What Would You Do?

From The Desk of Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

For the past three or four years, I’ve been threatening to buy a new radio to replace my ICOM IC-746PRO. The IC-746PRO is a great rig, though, and I’ve had trouble pulling the trigger on a $3k – $5k or more purchase. The radio that I’ve had my eye on is the Elecraft K3. Without a doubt the K3 is a better rig than the 746PRO, and it’s certainly worth the price that Elecraft is asking. The question I keep asking myself, though, is, “Am I going to have $5,000 more fun with a K3?”

To put it another way, the question is, assuming that I have a $5,000 budget to spend on amateur radio gear over the next year or two or three, what’s the best way to spend it? How can I maximize my purchases so that I have the most fun?

At this point, I think that I’ve decided not to buy that new rig and instead buy equipment that will help me make my own rigs. Some of the items that I have my eye on include:

* Aoyue 968A+ SMD Digital Hot Air Rework Station (I have actually already purchased this unit.)
* Rigol DS1102E 100MHz, Dual Channel, 1 GSa/s Digital Oscilloscope
* Rigol DSA815-TG Spectrum Analyzer
* A more professional workbench to replace the folding table that I’m currently using.
* Peaberry SDR V2 Kit
* More keys! I’d love to get a fancy Begali or N3ZN paddle, and the other day someone told me about the UR5CDX keys, which look like great deals.

Even if I purchased everything on this list, I’ll have spent less than $5,000.

One consequence of going this route is that I’ll have less time for operating. I’m betting (hoping?) that the extra time spent on tinkering will be just as much fun, or even more fun than I’m having now.

It also means that I’ll be going to Dayton with a much different mindset than I have the past couple of years. Instead of spending my time configuring the perfect K3 in my head, I’ll be looking for kits and scouring the flea market looking for parts.

I may be overthinking this, but like most amateurs, I have a limited budget to spend on amateur radio. That being the case, making conscious decisions about how to spend that money should help me have more fun with ham radio, and that’s the goal, isn’t it?

What do you think? Is this the right way to go, or am I going to regret this decision? If you’ve made a similar decision, I’d love to hear from you.