Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Newbie Advisory Ramblings

Having been Licenced for two years now, I thought it would be good to share some of the knowledge I have gained, to assist anyone new to the Hobby.


A reasonable radio is always a good start. There are lots of Far Eastern offerings but I would advise a radio from either Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom. The cheaper options may look tempting but reliability and build standards are not great - better to pay more and get a decent radio to start with. If you just want VHF and UHF you will need something equipped with CTCSS for repeater access and preferably a DTMF microphone.

You will need a decent PSU to power it. Check the radio handbook for current requirements - my Icom IC-E208 delivers 55 watts maximum on VHF and a 15 amp PSU is recommended. My advice is to use a good PSU with a 30 amp output in case you want to power a higher powered radio, such as my Yaesu FT897. Current draw on that radio at 50 watts is around 15 amps, so a 30 amp PSU will cope.

Antennas - for VHF and UHF gain is important as the signals are line of sight so height is equally important. A good collinear, up as high as possible is the answer. HF antennas are a different matter - depending on your location, an end fed wire might be useful, although an off centre fed dipole works very well but room is needed for installation.

A good SWR/Power meter is a good addition to the shack (suitable for the frequencies you use) and one for HF and another for V/UHF, or a combined one would be needed. An antenna tuning unit for HF work would be needed, unless your radio has one already built in. More technical equipment (such as an oscilloscope or frequency counter) is not vital although useful when conducting maintenance or building projects. An antenna analyser is also useful for fine tuning those antenna projects or for diagnosing problems with existing antennas. A dummy load for testing purposes is also a worthwhile purchase - make sure it is rated for the power output and frequencies you intend to use. Very important is a quality multimeter for checking current,  resistance, voltage, reactance and capacitance - many are available and are reasonably priced.

Feeder for the antenna is a major factor. Thin coaxial cable such as RG58 is only really suitable for short runs (a couple of metres) or mobile installation, due to the amount of signal loss. RG8 is less lossy but something quite thick (and relatively inflexible) like RG213 is best suited for longer feeder runs. Whilst on the subject of feeder, it's only as good as the connectors on the end. Always go for the best connectors you can find.

That's about all you need to know to get started. The rest you will learn as you go along.

Before you pick up the mic for that first QSO, spend some time listening. You will soon pick up the correct transmitting procedure by listening in to QSO's and your style will develop. Keep your overs reasonably short to begin with and as you build confidence you will be able to "ragchew" like a veteran!

Most of all, refer to your Foundation Licence Training and the books that you used - there is invaluable information and there will always be someone on air to guide you. Most, if not all, operators will recognise a Foundation call sign and will be happy to point you in the right direction - that was what I found when stumbling over words and thinking of things to say. Keep a pad and pen by the radio and make notes of call signs and details so you can refer to them during your QSO.

There you have it - a brief guide to setting up a basic station and remember HAVE FUN!

73 de 2E0ENN

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