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Icom R-75 as an HF "scanner"

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Scanner-geek

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Can the R-75 be used to "scan" sideband utilities frequencies such as Coast Guard and COTHEN?

I am looking to upgrade to a good radio that would be designed primarily for this purpose. I am a scanning enthusiast looking to go HF. I want a high quality HF or wideband receiver that essentially could function as an HF utilities scanner (I know this goes against some of the doctrines of DX'ing and SWL). I'm most interested in off-shore search and rescue coast guard ops, hurricane comms, aircraft, military, etc. I simply don't have the patience to play around with the VFO to find activity.

I have an old Kenwood R2000 but I never seem to be able to find anything exciting (or even boring, for that matter) using the VFO. I read posts about all these "very active" frequencies" with exciting USCG comms at sea but I never hear them. Could be an antenna problem. Should I be able to receive these fairly easily? I must be doing something wrong or maybe the radio's is too old. But I digress. Any hoo, It seems to me that having the ability to "scan" a large number of pre-entered HF frequencies rather than searching with the VFO might help capture more of the action in HF because right now I hear very little.

Is the R-75 a good choice? I'm also considering the Yaseu VR-5000 and the AOR AR8600MKIIB recievers. Finally, can any of these be used in apartment, or is an outdoor antenna a must for sideband utility comms? Any recommendations would be greatly apppreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Boy, that was long winded (sorry)

Scanner-geek
 
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MarkWestin

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Apr 21, 2005
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Caribou, Maine
I owned the VR-5000. Avoid this radio. It is a "Class A Computing Device" (business locations only, not for home use) (???). It is so noisy that when it is turned on, you won't pick up anything on any other scanner that may be nearby. An outside antenna becomes a must on all radios you want to listen to. The "Computer Interface" is rather brain dead. No one made software for it when I had mine (that I could find anyway). Computer control of the receiver is probably not possible. The radio locks up frequently, and must be unplugged to be reset. The microprocessor is very sensitive to variations in line voltage, and has a Ni-Cad battery soldered in parallel with it, presumably to minimize the voltage variations. I would expect the Ni-Cad battery to last 1-2 years before it needs to be replaced. The backlight is bluish white and is very bright. Even on its lowest setting, it will light up a room at night. The radio does have some good features, such as the band scope, but overall, it was so annoying that I sold it (I only lost about $100.00). It also had the audio DSP, which worked very well.

I'm not familiar with the R-75, but it would almost certainly be a better radio than the VR-5000.

After I sold the VR-5000, I bought the AOR AR8200 MK3 handheld receiver. It is complicated, but works well. I probably should have bought the AR8600 MKII, but at the time, I wanted a handheld unit. I don't use my AR8200 MK3 on HF that much, and have read that the AR8600 MK2 isn't the Ideal HF receiver, but either one would be better than the VR-5000. The R-75 may be better than either the VR-5000 or the AR8600 MK2 for HF use

Mark
 

ka3jjz

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Scanner-geek said:
Can the R-75 be used to "scan" sideband utilities frequencies such as Coast Guard and COTHEN?

I am looking to upgrade to a good radio that would be designed primarily for this purpose. I am a scanning enthusiast looking to go HF. I want a high quality HF or wideband receiver that essentially could function as an HF utilities scanner (I know this goes against some of the doctrines of DX'ing and SWL). I'm most interested in off-shore search and rescue coast guard ops, hurricane comms, aircraft, military, etc. I simply don't have the patience to play around with the VFO to find activity.

I have an old Kenwood R2000 but I never seem to be able to find anything exciting (or even boring, for that matter) using the VFO. I read posts about all these "very active" frequencies" with exciting USCG comms at sea but I never hear them. Could be an antenna problem. Should I be able to receive these fairly easily? I must be doing something wrong or maybe the radio's is too old. But I digress. Any hoo, It seems to me that having the ability to "scan" a large number of pre-entered HF frequencies rather than searching with the VFO might help capture more of the action in HF because right now I hear very little.

Is the R-75 a good choice? I'm also considering the Yaseu VR-5000 and the AOR AR8600MKIIB recievers. Finally, can any of these be used in apartment, or is an outdoor antenna a must for sideband utility comms? Any recommendations would be greatly apppreciated.
=======================

Let me address some of these in turn. Using a high end receiver as a scanner - such as, say the AOR8600 - is usually an exercise in frustration. This is because shortcuts are usually taken at one end or the other - many times in selectivity (the ability to seperate stations) or strong signal handling (hearing a weak station - with a strong station nearby - is a real MUST in many instances on HF), and other areas are also possible. Go with a seperate receiver for both ranges - not only will you get (in general) better performance, but a certain amount of flexibility as well.

Scanning on HF is an iffy situation at best. You see, the lower bands tend to be noisier than the higher ones - and that's only talking about atmospheric noise levels. Noise is the bane of your existance on HF - from your neighbor's light dimmer, fish tank, heater, darn near anything. When you 'scan' on HF, it's very hard for a receiver - I don't care what brand you name - to distinguish between a legitimate signal that you want to hear, and a noise burst (or even some digital bursts, depending on where you are listening in the band).

Hearing HF comms is not at all like scanners - there are MANY different things that can affect your ability to hear a station. One of the most basic - and one of the most technical - is learning how a signal gets from Point A to your receiver. This topic is called propagation and it is essential that you understand this topic, even at the most basic of levels. I said it was also one of the most technical, and so it is - there are many phenomenon that we simply don't completely understand. We have several links on this in our SWL and utility wikis and I would encourage you to use them to learn more about it.

The R75 is a fine choice of radio - and there are many software packages out there that can help you maintain 'lists' of frequencies to check for activity (see the R75 Wiki page). Even the R2000 - with its limited memories - can be used, although it's quite true that a receiver with as many memories as possible makes checking for activity a heckuva lot easier.

We also have a large number of links in the wiki section on antennas. You certainly don't absolutely need an 'outdoor' antenna, but the facts are that if you can get it outdoors, away from potential noise sources, so much the better. I've been constrained with indoor antennas for more than 20 years, and have heard lots of DX - not necessarily in the same amounts as my not-so-constrained brothers in arms, but DX nevertheless.

Some possibilites include the Carpet Loop, the Snake (found in the SWL Antennas Yahoo Groups files section), and the North Country active antenna kit (yes, it's a kit - and all the press about it has been very positive - and its inexpensive, to boot). But that is by no means all of them.

Knowing where to tune is just as important. The Utility DXers Forum has numerous logs from all over the world (yes, quite literally), but you must understand when to tune, and why you might have a shot at hearing it. Yep, that answer plays into the subject of propagation. I told you it was important to understand this topic.

Anyway, it was my turn to be long-winded - if you have further questions, please ask - use the HF forum for more information. 73s Mike
 
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