“Amateur radio is an expensive hobby,” I hear everyone say, and it is true! A lot of people like to make their own radios, antennas, and peripherals, and I really envy them. Going this route helps you save a lot of money by not purchasing name-brand equipment, but my take on it is that if they make it, I buy it. I decidedly do not have the know-how, the inclination, nor the patience to build my own equipment. I would like to, but it is just a lot easier to click-click-click on the internet and wait for it to arrive in the comfort of my home.
Click on the images of the radios to learn the specifications of each. You can also click here to look at the repeater equipment. [pinterest]
My first radio was a Yaesu VX-8R.
Because money is always a little tight, I made the decision to only purchase a piece of equipment if and when I passed a license test. When I learned I had passed my Technician Ticket ( “Ticket” is ham jargon for “license”) I ordered this great little radio. I must admit it was way too advanced for me at first. It has so many features and bells and whistles that even after almost a year of owning it at the writing of this entry, I am still learning hidden and surprising features about it. This is my favorite mode of communication when I am in bed participating in my club’s late-night net meeting. I have dressed up my HT with a corded microphone, GPS, and a better antenna, plus the programming software to make it easier to operate.
Next, came my mobile radio. A month after I had passed the Tech test, I prepared and studied hard for the General Class exam. As a reward for passing the exam, I decided it was time to go mobile. This time I opted for a Yaesu FT-8900R. Great radio… in the the 144/430 bands, not so good in the 6- and 10-meter bands as you cannot transmit SSB on this radio, only AM/FM modes. Truth be told, I was disappointed when I learned that anything lower than the 50Mhz band is mostly LSB or USB, anything higher than 2-meter band is moslty FM. So this radio is basically useless in my area for 6- and 10-meter because there are no FM repeaters anywhere nearby to play with. My advice, get the FT-8800R and there will be no disappointments if you are new to radios and are not sure what to buy for working repeaters in your vehicle.
When I earned my Amateur Extra Class license four months after getting the General one, I thought it was time to buy a base station to really call myself a Ham. My brain was drained from all the studying, and my wallet was also drained from purchasing my previous radios and the extra accessories for them, so just for kicks, I bought this tiny, teensy, little Baofeng UV-3R for 2m/70cm communication. At 2 Watts of power, the Baofeng packs a lot of range. I have sat at the kitchen table, which is in the middle of the house, with its little antenna and get great reports from contacts on repeaters. This radio went out of production about a month after I bought it, but you can still find it new if look hard enough. At $42 it is a great little giant and it is excellent for learning to use a radio because you have to enter the offset (plus or minus) for the repeaters yourself. It is a very basic radio, but it has enough power to get you going in a big city.
It took me a few more months to be able to afford my dream radio, the Icom IC-9100. It was not until Christmas that I was able to “gift” myself this wonderful station. What precipitated such a purchase was the fact that it came with a $200 discount, a $100 rebate, AND the D-Star module ($300) for free, plus free shipping and handling. At that moment I knew I had to have it. It was my dream radio, an all-band, all-mode rig, literally, and new to the market, which means it will be in production for many years to come and its equity won’t diminish with time. I have been very happy with it although it stayed two months in its box for lack of antenna and other components like a power supply and etc. (yes, money issues again, I tell you, this hobby can get expensive).
In June of 2012, I spent my summer vacation at my mother’s house in San Antonio and being a little bored, I decided to buy this HTX-10 from eBay and install it as a base on my desk at her house. This is a 10-meter radio made by Radio Shack which ended production of this model in the early 2000’s. However, I got this radio brand new, in the original box and original undisturbed packaging inside for less than $100. This is a great little workhorse and decided to buy another one for work and for my students’ use in my classroom. I also bought a power supply, and a 10-meter dipole with feed line (I know, I should have built it myself, but hey, if they sell it, I buy it!). I have installed this radio on top of my bedroom desk at my mother’s house, and I will install the second identical radio in my classroom when school resumes next fall.
August 4, 2012… Austin Summerfest (Hamfest). I went there determined to find a good bargain in the swap tables area and I found it. Here is a Yaesu FT-8500 dual band mobile radio. This is a pretty good radio especially because the faceplate separates from the rest of the radio and it can be installed with a separation kit to only show the plate while hiding the rest of the radio. All controls are located on the microphone which makes it easier for me to use. Now, some people don’t like, or can’t appreciate the beauty of having all the controls on the mic, but that is a matter of opinion, and I like it! This radio will probably end up on my motorcycle permanently.
The Alinco DJ-C1 is a 2-meter amateur radio “credit card” size transceiver. Produced in the early 1990’s the DJ-C1 has a built-in microphone on the front and requires an external earphone or speaker-mike. The DJ-C1 transmits at 0.3 W (or 300mW) on 144-148 MHz. The extendable antenna must be in the fully extended position and straight up when transmitting. This is HT is about 3 credit cards thick. Works as it should and battery holds a charge. Very good physical condition. Receives AM aircraft as well as 2 meters and surrounding FM frequencies. I came upon this little radio from a ham in the area who was selling some of his radio equipment and I snagged this little beauty at a bargain price.
The FT-857D is a fantastic little radio covering 160m-70cm straight through including broadcast AM and FM. I included the ATAS-120A antenna in the purchase since it was the recommended mobile antenna for this radio. I installed this miniature radio in my truck and my only concern is that to this date I cannot get rid of the static it produces when the truck is running. No problem when I am parked, idle, and even when the engine is not running. Yet, as soon as I put the key in the ignition, static begins. I love using this radio and I may even use it for a base radio at work or my Shack #2 and look for an alternative for the vehicle, or even return the FT-8900R to it. I never had a problem with the 8900R. If anyone has a solution to my problem, please let me know.
This is the Baofeng UV-5RA, a magnificent little workhorse for those who want it all in a compact size and with a big complex. The UV-5RA will work UHF-VHF, FRS, GMRS, MURS, FM broadcast, and I think other frequencies as well. If you buy this radio, ditch the antenna and purchase one of the Nagoyas, including the rubber duckie or the car magnet mount, you will not be disappointed. At the great price of about $35.00 depending on where you buy it, you will not want to let this one go. It is a little tricky to program, but nothing impossible to do. Really simple to program with the free software CHIRP, look it up. I bought this little radio because at the time it was all the rave and just had to see for myself. Well, the hype was correct and I have almost made this my de facto radio for communications. Inexpensive, handsome, easy to use, and it has a big load of accesories that you can purchase once you make yourself comfortable with it.