Whats a good handheld radio for a beginner?

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KC9VZV

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Hi-

I just passed my technician class exam this morning and now it's time for me to decide what transceiver to get! I am new to the hobby of Amateur radio, but I am pretty familiar with radios overall since I have had multiple scanners mainly for public safety monitoring over the past 6-8 years. So, I need some suggestions on what to get as my first radio.
I want a handheld transceiver, preferably one that can receive most public safety frequencies, but only transmit on designated ham bands. I got into the hobby mostly because I am interested in public safety stuff (I plan on joining the local ARES organization), so I don't need a radio that can do all kinds of "technical stuff", just one that can get me on the air without too much hassle.

Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks!
 

scannerboy01

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I have the Yaesu FT-60 and I have been quite pleaed with it's performance. I'm a beginner too in the ham radio hobby as I have only had my call sign for 7 days.
 

KD2BMU

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As I have been told before, get one you can afford and what your license allows. I am not familiar with the Canadian classes. If most of the freqs you will be working are VHF/UHF then get yourself one of those. I have seen several advertisements for a radio that is dual band and is about $60. I will find the link and post it.

Congrats and welcome to the hobby!
 

KC9VZV

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I checked out the Yaesu FT-60, which looks like a pretty nice radio. I will look into it further, but so far I don't see much about it that would be a downside for me. Thanks very much!

Dave-
Thanks! I am very excited to be part of the hobby. Just for clarification, I am not in Canada. I am in Northern Illinois, USA. I got my technician class license this morning, so now I am looking for a radio that will accomodate my capabilities with the tech license privileges. Thanks again!
 

scannerboy01

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The Canadian equivalent of technician would be basic without honours.
 

KD2BMU

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Dave-
Thanks! I am very excited to be part of the hobby. Just for clarification, I am not in Canada. I am in Northern Illinois, USA. I got my technician class license this morning, so now I am looking for a radio that will accomodate my capabilities with the tech license privileges. Thanks again!

I am so sorry, Dan! I was reading your post along with the genleman that posted after you and for some reason I remembered his location.

Here is that link I was talking about:
The World
 

KC9VZV

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I am so sorry, Dan! I was reading your post along with the genleman that posted after you and for some reason I remembered his location.

Here is that link I was talking about:
The World
Dave-

No need to apologize. That's kind of what I figured happened, no problem. :)

The Baofeng UV-5R doesn't seem to be for me... From reading that article, it doesn't seem very well-built and the issues mentioned with programming it are definitely a major down side for me. Also, if I am correct, this radio cannot act as a public safety receiver, only a ham band transceiver. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong). I see on your signature that you have a VX-6R. What would your thoughts be on this radio? Can it receive public safety channels and transmit/receive on ham bands? Is it easily programmable?
Thanks again for your help!
 

ropin4gold

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You might be better served with a good mobile radio. So many folks buy an HT as the first radio and end up frustrated with the lack of power to reach the repeaters. Just a thought. Also if you want an HT, tell us what kind of features, bands, etc you want in them. Most any VHF HT will RX between about 136-147mhz. I have a Yaesu FT-270 that does that. If you need UHF the FT-60 is good. I have a VX-7R also that does VHF UHF and 6M, but it is a pain in the *** to program without the cable and software. There are plenty of choices out there, watch the classifieds here and on qth.com for a deal. If all you need is a good monoband VHF HT, I wouldn't pay over about $125 for one on the used market.
 

KC9VZV

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You might be better served with a good mobile radio. So many folks buy an HT as the first radio and end up frustrated with the lack of power to reach the repeaters. Just a thought. Also if you want an HT, tell us what kind of features, bands, etc you want in them. Most any VHF HT will RX between about 136-147mhz. I have a Yaesu FT-270 that does that. If you need UHF the FT-60 is good. I have a VX-7R also that does VHF UHF and 6M, but it is a pain in the *** to program without the cable and software. There are plenty of choices out there, watch the classifieds here and on qth.com for a deal. If all you need is a good monoband VHF HT, I wouldn't pay over about $125 for one on the used market.
Thanks. I am pretty set on getting a HT instead of a mobile radio. Best case scenario, I would like to be able to receive VHF and UHF public safety frequencies (my local PD is on UHF and Sheriff and FD are on VHF) and then transmit and receive on the ham bands. I am not sure if that is possible, but that's what I would like. :)
I have been looking on plenty of different classifieds sites as well as eBay and stuff, but I don't want to spend too much time looking until I have a radio in mind that I would like to get. Thanks again for your help!
 

KC9VZV

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Also, there has been a lot of mention of a Yaesu products, but just out of curiosity, what about other manufacturers like Icom? Not that I have anything against Yaesu, I am just trying to explore all of my options.
Thanks again!
 

N9JCQ

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Dan, the Kenwood TH-F6A is a pretty darn nice HT and it sounds like it would cover your receive requirements as well. I would say that the programming software supplied by Kenwood is sub -par though.
Joe, N9JCQ
Also in Northern IL.
 

KC9VZV

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Dan, the Kenwood TH-F6A is a pretty darn nice HT and it sounds like it would cover your receive requirements as well. I would say that the programming software supplied by Kenwood is sub -par though.
Joe, N9JCQ
Also in Northern IL.
Joe-

Thanks for the suggestion! That looks like it may be just right for me. I feel really stupid, but I can't seem to find a list of the frequency ranges that this radio can receive. I see it says what ham bands it will transmit and receive on, but nothing that I see about what it can pick up in receive-only mode. If you could give me a link showing this, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks again!
 

W2NJS

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Kenwood, other stuff, etc. etc.

Joe-

Thanks for the suggestion! That looks like it may be just right for me. I feel really stupid, but I can't seem to find a list of the frequency ranges that this radio can receive. I see it says what ham bands it will transmit and receive on, but nothing that I see about what it can pick up in receive-only mode. If you could give me a link showing this, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks again!
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I suggest you do a Google search for the Kenwood website and find the information you need there. All of the ham equipment manufacturers maintain extensive websites where you should be able to find out everything you need to know about their products. There's Yaesu, Kenwood, Alinco, and Icom just to name four, and there are others as well.

As to monitoring public service (PD, FD, etc.) with your new HT, none of the radios discussed above will be able to monitor digital radio transmissions; they only do FM and the FM must be unencrypted. There is one Motorola dualband HT that will receive digital (the APX7000) but good used ones sell for about $2500 these days, plus about $300 for the programming software and $100 for the programming cable. More and more public service agencies are converting to digital radio these days, but there will always be some that remain on analog FM. I mention all this just so you're not disappointed when your new HT won't let you hear some things you want to hear.
 

KC9VZV

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I suggest you do a Google search for the Kenwood website and find the information you need there. All of the ham equipment manufacturers maintain extensive websites where you should be able to find out everything you need to know about their products. There's Yaesu, Kenwood, Alinco, and Icom just to name four, and there are others as well.

As to monitoring public service (PD, FD, etc.) with your new HT, none of the radios discussed above will be able to monitor digital radio transmissions; they only do FM and the FM must be unencrypted. There is one Motorola dualband HT that will receive digital (the APX7000) but good used ones sell for about $2500 these days, plus about $300 for the programming software and $100 for the programming cable. More and more public service agencies are converting to digital radio these days, but there will always be some that remain on analog FM. I mention all this just so you're not disappointed when your new HT won't let you hear some things you want to hear.
Thanks for the info. I did some Googling and still couldn't find any info about what public safety frequencies the Kenwood TH-F6A receives. After I found the price on the Kenwood TH-F6A, though, I think that radio is pretty much out. LOL. I think the maximum I would be willing to spend is around $200, but I would prefer around $150. The cheapest I could find the TH-F6A was $299.
I think I'm going to research the Yaesu radios mentioned earlier in this thread more to see if they have the features I want at a lower price.

Also, thanks for the heads-up on the digital radio stuff. I am aware of the fact that many agencies are going digital, but thank goodness only state PD is in my area. Other than that, I don't have to worry about digital stuff for now. But thanks for mentioning it.

Thanks again for the info!
 

davedaver1

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Welcome to the hobby!

My $.02 - HTs make poor scanners. They usually scan really slow compared to scanners and if you're monitoring you're not hamming, or vice versa. Get the HT for being an HT.

My recommendation for you is the Yaesu FT-60R. It has extended receive, but not in UHF. Again - your scanners will do a much better job of that. It's an easy to use radio. $159 at Universal Radio, so it fits your price range nicely. Get G4HFQ's programming software for it - just $15. I use his software for all of my Yaesu radios.

BTW, the TH-F6A is listed has having a receive range of 0.01~ 1300 MHz (no doubt with cellular blocked...) according to the Kenwood web site.
 

KC9VZV

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Welcome to the hobby!

My $.02 - HTs make poor scanners. They usually scan really slow compared to scanners and if you're monitoring you're not hamming, or vice versa. Get the HT for being an HT.

My recommendation for you is the Yaesu FT-60R. It has extended receive, but not in UHF. Again - your scanners will do a much better job of that. It's an easy to use radio. $159 at Universal Radio, so it fits your price range nicely. Get G4HFQ's programming software for it - just $15. I use his software for all of my Yaesu radios.

BTW, the TH-F6A is listed has having a receive range of 0.01~ 1300 MHz (no doubt with cellular blocked...) according to the Kenwood web site.
Thanks! I'm glad to be part of the hobby!!

Ok, thanks for that info. I don't plan for the HT to replace my scanner, I just want it to have the ability to receive public safety frequencies on the HT. I don't really plan to use it as a scanner much, so the fact that it scans pretty slow is not a huge disadvantage.

The FT-60R seems to be the general consensus of the best radio for my needs, so very likely that will be what I will end up with. You said that it does not have extended receive in UHF... on the PDF I downloaded from the Yaesu website, it says that it can receive 137-520 MHz. Really the only things I would want to pick up in UHF range would be the local PD on 470.937 MHz, so I don't think I would have any problem. (please correct me if I am wrong on that)

Just to clarify, for the FT-60R, if I were receiving my local PD on 470.937, for example, and I accidentally pressed the PTT button, would it just beep to let me know that I cannot transmit on that channel?

Thanks again to all of you for your great help and support here! I really appreciate it.
 

W2NJS

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Dan,

Yes, the common practice if you try to transmit on an out-of-hamband channel is for the radio to growl in some fashion and display an error message on the screen. Most of the ham HTs can be modified to transmit out of band, but they're not designed or tuned to do so, so results vary, in addition to it being illegal. There is a Chinese HT called a Wouxun that, in addition to being a dualband ham HT, is also
FCC certified for Part 90 commercial use outside the VHF and UHF hambands. There are a number of threads on this Board about these radios and their pluses and minuses if you want to read up on them.
 
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pianotech

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Congratulations on getting your ticket! I'm pretty new myself, about 2 weeks now. Re the Baofeng; I have one, and the programming really isn't all that difficult. Wouxun has a cheat sheet on their website, and truly I can program a repeater in in under a minute.

That said, this is what concerns me about it: 136-174MHZ and 400-480HZ (TX/RX), clearly outside the ham bands we're licensed to operate on.

I tried hitting a repeater with it and those who answered said I had a lot of noise and static (using the duck antenna). I tried my Yaesu FT-250R from the same location (also with the duck) and was told I had a nice, clear, noise-free signal. Maybe one day I'll try hooking the Baofeng up to an external antenna to see if I can improve the transmission.

Anyway, do be careful of the capability to transmit out band!
 

KC9VZV

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Thank you to everybody for your input and help! I did end up ordering the Yaesu FT-60R, which should come in the mail in a few days. Until then, I will just be anxiously awaiting it's arrival! :)

Once again, thank you ALL very much!!!
 

davedaver1

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Thank you to everybody for your input and help! I did end up ordering the Yaesu FT-60R, which should come in the mail in a few days. Until then, I will just be anxiously awaiting it's arrival! :)

Once again, thank you ALL very much!!!
Awesome - I think you'll like the radio. I don't know what I was thinking about the extended receive, thought I was looking at the right manual!

Our club at work has FT-60s and I like using them. I spend a lot of time in the back country, so I personally own a VX-170 and VX-177 (redundancy having 2 separate radios), but I would buy an FT-60 in a second if I wanted a dual bander.
 
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