Ham Radio Transceivers
Selection Tips

There are so many ham radio transceivers to chose from that the beginning ham radio operator (that I once was ;-) can easily make the wrong choice ... out of lack of experience.

This Page Covers
1. Getting Acquainted With XCVRS
2. Your First HF XCVR
3. The SDR XCVR
4. The All-In-One Trap
5. Avoiding Disappointment

Really, the best way to avoid making costly mistakes is to get acquainted with as many different transceivers as you can ... before buying one!


Getting Acquainted With Transceivers

How can you familiarize yourself with various transceivers ... without actually owning one?

  • By trying the club's station transceiver(s), if you belong to a ham radio club.
  • By trying the rig of other ham radio operators, as a guest at their ham radio station.

But, you will soon become anxious to own and operate your own.

I recommend that you buy a used ham radio transceiver to start with. This way, you will...

  • acquire a taste for some of the features it has and that you will want your new transceiver to have.
  • develop a desire for the features it should have

Your First HF Transceiver

Make sure your first used HF ham radio transceiver has a tube-type final amplifier! Why? Because they are somewhat more forgiving than solid state.

Face it. We all make mistakes. You will too. You are bound to try to load into thin air one day ... or forget to check if your antenna is still there before tuning up.

With solid state, the finals may be toasted by the time you say "Oops!". Tube "finals" may let you make mistakes and still continue to amplify ... even if somewhat less efficiently with each careless treatment!

Judging from the requests for information I get, it looks like the most popular manufacturers of ham radio transceivers are...

  1. Kenwood
  2. Icom
  3. Yeasu
  4. Alinco
  5. Ten-Tec
  6. Elecraft

All these manufacturers build reliable transceivers (XCVRS) for use on the ham radio bands. A few have even begun to offer "hybrid" models that incorporate some SDR (Software Defined Radio) techniques.

The SDR Revolution

The introduction of SDR in transceivers is as significant as the transistor was to tube type equipment back in the 70's. Revolutionary!

Please be aware that SDR is rapidly invading the ham radio market. FlexRadio Systems® already offers four models of SDR ham radio transceivers.

The FlexRadio Systems® software is Widows based but a Linux and Mac OS X versions are already in the works.

When the linux-based SDR software becomes robust, with enough features to satisfy the more demanding of ham radio operators, then the demand for SDR transceivers will explode!

This will mean good news and bad news.

The good news will be very affordable feature-loaded transceivers using free linux-based SDR software driving minimal hardware (final amplifier and antenna interfacing circuitry).

The bad news is ... if you spend a few thousand dollars on a new transceiver today, chances are that SDR will make them antiques, like tube-type transceivers became when solid-state XCVRS took over the market.

Keep this in mind when you are shopping for a transceiver.

The "All-In-One" Trap

Personally, I avoid "all-in-one" ham radio transceivers. If your transceiver covers...

  • all HF amateur radio frequency bands
  • and 6 meters
  • and 2 meters
  • and 70 cm
  • and...

... you are relying on only one rig to cover all your operating needs! You're "dead in the water" if it fails and you have to part with it for days (weeks) until it gets repaired! :-(

Avoiding Disappointment

Read as many reviews from reputable, competent and manufacturer-independent sources as you can. I rely on reviews published by the ARRL to compare ham radio transceivers.

For equipment reviews, and to stay on top of new emerging technologies, I buy the CD-ROM of ARRL Periodicals as soon as it becomes available, every year. It's fully searchable and, of course, a very compact library of "fresh" and reliable information. Very handy.


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Author: Claude Jollet - VE2DPE


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