Which HF radio to buy.

Submitted: Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 19:50
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I was considering buying a satellite phone but after a lengthy discussion with VKS737 members at the the Queanbeyan 4wd show I am now thinking that a HF radio may be a better option.

At the show I looked at a Barrett and a Codan and saw that Icom also have a unit. The Codan seemed to be a good option with the remote handset but maybe there are features on the others that would make them a better choice.

Any suggestions on which unit to buy would be greatly appreciated.

regards

John
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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:01

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:01
Codan NGT is far in advance of any other model.
Do your own comparison but there is nothing on the market that will match it.

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Follow Up By: Member - Leigh (Vic) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:18

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:18
Tend to agree with John but shop around!!
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Follow Up By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:26

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:26
Again I agree with John. But again, shop around. I got mine from Lake Maquarie Comms for a good price and then got it fitted locally (saved lots of $$$). Also look at different HF networks such as HFoZ and the HF Club for your network. HFoZ has data logging, email and TXT available. I still belong to VKS737 but find their restrictions a pain. Again, do your homework and go with what is best for you.
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Reply By: racinrob - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:45

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 20:45
I'll admit to bias, I have a Codan NGT which I think is the best and I belong to The HF Radio Club which I also think is the best but as others have said, shop around and get what suits you.
The HF Radio Club will sell you a second hand radio, fit it, set up all your channels and show you how to drive it. They have base stations on both the east and west coasts, a telephone interconnect facility and a terrific social net work.
Rob VKE237 HF Radio Club
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Follow Up By: Isuzumu - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 21:10

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 21:10
I agree with Rob about the HF Radio Club and they have some great gatherings, I own a Barrett and I think there is one sale in the trader, give you an idea of what their worth.
Cheers Bruce
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Follow Up By: snailbait (Blue mntns) - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 14:05

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 14:05
hi i am with you
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Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:26

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:26
I have a Codan NGT and use that exclusively.

Its not easy to use. I have the programming software so I can change frequencies etc but if you are reliant on dealers it can be expensive and inconvenient. Especially if you live in a city of only 360,000 people and there is no dealer.

The cheapest, and not necessarily kosher, option is to unlock a ham radio and use that. Save thousands of dollars. You don't get selcall but that's a bit superfluous anyway. Yaesu lend themselves very well to such mods. The neatest and newest is probably the Yaesu 857D.

Modifying the 857D requires a bit of soldering de-soldering links, but at a cost of $740 US is a bargain.

Bob
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Follow Up By: Member - John (Vic) - Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:37

Monday, Feb 15, 2010 at 22:37
Have read of this thread for the arguments over use of Non type approved sets and the issues involved.

Bob I think you advice aside from being illegal is just wrong on this point.

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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 03:25

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 03:25
Rob

Please don't recommend people break the law.

What's wrong with doing it the legal way. You could also do the courses and get your callsign. Pass the exams and for $70 per year you can have access to every amateur band from HF to daylight. Satellites and world wide repeater linking. Internet linking. Phone links. And thousands of operators who don't swear on the radio (kids and mum may like this bit). And all the video and digital stuff as well. There are also many travellers nets that do the same as VKS but on a world wide basis. And for free. But of course it is nice to pay for the poor blokes phone calls he may make for you. Most people do.

I used to link the people in the Antarctic up with family and friends here in Oz. Cost; a local phone call or totally free. Microphone and speaker on the coffee table and they chatted for ages. All hands free.

Don't need morse now either to get the basic licence.

Besides you don't have to spend money getting someone to illegally modify the radio and totally blow all warranty and after sales service. Hefty fines in the thousands for the worst cases. More than likely, loss of radio initially. And they do not need a warrant to search. Well! they didn't at one stage.

VKS and other similar systems are designed for just this purpose and excellent for the unlicensed operator. From what I have seen, cell call is a must.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Bob of KAOS - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 19:04

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 19:04
John and Phil

I'm not advising or recommending, just informing.

And it turned the thread from a Codan v. Barrett debate along the lines of a Waeco v. Nissan v. Bridgestone v. Iridium into something a bit more interesting and brought out a few good responses.

I would never advocate use of the amateur bands by unlicensed people.

Bob
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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 20:10

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 20:10
TO JDBB. Get the right one. Apparently there are plenty of second hand ones legal around and then you can get access to this stuff with a free conscience;

Scroll down to see VKS services

Now . . . Bob

What does this mean? You are telling them there there is a cheaper way out. I would call that guidance. Quote: "The cheapest, and not necessarily kosher, option is to unlock a ham radio and use that". Why telll them you can do it if its illegal. And why use "kosher" instead of "illegal" Subtle use of a "lessor" stringent word in the place of "illegal". Missguiding again.

To anyone else that wants it all again and again: Read on.

From VKS "The use of base station equipment, amateur radio equipment or fixed antennas are NOT permitted on the VKS-737 Radio Network". No matter how you gloss it up its not allowed.

No doubt if you read other 4WD HF providers sites you will find the same comments.

ACMA stipulates that either the equipment or the operators that use the Electromagnetic Spectrum (read radio) must be licenced. Either the equipment or the operator. Not necessareily both but it does happen.ever neither as you propose. CBs are type approved. That's why you do not need a licence. Amateur transceivers are not licenced. The operator is. Not you. Ergo it's illegal to use it as you describe. Modified or not. Ask both ACMA and VKS. I bet they will agree with me.

But if you like breaking the law it just shows how selfish and irresponsible you are.

I cannot understand how you guys think using modified kit is okay.

Phil I'm out of here.




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Follow Up By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:25

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:25
A midified ham set will also not include the button to send alarm codes necessary to wake up a RFDS station.

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Follow Up By: Member - Mark E (VIC) - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 22:05

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 22:05
Bob,

Probably not a great idea to advertise the fact that you have the programming software for the NGT. It has not been released for use by the general public and it copyright to Codan Pty Ltd. They would NOT be impressed that you have access to this and I believe would pursue you vigorously if they got wind of this.

I also agree with the comments above on the use of amateur sets on the commercial bands.....and yes I have heard all the various arguments and have seen the results of long term use of these sets on corrugated roads. I choose to stick with the LEGAL way.

Cheers,

Mark

Codan 9323.
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Reply By: Member - Angus E (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 08:24

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 08:24
John,

I bought a Barrett 550 last year for $1000. It was easy to self install and I find it easy to use. For 4-6 weeks holidays a year and the odd weekend, I couldn't justify the cost of a new or even newer set.

Although many years old, when I needed a new EPROM to get the telcall working, Barrett head office bent over backwards to assist and I had the part within 2 days.

I joined up with the Bush Telegraph Network run by Wayne Reid at Reids Radio Data, based at Cowra www.reidsradiodata.com.au. They have just installed an additional (and new) Codan telephone interconnect at the Cowra base, which is much clearer for telephone calls.

The skeds are run by the HF Radio Club.


Angus
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Follow Up By: get outmore - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 10:22

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 10:22
so many people pay 4k pluss for the best on the market
- and then use it just for VKS skeds using only 2 channels

for alot of people a good second hand unit and multi tap will do the same job as a 4k unit for about a thousand or less
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 11:14

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 11:14
Probably best to stay mainstream and choose either Barrett or Codan - both designed, manufactured and widely serviced and supported in Australia. Icom is highly respected of course but expert service (if ever needed) while travelling may be an issue. Qmac is around too; that make is part of the Barrett stable now. Barrett radios tend to be cheaper than Codan units but both have their devotees, including high end technology users. There are plenty of good used units on offer usually - the HF club have units as mentioned above... VKS737 has a market page.... see the Trader page here plus the usual classifieds. I use a Barrett 950 system and can't find a reason to upgrade yet.
Re Bob's comment above - to modify non approved radios for use with the licence you would get through a club is against federal law - note that all of the HF clubs and service providers religiously comply with every aspect of their ACMA licence; to lose it would be a disaster for them - so it follows that they formally require all members to commit to full compliance with the law too. As for selcall being superfluous - quite the contrary - selcall is the foundation of most of the desirable functions available on HF today.
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Reply By: jdbb - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 20:12

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 20:12
Thanks for all the replies - much appreciated.

From what I have read it appears you must join an organisation to get access to various frequencies - is that right?

Can you get access to the RFDS frequencies?

I have come across three organisations so far - VKS737, HF radio club, HFoz. What is the difference between these three?

regards

John




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Follow Up By: racinrob - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 21:47

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 21:47
G'day John.
When you join a club you are authorised to transmit on the frequencies they hold a licence for, ( I am reading this off my permit). It then lists all the frequencies the HF Radio Club VKE237 has licence to which includes The Bush Telegraph VMS469 giving you over twenty channels.
Access to the RFDS ? Yes.
I support the HF Radio Club, they have regular get togethers, have a quarterly magazine and an AM and PM sked which will get you familiar with operating procedure plus they are a friendly mob. If you need more ring the club on 0418 675 451

Rob selcall 6678
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Follow Up By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:28

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:28
Access to the RFDS frequencies for emergency calls is permitted at all times.

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Reply By: Mick O - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 22:41

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 at 22:41
John,

I just want to throw a cat in amongst the pigeons here. Both of these items (satphone and HF) are expensive. Both offer you a totally different range of capabilities. What you haven't mentioned is just what sort of travelling you intend doing to need these options. I have both and I went through exactly the same process as you. HF gives you a great "network" but having attempted to use it last year in the Great Sandy Desert, HF is easily affected by atmospheric conditions and is somewhat limited in respect to getting air time during SCHEDS due to the sheer volume of users. I have seen it work amazingly well from the networking perspective to render assistance. Your call reaches a vast community of like minded individuals out there travelling, however, it's expensive, restrictive and suitable for vehicle use only.

A decent satphone (Iridium..not much else) doesn't offer the community aspect of HF but at the same time it does give you the ability to pick up the phone and call someone from anywhere, at anytime, every time. If you're using it to stay in contact wi\th family and friends, phone for help from a remote roadside or to be contactable by anyone, this is a much better option than a HF. Plus if you qualify for the Govt. subsidy, it's a lot cheaper as well.

My personal experience makes me believe that a satphone is better for my needs as a remote area traveller. I make absolutely no disparaging remarks about a HF at all, I own one. What I am saying is have a good think about YOUR actual needs. What do you want it for. Do you want to report your position to network between 4 and 6 pm or do you want to pick up the phone at the same location and speak to the kids and grandkids? What YOUR needs are should be the decider for you.

Good luck. Mick


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Reply By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 13:20

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 13:20
Hi John,

I went through the same considerations as you last year before heading off into the lands less travelled. We chose HF because of the community aspect - Satphone can be used to call for help but with HF someone can be the other side of the hill and jump in and provide immediate assistance.

We picked up a second hand Codan set on ebay for under $700 with an auto tune. A new eprom with all the necessary frequencies was another $70. It is only a basic 8525 without selcall but has worked fine for our trips. We joined the VKS 737 network which seems to have the most members and the sked system works for us. There are other options which have been mentioned above.

I would go for one with selcall which gives you better access to the networks and the option of making telephone calls as well.

You could pick up a good second hand Codan 9323 Or Barrett 550 with autotune for under $2K second hand which would suit most uses.

Regards

Pete
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