Trying To Get Started

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05WideGuy

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Hi all, my name is Joel, I'm a retired Marine, I live in Slidell, LA. I'm trying to get this HAM radio hobby going on my own right now and need to know if I understand what I'm doing. I don't have my license yet, I am studying and plan to test in a couple weeks.

I am looking at purchasing new gear only,I'm willing to spend what it takes but not waist money on more than I need, with a technician license. I am looking at a YAESU FT7900R, from the looks of it I can use the whole thing as far as freq's go, am I right? Next, I was looking at the FP-1030A 30A Power Supply 110V that is shown as an accessorie, it is about $250 (avg), thats a lot. Will you please reccomend another that would work for a more reasonable price? I am planning to use this as a base station only for now,

Finally if you would please recommend an antenna I can buy, I am not ready to build one yet. I live on a very flat region about 9 feet above sea level. There is a repeater very close by. My main reason for wanting the HAM radio is for emergency storms (I went through Katrina) and we had no communication with anyone.

I look forward to learning from you all and appreciate your being patient, and I will try not to ask too many "dumb questions"!

Merry Christmas
Joel
Semper Fi to all you former and future Jarheads!
 

KD8OVN

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Joel,

Welcome to the hobby and good luck on your exam in the coming weeks.

The FT7900R is a nice rig, one of the EOC's in my area uses them exclusively. It is a 2m/440 rig so you will be able to fully use it with a Tech license.

As for a power supply, the FP-1030A is way overkill. That radio uses at most 9.0A on high power (Yaesu FT-7900R Specifications). I would recommend something like an Astron RS-20, which has a power rating of 16A continuous. If you have cash to spare and anticipate upgrading and doing HF work, then step up to atleast the RS-35.

As for an antenna, I can't recommend anything to specifically purchase, pick a vertical for 2m/70cm off of universal's site and check the reviews on eham.net.

I recommending building a copper cactus, cheap, easy, performs well and super gratifying to use. (2m / 440 Copper Pipe Super J-Pole)

Don't worry about asking too many questions, we were all beginners once too. The only dumb question is one that isn't asked!

Merry Christmas!
Tony
KD8OVN
 

LtDoc

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I pretty much agree with what's already been said. I think the best thing you can do is a lot of 'shopping around', see what's available. There's really no super big hurry about it (yeah, right), so who knows what you might find. I have to think that there's a club near you, see what the members think/have/like. I don't know any hams that have only had one radio. Sooner or later we all have to try something 'new' or different, you know? It's fun, so have fun at it!
- 'Doc
 

AK9R

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For a power supply, the Astron RS-20 is a solid, reliable choice. Another option would be one of Astron's small switching power supplies such as the SS-18 or SS-25.

For base antennas, take a look at the Diamond X-30 or X-50. Reasonable gain and easy to mount on a mast or pole.

Don't scrimp on the feedline (coaxial cable between the radio and antenna). The signal attenuation in the cable increases with the length, so longer runs will require better cable. RG58 is generally not acceptable for base installations in the 2m or 70cm amateur bands. RG8X can be used, though the attenuation at lengths over 25 feet can be a problem. RG8 may be an acceptable choice at longer lengths, though something like Belden 9913F7, Times Microwave LMR400, or Andrew CNT400 would be better. Attaching the proper connectors to the cable is a right of passage for new hams, but there are several companies, such as Cable Xperts, who sell cable assemblies with connectors that are well made and reasonably priced.
 

05WideGuy

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Gentelmen, Thank you very much I think you answered all my questions "for now"! I plan on meeting the the club after the holidays are over and schedule my exam. I hope this hobby doesn't snowball like my Astronomy, or my music (drums) has, they have become quite a drainage on my resources. I told my wife I am only buying the essential equipment and the UPS truck won't be showing up twice a week.

Joel
 

sloop

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Getting started

Joel,
Good luck on your test. That being said the rigthat you have picked out is good, I would go with the smaller power supply mentioned earlier, as for the antenna....I prefer the Arrow 146/440 J-pole antenna. Its small, fool proof, heavy duty, and mounts on just about anything. Sells for $39.00 at AES (amateur electronic supply) @ aesham.com.
 

05WideGuy

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Joel,
Good luck on your test. That being said the rigthat you have picked out is good, I would go with the smaller power supply mentioned earlier, as for the antenna....I prefer the Arrow 146/440 J-pole antenna. Its small, fool proof, heavy duty, and mounts on just about anything. Sells for $39.00 at AES (amateur electronic supply) @ aesham.com.
Sloop thanks for the tip, I just checked the Arrow out and read some reviews; I'm sold! does it need to be grounded?

Joel
 

05WideGuy

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I'm just checking out some things I might get in the future for my FT-7900 and stumbled across this mic. have any of you all had any experience with this mic?

Joel
 

WU8Y

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Congratulations, and good luck on your exams! I urge you to keep it up, and consider going for the General and Extra licenses later on. The 2 m and 70 cm bands are great for local communications, but going to HF will get you worldwide coverage.

All the advice you've been given above is good stuff, so I don't have anything to add. The rig is perfect for an entry-level Tech rig; it does only have FM, though, so if you were to become interested in SSB, CW, or most digital modes you'd have to get something else. But, as someone has pointed out, don't think that you only need one radio - if you stick with this hobby, you'll probably get several rigs.

For FM, you'll need a vertical antenna, and the J-poles are very common and good performers. Watch the feed-line loss, too! It depends on how far the rig is from the antenna, but coax loss is high on VHF and UHF.
 

AC2OY

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Welcome Joel!!! Good luck on your ticket!! Try game test online they let you do the technician's for free and I think thirty bucks for the general and extra. For a base rig that's a good selection few guys in my club have those 7900's in their cars. Question do you plan on going for your higher tickets and getting on HF?? If so you might to think about something like a Icom 7000 which does HF and has 2,6, and 70cm built in. I suppose it depends of what you plan on doing.
 

05WideGuy

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Welcome Joel!!! Good luck on your ticket!! Try game test online they let you do the technician's for free and I think thirty bucks for the general and extra. For a base rig that's a good selection few guys in my club have those 7900's in their cars. Question do you plan on going for your higher tickets and getting on HF?? If so you might to think about something like a Icom 7000 which does HF and has 2,6, and 70cm built in. I suppose it depends of what you plan on doing.
Fuzy, thanks for the welcome. Right now I'm just concentrating on the tech ticket, I probably will go for general after a while but I don't see myself going for Extra. Do you have a link for the game test online, I can't find it through Google?
 

sloop

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Joel,
Arrow J-pole antenna ad states that it does not need a ground plane and that it can be mounted anywhere, in the attic, metal, wood, fiberglass, etc. With that being said...I would either use a metal pole to mount it on and/or make sure that the coax has a lightning surge protector in it. Remember, a vertical antenna is nothing but a fancy lightning rod! I have mine on a metal pole that is grounded...remember under everyday weather (i.e. rain & snow) stray static charges can build on on an antenna and you dont waht them in your transmission line.
 

Jimru

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Hi Joel,

Welcome to Ham Radio and to Radio Reference!
You are getting great advice here, as usual. I will only add the following:
I think you will find that if you join a club nearby, that is going to help you immensely. Try not to think of Amateur Radio as "for emergencies only", as there are a great many aspects to the hobby, but, if that is your main interest, look for and join the nearest emergency group, such as ARES: http://www.arrl.org/ares
or, RACES:
http://www.usraces.org/

This way, you will be able to put "emergency" in ham radio into an actual framework that you can use. Both organizations drill and have meetings (and sometimes the two groups combine, in some areas). But, just having a radio around to use "only in emergencies" really won't serve you. You need to know how to operate your radio, what frequencies are used in emergencies and what the actual operating protocols are in emergency situations.

Most of all, try to have fun! If you join a club and an emergency group, you will meet some very welcoming new friends that you will learn from and enjoy the hobby with for years to come.

Again, welcome to the hobby and happiest of holidays.

Jim, KC2LMH
Forest Hills, NY
 

elk2370bruce

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Joel,
Arrow J-pole antenna ad states that it does not need a ground plane and that it can be mounted anywhere, in the attic, metal, wood, fiberglass, etc. With that being said...I would either use a metal pole to mount it on and/or make sure that the coax has a lightning surge protector in it. Remember, a vertical antenna is nothing but a fancy lightning rod! I have mine on a metal pole that is grounded...remember under everyday weather (i.e. rain & snow) stray static charges can build on on an antenna and you dont waht them in your transmission line.
I've had the Arrow dual-bank j-pole (the aluminum cactus) for about five years and is also mounted on an aluminum pole section (grounded of course). This antenna has worked out well and has withstood several hurricanes, numerous nor'easters, and two blizzards. You can't beat the price and Arrowe is a good place to work with. I would also strongly recommend that you use the best coax you can afford, RG8 or Belden 9913 fifty ohm with PL 259's on each emd. Keep your coax run as short as possible and you'll never have a problem. Welcome to the wonderful international fraternity that is amateur radio.
 

AC2OY

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Fuzy, thanks for the welcome. Right now I'm just concentrating on the tech ticket, I probably will go for general after a while but I don't see myself going for Extra. Do you have a link for the game test online, I can't find it through Google?
Yes Joel here it is!! Www.hametestonline.com. This will definately help it got my my tech ticket! What are your feelings of a rig you gonna go for a mobile,base set up? If I can help please ask away my friend!! I did and continue to do a lot of research!!!
 

Jimru

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Yes Joel here it is!! Www.hametestonline.com. This will definately help it got my my tech ticket! What are your feelings of a rig you gonna go for a mobile,base set up? If I can help please ask away my friend!! I did and continue to do a lot of research!!!
Hamtest is awesome! I used it for both my Tech and General tests. I like it because it's designed to "remember" what questions and what subject matter you need to work on most as you go along, so you really get to concentrate in those areas.

I agree that it's a great tool and very reasonably priced.
 
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First thanks for your service.

I am a VN vet but did not stay in till retirement by a long shot.

I got my license almost two years ago but have never done anything with it till now.

Good luck on your exam.
 

dksac2

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Hi Joel,

Just a couple other ideas. There is a guy on E Bay that sells a power supply called a "Mega Watt" for $67.00. It runs 30 amps Cont and int 36 amps. It has a 2 year warrenty. The extra amperage will allow extra equipment in the future. I've had mine 8 months and it's stable and works great. Some of the others suggested are great, but spendy. It has a "Crow Bar System" in case the power runs away so your radio is not damaged. Be sure to read up on grounding, run all your grounds to the same place, it's very important. Quite a bit to it, study from several sources. The ARRL has some good material on line.
I also have a Yaesu 7900R radio and it's great, you should get the programming package from RT Systems for it, it makes it 100 times easier.

You want to use good coax. At UHF freqs, there is a lot of loss. The LMR 400 is about the best cost wise, about $.75 cents a foot at L-Com, seems expensive, but it's worth every dime. It looses about 1.3 DB at 100', some loose 4 to 8 DB at 100 feet. Each 3 db loss cuts your power in half which is quite a lot. As to an antenna, the J pole are good antennas, but getting an antenna with gain really helps you get out further. The Diamond X300NA has good gain and is a solid antenna. It uses "N" connectors, which are the best to use for high frequency anyway. This antenna with it's gain gives you an effective power of over 200 watts and costs $50. to $75.00 more than the other Diamond antennas mentioned. The Diamond antennas are excellent and will last years. Be sure to tape all outside connections well, water will kill the coax. The Diamond puts the signal down lower, the J Pole and Arrow tend to heat the sky, they are very omni directional and in my opinion waste a lot of power that will never get to another antenna.

Lastly, height is everything. If allowed to put up a pole, there is a telescoping metal pole, goes to 34 feet and has guy rings, if possible, at $175.00, it's not cheap, but will get you a lot of distance. I think MFJ carries it and it can be delivered by UPS. You will need the Nylon cord for guy wires. There are less expensive ways to get an antenna in the air, like from the roof if you can or solid pipe that you can put guy rings on. I got the more expensive pole because it's easier to take down and I can add another antenna at a later date, which I already have done. If you can get your antenna to 50 or 75 feet do it. Too high and coax loss becomes a problem, just get it as high as reasonable.

Get on the internet and sign up for Echolink after you get your license, you can talk all over the world, it uses the internet and there are repeaters out there that you can use it with your radio or even just your computer. It's free.

Much depends on what you want to do. I bought the less expensive antenna and a short pole and was not happy with the results it gave me and had to spend more to get what I wanted, but everyone has different needs. Whatever you decide, get the LMR 400 coax and the programmer from RT.

VHF and UHF are line of sight and need to be antennas as high as can be and also loose the most power in the coax. This is why I have made the suggestions I have.

If you are mostly just going to hit close (under 35 to 40 miles) repeaters, the J Pole or arrow will be fine, but for simplex, you will want an antenna with lots of gain way up high, otherwise you will never reach out all that far, especially in an urban or city area.

These are just my opinions, but I would have saved much time and money if I went with equipment that gave me more distance to begin with. Others may differ, but this has been my experience.

Thank You for your Service Marine !

My Best, John

P.S. In most cases,Universal-radio.com seems to have the best prices by far. Do check, but 95% of the time, theirs are lowest, in stock and pretty quick delivery
 
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