This section lists my radio station pieces and is never complete. As with technology – my ham radio station is always upgrading! One thing I would like to stress is you can NEVER have too many radios and related gear!
My main station radio is a Kenwood TS-2000 right now (right of center). I use this on all bands/modes. It works great on just about everything. For being an all-in-one rig you really cant beat it with a stick! The filtering in it is good and the audio just sounds spectacular (its a Kenwood, what do you expect?). Now, the receiver performance overall isn’t the greatest. It has trouble in crowded bands and high QRN. Its not a high-performance rig so this is to be expected, however. On VHF/UHF this rig kicks some butt. I have worked a few VHF+ contests with it and I constantly hunt grids on 6m with it. If you had to have just ONE rig this is the one to have. Nothing else like it.
My backup radio is an IC-718 (left of center). I recently fixed it. The power output dropped down to 50w max. Its been doing this for about a year now. I never got around to fixing it because, well.. I don’t really use it much. So, after some investigating I found the problem – there was a 4 volt drop at the rig when I keyed up! I tested the power cable and found the drop to be across the stock fuse blocks. I cut them out and directly soldered the two parts back together. My cable is fused at my distribution panel anyway, so I’m still protected. Now it runs fine! The performance of this rig is far less than the TS-2000. I don’t have any filters in it, just UT-106 for DSP noise reduction (which helps). However, the rig is DYNAMITE on PSK31 and other digital modes! This was the first ham radio I ever got. I got it partially as a Christmas present in 1999 or 2000. I used it for SWL before I had my license.
Before I got my TS-2000 I got the Ranger RCI-5054DX (25 watter, not the 100 – left side middle shelf) for 6 meters. 6 meters is an interesting band (hence its called the Magic Band) – you can get out famously with 1w to a coat hangar when it opens. So, this little rig actually does pretty well – minus the fact it has no DSP/filtering. This rig is usually on 6m monitor duty when I’m in bed or when I am running HF on another rig and want to/can monitor 6.
The power behind my station is an Astron VS-35m (left side top shelf). This provides 25A continuous, 35a peak. This is more than enough for my needs. If I fire up everything on the table and plug my laptop computer in to it as well I still only draw 25 when I key one of the HF rigs at 100w. Not bad! It does make a nice heater, though. Good in the winter, bad in the summer. I typically run my shack at 14 volts.
My main microphone is a Heil Gold Line GM-4 (on the boom, hovering above the IC-718). I know Bob Heil. I stop by and say hi to him at Hamvention every year. He always recognizes me. I wouldn’t say I know him well, though. For anyone who doesn’t know who he is – he is a pioneer in pro audio. He’s worked with groups such as The Grateful Dead, the Who, Jeff Beck, the Eagles, Peter Frampton, and Joe Walsh, among others. Bob holds the patent for the Talk Box, made famous in Peter Frampton’s solo in “Do You Feel Like We Do” (in fact, that was a prototype Bob sent to Peter thinking he could make use of it – and that he did!). Anyway, the GM-4 has the HC-4 element for DXing – it cuts like a knife through the noise, not the most pleasant to listen to but it it packs a punch. It also has the stock full-range element for everyday use. In fact, the full-range element sounds so good I use it for recording acoustic guitar as well. I bought the shock mount for it along with a PL-2 boom. Hey, if you’re going to have a nice mic you gotta mount it to a boom. A foot switch on the floor controls PTT for hands-free operation (or DXing/contesting and logging at the same time).
My antenna tuner is new last winter (06). It is a Palstar AT-1500CV (right bottom under cabinet). I bought it for myself as a Christmas present. I have needed a tuner and now I have one, the best one I could get. These are actually made right here in Ohio, over in Piqua. I met Paul, the owner of Palstar, a couple years back. I was researching tuners and found out about Palstar and them being in Piqua. So I e-mailed Paul and asked if I could drive by and take a look at their products in the shop. He agreed, so I went over there on a Saturday and got a personal tour of Palstar! I have to say, I am impressed with their products and quality. I am in no way associated with Palstar, other than Paul is a friend, so I’m not getting paid to advertise for them – my opinion here is my own: After looking at other manufacturers tuners and seeing the parts in them compared with the parts in Palstars.. well, there’s just no comparison! Palstar beats the pants off the competition (Ameritron, Vectrionics, MFJ, Ten Tec, Nye Viking, Dentron, you name it). Palstar is an American company, their parts are made in America, their products are assembled in America, and, not surprisingly, they’re the best!
My CW (Continuous Wave, otherwise known as Morse code) key collection includes a couple Vibroplexes – an old mechanical Bug (right of center) and a Code Warrior Jr (far left)., an RA P4 iambic paddle (far right), an MFJ economy strait key (left of center), and an MFJ micro-paddle (not shown). My main key is the RA P4. It is made by a good friend of mine, Jerry K8RA. I met Jerry doing a photography project on Ham radio operators and their stations. One of my other friends recommended I go see Jerry. Boy, I must say hes quite a guy – and his shack is ONE OF A KIND! The Vibroplex bug was given to me by Dick, W8JLY, before he passed away. I used to talk to him on the 145.110 repeater in Dayton all the time. I was on there talking to the usual group and we got on the topic of CW. I mentioned I love it and just about all my QSO’s on HF are CW. So, when I signed off (it was a school night, I remember that) I left the rig on for a few minutes and I heard Dick tell Shirley, N8LX, who apparently had the bug at the time, that he wanted me to have it. So, that was pretty special. I still like to bang this old thing around occasionally. They take a LOT of force and technique to get the code out right, but they sure have a unique sound – and every operator has his/her own unique “fist”. The Code Warrior Jr. was my favorite key to use before the P4. It uses magnets instead of springs so the action is unique. I like the feel of it. However, the weight is a bit of an issue. That’s where the P4 is superior. The P4 weighs in at 5 POUNDS! It wont go ANYWHERE while banging out the code.
Other equipment on my list for the future: I have my eye on an FT-857D. I need a small rig I can toss in a back pack for hiking/camping/PM. The 817’s RX isn’t very good and it only runs 5w max. The 857D doesn’t suck down much more current on low power/rx as the 817 and it has a VERY good RX and has the ability to transmit a full 100w. Very nice. Also, I’m looking at getting a high-performance HF rig. So far I am looking at the FT-2000. I like the way it looks, the price is right (the least expensive “high-end” rig out there right now), and it has 6 meters too. However, I have heard some bad reports about it. Since I’m not going to be buying one right now Ill be able to watch it evolve. Maybe Yaesu will make an MP and MK5 version like they did their popular 1000 series. Hopefully in the next year they will fix some of the bugs. Who knows – maybe a software update will be all it needs.
Other stuff shown in the picture: ARRL world map (tape lines are beverage directions for this winter, not for this QTH though – no room), Teaberry T Command CB (left on top of speaker), Astatic D-104 (on top of shelves, the silver chicken-choker, or lollipop if you prefer it called that), old Gateway computer (note the HUGE monitor – I hate that thing, from about 97-00), and the very far left is some of my audio gear – Behringer MXB-1004 mixer (absolute CRAP – Bheringer is the MFJ of pro-audio, maybe a little better, their soldering is actually pretty good but their stuff doesn’t last) and a Dynaco 80w kit amp on top of a classic Technics receiver. The deer head is from my grandparent’s house in Minnesota. They moved to Arizona and almost threw them out (there is another, not pictured). Those can’t be thrown out! They’re too cool!