My wife and I have a cabin up in the mountains that we use as a getaway as often as possible. Oddly enough, this place is a pretty good location for radio propagation. It sits at 9600 feet in elevation with low electrical noise and a decent radio horizon in most directions.
I’ve been putting up temporary antennas at the cabin for VHF contests, Field Day and the occasional HF contest. I am slowly building the ham station, with high expectations but slow progress. I wanted to get an HF rig to put in the Cabin Shack. Actually, I started out thinking I needed a DC-to-daylight rig so that I could cover all bands in one radio. I had my eye on the new ICOM IC-9100 that was announced back in 2009. I patiently waited for well over a year for this radio to become more than vaporware and they start to show up in the US in early 2011. Unfortunately, the street price turned out to be $3700, which seemed a bit too high to me.
This sent me back to rethinking the whole approach. I have to admit that I had not shopped for an HF rig since I bought my Yaesu FT-847 back in the 1990s. The 847 has been my all-time favorite transceiver based on how the controls are set up and the coverage of HF plus 6M, 2M and 70 cm. My only beef with this rig is that the receiver can get overloaded during heavy band usage (like popular HF contests and Field Day). I started thinking about getting an HF + 6 Meter rig to complement the FT-847, which would give me two radios during contests. In particular, for VHF contests, I’d leave the new rig on 6 Meters all of the time and jump around 2 Meters and 70 cm with the FT-847. I also wanted the new HF rig to be very solid on HF and include some of the advanced features for DXing and contesting.
Soon I was looking at all of the radios that cover HF through 50 MHz. That’s when I really got sticker shock — the FT-DX9000D costs over $10k, the IC-7800 costs $12.5k, the IC-7700 is $7200, and so forth. All of these radios look like fine gear but I was unwilling to invest that much in a transceiver for the cabin. I quickly redirected my radio hunt to something below $2500, looking at the IC-7410 ($1900), FT-950 ($1350) and TS-2000 ($1575). In the end, I chose the FT-950 due to its price advantage and the ability to share accessories (microphones, mostly) with my FT-847.
I got the radio just in time for Field Day, where I gave it a good work out on 14 MHz, 21 MHz and 50 MHz. Wow, did it work great! The receiver performed very well even when the band was packed. In the heat of the battle, I pushed a wrong button or two and sent the rig off to some new and wonderful frequency. Yes, I did take the time to read the manual but I’ll have to spend some more time with it. This thing has enough features that it will take some time to master it.
-73, Bob K0NR