Re: Learn about Ham Radio
Itís a good question and you probably will not get an adequate answer. It was funny because I saw your post right before our Ham Club Board of Directorís meeting started and I posed it to the group. Just for background, our club offers weekend classes for those who want to become Hams. The weekend after, we offer a follow up class on how to get on the air. About two hours is spent on educating new hams on how to go about picking the right radio. We set up a number of stations where the newbees can do a touch and feel. We have dozens of brochures, then we go over the plus and minus of various rigs. One thing we start with is to chart out what you want to achieve. Some just want to talk to the nearest repeater while others want to go around the world. Some are happy with operating in their shack while others want to make contacts from mountain tops.
What I am getting at, is this hobby is so huge and has so many facets, a one stop shop do it all radio does not exist. So my advice (and that of our club) is: Chart out what you want to achieve. Find a local Ham club and latch on to an Elmer (a mentor) and have him work with you to get the right rig. But on the other hand, donít over think things either. If you are thinking entry level, pick a radio and it doesnít work out, sell it and get another. These things do not depreciate that quickly, and there is always someone else looking for what you want to trade.
I can tell you what I did. I wanted both a handheld and a mobile rig. This setup was supposed to be a support system for expedition camping. Little did I know that the concept would flip and now the SMB is a support system for the Ham hobby. Anyway, two functions were tops on my list. The ability to operate Cross-Band repeater mode, and the ability to operate APRS. At the time Yaesu (8800) was the best mobile rig for cross-band, and the Kenwood D700 was the best for APRS. Neither did the opposite very well. Cross-Band won out and I bought a Yaesu FT-8800 along with a Yaesu FT-60 handheld. Both have functioned very well for me. Kenwood has since come out with the D710 which I picked up. If you are looking for a mobile, this is (my opinion) the finest VHF/UHF mobile platform available. It does come with a hefty price though. But again, my opinion is what works for me, and not necessarily what works for you.
I would stick with the big four: Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, or Alinco.
The Chinese have now flooded the market with cheap handhelds. Some are decent, some are definitely second tier stuff, although it is hard to say no to a complete radio that costs about the same as a battery pack for a top of the line rig. Some people love them, some canít figure out how to program them. One of our members left his Chinese radio on my door one day with a note saying it doesnít work. Turned out he dropped it and damaged the on/off switch. I discovered if you rotated the switch in just the right motion, the radio worked great. My FT-60 is built like a brick. I can drop it and not worry so much about it not working. So you gets whats you pays for.
I can go on-and-on and we havenít even begun to scratch the surface. So, spend an hour charting your needs and develop a budget. If you canít find a local Elmer, post your results and we can give you more feedback.
Just go do it. You can pick up an FT-60 from Ham Radio Outlet for $145. Get a good ľ wave whip to replace the rubber-ducky it comes with. To make things a little easier, get the programming software and a cable (online).
And remember, radio envy is good, and that one of the first rules of Ham Radio is ďYou canít have too many radios.Ē
I'm going QRT now.
EV-2 build is now complete, (yeah right).