The absolute worst radio I owned was a Heathkit SW-717 shortwave received I built in 1982. I would have been much better off buying the Radio Shack model I was also eying at the time. I did get plenty of soldering experience but the thing was impossible to use to demodulate CW or SSB
even though it had an alleged "BFO" which just reduced the sensitivity and caused a squeal.
Right next to it was the Heath HW-5400 synthesized 80-10m rig. It had no general coverage receive and had no receive above 20m either. Within a year the knobs started cracking and later on the power supply developed problems so I cut my losses and bought a TS
-830S to replace it. The bad
The third worst rig was the HR-2600. My biggest issue was the way a single 15 kHz filter was used for all modes. On CW and SSB
a severe loss of sensitivity occurred once the signal was tuned. And then there was no filtering on the other side of the signal for 10 kHz or so. It was too much of a compromise. The good
The first good radio I owned was the aforementioned TS
-830S. Yes, it was ham band only with tube finals and it performed quite well as a result. The downside was the tube finals and the lack of ability to operate directly from 12V. Adding the VFO-230 gave it PLL stability which helped a lot.
Currently in my stable is my FT
-890AT. This was offered during a period (the early '90s) when Yaesu leapfrogged to the top of the heap, IMO, with the FT
-990, and FT
-890 (they've since regressed in several respects). The receiver in the '890 is very good and mine is likely helped by the prior owner installing the 2.4 kHz SSB
and 400 Hz CW filters. Mine has been solid and has performed well for me mobile in years past and at Field Day and other field operations. I fell in love with the '890 at Field Day 1992 and finally got my own seven years later.
The best radio is one I've only had on the air for about six weeks, the Elecraft K3. After slogging through SSB
Sweepstakes this weekend, I can honestly say that the K3 lives up to its hype. The radio was simply flawless throughout the competition (the same cannot be said for its operator LOL). The receiver stood up as advertised and I had no out of band artifacts or AGC pumping noticed unlike the FT
-920 it replaced. The transmitter ran cool and even spending a few hours "running" on 80m I never heard the fans run at high speed as the PA temp never exceeded 37C. Audio reports were good and using the Lo and Hi cut adjustments allowed me to get 100% copy that would have otherwise been covered by side splatter especially in a contest where 1.5 kHz is often wide spacing amongst stations. I had stopped using VOX years ago and this weekend tried it again with the K3 and my Heil headset. The VOX was smooth and essentially flawless. In short, I'm sold, and the K3 can expect a spot on my desk for a long time.