-259 / SO-239 are poor connectors for VHF, UHF and Microwaves bands because they introduce Impedance Bumps in the Coaxial Cable Feedline. One of the sucessful RF connectors used in VHF, UHF and Microwave bands is the "N" Type connector because of Low Insertion Loss and a Constant Impedance. They are a little more tricky assembling but after you've learned the proper way interface the cable and connectors, you'll swear by them. If you become a friend of a local two-way radio shop or a tower erection company, you can acquire used runs of 1/2", 7/8" or 1-5/8" Andrews Heliax Coax Cable at a fraction of list price. Normally. heliax has a wear life of 25~50 years if it has been put up and sealed correctly. RG-8/U, RG-213/U or Belden 8214 50-Ohm Coaxial cable last 5 years and needs to be replaced.

    Let me talk about Antenna Support Structures otherwise known as Towers as this is a touchy subject with neighbors. Brian since you live here in the United States, you are protected by the F.C.C. PRB-1 which allows Amateur Radio Operators to have Towers on their property unless you sign an agreements with the Builder / Contractor that have zoned the sub-division prohibiting any type of Support Structures or Towers in their CC & Rs. Yopu will need to follow all Building Code Requirements while applying for a Permit and supply the Technical Material and the Pay the Construction Fee. If the Local or County Government balk at you stating that you can't have a Tower Permit, make sure that you have the PRB-1 document with you and point out that when the lawsuit goes to Federal Court it will cost the local government body thousands of dollars at their expense.

    Since you are operating VHF/UHF/Microwave bands you'll want your tower at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 feet or higher to enable your station signal to transmit farther out reaching those DX stations with good solid signal reports as this is the name of the game. If you put as much time and money into your antenna system as the transceiver itself, the payback will be more satisfying to you while talking easily to those other far away stations 400~1000 miles away. This will not happen overnight but more like over a period of 3 to 10 years as you build up your home station depending on your financial success in the working world. And do not feel short change by having a Technician Class License as I was first licensed with a Technician License and worked DX on 50 MHz, all 50 states, a few countries to boot and switched to 2 meters (144.2 MHz) USB working VE1SPI Nova Scotia Island DXpedition (1000 miles away) using only 10 W P.E.P. cracking the DX Pile Up in the Chicago area and receiving a 40 over S9 signal report. Of course my antenna system was the item that enabled that contact. I worked an average of 180~200 miles on 2 meter SSB Mobile while using 160 W P.E.P. and a horizontal Halo Antenna. My very best mobile contacts were on 2 meters SSB in the summer of 1985, when my XYL (yeah she's a Ham too) & myself worked several ham operators in Dallas, Texas while we we're driving through Aurora, IL perhaps 1000 miles away .... not exactly Line-Of-Sight communications! :lol: I enjoy FM but not as much as SSB.

    My home station has the following equipment: Yaesu FT-726R 10 W All mode XCVR, a Mirage 80 W RF Amplifier and a Henry Tempo 6N2 KW RF Amplifier and all of this feeds my Homebrew 40-Element Phased Collinear Array Antenna at 140 Feet fed with 7/8" Andrews Heliax Cable. Oh yes, I should tell you that the antenna system can be rotated 90 Degrees for either Horizontal (SSB) or Vertical (FM) Polarization besides the 360 Degress Azimuth. It works excellent! I up graded my license maybe 7~8 years ago to a General but my first interest is on VHF & UHF bands.

    Now, here's a list of VHF / UHF used equipment that can be used as a Base Station, in a Mobile or as in a Portable Operation such as Field Day or VHF Contests or if you're out Camping across the United States.

    I'm providing an alternative QTH.COM site sponsored by KA9FOX to eBay:

    http://swap.qth.com/index.php

    Then go to the field RADIOS - VHF / UHF (USED) and look for any of the following equipment types.

    KENWOOD
    TR-9130 25 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    TR-751A 25 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    TR-851A 25 W Multimode 70cm Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    TS-711A 25 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Internal P.S.
    TS-811A 25 W Multimode 70cm Transceiver Internal P.S.

    ICOM
    IC-271H 100 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    IC-275H 100 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    IC-471H 75 W Multimode 70cm Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    IC-475H 75 W Multimode 70cm Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    IC-551D 80 W Multimode 6mtr Transceiver Needs External P.S.
    IC-551A 10 W Multimode 6mtr Transceiver Internal P.S.

    YAESU
    FT-221R 10 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Internal Power Supply
    FT-225RD 25 W Multimode 2mtr Transceiver Internal Power Supply
    FT-625RD 25 W Multimode 6mtr Transceiver Internal Power Supply
    FT-728R 10 W Multimode 6mtr/2mtr/70cm/Satellite Duplex Transceiver Internal P.S.
    FT-736R 25 W Multimode 6mtr/2mtr/70cm/Satellite Duplex Transceiver Internal
    FT-847 100 W 160~6mtr/50 W 2mtr/25 W 70cm/Satellite Duplex External P.S.

    I hope this has provided some alternative ideas on equipment, the Frequency bands you are allowed to operate, RF Power Output Levels and Modes of operation.

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  10. #10

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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    Hello Brian,

    One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is the fact your now poised to achieve the following challenges: Worked All States. Worked All Zones, perticipate in Field Day & VHF / UHF / Microwave Contests, a Rag Chewers Club certificate, make contacts via Earth Moon Earth a.k.a. “Moon Bounce” using 144, 220, 432, 902, 1296 Mhz or Microwave Bands and PSK-31, Work through the overhead OSCAR satellite's on Full Duplex SSB systems, chasing DX stations and/or Grid Squares using SSB / FM / Digital modes via Terrestrial (Over the Horizon), Troposhperic Ducting, Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), Meteor Scatter, regular E-Skip, talking to the Hams aboard the International Space Station, talking through FM Repeaters or on FM Simplex, using RTTY / AMTOR / Digital AMBE / Packet / IRLP Modes, using Amateur Television either Slow-Scan or Fast-Scan also known as ATV or learning the Morse Code for those days that you don't want to use your voice but want to make some contacts. Oh the possibilities are nearly endless if you have the spare time. You can homebrew radio and simple test equipment and/or antennas. So you have many avenues to explore with this great hobby.

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  11. #11

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    Default Re: Advice on my first radio

    In terms of your first, I'd recommend either a 144 (2m) or a 144/440 (2m/70cm VHF/UHF). Those two bands are the most popular, and have several repeaters. Look for a local club too...

    My radio is a Yaesu 2800M, which I've had for 2-3 weeks, still haven't had the pleasure of making a contact yet. :x Long story involving the truck breaking down, then the radio not working, then another mechanical failure. Looks like I'll be waiting for 2009!

    GL man, and yeah. I'd recommend either a mobile or hand-held (mobile can, with a power supply, be rigged up at home for times like these :lol: ), and either a 2m single-band or 2m/70cm. The Yaesu 2800 and 7800's are very popular from what I've heard.

    - Jacob
    KC2UFP
    VHF (2m band) - KC2UFP. Fired up the rig! Made my first contact yesterday (December 12th). Made my furthest contact yet today ... somewhere between 80 and 90 miles from the Quakerbridge Mall to Dover, DE where I made contact on the W3HZW repeater with a frequency of 146.970 MHz and a PL of 77Hz.

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