[CQ-Contest] Best Radio <$1300-Summaries

Mark Adams k2qo at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 17 12:24:29 EDT 2000

Hi Gang,

Super many thanks for all of your comments on my query of "what is the best 
contest radio for <1300 bux." Many of you asked for a summary of the actual 
written comments, not just the data. So here it is. It is LONG.  Many 
comments were repeated by numerous responders, so only representative 
comments were cut-and-pasted into this email. Thanks again!!

Callsigns were omitted to protect the guilty :-)

The Ten-Tec is the best rig, but don't expect computer control to work too 
well. For running in contests I still use my 20-year old Omni-D. I use the 
FT1000MP mainly for working mults. The Omni has the better receiver.

Add the TS-850sat to your list. About $1000 with the two Kenwood 500 Hz 
filters. I have two of them, and have no plans or urge to upgrade.

I have used the 570 & did not impress me at all. I make about 8k contest q's 
a year, used everything from 781's to 1000D's ( at other stations), & I 
honestly belive the 746 I have is darn near the highre priced rigs. I have 
had it for couple months & cannot belive how nice it is!! In my opinion, the 
746 is the way to go for that kind of $$, hands down.

I have been using TS850S's in my contest station for years and still use one 
for the 2nd radio. They are available used with the cw filters ( I used 
2-500HZ jobs ) for around $1000 or less. Mine were very dependable and cw 
performance is not down far from the FT1000MP I am using as the main rig 
now. Check out www.eham.net for product reviews and opinions on the 850S and 

In my opinion, the best contesting radio in that price class is the TS-850. 
It has been the choice of many top contesters. You can even save some of the 
$1300 to improve your antenna system.

Icom 746 is my first choice for you. Get the CW filter, don't need the ssb 
filter. Very good contest rig and you get 2 meters operation also. Seperate 
computer software available for 746 and works fine with Writelog. I'd take 
Icom over the kenwood and the Ten Tec. I had the Ten Tec Omni VI+ and didn't 
hold a candle to 746 (or my 775dsp or 781). Also it has no monitor switch - 
a real pain!

It's not a new rig, but I would recommend a Kenwood TS-850SAT. Should run 
$800-$1000 without filters. I'd also get the 500 Hz Kenwood or the 400 Hz 
IRCI cw filters, which you should be able to find used for about $150 for 
the pair.

Think I'd buy a used 765 and use leftover $$ for small (sb200 like) amp. 
Should be able to get a IC 765 for around 8oo or so then there's plenty of 
500 w amps around cheap. The 765 with the filters is a hell of a cheapo rig! 
TS 930's are good too..best rx next to 950sdx

I'd been a dyed-in-the-wool QRO CW contester for 40 years before building 
the basic K2 kit (now $579). I'd also resisted buying a new rig because I'd 
never found a radio which I felt was as well-designed and operated as well 
as my venerable TS-930. Well, the K2 changed all that! It's got all the 
really nice features of the '930, plus several new features as well. It 
really _is_ a great CW contest rig.

Mark, first of all, a used TenTec is going to be about the best you can get. 
The factory will have gone all over it, and you can be sure it is in tip top 
condition. My VI+ is the best cw rig I've ever had. Now, you do need the 
additional filters in the Omni, but you can add them as you can afford them. 
At some point, you can even upgrade the thing to a VI. Mine started out that 

A number of our club guys have bought IC-746s and are pretty pleased with 
them. While it might not be as good as a FT-1000 on the bottom end of 40 CW 
in CQWW, I've heard no bad reports. Plus, the 100W on 50 and 144 MHz opens 
some new opportunities. The ICOM would be my choice.

Get a TS850 and load it with IRC filters.

The OMNI-V is a fine rig, with an exceptional receiver, but it lacks a few 
key contesting features, most notably, RIT. Try running Russians in a CW 
contest with no RIT on your rig! :)

For my money, buy a used IC765

Consider a TS-850 (used) with INRAD 400 hz filters.

Mark, if you're primarily a CW operator, as I am (QRPer, too!) you can't go 
wrong with the Omni V. As you probably know, from having used T-T rigs, they 
are the choice of the CW operator.

In short, if my only interest was CW DX and contesting on the HF bands, I 
might opt for the Omni V, but because the TS-570 is more versatile, more 
portable, has more features and is newer, I think I would go with it. Good 

I'd hunt for a used rig with more features. The Icom 765 (not 756) might be 
found in that $ range. Great contesting rig! Even a Icom 751A is a better 
rig than the 746 IMHO. The Omni is of course a very good radio as well.

I too am a QRP contester, although not in the purist since since my
rigs (most) have been capable of more power....so...... my suggestion would 
be to get a rig that you can turn down to QRP level.. I think the TenTec you 
mentioned would work while I don't know about the others.
Being an old TenTec user...now FT1000MP...you will probably be disapointed 
with anything other than TT since that is what you have been using.

Consider a used Kenwood TS850. I have seen them for $850 or so on eham. They 
are a good CW radio with CW Rerverse, built in keyer and memory for 4 
messages (voice memory needs DRU2 option but CW does not), excellent 
receiver performance and good workhorse.

The TS-850 is better for contesting in my opinion than the 570 -- (I have 
both.) It's one of the best contesting radios period, I think -- almost all 
the features you need, yet simple. Excellent selectivity. Pick up a late 
model 850 for $1000 or less then spring for some International Radio filters 
and you'll be set.

I bought a Kenwood TS570D when they first came out and I love it. It's a lot 
of radio for the money. It's also compact and nice to travel with.
I've been on contest/dxpeditions to KP4, C6A, V2 and VP2M with it amd its 
never failed. I used it in last years cw CQWW from V26K, and AA3B and myself 
made over 14 million points, so needless to say its gotten heavy continuous 
use pushing an amp under nonstop contest enviorments with unstable island 
voltages and it performs like a champ. Understand that it won't perform like 
a $4000 radio but for the money you can't beat it.

I'd buy the IC746. It is a nice rig, has computer control, and has six 
meters. The Omni V is a nice rig also, but my experience with Ten Tec rigs 
since 1981 is that the rigs have to be sent back to the factory frequently 
for repairs. They do good repair work, but it isn't cheap. My IC736 has been 
working since early 1995 with no problems and no instability of the VFOs, 
which was always a problem every few years with my Ten tec rigs. Whichever 
rig you buy, be sure to get the cw filters.

I have a TS570DG that I use as a second radio. You can buy a mint one used 
for $700-750 or so (there's no reason to buy a new one at all, since you can 
get used ones that are only a year or so old). I love the radio, but don't 
recommend it for cw contesting, since the agc reacts to strong signals 
nearby that you don't hear. This pumping effect means that it desensitizes 
the radio and makes it very difficult to copy weak signals next to strong 
ones. This is a problem with many cheaper radios, and occurs on the 570 even 
with the Kenwood 500Hz filter installed. I asked International Radio if they 
had any filters that could help, and they basically said that due to the 
design of the radio, it was hopeless. In all other respects the 570 is a 
great rig (and it's much better for ssb contesting). I'd strongly consider a 
used TS850S. They run $800-900 or so, and are supposed to be great rigs. A 
used TS940 or Icom 765 would also be a stong contender.

There really is no comparison between the Omni V and the 746/570S. The Omni 
V uses the same receiver as the Omni-VI and will top anything currently 
available from the Japanese. Computer control, though, for the Omni V may be 
problematic due to its' age and what software you are using.

Honest opinion (and I'm sure you'll get a lot, hi!)...spend the $1300 on a 
Kenwood TS-850S/AT fully loaded with InRad filters plus a Timewave 599zx 
DSP. Most contesters will agree that the TS-850 is one of the best 
contesting rigs ever produced short of the FT-1000 series rigs. Definitely 
the best "bang for buck" in today's market. The '850 is well proven in 
contesting on both CW and SSB.

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