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Best SSB 2 Meter Radio?

Discussion in 'VHF/UHF - 50Mhz and Beyond' started by KE7RUX, Nov 9, 2017.

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  1. W2WDX

    W2WDX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Antenna height is what matters, directivity next and low noise & loss as well. I have a pair of phased horizontal loops, but only use them for close in ragchew work. You probably have a lot more activity in your region than you think. You just can't hear it.

    As far as radios, I had a few FT-221R. I had some difficulty with the receive on them. I eventually got one with the Mutek board (I still have it) and it was a big improvement. However, once I got my first FT-736R I began to realize what great receive meant for SSB weak signal work, especially on tropo. (I have tried quite a few radios, many of those mentioned here, over the years and still go back to the 736R to this day). I now have a Cushcraft 13el yagi with a really great low-noise mast mounted LNA up at around 65' and the FT-736R is a beast on receive. I can hear stations who can't hear me, even with the Commander 144-VHF kilowatt I run! I also have a Flex 5000 with the 2m board, but I just can't believe the FT-736R is better on receive, yet it is.

    I use good Times Microwave LMR-600 up to the antennas. I use a mast mounted LNA with a .4dB noise figure and a 15 MHz internal bandpass filter on the input on a sequencer, so I don't amplify the noise on the coaxial or amplify out of band signals from the antenna, which always exist on 2M. Never use a preamp in an amplifier or near the radio end. You're just amplifying all the noise built up on the run down to the radio, which can often bury the weakest more distant SSB signals. Signal to noise ratio is a literal thing on 2m antenna systems used for weak signal SSB. You want as little noise as possible compared to the signal you are receiving.

    Don't get me started on trying to get good grounding on VHF. It's really difficult and requires very specific engineering to get anything even partially effective, yet it is still very important from a noise perspective.

    The point is if you do not give the radio a great high-gain, low-noise, very high and directive antenna, any serious 2M SSB work that is DX in nature just isn't going to happen no matter how good the radio is. You will only reap the benefit of a great radio if it has a well engineered antenna system as high up as practical. VHF/UHF SSB DX is much more challenging than HF in actuality. You can string up a wire and work the world on HF. With VHF ... everything has to be engineered well or you're just gonna hear noise, and never hear those tiny signals ping-ponging through those weird and elusive atmospheric waveguides.

    All that being said ... I do love the FT-736R. Still an awesome SSB radio for VHF/UHF DX.

    BTW, I do have a nice one (144/440) up for sale in the Swapmeet forum.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
    KO4LZ and N4FZ like this.
  2. N4FZ

    N4FZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Excellent information John, very nice website! Thank you!
  3. N7XCZ

    N7XCZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree there is no best, but I am pretty happy with my IC9700 always been a Yaesu guy but liked what the 9700 had to offer even with the frequency drift I worked an EME contact with it, my 1st one.:)
  4. KC9CUK

    KC9CUK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had 99% of the rigs that have been mentioned. I also for fun had 5 of them at the same time hooked up so I could switch between rigs and compare I tested 10 or so in total. Multiple hams in the Chicago land area can vouch for my vhf/uhf obsession. The results were as follows. The TS-2000 when properly used on 2m SSB with the preamp on held its own and was not the best but far from the worst. The Kenwood TS-790a was the best radio at pulling out weak signals, the 736r was a close 2nd and used it as my 220 ssb station. The ic-706IIg was by far the worst but totally usable (I tested a 2nd one same results). The FT-857d was very good and really surprised me. The IC-910H was good but not that impressive on par with the FT-857d and other cheaper radios (very good but not great like the 790 or 736). the ic-7000 was also ok but not amazing similar to the ts-2000. Others like the tr-9000,ft290r,ic-275a,tr-751 all performed about the same an interesting note make sure you test the radios with a good pair of headphones or an external speaker it can make a big difference. That is my 2 cents and you are going to take away anything for this all of the radios tested are totally usable and only very weak signals barely auditable brought out the clear winners. I am talking about signals right at the noise floor or beacons below s1 with no s reading only audio being heard. If the signals or beacons had a meter reading of 1 or 2 s-units most of the radios could hear them well enough to make a contact. The bottom line get a all mode radio and get it on the air we need more vhf/uhf ssb traffic!
  5. N5PNZ

    N5PNZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just recently I was given a ICOM 260a Multi mode 2 meter radio to get me back on 2 meter SSB. I don't know how it compares to modern rigs and can only compare it to my old KLM Multi 2700. The KLM was a large mid 70s vintage with dual vfo's, 10 meter sat receiver, very low noise (for it's vintage) after market preamp installed. On board power supply. Loved it and made many long distance contacts with it's 10 watts and a 8 element yagi. It was especially fun when I was the only 2 meter ssb operator in a grid square in far north Maine. My friend Paul (N1BUG 130 miles south)) would set up contacts with the rest of the New England and beyond. With his much bigger station he would get them to aim their antennas up my way and they could get a hard to get grid and county. Unfortunately the KLM lost it's upper side band a second time and parts were very difficult to find
    Now the ICOM does not hear quite as well but I am making contacts with it's 10 watts. Most of them are too the credit of the other stations having great antennas. The ICOMs vintage is late 70s to 1980. It is small (mobile sized), a lot crammed onto the face, the S meter is tiny and not very sensitive but it does work and I am making contacts out a couple hundred miles when openings occur.

    That said: Get a working transceiver. Brand is not really important, though as noted above some do better than others. To me this little ICOM works great.... especially compared to not having one at all. Antenna is probably most important. I consider my little 8 element to be the bottom side of adequate. Additional power and a low noise receive preamp will make a big difference too. After you get going and find that you enjoy it, then you can upgrade as your budget allows.
  6. K4JDH

    K4JDH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Coming in late on this. Recently I was invited to join a 2M SSB group. I said that my Kenwood TS-2000 had never passed 2M SSB and that my antenna was vertical. I was told that all the members were vertical so come on. I did. I was pleased with the performance but have no point of reference. Yes, I am a Kenwood fan.

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