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Old 09-11-2015, 15:54   #1
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SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Hi all, looking to get into SSB radio, and looking for some advice where to start.

Obviously if money was no object I'd get a icom802 with the AT140, but that is pretty much out of my price range right now, esp since I still need to install an antenna and ground.

What are good second hand SSB radios? I was thinking about getting my Ham general license as well, should I get a dual use one? If I got my ham license can I broadcast on marine bands and ham bands, or do I need a marine SSB to use those channels? My first priority is to be able to use the marine SSB channels, but would like the option to use HAM channels as well.

Would something like this be ok?

Yaesu FT-726R VHF Multi mode - SSB/FM/CW transceiver Sooke, Victoria

There is also this

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/ICOM-720A-160...AAAOSwhcJWN~0Y

or this (an actual marine SSB)

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Icom-IC-M710-...AAAOSwI-BWQSO8
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Old 09-11-2015, 16:04   #2
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

There are abundant choices at various price ranges. A good source of info for owner reviews is eHam.net Home - Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community Site which contains reviews on virtual every ham transceiver, old and new as well as marine radios.

Although it isn't kosher to use a ham radio on marine frequencies, many do with no problem as there is virtually no enforcement. The typical technical argument is that ham transceivers don't meet specs for certification as marine radios but, as we now know, that is a moot point.

It was recently revealed the testing specs are skewed in that even the Icom 802 when tested at full output doesn't meet specs. What you will find is that the emission testing was done at reduced output which most radios can meet or exceed if similarly tested.
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Old 09-11-2015, 16:18   #3
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

That Yaesu is not an HF radio - you would have no access at all to the lower HAM and Marine frequencies.

The M710 is an excellent Marine SSB radio that is easily opened to the Ham bands. That price seems very low for even a used one, although you will have to get a mic and work out a power cord for it.

I wouldn't bother with that Icom 720. You will just chase your tail with it. Really, there is such a thing as going too old and cheap in this.

You will still need to buy a coupler for these, as well as work out an antenna and ground plane solution.

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Old 09-11-2015, 16:38   #4
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Ham would probably be the cheapest way to get into HF radio. Have an Icom 718 that I bought used for $400 already opened up for transmission on all HF SSB Bands. To get on the air you'll need to get your ham General License. You should be able to easily pass the exam with a little study of the on line prep. courses. I got mine up and running for a little over a boat unit. Could have done it cheaper if we'd gone with the Icom AH-4 tuner instead of an SGC230.
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Old 09-11-2015, 16:53   #5
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

You can use almost anything as evidenced by the other posts. I use a Yaesu FT-857; which is a rig designed for mobile use. But it's fiddly to operate because a lot of the functions are accessed via menus which is what you get when you loose all that front-panel real-estate. I wrote a blog entry ( www.tweedsworld.com/2014/12/hf-radio-sailm… ) about comms where you can see a pic of the installation at my comms/nav desk.

Make sure that whatever set that you buy, ham or marine, will actually cover all the bands that you want to operate. You'll probably have to wide-band the set if it hasn't already been done so look into that too. It's generally not legal but depends where you are and your own scruples

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Old 09-11-2015, 21:02   #6
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

There is no such thing as a cheap starter radio.

You'll probably try to do it anyways. and it won't work. and then people will tell you what to buy that will work, because nobody knows what the stuff you bought is or why it doesn't work. and you'll have to decide if you want to pay somebody a lot of money to try and figure out what you're doing wrong, or just buy the stuff you should have bought in the first place. and if you pay the radio guy he might come out and say "wtf is this? here's a shopping list"
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Old 09-11-2015, 21:43   #7
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Why do you want SSB? What do you plan to use it for? If it's for email and weather info, and for voice contacts, you can use your proposed ham ticket and an inexpensive ham radio to do this. For email you will need a PACTOR modem ($$), or you can use a computer and the WINMOR program (free). If you don't want to get an automatic antenna tuner, you can concentrate on the 20-meter (14 MHz) ham band using a single-band vertical dipole hoisted up the mast. 20 meters is a very useful band and is open to somewhere in the world 24/7. If you want to work on other bands, a manual antenna tuner can be found for not much money.

This will be the cheapest way to get started, and it's not a bad way to go. It's not going to get you on the marine SSB bands (legally), but it's a good start in radio.
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Old 10-11-2015, 01:28   #8
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
There is no such thing as a cheap starter radio.

You'll probably try to do it anyways. and it won't work. and then people will tell you what to buy that will work, because nobody knows what the stuff you bought is or why it doesn't work. and you'll have to decide if you want to pay somebody a lot of money to try and figure out what you're doing wrong, or just buy the stuff you should have bought in the first place. and if you pay the radio guy he might come out and say "wtf is this? here's a shopping list"
Totally agree with this. One of the things we found as we prepped our boat was do it once and do it right. When we put on the 802 we were a bit cash strapped but we wanted to do it once and do it right and we did. We put on a GAM electronics antenna and a lot of electrical guys here say it does not work - we disagree as it gave us great signal all over the Caribbean from Miami to Colombia to Jamaica to Trinidad and across the Atlantic and now all over the Med.
We also rely on the mantra do it once do it right and for the long term. Has worked for us for over 8 years out here.
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Old 10-11-2015, 01:41   #9
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Look for a used SEA 235 or 235 R.
I liked mine a lot.
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Old 10-11-2015, 03:55   #10
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Not trying to 'jack the thread, but have some fairly relavent questions. For instance.
Does anyone have any tips on how to evaluate the viability (& perhaps probable lifespan) of gear that's already installed on a boat?

For exampe, when looking at a boat, I don't want to immediately piss off the seller by saying that the life left in his gear is unknown, & thus it's value (if any) can't realistically be considered by me, when estimating what a boat's worth, but... Barring going that route, I'm in the dark.

Thus any & all tips would be helpful. Such as a list, & explanation of the top 5 tests which you'd have someone do with their gear to show you how well it works, & if it's worth more than just $20 as spare parts. And similar.

I ask, as I'd surely like to have such gear onboard my next boat. But, if possible, would like to skip the expensive part of the learning curve about such gear.
Thanks

I'm sure that I won't be able to get smart on this stuff like I am in other areas of boat gear, but... A "Cliff Notes" education, & or pointers towards same would be priceless.
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Old 10-11-2015, 04:37   #11
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Quote:
Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post
Not trying to 'jack the thread, but have some fairly relavent questions. For instance.
Does anyone have any tips on how to evaluate the viability (& perhaps probable lifespan) of gear that's already installed on a boat?

For exampe, when looking at a boat, I don't want to immediately piss off the seller by saying that the life left in his gear is unknown, & thus it's value (if any) can't realistically be considered by me, when estimating what a boat's worth, but... Barring going that route, I'm in the dark.

Thus any & all tips would be helpful. Such as a list, & explanation of the top 5 tests which you'd have someone do with their gear to show you how well it works, & if it's worth more than just $20 as spare parts. And similar.

I ask, as I'd surely like to have such gear onboard my next boat. But, if possible, would like to skip the expensive part of the learning curve about such gear.
Thanks

I'm sure that I won't be able to get smart on this stuff like I am in other areas of boat gear, but... A "Cliff Notes" education, & or pointers towards same would be priceless.
Uncivilized - I don't have the answer to your question, but here's some thoughts.

Electronics - The goal posta are constantly moving, so anything over 3 years old has probably had a couple of generations of improvements ince then. Doesn't mean it doesn't work - but it's not the newest thing. My general impression is that most any electronics in the marine environment over 5-6 years old are either dead or have one foot in the grave and the other on a banan peel.

I've read a number of your posts - I suspect you know more about rigging and sails than I ever will - so I won't even try here.

Engines? A good diesel will last forever it it has been cared for and run hot most of the time. As the owner how far it is from his slip ou to the ocean (if it is less than 30 minutes he probably won't have run the engine hot when going out or coming in.) Also ask him his habits - does he motorsail a lot? If so then the engine gets hot and thats fine.

Bearings etc? I'd expect you know a lot about these (I believe you are an engineer?)
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Old 10-11-2015, 09:57   #12
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Quote:
Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post
Not trying to 'jack the thread, but have some fairly relavent questions. For instance.
Does anyone have any tips on how to evaluate the viability (& perhaps probable lifespan) of gear that's already installed on a boat?

For exampe, when looking at a boat, I don't want to immediately piss off the seller by saying that the life left in his gear is unknown, & thus it's value (if any) can't realistically be considered by me, when estimating what a boat's worth, but... Barring going that route, I'm in the dark.

Thus any & all tips would be helpful. Such as a list, & explanation of the top 5 tests which you'd have someone do with their gear to show you how well it works, & if it's worth more than just $20 as spare parts. And similar.

I ask, as I'd surely like to have such gear onboard my next boat. But, if possible, would like to skip the expensive part of the learning curve about such gear.
Thanks

I'm sure that I won't be able to get smart on this stuff like I am in other areas of boat gear, but... A "Cliff Notes" education, & or pointers towards same would be priceless.

For not trying to "jack this thread" you are totally jacking this thread. You would be better off, and this thread would be better off, if you put your valid questions in a new thread. Easy to do. Thanks.
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Old 10-11-2015, 10:12   #13
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Thanks guys for the advice. I'm probably going to use the GAM antenna as most people seem to have had good experiences with it, and the KISS ground.
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Old 10-11-2015, 10:59   #14
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alctel View Post
Thanks guys for the advice. I'm probably going to use the GAM antenna as most people seem to have had good experiences with it, and the KISS ground.
Since you want to save money, you can easily make your own antenna and ground system. The GAM and KISS work well enough (usually), but they're really just wires. You will need an antenna tuner with the GAM, and probably with the KISS.

You can duplicate the GAM by hauling up a length of wire with a spare halyard, and instead of the KISS, look at all the ground system discussions on this site and pick one. It's probably no easier to lay out the KISS than it is to connect a ground strap to a through-hull.

Or, if you don't mind single-band operation for now, hoist up a dipole and there's no need for a tuner, or a fancy ground.
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Old 10-11-2015, 11:53   #15
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Re: SSB radios - which one to get as a cheap starter one?

Hi Alctel,

I personally recommend you go with a marine SSB for several reasons. For one thing, those who do this for a living do say that ham radios do not meet the same standards as marine SSB radios. You can buy a Ham set and open it to marine frequencies but much better to buy a marine SSB and open it to Ham frequencies. Read some of the posts by member ka4wja John from S/V Annie Laurie in the following and other threads on the subject. A good Ham radio might not be too bad but compared to a good marine SSB will put out more interference on adjacent channels when you transmit.

Buy me an Icom ic-7000 instead of Yaesu FT897?

Icom 725, switch to SSB

Also, marine SSBs in general are much more tolerant of lower voltage supply to the radio which is often an issue on boats where the batteries might not always be fully charged.
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