Out of the box, ham radios are powerful communication devices that have great capabilities. They can allow you to communicate with other people who live hundreds of miles away from your city or country without requiring repeaters or base stations like CB radios.
However, you can make your ham radio even more powerful by hooking it up with the right accessories which will further extend its range and improve its transmit and receive capabilities.
In this article, we'll thus be looking at a few of the most useful ham radio accessories you should definitely consider buying. In addition, we will also be explaining how these accessories work so that you know if it is an accessory you will need for your ha
Must Have Accessories
Though all the accessories we intend to review can be essentials to the complete ham radio newbie, there are a few that depend on your setup.
Antenna tuners and linear amps, for instance, will depend on your radio's configuration and its unique needs. Consequently, we will be listing them as must-have accessories since they can be relevant to someone who has a different radio.
Volt and Watt Meter
Not everyone who buys a ham radio does so for the thrill of learning about electronics. However, while you don’t need to highly skilled with electronics to use ham radios, a volt and ohm meter can come in handy in many ways.
For one, they are great for people who are into kit building. There's usually no need to go after high grade voltmeters or watt meters for a job. Though, if you do plan to go beyond the simple kit building, then perhaps it would be wise to purchase more sophisticated voltmeters or watt meters.
Another reason you might need these tools is because you can use them to check the continuity on coaxial cables and on the jumpers. At times, you might spend hours trying to find out why you are receiving poor signals and you might even go as far as tuning your antenna without knowing that a broken coax was the issue.
Other than using them for checking continuity on your cables, they can also be useful whenever you want to tune your antenna. Watt meters can give you the ability to see forward and reflected power concurrently so that you can have an idea of your antenna's current SWR.
Ideally, you should consider saving up some money for a good watt meter that is accurate and precise. On the same note, you should select watt meters or voltmeters that can handle the power you intend to pass through them. You also need to ensure that they work with a frequency range within their limits.
While you can get good bargains whenever buying used watt meters, ensure you don't buy a meter that has been used beyond repair.
Unlike voltmeters and watt meters, antenna tuners are not super essential accessories. This is because how you setup your antenna and the type of antenna you are using will determine whether or not you need an antenna tuner.
Most radios nowadays come with an auto-tuner which might not be robust enough. As such, you may need an antenna tuner as well as a slightly more powerful antenna.
Apart from the antenna tuner, you may also find an antenna switch handy if you'll be setting up multiple antennas.
Though ham radios do not need computers to operate, you can get a richer experience if you use it side by side with a computer.
Ideally, the computer provides an easy way to interface with the radio so that you can update its firmware. You could even program certain aspects of the radio, but this depends on the kind of radio you have.
People also use the computer for rig control and logging. This is a far more convenient way of keeping logs compared to paper logs which were mainstream a few decades back.
One last thing that really complements a ham radio that you've hooked up to a PC is a fast internet connection.
Like the antenna tuner, this is not a super essential accessory. However, you will need a linear amplifier depending on the ham radio you own. Nowadays, pairing a good transceiver with an equally decent antenna is more than enough to help you get good audio from a 100W radio.
However, if you feel that your radio might need some additional boost, then a linear amplifier would be an essential you should not ignore.
Of course, it would cost you a few bucks, but the power you get from a good linear amp can at times rival the power of a few high-performance ham radios that you can find in the market today.
If you are new to ham radios, you'd definitely want to test out the radio by transmitting for a few minutes. The bad thing about testing is that if you're doing it on a functional ham radio, then literally anyone might be listening to your "HELLO RADIO!" babble.
Well, you can stop the airwave pollution by getting a dummy load while you fiddle with the radio for the first time. You need to choose a dummy load that can handle the power you intend to pass through it.
In addition, we also recommend you read the manuals so that you know the tolerable on and off cycles to prevent damage to the dummy load.
Should You Go for New or Used Ham Radio Accessories?
You have a great chance of finding good second-hand ham radio accessories at affordable prices online. The only challenge is that it might take you some time to come across quality ham radio accessories.
While you stand to get used ham radio accessories for much less, it is often difficult to assess the quality of used ham radio accessories. As such, we would only recommend you look for them if you are confident that you can get quality ham radio accessories.
Since you could equally buy used ham radios in a similar way, then you should at least aim to buy ham radios that are compatible with many other additional accessories.
You should also look out for features that you would personally find useful and worth having. There are plenty more accessories that you can get for your ham radio such as:
- Headphones – Useful when operating the ham radio in a noisy environment
- Decent Antenna – It further complements your radio by enabling it receive signals better
- Tall tower and multi-element HF Beam
Though useful, you can usually forego these as they are not necessary for everyone. They are still great accessories to have. As such, you should still keep them in mind until the day they become necessary.
Overall, there are several accessories that you can purchase to make your ham radio perform even better. Technically, you could still operate a ham radio without many of these accessories, and you may even wonder why anyone might need them in the first place.
However, to get the best out of your ham radio, it would be inevitable to own a good wattmeter, a dummy load, a voltmeter, and a computer.