So, my friend (and boss) Steve, W2SRH got me interested in Amateur (aka Ham) Radio. I passed the Technician Class exam in May of 2005, got my callsign, KC2OHI soon after, and then promptly filed for the vanity call that I have now, K2LHK.
Now that I got that intro out of the way, let’s get down to the toys! Right now I have an HT (Handheld Transciever for those non-hams among us) and a mobile rig. I’d like to get a base rig at some point, but right now I’m waiting until I step up to a license with HF privileges and get myself an HF rig.
I bought my Kenwood HT even before I had gotten my license approved by the FCC. What a frustrating week and a half that was. I chose this rig for a few reasons. First I wanted a compact HT, but that only narrows the field so much. What sold me on the F6A was the fact that it had 220Mhz capabilities. While there aren’t a lot of 220 repeaters around, there’s one in particular that I wanted to be able to use — NJ2EM run by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. It has a great location and pretty darn good coverage. Added bonuses for the Kenwood were dual receivers, and the fact that it can do up to a full 5W on all three bands (2m, 220, and 440) it covers. The HT is also built pretty well. I’ve dropped it a few times on concrete and asphalt and it’s sustained little more damage than a few nicks and scratches.
Now this radio isn’t perfect, but then again, none are. When I compared it to Steve’s Yaesu VX-5, it didn’t seem to have quite as good sensitivity on 2m and 440. This has since been recitified by swapping the stock antenna with a Diamond SRH320A. I had a real-world demonstration of this antenna’s performance. Leon, KC2NEM had his F6A at an event and we were sitting right next to each other. I, with the stock antenna, barely got an S4, if even that much off one of the club repeaters. Leon, however, got a full S9. That’s what sold me on the antenna, and since I got it, I’ve noticed a major improvement in my apartment compared to the stock antenna.
I also wish the memory locations worked like they do on Yaesu radios. Instead of the memory location number determining the bank the frequency is in, the Yaesus have a concept of banks where you can put any memory locations in a particular bank, and each location can be in more than one bank. That makes configuring banks for specific purposes or locations significantly easier. It’s not too big of a deal, though. Since the radio has dual receive, I don’t use scan mode too often, but it’d still be nice.
I bought my mobile rig not too long after I’d started using the Kenwood on a regular basis. I discovered just how much of a pain it is to use an HT in the car. Between the fact that you’re sitting inside a big metal cage, which kills your signal, it was probably nearly as bad as holding a cell phone while driving. I had an even harder time picking the mobile rig than I did the HT. As much as I wanted 220, I wasn’t too impressed with the Alinco rigs, which were the only mobiles on the market which had 220 capabilities. In the end, I had narrowed my choices down to either the ICOM IC-208H or the Yaesu 7800R. I think what gave me the nudge to the Yaesu was the fact that Steve had it, so was familiar with programming it. Unfortunately, some of the functions on this radio are a bit cryptic, so it was helpful knowing someone who had gone through setting it up already.
Also based on Steve’s recommendation, I went with the Radiall-Larsen NMO2/70C, though he has the black, open-coil version of this antenna. I also splurged a bit and got the Diamond SPMNMO magmount. Due to my, uh, “driving style”, I didn’t want to take any chances that the antenna would go flying and so far it hasn’t budged a mm since I set it up.
Although I had also purchased the Yaesu remote-mount kit with the intention of mouting the body of the radio in the trunk, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, I put it on the passenger-side of the center console of my car. It won’t go to waste, however, since my current car is getting up in mileage so I might get something new within the next year or so. At that point I think I might actually do a much better job of mounting it than I did in the Grand Prix, as it really wasn’t worth the effort at the time. It’s mounted in a “good enough” location, and serves its purpose well.
I hooked an external speaker up to the radio. At first I went down to Radio Shack and got some small 2″ speaker to hold me over, though I eventually replaced that with a Kenwood SP-50 speaker. I was sold when I heard it in Keith, W2KET’s car. It’s fairly low profile, but it cuts right through road and wind noise. I am very happy with that purchase.
2006-02-24 – Leigh Koven, K2LHK