Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking for a new HF rig

I'm not sure exactly why, but I am starting to get the urge to get a new HF rig. I have two radios with HF capabilities: the Kenwood TS-2000X and the Yaesu FT-897D. I never expected too much when I bought the FT-897D, but it's still a decent radio that offers HF (including general coverage receive), VHF, UHF, along with the AM and FM broadcast bands and the airband. It's also a lot easier to go portable with it than the Kenwood. I used the FT-897D at Field Day (the WC8OH, West Central Ohio Amateur Radio Association, group) and made several dozen contacts on 20, 15, and 10 meters. I thought it performed admirably. Actually, my main problem was the other transmitters getting into the front end of the 897. I plan to solve that at this year's Field Day with the purchase of W3NQN bandpass filters to put on each transmitter. Ever since I bought the TS-2000X, I have considered it my main rig, but starting last year, I started looking at other radios. I have heard several comments in the past about how great the VHF, UHF, and satellite capabilities are for the TS-2000, but those same people always stated that they believed the HF section to be only mediocre. The main radio that I started looking at last year was the Icom IC-756Pro III. From the product reviews in QST, it did seem to have better numbers in the receiver department.

I did a little bit of research on the IC-756Pro III last year, then I dropped the ball. I guess it was late last year or very early this year, I heard about Icom's upcoming IC-7600. And last week (I think it was), I learned that it had been FCC-approved and that Universal Radio was listing a price right around $4,000. That's is a good chunk of money, but doable.

My plan is to do more research on radios over the next year. However, once I set my sights on something, its too to let go. Perhaps, I will assume that I will get the IC-7600 and look for anything that might disqualify it from consideration. There are other radios out there that have similar or superior performance, but the ones for Icom that fall in that category are also even more expensive. There's Yaesu, and I'm sure that they have some great radios, but I haven't really checked them out. Kenwood, I've just about written off. It's been several years since they've released a new radio (the TS-480, I think), and that radio has similar characteristics to the TS-2000, if I am not mistaken. Ten-Tec makes fine radios, at least based on the numbers, but I do find their radios to be lacking cosmetically. There is Elecraft, also. From what I have heard, they are some of the best radios. Finally, there's Alinco, but I hardly have any familiarity with their products.

I plan to post more about my research on the Icom IC-7600. Naturally, I am looking at the receiver performance, but I also wonder if the transmitter section of the 7600 is clean. I also want to determine if it can handle high duty cycle modes such as PSK31 and RTTY at its highest power level. Normally, I turn down the power on my TS-2000 to the lowest that I think I can get away with (to still be heard on the other end), but I would like to know that I can turn up the power if necessary. I'm not that comfortable with doing that on the TS-2000. I also want to learn more the 7600's ability to do PSK31 and RTTY without the computer. My main concern there regards macros. When I'm using MixW with the TS-2000, I will use macros, but I do try to use them sparingly. I have several macros entered and ready to go, but I won't necessarily use them, unless I feel that the other station is using theirs as well. In other words, if the other station is practically going to automate the QSO, I might as well too, but if the other station wants to ragchew a little, I'll just manually type at the keyboard. Obviously, I can manually type the whole QSO at a keyboard connected to the IC-7600, but it would be nice to have the CQ macro stored, and a macro stored for answering the other station (i.e. urcall DE mycall). I've downloaded the owner's manual, and it appears that macros are supported. It doesn't call them macros, but that's what they appear to be. Anyway, there will be more research. I'll try to post regularly about what I learn about this radio.

As I wrapped up this post, I realized that I had previously mentioned looking for a new radio. At that time, I briefly mentioned the IC-7600, but I indicated that I was looking at the Icom IC-7000. I am no longer looking at that one. It's a feature packed radio, but again I would never have high expectations for it. I'll keep the FT-897D for my portable radio for now.

Ned, N8OIF