What are the entry-level HF radios? ...

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speedmaster

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Studying for my General license. Assuming I pass in the coming weeks/months (and get permission from my wife ;-) ), I would like to buy my first HF radio for the house. What are some of the basic entry-level models that will get me going?

I've followed the UHF/VHF HTs for a while so I'm fairly familiar with the offerings and price ranges for those, but the HF world is new to me.

Thanks in advance,
Chris
 

W2NJS

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Icom makes the IC-718 which new goes for something like $550/$600, but there are tons of them available used on the QRZ site. Plain vanilla SSB/CW HF transceiver.
 

AK9R

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The Icom IC-718 is a very basic HF transceiver. The Yaesu FT-450 would also be a good choice at the entry-level end of the market.
 

bluestallion

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I have the icom 718 and love it. its very easy to use and setup. Like you im studying for my general, but have talked on the 10m window that we are allowed and made contacts.
 

K9WG

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I also have the IC-718. 100 watts and rock solid. Only negatives is the lack of standard filters (i.e. 400Hz CW filter), and the not to standard aux plug. I attached a large external speaker and that improved the audio quite a bit.
 

ropin4gold

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You should also look at the Kenwood 570's. They can be found used for around 600 or so. If you get an (s) model it has 6m in it. Also a tuner. I would look for something with a tuner already in it. Sure you can buy an Icom 718 for 5-600bux but then you are in need of a tuner ($100-$200). If you have the money I would also look at the Icom 746. HF-6-2 meters all in one box. The original (non pro) ones go around 800 and get very good reviews.
 

Token

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Essentially the entry level HF rigs mostly fall in the $1000 and under range, and the pickings are pretty skimpy. Buying used can open it up a little bit, but at the risk of getting someone elses problem child.

The Icom IC-718 may be about the cheapest new radio you can buy that is all mode, HF, and 100 Watts. But, there are some drawbacks to it. The receiver is only so-so, particularly in packed band situations, and it does not include an antenna tuner. Still, for $700 or less ($650 to $700 in most stocking locations) it is not a bad deal. But remember, no tuner, and you are going to want one. So figure $900 or so to be realistic.

The FT-450 includes a tuner and is only in the $950-$990 range, and is a much better receiver.

The FT-857/897 include 2 meters and 70 cm, but again no tuner, and run in the $825-$980 range.

The Kenwood TS-480SAT includes a tuner, runs about $925 to $1000, and probably has the best receiver of the under $1k radios.

So, with a tuner, that leaves the IC-718, FT-450, and TS480SAT, and a price range of $900 to $1000. Personally, I would opt for either the 450 or 480 because of the better receivers, and I would be leaning towards the 480 as the more flexible design (remotable head in case you desire at some point to go mobile, or have an ops area with limited desk space) and possibly slightly newer technology over the 450.

T!
 

WX9EMS

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I would also add in the Icom 725, great performer! It is capable of 160-10 Meters, CI-V control, and has one heck of a receiver in it. I have had mine since 2007, not sure what they go for these days (got mine for a song and dance). I agree with K9WG, 30 amp minimum indeed, (50 amp homebrew here) started with RS 25 amp and performance was marginal at best. Either way; the IC-718, 746, and the Kenwood 570 are all good radios from what I have heard, so whichever way you go you should be pleased. Can't say too much about the internal tuner, have a MFJ Versa Tuner II...I do dream of a automatic tuner though!
 

popnokick

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Entry level at $500? Pshaw..... what about the MFJ 94xx series SSB transceivers at about $259.95 list? You'll need a good tuner, some willingness to learn/build antenna, and have to learn about QRP operating. Now THAT's "entry level". Maybe later graduate to an Icom, Kenwood, Alinco, or other appliance.
 

Token

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Entry level at $500? Pshaw..... what about the MFJ 94xx series SSB transceivers at about $259.95 list? You'll need a good tuner, some willingness to learn/build antenna, and have to learn about QRP operating. Now THAT's "entry level". Maybe later graduate to an Icom, Kenwood, Alinco, or other appliance.
The MFJ 94XX series are just as much an appliance as any YaKenAlCom on the market, except that at $250 a piece for a single band radio you will need 11 of them, for about $2750 (impossible, because they don't make those for several of the bands) not counting the cost of the tuner, to make all the bands the other radios listed can cover. And you would still be at 12 W PEP.

QRP can be very intriguing, but I really don't recommend it for a newcomer. Frustration is something a newcomer to any hobby does not need to add to the rest of the learning curve.

If $250 is all a person can afford then the answer is not a limited radio like the MFJ’s listed, but an older used rig, maybe something tube based, or at least tube finals.

T!
 

KC0KM

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I have a Icom 718, although I am just learning how to use it. From what I have seen, and heard about it it is a farily easy radio to use. Although I am causing QRM on the DVD upstairs (and we do not know why, then again -- it is not "my" problem, LOL)
 

SCPD

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I have a Yaesu FT-450 and I have never regretted my decision. It is a great radio and I would recommend it for a ham just starting out.
 

newsphotog

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The Icom IC-718 is a very basic HF transceiver. The Yaesu FT-450 would also be a good choice at the entry-level end of the market.
I'm not on HF much, so I wanted a basic HF rig where I don't have to dig through menus to change settings. I was choosing between the 718 and the 450, I settled on the FT-450AT because it looked better. I picked it up off of QRZ for $400. Last year's Field Day was the first day I used it, and even all of the die-hard contesters who were accustomed to Flex SDR rigs were impressed with my 450.
 

SCPD

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I'm not on HF much, so I wanted a basic HF rig where I don't have to dig through menus to change settings. I was choosing between the 718 and the 450, I settled on the FT-450AT because it looked better. I picked it up off of QRZ for $400. Last year's Field Day was the first day I used it, and even all of the die-hard contesters who were accustomed to Flex SDR rigs were impressed with my 450.
The 450 is an excellent radio for the price. The only thing I would say about it .. is that if you are into contesting in a hardcore way then eventually you want to get a "contest" type radio, but that will cost you in the minimum $2000 range.
 

newsphotog

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The 450 is an excellent radio for the price. The only thing I would say about it .. is that if you are into contesting in a hardcore way then eventually you want to get a "contest" type radio, but that will cost you in the minimum $2000 range.
Any rig can be a contest rig. The 450 has everything I need for contesting... vox, audio record/replay, DB-9 input, etc. If you want to put money into contesting, it would be better invested in antennas.
 

Token

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Any rig can be a contest rig. The 450 has everything I need for contesting... vox, audio record/replay, DB-9 input, etc. If you want to put money into contesting, it would be better invested in antennas.
Any rig can be used for a contest, but not any rig can be a contest rig. The term “contest rig” is considered a class of radios and generally indicates superior levels of receiver performance, especially with regards to filters, dynamic range, and close signal performance. How well does it pull one signal out of that pile-up.

The FT-450 is a good little entry rig, no question there. It and the Kenwood TS480SAT are serious performers for the money. But, having used the FT-450AT beside my Flex-5000, my FTDX-5000, and my FT-2000, it simply cannot compare when things get crowded and tough.

If you set the FT-450 next to the best contest rig to be had and have them both receive a weak signal (same antenna) with nothing else 5 kHz either side of it you might not be able to tell the difference in performance, although even Yaesu admits the sensitivity of the FT-450 is not up to their contest rigs. But, if you task them both with weeding through 60 stations all returning at one time in a 10 kHz range the “contest rig” will rise to the top, hands down.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and contest rigs still sell because they flat out are the best at what they do. While maybe some users just buy the contest rig to have the latest and greatest, or the most expensive toy, DXpeditions and such who have to cart all their gear in still select big, heavy, bulky, contest rigs, because they work.

T!
 

AK9R

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Any rig can be used for a contest, but not any rig can be a contest rig. The term “contest rig” is considered a class of radios and generally indicates superior levels of receiver performance, especially with regards to filters, dynamic range, and close signal performance. How well does it pull one signal out of that pile-up.
I am, by no means, an expert at HF operating. However, I completely agree with your statement. It seems like the usual rig that's brought out to Field Day stations that I've been attended is of the Icom IC-706 or Yaesu FT-897 class. One time, a guy brought his TenTec Omni VI. Wow! Field Day was actually pleasant to operate with a radio that could sort out the wall-to-wall signals on 40m and 20m.

If entry-level rigs were the best solution for contesting, I doubt that the serious contesters would spend thousands of dollars on contest-class rigs. That's not to say that entry-level radios are bad, but the buyer has to be aware that they have some limitations.
 

SCPD

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There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and contest rigs still sell because they flat out are the best at what they do.
I couldn't agree more .. this is the one thing that I found with my Yaesu FT-450, it was fine as long as there weren't stations crowded together.

Once I was using it in a contest environment, I found it hard to get that station that was getting squeezed by all the very close together contest stations. But I still love my FT-450, for the money it is a solid performer.
 
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