Choosing an HF Transceiver
How do you choose an HF transceiver? There are certainly many to choose from and prices range from a few hundred pounds to several thousand pounds. Phew!
Possibly the most important thing to remember is that the guy at the other end will not really know which radio you are using or how much it cost. After all, a 100 Watts of SSB or CW sounds very much the same these days! So from this, it would seem that the choice comes down to the receiver end and the operational conveniences.
It is probably true to say, that none of the "big three" make a duff transceiver. Whether you choose Yaesu, Kenwood or, Icom, you will end up with a reliable, good performance radio. But there are differences and it is these differences that will affect your choice.
The receiver section is the most technologically advanced part of most HF transceiver. Today's crowded bands and digital modes, make the ability to pull in weak signals surrounded by strong signals, one of the big tests of any transceiver. And it is here that prices start to climb as the performance rises. Design features such as RF stages, band-pass filters, roofing filters, IF filters and DSP, all have their roll to play. If you are after an SSB rig for casual QSOs across town or on regular nets, your demands are not going to be nearly as great as those from an operator who enjoys DX operation and needs to winkle out those weak and often rare signals. So this is one of the areas where you need to think about exactly what you might need for you operational interests.
Then we have the "add on" features that include, memories, single and dual VFOs, dual receivers, cross band operation, duplex operation and so forth. Some of these features put the cost up considerably. Do you need them or do you not? Digital displays also come high up on many purchasers' lists. Icom are famous for their large, clear displays. Some designs seem to have so many knobs with cluttered layouts. Those with good sight may not worry about this, whilst others with less than perfect sight might fund such radios a real challenge. But do remember, that what may at first look complex, often becomes second nature with use and familiarity.
There is little doubt that a "DC to light" radio covering 1.8MHz to 440MHz has to pack a lot into quite a small box. A dedicated HF transceiver is likely to give you better value if HF operation is your only requirement. And do remember, that there is a similar choice between mobile radios and base station models. Small mobiles are great for those who plan to operate both fixed and mobile. Just get yourself an extra DC lead and you can quickly change from home to mobile operation. But don't expect quite the same performance as a dedicated base station.
At the end of the day the choice comes down to money versus performance. It's often a fine balance. And as we said at the beginning, nobody makes a bad radio these days if you stick with the three big guns. But amongst the wide choice, will be the one that best suits your pocket and needs. Make the right choice and you should find that your radio will serve you for years to come.