Which Radio for a Beginner


I am about to jump into flying in the RC hobby. I have 2 planes I have built over the past several years but never flown. I'm ready to buy a radio and take the plunge. I was told to get a 6 channel computer radio instead of the 4 channel that is required for my models. I was told this would give me the option to expand with the purchase of 1 radio and minimal costs for additional servos and rx. Should I be getting the 6 Channel or stick with the 4? Can someone recommend a radio?


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I agree with a six channel, and definitely a six channel computer radio. There are so many adjustments that can make your life easier if you can do it in the transmitter instead of doing mechanically in the plane. Six channels because you'll find many planes using two channels for seperate servos for the ailerons. This makes setting them up easier, and also allows you to use them as flap/aileron combined. (flaperons) Most likely your second or third plane will require this.

Most of the RC world is split into two fairly even camps between JR and Futaba radios, with Hitec a distant 3rd. If It were me. I'd take a hard look at the new JR 6102. ( Guess which camp I'm in?)

Good Luck and enjoy your new hobby! PCPhill

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I was looking at this radio:

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**&P=0 It's the Futaba EXA but I'll definitely take a look at the JR radio now that I know about it. It just seems that every place I look Futaba is the first ones that pop up and everyone I've talked to seems to have one. Good to know that there are other options out there.


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The Futaba 6XA, 6EX, and Hitec Flash 5 are all good beginner computer radios. For those who like JR, go with it, but they're not my favorite. Dr.1 Driver "There's a Hun in the sun!"

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First of all, a six channel doesn't make additional servos and stuff any cheaper. The one exception to this is when you buy additional servos and receivers with the radio AND the hobby shop cuts you a deal on it. But for later purchases of servos and stuff, it doesn't really help. What it really comes down to is a matter of economics along with a couple of questions.

First of all can you afford it? If not then buy the four. Don't stretch your finances. Plenty of time for that later in life. :)

Do you see yourself needing that fifth or six channel in the foreseeable future? I know a lot of guys who have been flying for many years and they very seldom if ever use more than four channels. Fifth for retracts and that's usually it.

But what often happens is the six channel will have more features than the four. Things like dual rates, exponential, computer radio with all those goodies, etc. You have to consider your need for those options too. So compare what the six offers over the four aside from the extra two channels. Decide if you're going to make use of those features in the foreseeable future, year or two.

A big difference between a computer radio and the old fashioned the four would be is model set up. The computer does make model set up much easier. Just drop in the radio and configure on the Tx. However, there is advantage to knowing how to do it the old fashioned way as well.

But since it's taken you how many years to get to this point? Several? It may be several more before you really need the advantages a computer radio might provide. And in today's technology advances, the radios you get in two or more years may in no way resemble what's on the shelves today. Nor cost as much! It's a crap shoot and all you can really do is compare the two and decide which one you think you will make the most use of.

Good luck, Chuck

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Well said Chuck! All very good points. As far as which camp you belong (Futaba, Hitec, Airtronics, JR, Others) IMHO is a function of where you fly and who you fly with or learn from. We have a rather large group of folks who fly Hitec here in my club in NC. Other places I have flown liked Futaba and others were Airtronics... so I would personaly go with what folks are flying in your area, that makes it easier to buddy box to learn to fly. Or check with your trainer to see what they use. I like and use Hitec for cost vs feature reasons. Good value for the money. Good luck with it and enjoy the flying!


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One thing I might add in buying a radio, especially if you use the tried-and-true method of joining a club and getting an instructor, is that you buy the same brand as your instructor uses. That way, you can learn to fly using a buddy cord. It makes learning to fly a lot easier. Each manufacturer uses a proprietary buddy cord system. The exception is that you can use the Hitec buddy cord between Hitec and Futaba transmitters. Futaba is in the process of changing their buddy cords from their old DIN-style plug to a square one.


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Morris Lee

I agree. Start with the four channel, then move up. The four channel has everything you need for a first or second plane, is easier to set up with a buddy box, and teaches better control linkage setup. Besides, if you learn with a buddy box, the instructor uses your transmitter anyway, not the student.

Alan Harriman

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Alan Harriman

================= The 'real' advantage of a computer radio, for a lot of us, is multiple model memory. The other features are nice but not critical.

Are you planning to have an instructor, using a trainer box? If yes, your radio must be compatible with the instructor's equipment. Or, you can buy a trainer box and cord compatible with the radio you choose, and then, it comes down to your preference and pocketbook.

I believe quality and reliability is fairly equal among the popular brands. One of our club members has the 10 channel JR ($$$$$$$$) and he insists that it has a better 'feel' than any other radio. I've never held it. For $$$$$$$$, I'd be telling myself something to justify the price.


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Don't overlook the airtronics RD6000! I have several Futabas including the

8U and the 9C, but I LOVE the Airtronics. It's VERY SIMPLE to program and really has a feel of quality. Later, you can use any brand receiver or servo. It has shift select so JR and Futaba and Hitec receivers all work equally well. This is a very impressive radio.

My next choice would be the Futaba 9C but a bit more expensive.

You will eventually want the features a computer radio offers. It will be much less expensive in the long run to go ahead and get one now.

If cost is a huge factor, go ahead and get the Futaba 6EXA. It's a good deal for the money.

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On 3/7/2004 7:38 AM Ted shuffled out of his cave and grunted these great (and sometimes not so great) words of knowledge:

Avoid the 6EXA. For a couple of bucks more the 6XAS is a substantially better radio with better and easier programming options.

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Ted Campanelli

On 3/7/2004 6:12 AM Ted shuffled out of his cave and grunted these great (and sometimes not so great) words of knowledge:

As several people have mentioned, there are several excellent brands of radios out there. I would suggest seeing what the majority of people are using at your local flying field. The reason for this is: If you have a question or problem with the radio, the odds are someone at the field is going to be able to help you out. I know you can always go digging in the manual, or call the company, but camaraderie is also part of this also. :-)

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Ted Campanelli

I got the Flsh5 as my first radio, but I am rapidly outgrowing it. I ended up buing a used Flash4 to fly my smaller models with to save model memorys on the 5 for the glow planes.

If I would have started this hobby now, I would have gotten something better then the Flash5 as a first radio, but still I would have gotten a cheap second radio for the small planes.

BTW, never trust a used reciever... Guess how I know ;-)

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I was hoping someone wouldn't recommend the 6XAS because I had the option to purchase that at less than the cost of the EXA at the RAM show in White Plan a few weekends ago. My wife vetoed it and now I'm stuck looking for another. She's pretty pissed off at the cost of my aquariums and now this. Oh well Mother's day is coming up so maybe I can get a trade, a nice piece of jewelry for the computer radio.


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I was figuring the lower cost would come from not having to buy a completely new trasmitter if I bought a new plane that required more than 4 channels and being able to buy only buy a receiver and servos without the transmitter. I Didn't think that buying this radio would somehow magically reduce the price of servos and rx. lol.

Thanks for the good advice though.

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Where do you hang the jewellery on a radio ?

Reply to
ray fisher

Get the six channel computerized transmitter because you will one day need it, but at the outset you only need a four channel rig and have no real use for complex programming.

Until you get into complex scale models or bleeding edge aerobatics, six channels will support the four basic functions (elevator, rudder, aileron, throttle) plus retracts, and the sixth channel could be used for any number of options like smoke, brakes, speed brakes, or whatever 'feature' you'd care to add. Not many models actually need more than six channels, and the vast majority are flown on four.

As for novices 'needing' a computerized transmitter, I think it's a mistake to build a model and depend on transmitter programmability and flexibility just to get the model flying properly.

For example your first three, maybe four models will not need two channels to control ailerons. It's only when you get into more sophisticated models that you need such flexibility, and I'm talking about expensive, precise pattern models and large (even more expensive) aerobatic models.

IMHO if you cannot get the ailerons working properly with one channel you simply do not know what you're doing, and we get 'help' queries about aileron controls all the time. Look a bit farther down the message list to see what I mean. In the thread "Aileron Differential

- Help !", two of the first three answers from seasoned vets have the "what" right but have the "why" reversed. Only one of them can be correct with respect to how ailerons work.

If indeed you want to compromise the ailerons by making them do double duty as ersatz flaps, then yes you could use two channels. A better solution is a mechanical mixer driven by the second channel. If you leave the aileron function on one channel and put the mechanical flap mixer on a second channel, you still have a basic control system and will have adhered to the KISS principle : don't make things complex solely for the sake of complexity, or, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

You can well and truly shoot yourself in the foot by using two channels to control ailerons if you don't have a sound understanding OF ailerons. A surprising number of models have been carried off the flying field in trash bags because the modeler got something wrong somewhere between the stick and the aileron. One 'popular sport' is reversing the aileron leads. Using two channels to control ailerons carries with it the distinct possibility that you will launch the model with the ailerons reversed, and it won't likely complete the departure turn. I've seen that happen at the highest levels of the hobby, including at a Scale Master's qualifier where the gent flying the model had a bad case of brain fade because of the pressure of competition. Had he keyed his aileron cables so they could not be plugged in backwards, he'd could have spent the night sleeping instead of repairing his model for the second day's competition.

With one aileron channel it is not possible to reverse the leads, and while you may well crash the model before the departure turn it will not be because you got the ailerons plugged in backwards, you may have installed the servos incorrectly. That's not brain fade at the field, it's a crash installed on the building bench and the building bench is where it all begins. The vast majority of crashes are built into the model, whereas a much smaller percentage result from flight-line brain fade. Building the model so you can put it together wrong at the field is remarkably dumb.

I think novices need to learn how to build the mechanical bits of control systems correctly and accurately first, and then learn to use those basic control systems to fly the model.

I think novices need to go through the process of figuring out how to install two servos for a split elevator using one channel. It's not difficult at all, and covers the basics nicely.

Only after you've got the basics well and truly down pat are you ready to move up to two-channel ailerons, flapperon mixing, rudder-aileron mixing, and complex models with lots of optional functions.

There's nothing worse than stuffing the model you've worked on for months (or years) simply because you're trying to learn the model and the transmitter at the same time.

Mr. Scott was quite correct when he opined that 'the trickier they make the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drains'.

No amount of transmitter programmability will counter the basic limitations of a given model. A high-winged basic trainer won't do inverted flight very well no matter what transmitter is used - the airframe simply doesn't have the capability of accurate inverted flight.

Forcing flapperons onto a aileron-only airframe is a poor compromise compared to dedicated flaps, and at best the model flies poorly in flapperon mode - you don't get the effectiveness of dedicated flaps and have less roll authority.

I suggest you use the transmitter in it's most basic mode (one channel per flight control function) until you can build straight, robust, accurate mechanical control systems. Move on to complex programming solutions as your actual needs become more complex.

I have a Futaba 9ZAS WC II.

The reasons I have that decidedly-expensive transmitter/synth module have nothing to do with programmability. I bought that $1200 system because I can store multiple models in memory, I have 9 channels to support the complex scale models I build, and the synthesizer module allows me to fly on any of 50 channels.

I have yet to use or need the highly complex programmability of the transmitter, and I may never have need of such functionality. I flight test my models with an old Futaba gold-face 7 channel transmitter. If a model won't fly properly from a bone-head basic transmitter, the problem is in the model and that's where the fix is needed.

The only difference between using the gold-face FM transmitter and the

9ZAS WC II transmitter in FM mode is that I have to swap the throttle and elevator servo plugs at the receiver because the channel encoding sequence is different between the two transmitters. Otherwise there's no functional difference between using the 1985 Futaba and the 2001 Futaba. No difference at all, from an operational standpoint. The 9Z system has a whole bunch of extra features and programming capability, but none of that makes any difference in how well the model flies.

I could use the 9Z programmability to make my highly-loaded scale warbirds more docile on final (mix throttle, flaps, and elevator to maintain the descent profile as the gear is comes down), but I prefer flying the model myself, not letting the transmitter fly the model.

I dunno 'bout you, but the reason I build is to fly. I don't spend two or three years building a decent scale model so a transmitter can have all the fun.

Cheers, Fred McClellan The House Of Balsa Dust

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Fred McClellan

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