How Much Does That Second Band Cost?

I encourage newly licensed radio amateurs to go ahead and get a dual-band FM rig…handheld, mobile or both. I think the additional cost of the dualbander with both 2 Meters (146 MHz) and 70 cm (440 MHz) is justified by having the ability to operate on the additional ham band. I have noticed that the price of the single-band 2 Meter mobiles are pretty low, less than $200… a real bargain in terms of technology. This made me wonder what the price premium for the second band (70 cm) really is.

I pulled all of these prices from the same major ham radio web site, trying to keep some consistency among the price of the various models. (I ignored specials and coupon pricing.) I looked at a basic 2 Meter FM rig and any comparable dual band models from the same manufacturer. I tried to stick to the basic transceivers and not include models that had advanced features such as D-STAR and APRS in them.

The data is captured in the table below. Note that I differentiated between a single receiver (one frequency at a time) dual-band radio and a two receiver dual-band radio, since the latter variety is much more expensive. I calculated a percent premium for each of the dual-band transceivers, calculated as the percent increase in price over the single-band radio from the same manufacturer. I think this is the most objective way to describe the extra cost of a dual-band radio.

Transceiver Price Bands Percent Premium
Yaesu FT-2900R $185 2M
Yaesu FT-7900R $330 2M/70cm 78%
Yaesu FT-8800R $460 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 149%
ICOM IC-2300H $260 2M
ICOM IC-2820H $670 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 158%
Alinco DR-135T $170 2M
Alinco DR-635T $320 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 88%
Kenwood TM-281A $145 2M
Kenwood TM-V71A $395 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 172%

It is worth noting that only Yaesu and Alinco offer a single-receiver dual-band rig. These two radios are 78% and 88% more expensive than their single band counterparts (less than twice the cost). The two-receiver dual-band radios are consistently more expensive, with a price premium ranging from 149% to 172%. While these rigs are often described as having two radios in one, they are more than twice as expensive as a single-band radio.

Although I appreciate the extra utility of the two-receiver radios, it looks to me like the best value is with the single-receiver dual-band rigs.

What do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

  1. #1 by Josh Myer AJ9BM on 18 September 2012 - 9:35 pm

    That’s a neat way of looking at it. I’ve got a VX-6R which I really like now that I’m doing HF work: it’s a decent transmit monitor on any ham band, since it can receive them all. The horrible performance of the ducky on those bands is actually a feature (“built in attenuator for strong local signals”).

    I tell all my friends to get a Puxing or UV-5R for their first HT. They’re kind of confusing and crappy, but they’re not horribly worse than the entry-level HTs from the big names. And they cost well under $100, so it’s a good “toe in the water” for people.

  2. #2 by K0NR on 18 September 2012 - 9:49 pm

    Josh, my analysis of the mobile radios was pretty clean. If I tried to do it with handheld radios, the low cost radios out of China would have muddied the waters. They may soon muddy the mobile transceiver waters, too.

    I have a Baofeng UV-5R and like it a lot for what it is and what it does. I am reluctant to recommend it to a newbie, since it is difficult to use…especially for a new ham.

    73, Bob K0NR

  3. #3 by Bryan on 19 September 2012 - 5:48 am

    I find that operating experience is a prime factor for whether or not one should get a dual receiver rig or just dual band. For a new Ham, hearing two conversations going on at the same time on different bands can get confusing. It’s really easy to accidentally transmit on the wrong band, possibly causing interference.

  4. #4 by Michael N1EN on 19 September 2012 - 7:31 am

    I think it depends on operating style.

    Even though both of the rigs I use for VHF (1 mobile, 1 shack) are dual-receiver models, I rarely listen to more than one side at a time.

    In the shack, I have a Kenwood 710, because I do some packet work. One side is packet, the other voice. There have been a couple of stormy days where it was handy to be able to listen to two different Skywarn nets…but I could have done that using an HT in addition to the higher-power transceiver.

    In the Jeep, I have a Kenwood 71. For the most part I only use one VFO at a time. However, there are three cases where I do make use of the dual VFO feature:

    1. Once a week, I have a commute that is 120 miles each way. I have one bank of frequencies for repeaters that are worth monitoring during the first half of the commute on one VFO, and another bank of frequencies for the last half of the commute on the other VFO. This arrangement makes it a little more practical to scan with a minimum of fuss while driving.

    (Just having one bank wouldn’t work, unless you really want to worry about questions such as “which 41 machine am I on?” while dodging crazed commuters.)

    2. I do enjoy playing on the FM satellites. Depending on the model, having a dual VFO rig can make full duplex operation possible.

    3. There have been three occasions in which I’ve had a use for cross-band repeat. For me, this isn’t enough of a reason to go out and buy a more expensive transceiver….but perhaps that might influence someone’s decision.

    With all that said… A single-VFO 2m transceiver would probably be sufficient for my needs. But what fun is a hobby if you don’t get to indulge in a “want” every now and then? :)

  5. #5 by Matthew NR0Q on 19 September 2012 - 7:25 pm

    I have the Yaesu FT-8900 because most of the time I am on 2m and 70cm and it’s nice to be able to scan on one side while talking on the other. And occasionally I am on 6m or 10m and monitoring the local 2m or scanning at the same time.

  6. #6 by Tom N7ROK on 19 September 2012 - 7:42 pm

    Initially, I bought single-band 2M mobile that I used as both a mobile and a base. Why single band? Because at my QTH, almost all the traffic was on 2 meters. Later I added a multi-band radio to pick up the 220, 440, and 6-meter bands, and that came in handy when I started working in a place that had extensive traffic in those bands. But to start? Maybe pick what is active locally and start with that band or bands.

  7. #7 by K0NR on 21 September 2012 - 9:52 pm

    Great comments.
    Bryan, I agree on the operating experience issue. A dual receiver radio can get kind of confusing.
    Michael, when I find the “other band” not being used, I just put it on 146.52 MHz…you never know who might show up there cruising down the highway.

    73, Bob

  8. #8 by Hans PD0AC on 22 September 2012 - 3:13 am

    Here activity is equally divided, so a dual band is the way to go. There’s more to it than price alone though. Living in ‘Intermod Alley’ narrows down my choices. Bad front ends still exist, unfortunately.

    Unless you want to set up an Echolink node, the Kenwood TMV-71 can be best avoided. The Alinco DR-635 does a better job, still not perfect though. The Yaesu rigs can handle most unwanted signals reasonably well.

    The Chinese manufacturers still have a lot to learn. Last week I finalized testing and reviewing the long awaited Wouxun KG-UV920R. While the receiver could match most Yaesu rigs, disappointing harmonic suppression and unreliable rotary encoders messed up the party.



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