Are cheap radios hurting the Hobby?

Posted: May 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

In the past few years, very cheap amateur radios have been hitting the market. Most of these radios are manufactured in China at very low cost to the consumer.


The Luiton LT-425UV sells for $89.

For example, the Quad band (2 meters, 1.25 meters, 70cm and 350 Mhz) 25 watt Luiton LT-425UV is being sold on for $89.00 USD. That is about one fifth the cost of a comparable Japanese manufactured rig from ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood or Alinco. Btech and Baofeng also manufacture and sell very low cost radios that are considerable lower in cost and quality than comparable radios from the major Japanese manufacturers. The Baofeng UV-5R V2+ sells for $35.00 which is on fourth the price of comparable Japanese radios.


While I haven’t done any research, I am concerned that the popularity of these low cost rigs may be hurting the sales and future production plans of quality amateur equipment vendors such as ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood and Alinco. For example, the Wouxun X108G multiband QRP HF radio sells for $499. That is less than half of the cost of comparable Japanese radios.


Another concern that I have is that many of these low cost radios can also easily be programed and used on Public Safety portions of the VHF and UHF bands. In fact, incidents of jammers and unlicensed operators on Public Safety radios systems is increasing. These cheap Chinese radios can be purchased and programmed by anyone. No license is required for the purchase.


The Wouxon X108G QRP HF transceiver sells for $499

I’ve got to wonder if these cheap Chinese radios are being dumped on the market, possibly being sold at a loss just to gain a foothold in the amateur radio market. Are hams that are buying these cheap low quality radios inadvertently helping put the hurt on the venerable Japanese manufacturers of high quality radios for amateur use.

Will we see more low cost and low quality rigs enter the HF arena and put the hurt on the Japanese manufacturers as well as American manufacturers Elecraft and Flex Radio?

I would like to see the FCC step in and test these radios and require than they cannot be programed on Public Safety frequencies. These radios should be tested for transmission quality and their ability to operate wide band/narrow band.

In the long term, these low cost and low quality radios might just be harming the hobby of Amateur Radio.

What do you think?

  1. Dale H. Cole K8TS says:

    As an amateur who has been licensed since 1972, I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. We (whether we like it or not) are supposed to be a self regulating body. It is our responsibility to make sure that our equipment complies with Part 97 rules and regulations. We are the ones who must make sure our equipment operates to meet certain minimum standards. If we allow ourselves to use equipment of substandard quality then shame on us, and we should be expected to pay any fines imposed by the FCC for improper use. Only by rejecting equipment of sub-standard quality can we expect that equipment to disappear from the market. If as a manufacture of a unsatisfactory product that does not sell, you will obviously cease to build it. It is up to us as a community to reject that type of unit. It then becomes an economic issue of the manufacturer.
    As to ruining our hobby with “cheap” equipment……well that speaks for its self. It is not possible for the ordinary operator to keep pace and be held “hostage” to the rapidly rising cost of equipment. It is unreasonable to attempt to understand why a rig should cost upwards of $3000.00. There are some, who as a matter of fact can afford this kind of outlay. The bulk of operators just can not go there. On one visit to Dayton several years ago, I listened to one manufacture say that “(we)..understand that a radio should not cost $5K ..”; but shortly introduced one of that price range. Some of those companies need to have a reality check, and perhaps this is the case. China has found a price niche that suits the average ham and his budget. So, IMHO, it’s time to those companies to wake up and smell the roses. Sure there will always be a niche for the high lines, the Cadillac’s of the industry, but the industry also needs to accept that most ham operators will not be able to support that end of the industry.
    Finally, we can not police the entire radio spectrum. Those who choose to operate beyond the amateur bands for which they a licensed to operate, do so at their own risk, and should be dealt with by the FCC upon complaints by whatever agency is being interfered with.
    Thank you for reading this far.

  2. Roger says:

    I don’t know anything about the low cost HF rigs so I can’t comment on them. However, I think the traditional HF transceiver makers, Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, etc. are in a position to maintain market share because they are improving the “performance per dollar” ratio all the time.

    I happen to be an “ICOM” guy. The new IC7300 differs in many ways but I’d say it is at least “in the ballpark” of the much more expensive IC7600. I bought my 7600 when they first came on the market. The current price of a 7600, from DX Engineering is $2630. The current price of the 7300 is $1329 from DX Engineering. This suggests that the traditional makers of HF gear are going to be able to lower prices and still put decent rigs on the market.

    I admit that there are some high end rigs, like the IC 7851 which are very high priced. DX Engineering is taking reservations on the IC7851 which is a rig that is supposedly going to cost $13,000. Holy Toledo. If I had an extra $13 grand I wouldn’t be spending it on any radio. If I could use that money for ham radio I put up more Aluminum such as a SteppIR on a 60 foot crankup tower. Or maybe I’d put up a 4 square for 80 meters on some land behind my house which is a creek.

    I don’t think many hams are going to be buying the cheap HF rigs. But I could be wrong.

    What are the 3 most important aspects of any fixed station? Well, here is my answer in order (1) antenna, (2) antenna, and (3) antenna. I used Kenwood and Icom HF rigs over the last 30 years. They were more or less the “same”. When I finally put up a decent tribander at 52 feet the difference was like night and day.

    73 Roger K5RKS

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