Radio – Let’s Get Started

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

I recently received this comment under a non-radio article. I’m going to share the comment with you, I’ll answer this man. He had some very good questions, valid points and is seeking information. The comment will be edited, by removing what part of the country he is from, otherwise it is mostly intact. 

Following the answer to his comment, I have included an older article that is a beginning step for understanding radio. Some of the information in here is dated, in other words, out dated. I’ll talk about that before you get to the article.
 
Hi Frank, Thanks for offering additional help! I’m interested, like you, in “survival communications”. Two primary areas of interest. First, I’m reading about two-way radios like the Midland you referenced; also looking at a Baofeng. Trying to decide if I want to get the license, etc. I’d like to be able to communicate with wife, children, and neighbors/church family around me. Neighbors are within a mile. Wife/kids could be 30 [miles] if I’m at work (or on way home) and they are home. Second, I’d like to get a good SW [shortwave] radio with SSB for listening. The new Baofeng I’m looking at has variable power, up to 8 watts. Not sure if one can charge batteries while in the unit like you can with the Midland.  Best Regards, Tim

Tim had some excellent points here. My very quick recommendation. A Baofeng. Why? It will do the same thing that the Midland radio will do, and significantly more. In many cases, for that matter, most cases, it costs less. The Baofeng can be charged in the cradle, it has a plethora of accessories, and you can attach an external antenna. 

One negative for the Baofeng is that it has to be programmed. There are multiple ways to do this. There are YouTube videos, you can attempt to decipher the instructions, there is a free program called Chirp, and the system that I use is called RT Systems. Chirp and RT Systems are via computer. I will include more information in future articles about the Baofeng.

While we’re here, in the article that follows, I recommended a Wouxun radio. It’s a good radio, but the Baofeng is newer and, in my opinion, just as good and costs significantly less. 

Tim’s second question. A good shortwave radio. Few shortwave radios have SSB, single side band. Why is this important? If you want to listen to the ham radio operators, you will need SSB. If you’ve got the jingle, here’s what I would do. Purchase an HF radio, which is a ham radio. You can listen to all the lower ham frequencies, plus all of the SW frequencies. It is a higher quality radio and has listening features that few SW radios have. You can also listen to CB on it, and if you ever get the desire to have your ham radio license, you can transmit on it. Remember, you can listen to any radio signal being transmitted. Transmitting is an entirely different ballgame. 

So, Tim, I would recommend a Baofeng UV-5R+, about $30.00 on Amazon. An RT System for programming, about $45.00. The money you will save on the Baofengs will pay for the programming system. 

For SW, an IC-718 made by ICOM. This radio runs new about $650, used $300 and up. Remember, it will do AM radio, CB, SW, all the lower ham bands which are 160-10M. For this radio you will need a power supply and an antenna which are both an extra expense. When you get your ham radio license, then you can use this radio to transmit on. The legal frequencies, anyway. Getting a ham radio license is very easy.

Ok, Tim, and everybody else. Next is an older, dated article that I think you will enjoy. It’s a start. Every few days I’m going to include an older article about radio in an order that will help folks get started. There have been some changes and I will point these out. Safety has not changed and will never change.

If you have a question, ask. Others have the same questions. Utilize YouTube. Check out ARRL. Check out QRZ.com

We’ll talk a whole lot more about this later. This is not difficult, it’s just new. And there are some new radios out there, too. There’s some new guns out there, too. Some are better, some are not. If you have a question, ask.

By the way, in this following article, there is a new weather radio I would recommend. I’ll get to it later. Enjoy.

We’ll talk more later.  Frank Feral 

Radio Communications Review

Originally published August 12, 2013

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios. Remember, CB radio is line-of-site

communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very popular. The vast,

vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we 

did, then the advertisements would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does.

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.


Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency provided by the National Weather

Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what TV did nationwide a few

years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes
the Coast Guard. There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave

transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you can replace with

rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are operating

in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for the most part,

no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Antenna Tower Sneak Peak

Over the last few weeks, Frank has been working on upgrading our antenna towers. We’re still not finished, and hope to raise the last one today. There are many details that Frank will explain in a future article, but for today, you get a pictorial of our progress. Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section. We have learned a lot doing this project and are very pleased with the outcome so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer is healthy.

 
This has been, and continues to be, a big project for us. We are very excited about increasing our ability to communicate via radio, whether it is GMRS, MURS, CB or ham radio. This is a very important part of our survival plans. If at all possible, we want to know what is coming down the road before it gets here, and you should want to know, too. Don’t get on the truck.
Until next time – Fern

Radio – Stay In Touch

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

Hope all are well, and I hope everybody had a pleasant Thanksgiving. It’s always nice to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and Christmas is just around the corner. 

There are some of us out there that see we’re in perilous times. Let me explain. Have you paid attention to the Dow Jones lately? Record highs, right? And I know you’re paying attention to crude oil, copper, silver and

Baltic Dry. One market’s going one way, while other markets are going the other direction. And I know you’ve been paying attention to Ferguson, Missouri. A tragic event happened there. But the way the community responded, should have you seriously concerned. And I know you’re paying attention to the amnesty issue. On the other hand, there are multiple issues, and if I take off my shoes and socks, I can count many, many more issues, seriously pushing the envelope. If you can’t see what I’m talking about, then quit reading, turn on the football channel, and watch the cheerleaders jump up and down. Good. There went the vast majority of people to the football channel. Now we can talk without interruption. And, that’s what you want to do. To be able to talk without interruption. 

As mentioned above, you want to stay in touch with your friends and relatives. Here are some ways that you can stay in touch without grid power. Because if you agree with some of the dark topics I mentioned

earlier, then you know that one day we’re going to have some form of economic shutdown. We are in the process of it as we speak. Now. How are we going to stay in touch when the cellphones and hard line phones don’t work? When the internet is not working? We’re going to stay in touch the same ways hunters do when they’re out walking in the woods, and the same way the military and FEMA does for longer distance communications. Okay. Let’s go.

First, short distance communications. This is considered to be line of sight. If you’re on water, it’ll go a long ways. Hilltop to hilltop, a long ways, but it’s still line of sight. Now I’m going to talk about UHF and VHF frequencies. The first little radio is a GMRS/FRS. You can buy these at any sporting goods store, big box store, or online. They have 22 channels, up in the 460

MHz range. This is the type of radio hunters use, kids play with, and for the most part they are good solid radios. But, what you have in your hand, is what you’ve got. Some advertise 50 channels, not true. It is 22 channels with slight variations. Some advertise 36 miles, not true, unless you live in a perfect world, and that’s not true. I’m going to direct you to a previous post. But here is the GMRS that I recommend. These radios are not expandable and you cannot modify them. But if your buddy down the road, one mile, two miles or farther, depending on your terrain, has one, you can stay in touch. These are good radios, they’ll last for years if you take care of them.

Next, I would like to introduce what is called a commercial radio. It is made by BaoFeng, it operates in the VHF/UHF frequencies. It can be modified and expanded. Let me explain what a commercial radio is. If you buy this radio, there are no pre-programmed frequencies in it, like the above mentioned GMRS. It’s what is called open. The GMRS is UHF around 460 MHz. You can program in these same channels or frequencies into the 

BaoFeng radio. They are made for police department, fire department and ambulance type use. Some businesses also use them for commercial purposes, hence the name, commercial radio. Some big stores use these frequencies, Wal-Mart, Sam’s, and drive through type restaurants may use these commercial frequencies. But, remember, you need to program these radios, and there are various ways to do this. At this site, if you scroll down you will see a programming cable. It comes with a little disc, you put this in your computer, use the programming cable, and you can program this radio via your computer. This is where you can put in your GMRS frequencies. This is where you can put in the police department, fire department, and VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. This little radio will work perfectly fine on these ham radio frequencies. Here is a link to a broader explanation about these handheld radios. The good part is, this handheld radio costs about $35.00 to $40.00. It is not a sophisticated radio. It is two channel operation, but you can only listen to one channel at a time. Read the previous posts, and you will get a lot more information. But these little radios work. They cost about the same as the GMRS mentioned above, will do the same job the GMRS does, and a whole lot more.

Word of caution. To operate the GMRS radio mentioned, you are supposed to have a license to do so. I guess some people do, but I’ve never met one that did. To transmit on any ham radio frequency, you will need the appropriate level ham radio license. These ham radio folks are very serious about other folks using radios inappropriately. Police, fire and EMS are also very serious about unauthorized people using the police and fire frequencies. Do not under any circumstances broadcast on any police or fire frequencies. They will find you and they will shut you down. But for the other frequencies, like GMRS, that is your call. These handheld commercial radios can be connected to an exterior antenna, something like a magnet mount on top of your car, that will sharply extend your range. You can find this information mentioned in the previous posts.

Next, we’re going to do a step up to another type of commercial radio. It will require an external antenna, an external power supply, and produces quite a bit more power. These are often used in automobiles, they can be used for home operations. For your home you will need a power supply and an external antenna. For your automobile you can use the same

antenna mentioned above and your car battery for a power supply. They have the same basic features as the handheld, except that you can listen on two channels at the same time, and you have much greater range due to the higher power. These radios also cost more, starting around $300.00, some a little more, some a little less. I would recommend the AnyTone AT-5888UV. The same laws and regulations apply to this radio that applies to the handhelds. For your ham radio operator, they’re sharply cheaper than most dual band ham radios. If you do search and rescue with proper authorization you can use these radios on police, fire, EMS, and you can use them with the ham frequencies if you have a ham radio license. It is legal with proper authorization and with proper licensing.

All the above mentioned radios are either VHF/UHF or just UHF. These are considered line of sight communication devices. If you live in an area that has a ham radio repeater, and you have a ham radio license, you can use the commercial radios. You can use the repeater which is still line of sight, but you broadcast from your radio to the repeater, then it repeats the signal out to other radios. Now to use these radios, as mentioned above, you’ll need an external antenna, and a power supply if you want to operate inside your house. I will provide links to some of these sites

This is a good time to mention safety. Handheld radios as a general rule do not produce enough power to do anyone harm. Your mobile radio, with more power, can. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Take a little time and read some of my previous posts about safety and equipment, and most of your questions should be answered there.

Now let’s talk about a little bit longer distance radio communications. The same safety rules apply. This type of radio communication is seldom used with a handheld or mobile radio. It can be, but not very successfully. You will be required to have a ham radio license to transmit on this type of system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t listen. ICOM makes an entry level HF radio, which is a solid, functional High Frequency transmitter and receiver. This radio will also receive all of the shortwave frequencies,

and it will transmit and receive all of the lower band ham frequencies with the proper antenna. You will also need a power supply. But the type of transmitting that I’m going to talk about now is NVIS. Do a Google and check this out. It has a radius of around 300 miles. The military and FEMA use this same type of system. It is a fairly reliable way to transmit and receive, covering a larger area. Again, about a 300 mile radius. You see, ham radio transmissions that bounce off of the atmosphere, some days are reliable and some days aren’t. But this type of system, NVIS, for the most part is reliable. NVIS, check it out. You will need a ham radio license to transmit on any ham radio. I’ve mentioned this type of system in other posts. Please take the time to read them. Follow all safety requirements.

What I’ve tried to put together today is a group of relatively inexpensive radios that are solid performers, and do a more than adequate job. If you need a radio with more bells and whistles, they’re available. If you want basic, reliable communications, what

I’ve given you here is a good start. There may come a day when you want to stay in touch with your friends and family, when normal forms of communication may not be available. I make no profit whatsoever from any radio post, it’s just that God has given me the ability to see what is coming. And if I can share with you, just a little bit, and encourage you to make that step, then maybe you can stay in touch with your loved ones when there are no other means of communication available. Under a very worse case scenario, you might be able to let your Bubba down the road know that something bad is coming his way. And in return, he can do the same for you. This is all just food for thought. 

While you’re at it, please check out the humble CB radio. At this link start at the bottom of the page and you will see four posts dealing with CB radio. There is a lot of very good information there. When things shut down, it will find it’s place again. 

You ask, “Well, how do I power these radios when things have shut down?” Read some of the earlier posts. A solar panel is a real easy way to have radio communications. If you’ve got a little extra jingle in your pocket, read the post about scanners. That’s all they do, and they’re much faster than the scan on your handheld radio. 

Get ready. It gets closer everyday. Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t change to the football channel? This is not a joke boys and girls, and once it hits the fan, it will be too late to prepare.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Radio – Entry Level Equipment, Parts 1 & 2 – A Re-Post

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

On occasion, I’ll read a good book, something I find interesting, I’ll set it down and never read it again. I guess for some folks that’s just basic human nature. But, when I was a boy, especially a hard-headed one, it seems that I had to be reminded often the difference between right and wrong. Even though I knew what was right, I had to be reminded frequently, or at least that’s what my father thought, anyway. 

So, on occasion, I’m going to give you some re-posts. Understanding the basic human nature of most people, some would say, “I’ve already read that. I don’t need to read it again.” But, here it is, some good information about entry level equipment. I have to go back often and look up information that I have forgotten. But I’m getting older, and I don’t try to prove to anyone, anymore, anything. And if you’re new here, this will provide you with some entry level information about radio communication. 

In a couple of days I’m going to post information about some newer type radios that I’ve run across lately. Things change. What was new six months ago, has now been replaced, not always with something better, just replaced. So, in a few days I’ll be putting out a new post about good, solid, functional radio equipment that is new to me, and probably most of you. 

Remember, cute and pretty means nothing to me. I look for functional, solid equipment that works, at the best price I can find. Because with the recent turn of events in our country, those dark clouds on the horizon get closer everyday. If you have a family group that lives within a few miles of each other, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a couple of handheld radios so you could all communicate.

On some good news, though, I would like to share with you a recent comment I received.

“Hi Frank and Fern
You may not find anything inspiring to write about today, but let me tell you….You two are very inspiring! Thank You for your blog and all the effort you put into it. Because I read your blog regularly, I showed my husband “Franks Radio Communications”. Those posts helped him a lot. He took the technicians test today and passed. Thank You for being here and giving us your insights and inspiration to learn.”
[11/22/14]

Getting your ham license can be very rewarding, it opens up numerous channels of communication, but it is not necessary for other forms of radio communications. I hope you enjoy this little review. Whichever avenue you choose to go, ham radio or not, communication is critical. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Originally published December 8, 2013

Radio – Entry Level Equipment

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everyone, hope everybody is well and happy. It’s still cold and slippery here, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Okay. So you want to get started. If you’ve read the other posts, then you know that there is no perfect radio. So, what I’m going to try to give you here are some options to ponder and some items to look for in whatever piece of equipment you choose. I’m going to start off with HF radios. And very similar to my other posts about chickens or goats, I can only share with you the experiences that I have had. Some folks want to jump in with both feet, buy some high dollar equipment, and if that’s your cup of tea, please do so. I still learn something new on a regular basis about ham radio. And I am very happy with the equipment that I use. Please don’t take this wrong, this is just for teaching purposes, but if I wanted a more expensive radio, I would buy it. Yes, finances are important to everyone, and I am by no means rich, wealthy or well off. But, as a general rule, I’m in a position in life where if I want or need something, then I will get it. 

We have a local man that I listen to on the VHF channels via a repeater. He appears to be intelligent, financially successful, well educated, articulate, he passed his Technician, General and Extra in a very short period of time with no problems. His first HF piece of equipment was what I would call a moderate, nice radio. Shortly thereafter, he bought a nicer radio, and now he’s talking about getting a top-of-the-line HF rig. He has also gone through the same sequence with antennas. He apparently has the financial means, and I am very happy for him. But I think he could have made better choices along the way, because he talks on the radio about the stuff that he has. And, again, this is fine. But this is not where I personally am coming from. So, if you want to buy a piece of equipment and tell everybody how much you spent, and this is your general forte, then I may not be able to help you out. If you want something that works, then I might be able to help you out.

So, let’s go. Please go to the Universal Radio website. Click on the left hand side on the online catalog button. We are now at catalog contents. Let me make a statement here. I have bought from Universal Radio and I probably will again in the future. They are not the most expensive or the least expensive, but I really like their site layout and they provide lots of data about the equipment they sell.

Now the top right hand column, click on amateur HF transceivers. You will see Alinco, ICOM, Kenwood and Yaesu. Since the ICOM column is the largest, let’s start there. As a general rule, but not always, their radios are listed from least expensive, going down, to most expensive. But this is not always the case.

First on the list, ICOM 718. This radio looks very familiar to me. Is is perfect? No. Under features, on the left hand side, it has AM/SSB/CW modes. What you don’t see is FM. You also don’t see an automatic tuner. So, if you want to operate 10 meter FM, you can’t do it with this radio. If you want to look at a screen in front of you that tells you another radio’s signal strength, you can’t do it. This is an entry level radio that will do what most HF operators require. That is, basic requirements. 

Okay, scroll down to the accessories. Second one on the list is AH-4. That is an automatic antenna tuner. Great. But you can buy one from another company for half the price that works better. LDG Electronics makes a fine quality antenna tuner for about half the price and it should be sold right here by Universal. We’ll get to that in a minute. They have other things going up and down there for other accessories. For the most part you will not need any of these accessories.

Okay, I’m going to hit the back button. Next on the ICOM list is the IC-7000. Okay, let’s take a look at some of the features. This is a nice radio, relatively inexpensive. So, play around in here. See if it has what

you want. You’ll notice under features on the right hand side it says, 100 watts HF plus 
6 meter. Underneath that it says, 50 watts 2 meter,            35 watts 440. 2 meter is VHF, 440 is UHF, but you know that, don’t you? Okay, so this radio will do VHF, UHF, and HF. It has AM and FM and you know that because VHF and UHF are FM and most HF is AM. It doesn’t say SSB? Well, scroll down a little bit and you will see it in the written print a couple of lines above accessories. This is a nice radio and if you’re one of those that’s wants to buy one radio, take a look. But something you can’t do with this is listen to HF and VHF at the same time. Most of the time that would take two separate radios.

Okay, click back to the HF page. So, let’s pick out another ICOM, the IC-7800. It only costs $10,500. This is not an entry level radio. If this is your cup of tea and this is what you want to do, then go for it. This will do more than most people will ever use in a lifetime. And if you want to tell your friends, looky what I’ve got, this will do the job. This radio is well, well out of my league. But it is pretty.

Okay, why don’t you scan through them, play with them, look at the rest of the ICOM’s. A lot of people like Kenwoods. Let’s look at the TS480. This is also a nice radio. Many people like Kenwood, I guess it’s like anything in

life. If your daddy drove a Ford pickup, there’s a good chance you will drive a Ford pickup. Remember that some people will argue to the end of the world that one brand is better than the other. I would recommend you find another crowd. These are all good radios. Just because somebody’s grandpa had another brand doesn’t make it any better. But if that’s what you want, go for it. Please check out the Kenwoods.

Next on this little list are the Yaesu’s. First is the FT-450D. If I were not using my ICOM-718, this would be my second choice. Fairly easy to use, has a built in antenna tuning system. It is a nice solid entry level radio. If you read through the features, it offers what most people need. I would give this radio a solid look. Yaesu offers some interesting radios that most companies don’t. Check out the 817, 857 and 897. These are in some way, a portable type radio. But also make sure they have the desired power levels you want. Yaesu has other good solid radios. 

Please peruse through these radios. Visit with your Elmer. If your Elmer is of the nature that only one type brand of radio will work, get you a different Elmer with a little bit more of an open mind.

Okay, let’s go back up to the top of this HF list and check out the Alincos. The DX-SR8T is your true entry level radio. But it will cover the entire HF bands in all modes, has good power, does require an antenna tuner, and

overall gets pretty good reviews. Let me stress here that there are old salts out there using entry level radios and have been for years and years. The radio that they have meets their needs. I happen to be one of those. I am relatively new to amateur radio, but I have found a radio that meets my needs. I have no intention of switching. I can talk to people anywhere, and I can listen to people anywhere. This is all I need.

Okay. Antennas. The proper antenna is unquestionably the most important piece of equipment you can own. You can have a top-of-the-line HF radio, but if you have a poor antenna, or a poor connection, or any part of the delivery system is inadequate, then your top-of-the-line HF radio will only function as well as the weakest link. Something to think about.

Okay, I went back to the online catalog page, I’m in the right hand column, about halfway down you will see amateur base antennas. Click there. You will see that the vast majority of these are vertical antennas. If this is what you want, go for it. Go down to the brand name Gap. The Challenger DX, please click there. This antenna is advertised from 80 meters to 2 meters. Good luck. Remember, an 80 meter antenna, okay 80 meters is about 240 feet. 2 meters is about 6 feet. I seriously have my doubts about this antenna. But, go ahead and read the rest of them and take a look at them. When you get finished let’s go back to the catalog page.

Go down one more to amateur wire antennas. There are multiple different types of antennas on this page. But they are all considered wire antennas. This is one of those cases where you need to get together with your Elmer and try to pick out something that will work for you. If you do not have a large lot, or you live with housing restrictions, then one of the earlier mentioned verticals may be your best bet. If you have a little bit more space, some older Elmers can teach you some tricks about wire antennas. Just for information purposes, I use the Alpha Delta wire antennas. Remember there is no perfect antenna either. 

Next on the list are beam antennas. For entry level, this may not be your best choice, but if you want to start out with one, then please investigate these. They are probably the best working antenna of all. Being a beam means that they are directional. So, find you a comfortable Elmer and

talk this over with them. A man down the road from me has an Alpha Delta DX-LB+ and he talks all over the world all of the time. Another man I know, that lives about 50 miles away, also talks all over the world and he uses a beam. Both of these guys are heavy into contesting and CW. So, one person will tell you you’ve got to have a beam and another person will tell you you have to have a dipole. 

Okay, let’s go back to the catalog contents page on the right hand side, go down four or five spaces to amateur antenna tuners. Please click. There are manual tuners and automatic tuners. There are tuners that are built specifically for a specific radio. Some are after market tuners, like LDG, or you see ICOM makes tuners. Check out the prices. I cannot address MFJ tuners, I have bought other MFJ equipment, but as for tuners, I only use LDG. If you’re interested go into the LDG site and they will have a flow chart for which antenna tuner works with which radio.

Coax cable. Coax cable depends on where you live, how long a cable you will need, what frequencies you use and how much power you run. There is no perfect cable. But things to consider. If you live in Washington state

near the coast where it rains a lot, then you will have a different need than someone living in the desert of Arizona. But use a good, new coax. I recommend flexible. Use quality connectors and a proven sealant for your area. And in radio, bigger is better. Yes, you pay more for higher quality cable, and conversely speaking, you get more. This is one of those cases where you don’t try to save a couple of bucks. Don’t use or buy pre-owned cable. Use the best cable you can afford. And the best connectors you can afford. A five dollar connector works a whole lot better than a two dollar connector. And sealant is critical. Arizona and Washington have sharply different climates for the most part. Don’t buy a $2,000 dollar radio, a $1,000 antenna system, and go cheap on coax. It’s just not worth it.

You’re going to need a power supply. If you want to use that same catalog contents page, scroll down a little over half way and it says power supplies and power strips. You’ve learned there are two types of power supplies, regulated and unregulated. Some people need a power supply with more bells and whistles than others, and some people don’t. I would recommend a larger power supply than what you think you’re going to use. Remember, P = E x I. Never use

more than 80% of the equipment’s capability. So, you have a 100 watt radio. 100 divided by 13.8 will give you about 7. Which will be about 7 amps. At the minimum, get a 10 amp power supply. But human nature dictates that you’re going to buy more pieces of equipment. So I would recommend somewhere around a 30 amp power supply. Can’t have too much power. So, take a look around through these power supplies. Find something that will fit your need. Some of these power supplies are made specifically for specific radios. Like I said, look at them. Some of them will have cigar plug connectors, most will have standard binding posts, newer models will have power pole connectors (some, not all). So, take a look at the Jet Stream JTPS28. This might meet your needs. 

While you’re on the power supply page, scroll all the way to the bottom. You’ll see power strips here. Look at these and see if they interest you. It makes hooking up multiple pieces of equipment a whole lot easier. For instance look at the MJF1129. This power strip has binding posts and power pole connectors. You ask, “What is a power pole connector?” Go back to where you just were and right above MFJ or power pole connectors, click on that site. These are real handy little gizmos. 

Okay, I’m going to ask you to do something a little different here now. Open a new window and go to PowerWerx. On the left hand side you will see

Anderson Power Poles. Please click here. Now click on the left hand side, Anderson Power Pole and look at this page a great deal. Look at the right hand side. It says frequently asked questions. You just use these to connect your power cables. These are standard connectors in the emergency rescue fields. This is something a little bit new to you, but take a look at it.

While you’re on the page with Anderson Power Poles, you’ll see 15 amp and 30 amp. Let’s pick the first one, 15 amp, unassembled. Let’s click on it.

Scroll down, it will give you a tremendous amount of information. The 15, 30, and 40 amp connectors all use the same size housing. A little farther down is a cutaway view. These connectors are really, really handy. When you talk to your Elmer ask to visit somebody’s shack that uses these and you will see what I mean. 

Okay, there are a few other little things you will need to set up your HF radio. You’ll need some way to get your antenna up in the air. You might be interested in some type of lightening arrestor. But be advised, nothing will stop lightening from coming into your shack. You need to unplug your antennas.

We’re not going to get to VHF today. But coax requirements, power supplies, power strips, power pole connectors and all of the data mentioned today will apply to those also. This information is for entry level. It is not for advanced amateur radio communications. There are a gazillion other terms, satellite programs, RTTY, just many, many, many things. These things will come with time. So, do you know what a ‘lid’ is? Ask your Elmer. 

Last thing. Safety. It is one thing to experiment, it is another thing to do something dangerous and stupid. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. It’s one thing to have a one watt radio, and another thing to have a 5000 watt radio. If you don’t know what you’re doing, 
DON’T DO IT. 

We’ll talk about VHF next time, and sorry about the weather delay. But I would check out the power pole connectors. They are really cool.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank
  

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Originally published December 14th, 2013

Radio – Entry Level Equipment, Part 2

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody. I know some parts of the country are getting the bad weather we got a week ago, and I hope there haven’t been too many slip and falls. The snow from our storms is just about gone. Something I didn’t mention last time is going outside everyday and checking my antennas. Everything was okay.

A little trivia here. Did you know that once you plant your first antenna pole, through a miracle unknown and understood by man, more antenna poles will grow? Some houses actually look like an antenna farm. So, be ready. The tooth fairy brings them too. They just show up in the morning.

Okay. Let’s talk about VHF radios. But first I’m going to group a whole bunch of frequencies and meters together. Last time I talked about HF radios primarily. There are some HF radios that have VHF and UHF. I

know there are designated frequencies for VHF and UHF, but in the general conversation of radio, everything above 10 meter is either UHF or VHF. It starts with 6 meters, 2 meters and keeps going up. Everything today that I am going to talk about, I’m going to call VHF. The reason for that is that most of the equipment you are going to use are going to be similar and the characteristics of the frequencies are similar.

The last post, we talked some about power supplies, coax cable, power strips, power pole connectors and antenna tuners. Most of that equipment you will also use with the VHF radios. Power supplies for example, if you

want a simple operating system, then one power supply is all you need. Remember back when we first started talking about buying a bigger power supply than you needed to get started? Well, this is the reason why. More equipment needs more power. To operate a 50 watt VHF radio you can theoretically get by with 5 amps. To operate your 100 watt HF, you can theoretically get by with 7 or 8 amps. You can see where this is going. You can also recharge all of your rechargeable batteries, normally, from a 12 volt system. You can also charge your cell phones and operate your internet hot spot. There are all kinds of things you can do with a 12 volt system. Now remember when I say a 12 volt system that also means 13.8 VDC. So, 25 to 35 amps is a nice size power supply. Don’t forget your CB radio and your scanners and your weather radio, not to mention you can recharge your rechargeable lanterns if they have a 12 volt recharging system. I even have a 12 volt boot dryer and a 12 volt chicken incubator. Okay. I’ll get back to radios here now.

Again, most of your connectors, coax, safety equipment and grounding all use the same equipment. Something that will be different is your antenna. Most VHF is done with a vertically polarized antenna, which means up 

and down. Most HF uses a horizontally polarized antenna. Not all, but most. Because with HF you are normally bouncing off of the ionosphere so it doesn’t make that big of a difference whether it is horizontal or vertical. But with VHF it does make a difference. Remember, VHF is primarily line of sight and the sending and receiving stations need to have matching polarity. Most VHF that goes long distance is through a repeater. The vast majority of repeaters are vertical. Does this mean that you can’t communicate with a station with opposite polarity? You can, but your sound will be distorted.

Okay. So. Another big difference between VHF and HF. Let’s take 40 meters HF for example. 40 meters is about 120 feet. That’s a pretty long antenna even if you use half wave it’s still about 60 feet. It’s a whole lot easier to run 60 feet horizontal than it is vertical.

Think about it. Let’s go back to VHF. You have a 2 meter signal, which is 144-148 MHz in the ham band. That’s about 6 feet. A half wave signal is about 3 feet. A quarter wave signal is about 18 inches. Vertical is a whole lot easier, because you can’t put a 60 foot vertical antenna on your car. Okay, people will say, “But I know guys that run HF in their cars and they don’t have a 60 foot antenna.” That is correct. Without going into detail, they use electronic gizmos to trick mother nature. But as a general rule, mobile HF operates poorly, especially on the lower bands.

I’m going to throw in safety right here. Never mess with safety. Don’t try to over power a radio unless you know what you are doing. I’m not saying don’t do it. But don’t do it if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Okay. Let’s go to the Universal Radio website. I will say it again. I have no commercial affiliation with Universal Radio. They are not the cheapest or the most expensive, but their website is filled with easy to access information. I do use these folks and I do buy from these folks and I am relatively sure I will buy from them in the future.

Okay, we’re at the Universal Radio website. Please click the online catalog button. We are now at catalog contents. I hope this page looks familiar. There is lots of information here. Please look around, play around. Let’s go to the right hand column, Amateur VHF/UHF Mobile. By the way, you will not need an antenna tuner for VHF. Okay, we’re there. You’ll see some of the major names. Everybody here makes a capable, competent radio. Most of these are made exclusively for ham radio, a few of them are not. You need to do some research in the area in which you live. There is no reason to get a UHF radio if no one in your area uses UHF. Example: In my area there is not a 10 meter repeater. It does not exist. So, therefore, I do not need a piece of equipment that will reach a 10 meter repeater. So what I’m going to focus on is the most common combination which is UHF/VHF. When you’re reading the data on some of these radios it will just use the letters ‘U’ and ‘V’, which means the radio might be capable of operating on two channels at one time. The combination could be U/U, V/V, U/V or V/U. But remember, if no one in your area uses UHF, then why waste the money? But, if your radio does have two channels and it’s V/V capable, then you can listen to two VHF frequencies at the same time. Food for thought.

Alrighty. Let’s go down and pick the Kenwood TM-V71A. This is a very popular radio. It has most features that most folks look for in a dual receive radio. I would certainly take a look at this one. It is a radio that is easy to modify. I’ll talk more about that shortly. My first VHF/UHF was this radio. Being my first, there was a lot I needed to learn, and I found this radio to be too complicated for my needs. That does not mean it is not a first class radio. 

So, I traded it for a new Alinco DR-635T. Go back to the VHF radio page and Alinco is at the top, the 635 is at the bottom. Please open it. The first thing you could notice is that it costs less. About $60.00 less with this company. It will not do a few things that the Kenwood will do, but it will do everything that I need it to do. It is a perfectly capable VHF/UHF ham radio. It’s easier for me to operate. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, then you know that my wife and I both have our General licenses. To operate this radio, you need to be a Technician. My wife got her ham radio license mostly just to make me happy. Radio is important to her because it is important to me. She needs a radio that she can turn on, change the channel, push the microphone button and talk. She does not care about beaming a signal

off of a comet. This is what is in her car. It works. This is what is in my vehicle. It works. And this is what is in my house, because it’s easier for me to learn one radio than two or three other radios. With this 635T I use the RT programming system, which is computer based. Some people would say that you need to know how to field program it. Okay, that means that they need to know how to field program it. I need to be able to turn it on, change the channel, push the microphone button and talk. I could care less about bouncing a signal off of a comet. 

I’m going to take a slight detour here, I’ll get back to these radios in a minute. What does it mean to modify a radio? To some people it means more power, to others they want to add a system, one is called EchoLink, and there are multiple other things that you can do with these radios. But the word modification to most people means to expand the transmit range out of the ham frequencies. This radio right there, the Alinco, second

line under the picture says, “Receive coverage 108-173 MHz”. It says, “transmit frequency 144-148 MHz” which are the ham bands within the VHF spectrum. Okay. Follow me here. You can modify this radio to transmit on the same frequencies that it is currently set to receive on. The same for UHF also. If you modify it, if you could receive those frequencies before, you can now transmit on those frequencies. Well, why would anybody want to do that? Well, there are the MURS frequencies around 151 MHz. There are the GMRS frequencies around 465 MHz. If you’re into public service, there are police, fire and EMS which also uses these frequencies. Be advised, to modify this radio to operate out of the ham frequencies violates FCC regulations. But there are some police and fire departments that do just that because these radios are much cheaper than commercial radios from name brand manufacturers. If you have the chance, go back and read under Frank’s Radio Communications the GMRS and MURS post

Now also understand that one antenna normally will not work well on all of these frequencies. It will either be too short or too long and your SWR will

increase. But there is an antenna that is made by Comet. It is CA-2x4SR. If you’ll go back to the catalog contents page on the right hand side down about nine spaces is Amateur Mobile Antennas. Please click. Under Comet, about four down, is the CA-2x4SR. Please click. This antenna comes in two base types. Pay attention here. This antenna can also be used for a base station antenna for frequencies out of the ham band, also frequencies in the ham band. While we’re here, go down two more places under Comet and check out the M24. This is a real good little 2 meter antenna. It will also work out of band, but not great. And it comes with three different connectors. Again, pay attention here.

Okay, back to VHF/UHF mobile. Look at the Anytone AT-5888UV. This is what is called a commercial radio. When it comes to you it will be open and have almost all VHF/UHF frequencies. These type radios can be used in

the commercial service industries which includes police, fire, EMS, schools, railroads, power companies and they can also be used legally for the ham bands. So why not buy one of these? There is no need to modify. It can be used on MURS and GMRS. I guess the primary reason is a quality issue. Some folks say these radios just don’t hold up. I know people that have them and they like them. If they had been out for a few more years, and some of their early quality issues had been resolved, then I would look seriously at using these radios. As far as handhelds go, I do use a commercial radio. They have been out for a good while and they have worked the bugs out.

Let’s go back to the VHF radio page and go all the way to the bottom to Wouxun. Please click on their radio, there is only one. This is another commercial radio and it gets mixed reviews. Notice the bottom line, the warranty is from the factory in China. There are no state side service facilities. If it quits working on you, you have to send it back to China. That’s one of the reasons people would rather buy a ham radio and make a modification.

The Alinco DR-635T. To modify it, you remove four screws, take off the cover, locate the blue wire, which you can’t miss, cut the wire, and you now

have a modified radio. Is it illegal to own a to operate out of band? Yes. Are there thousands and thousands of modified VHF radios in this country? Yes. An example here. Your little handheld GMRS radio, which in most cases are excellent radios, operate around 465 MHz. You program these frequencies into your modified radio, you turn your power down on the radio and no one on the planet will know that you are talking on anything but a handheld GMRS radio. By the way, you need a license to operate on GMRS frequencies. I have never met a person on this planet that has one. You can buy the handheld GMRS radios at any sporting good stores, Wal-Mart, online and it’s up to you to apply for the license. When you get the license, anyone in your family or anyone at your house or vicinity can operate under that license. That means you do not have to have it on you to operate these radios. Go back and read the post about GMRS radios. What I’m saying here is you can have a nice ham radio that will also operate on other frequencies. It’s your choice.
There are many, many other mobile VHF radios on this page. Check them out. Some companies will not sell ham radios to someone without a call sign. So be aware of that. Some companies will, some companies won’t.

You need an Elmer. That’s ham language for a teacher. You can find one through the ARRL website. If your Elmer is not open to ideas of modifying radios, asks for a different Elmer. Some of these ham guys are hard core ham radio people, others are just folks that love ham radio, but they don’t mind cutting a wire here and there. I’d guess the numbers are about 50/50. But, generally speaking, a standard antenna, be it mobile or base station with standard coax and a standard power supply and about any VHF radio will get you on the air. Don’t forget safety. I’m finished.

Another topic. I am of a firm belief that our world is going to experience some type of event that is going to shut down normal life as we know it.

The entire purpose for this blog site is to help people get prepared. If these radio posts help you learn to communicate just a little bit better, then it has been worth my time and effort. To me, communication is critical. Whether you’re a listener or you want to communicate what you have heard to your little area of the country. Who knows, maybe even talking to your neighbors on the GMRS frequencies. Communications is important. A small radio, with a small antenna, with an automotive battery, a power supply, a small solar panel and a gizmo

called a charge controller, you can operate a shortwave radio on 12 volts. This will bring you your local news and news from around the world. A scanner can tell you what local police and fire are doing. That same scanner will also pick up weather and Coast Guard. That same solar panel battery will also power a CB radio, a VHF/UHF radio for ham communications, and MURS and GMRS. It will also power your HF radio where you can talk and listen

around the world. Imagine that. Something like a 20 watt solar panel, a small charge controller, an automotive type battery, a scanner, an HF radio which you can also use for shortwave listening, and a modified VHF/UHF radio and you can listen to the world, talk to the world and also communicate with your local buddies. Don’t forget the humble CB radio. And you can recharge your rechargeable batteries. Give it some thought. Hard times are coming. And if you want to be able to communicate, it is relatively simple. Time is running out.


We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio Communications Review, Part 1 – A Re-Post

Hello, Frank here.

If you are a regular reader, then you know a week or so back we introduced a re-post of an article that was a year or so old. This effort was very well accepted and we genuinely thank you. 

As most of you are aware, when, not if, our society shuts down, or collapses, then it will be too late to start making general preparations. I believe communication is one of the areas grossly overlooked by those that are trying to prepare. Whether you want to transmit on a radio, listen to local events or world events, then there are certain types of equipment that you will need. Most of these items can be dual or triple purpose, and will not break the bank unless you choose to do so. 

The following article is a re-post about basic radio communications. You can find many other articles listed under Frank’s Radio Communications. If this is of interest to you, then please read some of these articles. They are written in easy to understand language with the beginner in mind. Thank you for your considerations, and I hope you enjoy the following re-post. If you have a comment, please share it, because this is one way for all of us to learn. That little radio in your hand may some day save your life. Thank you again.

Originally published August 12, 2013

Hello, Frank here.

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios.

Remember, CB radio is line-of-site communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very

popular. The vast, vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we did, then the advertisements

would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does. 

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB

frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.

Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency

provided by the National Weather Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what

TV did nationwide a few years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes the Coast Guard.

There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as

inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you

can replace with rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are

operating in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There
may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what  

connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for

the most part, no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Basic Equipment & Start Up

Hello, Frank here.

I’ve had a couple of requests lately about entry level basic equipment and getting started. For those of you working on your General, I hope you’re well into whatever program you are using. I believe next in our studies is antennas, which is where we will continue. But tonight, will be a different topic.

Okay. Entry level equipment. First, you will need your Technician’s license. That will give you transmitting privileges from 30 MHz up, which includes VHF and UHF. Now, remember, this is just my opinion and recommendation, and this is the very minimum. I’m not going to cover HT’s (walkie talkies) here.

You will need a radio, an antenna, coax cable and a power supply. Radio. Alinco DR-635T. This radio covers your VHF/UHF ham bands, and if you have the desire to open up or modify this radio, it is very easy to do. This will allow you to transmit on MURS, GMRS/FRS frequencies, and if you’re really stupid, it will allow you to transmit on police and fire frequencies, too. This radio is not approved for broadcast on the modified frequencies. There are commercial radios made that will accommodate this need. This radio will work both in your car and as a base station.

For your automobile you now have your radio, your battery is your power supply. You will need an antenna. My recommendation is the Comet M-24M. That for your automobile is your complete kit. You will need to attach the radio to the battery for power, or you can use the cigarette lighter plug. The battery is first choice.

For your base station. Same radio. You will need a base

antenna. I am going to recommend a Comet CA-2x4SR. Yes, this is a mobile antenna. If you choose to modify your radio, this antenna will work for all of the frequencies mentioned above. With this you will also need a ground plane kit. Make sure both the antenna and the ground plane kit have UHF connections. Now, you will need some kind of pole to put this up on. Top rail fencing from your local lumber yard works great. Two 10′ pieces, with one bracket attached to the highest part of your house, normally the ridge. Put this antenna and ground plane kit at the very top. Now you will need some coax. For VHF/UHF short length and low power, use RG8X. If you’re going to run more than 50′ then a higher quality cable is needed. For your base station, you will need a power supply. Here is my recommendation for a small power supply, MFJ-4125. This will power your radio needs for years to come. That’s all you need for your base station. You have a radio, an antenna and ground plane, coax cable and a power supply. You need to have a way to get your antenna into your house. I drilled a hole

through my wall, used a PVC pipe, a 45 degree angle and ran it through that way. To keep out bugs, I use stainless steel scrubbing pads on both sides and spray heavily twice a year with bug spray. You will also need a grounding rod connected to the base of your antenna pole and connections between the pole and the grounding rod. Speaking of this antenna pole, this is the horizontal pipe that goes along the top of a chain link fence, it’s called top rail. One end is slightly crimped to allow the next piece to slide over it. Cut off one of these crimped pieces, about 3′, drive the non-crimped end into the ground, with the crimped part sticking above ground surface. Now slide the rest of your pole over the piece in the ground, align it with your bracket attached to the side of your ridge, of course, make sure it’s straight up and down. Now you have a good, solid pole. Some lumber yards carry 21′ lengths of this top rail and some don’t. Lowe’s carries it, but you will have to special order it. And if you do that, get the thicker gauge metal.

Okay, that’s your VHF and UHF mobile and base station. This is as basic as you can get. No switches, no power strips, that’s it. For lightening protection, unplug your power supply and disconnect your coax cable from the back of your radio. Put that piece of coax that you just disconnected into a glass jar

laying sideways. If you want to know what your SWR is for your radio, you will need an SWR meter. A very basic one is the MFJ-842. You’ll also need a coax jumper, RG8X will do fine. Footnote: all jumpers and coax should be PL-259 to PL-259. Okay that will do you for VHF/UHF.

I’m not going to discuss HF for mobile use. For most people it’s just not practical. There is a small portion of 10 meter that a Technician can use. For the other parts, you will need your General license. So, here goes. For your base station radio, let me reiterate, this is just one man’s opinion. My recommendation is the ICOM IC-718. You will need an antenna tuner. You do not have to

have an antenna tuner, but I highly recommend it, and my recommendation is the LDG IT-100. For this you will also need a jumper, RG8X will work just fine. Next you will need an antenna, for this my recommendation is a dipole antenna. If you only choose to operate one band, then a simple dipole will work great. If you choose to operate

multiple bands, here is a pretty good selection. These are made by Alpha Delta and they are all good dipole antennas. This dipole antenna, like most antennas, the higher the better it operates. Metal roofs and power lines will take away greatly from it’s performance. But you can mount it on the same pole as your VHF antenna. Come down about one foot from your VHF antenna, drill a hole through the pole, attach an eye hook and a light weight pulley. This is how you will attach your dipole at the center. Each end of the dipole is up to you. Again, the higher the better. For your coax use RG8X. You will also need an SWR meter and for this radio an MFJ-860 will work fine. You will also need one more jumper. This

radio operates off of the same power supply as the Alinco base station. Lightening applies the same with this radio. During a lightening storm unplug your outside antennas coming in and your power supply. 

Again, this is your very basic operating equipment. By the way, these are the radios that I use and the antennas that I use and the meters that I use. What I didn’t mention here is that it is not required that you have the following pieces of equipment. Power pole connectors make life very handy. Power strips come in real handy if you’re operating multiple 12 volt DC devices. A more professional tower comes in handy. All you need is a radio, an antenna, a power supply, coax cable, a meter, a couple of jumpers, a way to hold your antenna in the air and you need to ground the antennas attached to the pole by grounding the pole. Remember, always follow basic safety rules, it will pay off in the long run.

The reason for this post is because of the following email. All the equipment I mentioned here is new, and don’t forget, the HF radio is also an excellent shortwave receiver. The writer addresses time on the radio. There is no requirement for any time at all, just what you choose. Also remember I do radio from a survival perspective. I do not contest, but if you choose to, you certainly can. 98% of my radio time is listening.

I would like to start with Ham radio, but what has stopped me is the expense. Maybe you can write some posts for the lowest common denominator. Ham radio for the lowest of budgets. That would be helpful. Usually when people write about Ham radio operations it is just too much information, just like people who write about solar power. I got started with solar by watching a 2 minute or less video. The person broke it down and made it super easy. I was able to get started with less then $300 and it is enough power to run a laptop, light and modem and router for hours. By putting the few pieces together I learned what it took to do solar. That simple tutorial that showed a small setup hooked up and running was more valuable to me then all those complicated books and articles that I read about solar power!
I think if you write for the ‘haven’t started but would like to start’ crowd that would be a great service and it would get more people involved in Ham radio. In most people’s mind it seems too complicated and too much of a commitment – people have a lot on their plate. Economy is on everyone’s minds. Show how to start simple with just the basics so we can get the idea. People can always upgrade as their budget allows. It would be nice to have excellent equipment but that is not always possible for everyone. Having a small setup to communicate with is better then not having anything at all.  And then there is the subject of how much time does a person need to spend on the air?  That could be a show stopper for many.  I have a busy schedule with all my homemaking and homesteading duties and do not want to spend a gillion hours on the radio but want to have the abilities and skills should the occasion arise.

The person below has requested vendors which I have included with each item discussed. There are vendors that are cheaper and some that are more expensive. The items that I have listed can be found for less from some other vendors. I like Universal Radio, but I also buy from many other good folks out there. Hope this information helps.
 
I would like to buy a ham radio and antenna, but do not know what I should buy.  I am a  beginner, so I am not interested in a radio with lots of bells and whistles.  Just a basic get the job done type of radio.  Also looking for a good vendor to purchase said radio and antenna.  Also need to know how to properly install and set up antenna for best reception.

Also, where to get the study guides to get licensed.  In the future a license probably won’t be too important, but the knowledge on how to properly operate a radio using approved standards will be critical.

Any information you can give me will be great. 

Please remember, these are just my recommendations and opinions. Many people will disagree and say you have to have this and you have to have this. If you want to get started, this will get you there. Both of these radios are good, solid pieces of equipment. Many veteran ham operators use this same equipment everyday. Again, this is just my opinion. I will remind you that I am of the persuasion that someday we are going to face some type of collapse. Radio may be one of your only means of communication. I also use solar power. Please take the above statements with a grain of salt, because it is also, my opinion.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

 

Radio – Entry Level Equipment

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everyone, hope everybody is well and happy. It’s still cold and slippery here, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Okay. So you want to get started. If you’ve read the other posts, then you know that there is no perfect radio. So, what I’m going to try to give you here are some options to ponder and some items to look for in whatever piece of equipment you choose. I’m going to start off with HF radios. And very similar to my other posts about chickens or goats, I can only share with you the experiences that I have had. Some folks want to jump in with both feet, buy some high dollar equipment, and if that’s your cup of tea, please do so. I still learn something new on a regular basis about ham radio. And I am very happy with the equipment that I use. Please don’t take this wrong, this is just for teaching purposes, but if I wanted a more expensive radio, I would buy it. Yes, finances are important to everyone, and I am by no means rich, wealthy or well off. But, as a general rule, I’m in a position in life where if I want or need something, then I will get it. 

We have a local man that I listen to on the VHF channels via a repeater. He appears to be intelligent, financially successful, well educated, articulate, he passed his Technician, General and Extra in a very short period of time with no problems. His first HF piece of equipment was what I would call a moderate, nice radio. Shortly thereafter, he bought a nicer radio, and now he’s talking about getting a top-of-the-line HF rig. He has also gone through the same sequence with antennas. He apparently has the financial means, and I am very happy for him. But I think he could have made better choices along the way, because he talks on the radio about the stuff that he has. And, again, this is fine. But this is not where I personally am coming from. So, if you want to buy a piece of equipment and tell everybody how much you spent, and this is your general forte, then I may not be able to help you out. If you want something that works, then I might be able to help you out.

So, let’s go. Please go to the Universal Radio website. Click on the left hand side on the online catalog button. We are now at catalog contents. Let me make a statement here. I have bought from Universal Radio and I probably will again in the future. They are not the most expensive or the least expensive, but I really like their site layout and they provide lots of data about the equipment they sell.

Now the top right hand column, click on amateur HF transceivers. You will see Alinco, ICOM, Kenwood and Yaesu. Since the ICOM column is the largest, let’s start there. As a general rule, but not always, their radios are listed from least expensive, going down, to most expensive. But this is not always the case.

First on the list, ICOM 718. This radio looks very familiar to me. Is is perfect? No. Under features, on the left hand side, it has AM/SSB/CW modes. What you don’t see is FM. You also don’t see an automatic tuner. So, if you want to operate 10 meter FM, you can’t do it with this radio. If you want to look at a screen in front of you that tells you another radio’s signal strength, you can’t do it. This is an entry level radio that will do what most HF operators require. That is, basic requirements. 

Okay, scroll down to the accessories. Second one on the list is AH-4. That is an automatic antenna tuner. Great. But you can buy one from another company for half the price that works better. LDG Electronics makes a fine quality antenna tuner for about half the price and it should be sold right here by Universal. We’ll get to that in a minute. They have other things going up and down there for other accessories. For the most part you will not need any of these accessories.

Okay, I’m going to hit the back button. Next on the ICOM list is the IC-7000. Okay, let’s take a look at some of the features. This is a nice radio, relatively inexpensive. So, play around in here. See if it has what

you want. You’ll notice under features on the right hand side it says, 100 watts HF plus 
6 meter. Underneath that it says, 50 watts 2 meter,            35 watts 440. 2 meter is VHF, 440 is UHF, but you know that, don’t you? Okay, so this radio will do VHF, UHF, and HF. It has AM and FM and you know that because VHF and UHF are FM and most HF is AM. It doesn’t say SSB? Well, scroll down a little bit and you will see it in the written print a couple of lines above accessories. This is a nice radio and if you’re one of those that’s wants to buy one radio, take a look. But something you can’t do with this is listen to HF and VHF at the same time. Most of the time that would take two separate radios.

Okay, click back to the HF page. So, let’s pick out another ICOM, the IC-7800. It only costs $10,500. This is not an entry level radio. If this is your cup of tea and this is what you want to do, then go for it. This will do more than most people will ever use in a lifetime. And if you want to tell your friends, looky what I’ve got, this will do the job. This radio is well, well out of my league. But it is pretty.

Okay, why don’t you scan through them, play with them, look at the rest of the ICOM’s. A lot of people like Kenwoods. Let’s look at the TS480. This is also a nice radio. Many people like Kenwood, I guess it’s like anything in

life. If your daddy drove a Ford pickup, there’s a good chance you will drive a Ford pickup. Remember that some people will argue to the end of the world that one brand is better than the other. I would recommend you find another crowd. These are all good radios. Just because somebody’s grandpa had another brand doesn’t make it any better. But if that’s what you want, go for it. Please check out the Kenwoods.

Next on this little list are the Yaesu’s. First is the FT-450D. If I were not using my ICOM-718, this would be my second choice. Fairly easy to use, has a built in antenna tuning system. It is a nice solid entry level radio. If you read through the features, it offers what most people need. I would give this radio a solid look. Yaesu offers some interesting radios that most companies don’t. Check out the 817, 857 and 897. These are in some way, a portable type radio. But also make sure they have the desired power levels you want. Yaesu has other good solid radios. 

Please peruse through these radios. Visit with your Elmer. If your Elmer is of the nature that only one type brand of radio will work, get you a different Elmer with a little bit more of an open mind.

Okay, let’s go back up to the top of this HF list and check out the Alincos. The DX-SR8T is your true entry level radio. But it will cover the entire HF bands in all modes, has good power, does require an antenna tuner, and

overall gets pretty good reviews. Let me stress here that there are old salts out there using entry level radios and have been for years and years. The radio that they have meets their needs. I happen to be one of those. I am relatively new to amateur radio, but I have found a radio that meets my needs. I have no intention of switching. I can talk to people anywhere, and I can listen to people anywhere. This is all I need.

Okay. Antennas. The proper antenna is unquestionably the most important piece of equipment you can own. You can have a top-of-the-line HF radio, but if you have a poor antenna, or a poor connection, or any part of the delivery system is inadequate, then your top-of-the-line HF radio will only function as well as the weakest link. Something to think about.

Okay, I went back to the online catalog page, I’m in the right hand column, about halfway down you will see amateur base antennas. Click there. You will see that the vast majority of these are vertical antennas. If this is what you want, go for it. Go down to the brand name Gap. The Challenger DX, please click there. This antenna is advertised from 80 meters to 2 meters. Good luck. Remember, an 80 meter antenna, okay 80 meters is about 240 feet. 2 meters is about 6 feet. I seriously have my doubts about this antenna. But, go ahead and read the rest of them and take a look at them. When you get finished let’s go back to the catalog page.

Go down one more to amateur wire antennas. There are multiple different types of antennas on this page. But they are all considered wire antennas. This is one of those cases where you need to get together with your Elmer and try to pick out something that will work for you. If you do not have a large lot, or you live with housing restrictions, then one of the earlier mentioned verticals may be your best bet. If you have a little bit more space, some older Elmers can teach you some tricks about wire antennas. Just for information purposes, I use the Alpha Delta wire antennas. Remember there is no perfect antenna either. 

Next on the list are beam antennas. For entry level, this may not be your best choice, but if you want to start out with one, then please investigate these. They are probably the best working antenna of all. Being a beam means that they are directional. So, find you a comfortable Elmer and

talk this over with them. A man down the road from me has an Alpha Delta DX-LB+ and he talks all over the world all of the time. Another man I know, that lives about 50 miles away, also talks all over the world and he uses a beam. Both of these guys are heavy into contesting and CW. So, one person will tell you you’ve got to have a beam and another person will tell you you have to have a dipole. 

Okay, let’s go back to the catalog contents page on the right hand side, go down four or five spaces to amateur antenna tuners. Please click. There are manual tuners and automatic tuners. There are tuners that are built specifically for a specific radio. Some are after market tuners, like LDG, or you see ICOM makes tuners. Check out the prices. I cannot address MFJ tuners, I have bought other MFJ equipment, but as for tuners, I only use LDG. If you’re interested go into the LDG site and they will have a flow chart for which antenna tuner works with which radio.

Coax cable. Coax cable depends on where you live, how long a cable you will need, what frequencies you use and how much power you run. There is no perfect cable. But things to consider. If you live in Washington state

near the coast where it rains a lot, then you will have a different need than someone living in the desert of Arizona. But use a good, new coax. I recommend flexible. Use quality connectors and a proven sealant for your area. And in radio, bigger is better. Yes, you pay more for higher quality cable, and conversely speaking, you get more. This is one of those cases where you don’t try to save a couple of bucks. Don’t use or buy pre-owned cable. Use the best cable you can afford. And the best connectors you can afford. A five dollar connector works a whole lot better than a two dollar connector. And sealant is critical. Arizona and Washington have sharply different climates for the most part. Don’t buy a $2,000 dollar radio, a $1,000 antenna system, and go cheap on coax. It’s just not worth it.

You’re going to need a power supply. If you want to use that same catalog contents page, scroll down a little over half way and it says power supplies and power strips. You’ve learned there are two types of power supplies, regulated and unregulated. Some people need a power supply with more bells and whistles than others, and some people don’t. I would recommend a larger power supply than what you think you’re going to use. Remember, P = E x I. Never use

more than 80% of the equipment’s capability. So, you have a 100 watt radio. 100 divided by 13.8 will give you about 7. Which will be about 7 amps. At the minimum, get a 10 amp power supply. But human nature dictates that you’re going to buy more pieces of equipment. So I would recommend somewhere around a 30 amp power supply. Can’t have too much power. So, take a look around through these power supplies. Find something that will fit your need. Some of these power supplies are made specifically for specific radios. Like I said, look at them. Some of them will have cigar plug connectors, most will have standard binding posts, newer models will have power pole connectors (some, not all). So, take a look at the Jet Stream JTPS28. This might meet your needs. 

While you’re on the power supply page, scroll all the way to the bottom. You’ll see power strips here. Look at these and see if they interest you. It makes hooking up multiple pieces of equipment a whole lot easier. For instance look at the MJF1129. This power strip has binding posts and power pole connectors. You ask, “What is a power pole connector?” Go back to where you just were and right above MFJ or power pole connectors, click on that site. These are real handy little gizmos. 

Okay, I’m going to ask you to do something a little different here now. Open a new window and go to PowerWerx. On the left hand side you will see

Anderson Power Poles. Please click here. Now click on the left hand side, Anderson Power Pole and look at this page a great deal. Look at the right hand side. It says frequently asked questions. You just use these to connect your power cables. These are standard connectors in the emergency rescue fields. This is something a little bit new to you, but take a look at it.

While you’re on the page with Anderson Power Poles, you’ll see 15 amp and 30 amp. Let’s pick the first one, 15 amp, unassembled. Let’s click on it.

Scroll down, it will give you a tremendous amount of information. The 15, 30, and 40 amp connectors all use the same size housing. A little farther down is a cutaway view. These connectors are really, really handy. When you talk to your Elmer ask to visit somebody’s shack that uses these and you will see what I mean. 

Okay, there are a few other little things you will need to set up your HF radio. You’ll need some way to get your antenna up in the air. You might be interested in some type of lightening arrestor. But be advised, nothing will stop lightening from coming into your shack. You need to unplug your antennas.

We’re not going to get to VHF today. But coax requirements, power supplies, power strips, power pole connectors and all of the data mentioned today will apply to those also. This information is for entry level. It is not for advanced amateur radio communications. There are a gazillion other terms, satellite programs, RTTY, just many, many, many things. These things will come with time. So, do you know what a ‘lid’ is? Ask your Elmer. 

Last thing. Safety. It is one thing to experiment, it is another thing to do something dangerous and stupid. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. It’s one thing to have a one watt radio, and another thing to have a 5000 watt radio. If you don’t know what you’re doing, 
DON’T DO IT. 

We’ll talk about VHF next time, and sorry about the weather delay. But I would check out the power pole connectors. They are really cool.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank