New Amateur - Equipment Recommendations?

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New Amateur - Equipment Recommendations?

Postby SporadicE » Sun Jun 25, 2017 3:32 am


I'm "new" to amateur radio (my father is a ham, so I know a bit about it - he has Heathkit SB-401 TX, SB-303 RX, SB-634 station clock with SWR meter, and external speaker - and it all still works! :thumbup: It's not for sale, so no requests please).

I've been looking at equipment, and for no particular reason I've narrowed it down to two radios: Yaesu FT-450D and Yaesu FT-991A.

I'm primarily interested in HF, but I am also interested in everything else, too (digital modes, particularly RTTY and Packet, but anything else it can do, too).

The FT-450D looks a great radio, however I'm concerned that I'll "out-grow" it, especially when it comes to digital, and so looking around the FT-991A caught my attention. It has many of the features I would have to add to the FT-450D anyway, but integrated in one package, as well as functionality/features not present on the 450D (a shame as I think the 450D looks great).

I'm aware the FT-991 had some problems with people blowing up the finals due to bad internal ATU, but as far as I can tell this was fixed in later builds of the 991, and –- one would hope -- further improved/mitigated in the 991A (searching turned up no serious problems with the A model, and later 991 seemed to be OK too).

I've looked at Icom IC7200 but this lacks FM modes??? Not sure what that is about.

In summary, to my untrained eye, the 450D would be a great first radio, but as I say, I'm concerned I'd out-grow it (and pretty quickly). FT-991A looks to have great features, and while it is a bit more expensive, relatively it is not silly. There seems to be no middle-ground.

In terms of the in-built ATU, it would seem this is limited at best, and so would be better to get an external aerial tuner? Any recommendations?

I have room to erect an 120 ft inverted V dipole, which is relatively simple and not too intrusive (hoping my neighbors can't see it easily). I've seen costs for such an aerial ranging from about £20 to £300 - why the huge discrepancy in price???

Any recommendations highly appreciated!

As you can probably tell, I'm still very much finding my way around things (much yet to learn!) but I have a good grasp of what I'm looking for (I think).

Has anyone gone mobile with either of these rigs? Anything to look out for/be aware of? What kind of aerials do people use? How do they power them? Would be something I'd like to do (e.g. when camping).

Thanks!! :happy:
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Re: New Amateur - Equipment Recommendations?

Postby lars » Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:46 am

I'd love to be able to afford _any_ of the radios you mentioned :)

I think that a transceiver designed for amateur use will typically cover either HF (or HF+6m) or VHF/UHF. Some will handle both, and they aren't necessarily the most expensive models available, but seems relatively unusual. It doesn't surprise me that an HF radio doesn't offer FM, because FM operation is pretty unusual on HF (so far as I can tell). I don't know if that is for technical reasons, or just convention.

I can't imagine that I would "outgrow" an FT-450 any time soon, since I'm mostly interested in HF. But it doesn't do VHF/UHF; still, VHF/UHF sets are cheap (relatively). I believe the 991 has built-in encoding and decoding of trendy digital modes like PKS31, but you'd still need a computer, because I don't think it has a keyboard connection (but I'm not certain). The 991 has that fancy spectrum display, which you'll need for decoding digital stuff on-board, but I'm not sure how much use it is otherwise.

My gut feeling is that you could do everything that the 991 could do with a cheaper radio and a bunch of external bits; but I can see the appeal of having everything in one box.

Antenna tuner --- FWIW I have an MFJ-791, but I wouldn't recommend it except where portability is your main concern (I play radio in a field). I suspect that vendor's claimed maximum power handling figures need to be interpreted cautiously. Looking inside the MFJ unit, I doubt it would handle the claimed 200W unless you were very lucky. I wouldn't buy another tuner that didn't have a "bypass" setting -- If I want to work on a frequency where my antenna is resonant, then I have to remove the tuner from circuit, which is a pain. Still, it does work, to the extent that you can get a non-dangerous SWR reading on almost any frequency with almost any kind of antenna, even a single length of wire.

It seems to me that an inverted V is something you really ought to make yourself :) I guess the variable costs of commercial units depends on the physical robustness and the quality of the balun, if one is provided. The longer the limbs, the stronger the wire has to be, to avoid being broken by strong winds. FWIW I find that tuning an inverted V for resonance can be more awkward than it should be, particularly if the ends are close to the ground.

As for mobile operation, I power my transceiver from a 40 amp-hour motorcycle battery that I built into an ammo case. The ammo case provides a convenient carrying handle, and there's just room in it for the battery and a voltmeter. This battery would power a 100W rig for about three hours of continuous transmission (of course, you wouldn't normally transmit continuously).. Since I'm working with 3-4 watts, I only have to charge it about once every six months :)
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Re: New Amateur - Equipment Recommendations?

Postby m0lsx » Mon Jun 26, 2017 10:29 am

One of my friends has just got rid of his FT-450 in disgust. He has just found out that it has a Roger Beep :shocker: And he said he did not want a Image CB. Image Image

And if no one believes me..

It is Beep Tone on page 75 of the manual.. Three tones are available, 440/880/1760 Hz & the factory default setting is 880 Hz.

Buy a database from Kimmy JS19 via
Or do Google search of this forum via
73 De Alan (M0LSX.)"
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Re: New Amateur - Equipment Recommendations?

Postby lars » Mon Jun 26, 2017 10:55 am

I believe this beep is not enabled by default. At least, that's how I interpret this on p.88:

Function: Setting of standby beep
Available Values: OFF / ON
Default: OFF
No beep sound is transmitted.
A beep is transmitted before returning to receive. The beep, transmitted when the PTT is released, will inform the other operators that your transmission has ended."

If you friend rejected the FT-450 on the basis that it is even _capable_ of making a beep, I suggest he or she needs an adjustment to the snobbery filter ;)
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