Things That Just Work

Like so many hams I have developed firm opinions about what does and does not work for me, but I don't make blathering blanket statements about products ("This is the bestest radio ever made and I luv it sooooo much!"). I tend to be a little more discerning. In some cases a LOT more discerning. But I also don't feel like writing multi-page reviews. So... this page will just be my laundry list of things Amateur Radio related that 'just work'. In other words, these are things I can personally recommend. The list will change over time so stop back occasionally for updates.

Need more information on anything on this list? Drop me a line - w8byh@arrl.net

Radios
  • Icom ID-51 - an excellent dual band/dual receive handheld that also does D-STAR. One of the few radios made today that just feels good in the hand
  • Yaesu VX-6R - reliable as a brick. Period
  • Icom 7200 - my go-to digital system for WinLink. Perhaps the easiest, most drama-free digital radio setup I've ever experienced. Plus, with the factory grab handles it looks manly - like a radio should
  • Icom 7300 - Icom's entry level SDR HF radio, and the radio has re-defined the concept of 'entry level'. The radio is simply amazing. I've been running mine almost every day for over a year, mainly on MARS frequencies. It's an elegant workhorse.
Headsets
  • Heil Pro Set Elite - expensive, but the best sounding, most comfortable set of cans I've ever put on my fat melon
  • Heil Handi Talkie Headsets - Bob Heil got it right with these headsets. (Very) reasonably priced, well made, great sound, extremely versatile. I have one for every model of HT that I own
Antennas
  • MyAntennas End Fed Wire Antenna - A number of local hams have been singing the praises of this antenna and I figured I'd give it a try. What helped was a technical forum I attended where they speaker discussed his testing of the antenna and the best way to deploy it (hint - ground the antenna and use a common mode choke). When I got it up I was amazed - it tuned almost flat across most bands from 10 - 40 meters and was quite manageable on 80.
  • Anything by Ed Fong - Ed Fong, WB6IQN, is one of those unique folks that pop up in ham radio. In Ed's case he's a talented electrical engineering professor and inventor who's also a ham radio geek. Ed has designed a series of twin lead j-pole antennas that 'just work'
  • Alpha-Delta DX-CC - I put one up in a tree over 15 years ago and it survived hurricanes and ice storms. Talked around the world on it. Rugged as heck. The only reason it stopped working is because the tree got blown down. I went right out and bought another. They can be a pain to assemble, but once they are up and tuned the performance is outstanding. Best bang for the buck in a multi band dipole
  • Chameleon MPAS system - there's a lot of fanboys out there hyping Chameleon antennas, but for once the product lives up to its hype. This is an excellent and versatile portable antenna system that is rugged and easy to set up. If I could own only one portable antenna system this would be it
  • Chameleon EMCOMM II - when I got back into ham radio a few years back I used one of these as my primary antenna, set up in the NVIS configuration. I didn't talk around the world on it, but I did talk all over the southeast and into the upper midwest - on only 5 watts. A very rugged and effective antenna and one of the Chameleon series that can be left up as a permanent installation
  • Diamond SRH -320A - a tri-band HT antenna that's effective but doesn't feel like it's going to snap off the SMA connector on your radio
  • Arrow Antenna Open Stub J-Pole - this is one of those items that didn't get used for its intended role (permanently set up at my QTH) but filled another role superbly. I use it as a field site antenna, mounted on a tripod. Outstanding performance and rugged as hell
Antenna Tuners
  • LDG - I've been using LDG's brand specific tuners for years. Every one I've used has worked great
  • MFJ-904H - I've used various MFJ manual tuners on and off for years and they all seemed to work OK, but the 904H hits a sweet spot - relatively small, has a wide tuning range, a built in balun for random wire antennas and can tune balanced feedlines. It's the only MFJ tuner I've loaned out but told the borrower I wanted it back
Antenna Supplies & Accessories
  • MFJ 259 Antenna Analyzer - yeah, OK. Mighty Fine Junk. But this is one of the more indispensable tools I own. I can't imagine putting up an antenna without it
  • Buddipole tripod - perhaps the best 'made for ham radio' tripod available. Use it with a painters pole or one of the also excellent Buddipole masts
  • Painters poles - need to stick an antenna up the air but there's no trees around? Grab a painters pole and improvise some guy wires. If I didn't know they were originally designed to hold paint rollers I'd swear they were made specifically for ham radio. Inexpensive, rugged and available at any Lowes or Home Depot
  • Alpha-Delta Antenna Switches - rugged and reliable as hell. I've had some that have been in service for over 15 years and see almost daily use. The best solution for switching between antennas and radios
Power Supplies & Accessories
  • Samlex 1223 - I've been running Samlex switching power supplies for years and have never had any issues. Like the Energizer bunny they just keep going and going and going. Clean, reliable 13.8 volts DC
  • Bioenno lithium iron phosphate batteries - Expensive but lightweight, holds a charge forever and gives it up very sparingly when connected to a radio. I have two - a 4.5 ah battery for my QRP rig and a 20 ah for my full size rig. Amazing
  • Anderson Power Poles - they have removed the fear of the dreaded 'reverse polarity monster' and made interfacing radios and power accessories almost seamless
  • RigRunner power distribution blocks - the best way to get power from a power supply to multiple devices. Uses Anderson Power Pole connectors
Miscellaneous
  • Pelican cases - I used to just chuck my radio gear into cardboard boxes or Rubbermaid containers when headed to the field to operate portable, but then I got smart and started using Pelican cases. Prices on these things can be all over the place so shop around, and good used ones are commonly available on eBay. You can also buy replacement 'pluck' foam sets

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