Help! Choosing New Rigs &

I have used traditional circuit designed rigs since my first licensure in 1987 and with the exception of one my radios these have all been base stations. After being off the air for five years I started reading up on the latest ham technology. The upshot was that this winter I decommissioned three rigs which were either partially inoperable or showing their ages (30+ years old for them all). Time to come into the 21st century. The upshot is that I decided that I really want radios that are usable outdoors. And I am thrilled to have learned about SDR! I have ordered a uBITX to build and next week will purchase a new QRP rig. So I’d appreciate your insights in selecting a SOTA-friendly one.

I have read up on both the FT 817ND (I know there is an FT 818 coming out but I don’t want to wait) and the LD-11. I realize that the former is traditional circuitry and the later is SDR. Tell me your impressions of each, please…rx, tx, audio, ease of use, etc… Why would I want one over the other? Or perhaps there are others that you would recommend?

I also want to eventually buy a small amplifier to use with this radio in the shack, and possibly in the field. I have read up on the Hardrock-50, HF Packer, Tokyo Hy-Power, WiMo HLA-150V-Plus, and others. ***My biggest question is how does SDR technology respond to amplification? I consider a good antenna to be of much more importance than an amp. So questions into antennas will be forthcoming in the future. But I want to use this QRP rig at home connected to the wire arrays I will put up this summer on my farm, and a bit of power may go a long way in certain conditions on CW, which is what I like to operate.

I also am looking at getting a 5 band Mountaintopper…but am not so concerned about adding power to that.

Thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate your input as I have some trepidation hooking up power to a technology with which I am yet so unfamiliar.



(Elecraft is definitely out of my price range and as such is something I would also have a hard time justifying taking into the field.)

As far as I can tell, the Elecraft KX2 ($770) is $25 LESS expensive than the LD-11 ($795). That’s the way I’d go.

73, Barry N1EU

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Just my 2 cents. If you go the 817 (818) route as well as an amp, why not a KX3 or KX2. A KX2 with 12 watts and a good antenna system would be a great set-up.


The FT-817 was first sold in 2000, so it is not new technology. You would be replacing your 30+ year old rigs with an 18 year old design. It is a very good design, but it has some limitations: no internal ATU, no CW filter, and no speech compressor.

I have an Elecraft KX3, a design nearly seven years old, but it has had some nice firmware updates, like a boost from 12 W to 15 W in 2015.

Elecraft has sold over 10,000 KX3 rigs, and they do show up used. Those were designed as a trail-ready radio, so they are tougher than they look.

I think starting with a uBITX is a fantastic idea. Use that for a while and think whether you need something more.


Good points Wunder, especially about KX3 being more robust than given credit for. I enjoy my 817, sometimes I do QRP mobile and in today’s vehicles radio space is minimal and I know that the KX2, for instance, fits so much easier than the 817 - and better performance as well.


…okay! I was looking at the package cost, not just for the KX2. I will read up on it. And the LD-11 is a 6 month wait.

No problem adding an amp?

There you go, I forgot all about those. Cheap, but still good if you are handy. I got one on order that should be here anytime now. It will be my back up / sometimes replacement to my KX2.

…I was amazed when I saw that rig in the vids! Can’t wait. They said they are working on new kits and will ship in a couple weeks. Prompt reply from them on the order…

The HLA150 comes with a cable for PTT that will work fine with the KX2.

I agree with Wunder, Craig,
start with the uBix being a kit (well not really, it’s a pre-assembled board all you add is the controls, sockets etc) - you can mount this in a really solid (but still small and light) box ready for the trail. If you go slightly larger on the box you can have space for the box to hold the battery as well. If you don’t use a resonant antenna you could possibly also have an ATU in your box (I don’t believe the uBix comes with an ATU). If an amplifier is needed, I would have it as a separate box.
If you outgrow the uBix you can look at FT817/818 KX2/3 etc as by then you’ll know which features are important to you.

Good luck and above all enjoy - 73 Ed.

Hi Craig

Choosing the right rig for the activator is just as bad as picking a new car.
I have got several rigs that all tend to be used on a summit or for a quick activation when work allows.

Below is radios and what type of activations I use them for;

  • FT817nd- lazy one day summit activation day, try to work as many bands/modes as possible.
  • KX2 with internal atu- Also my shack rig but tend to use for a muliple summit activation day when I get the chance, the cw decoder comes in handy when I am bit out of practice.
  • LNR MTR- I use this for overnight camping trips activating over two days, have search on the reflector for the 1kg thread.
  • VHF Handheld- This has replaced my ft817 for wet weather activations and I carry it as a backup radio with a coaxail 1/4 antenna attaches to the telescopic pole.

I started out with the ft817nd as my first rig and will still keep hold it, still a good bit of kit. I would still struggle today to choose between the Elecraft rigs and the ft817 nd
My plan was to have one transceiver, one HF antenna and a vhf antenna for portable work. I have more of collection of portable antennas than transceivers.

Good luck in your choice and hope to hear you soon on an activation.


…pics of boxes please? A fellow ham here can make aluminum enclosures. Are there other options? I’m open…

…oh no, it’s WORSE than choosing a car! :wink: We regularly just seem to come across good used cars whose owners we know when the time is right. But I have a real aversion to buying used electronic gear. lol

Thanks for your suggestions…I told my wife that these would actually solve the dilemma. May I give her your number?! Perhaps she’ll listen to you! :slight_smile:

(…thanks…and yes, in the end I may end up with what you recommend…)

Search the web for “uBITX case”. You’ll find this and some others.


okay…there are some brilliant and innovative designs out there

…and where do people get the lettering for such?

I was thinking in the direction of Pelican cases ( or the cheaper copies). Plastic rather than metal.

73 Ed.

…I’ll check them out for ideas

I plan to use this as I already have it kicking around.
But these are cheap as well.

Just to confuse you even more, there’s Xiegu x5105, all in one radio, internal battery, atu etc. The Chinese have really outdone themselves and this time you get official local distributors in major countries

And for a bit more power (20w), there’s still the previous Xiegu model available the X108G. no internal battery or ATU in this one though.
You can listen to my review of this rig, which I used today on the summit, in the last but one ICQPodcast episode.


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