"Upgrading Your Short-Range
(or, there ain't no substitute for power)"
ago as the FRS (Family Radio Service) band, short-range radios were
being introduced, Radio Corner published a review of the equipment
available at that time, and rated the various models. Since then,
a number of improvements have been made within the parameters of
short-range communications gear. Therefore, a new review might be
helpful to those users not getting the range desired.
A number of
companies (Motorola, Kenwood, Cherokee and Yaesu) joined in the
production of these devices, and as seen at the Republican and Democratic
conventions this year, had their equipment put to very good use.
While the cost
of the new and more powerful units is about TRIPLE what the original
FRS units cost, it should be noted that the original type 1/2-watt
power units have had a 50% reduction in cost. And, the latest versions
are more efficient, because of their ability to narrow the transmit
and receive bandwidth - like sharpening a knife blade.
If the same
power is applied to a slightly smaller bandwidth, the radio is proportionately
of Recent Upgraded Models In The Lower Power Range
The number one
unit appears to be Kenwood's LH14 Free Talk. The unit retails for
about $80.00, has 14-channel capability, 38 programmable tone sets
(so the user doesn't have to listen to others on his channel), a
fold-down antenna (clever for in-pocket carrying), and is a true
FM radio. The unit has a true range of in excess of 1/2 mile, although
manufacturers and dealers love to advertise 2 miles. Using 2 AA
batteries, the radio will carry the user all day and night with
25% talk time.
the Kenwood Free Talk is the Motorola FR-60. It is a tiny radio
which fits easily in the palm of your hand, and has the same capabilities
as the Kenwood. The
only thing missing
is the fold-down antenna (the rigid antenna makes a bump in your
pocket). If the radio is to be carried in a shirt pocket and used
with a headset or remote mic, either radio is equal. Motorola FR-60
also retails for around $80.00.
Audiovox and others are also on the market, offering similar, although
not as efficient or sturdy units, for less money.
earpiece and mic accessories allow the radio to be used by either
pushing the Push-to-Talk button on the radio, or the button on the
accessory cord. Many of the units can be set up to talk into the
mic by activating the Voice Activated Transmit (VOX) . Cost is about
2. Remote speaker
mics are available for most of the units at relatively low cost,
3. Belt cases
and arm cases are available for most units at dealerships.
A number of
companies offer lightweight 2-watt UHF radios at this time. These
radios compete more with the FRS (Family Radio Service) radios,
in that they are not programmable and are locked to the frequencies
assigned to the FRS system. The 2-watt radios in this category are
basically the same, and are produced by Kenwood, Motorola and Tekk
among others. The units have to compete with the radios assigned
to the FRS group, and at short-range will interfere with the low-power
FRS radios with little gain for the money.
At the conventions
this year, it seemed every runner on the floor had a Motorola radio
and a heavy-duty headset, earpiece and mic accessory. The main radio
used was the
(16 channel) programmable unit, listing for $675 with an accessory
mic system for $150. This radio has a 4-watt transmit capability,
and is computer programmable with DPL (digital private line) capability
as well as Control Tone capability for privacy. Expected range is
a realistic 4 miles - 2 to 3 miles through
was well used communicating from the convention floor to the media
center in another building. The headset and mic combination are
heavy-duty, allowing user-friendly operation.
360 is the same type radio, with DPL and CTCSS for privacy. There
is little difference between it and the Motorola, except it costs
about $575.00 with a comparable headset combination.
Yaesu has the
VX210 with all the same features as the Kenwood and Motorola for
$390. This unit is considerably smaller, and the operation and durability
appears to be the same as the Motorola and the Kenwood models. Yaesu
also supplies a heavy-duty headset/mic combination.
has a lower-cost unit, also 16 channels with the same power capability,
and many of the same features as the Motorola, for $300. A heavy-duty
headset combination is NOT available.
radios can be programmed to the 16 UHF Itinerant/Dot frequencies
without licensing required. In addition, all the FRS frequencies
can be programmed if desired.
the reason for buying the Motorola or Kenwood radios over the Yaesu
is perceived name recognition and user familiarity. The Yaesu VX210
has all the features of the more well-known units for close to half
the price. It is as durable, and has all the same operating features.
Had more research been done prior to the purchase of all the Motorola
equipment used to cover the campaigns and conventions, a lot of
money could have been saved. In addition, the Yaesu is considerably
smaller and has the same range.
always available to assist you in becoming more dollar-efficient
and better prepared. The Radioman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org