Guide to Choosing Your First Radio

Choosing the right radio is one of the most important decisions in the life of a new amateur radio operator or more specifically a ‘Ham’. There can be many options in the market that can blur your thoughts and can lead you to choosing the wrong equipment for your first usage.

This choice can destroy your experience completely and you might never return to operating a Ham radio again. Sometimes the views of others can also change your mind drastically about your purchase.

For instance, handheld transceivers are considered to be very limited in their performance but there is hardly anyone who can appreciate their versatility of being used in any kind of setting.

The radios operating on higher frequency range might appeal to the newbies but they are far from being afforded easily.

So that brings the new Ham operators down to two main deciding factors i.e. the budget allowed and the nature of usage your transceiver will be employed for.

Once you are experienced in using these devices adeptly, then you can make your purchase based on many different factors.

But as for the first radio to be chosen, above two criteria should be considered for evaluating the different types of Amateur Radios available in the market and finding the best out of the lot.

Following types of transceivers can be considered for being your very first amateur radio

Handheld FM Transceivers

These transceivers are generally mistaken and hence avoided to be used as the first ever radio device. Let’s check out its pros and cons to be sure about our decision.

Pros

  • Handheld transceivers are basically used for a low-scale usage in which no extensive networking is required over long ranges.
  • It works great for more localized communication.
  • It gives you the flexibility of altering its range with the help of some good quality antenna and amplifier. An appropriately tuned antenna will help you achieve more output with lesser input from your handheld transceiver.
  • They are easy to operate for a first-timer.
  • You can improvise your handheld device by attaching other external devices with it like

Cons

  • It has a very limited range because of its lower power.
  • It does not support DXing.
  • The device is heated up even with little exertion.
  • It has a very short battery life.

Mobile FM Transceivers

These are the most commonly used transceivers by the Hams from all levels.

Pros

  • They can be used in all kinds of installations i.e. in the vehicle, in a home station or as a handheld device.
  • They provide you with better opportunity to install the entire system, especially the antenna, most ideally with proper access to the power source.
  • They generally provide great performance and uninterrupted communication over long ranges because of their higher power.
  • They don’t get heated up because they have a proper mechanism through which they move the heat generated during the operations to the heat sinks.

Cons

  • These transceivers are relatively difficult to operate for a first timer.
  • They add the cost of installation to your total cost incurred in bringing your mobile transceiver home. Sometimes you also need to get a new power supply and install proper feed-lines for it that puts you in another phase of stress and hassle.
  • It does not provide much flexibility to customize the device by adding some external support to it. if you go around adding new accessories or enhances to this transceiver, it get very costly for the newbies.

Choice between Mono, Dual or Triband radio

Apart from the basic options mentioned above, newbies can also consider the transceivers based on their band.

You can find mono band, dual band and triband radios in the market nowadays. But which of these you choose depends on your budget and personal discretion.

There is always a conflict in quality and affordability. The mono band radios are quite affordable than the rest but they can’t deliver the high performance like the other two alternatives.

If you are to use your transceiver for communicating in emergencies, then it wise to check the frequencies allowed to use and prohibited beforehand so that no issue is faced during the time of urgency.

There are many clear ways how a multi band radio is better than the mono band alternative.

  • Multi band radios can be enhanced in their operations by changing the length of the antenna used with it. In fact, you can try any type of antenna with it without any worries about the legal issues or the power restrictions. By doing so, you enable yourself to reorient your radio system in such a way that it starts delivering the maximum power output with the minimum input.
  • The radios enabled by these antenna experimentation generally allow the users to have the DX operated through their transceivers. E propagation, that is a relatively new term, makes this effect possible. Due to this feature, you are able to communicate easily through long distances and with different stations, no matter what their current location might be. Although it is a very common practice nowadays but not all the multi band radios support this feature.
  • The radios operating on multiple bands allow the users to operate freely on different bands without having to stick to some single monotonous conversation for a long time. This also enables the users to locate the repeaters available on the same band in the same location as they are but with relatively less crowd and they can switch to that repeater whenever they feel like. It is very common practice nowadays that repeaters are fixed on more than one band in the same vicinity and together they provide the users with more options while operating their radio and provide them a much better coverage than before.

These points make it clear that the multi band radios or the HF/VHF/UHF radios are the best starting points for the new Hams as they will not only learn new things from it but will also be able to get in touch with anyone anywhere in the world only after making few adjustments in the setting of the radio you have. If you have got a mono band radio, try to upgrade it to the higher alternatives as soon as possible for saving your time and effort.

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