What HF rig to buy – what gives the most bang for the buck?

The Sherwood receiver performance table is a fantastic resource if you’re looking for an HF rig. The only problem for most amateurs is that it is sorted by the factor of most importance for CW contesters. The other measurements that Rob lists are important too.

In the Danby Dale RS YouTube video many of us watched, Rob made clear that recent rigs from the big name manufacturers have good performance even if not top of the table. If fact for CW contesting one of the leading stations uses a pair of Kenwood TS-590s, which are now a fair way down his table. He also pointed out that transmitters matter too, if only to avoid interfering with the amateur next door or on an adjacent frequency. Maybe Rob will start reporting on TX performance at some point, he certainly recognises the problem.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, has done some fascinating work based on Rob’s tables to answer the question “Does price buy performance or satisfaction in an HF Transceiver?”. Frank clearly loves analysing data. He looked at all of the Sherwood measurements and came up with a ‘Sherwood Factor’ for a rig’s all-round receive performance. He also analysed every single eHam review to work out an eHam rating for each rig (he may have done some data cleansing on the reviews, separating out mistakes and reviews for different variants of a rig). Finally Frank checked the price of each of the rigs when new (and took inflation into account so he was comparing prices fairly).

There are a couple of YouTube videos of talks by Frank and a great 24-page document you can download from his website www.foxmikehotel.com with full details. They are great if you want an understanding of the work he has done and also seeing his analysis of how the brands compare. But what’s Frank’s top line?

Frank uses a scatterplot which shows rig performance:price ratio plotted against eHam ratings. The rigs coming out in the upper quartile of the plot (ie those with best performance per dollar and with high user ratings) are: 

  • Apache ANAN-7000DLE
  • Elecraft KX3, K3S, KX2 and K3
  • Flex 6600M and 6400
  • Kenwood TS-590SG
  • YaesuFTdx-101D
  • Although not noted on Franks plot it also looks as though the Kenwood TS-890 fits in this group

In Frank’s analysis the transceivers giving the best bank for buck  – high performance and user ratings while being priced modestly – are the Elecraft KX2 and K3S together with the Kenwood TS-590SG.

The Flex 6600M & 6400 together with the Elecraft KX3 have better performance for the price ratings but user ratings are a little lower.

Frank rates the Yaesu FTdx-101D, the Apache ANAN-7000DLE and the Kenwood TS-890S as top performers but of course their cost is against them.

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