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Amateur Radio Equipment For general and technical discussion of Amateur Radio equipment such as transceivers, repeaters, controllers and receivers.

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Old 10-15-2013, 1:17 PM
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Default New to Ham - radio recommendations

Hi, am new to Ham radio and am looking to study for my Technicians test. Was wondering what you folks feel would be good starting equipment for a newbie including handheld units for use in case of emergencies.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 10-15-2013, 1:42 PM
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i hear that the baofeng uvr5 or uvr6 is a good cheap handheld for starters but they are kinda a pita to program u can go on utube and find ways to program it they cost about 30 to 50 bucs but u can get it for 30 .
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Old 10-15-2013, 2:05 PM
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Hey, welcome to the hobby! Good luck on getting your license.

My advice would be to stay away from the cheap Chinese radios (like the Baofang and Woxun) if you can afford to do so. They are not the best entry level radios, as they are a little tricky to program and use.

A big part of answering your question will depend on what activity is in your area and also what you want to do with your license.

If you're looking to start out with 2 Meters or 70 cm (VHF/UHF) find out what repeaters are used in your area. Most areas have a somewhat active 2 meter band, and other areas are also very active on 70 cm. If there's not much activity or close by repeaters in your area, you may be somewhat disappointed in 2/70. I'd recommend picking up an ARRL Repeater Directory (book) so you can see what repeaters are in your area.

Also, as a Technician you have full access to 6 meters and a small part of the 10 meter HF band. 6 meters can give you some pretty good distance when the band is open. On 10 meters when the band is open you can literally work the world with a decent antenna and 100 Watts or less of power.

For a first radio, again that depends. In my opinion, handhelds are not good radios for the beginner. Most handhelds only put out about 5 Watts max, and the stock antenna is usually not very good. A handheld will work pretty well if you're very close to a repeater, but if you're quite a distance away you may find that many people won't be able to hear you. A mobile radio is a good starter radio because they do put out more power and you can either mount them in the car or use as a base station with an external antenna and a power supply.

Asking what brand of radio to get is like asking someone if they like Ford or Chevy, Mac or PC, or a certain football team. You'll get lots of opinions, but it's up to you to find what you like. I would recommend checking out dealers such as Gigaparts or Ham Radio Outlet and browse their selection. Find the radio that fits in your budget and also has the features and bands you're looking for. You can also check out eham.net for reviews of almost any radio.

Personally, here's my list of favorites:

Kenwood TM-281A: 2 Meter FM mobile radio
Kenwood TH-K20A: 2 Meter FM handheld radio
Kenwood TM-V71A: 2 Meter / 70 cm FM mobile radio
Yaesu FT-60R: 2 Meter / 70 cm FM handheld radio

Also the Kenwood TS-590S and Yaesu FT DX 1200 are both good HF/6 meter base radios that cover AM/FM/SSB/CW

If you decide to go the HF route, be sure to study and upgrade to General class so you'll be able to use more of the HF bands.

Good luck and feel free to ask all the questions you need!
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Old 10-15-2013, 3:16 PM
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You can spend as much (thousands and thousands) or as litlte (nothing to a handful of dollars) as you want.

NYCFireFighter, given your forum handle - if you are in the NYC area and not Texas as your location suggests - maybe you can make inquiries of your radio shop - perhaps they have a line on surplus commercial gear that can be repurposed for use on amateur frequencies. You might be able to use an old but well built brick of a radio for next to nothing.

Clubs affiliated with cities are also good sources of surplus gear; they can also be good organizations to check into for advise, ham to ham sales of gear, and fun of course.

Some older amateur gear holds up very well over the years, particularly VHF and UHF mobile units. I'm still running an ICOM IC-901 I bought decades ago and it doesn't even look like "old" tech.

Part of the challenge is figuring out what is interesting to you. If you aren't sure, and are not yet licensed for HF, then usually FM voice on VHF or UHF is a safe bet as a starting point.

If you already have some local ham friends, or are looking to make some local new amateur radio friends while commuting to work, often a 2M VHF FM portable or mobile radio will deliver useful service. In some cities or regions, 440MHz (70cm) FM or 220 MHz is also popular - check around locally before spending money.

Many areas are serviced by repeater systems that are linked together using something called IRLP; to use these systems usually you need nothing more than an average handheld (or mobile) radio and occasionally some way of keying in a DTMF ('touchtone (tm)") code to bring up or down some other repeater on the network across the state or country or world. Some digital systems require more of an investment - such as the ICOM DStar system, or the commercial radio based ham deployments of DMR (Motorola, Vertex, Hytera - but mostly Motorola gear in use). Yaesu is rounding out their product line but being so new, few are using it broadly. Unlike analogue FM radio, digital voice/data over FM radio requires specific, compatible, equipment. Definitely talk to the locals before spending money in these areas.

Wherever you live, check with one or more of your local clubs and try to find a local plugged-in ham to give you the lay of the land. The advice you get might save some time and $$ too!

73

Mike
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Old 10-15-2013, 7:35 PM
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Welcome to the hobby!

The others before me have pretty much covered anything I would want to say. You can spend as much or as little as you want to (almost literally). If you are tight on money, you probably want to get a Baofeng UV-5RA or something similar. Those Chinese radios perform very well for beginner hams and I've used them multiple times. Actually my mobile rig consists of a UV-5RA and an 80 watt linear amplifier (only putts out 40 watts with the small HT input though). It works outstandingly and I can't really see a need for a true mobile rig at the moment. You'll just want to keep in mind that for 99% of the HTs you will get, the stock rubber duck antennas perform horribly. They really should just be called dummy loads because that's what they usually are. So you'll want to get a third party antenna and you'll be good to go.
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Old 10-15-2013, 8:35 PM
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Thanks for the quick replies folks. VE7 - I am originally from NYC but now reside in TX.

I'll take a look at some of the suggestions provided and surely be back with more questions. :-)
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Old 10-16-2013, 7:48 AM
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I think a good thing to do would be to find a local club and participate. It'll give you an opportunity to find out lots of things, not just about what's popular in radios. Pick the member's brains, see what (and why) something is popular. It also give you a chance at getting your hands on a radio before buying one! You will have a chance to see which/what suits you.
I'm not a fan of HTs. They can be handy, but they are also very limiting. They are certainly a cheaper way of getting into the hobby, but just be aware that they are limiting.
- 'Doc

(And don't quit with the Technician license! At least get the General so you have all the bands available whether you use them or not. You know?)
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Old 10-16-2013, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LtDoc View Post

(And don't quit with the Technician license! At least get the General so you have all the bands available whether you use them or not. You know?)
You'll also get treated with a little more respect on VHF/UHF by the hams that feel the need to look you up on QRZ before they'll even acknowledge you. It's just the way it is sometimes. :/
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Old 10-16-2013, 2:42 PM
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You'll also get treated with a little more respect on VHF/UHF by the hams that feel the need to look you up on QRZ before they'll even acknowledge you. It's just the way it is sometimes. :/
Those hams are very small in number. I've met a few hams that have been technicians for 10+ years. Sure I think they're really missing out, but if the local repeater system is all you care about, then there isn't a need to go any further.
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Old 10-16-2013, 5:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AgentCOPP1 View Post
Those hams are very small in number. I've met a few hams that have been technicians for 10+ years. Sure I think they're really missing out, but if the local repeater system is all you care about, then there isn't a need to go any further.
I agree with you, but there are still a small percentage of operators that look down on techs. I've also heard Extras talk down to Generals on HF, or not acknowledge them. It is what it is. It's not as bad now as it was when they first dropped the code test though.
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Old 10-16-2013, 8:11 PM
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You know, as long as you have a license for where you happen to be operating, I couldn't care less what 'class' it is. I do pay attention to what license people hold because I may want to move them somewhere else for some reason. Other than that, I just don't care. Your mileage may vary.
- 'Doc
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Old 10-17-2013, 9:58 AM
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If you're new, and you have no idea if you'll even like the hobby going forward. Ignore the people telling you to buy Kenwood's and Icoms and Yaesu radios. They're surely good rigs, but you might find you bought one and the population is low or the people you're meeting are jerks. Then your fancy $200+ HT/rig will be wasted money. I suggest you buy a cheap ChiCom radio (Baofeng, etc etc) and dip your toe in the water as it were and not rush out and buy anything fancy (read: expensive).

People may argue that if for whatever reason you find you dislike the hobby or the people on 2m/440 or whatever you can always sell your fancy HT/rig. That's true, but there's one constant in this universe. Most ham radio operators are cheap penny pinchers and will likely offer you 40 cents on the dollar for your fancy gear. Nothing wrong with being frugal on their part at all, it's still a bad economy. But you'll never come close to recouping your money spent, even if all you did was call CQ once on your fancy rig and decided you hated it. That $350 spent (arbitrary number) is likely to depreciate to $250 pretty quickly. That's been my experience selling off old gear I no longer wanted cluttering up my home. Your milage may vary (as LtDoc said above). But still no need to jump in with both feet.
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Old 10-17-2013, 7:52 PM
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What bands are you interested in operating and what's your budget? What is the nearest major city and how far away is it?
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Old 10-17-2013, 9:50 PM
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When I became a ham, I knew no other hams, so I joined a few of the local clubs & met lots of people. No extra ever looked down on me at all. Now I'm the extra [with code] & I never ask anyone what class they are. I gave back be being the recording secretary for a few years at these clubs, but the politics reminded me of the last few weeks our own gov't has been going through. So I became a VE, helping out at a few of the clubs giving the tests. It means nothing to me what class other hams are. I have made many long time friends who I bump into every year at hamfests. Best thing I ever did was to get my ticket.
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Old 10-18-2013, 8:17 PM
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Welcome and good luck on your exam!!!!
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Old 10-18-2013, 10:25 PM
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I always recommend a handheld radio. They're relatively inexpensive (depending on your taste), and can be taken with you. I'm not knocking mobiles (or bases), but you need to be where your radio is in order to use it. That's not the case with HTs. Yeah, mobiles have "more power", but in any major metropolitan area, you'd be hard pressed not to find a repeater (or linked system) that can't pull your signal in with a pre-amp or with decent antenna height/location. I have absolutely no problems accessing any one of 7 repeaters in my area with a hand held, and I'm by no means "near" any of them.

That's my 2 cents. Hope this helps. Always a pleasure helping out a brother-in-blue.
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