Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Building a Ham Shack - First Purchases

I'm new to amatuer radio and I've had my license and callsign for less than a week. Like many people new to the hobby I started with a handheld. In my case I knew about some of the features I wanted in a HT but I still wasn't convinced which features I wanted in the $300 - $500 handheld radios on the market.

To make it simple on myself I decided to start very simple and inexpensive so I purchased a Wouxun KG-816 2m radio while I was taking the Amateur Basic license course. I'm a very hands on person and learn very quickly by playing with equipment or technology. Having a simple handheld with a USB programming cable and software I was able to program the unit and do a lot of listening on the local repeaters while I was taking the course. NOTE - I didn't have a license yet so I only listened, I had another licensed ham double check my programming and do any radio checks for me.

After a wrote and passed the license test I had already learned a lot from this hundred buck radio and upgraded to the latest Wouxun KG-UV6D which had just been released (dual-band 2m/70cm handheld, with speaker mic & USB cable). Staying with the same brand I kept it cheap again and now I had one dualband radio as my primary, and the original single band radio for something I could keep at work for listening to repeater activity during the day or toss into a vehicle or camper as a backup.

Purchasing two HT's so close together wasn't my original intention, but as I had originally predicted I learned a lot from the first unit and already had a shopping list of features I knew I wanted or needed in the second unit so the decision to purchase was easy. NOTE - What I've spent on both these radios is less than the starting point of many of the popular branded radios.

I'm using the KG-UV6D as my primary radio now and over the last few days since my callsign was assigned I've had a few QSO's with local club members on the 2m repeaters. So far the guys have been great and friendly, and I hope my operating protocol has been up to spec as I haven't heard any complaints :)

I have taken some advice and ordered two dual band mag mount antennas for my HT. I'm planning to mount one on my vehicle until I can get a proper mobile rig installed in there, and I'm going to try attaching the other to the exterior of my house so I can use the HT in my office with better reception. Currently without an exterior antenna I have to sit close by the repeater facing window for clear communications. I'm also getting a hum noise from my PC speakers when I key the handheld to close to it, getting the antenna outside should address that as well.

Within a year I predict I'll have an Icom, Yaesu, or Kenwood hand held that will include APRS and a few other cool features I'm still discovering. For now I'm enjoying playing with the Wouzun's and don't regret trying them out.

Next post - Shopping for my first HF rig. New or used, portable or base, solid state or software defined?

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