Roger Williams
Radio Corner

"Upgrading Your Short-Range
Communications Equipment

(or, there ain't no substitute for power)"

Several years 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 more efficient.


Review 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.

Right behind 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.

Maxon, Cobra, Audiovox and others are also on the market, offering similar, although not as efficient or sturdy units, for less money.


1. Headset, 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 $40.00

2. Remote speaker mics are available for most of the units at relatively low cost, about $40.00.

3. Belt cases and arm cases are available for most units at dealerships.

Medium-Range Communications

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.

Increased Range Communications

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

Motorola P1225 (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

buildings. This 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.

Kenwood's TK 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.

Maxon Company 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.

Note: These 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.

Conclusions For Purchase

It appears, 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.


Radioman is always available to assist you in becoming more dollar-efficient and better prepared. The Radioman can be reached at or

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