Top 5 Best HF Radios In 2023
There are lots of different brands out there, but if you are looking for the best high frequency radio, then you have come to the right spot! We’ve put together a list of the best options for your radio needs. Whether you need to find something budget friendly, or simply need the most incredible new HF radio, we’ve got you covered.
Our list covers a wide variety of options so you can get everything from your next emergency radio, or a first time radio. That way you can find exactly what you want, without having to comb over thousands of reviews online. Read on to find the best high frequency radio just for you.
Number 1. ICOM 7300 – Our Choice
- Compact design allows for increased portability
- Solid build quality for longevity
- The touch-screen makes it easy to operate the device
- It has an intuitive interface that’s fast and easy to navigate
- Fast spectrum scope makes finding weak signals super easy
- Offers improved sound quality
- It’s expensive
- You can face challenges rejecting QRM
The ICOM 7300 is one of the best premium models out there, highly regarded for its outstanding quality and lots of useful features it provides.
One of the most notable features of this device is the RF Direct Sampling System, which ensures you enjoy quality audio with minimal noise. This feature works by digitizing RF signals and relaying them via the FPGA. This helps lower noise levels significantly while also making the circuit simpler.
Besides, it features an internal auto-tuner and a Continuous Wave (CW) function to cancel out unwanted noise. It also supports Single Side Band (SSB), meaning it makes use of the internal amplifier to improve the sound quality and volume.
LCD Screen and Design
Another impressive feature worth mentioning is the unit’s 4.3 inches LCD waterfall touch screen, which makes operating the device effortless.
There is also an IP+ feature that enables the base station to receive weaker signals that are usually masked or overridden by stronger signals. This way, you get to eliminate signal interference, so you can hear even the weakest signals more clearly.
It is uniquely designed with a radio-teletype (RTTY), which allows you to wirelessly connect it to multiple teleprinters. Besides the RF Direct Sampling system, this unit also boasts up to 15 band-pass filters that work together to deliver superior performance.
Not Too User Friendly
One of the issues with this ham radio base station is its steep learning curve due to the many features included. It’s also quite expensive.
In conclusion, if you’re ready to spend a few extra dollars on a quality unit, then you can’t go wrong with this ICOM 7300 ham radio base station.
Number 2. Xiegu G90 HF Radio – Best Budget HF Radio
- Compact size and portability
- Attractive price point
- The front panel is removable
- The built-in antenna auto tuner is very effective
- Overall feature-rich radio.
- The maximum output power is 20W
- There is no backlight for the control buttons or knobs.
Xiegu G90 HF Radio isn’t just a cheap HF radio that you buy solely for the price. The G90 has enough capabilities to stand its own ground. The price tag is the cherry on top of all that this radio has to offer.
The compact unit measures 1.77-inch (L) x 4.72-inch (W) and has a depth of 8.26-inch. That alone will give you plenty of flexibility to install or place this radio where you want it, but Xiegu goes the extra mile here.
It has four extension handles that can screw into the sides of the radio (front and back). Additionally, the front panel (face plate) is detachable. The radio comes with a DB9 cable to make this possible. All these features and capabilities bode well for the convenience of installing this radio.
Look and Build
The front of the Xiegu G90 HF Radio has a few buttons and a few knobs, but it’s dominated by the large color display. This LCD shows plenty of information like frequency, volume, signal, standing wave, and more. It even has a waterfall to display the frequencies.
However, this isn’t a touchscreen and not nearly as advanced as the displays you’d see on ICOM IC7300 or Yaesu FTDX10. Then again, these models cost almost two to three times more than the Xiegu G90.
While the display on the radio is crisp and bright, the lighting doesn’t extend to other buttons or knobs. None of the controls are backlit, which I think is a huge oversight. Better visibility of the controls is important for a portable radio, which might easily find itself in low-light conditions.
Transmission and Antenna
Another factor where Xiegu G90 HF Radio lags behind many of its competitors is transmit power. This radio tops out at 20W, though other HF radios generally prefer to have a max transmit power of 100W. Although for a unit that has portability in mind, the 20W output is pretty decent.
Though it might be lacking in a few aspects, Xiegu doesn’t feel like it misses out on a lot. I like that a lot of functions for the radio can be handled with the included microphone. Apart from the conventional buttons, the microphone has a few dedicated function buttons and two configurable buttons.
You can adjust the built-in antenna tuner for the radio completely through the microphone. Speaking of the built-in tuner, Xiegu’s tuner appears to be a very impressive one. Many users find it absolutely fun. The tuner will work with anything metal and use it as a decent antenna.
Well, there’s bound to be some loss if you don’t use a proper antenna, but still, the built-in auto tuner deserves appreciation.
Interfaces and Overall Impression
On the left side of the radio, you’ll find room for two interfaces. One of these is the standard 3.5mm audio jack where you can attach the headphone of your choice. Alternatively, you could also attach your choice of speakers here for better, clear audio.
The other spot is for the “self-defining interface”. Simply put, you can use this spot for firmware updates or for connecting this radio to a computer.
Overall, this is an excellent radio that punches above its weight. While it falls into the budget category, Xiegu G90 HF Radio isn’t a cheap pick. Rather, it’s a cost-effective and feature-rich option.
Value for Money: 9/10
Overall Rating: 9/10
Number 3. Kenwood TS-590SG — Best Premium HF Radio
- Premium build quality
- Good ergonomics for easy use of the transceiver
- Connects seamlessly with a computer for digital modes
- The transceiver can be remote-controlled through a computer
- Excellent cooling system
- The high price tag can be a discouragement
- The received audio quality could be better and easier to manage.
Kenwood TS-590SG is a big old HF radio with amazing features. It’s amongst the heaviest entry-level HF transceivers and focuses on performance and high-level response. Kenwood launched the TS-590S back in 2010. The transceiver has since seen a model update, which is available in the form of the TS-590SG.
This transceiver looks and feels the part of a premium, high-quality radio. All those buttons on this radio might feel intimidating at first, but if you know your way around HF radios, you’ll find they’re intuitive and make using this radio very easy.
Pretty much any function or feature of this radio can be accessed with the single press of a button or by turning a knob. This makes for a quick and efficient way to go about these things.
Holding Up to Competition
Kenwood TS-590SG is often compared to other famous HF radios in its general range, like the ICOM IC7300. However, keep in mind that though both these transceivers fit into the same niche, they take on a very different approach.
For example, while the IC7300 is apparently easier to operate thanks to its touchscreen LCD, it can also be the more complicated option! Many features and settings on the IC7300 require multiple taps, going through several menus, and finding the right setting.
Conversely, everything the TS-590SG has to offer is available as buttons or knobs at its front. The Kenwood radio is also significantly more expensive and heavier than IC7300.
Kenwood has chosen to walk the path of a simple display on the 590SG. There’s no bright LCD with a band scope and similar features. Yet, this radio doesn’t lack any features. You can handle almost all HF radio needs with this one.
Using This Radio
There is something of a learning curve with this transceiver, but it isn’t overly complex or difficult. Yet, it also has enough room should you want to explore further or experiment with the Kenwood TS-590SG.
Another interesting feature here is digital connectivity. There’s a USB port on the radio to make that happen and you can connect it to your computer. And just like that, digital functions and SDR become available.
It works seamlessly with Kenwood’s software control app or other software like DXLab Suite. Kenwood’s included software is a treat here. It mimics the operations of the transceiver and has a great response. The remote IP control and VOIP capabilities of the radio are pretty good, as is the software handling it.
The front of the radio is dominated by numerous buttons, knobs, and a bright display. It is possible to change the backlight color of the display to suit your needs. The display color starts with amber and can pass through 10 steps to reach green. Each “step” is an intermediate color for the display.
Apart from all the buttons and knobs, the front connector also has room for a 6.3mm phone jack and a mic connector.
Overall, this is a remarkable transceiver with good audio receive, excellent transmit audio, easy digital connectivity, and top-notch ergonomics. Its price might give you pause, but if you can afford it, Kenwood TS-590SG is worth every penny spent.
Value for Money: 9/10
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Number 4. Yaesu FT-891 – Best Portable Option
- IF DSP ensures effective QRM rejection
- 100 watts for reliable and solid performance
- Ultra-compact design allows for increased portability
- Large LCD enables better viewing
- It has a complex menu, which can be confusing for some operators
- Can get super-loud at 100W
The FT-891 comes packed with numerous useful features and functions, making it a great purchase for the money. Moreover, this device can be used as a mobile or base station.
To begin with, this unit boasts a rugged, die cast construction that makes it incredibly durable. At 17 x 9 x 5 inches in dimensions, the FT-891 is smaller than the FT-857, making it the perfect option for desktop mounting.
Besides its outstanding build-quality, this device features a power output of 100 Watts and can cover HF bands. In addition, the unit can operate on all bands that range from 6 meters to 160 meters.
Versatility and Display
For improved versatility, this device comes with a triple conversion receiver, meaning you can tune it within the 30 KHz and 56 MHz range. It also can run on several other modes such as CW, AM, USB, and LSB.
Other handy features include a noise blanker, a large LCD display and backlight keys plus display for convenient night time operation.
On the downside the complex menu, can take you some time to get used to. It also gets noisy at 100W, but can be quieter when operating below 50W.
Number 5. Yaesu FTDX10 Compact – Best Looks And Features
- Good looks and features
- Beautiful LCD touchscreen and display
- Good sound quality
- Feature-rich radio.
- The fast-disappearing touchscreen panels are annoying
- Popular buttons like “band” and “mode” should have been better placed.
Yaesu FTDX10 is an interesting HF radio, partially due to its origin and style. The company has placed this radio to compete with the ICOM IC7300, which is the most popular HF radio available at this moment.
However, rather than creating a brand new radio from the drawing table, Yaesu seems to have created a mini version of the more expensive and more capable FTDX101D.
This mashup in creation means that the Yaesu FTDX10 is remarkable in a few aspects and confusingly inadequate in some others.
The Look and Functions
The appearance of the transceiver is dominated by a large screen and an oversized knob. The display is a touchscreen TFT that offers a lot of information related to the functioning of the radio. Amongst other things, you can see the frequency and the beautiful waterfall on the display.
Since it’s a touchscreen, you can tap on specific frequencies on the waterfall and then change the operating frequency. You can also touch the screen to access several menus and functions.
Oddly enough, Yaesu appears to have chosen arbitrary timings for the panels on the radio. Some panels will go away after 2 seconds, others might take something like 3.5 seconds, while some can stay on indefinitely.
And this timing is after Yaesu tried to fix the timing in response to complaints from users. Perhaps the panels can stay on for longer, at least until the user makes a selection.
The right side of the radio features the large knob and several buttons. Most of the buttons are placed around this knob. Usually, I love prominent buttons and knobs, but in this case, I’d have preferred that the knob lose some weight and make room for the other buttons languishing around it.
One of the downsides of the current approach is that the commonly used keys like “Band” and “Mode” are trapped in tiny spaces without easy access. Reaching them can get a bit annoying and even frustrating if you hit a few wrong buttons on your way to reach these popular keys.
Though I have been critical of several aspects of this transceiver, it’s certainly not all bad. This is a very decent radio with great features and plenty of useful aspects.
The waterfall and band scope often take the biggest pie of the discussion about this radio. The function is visually stunning and fun to use. If you want digital modes like FT8, just connect to a computer via USB. It’s rather quick and painless to connect and works in this mode without a hitch.
How it Compares
With a Network Remote Control Software like the SCU-LAN10, it’s possible to operate the transceiver remotely.
Given the functioning and placement of the transceiver, its comparisons with the ICOM IC7300 are unavoidable. Features like display, waterfall, and spectrum scope are very similar to what’s available on the IC7300.
Yet, there is the benefit of technology on the side of the FTDX10. This model is roughly 5 years younger than the IC7300 and thus benefits from improved components and technology. It has better audio quality and dynamic range. However, it also carries a notably higher price tag, which might not be so easy to ignore!
Value for Money: 8.5/10
Overall Rating: 9/10