Ham Radio for Beginners, part 4

First Radio Choices

I’m writing this post for a friend of mine named Corey, who isn’t a licensed ham yet, but is planning to attend the Hurst Technician Training Class in early February. The main reason I am writing for him is that he, more than anyone else, has been interested in finding which radio would suit him best after he is licensed. I believe this post could be used by anyone planning to get their license soon, especially if you are going to attend our Technician Class in February.

First off, don’t set your sights on only 1 radio. Most hams you talk with will have multiple radios, not only for different bands, but for the same band also. You can have a radio in the car, the house and an HT to carry around with you when on-the-go. That doesn’t mean you have to go buy 4 or 5 radios right when you get licensed, start with just one and go from there. Most new hams will buy an HT as their first radio and use it for a while, maybe even with an external mag-mount antenna on the car for greater reach, but will also soon learn the greater need for a mobile unit with more channels, higher power, and better receive filters which just sound better.

Here is a short list of the radios I would suggest, both HT and mobile. Again, this is a list for NEW radio operators, but a few of these radios I own and still use myself.

Baofeng UV-5R – $30 on Amazon
This radio has been used by many ham operators, with most of them having more than 1 of these radios. For $30, you can’t really go wrong.
BaoFeng UV-82 – $40 on Amazon
This is an upgraded version of the UV-5R. It is newer, bigger, and has a better antenna. For only another $10, I would suggest going with this one.
Baofeng UV-82x – $50 at Radio Mart
This is a 2m/220MHz radio, unlike the 2 above that are 2n/440MHz. 440, or 70cm, is much more popular than 220, or 1.25M, but there are some folks on 220MHz also, and I think it’s popularity is rising. Check with other hams in your area and see who is on 220. If you have repeaters near you, this would be a good avenue to talk to a small handful of friends, almost in a private setting, since 220MHz isn’t used nearly as much as the other ham bands.
Wouxun KG-UVD1P – $105 on Amazon
Built as a more durable and higher quality radio than the Baofeng, this radio has served me quite well. I bought one at HamCom in 2013 and it has never had any issues at all. At the time of this post, Main Trading Company has this unit on sale for $89.95.
Yaesu FT-60 – $145 with free shipping from HRO
If you are going to spend $105 on a Wouxun, but don’t mind spending a bit more and want a MUCH better quality radio, pickup the Yaesu. Anything by Yaesu, Icom or Kenwood is rock-solid. These companies have been around for years and are well-respected. The Chinese companies are getting there, but not yet up to the quality of YaeComWood.

Mobile Radios:
Wouxun KG-UV920P – $270 at Main Trading Company
A high-powered dual band mobile radio for under $300 is pretty good. This radio is the 3rd generation and is supposed to be updated with all the bugs fixed from the previous version. I haven’t tested it myself, but if you buy from MTC, you know they will stand behind it.
Kenwood TM-281a – $138 with free shipping from HRO
This is just a mono-band, 2-meter only radio, but for the price is a fantastic deal. HRO always ships for free, and we in Texas don’t pay tax to them, so $137.95 is your final price.
Kenwood V71A – $349 at Main Trading Company
Dual band, Kenwood, with Echolink. If you don’t mind spending a little more, pickup this radio and you will use it for the rest of your life. High power on both bands and Echolink, you can’t really go wrong.

Of course all of these prices are for brand new radios. I’m always up for buying used equipment that is in good condition, so check ebay or Craigslist, or your local Ham nets or clubs for equipment sales. http://swap.qth.com/ is another good site for used equipment sales.

Buy an HT and have it ready to go when you take your test. After you receive your callsign, about a week later, you’ll be able to transmit immediately. Plan and save for the mobile unit at a later time, if you must. But rest assured, you are going to want a mobile unit eventually.