A good HF radio

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hawkeye32

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Hi, Been thinking of getting a HF radio, but not sure as to what is good or not, i just want to get a radio to listen and not transmit,being here in windsor, ontario canada,alot of stuff is getting encrypted, so was reading up HF stuff. I am looking fora "good bang for your buck" radio. Like i say i am just interested in listening to HF transmissions, not actually transmitting. Sorry if i sound noobish to this stuff, but its new to me.I do have a outside antenna (discone) that my pro2096 and 898t are hooked up on. One last question is is the programming the same as a scanner whether its manuel or by software? How far is the range usually on HF freq's? Thanks
 

ka3jjz

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Hawk, you are asking a great many questions, all at the same time. Let's slow down a bit, and see where this is headed;

a. HF propagation is worldwide, dependent on many factors, such as the time of day, frequency, solar activity, the season and many other things. One of the most complex concepts a newcomer to HF has to understand - and notice, I didn't say master - you don't need a degree in geophysics here - is how the sun and earth interact, and how a HF signal is bent to go around the planet. This website is an excellent place to start - note you will need a Flash player to see it, and if you are using NoScript with Firefox, disable it while you are here...(all links are in blue)

Propagation Primer - Flash Movie by AE4RV

b. The kind of receiver you get will determine how you program, and it will be quite different from a scanner. Some receivers cannot be programmed at all, some use a dedicated PC to run, and there are many others in between. Your budget is going to be a constraint, but even more important, what is it precisely you want to hear? HF is a vast territory, and perhaps the best way to get started is to start reading a few things. Let's start with our own wiki, which has a HF page that touches on each of the available services...

HF - The RadioReference Wiki

As a good starting point, since I see you're in Ontario, the ODXA website should be on the top of your list. Their bulletins are now available in PDF format. They even have a dedicated beginner's column, and some webpages to help you along.

ODXA | Ontario DX Association

If you happen to run into Dr.Harold Sellars or Sheldon Harvey, tell 'em Mike Agner sent you.

c. As to antennas, that depends greatly on what receiver you get. Before tackling that particular nugget, try to settle on that first - then tackle the antenna. It will be quite different from your discone, and there are MANY different flavors.

That should be enough for now. 73 (ham shorthand for 'best regards') Mike
 

KT4HX

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Ok, you have an interest in the HF frequency range. Let me ask you some questions to help the rest of us give you some recommendations. Do you have any idea of what you want to listen to? By that I mean are you looking more at shortwave broadcast stations for news, views, etc from other countries? Are you wanting to listen to ham radio operators? Are you just wanting to tune around to see whats out there? As far as a radio, are you looking for something more portable or more of a desktop unit? What are your price constraints? I would recommend first in the price area that you not go too deep into your wallet just in case you find it's not your cup of tea. Regarding your antenna, I would not recommend using the discone for HF reception. Just a simple wire will do the trick for you in most cases, plus if you get a portable radio, then they would have a build in whip anyway. There are many, many things to consider, and it's good you're asking questions now before you take that plunge. Do your homework before buying and you will stand a much better chance of being happy with the choice you make.
 

hawkeye32

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Ok thank-you very much for the response and the links very very helpfull, As for price nothing above 600.00 if that is possible. As to listen too, coast guard, space shuttle, MilAir,those are the main interests i have, as to antennas, i can always add another one outside, but if it is not necassary. As for portable or desktop, that one don't matter much to me, it can be either of one. Like i say i am new to this, and those links above have really really help to educate me on this. I notice it seems to be totally different then scanning, but thats ok, something new to learn :). I came here to see what the experts can recommend to me. Once again thanks for the help
 

hawkeye32

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Thanks Lino, yes i have been looking at some of the Icoms, those appear to be the best choices.
 

KT4HX

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If you're looking to spend that much right off the bat, I like the Drake R8 series. For $600, the R8A and definitely R8B versions would be out of reach. But the first in the series the R8 is obtainable within the range. However, I recommend you take a look a this site for some user reviews/comments about various receivers. Never hurts to see what mileage others have gotten.

eHam.net Reviews - Receivers: General Coverage
 

ka3jjz

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The Drakes are all excellent choices (although if memory serves me, the R8A's sync detector was not as good as the original in holding weak stations - at least I remember Larry Magne making that point on a show..). You should check out our Receiver Reviews category (link below) - there is a TON of available information, including the eHam site KT4HX correctly mentions.

Category:Receiver Reviews - The RadioReference Wiki

Even though Passport to World Band Radio is no longer being published, it's not a bad choice to start your research if you can find one in a local library. The World Radio TV Handbook continues its publication, and even sends out updates via PDF files from time to time.

73 Mike
 

hawkeye32

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ok thanks guys i really apprieciate the info, this should keep me busy for the next little while. alot of info to absorb
 

KT4HX

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Mike, you are correct to a degree on the synch detector in the R8A. It does a pretty good job, though it is not sideband selectible as it is in the R8B. I've used both and that was the main drawback to me. I have heard that the SW8 has a better detector in it though. The thing about the Drakes is that they can run a little hot when powered off a/c, especially if you have the clock display set to stay on after you power down. I have mine set so that when I power down, the clock is not illuminated. Plus I also run mine off an Astro supply via a rig-runner distribution panel. That helps keep them cooler. My feeling is, if it's off, I don't need to see the clock anyway!

The Drakes are all excellent choices (although if memory serves me, the R8A's sync detector was not as good as the original in holding weak stations - at least I remember Larry Magne making that point on a show..). You should check out our Receiver Reviews category (link below) - there is a TON of available information, including the eHam site KT4HX correctly mentions.

Category:Receiver Reviews - The RadioReference Wiki

Even though Passport to World Band Radio is no longer being published, it's not a bad choice to start your research if you can find one in a local library. The World Radio TV Handbook continues its publication, and even sends out updates via PDF files from time to time.

73 Mike
 

hawkeye32

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been leaning towards to the Icom IC-R5.. Good radio Bad radio? After googling the reviews , it seems it is a mixed reaction, for the most part programming seems to be the hard part. I am pretty tech savvy when it comes to comps and software, would this be a good choice? If so, what would be a good external antenna?
 

ka3jjz

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Handhelds that cover HF are great for the stronger stations that are in the clear; but they often fall short when you want to stick an antenna on them (they easily overload) or want to hear something in a crowded band. Most of the mini Rx handhelds from Icom are great for things like sports events, airshows and the like, since they're easy to hide, but to me not much else.

The Satellit750 was discussed, at length, in past threads on this forum by hertzian. Bottom line is that it has some quirks, but it's a nice mid-priced way to get your feet wet. Not a super performer by any means - it could have been MUCH better (some of the folks at a past Winterfest (myself included) got to see a pre-production mockup, and a guy from Eton was there to discuss the radio. Too bad none of the changes that were suggested ever made it to the final product...) for not much money, but for the price, I really don't think you can beat it. It's definitely worth looking at, but don't expect it to be a Drake..73 Mike
 

a29zuk

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The Icom R5 isn't much of a HF radio even though it covers the frequencies. It is much more suited for VHF and higher and works great for a scanner as ka3jjz suggested. I would also like to add that the R5 does not have SSB where the Satellite750 does. Personally I use the Palstar R30CC but it may be a tad out of your price range. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles but is a great performer for its price and is made right here in the USA.

Good Luck,
Jim
 
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hawkeye32

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the Palstar, is about the max i would spend, money is not really a issue, but also don't want to spend to high,in case i don't like it, after reading up on these radios,do they (palstar and Grundig's) already programmed, or is it like the scanners where it has a cable and software?
 

ka3jjz

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No - it would make little sense to 'pre program' a HF radio (unlike, say a Uniden radio which has several pre programmed states) since things change fairly quickly, and propagation makes predicting what you will/will not hear almost impossible (among many other factors).

To find out what's on the air, and when, first you must understand the basics of propagation, as I've mentioned before. This will teach you what is and is not possible to hear, given the current conditions. You will not be able to hear a 4 mhz station in the middle of the morning from Asia, if you are on the East Coast - there's too much daylight.

Next you must determine WHAT you want to hear. For example, if you are interested in broadcast stations such as VoA, R Nederland and a host of others, getting a hold of the NASWA spreadsheet is a heckuva start, although admittedly it might be a little dense for someone just getting started. Belonging to certain Yahoo groups such as the DXLD (DX Listening Digest - named for the program that Glenn Hauser has produced for well over 20 years now), NASWA (a private list reserved for NASWA members only) or any of the others will keep you up to date with (almost) instant access to what you are trying to hear.

Utilities is exactly the same. There are many Yahoo groups that are devoted to that area - certainly one of the best known is the Utility DXers Forum or UDXF. Our wiki has a few more, and there are probably even more we don't have listed there yet. There is no 'super spreadsheet' as there is with the broadcast stuff, but we have a good tip of the iceberg list of stuff in our wiki.

There ARE radios that can be programmed via software - and even some - like the very popular RX320 from TenTec - that require a PC to run, or (like the Drakes) have a RS232 connection in the back that allows control from software. The 320 is well within your budget, has lots of software (some free) available, and is VERY selective, depending on what software you use to execute. There is a Yahoo group devoted to it. However, like any computer driven item on HF, there are additional considerations - mostly due to noise issues - that you would need to consider. And that's a topic for another day...

73 Mike
 

hawkeye32

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Ok cool, thanks, I just mainly want to do utlity listening, coast guard, nasa, milair, thats about it. I am getting the understanding that if i want to listen to something on west coast, then it has to be day here and night their correct, and vice versa if i want to hear something on the east coast? Some of it is confusing, but slowly learning it :) Alot to grasp thou at first lol
 

ka3jjz

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No, under normal conditions, it has to be either day in both the West Coast and Ontario, or nite (same condition) for a HF signal to propagate. There are exceptions to this rule, but that's a bit more technical, having to do with grey line phenomenon.

The other part to consider is the frequency. There is too much sunlight that ionizes the D layer of our ionosphere, so frequencies below 9 or 10 mhz aren't going to propagate right now. During the day, stick with freqs between 10-20 mhz or so (and that upper limit is really pushing it - without better flux numbers, propagation is iffy at best, particularly on the ham 15. 12 and 10 meter bands. It can and is done regularly, but not every day...)

You will see why when you view that AE4RV site that is mentioned in the HF propagation primer. It's an excellent place to get started with the basics. Keep in mind you need a Flash player to view that site. 73 Mike
 

hawkeye32

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Gotcha thanks, ya i checked out that site, a little confusing but i got the basics, going to put a order in for grundig i mentioned above. I'll start off small, learn it, then see if i like it, if i do then i can always upgrade.. I really appreciate the time and guidance towards this, hopefully here i don't have to ask too many more questions lol.
 

ka3jjz

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Study some, then come back and ask questions. Study, then ask more questions. That's the way it works. Don't be afraid to ask questions - just don't ask the same ones, hi

73 Mike
 
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