Let’s face it: ham radio is not an inexpensive hobby, am I right? A new ham wanting to get into HF could easily drop over a thousand bucks getting a basic station (like mine) set up. And that’s just the transceiver, power supply, and antenna. A shack computer is not required, but is really helpful (go Raspberry Pi!), and if you want to work digital modes, a USB sound card is also very nice to have. So with the expense of all the basics, I’ve been hesitant to spend a lot of money on accessories. Until today.
A few weeks ago I added a 30m element to my fan dipole. It worked great, except now I couldn’t tune 20m. I figured there was some interaction with the new element that was causing the problem, but I didn’t know exactly how to address it. My friend and elmer, Rick, WØPC, came out with his antenna analyzer and we gave my system a complete work over. I was immediately convinced that this tool should be the next thing on my ham radio wish list.
I had been told by several hams previously how useful an analyzer was, but I thought, “How often would I need such a thing? Would I use it enough to justify the hundreds of dollars?” In the last two months, though, I have had several occasions where I used or could have used an analyzer, so when I saw a sale at Ham Radio Outlet, I jumped on it.
That has me thinking: are there other accessories that would improve my day to day radio experience more than upgrading to the latest and greatest transceiver? I mean, we’ve all heard that being a good ham operator is more about developing skills and experience than spending more on better rigs, bigger amplifiers, and higher towers, right?
For example, my Yaesu FT-450D has a built-in tuner that can handle up to 3:1 SWR. With my dipole system, It works pretty well (now that I got the 30m – 20m problem sorted out). Would I do better with an external tuner? What about a frequency counter? Oscilloscope? Spectrum analyzer? These are all things that, so far, I haven’t seen much of a need for, but is that because I really don’t need it, or is it that, like the antenna analyzer, I just don’t know how useful these things could be?
What accessories have you found to be useful, or even indispensable? Drop me a note and let us know.