Beginner Ham shopping list (links please)

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The best advice I can give to you is to buy the best radios that you can afford the first time.

Forget about buying someone else's junk.
Some of those other web sites are full of people who are theifs, who are just trying to pawn off their old broke junk.

The only good thing about hams is that they use their call letters and that most people does not want to tarnish their good names.
Most honest hams will not sell you something that is going to cost you more money to repair then what it is worth.

My best advice is that unless you have a real purpose for a handheld radio - to not buy one right off the bat.
The purpose of transmitting is to sound as good as you can.
The handheld has a very limited range.

Buy a good radio and put your money into a base station antenna and put it up as high as possible.
This is the antenna that I use - http://www.rfparts.com/diamond/d3000n.html

The second most important component is the wire that you use between the antenna and the radio.
One of the highest rated coax wires is the 9913 Belden cable.

Another important component is the connectors - I use the Amphenol connectors, and I protect the connection with a dab of C-5A anti seize.

A important thing to remember is to tie the antenna into the house ground stake with at least a 10 gauge piece of wire - it is better to use multiple stakes along side the ground stake for the electric service entrance.

A very good performer would be a Yaesu 8900r radio, since you were probably looking for the cross repeat function at some point and time and it is probably the most technical of the mobile rigs out there.

The only mod I performed to my rig was to do the extended range function which puts out 60 watts as opposed to the factory default 50.
It's nothing more then pressing a set of buttons in the right sequential order.

SAVE YOUR MONEY!

Ham radio is a hobby.
Like most hobby's, if a person spends too much of their money all at once, they will get burned out and they will eventually just stop using what they have and they will either put it up on a shelve someplace when they get tired of it all or they will sell their junk and get out of it all together when it gets too expensive.

You can blow a large chunk of change - very easily on all the stuff that a experienced ham will tell you is a must have item for your station.

A top of the line HF is always nice to have, but you need a good antenna system to compliment the radios.
Some antenna's - beam, tower, rotor, long wires - by the time you are done buying them and putting them up - costs as much as the radio does.

There is usually three camps, the Yaesu camp, the Kenwood camp and the ICOM camp.
Each camp will tell you that they have had good luck with their radio and that all the other radios are junk.

Most times if you talk to them long enough, everybody will tell you that sooner or later something happened and they had to send their radio in to get repaired. There isn't much of anything that a regular old guy can fix in one of those rigs anymore and a oscilloscope is big bucks for as much as you would use one - to diagnose any problems, and you have to know how things works and how to use it.

Again, my advice is to buy what you want - a radio such as a Icom 746 is a real stable platform and has the options that you are probably looking for.

But even in my case, there was no one out there that was willing to stick their necks out to say this radio is better then that radio and this is why i think you should buy this radio.

Being a newbie myself and living a couple of hundred miles from the nearest ham radio store, I bought the Yaesu 8900 from Ham Radio Outlet.
I have had nothing but problems with it.
I have gone so far as to buy two programming kits for it.

I have had the PL codes change inside of the radio on a almost daily basis.
No logic behind that one other then that the Encode shut off.
I have lost the audio on one side - and got it back by changing some of the programs around inside of the radio - until I found what was wrong and turned it off.

Now it is to the point of where it talks better then it listens.
I can't explain it, but a friend of mine said to bring it over to his shop and he will test it out for me.

The other thing is - the only receipt I got from HRO is a internet email version.
I have asked for a printed version for a whole month now with no avail.
Add to that - I sent back the one programming kit and it has been 3 weeks and I still have not yet received a refund.

I even called their main office in California yesterday to try to get some satisfaction.

So if at all possible - deal with a company face to face.
It might cost you a little more to travel to a store, but then you can look at what you are buying and you might even be able to try it out before you buy it and if you have a problem - you can grab the guy by the throat and make him make it right.

The telephone and the internet it is pretty hard to collect your money or get something fixed 2 weeks and one day after you bought the radio and have problems. HRO's policy is the first two weeks - they replace it, after two weeks you have to send it in to be repaired.

Pretty stupid if you ask me, because if you got the radio on a Friday and it broke on a Friday - then if you couldn't call them until 10 AM on a Monday - you would already be past the 14 days - eh! That leaves them off the hook and sticks you with paying the shipping to send it in to be repaired.

If a radio breaks in two weeks - chances are - there was something wrong with it when it left the factory. Do you see my point.

The other thing is - when you buy coax, get a experienced ham - who has a lot of experience building cables to make your cable for you.
Don't let the store build it for you.
I came to find out on my last order of 9913F that the technician who put the ends on it had 3 strands of the shield stuck up against the center conductor.
That's a big no no - and will give you problems every time and could burn out the finals on some radios.

After I told HRO what they had done - the technician said - next time put your own ends on it. Geesh - one of them wasn't even tight.
If it had been tight - I wouldn't have even wanted to cut the ends off and put better ends on it.

There is two ways to put ends on - either you crimp them on with a special tool or you screw them on and solder them in place - with Amphenol connectors.
http://www.mgs4u.com/PL-259-connectors.htm

The good ones are the old ones that has the red or yellow glastic in the middle.

The other thing is power supplies - Astron is the Larson of power supplies.
If you buy a mobile antenna - buy a Larson, if you buy a power supply - buy a Astron, that was some of the best advice I ever got!
 

Realtor MA

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That was a great rant. I have no idea what it means but it was a great rant.

Nearly every ham I know has an HT so I would think about buying one of those first. There are lots of good used radios out there. Probably 80% of my gear was purchased used.
HF antennas don't have to cost a lot of money. A multiband wire antenna can be had for short money and will serve you well. If you decide to go the beam and tower route well I hope you have a lot of money. I had some money once. Then I built a tower. But I enjoy it nearly every day.
 

cockpitbob

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Forget about buying someone else's junk.
Some of those other web sites are full of people who are theifs, who are just trying to pawn off their old broke junk.
most people does not want to tarnish their good names.
Most honest hams will not sell you something that is going to cost you more money to repair then what it is worth.
Ummm...so are hams generally honest or not?

The best advice I can give to you is to buy the best radios that you can afford the first time.
You can blow a large chunk of change - very easily on all the stuff that a experienced ham will tell you is a must have item for your station.
So you being an experienced ham he should take your advice and ... huh?


Yeah, nice rant.
------------------------------------------------------------

ALL 3 of my radios (HT, 2M mobile, HF) I bought used and don't have any regrets.

An HT is a great place to start. They are limited by their antenna. A cheap J-pole at home and a mag-mount on the car will fix that. The difference between an HT's 5W and a 50W mobile rig is about 2 "S" units on receive. Not a hughe deal.

Putting connectors on cables is not rocket science.

HRO is a great place. Everyone around here call it "the candy store".
 
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I think that I own one new peice of equipment total...including my antenna. Everything else I've bought used. I'm not saying that I'm an expert, because I'm new and only been doing this over a year...

But I've found that I've saved a ton of money buying used...and I've only had to do one repair on a used radio...and they told me what was wrong before I bought it... I also knew someone that could help me fix the thing...you almost always will.

I can tell you that almost every Ham person I know has MANY HTs. I only have one...but I'm looking at more. LOL!

But, that's just me...like I said, I'm no expert...I can just tell you what's worked for me.
 

Knob Creek

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Ah, you must have taken Tony Souza's (NN1D) tech class and the VE session was last night. You'll be glad to know that this VE Team has a great reputation. The paperwork is probably already in the mail to the ARRL VEC. Tony's last class had people getting call signs on the FCC site within a week.
You were right. Checked the Web Page today and I have my call sign in less than a week.
 

n1oty

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You were right. Checked the Web Page today and I have my call sign in less than a week.
Yes, I know a few of the VE teams and that particular team is one of, if not, the best teams. They've done the exams for the past three classes that Tony has done. I usually come and assist, as I am a VE also, but was busy that night. What call did you get??
 

n1oty

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Pretty good one I think. "KB1VKV". Don't look for me on the air yet though. I'm still gathering equipment.
Do you want to borrow a 2 meter radio to get on the air?? God knows, I have plenty. You can give it back when you get your own.
 

SteelShooter

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re animation of this thread. I am a complete newb here for Ham but want to get into it full force. I want to get the best of everything that won't need to be updated for many years. Cost is not really a factor my initial budget for just start up is $5 - $10K. I would like to have base unit as well as 4 mobile units. I'd like to hear some feedback if you don't mind. Thanks for any input you have, the links here have been helpful so far.
 

jar

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SteelShooter, what are your answers to my questions from post #5?

Also to the OP, you're going to need to be more detailed. What type of handheld and base radios are you looking for? What bands and modes are you interested in? If that's still greek to you, more generally, what do you want to use the radio for? To put it in NES terms, your questions are like, I want to buy a pistol and a rifle, what should I get?
 

SteelShooter

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SteelShooter, what are your answers to my questions from post #5?
ah, good one. I want emergency communication capabilities for all of my vehicles that will work statewide, I want daily listening/communication from the base unit. Bands and modes are greek to me, I guess I am looking for the most utilized or most stable. Not necessarily looking for worldwide communication, but definitely continental and or interstate. I could build up from a base unit if that seems to work better to learn the in's and outs. Ideally, what I would really like is to pay someone a chunk of cash and come back in 3 days with a fully installed and functionally station! I know it's not that easy, but oh well. I'm looking for some starting points without wasting too much of anyone's time here. Thanks.
 

jar

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Are you saying you want to be able to talk to anywhere in the state or just that you'll be able to reach someone anywhere you go? There are two main sets of bands/modes that are the bread and butter of 95% of ham stuff. The easiest to get started with, and most relevant to EmComm is FM voice on VHF and UHF, namely the 2 meter (144mhz) and 70cm (440MHz) bands. You can buy a mobile radio that covers these two for about $300. If you only need 2 meters, which is the most popular, you can get a mobile for about $150. Generally people use mobile radios for base stations by adding a 13.8V power supply. Range of these bands is line of sight, but there are numerous repeaters that extend range to tens of miles depending on location. VHF/UHF handhelds are also very popular. You can get a 2m/70cm HT for about $250.

The other popular set are CW (morse code), SSB (voice), and various digital text modes on the HF bands (80meters through 10 meters). These are the bands that give worldwide communication, depending on conditions, by bouncing signals off the ionosphere. Whole books have been written on HF propagation (which bands will get through to where at what times). Mobile operation on HF is a compromise, because the efficiency of antennas small enough to mount on vehicles is very low. I personally wouldn't bother with HF mobile for emcomm purposes.

If I were you, I'd start with a VHF/UHF handheld with a magnetic antenna mount on your car and a basic antenna at home. Once you've used that for a little while, you'll understand a lot more about how to choose what else you want to buy. If you want to jump in faster, buy a VHF/UHF mobile along with a real (involving drilling holes) antenna for each car. Get the same radio for home with a decent vertical antenna mounted as high as you can get it outside. Spend a little more to get radios that can receive VHF and UHF simultaneously. For HF at home, buy a decent radio and then spend as much as you can afford on antennas.

Does that help? Feel free to ask more questions, I love spending other people's money.
 

SteelShooter

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Does that help? Feel free to ask more questions, I love spending other people's money.
Excellent thanks, that does help. I tend to go big or go home on stuff like this. Where should I send the check and when can you do the install?[smile]
 
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meh....
2m around here started getting clique-y i got bored with it... 440HT was almost useless...
i have a 12v power supply around here somewhere, think it's 20 AMPs... if anyone is interested, and a 20MHz OScope... (not digital) with a freq generator built in...

did they finally ditch the stupid code requirement to progress beyond Tech?

now that i actually am my own landlord and could put any antenna i want, anywhere i want... i'm just not into it anymore...
too many jerks on the air back in the day...

yeh, way off topic, sorry OP...

ETA:

hrrmm... i wonder what that 440 HT would look like if i introduced it to mr. .204
 

cockpitbob

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Steelshooter, probably the biggest thing you'll need, and can't write a check for, is knowledge and experience. You might find someone that can come to your house, install, set-up and program everything and make it a little more turn-key, but there will still be a world of stuff to learn. I'm an electrical engineer and I've been a ham for 1.5 years (very part time participation) and I feel like I'm just now getting a clue.

For an HF antenna, if your yard has the room and you like turn-key, consiter a long wire antenna on an auto tuner. Just string 100+ feet of wire to the highest tree. The auto tuner will match its impedance to the radio all on its own. It will do all HF bands and switching bands is a non-event. Compared to a big yagi, you can't rotate it to beam your signal exactly where you want, so performance won't be nearly as good, but it's really, really easy. Also, you can get a multi-band yagi, but you can't get one that will do all HF bands. Long wire antennas don't need a tower on a concrete pad with permits from city hall. And they are nearly invisible.

ETA: I think what I just said is that higher performance generally requires a higher level of knowledge and fuss.
 

Realtor MA

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You can piss through $10k in a few minutes. Then you may end up with things you don't want or need. I would suggest starting with something modest and get some experience on the air. In the course of a few months you'll have a better understanding of what your wants and needs are.
I started less than two years ago. I have a pretty decent station and I've spent a pretty good sum of money getting it there. I built it quickly but I did it in steps. My wish list is still pretty long and there's probably at least another $10k worth of gear on there.
 
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Ideally, what I would really like is to pay someone a chunk of cash and come back in 3 days with a fully installed and functionally station! I know it's not that easy, but oh well.
It is that easy but it may cost more than 10K, maybe not. If you are truely intereted in a turnkey setup PM me and we can make it happen.
 
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