Equipment suggestions for a returning ham, with space issues

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Hi everyone - I'm recently re-licensed after being inactive for years. When I was younger, living in a house made some aspects easier, but as I am currently in an apartment, I have some questions about what will or won't be practical.

My interests are: HF operation - CW, SSB, digital modes. This was previously the bulk of my operating. I would also love to try VHF/UHF CW, SSB, digital and satellite operating. Mainly 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70cm. Would also like to experiment with 900 MHZ as there are a handful of local repeaters . I previously only did 2 meter FM but always wanted to branch out.

So, my questions are:

1) HF operation - I'm on the second floor with a small balcony, but also have some access to the attic area. (I'm not supposed to, but I found a way to get up there and run cables) What are my antenna options?

2) Given line of sight issues will any VHF/UHF operating other than local FM repeater work be possible if I'm in an apartment? I realize satellite work would be the least practical given my living situation.

3) I don't currently have any equipment, but as far as advancements in technology go, how new do tranceivers need to be when it comes to newer operating modes, esp digital? I previously worked HF with a Kenwood TS140S. It was a very solid little radio that I loved but unfortunately I sold it some years back. What I still be ok using a rig of this vintage? If I do wish to try something other than just vhf-fm, how reliable are the older vhf/uhf multi mode rigs? I'm surprised to see that they are not made anymore. What are people using instead?

(Added as a comment - I see there are lots of really cheap Chinese made radios out there now. I would really rather stay away from those as I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for".)

3) since I'm living on the second floor of an apartment I cannot really think of how I can get a good station ground. I don't think trying to run copper braid six or seven feet out my window to a grounding rod in the ground would work out very well.

Any help is appreciated especially from those that are currently or have been in my position.
 

wyShack

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While not the best situation, a way can likely be found. If you have a balcony, you have some room to work. In today's world, you are far from alone. Google 'antennas for restricted space' -you will find you have lots of company. There are 'artificial RF grounds' available which work somewhat like a antenna tuner to get a good RF ground. You main problem is likely going to be all the 'noise' put out by other electronics-both yours and your neighbors as well as RFI (again google is your friend ).

BTW some of the satellites ( easy sats) are set up to work with low power and simple antennas -many use a duel band handheld and a handheld beam.

Most digital modes nowadays require a computer with a sound card (just about any computer these days) and a simple interface (receive audio from the rig, TX audio to the rig and transmit/receive switching). The computing requirements are minimal-often the shack gets a 'hand me down' or laptop.

Hope this helps

73
 

N2AL

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Good evening and welcome back into the hobby! I am going to do my very best to answer some of your questions, or maybe provide some insight.

1) HF operation - I'm on the second floor with a small balcony, but also have some access to the attic area. (I'm not supposed to, but I found a way to get up there and run cables) What are my antenna options?
I know of a ew options you could try. I believe the ARRL has published a book titled Small Antenna's for Small Spaces that you may find a lot of help and insight with. I have QSO'd in the past with hams who live in small apartments that have created some simple yet VERY powerful antennas. One ham created an antenna out of that book he hung up inside his apartment towards the ceiling and it worked great! Another ham managed to disguise the antenna by using black wire and running it along his railing on the balcony.

The link to the book is https://www.arrl.org/shop/Small-Antennas-for-Small-Spaces-2nd-Edition/

Those are a few thoughts but I would try consulting that book, or finding a viewable copy online.

2) Given line of sight issues will any VHF/UHF operating other than local FM repeater work be possible if I'm in an apartment? I realize satellite work would be the least practical given my living situation.
So long as you have a decent antenna with a good ground plane I doubt you would have significant issues making contacts with repeaters. Granted you may not be able to hit a repeater well outside your area though. I use an indoor antenna and it is grounded, and works great! I cannot hit repeaters from the fringe coverage area, but within their coverage area I've not saw an issue.

3) I don't currently have any equipment, but as far as advancements in technology go, how new do tranceivers need to be when it comes to newer operating modes, esp digital? I previously worked HF with a Kenwood TS140S. It was a very solid little radio that I loved but unfortunately I sold it some years back. What I still be ok using a rig of this vintage? If I do wish to try something other than just vhf-fm, how reliable are the older vhf/uhf multi mode rigs? I'm surprised to see that they are not made anymore. What are people using instead?

(Added as a comment - I see there are lots of really cheap Chinese made radios out there now. I would really rather stay away from those as I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for".)
I have used a Yaesu FT-857 radio for years and I love it! I use a SignaLink USB sound card to work digital communications from my computer. Pretty much if you can connect something like that up, or make your own cable, you should be good to go working digital.

I know of hams who use older equipment and truthfully they enjoy it better. A lot of older radios seem to have better receivers in them. I love old tube radios too, but that's my personal preference!
 
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'll do some googling and definitely look up the ARRL book on small antennas.

If there is some way to "simulate" an rf ground I will have to do some more reading as that is an obstacle I'll have to overcome.

The new yaesu 991A looks great but may be out of my price range for now. Don't have a budget in mind, but all things considered that may be a bit pricey for right now.

Call me crazy but it seems as if some HF rigs have gotten too small. There's something about having Hf/vhf/uhf in one tiny box that just feels odd to me. I've been thinking a dedicated HF rig (maybe one with 6m) and something else with multi band 2m/440. Also an HT for repeater work. Then again it all depends on the money, I don't feel the need to buy all new gear. But after all that it may be a wash between several used rigs and one new "shack in a box" I have to admit, my biggest itch is to get back on HF and start practicing my code skills again.

I'm also really intrigued by some projects I've seen to convert commercial radios into 900mhz ham radios.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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You might look into one of the two magnetic loop antennas sold by MFJ for HF work. You can mount it on your balcony and it does not look like an antenna to most folks. Hang some plastic coat hangers on it and call it a clothes line! As far as the attic, your landlord might be perturbed about anything located up there. If you are crafty, maybe you can run a stealthy dipole. Whatever you do, you are going to be subject to noise from lighting and can possibly generate TV I. The best route are fully balanced antennas to minimize common mode interference and radiation. See if you can find copper cold water pipe for grounding purposes.

Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk
 
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I have yet to see anything but pvc pipe. I'm in a large apartment complex. I doubt they would ever find anything in the attic, but I do recognize it is a risk. The risk of TVI does concern me. I don't know if simply adding a low pass filter would be much of a help. Maybe it would be good motivation to work on my QRP skills..
 

TheSpaceMann

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There is an excellent way to work vhf/uhf from an apartment! I travel extensively on business, so I often find myself having to operate from inside hotel rooms. I have had great success utilizing a small ELK 2m/440 portable beam indoors! I mount the beam to a piece of PVC pipe, and strap the pipe it to a chair with bungee cords. With this set up, I am able to hit repeaters 50+ miles away, even if I am on the first floor! It also can work wonders when there is a band opening! :)
 

W9BU

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When shopping for a new HF radio, if that's in your budget, look for one with a built-in USB sound card. This will make working the "sound card data" modes much easier since you won't need an external interface. One radio at the lower end of the market that has this feature is the Icom IC-7200.
 

wyShack

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I know there are others, however MFJ offers an 'Artificial RF ' ground. the model is MFJ-931. they also offer an antenna tuner and Artificial ground (MFJ 934). I am sure there are others out there. One thing I have used is a run of coax with the shield and center conductors 'shorted' at both ends with a .01 Micro farad disk capacitor. The coax is used in addition to a 'real' ground conductor for lightning, AC protection. It is just a 'low' impedance at RF.

73
 

KG7WBW

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No harm in getting a mobile unit. This would allow for communication from home, even in less than ideal conditions due to the spatial limitations, and from a vehicle or a park where your results will be much better.
 
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