Tips for Chosing your First Radio for Your Ham
This is a long article but contains lots of important information for you to help with choosing your first ham radio so be prepared to do some reading.
get emails from new Technician class hams asking what should they buy for
their first ham radio station. Questions such as "What is the best 2 meter
radio?" "Should I start out with an ht or get a mobile for use in the
house with a DC power supply?" "There are so many brands and models out
there, I am so confused that I don't know what to buy and don't know where
to start, can you help me?" "I also want to get on HF but just don't know
where to start." "What is the best antenna I should buy or should I build
one?" And on and on with similar questions asking me to help them decide
on what is "best" for them to get on the air.
Should I operate only from inside the house OR the car,
portable with an HT, OR all of these choices?
If I decide to operate only from inside my house, do I have room for an outside antenna if needed for increased range and if so are there HOA or deed restrictions, or limits on outside antennas that will have to be overcome? Do I have room for hf antennas which usually are large or long? Have you done your research? Have you measured your outside antenna space?
Where do I live in relation to the nearest repeater/s as far
as distance is involved? (I have actually
received this question from a ham who did not send his call sign....so I
had no way of knowing where he lived!)
Are there 2 meter or 440 band repeaters near
me? Where do you
I buy an ht, will it "hit" my local repeater from inside my
Why would I want to use local repeaters or should I just
"What antenna should I buy or build to put up on the house,
apartment, condo, etc?" Am I going to operate only VHF/UHF bands?
These decisions have to be made. Don't forget
that you will want to get on HF later
Good quality low loss Coax helps make the station, not the
The choice of building or buying an antenna and the feed line (usually coax) can get complicated and it all depends on it's type, frequency range, location, your abilities, budget, the proper equipment, tools, swr meter, time, do you need help installing it, etc.
One mistake most new hams make is to go cheap on coax. Try to stear clear of the "Radio Shack" quality type coax. Go for the more expensive and lowest loss coax per foot you can afford regardless of the operating frequency. More rf to the antenna means more rf on the air with a good antenna. A very good source of good low loss coax is Amateur Radio Supplies...look under their "Coax" section.
I operate mobile only, what is the best antenna for mobile
What type of coax is needed for 2 meters if I have an
What brand of ht or mobile radio should I buy?
Alinco 2 Meter
There is a wide range of choices on the market for new and used hts. So you have loads of research to do to find out which is the best for your needs.
The top mfg's like Alinco, Icom, Kenwood, and Yaesu have plenty of models to choose from but other imports like the Wouxon, as a general rule of thumb, have more for the money and at less cost but you have to compare their features and options.
Here are a couple of VHF/UHFdual band model examples from Alinco and Wouxun:
Both have many of the same features and are highly recommended and reviewed by others BUT..YOU must compare them to see which features and price range is right for you!
See others offered by Amateur Radio
Supplies here and compare
Should I buy a "dual bander"....you know a radio that has
both the 2 meter and the 440 band?
What is the most simple 2 meter radio to
operate? You asked so read on.....
Also keep in mind that while doing the programming, your using fingers 3 times the size of the buttons and by the time you get the programming done, the radio will be out of warrenty! Only joking but this is something you have to consider when doing research on what to buy...ease of operating and programming! Try to find the operators manual online and take a look long BEFORE you buy the radio! If you have a new ham friend, take a look at his radio and see how it operates. Pick his brain.
I really need an swr meter if I don't plan on building my
And there are hundreds of other questions that go on and on! Each ham radio and the station is different in one way or another..no 2 ham stations will be identical!
You will notice that I have answered most of the questions above with questions so you have lots of thought and planning to do in advance.
Now What About Getting on the HF Bands? That's where I want to be!
Your new "Tech" priveleges will allow you limited
operation on the 80, 40, 15 and 10 meter bands. 80, 40, and 15 meters
are CW only for you if you are a Technician class ham.
Learning CW (Morse Code) and using it on the air is
not for everyone but when you hear your call sign come back to you in your
speaker from a station far away in Morse Code, you will get a thrill that
may last a lifetime!
As with choosing VHF and UHF radios and antennas to get on the air, choosing and operating a "rig" for HF requires a lot of thinking on your part and lots of planning.
major thing you need to think about is NOT the
radio but the antenna/s required. If you don't remember anything you
have read so far, remember that the ANTENNA is the most important part of a ham station
other than yourself!
You can use HF vertical type antennas that have a small footprint, but most require a good radial field below them to operate efficiently and this take loads of room and lots of work to get them down.
Other antenna options on HF are available but are compromises in one way or another. Many are half size, random wires, spiral, 1/4 wave, end fed, verticals and other options and many require the use of a good matching deviced called a tuner but nothing is perfect! Why? No antenna is perfect in every respect.
Build your own home brew HF antennas!
If you want to save some time and money in building dipoles which are the "standard" ham radio antenna, be sure to check out the pre-cut dipoles and dipole kits at Amateur Radio Supplies. Look under "Antenna Kits" and under "Dipoles" Build Your Own" in their navigation section. You will be glad you did!
how much does a good HF radio cost?
If the last question above fits your "style" then you might consider buying a used transceiver. However, remember that many of the older models available now are not supported by the mfg of it and parts may be very difficult to find when it "breaks". Repair costs may be very high depending on what you find. If you do find a used transceiver that fits the bill, try to make sure that it comes with some sort of warrenty from a reputable ham radio dealer or that the seller of it will stand behind it. Buying from a ham radio dealer is the best way to go and to be assured that if it breaks within a certain period of time, they will stand behind it and make you happy.
Buying New HF
Ham Radio Transceivers! You can spend Thousands!
don't go away yet.
be very complicated for the new ham, who just wants to get on the
air, and they have many multi multi function buttons and
controls and sub menu after sub menu using the same button. You will spend
loads of time attempting to tweak and peak all of the controls so it will
"sound" better and better and better and there is no end to it.
A Better Choice for Most Hams! You can spend only a few hundred dollars!
The Alinco DX-SR8T/E
would make an
excellent inexpensive "starter" transceiver for most hams wanting to
get on the air inexpensivly with an all band hf rig that covers from 160
meters to 10 meters including the new 60 meter band in the U.S.
In addition, the general
coverage receiver covers 135KHz to 30MHz in all modes!
One very reputable dealer that I recommend that will give you your dollars worth is Amateurradiosupplies.com!
I have attempted to answer the more simple questions above but you can see by some of the questions that many hams ask when starting out that you have to do lots of research BEFORE you start buying a radio, antennas, etc and you have to set your goals and limits for your first ham radio station. Much of the answers in the questions above should have already been learned by you in preparing for your Technician exam. Refer back to your study guide and you might find the answer. Search Hamuniverse.com, and you may find the answer here! If not email me and I will attempt to answer your question given enough details by you. I need details, not broad ranging questions like "What is the best 2 meter ham station?", that make me guess what you are asking!
One last question that may be asked by you.
"If I am at the point that I am so frustrated with tuning my
antenna or getting my radio on the air, where can I turn to for really
good local help?"
think all of this is overwhelming at first, just wait until something goes
wrong with your station...then your learning experience within the world
of ham radio will truely have begun! You have lots to learn so keep at it
and have fun.
Editor notes to all.
"If you think this page is just another long winded advertisment for Amateur Radio Supplies, you may be correct. I highly recommend them and their products! It is fine ham radio dealers like them that help keep this site FREE!" (and with no login or membership required here!)
More good reading, study and info for the new ham!
Getting Ready To Setup and Operate Your First Ham Radio
Station A Must
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