A reader sent this comment on my post about Heathkit’s demise:
“It would be a limited customer base, as with all the China crap coming in
hard to compete. Also noticed that they are selling 2mt/440 ht’s and
advertising that you do not need a license!!!look for interference to
public service and emergency com, reports against amateur radio, going
to be a tough nut to crack”
I have to disagree. First of all, some of the “crap” from China is actually pretty good, and giving the “big 3” some serious competition. You know, there was a time, back in the early seventies when everyone referred to the influx of Japanese-manufactured electronics as crap too. I remember this first-hand, as my interest in SW and AM DXing started in 1972. Look where that has gone. The Japanese are now the manufacturers of choice for our radios. Now, I cannot say that all of these new low cost radios are good (first-hand experience with a radio from FDC backs that up for me), but the BaoFeng UV-3R has set a new bar for value in a low-cost mini HT, as well as the highly-regarded Wouxun radios. It should be interesting as these companies evolve. Mobile radios are just starting to trickle in now, and who knows what’s next. Outside of radio, what about smartphones? Where are most of them made?
I watched this same thing happen with Shortwave receivers over the last decade. Companies like Degen, Tecsun, and Kchibo, first got into this market by being the manufacturers for labels like Grundig-Eton. The early radios were not good, but then a funny thing happened. The engineers listened to the public and made changes. They adjusted the performance and feature-set of these radios based on what the users were asking for. This is something that their predecessors never did. Sony, Panasonic, Philips, and even Taiwan’s Sangean, rarely made changes based on the enthusiasts comments and reviews. The result is that some of the best performing portable SW receivers for the money now come from China. Panasonic, and Magnavox, are out of the market here. Sony only makes one viable offering now, and Sangean continues to get mediocre reviews, after such a promising start. I personally own a few Tecsun, and Degen radios and although the build quality is not quite as good as the Sony, it’s VERY close now.
As far as selling to the non-licensed public, that problem has always existed. I don’t think that you were required to produce a license to buy any of the HTX radios at Radio Shack in the eighties and nineties, as well as the various commercial offerings they had. You were told by the packaging, and again in the manuals that you were required to have a license. Very few people at hamfests and flea markets ask for licenses before taking the cash from their potential customers. Add to that garage sales, and classified ads, and you can see that the ability to buy un-authorized radio equipment has always been there. Recent experience with jamming in my area led me to a small history lesson while investigating the source of the interference. This has been going on for a VERY long time, and you’d be surprised how much of the problem is caused by licensed Hams.
Craigslist, and eBay have made this easier, yes, and I believe that the equipment being sold should at least be restricted to its intended purpose (limiting Xmit frequencies for Amateur equipment), but we will never stop the sale of equipment to the unlicensed public, just as we will never stop music and software pirating.
The biggest travesty here is the existing players not recognizing the changing market. Kenwood’s new rig is gorgeous, but is another multi-thousand dollar rig what this hobby needs? What the HF side of the hobby needs is a competent, basic 160-10 (or 6) transceiver that can keep the interest of a newly licensed ham going, with a target sell price UNDER $500. 50-100 watts would be ok at this price-point, with the option of adding some power later. I honestly feel that if Kenwood, Yaesu, and Icom don’t wake up, and adjust to the changing market, they might go the way of the classic Shortwave manufacturers.
Sorry for the long editorial, but this is a sensitive subject for me. I have only been a ham for 9 months, and with all of the obligations I have, and trying to make sure there’s something left for retirement, plunking down $1000 on a radio at the moment is out of the question. Many of our new hams are in this same position. Instead of having most of us stay as Technicians, it would be nice to get these new hams interested in something other than their newly acquired VHF/UHF privileges. A General ticket is a fairly small step from Technician, and having some economical starter radios would help
Some of the kits, in my Kit Roundup post fit the bill, but most are CW kits. The SSB kits available are usually low power. There are a couple of examples with a bit more power, but fully assembled the price is already in the Alinco DX-SR8 range. Having said that, the Alinco is probably the closest rig to what I’m thinking of price-wise, but seems to get rather mediocre reviews. I guess for $519 you can’t be all that picky.
This is all my own opinion of course. Feel free to discuss in the comments.