Amateur radios (aka ham radios) offer several benefits over other kinds of two-way radios. You can use ham radio to communicate across town or around the globe.
Today, you can use an inexpensive handheld ham transceiver to listen in on a satellite and even contact other ham radio operators in different parts of the globe. You might even contact an astronaut as several astronauts are certified, ham operators.
Buying a transceiver for satellite operation can be a bothersome process if you do not know what to look out for. But there is no need to panic. We have researched for you.
Here are the 5 best ham radios for satellites. This post will also highlight some of the critical factors to consider when shopping for the right transceiver for satellite use.
Top 5 Ham Radios for Satellites
|1||TYT TH-9800D||Best Overall|
|2||Yaesu FTM-400D/XDR||Best Full-duplex Ability|
|3||Kenwood Original TM-V71A||Best Programming Software|
|4||Icom IC-2730A||Easy to Install & Use|
The Best Ham Radio for Satellites: TYT TH-9800D
When selecting a transceiver for satellite operations, your major consideration should be cross-band full-duplex ability. Duplex operation refers to a radio’s ability to receive signals on one frequency band and transmit signals on another.
The TYT TH-9800D is a quad-band full-duplex radio. This means it has all that you will require to successfully perform satellite operations.
Being a quad-band transceiver, the Th-9800 supports four distinct frequency bands. These include the 900 & 1800 megahertz, and the 850 & 1900 megahertz.
The quad-band feature means you can scan several more frequencies compared to what you would get with a dual-band radio.
The interesting aspect is that the TH-9800 offers quad-band performance at a highly affordable price. Most similar products within its price range are dual-band devices.
Another feature that makes this TYT transceiver a favorite among amateur radio devotees is its rugged construction. Every user wants a device that is hard-wearing and long-lasting.
Luckily, TYT constructed this transceiver using robust materials. Thus, it will hold up well against all kinds of operating conditions and treatment.
Another key feature to consider when selecting your ham radio for satellite use is the audio quality. Poor audio means you will have to strain to hear incoming messages and sounds.
This may cause you to miss key information from other radio users. Despite being a compact device, the TH-9800 delivers clear and loud audio. This has earned the radio many praises plus high ratings from reviewers.
The TH-9800 comes with a one-year warranty. This warranty covers faults in parts plus craftsmanship.
Make sure you read the owner’s manual to understand how to properly operate the device. The warranty does not cover impairment due to inappropriate use or accidents.
The TH-9800 is mobile ham radio and as such it does not have an inbuilt power supply. You will have to get 20 Amp 12 volts power supply or you can connect it to your automobile’s power.
The device features selectable output power. On the VHF band, it reaches 65 watts maximum output power. On the UHF band, it can hit 45 watts.
- Cross-band full-duplex functionality
- 809 memory channels
- 420-450 megahertz UHF frequencies
- 144-148 megahertz VHF frequencies
- 8-group voice scrambler
- Selectable power
- Busy channel lockout
- Backlit keypad
- Backlit LCD
- CTCSS/DCS tone scan
- CTCSS/DCS Decode/Encode
- Internal speaker
- Auto power off
- Cooling fan
- Weight: 2.65 pounds
- Dimensions: 5.51 x 1.63 x 6.61 inches (W x H x D)
- Type of antenna connector: SO-239 (UHF female)
- High-quality construction
- Offers great value for money
- Easy to program
- Compact design
- Impressive output power
- Poor technical support
- A few users have complained about the audio quality
How to Use TYT TH-9800D?
When you unbox the package, you get the following: TH-9800 ham radio, screw jack, extra protection fuses, front controller separation wire, DTMF hand microphone, front controller installation bracket, programming cable, DC power cable plus fuse holder, programming disc, owner’s manual, warranty card, and owner’s manual.
The user manual contains comprehensive information regarding how to properly program and use the radio. Therefore, be sure to read this manual in its totality.
If you still have programming issues after reading the manual, you can get help by watching YouTube videos about how to program the TH-9800D.
A programming disc and cable are included within the package. You can use these to program your device via your PC. The process is straightforward.
To ensure your radio provides you with several years of service, you need to care for it properly. Do not mishandle the product as this can lead to the voiding of the warranty.
Below are some tips for caring for and maintaining the TH-9800D.
- The device is not waterproof so you should never immerse it in water or operate it in wet conditions
- Do not expose the transceiver to very high light intensity or temperature. Consistent exposure to high temperatures may result in irreversible damage to your transceiver.
- Do not allow dust particles to accumulate on the radio. You can air blow to remove settled dust.
- To remove dirt and stains on the LCD screen, use a plush, damp cloth.
What Makes TYT TH-9800D the Best Ham Radio for Satellites?
The TYT TH-9800D has cross-band full-duplex capability on UHF and VHF. With this feature, you can receive and send signals simultaneously.
This is highly essential for success when you are attempting to make contact with satellites.
The TH-9800D is also highly durable, easy to program, easy to use, and has fantastic audio quality. All of these contribute to making it the best ham radio for satellite operations.
User Reviews and Feedback on TYT TH-9800D
Many ham satellite operators have been talking about the THT TH-9800 and the reviews have mostly been positive.
Several hams on a budget report that they chose this radio because it is highly affordable. These users also note that the radio met their expectations regarding durability and sound quality.
Users who are also satellite operators especially love the radio’s cross-band full-duplex capability. These reviewers report that the radio works great as a base station for tracking and communicating with satellites.
Most users agree that the 50 watts /40 watts output power is stable and allows for a fantastic overall performance.
Users also like that installing the radio is easy with no elaborate power requirements. Most previous purchasers note that the remote cable included in the package is long enough to mount the faceplate wherever they wanted it.
The radio’s inbuilt speaker has been lauded by most previous purchasers. These users describe the speaker as loud, and clear, and many say it is more than sufficient for most contacts.
Several customers say they had no problems programming the device manually. Most of these users have little or no prior knowledge about programming radio frequencies.
Many users report that they were able to program the radio with CHIRP and that learning how to use the menus was not difficult.
The radio’s superior transmitting plus receiving capabilities have captured the admiration of customers who regularly perform satellite operations.
The major user complaint concerning the TH-9800D is that the included software to program the device did not work well for them.
These users complain that they had a hard time figuring out the right software to download over the internet.
Some users also complain that the device is not ready for use out of the box. These customers are not happy that the radio needs to be unlocked before one can use the various bands and frequencies.
4 More Top Rated Ham Radios for Satellites
1. Yaesu FTM-400D/XDR
Best Full-duplex Ability
Full-duplex ability is the key to achieving success with your ham radio satellite operations. The FTM-400D/XDR from Yaesu offers full-duplex functionality across VHF and UHF bands.
The device will let you broadcast your output signal on one frequency or band and receive your input signal on another. This allows for seamless communication with sats.
Aside from its cross-band full-duplex ability, this Yaesu radio model also has other important features. It is lightweight and compact, which makes it simple to move around when required.
You can easily mount the mobile radio on your vehicle – thanks to its miniature construction. The control head can be detached from the main radio body. This allows for greater installation flexibility either as a base station or within your automobile.
Most reviewers concur that the FTM-400 has a loud and clear transmission plus reception audio. Thus, you will never have to strain to hear messages when communicating with other hams via satellite.
The FTM-400/XDR requires a 12 volts power supply to function optimally. If you intend to use the device as a home base station, you can easily get a power converter that converts AC power to 12V DC power.
If you will be mounting the device within your vehicle, you can simply link it straight to your automobile’s battery. A wiring harness is included in the kit for this purpose.
The Yaesu FTM-400 is fitted with a GPS receiver that utilizes advanced GPS technology. Many ham satellite operators report that this feature allows for a more precise and swifter satellite searching functionality.
Some users say they are a bit disappointed by the lack of integrated Bluetooth considering the price level of this radio.
Nevertheless, the device has an audio-in jack where you can attach your Bluetooth adapter. This way, you can enjoy the advantages of a Bluetooth mic and headset.
- Superb sound quality
- Cross-band full-duplex functionality
- Excellent range
- APRS functionality
- A bit costly
- Some users complain that the user manual is difficult to understand
2. Kenwood Original TM-V71A
Best Programming Software
Satellites employ one ham frequency for the downlink signal and another frequency for the uplink. To achieve success with your sat operations, it is highly advantageous to also operate cross-band full-duplex.
The Kenwood Original TM-V71A can operate cross-band full-duplex. This makes it a superb ham radio for satellite use.
The TM-V71A also has an impressive 50 watts output power. This power output is more than enough to hit many of the amateur satellites orbiting the Earth.
The inspiring audio quality of the TM-V71A is another attribute that endears it to ham radio operators.
Many reviewers report that this Kenwood radio transmits fantastic quality, a properly-modulated sound that ensures a fun and pleasant communication experience.
You can also use a headset with this transceiver as it is fitted with a microphone as well as two speaker outlets. Headsets are a rational extension to your ham radio for satellite because they allow clear, secure communications within noisy surroundings.
Before you can start using the Kenwood TM-V71A, you will need to preprogram the needed satellite frequencies. Thankfully, this rig is simple to program via CHIRP on a personal computer.
You can also achieve excellent results using the Kenwood programming software. This software can be downloaded via the manufacturer’s website.
The V71A is constructed using highly durable components. Many reviewers describe the build quality as very solid. Therefore, you can expect to get several years out of the radio.
The TM-V71A is undoubtedly a dependable ham radio for satellite operations. It has several advanced features but is also very simple to use.
It comes with an all-inclusive easy-to-understand owner’s manual. Make sure you go through this manual to get a thorough understanding of how the device functions.
- Great value
- Feature loaded
- Easy to program
- Fantastic cross-band capability
- A few users report that the cross-band feature works for the only time and stops during operation
3. Icom IC-2730A
Easy to Install & Use
The IC – 2730A from Icom is another convenient transceiver for satellite operations. The radio can perform cross-band full duplex, which means you can listen on 70 centimeters while simultaneously talking on 2 meters.
Many users report that they have been able to make several contacts many miles away through the SO-50 satellite crossband repeater that orbits the Earth at an elevation of 405 miles.
In addition to its full duplex ability, the Icom IC-2730A offers several other exciting features.
The radio functions at 70 centimeters & 2 meters and offers three levels of output power on each band – 5 watts/15 watts/50 watts. Aside from the ham bands, the radio’s frequency range covers NOAA weather channels and the AM aircraft channels.
Several reviewers report that manually programming the radio for satellite tracking and communication is a pain. These reviewers recommend that you get appropriate programming software from RT systems.
If you choose to use software from RT systems, be sure to get one of their programming cables. Several other reviewers also note that it is very simple to program the device using CHIRP.
The user manual contains detailed programming instructions so ensure you exhaustively read the manual. There are also loads of videos on YouTube for additional help.
The Icom IC-2730A is generally simple to install. However, many previous buyers are disappointed that mounting brackets plus hardware are not included in the package.
The radio’s readout can be detached from the chassis to allow for a convenient installation. You can conveniently plug the mic into the readout or main unit.
This way, you can keep cables to a minimum. Included in the box are the control head, radio body, microphone, dc power cable, connector cable, microphone hanger, 15 Amps fuse.
The main unit and the control head are compact and lightweight yet sturdy. A jack is fitted on the front panel for the connector cable.
The radio is fitted with an in-built cooling fan to prevent the device from getting overheated during prolonged use. The squelch and volume knobs turn effortlessly.
Also, the rotation of the tuning dial is notched. The made in Japan radio is solidly constructed and will last for many years if it is properly maintained.
Overall, the Icom IC-2730A is a fantastic choice for mobile, portable, or home satellite operations. If you are new to ham radios, you will welcome the easy-to-understand user manual.
- Full-duplex ability
- Easy to install
- Impressive output power
- Compact design
- Mounting hardware not included in the package
- Audio quality could be better
4. TYT TH-7900
This TYT radio also has an outstanding cross-band full-duplex capability. And, several ham radio satellite operators recommend it for tracking and communicating with the ISS and amateur radio satellites.
The frequency range of this dual-band radio is RX: 136-174 plus 400-480 megahertz; TX: 144-148 plus 420-450 megahertz.
The transceiver’s max output power is 40 watts UHF and 50 watts VHF. It offers a selectable power output of 50 watts/20 watts/10 watts/5 watts for the VHF band and 40 watts/20 watts/5 watts/ for the UHF band.
Programming the transceiver is easy and CHIRP compatible. So, you can easily preprogram the satellite frequencies you want to track via CHIRP.
The comprehensive owner’s manual contained in the package has important information for the proper programming of the device.
Thus, make sure you read the manual for proper guidance. You can also get programming information by watching relevant videos on Youtube, Google, and Facebook.
The TYT TH-7900 offers remote mounting capability – thanks to its removable front controller. Some users are not happy with the audio quality but most reviewers agree that the product offers great quality for the price.
You can enhance the audio quality by connecting an external speaker to the device.
- Has cross-band full-duplex ability
- High-frequency range
- Remote mounting capability
- Easy to program and use
- Comparatively pricey
How to Select the Best Ham Radio for Satellites?
Below are the important features you should consider when choosing a ham radio for satellite operations:
1. Full-Duplex Ability
Choose a radio that offers cross-band full-duplex performance for your satellite operations. The full-duplex capability will enable you to receive and send signals simultaneously.
You can achieve some measure of success with any dual-band radio. But you will quickly discover that you will sometimes not be able to make contact with some satellites orbiting the Earth.
All the recommended products here have full-duplex ability.
These products have been tested and used by several ham radio operators and found to be highly effective for satellite operations.
The antenna is a critical element to the effective functioning of your radio. You can track and communicate with satellites without utilizing a full-duplex ham radio to some extent.
However, you can achieve nothing without a dependable antenna. Many hams have achieved success by using mobile whip antennas.
Nevertheless, you will achieve the best results by pairing any of the recommended devices with a small directional antenna.
3. Programming Software
Before you can begin using your ham radio for sat operations, you will need to program the satellite frequencies you require.
With so many device configuration settings to deal with, having some program to help you can be highly beneficial. The products recommended here all come with programming plus configuration software and are all easy to program.
However, the Kenwood Original TM-V71A is the winner concerning ease of programming.
The rig is very simple to program via CHIRP on a personal computer. It is also simple to manually program the radio using the Kenwood programming software. Kenwood allows free download of this software via their website.
Comparison of Top 5 Ham Radios for Satellites
|Ham Radio||Weight||Dimension||Maximum Power||Maximum operational Distance||Full duplex functionality|
|TYT TH-9800D||2.65 pounds||5.51 x 1.63 x 6.61 inches (W x H x D)||50 watts||50 miles||Yes|
|Yaesu FTM-400D/XDR||2.6 pounds||5.5 x 4.9 x 1.6 inches||50 watts||60 miles||Yes|
|KenWood TM-V71A||3.3 pounds||5.51 x 8.39 x 1.69 inches||50 watts||50 miles||Yes|
|Icom IC-2730A||2.65 pounds||5.9 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches||50 watts||50 miles||Yes|
|TYT TH-7900||2.2 pounds||5.51 x 1.74 x 6.60 inches||50 watts||50 miles||Yes|
When shopping for the best ham radio for satellite operations, remember that you must think about full-duplex capability. Not many ham radios support this feature.
The transceivers recommended in this post all have cross-band full-duplex capabilities. So, go ahead and choose anyone that best suits your requirements.