Once you have your ham radio license it’s decision time, and one of the most difficult ones is choosing an HF radio! Do you go with a more modest priced radio to start or jump into the deep end and get one with all the bells and whistles? At Ham Radio Prep, we say, look at both!

A question we get from our Ham Radio Prep students is, “I’m getting started in HF, what radio should I start with?”  We’ve got 5 radios you should consider for your first HF rig. If you’re feeling more adventurous, make sure to check out our “5 Awesome HF Radios the DX’ers Love!” video linked in the description!

Top 5 HF Ham Radios

Our instructors and team of experts picked radios these with no sponsorship support. This isn’t an ad, just thoughts on what we think might work best for you.

ICOM IC-7300

Let’s start off with the ICOM IC-7300. This is the radio we picked for our HF Masterclass, and with continued use, we have enjoyed this rig. For right about $1,000 you get 100 watts of HF output power in a direct sampling HF radio. Its internal tuner matches our antenna well. Plus, it has plenty of settings to adjust via front panel controls.

We’ve used the 7300 in the shack, taken it to parks and even upgraded it with a desktop microphone. It has fun features like a voice recorder standard. That’s something that cost hundreds of dollars for more advanced radios just a few years ago. It’s done everything we have wanted it to do so far. We’re looking forward to setting it up for Digital soon and connecting up a key to do some CW.

If there’s one concern for some hams it’s that the ICOM is ONLY an HF radio.

Available Now at GigaParts!

Yaesu FT-991A

If you are looking to set up a flexible shack with just one radio, we think you should consider the Yaesu FT-991A. This one made the list as one of our Ham Radio Prep student alumni choices. Yaesu calls this an “All Band” system that does 100 watts on HF and 50 watts on 2 Meters and 70 Centimeters. That’s a great option to build a shack around.  Our instructor Jim, N4BFR took the same tactic as a new ham.  He started his shack with a Yaesu all-mode FT-897.   That provided a versatility of things he could do, even with just a Technician license.

Waterfalls are becoming standard on radios, and the 3.5” version on the Yaesu is about an inch smaller than the ICOM. They both have USB connectivity for computer logging and working digital modes. The Yaesu is about a half-inch shorter than the ICOM, so it might fit better in a go-kit. However, it does draw 23 amps at peak instead of 21 for the 7300, so there are tradeoffs. This also has a built-in tuner, but that’s only for the HF input.  If you are looking for all-mode in an ICOM radio, they just rereleased the IC-7100.

Available Now at GigaParts!


With the solar cycle near peak, even Technician level hams can get in on the HF fun. You will need a radio to do that and one of our instructors suggested the RADIODDITY QT60. This entry level option is $260 and is no frills. It will pump out 60 watts of 10 Meter HF Sideband power with a 10 amp draw. There are just 4 connections on the back. Those are an antenna jack, a port for programming memories, and two speaker jacks. If you want antenna matching, you’ll need to add a tuner.

The QT60 is not set up for digital or CW. But, a motivated ham might be able to wire up some digital inputs via the mic connector and VOX options. It does have FM functionality, so you could work some 10 meter repeaters with it as well. If those things interest you, consider the Radioddity.

QRP Options

Xiegu G90

In general, our reviews and courses haven’t spent a lot of time on QRP operating, but it’s a big part of the hobby. If you are into small footprint CW for example, there is a whole world of little radios you can add to your collection. For this list we’re going to pick two that can get you started on QRP. If you don’t know, operating QRP means sending with minimal power. These are for folks who “care enough to send the very least.”

We looked at a couple of options and landed on the Xiegu G90 Transceiver. Weighing in at 3.6 pounds, this little multipurpose rig can put out up to 20 watts of power and can work Sideband, CW, AM and FM. It’s very power efficient, drawing only 6 amps at maximum transmit power.

The G90 has a built-in antenna tuner which will come in very handy when working out of your backpack. Many hams who do QRP prefer Digital or CW because of their more efficient power use than sideband. The G90 is ready for CW out of the box and has a built in keyer. For data modes you will need to pick up an add-on adapter that runs an extra $35.

One of the potential challenges we see with the G90 is managing the minor controls of the radio. Tuning and volume are fine but with a smaller screen and buttons, it might be difficult to handle in a park. Extra so when you get gloves on! Take a peek at the Xiegu X6100 if a bigger screen is important to you and you are willing to go with a max of 10 watts of power.


The other entry-level QRP HF option we picked is the ICOM IC-705. ICOM lists this under their “Handhelds” page to reinforce its size.

There are a lot of smart designs in the IC-705. For instance, it’s labeled as a handheld because it can run off the same battery pack as its popular handheld, the ID-52. The 705 also uses the same touch screen as the IC-7300. That means it can use the same familiar menu style you are used to if you use ICOM radios. You can even download a 3D model of the radio if you want to do mods.

Let’s talk about the specs. This will let you transmit on any ham band from 160 meters up to 2 meters, and then add 70 centimeters. With broad mode support you can not only do HF but FM and DStar operations. You can run off the car or a 13.7 volt battery and get up to 10 Watts out. If you run on a handheld battery you are at a max of 5 watts. Power draw is less than 3 amps and it weighs less than 2-and-a-half pounds when powered by an HT battery.

So what’s the downside? Well, if you are passionate about operating SSB, then QRP is much more of a challenge. Plus there is the price. The ICOM IC-705 will run you about $1,350. That’s before you add the $180 travel bag, a couple of $130 spare batteries and other fun accessories along the way. Not that it’s a deal breaker, but this is the only radio of the 5 we’ve discussed that comes with a BNC connector standard. So if you are all set up to use PL-259 connectors that may mean some new cables and adapters too.

Available Now at GigaParts!


So let’s recap the 5 radios you may choose to add to your ham radio gear.

  •  ICOM ID-7300 – 100 Watts HF
  • Yaesu FT-991 – 100 Watts HF, VHF, UHF
  • Radioddity QT-60 – 60 Watts 10 Meter SSB
  • Xiegu X90 – QRP
  • ICOM IC-705 – QRP  HF, VHF, UHF

If you are ready to make a bigger investment in fun, check out our companion video “5 Awesome HF Radios the DX’ers Love!” (Coming soon)

73 for now and happy shopping!