Since getting my ham ticket in 2008, I have bought and sold tens of thousands of pounds worth of radio equipment, mainly HF transceivers. I have owned a Yaesu FTDX-9000D, a couple of FTDX-5000MP’s, a Ten-Tec Eagle, a Elecraft KX3, a Yaesu FT-2000, an FT-991, a Kenwood TS-590S and a number of FT-857D, FT-897D, FT-817ND, FT-450D and FTDX-3000 radios. Perhaps I should have tried an Icom and then I would have stuck with the same radio – I don’t know why I haven’t had one, but hey.
In that time, I have been looking for the perfect radio/antenna/station for me. Of course, there’s no such thing as perfect, however, this rather expensive pursuit has lead me to consider what I have used and what sort of station I want to run going into the future. After all, these buying and selling cycles will eat into any savings and so it can’t be done forever, and I am not one to keep a dozen or more rigs in the shack gathering dust.
I have finally decided to stick with the FT-817ND and run a QRP setup. Well, two FT-817ND radios actually – one for the base / home QTH setup, the other for portable and as a backup. To explain this rationale, allow me to list the reasons for settling on a QRP station, specifically centred around the Yaesu FT-817ND.
1: I like the idea of doing more with less. Having a basic setup means the expectation isn’t so high and that adds to the excitement when decent QSOs take place.
2: Conversely, having an expensive radio and antenna system always leaves me feeling like it should work very well and when it doesn’t (like on sunspot minimums), then I feel almost cheated from the expense and level of gear to make a contact.
3: The expense is also another point. Pricey gear means that one can get too worked up about wear and tear or other potential damage the ultimately inhibits the joy of just switching on and going for it.
4: On HF, when operating QRP, I have seldom been able to make a contact after giving up with QRP and switching to 100 watts. If I haven’t been able to make the contact with 5 watts, 100 hasn’t seemed to always do the job either. 2 s-points is the difference between the two by all accounts. On VHF/UHF, my collinear is up quite high and I can work simplex and repeaters from an incredible distance 5 watts and less. Looking through my logbooks I seem to have a disproportionately high number of contacts at 5w – a good indicator that QRP is “all right”.
5: Regardless of QRP, I like a radio that can operate on batteries. Makes portable operations easier and in this age of energy uncertainty, gives the operator the option of running their station without mains power. QRP adds another dimension to this in so much as the batteries can be smaller and run for longer.
6: Correctly configured, with a few accessories such as CW filter and external speaker – a low priced radio like the FT-817ND can really punch above its weight.
7: Older, tried and tested radios like the FT-817 have had pretty much all their teething issues fixed, all mods and accessories are now very mature and known to users and the conversations and documentation is extensive vs a newer radio. Also, I feel more “at home” with the previous generation of radio such as the FT-857D or the TS-480, compared with the FT-991 or the IC-7300. These newer radios still have knobs and buttons but feel very computerised and quite distant from the operator to the RF circuits. If you are into modern radios or SDR, this feeling will be alien to you.
8: QRP radios are generally smaller and lighter – making it easier to run a compact base station or a easily transportable portable station.
9: TVI/QRM creation is not so much of a problem when running 5w and less. When running 200 watts, 400 watts or higher still – interference can be an issue unless special thought it given.
10: The equipment around the QRP transceiver – antennas, matchers, feeders, power supplies can be lighter duty which generally means smaller and cheaper.
So there you have it. Should someone interested in ham radio stop by or a fellow ham is talking to me over the air, the added dimension that the station is basic and low powered I hope creates added interest and excitement. And if I can’t work so many stations? I can just listen.