So, Now What? Part Six
By now I’m sure that you’ve had a lot of fun with your HT. They are small and very versatile. They can be relatively inexpensive. You can carry them anywhere. They are as good a method of giving you your first exposure to this hobby as anything else, BUT you can’t settle down with your HT and consider this hobby of Amateur Radio fully experienced and stop progressing at that point. It would be like if you settled with your tricycle when you were four years old. How silly would you feel commuting to work every day on a tricycle?
Like the King James Bible says:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
No, I’m not suggesting that you put away your HT, it will still serve you well as your hobby progresses. Trust me, Repeater discussions of the nuances of Baofeng HTs can get very tedious and repetitive after a while. It’s time to move on…
To your second Radio!
What shall it be? I dunno. Should you have married a blonde, a redhead or a brunette? It depends…
The first thing you have to decide is where to go from here? If your first thought is to just get a couple more Baofeng HTs please re-read that Bible verse, and think some more. It’s time for the long pants.
Is your next radio going to be a base station, or a mobile? Will it be only UHF/VHF? Will it be only HF, or an All-In-One?
A mobile VHF/UHF radio will certainly be the least expensive and the easiest if you plan to mount it into a car, and it will give you a bit more power output to work with, but it is limiting. As a Technician you have some access to the lower bands, although not much. On the 10 Meter band you can talk in the 28.300 to 28.5 MHz frequency range. If you are interested in morse code they are CW bands you are eligible to use in 40 and 80 Meters. A UHF/VHF mobile can’t take you to any of these places.
Even if you can’t talk that much on the HF bands, you can certainly listen all you want. You can learn what’s available on these bands and find out if it interests you or not. If it interests you all you’ll need is to pass the General license exam (maybe we’ll get to that subject in a future part of this series?) and a good portion of those bands will become available to you!
Will the higher power of something more potent than an HT gets you to every station you may want to go? Sorry, no. You still will need to find a good antenna that suits your circumstances, but that is a topic for a completely different series of articles (available at the usual web site).
A very common choice of new Hams is the purchase of an All-In-One Radio (HF/VHF/and UHF) that can operate as a portable when necessary or as a base station. There are used all-in-ones out there that are not too expensive. The brand new ones tend to go for $1,000+, but old IC-7000, IC-706 mk II, FT-817 or FT-897 can be gotten much more inexpensively. In a way one of the problems is that there are TOO MANY choices (for radios, and especially for antennas) the options and their differing capabilities and prices can be dizzying! My second radio was an IC-7100, but there are a lot of great models out there. There are some fanboys that are locked into a specific manufacturer. Some will speak about the better sound of a Kenwood, other’s will speak of the high tech features of the Icom, other’s will talk about the practicality and better value of a Yaesu (and don’t forget that there are actually U.S. manufactured radios out there from such companies as TenTec, Elecraft and FlexRadio). I prefer to take each model separately and not based on their manufacturer. What do you need now? What do you think you might need later? Can you afford the “later” features today, or will you need to save up for them “later”? It’s like many other hobbies – if money were no object most people would buy a professional Nikon or Canon DSLR, or better yet, a Leica upon starting a photography hobby. Others would only bother with a card-board box with a pinhole in it, to see what they could accomplish with such a handicap. In the real world most people choose somewhere “in the middle”.
This is where your new hobby will help a lot. Ask everyone what they have, what they like about it, what they hate about it, and what they want to make their next radio purchase. Go to places like eHam.com reviews and careful read these reviews. Some guys are writing reviews that never used the radios, others either got a lemon or decided not to read the manual and found the radio daunting and not as obvious in operation as they required. It’s challenging to parse a review to get its kernel of truth, but it is possible. Unfortunately, there is little opportunity to test drive most radios – the retail stores are far, far away, but if you find a friendly Ham with that rig nearby, chances are that he will invite you over to twirl the dials and try it out for a while.
Buying a used radio has its pluses and its minuses. If it comes from a reputable individual that hasn’t abused their rig, such a purchase lessens the chance of getting stuck with a lemon and you can save yourself a significant amount of money. Then, when you decide to trade up, you can recoup some of the cost when you sell it to someone else. It’s like used cars – some people only buy used cars, and others only buy new cars and accept the price drop the second they drive it out of the showroom. Ya pays yer money, and ya takes yer chances!
If you’re addicted to the bleeding edge of technology, if you have to have an iPhone 18 DoublePlus today, then used is not going to be much of an option, but for many it can be the smart way to go…
I’m sorry if you were expecting “you MUST get a Zelectro ZS-285D, nothing else will do!” It just ain’t that simple (nothing ever really is)…
Don’t think of this (re)search for your second radio as a pain in the arse. Think of it as a marvelous journey in this hobby. When you finally decide and make your choice, not only will you have a radio that will give you untold hours of pleasure. You will have all the knowledge that you have collected along the way on this journey.
It never ends (if you don’t let it).
…And remember (all together now)….
DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN!