Bob KK4DPN commented on my X1M review, and in addition to asking some questions about the issues I’ve had on some of the bands he states: I’m looking to get into HF and this seems like a good thing to start out with, just to get a feel for it.
As a relatively new Ham myself, I went through what I have started to refer to as the standard Technician progression, or STP. As a newly licensed Tech, I purchased an inexpensive HT. Then, as I got a taste of being able to talk to people, but constant bad-signal reports, I got a mobile antenna for the HT. More repeaters were now within my range, but I was still getting bad signal reports. Next, came a mobile VHF rig, followed by a dual band one. On the HF side, I purchased a 10 Meter mobile, and then a vintage Atlas 210X (as a General).
So many new Hams go through this same progression. There’s a reluctance for some of us to invest $300 in equipment for a new hobby, until we play a bit. For those of us that fit the hobby well, the HTs give us a taste of something better. It’s the same with the HF side. I bought the 10 Meter mobile used for about $100, because it was the only band I could use with my license. Once I had some success with that (my first contact was trans-Atlantic!), I was motivated to get my General ticket.
I’ve mentioned before too, that I like to write about the frugal side of Ham Radio. This is mostly because at this point in my life, I have collected several dependents and obligations that take priority, and partly because, I’m Frugal! (There, I said it). KD2 CHE is the same way with her sewing though.
Thinking along these lines, I’d like to explain why I bought an old Atlas 210X as my first multi-band HF rig. After reading about them, it seemed like a good combination of size, power, cost, and ease-of-use. A good working 210X can go for less than $200, and has a pretty small footprint. Output is 200 Watts PEP (120 on 10M) on sideband. People universally complain about the CW performance, but for now, I’m not using CW. I’ve logged contacts all over Eastern, and Western Europe on the thing, as well as South America, and Western US. Operation is VERY simple, and pretty forgiving of someone with little antenna tuning experience.
My recommendations for an HF rig for a new ham, who doesn’t want to spend a ton of dollars are as follows:
- Don’t buy a QRP rig as your first rig. QRP operation requires some skill, and can be frustrating if you’re just looking to rag-chew, or even just log some interesting stations. Wait until you have a more powerful rig first, and get a little more familiar with HF. I think a QRP rig as your first rig may give you a bad taste of what it’s all about. Don’t get me wrong though. The challenge of QRP is great fun. I guess the analogy is that it would be like going off on a wilderness survival weekend as a first camping trip.
- Go with a decent used rig. There’s lots of great rigs in the $300-500 range at hamfests. If you have some friends with more experience, ask around for recommendations, and look at the eHam reviews. Plan on spending a little extra for a tune-up, and accessories (like a good antenna tuner). 100 Watts will get you started with enough power to talk all over the world. My record so far is Namibia from Long Island.
- If you really want a new rig, there are a few sub-$1000 rigs that get decent reviews. The Alinco DX-SR8T can be picked up for just over $500 from several of the online Ham retailers. The Icom IC-718 runs in the low to mid $700 range, and the Yaesu FT-857D is in the mid $800 range.
- You CAN go even lower than $300 as I did, but your choices are limited. In my case, I have a rig that doesn’t do the WARC bands, and is missing quite a few features that even the lowest priced radios have. I love the simplicity of it though. I can see continuing to use it even after I get something more sophisticated.
As more and more people discover this old pastime, I hope they discover all of the aspects of it. Next for me is digital modes. I’m really looking forward to getting that up and running on the Xiegu X1M, and a Raspberry Pi. More to follow…