It only took me 16 months to get into the position to replace the gear that I had to part with in the pre-divorce days when I was still married to the most horrible, artificial, and biggest liar of a woman I've ever known. I started out slowly...I made a QSO or two with the old Novice gear that I still had in storage...but after using a radio such as the Yaesu FT-817ND with full PC control via Ham Radio Deluxe, this held my attention for less than a day.
So, I bought a Small Wonders Lab "Rockmite". I made some good QSOs on 40m with a 200' random wire.
Then I bought the CRK-10 and made even more thanks to the higher power.
Next came the HTX-100 and the HW-7.
I quickly flipped those and moved into an old, but still semi-functional Kenwood TS-120S. I liked this radio. The size was nice, and it was what I needed at the time. Despite the fact that it doesn't/didn't have WARC bands or 160 meters, it was still cool. But the drift was SEVERE. Add to it the fact that it went deaf after each TX cycle, which required me to manually manipulate the bandswitch to force it to "hear" again...and you'll begin to see why this radio was on my last nerve!
But I was still able to be on the radio. I know for sure that had I been younger or not in the hobby as long, I would have been content with this "fixer-upper", but I ALWAYS think of the next best thing.
Enter the Alinco SR8T.
This radio is a stellar buy at $519.00. Most places, such as Ham Radio Outlet and AES even will ship it for free.
If you look at the reviews on eHam ( http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/8897), the first thing you'll notice is that the AVERAGE rating of 4.2/5. This actually puts this radio in the same neighborhood as the Icom 718 or similar radios.
Some of the reviews from users criticize this radio as being noisy...or not logically laid-out or what have you. Some have said that the button labeling makes no sense, and that the radio is an ergonomic nightmare (paraphrasing).
Firstly, the buttons aren't that bad if you OPEN YOUR EYES! The only thing that isn't logical is how the radio jumps from band to band. If you're on 20m, and wish to go to 40m, you press the 4 key. For 10m it's the 0 key. For 160m, it's the 1 key. After about 5 minutes, you'll get the hang of it. It's honestly NOT that confusing.
Secondly, as for the receiver noise...I have to add that this receiver is quite possibly the most sensitive receiver I've ever played with. Either this RX is THAT GOOD, or all the other rigs I've had were THAT BAD.
In Elma, NY where I live, I'm in the foothills of the Appalachin Mountains...and not the more populated part of town to the west. So, my noise floor is UNBELIEVABLY low. To say that it's QUIET is an understatement. To really put this radio to the test, I went into the LF region, and started listening for non-directional beacons...the portion of the radio spectrum in the US from 190-435 KHz. In 26 years of being a ham, I've NEVER heard anything in this region other than the NDB at Buffalo...that IDs as BUF. But last night, I was able to copy a dozen or so...from places as far away as 150 miles north of Montreal and beyond. (Perhaps this winter I'll even be able to hear the European LW band...!)
I also checked in last night to the 3905 Century Club net's 40m Early Net. Stations that normally were marginal copy were audible! And by kicking in the standard preamp, they became easily copied. The preamp is a nice feature, and it is adjustable in steps from -20 and -10 (attenuation), 0, and +10 dB.
With the preamp on, is the RX a little noisier? SURE IS! Will this noise be amplified if you live in an area that has a HIGH noise floor, such as when I lived in Williamsville??? ABSOLUTELY! So, the whiners on eHam that complained vigorously that this rig's RX was TOO NOISY...should seriously look around their environments and get a feel for what's really happening. (As a PBX Technician, I use signal generators and inductive amplifiers to locate unidentified cables. You can't do your job properly without this BASIC tool. When you're in the presence of noise...be it from an electrical source, or whatever, the inductive amplifier will allow you to HEAR it. I'd be willing to wager that some of these folks live in areas that are pretty noisy). Now...should this radio be able to handle this kind of noise? Sure. But, to be fair, I think a little detective work would go a LONG way if there was a situation that rendered this rig as unusable.
The SR8T has three power settings..."Normal": 100+ watts, "Low": 10 watts, and "Super-Low": 100mW adjustable to 2 watts. As of right now, my SR8T is showing about 750 mW in Super-Low...but this afternoon, I intend on bumping that up to the 2 watt maximum. This was the reason that I bought this radio. I needed a full feature rig, that ALSO doubled as a QRP radio. This "double life" will help with the TVI/RFI problem I had prior to this when I was using the TS-120 and the loop.
Whether I checked into the 3905 Century Club net, the YL Net on 14.332 MHz, or was using it on JT-65 (with the Buxcomm cable I bought for it), 10 watts was doing a SOLID job combined with the LNR EF-10/20/40.
There are a few quirks with this radio that I've noticed. The noise blanker affects how JT-65 data is received. I'm in an area that is quiet, so I have no real use for the noise blanker, and once turned off, I was able to copy everything that appeared on the waterfall. Also, the VFO knob is a tad on the heavy side for the plastic shaft that it's mounted to. This shouldn't be much of a problem, since you can still QSY with the arrow keys, and even direct enter your frequency via the key pad. THIS is a great feature...since I can enter ANYTHING from 135 KHz up to 30 MHz, and I am on that frequency instantly. My Yaesu AND the old Kenwood didn't have this. Another "quirk" that many have noted is that the audio jacks, both speaker and headphone are on the FRONT of the radio. I like this. What some consider a PROBLEM isn't one at all. Alinco located the audio jacks there because the control head is able to be separate from the transceiver's body. If the audio were on the BACK, and you remotely mounted the TXCR body elsewhere, you'd need a LONG audio cable if you planned on using an external speaker....which in turn would make the radio prone to picking up MORE noise. Finally, the 8-pin connector on the supplied hand microphone is unnecessarily too tight. I actually had to open the pins a little bit on the mic last night after I unplugged the digital interface cable. Which leads me to the final irritant I noticed...no data/acc port. Not really a big deal, though, since my TS-120 didn't have one either. I plan on making an A/B switch so that I don't have to plug and unplug when I want to go from digital to voice.
But the radio has its strong points as well. Adjustable power, adjustable AGC, RIT as well as TXIT, TWIN VFOs....which is GREAT for DX or FM repeaters on 10m (yes...this radio has FM, where the Icom 718 doesn't), a CW/SSB filter that actually does work despite the whiners on eHam that say that it doesn't (want a better filter...spend some MORE money on one), an enormous display that is bright and can be read in direct sunlight (if you plan to use it mobile)...and perhaps the best part....an AFFORDABLE price tag.
Now, I am a realist. I KNOW that this radio is not a top-of-the-line FT-990...but it isn't marketed as such. The notion is silly. This radio is in the BUDGET/ENTRY level class. Just as there are economy cars, mid-sized sedans and full-blown exotics, this radio is economy all the way. The people that buy this radio and expect it perform like a FT-990 are just plain STUPID. That would be akin to a three-way drag race between a Chevy Aveo, a Buick Regal, and a Mercedes SLK. The SLK would mop the floor with the other two. The Aveo would make it to the finish line, but AFTER both cars had crossed the line and their drivers had gotten out to shake hands.
What this radio offers is basic features and a good price.
Can you make QSOs with it?
Any radio can.
Is it in the same league as a high-end radio?
No, and it wasn't intended to be.
In the coming days/weeks/months I will write more as I learn more about the radio and its nuances.
(My SR8T, along with the LDG AT-100 Pro automatic antenna tuner I bought for the new setup)