Wanting to join this side of the hobby and start HF/SW monitoring

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jwile20vt

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Hello all

been into airwaves since was younger like most , first found this place when I was looking into starting HF/SW monitoring few years back and I ended up finding a great deal on a Uniden 785D with digi card from another member on here , since I hadn't purchased any radios for my setup post 1990 :) i had no idea of the new technology with just regular Police/Fire scanning so I really just wanted to pick it up and check it out . 3 years and still loving that radio I am really expanding my curiosity and wanting to start monitoring HF/SW .
I always have regretted not getting my ham or starting HF/SW and just sticking in the CB and scanner bubble , I am always reading great stories on here and love reading DX logs you guys and some other places on the net Ive looked at .
I always thought that shortwave was just foreign music stations and all which is cool but when I started to read about monitoring utilities / milair and such I really wanted to sink my teeth into it. Was hoping that I could ask for some help about which radio/receiver to look into and also wanted to make sure I understood this right , the shortwave radios like the Grundig G5 and that style of radio I see at radio shack can be used to scan for utilities / milair not just music stations correct ? they just need to have a SSB option ? I was always confused , I thought I needed one of those large desktop like R75 icom and such ...
I am on a budget and honestly used gear isn't bad to me at all , Ive been looking ebay and on here for some deals and have seen tabletop models to smaller units ( like the grundig G5) and than the small small portable hand-held ones . The first time I was researching into HF/SW I looked at the R75 icom and that style which i loved but seriously way too much right now , looking for something to help build a greater passion and get familiar with this side of the hobby .

Think it will also help me get motivated to get my ham when i start monitoring and trying to pick up around the world .

I appreciate your time as always , any confusion ive typed ill apologize ahead of time .
 

ka3jjz

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jwile, looking at used radios is a very good idea - portables will kinda fall short when conditions start to get a bit rough (selectivity isn't always the best), although some hi end portables such as the newer Eton E1XM or Satellit 800 series are always good choices, if a bit on the expensive side for someone starting off.

Many ham transceivers have general coverage rxs built in, so if you intend to get your license, it serves double duty for you. In addition, this is the beginning of the hamfest season - so getting a good price on a used Icom R71A, Yaesu FRG100 or Kenwood R5000 (to name a few) is certainly possible, but you do need to know to look for a rx in good condition. In addition, some folks are using SDR radios, though they tend to be more expensive. A good middle of the road rx, if you don't mind having a radio married to a computer, is the TenTec RX320D series. Whatever you buy, sideband capability, selectivity and stability are 3 keys in the utility world. And it's VERY important that no matter what radio you buy a good antenna is a must.

Keep this wiki article handy - it has LOTS of links to reviews. In addition, there's links to our HF antennas and loops page...

HF Equipment and Accessories - The RadioReference Wiki

There's lots more to this than just equipment stuff. But this is a good place to start.

73 Mike
 

jwile20vt

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Ty for the quick reply Ka ... You helped me before when i started on here with similar questions cause like i said I was interested in this when i first joined ... just ended up staying on same path as i started

Funny you mention the RX320D , Ive seen some on ebay and around the net used for sale . When i looked into this few years back they seemed to be popular but same time people were getting used to the software . now seems like people are ditching them so I thought something was wrong , seems like a great idea and unit itself . I'm a big computer dork, actually am a tech for trade. so I do have scrap pc's and stuff around but my main computers I use are apple so didn't know if there was anything out there software wise for it .
Having to be married to a computer isn't such a big big deal if software is available , my radios take the left side of my desk ... my mini and airport are on other with the LCD middle of desk . If the RX320 is that much better than one of those smaller units i wouldn't mind having to keep them near , just the idea of being able to least bring it along if I ever went camping is kind of cool plus road trips cause hotel rooms get boring sometimes . A receiver I remember looking at after few told me to check it out few years back was the infamous DX-394 , I remember that the radio was OK but mod'd was pretty sweet . I've been looking around on e-bay for some ..seems they go from $50 to 300$ bucks if mint and mod'd , love how that radio looks just seems like that type of radio ( desktop) are a ton more money , Dont have like a set budget but can't go crazy so the used path is probably going to be the way to go to start up .

That getting a Ham idea is one that was in my head also , I had a silly idea that if I was trying to buy a ham used without a call/lic. the seller may frown upon the deal . Which i could completely understand , but I have no intention of breaking rules and harming .

The antenna was going to be my next question as i found out when I got my new 785D that its all about the antenna HA. great radio but my antenna for how I had it setup before was terrible and with a lot of help from you guys here I got all my radios working soo good. it helped me keep the passion for the hobby cause I had never heard so far in my life . I was under the assumption that to have external antennas for HF/Shortwave receivers you need the $$ desktop models like the icoms and such , but seems like there are ways to use external with radios that are that mobile tabletop style? (like the eton's , realistic...and so on)
I don't have a crazy antenna setup by any means for my police/fire radio's .. just a rad shack 20-176 think they call it "the spud" around here . I live @ home , take care of grandmother ..so I don't have too many restrictions besides don't burn the house down / lightning and also can't build a beacon or something in the backyard it will look too "tacky" according to her :) jk I'm also well old enough now ( 28 sunday :) ) that she knows I use my head and not going to setup anything would harm anyone or the house . My setup is in my bedroom with decent sized desk being the command console as I call it with the window near by , I have the 20-176 antenna just sitting on roof outside the window and works amazing! Its second floor and seems like I got a great open shot to the south least on my scanner . What should I do for a antenna setup? I love the fact longwire and wire is still used cause I always thought it was amazing when I was younger what you could pull in with just a wire , it better to try something outdoors or can I get away with a indoor setup being on top floor of house ?

and now is prob the best time to ask . What is that style of receiver called ? I mean like the iComs are desktops , kenwood make the big desktops ... what is the style called like the eton's or the kaito's(spelling?) and such I see ...like rad shack sells .

I'm up late nights a lot .. tonight not being any different . I'm going to be surfing and reading all airwaves tonight . Figure I might be able to find something to purchase for a Birthday present for myself :) ... I really have been kicking myself in the butt for not growing further into my radio hobby like Ham and such . listen to a lot of the amateur radio repeater online feeds and such getting more familiar with how people talk on the radio , using call sign and such .
 

ka3jjz

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Just call me Mike - the 'ka3jjz' is my ham callsign...

Anyway, radios like the big Satellit or E1XM are referred to as 'portatops' - a quite unofficial term coined by Larry Magne (of the recently shut-down Passport to World Band Radio) to describe radios that are portable in nature, but are too big or have no handles with which to carry them. It has been more or less adopted by the community as a whole, but asking about portatops at a hamfest or similar will elicit some strange looks, hi. Start your research with the article I gave earlier.

However, portatops do lend themselves more to things like camping expeditions, hotels and so forth. There are desktop radios that are suitable for such operations - the Palstar is one example. Save your money for these, unless you find one used (possible). Radios like a R75 or R71A are much less set up for battery operation - it's doable but not nearly as easily.

Antennas when traveling are always something of a trick. A hotel room is probably the single most hostile area when it comes to RF junk being around you - everything from the sign out front, to the next door neighbor's old shaver, heaters - a whole plethoria of things, actually - can and often are sources of noise. You need to be able to use something that's going to cut down hearing that noise. Small amplified loops are a good choice - and you can read up on them using the link I provided earlier. Another is to use a 9:1 transformer to create a loop around a window or doorframe - however in this case, a small portable amplifier may be needed. Camping out, you can make such a loop as large as you like. I know of more than a few DXers that go camping during the fall/early winter and string really big lengths of wire for antennas (I didn't say a 'longwire', because a true longwire, while related, is a different animal...). The advantage of camping is getting away from all those blasted noise sources.

Again, I'd start by reading up on the links in the article I mentioned earlier. 73 Mike
 

jwile20vt

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Mike

Wanted to thank you for the link , been reading all weekend . Was my birthday hoping I can buy myself a present but prob end up going to creditors haha . I have been trying to answer something simple while reading if I can ask ya , There any disadvantages of getting a hand held receiver like the vr-500 ?besides obvious ones listed when you read spec sheets . Basically looked into the vr-500 seems like its pretty sweet unless i'm missing something , price seems GREAT too i mean its out of my current price range but after little more saving in the hobby account I could pull it off . Doesn't seem to have a lot of PC/Mac control software though , but honestly I'v fond some cool apps that are just logs and other very helpful tools .

Between what you have shared with me to read and a Grant XL CB i'v been working on ..my weekend has been radio filled besides cake/ice cream

Thanks again
 

DPD1

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For anybody starting in SW, I would definitely say a G5, G3 or Sony 7600. Those are the good starter radios and will definitely let you know whether you like it or not. Because honestly, there's a chance you might not. HF is very hit or miss. Some people don't like it that much once they try it. You really can't scan like you do with scanners. It's more just kind of tuning around hoping. But there's a few freqs you can just leave on and get some stuff throughout the day. But it's nothing like scanning.
 

ka3jjz

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Broadband mini handhelds such as the VR500 have many serious limitations - not the least of which is the fact that, on HF, the overload very easily, and usually aren't very selective. That is to say, that if you have 2 or more stations in close proximity to one another, they would tend to interfere with one another. Too, they often don't have a BFO or other ability to decode sideband.

Radios like the Icom R20 are a bit better in this regard, but are still limited by poor selectivity. Dave is right to suggest a portable just to get your feet wet; and we have lots of places linked in our wiki to read up on reviews before you plunk down your cash.

73 Mike
 

corbintechboy

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In my opinion I think you should get a nice used HF radio. Why? Because you may decide you are perfectly happy just listening.

I have been in the hobby for many years, I just now got my first "real" radio (been into i since around 8, now 35). A good radio is like fine wine, if you get it nice... Keep it nice... You can always at least break even on your investment.

If money is no object you can indeed step into some really nice ham gear that would leave you wanting for nothing, at the same time there are some really nice shortwave receivers on the market to be had.

Choices choices and if you feel you need any help choosing a dedicated receiver, let me know. I just got done doing tons of research on my own and may be able to help with some of my findings.

In whatever you choose, it should bring you years of much enjoyment!
 

jwile20vt

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Hi all...thank again for the replies

I'm glad I asked bout the VR-500 because I saw a couple decent deals on used ones around the net and ebay . since I read the thread about radio shack and the G5 on clearance I'v called every rad shack around me and no luck , even had one of the guys there search for me cause it sounded like he was into radiowaves and knew what I was talking about with the clearance . I'm going to try to search around for a G3 or 7600 used , Gotta be honest and say i never seen a 7600 before but found one on e-bay nice looking radio .

Thank you for the heads up on some not really liking it after awhile , I had a feeling its a hobby that has that problem . Personally think I am going to enjoy jut because getting away from that "scanning" like I do now and doing more tuning sounds fun but I can see some just getting sick of it , one of my radios I have is from a buddy who was all about scanning and then month later he gave it to me as a present :) haha

Research and the search continues , Noticing a lot of users with radios without a ext. antenna using a alligator clip connected to the whip? this work out good? or should I aim for one with a Ext. antenna . asking because whatever I end up with I am going to have to put something outside , from my experience in past with radios I don't have the best hour for a indoor one .

Thanks again everyone

Jeremy
 

DPD1

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I wouldn't do the clip on the whip of the Grundigs, because they have a preamp on the whip, and you're sort of asking for trouble doing that. It could potentially blow something. Early G5s could be blown with a static shock on the whip.
 

ka3jjz

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The G5 does have an external antenna jack - see the ad on the Universal Radio website

73 Mike

[edit] There's a schematic (under the 'External Antenna Accessory' section) in this article that should help mitigate the static discharge problems if you connect something to the Ext Antenna jack. Even though it's intended for the Sony 2010, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be useful for other portables. It's a simple schematic and a good beginner project...

Improvements to the ICF-2010 Receiver
 
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