Ken Hough's Website
My memories of communications equipment go back as far as the 1950's when R1155's, R107's and AR88's were still widely used. I still get nostalgic twinges when I see these items and would one day like to own one. BUT, from what I see and hear from folks who do own and run old equipment, there can often be problems with reliability and maintenance this kind of equipment. Thermionic valves gradually loose emission, old capacitors tend to go "leaky", carbon based resistors can fail, and ancient rubber based insulating materials become brittle and are liable to fall apart.
There can be little doubt that good quality modern solid state equipment will be capable of significantly higher performance and reliability than vintage items. Modern equipment is better suited to operation on crowded amateur bands and to SSB and data mode operations.
A typical modern all band HF transceiver that is capable of delivering 100 Watts of RF will be significantly smaller and lighter in weight than than say an R1155 receiver only. The integration of receiver and transmitter and use of crystal controlled oscillators in modern equipment makes setting up and operating very much simpler than is the case with older non-integrated equipment. For these reasons, I use modern equipment which I have described below.
However, I am presently building a new valve based transmitter that will operate on the 2m band. This is purely a nostalgic excercise. I have no immediate intention of replacing my present VHF gear.
My current collection:
My comments here should not be taken as any form of advertising, or to suggest superiority of the various items. I have tried to describe the different attributes in a purely objective manner.
Icom PCR1000 computer controlled radio:
This little radio (dimensions 200mm x 130mm x 30mm) has an uninterrupted frequency coverage of 10kHz (yes that's kHz) to 1.3GHz, and can read AM, FM, SSB and CW. It has no built-in controls and must be operated via a serial port or USB to serial adaptor from a PC. Several software programs are available to run the PCR1000. More details about the PCR1000 can be found here.
The PCR1000 is quite an old set (circa 1997), that can be operated via a low spec PC or laptop -- handy to go portable or to check out antennas or frequency calibration of other equipment. Note: PCR1000 is NOT an SDR radio.
Wouxin KG-UV8D2m/70cm handheld FM tranceiver:
A review of this set can be found here.
The KG-UV8D works well -- just the job for foxhunts, and because RF power can be reduced from 5 Watts down to only 1 Watt, it's useful for setting up VHF/UHF antennas.
Yeasu FT-897D HF/VHF/UHF transceiver:
This is a popular and versatile transceiver which covers all HF, 6m, 2m , and 70cm bands. It does not include a built-in ATU. Although providing a competent base station transceiver, it has been designed to be reasonably compact and to be able to contain battery power packs for mobile/portable operation. The front panel is quite small which means that many of the facilities must be accessed via an extensive menus system.
I use the FT897D as my main VHF/UHF set.
Kenwood TS-590S HF/50m transceiver:
The TS590S is primarily for base station operation on the HF/6m bands. It does not cover VHF/UHF bands. There is a built-in ATU. This set weighs approximately 7.5kg!
The front panel of the TS590S covers nearly twice the area of that of the FT897D. This larger front panel allows for more buttons/controls than is possible on the FT897D which makes the TS590S a delight to operate. This is very noticeable when adjusting DSP to extract signals from background QRM, etc.
Manson EP925 12 Volt/30 Amp power supply:
All of the sets mentioned above require an externally applied 12 Volt DC power supply. The EP925 does this job, but it is very heavy! I decided to use a conventional mains transformer/series regulated power unit because there could be no possibility of introducing RF switching noise that might be generated by a more compact switch mode power supply.
Rx/Tx projects for the future:
I have a nostalgic wish to build a valve based transmitter and am progressing this by constructing a 2m FM only transmitter. I have got as far as making up a suitable mains power supply, completing almost all of the metalwork for the chassis of the transmitter, and commissioning the crystal controlled oscillator and frequency multiplier stages -- only the PA stage to complete now. The basic design was taken from the RSGB Communications Handbook, 4th edition 1968, pages 7.17 to 7.19 incl. and uses a 6146 in the PA stage.
I am interested to compare an old style communications receiver with a modern radio. Do modern sets really outperform older sets? Perhaps I shall invest in an old HRO or similar, but just now I'm occupied with other projects.