What to Consider When Buying a Ham Radio Transceiver Kit

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What to Consider When Buying a Ham Radio Transceiver Kit

Ham, or amateur, radio, is the use of certain radio broadcasting frequencies for non-commercial use. Ham radio may be used for personal communication, experimentation with wireless signals, message transmission, and emergency use. Amateur users can broadcast from anywhere, be it home or an International Space Station. When their signals are detected by a repeater, usually run by a ham radio club, the repeater re-broadcasts the signal at a greater range.

Radio transceivers both transmit and receive radio signals. The transceiver is the hub of a ham radio operation; they are used to send out information and also to receive other ham radio frequencies. Ham radio transceiver kits allow ham users to build their own transceiver, which can be educational, satisfying, and fun. It is also an excellent way to save money, since kits are more affordable than preassembled transceivers. An additional benefit is that the user can tune and fix the radio themselves. When buying a ham radio transceiver kit, one should consider several issues before settling on a particular model.

The First Step: Licensing for Amateur Radio Transmission

UK regulations require that anyone intending to operate an amateur radio pass a basic exam. There is a course designed to introduce users to amateur radio and prepare them for the exam. Upon successful completion of the exam, the individual can apply for a licence through Ofcom, which is responsible for issuing licences and callsigns. New amateur users choose a unique call sign that is used to identify themselves during transmission.

There are three different types of amateur radio licences in the UK. The first licence permits users to transmit at 10 watts. An Intermediate Licence increases the permitted transmitting power from 10 to 50 watts. A Full Licence is for the most experienced amateurs; it allows them to use 400 watts of power and to transmit legally from most countries in the world.

A Glossary of Ham Radio Transceiver Terms

There are many common terms and abbreviations used in connection with ham radio transceivers. Before shopping for a transceiver kit, it is a good idea to familiarise oneself with these terms and their meanings. They can help identify which kit is right for the intended usage. 

Frequency Bands

Every radio wave has a certain frequency, which is the number of cycles of alternating current per second, expressed in hertz (Hz). However, ham radio usually uses an older system of indicating frequency, which measures the distance between peaks of two consecutive cycles, expressed in metres.

There are certain radio frequencies (RFs) which are allocated to ham radio operation. This is partly a matter of one’s licence level, so users should verify what the latest regulations are to find a radio kit that is compatible. Many kits can operate at different frequencies; some of the most common are 20 metres, 30 metres, 40 metres, and 80 metres. The greater the wavelength, the lower the frequency; for example, an 80-metre RF has a lower frequency than a 40-metre RF.

MF, HF, VHF, UHF

Radio frequencies are divided into four groups: medium frequency (MF), high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), and ultra high frequency (UHF).

MF is between 300 and 3,000 kHz (1 m to 1 km); HF is between 3 MHz and 30 MHz (10 to 100 m); VHF is between 30 and 300 MHz (1 to 10 m); and UHF is between 300 - 3000 MHz (10 cm to 1 m).

Choosing a transceiver frequency depends on the intended usage. Many ham radio kits are designed for HF transmission, which is good for experimenting with long-distance contacts. Those more interested in communicating with local friends on VHF or UHF bands should look for VHF+ FM transceivers; these, however, are rarely sold as kits.

Modes of Transmission

There are different ways of transmitting information over radio frequencies. These modes are defined according to the way in which the carrier wave is modulated.

Single Sideband (SSB)

Single sideband (SSB) transmission eliminates the carrier wave and either the upper or lower of the two sidebands usually attached to it in AM transmission, creating a very efficient way of sending voice over long distances.

Amplitude Modulation (AM)

In AM radio, information is transmitted by modulating the amplitude of the carrier wave.

Frequency Modulation (FM)

In FM radio, information is transmitted by modulating the frequency of the carrier wave.

Continuous Wave (CW)

Continuous wave (CW) has been used since the early days of radio. CW remains popular with amateur radio operators on shortwave bands. In continuous wave, the carrier wave itself is not modulated; rather, it is switched on and off for various lengths of time, according to a code, such Q code. CW radio does not carry voice.

Direct-Conversion Receiver

A direct-conversion receiver demodulates the received signal via a local oscillator whose frequency is the same as that of the signal’s carrier wave. Direct conversion simplifies the basic circuitry, as opposed to standard superheterodyne receivers, which first convert the incoming signal to an intermediate frequency.

Crystal-Controlled Transmitter

This is a basic model with a crystal oscillator, which is then followed by a driver and amplifier. Crystal oscillators keep the transmitted signal’s frequency constant by using crystal quartz. Crystal ham radio kits are generally easy to assemble and a good first transceiver project.

There are different types of crystal oscillators, indicated by acronyms ending in “XO”; for example, “VXO” is a varying crystal oscillator.

Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

In software-defined radio (SDR), processes that had been performed by specialised hardware, such as mixers, amplifiers, or detectors, are instead performed by software, either via a personal computer or an embedded system. SDR transceiver kits may involve more complex assembly, and are recommended for those with some experience in transceiver building.

QRP Transceivers

The term QRP derives from the radio code requesting a reduction of power. QRP radio works at a low power output, usually below 5 watts. QRP users favour its low power usage, and a QRP transceiver kit is generally fairly inexpensive and easy to assemble. In addition, QRP radios can usually be powered by batteries, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor use.

On the other hand, one disadvantage with QRP radios is that they require a very good antenna for ease of transmission.

Verify Assembly Requirements

Ham radio transceiver kits differ in required skill level. Beginner kits are fairly easy to assemble; the most difficult parts have already been assembled and tested. Advanced kits have more complex, demanding setups. It is recommended to start simple, and gradually build one’s way up with experience.

Even basic kits require soldering of components, so anyone considering buying a ham radio transceiver kit should first learn how to solder properly, before getting started with their kit.

Transceiver Power Supply

As most transceivers require an external power source, power supply is a very important consideration when setting up a ham radio. While hand-held VHF or UHF units can be operated by batteries, larger transceivers require more power. Just how much power depends on the power output of the individual unit. For example, a transceiver transmitting at 100 watts needs 25 amps of continuous power at 18.3 volts to run. Buyers should keep in mind that the transceiver only draws the power it needs, so a power supply with greater capacity does not harm the device. For those who plan to upgrade their transceiver in a few years, it may be a good idea to invest in a power source with a larger capacity than currently needed.

Continuous and Intermittent Capacity

Ham-grade power supplies usually have two power ratings: continuous and intermittent (or peak) current capacity. Continuous is the capacity that it can run on for long durations, while intermittent or peak is the maximum capacity that can be used only temporarily. Buyers pay particular attention to the continuous capacity, since this gives a better idea of the device’s performance.

Linear vs. Switching Design

Another specification for power supplies is whether they have a linear or switching design. Linear designs use a large transformer to shift the higher alternating current from the mains to a lower voltage, and then store it for later conversion to direct current for the device. Linear-design power supplies tend to be large and heavy. 

Switching designs are more compact, because they eliminate the need for a large transformer. They operate by converting the alternating current to direct current. In turn, an oscillator switches the high-voltage direct current on and off; this pulsating direct current is then supplied to a transformer for conversion to whatever voltage the device needs.

Choosing an Antenna

There are many different designs for ham radio antennas.. The most common are dipole types that use a long wire, and verticals,, which can be installed on the ground or a roof. Antennas affect the transceiver’s ability to transmit and receive signals. SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) meters help ham radio users tune and test their antenna. The standing wave ratio indicates how much radio energy received by the antenna is reflected back to the transmitter.

Where to Buy a Ham Radio Transceiver Kit

Ham radio transceiver kits are only really available where ham amateur equipment is sold. Those interested can check local listings to see if there are any ham radio specialists and suppliers in their area; local ham radio clubs can be an excellent source of information pertaining to equipment, usage, and more. Ham radio also has a strong Internet presence, so shoppers can browse product reviews and shop for a kit online on auction websites like eBay, which are a good source for ham radio kits and other related equipment.

How to Buy a Ham Radio Transceiver Kit on eBay

You’ll find lots of ham radio transceiver kits, as well as related equipment, on eBay. Searching on eBay is a simple process. Start on eBay’s home page,, and enter keywords, such as “CW ham radio transceiver kit”, into the search bar. You can then narrow your initial results by certain limiting factors like price, seller location, and more. For additional suggestions, visit eBay’s Search Tips page.

Read Product Information

Once you’ve found a kit you’re interested in, look at the item description carefully, verifying specifications, what is included, and whether there are any important assembly requirements noted. If you have a question, you can contact the seller through eBay. Check postage conditions and fees, as well.

Get to Know the Seller

You can assess how reliable and knowledgeable the seller is by checking their feedback score and reading comments posted by previous customers. Top-rated sellers have a strong track record of customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

Ham radio transceivers are devices that are used to transmit and receive signals from amateur, or ham, radio frequencies. Ham radio transceiver kits allow the user to assemble their own device; this can be an exciting and rewarding process. In addition, it is economical, as kits cost less than fully-assembled transceivers. When selecting a transceiver, there are several things to keep in mind.

First, obtaining an operating licence is necessary for all amateur radio operators. The next step is to think about what frequency one wishes to broadcast at; this depends on local regulations and intended use, and is related to the mode of transmission, whether continuous wave, single sideband, AM, or FM. Another consideration is the skill level required to assemble the transceiver: beginners should choose a basic model, and gradually work their way up as they acquire more knowledge and experience. In additional, ham operators need to choose a power supply and antenna that is appropriate for their usage.

Informing themselves about various specifications and options help users find a ham radio transmission kit that is both educational and fun.

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