The HF bands are full of activity - there is always something interesting on one band or another. There is a good variety of HF transceivers for these bands and they represent excellent value.
From the mobile/basestation budget transceivers, through the mid range ones to the really top end ones, there is something that everyone can buy.
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When selecting an HF transceiver to buy there are many different points to consider. Some points to consider are included below.
- Base station / mobile or portable: Whilst many will want to use a mobile / base station HF rig for mobile applications because of their size, etc, many will want to use them because they offer a relatively low cost way of getting a high performance transceiver for the HF bands. As one would expect, the usability of the mobile/ portable rigs because of their size is not always as easy, and also the performance is not as good, although more than adequate for many stations. Connoisseurs with large antennas and who are chasing DX would obviously notice the difference, but those with more modest stations would find them quite adequate.
- Power output: Typically most HF transceivers give an output power of around 100 watts. Some of the really top range ones give around 200 watts. For those wanting to run the full legal limit, there is always the option of using an additional linear amplifier.
- Modes: For HF operation single sideband, SSB, and CW are essential and also the capability to run the variety of data modes is essential. AM is often provided, but this is normally of little use as very few people use it. Reception of AM is quite useful if reception of the AM broadcast bands is envisaged. FM is also often a necessity for 10 metre and 6 metre (50MHz) operation as there are significant levels of FM activity on these bands.
- Sensitivity : Most receivers are very sensitive these days and the sensitivity of the amateur radio transceiver is often more than good enough for most bands. The reason for this is that the received noise is normally much greater than that generated within he receiver. The exceptions to this may be the higher frequency bands like ten metres (28 MHz) and six metres (50 MHz) where the received noise might be much less. Typical signal to noise ratios may be of the order of 0.5µV for a 10dB signal to noise ratio. The performance may degrade for the lower frequencies.
- Frequency coverage: In terms of the frequency coverage of an amateur radio HF transceiver, there are two main issues to assess.
- Transmitter coverage / amateur bands: The first and foremost consideration for the frequency coverage of the amateur radio transceiver, is whether it covers the required amateur radio bands. Most current amateur radio HF transceivers cover the bands between 10metres and 10 metres. Often they have the ability for 5 MHz, but this is worth checking. Many also cover 50 MHz and some over 70 MHz, but it is worth checking that all the required bands are covered. Some very old second had rigs may not cover the WARC79 bands of 10 MHz, 18 MHz and 24 MHz.
- Receiver coverage: Often the receiver within the HF transceiver will cover a relatively wide band. Some cover from around 150 kHz up to 60 MHz or more, but this is dependent upon the actual rig. Check the performance is what you need.
- CTCSS: FM repeater operation on the 10 or 6 metre bands is envisaged using the ham radio HF transceiver then a CTCSS capability is needed as many of these repeaters require a CTCSS tone. Fortunately most modern transceivers have this capability as standard, but check.
- Selectivity: Most modern transceivers offer very good levels of selectivity for modes like AM, FM, SSB, and CW, etc Typically good crystal filters will be used.
- Strong signal handling: One of the major differences between the lower cost amateur radio HF transceivers and the really high end ones is in the strong signal handling capability.
Any HF transceiver will represent a relatively large investment, so it is always worth checking out the reviews on the various ham radio websites as well as within other publications, etc.
Generally the HF rigs on offer to buy from the popular manufacturers represent really excellent value, but the different rigs are set to appeal to different budgets, and also the small differences between the manufacturers may mean that one appeals to one individual more than another - it is a matter of personal preference.