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New to GMRS, looking for advice


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#21 WREJ796

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 02:48 PM

Took a couple weeks for our schedules to align, but we were able to test swapping radios today. Tested a bunch of different configurations to see what worked the best and here are the (hopefully readable) results.
 
TLDR: Confirmed stock antennas are terrible, NA-771R is a huge improvement. UV-5R doesn't work well on Narrowband. High/Low power doesn't make much of a difference.
 
 
All tests were performed with the below radios at these locations:
Point A - GMRS-V1 - High power (5W) / Low power (2W)
Point B - UV-5R - High power (4W) / Low power (1W)
 
 
To keep things simple we started with "symmetric" tests, same equipment and settings on both radios:
 
NA-771R Antenna Tests
 
Test 1 - We could both hear each other normally
GMRS-V1  NA-771R  High power  Wideband
UV-5R    NA-771R  High power  Wideband
Test 2 - We could both hear each other, but there was more static
GMRS-V1  NA-771R  Low power  Wideband
UV-5R    NA-771R  Low power  Wideband
Test 3 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 with a little static, GMRS-V1 could not hear UV-5R at all
GMRS-V1  NA-771R  Low power  Narrowband
UV-5R    NA-771R  Low power  Narrowband
Test 4 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 normally, GMRS-V1 could not hear UV-5R at all
GMRS-V1  NA-771R  High power  Narrowband
UV-5R    NA-771R  High power  Narrowband
 
 
Stock Antenna Tests
Test 5 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 with a lot of static, GMRS-V1 caught a few bursts of static but nothing recognizable
GMRS-V1  Stock  High power  Wideband
UV-5R    Stock  High power  Wideband
Test 6 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 with a lot of static, GMRS-V1 could not hear UV-5R at all
GMRS-V1  Stock  Low power  Wideband
UV-5R    Stock  Low power  Wideband
Test 7 - Neither of us could hear each other at all
GMRS-V1  Stock  Low power  Narrowband
UV-5R    Stock  Low power  Narrowband
Test 8 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 with a lot of static, GMRS-V1 could not hear UV-5R at all
GMRS-V1  Stock  High power  Narrowband
UV-5R    Stock  High power  Narrowband
 
 
 
Based on those tests it seemed like High power Wideband was giving us the best results on both antennas, so we only tested swapping antennas with those settings:
 
Mixed Antenna Tests
 
Test 9 - We could both hear each other, but there was a lot of static
GMRS-V1  Stock    High power  Wideband
UV-5R    NA-771R  High power  Wideband
Test 10 - UV-5R could hear GMRS-V1 with a lot of static, GMRS-V1 could not hear UV-5R at all
GMRS-V1  NA-771R  High power  Wideband
UV-5R    Stock    High power  Wideband

 

 

 

If you made it this far, what are your thoughts? Clearly the NA-771R at any power is the winner here, but why were the results so poor on Narrowband?


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#22 RCM

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 08:07 PM

Great test! Thanks for posting this.

Sounds like either your GMRS-V1 has a receive problem or your UV5R has a transmit problem, at least on low power.  In my opinion the first option is most likely. Do you have a third, narrowband radio to add to the mix? Even an old FRS radio, although you would have to move closer for that test.



#23 WREJ796

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 09:01 PM

I have my old 0.5W FRS radio. If I'm thinking about this test correctly, I would want to take both UV-5R and GMRS-V1 to Point A and my old FRS to Point C at the limit of its range, then see if one of the 2 radios at Point A has better reception?

If so, the radio with worse reception has a receive problem. If not, test transmitting from both and see which one sounds better on my FRS at Point C.

Am I going about that correctly?

#24 WRAF213

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Posted 23 November 2019 - 03:04 PM

The UV-5R stock antenna is notoriously bad (typical SWR at 470 MHz can be over 6:1), and the UV-5R itself is surprisingly resistant to terrible SWR so the effects won't be immediately noticeable. It's possible that much of the transmitted power on the UV-5R's stock antenna is getting sent back into the radio; at 6:1, that's roughly half.

 

Wideband/narrowband shouldn't matter at all on those radios. There's a single, wideband IF filter on the RDA1846/S front-end; and the radio just makes the audio louder to compensate for the lower narrowband audio levels. They'll achieve the same level of quieting at any bandwidth setting, but voice intelligibility would have a -6dB disadvantage on narrowband. It's possible that path variability (multipath propagation, mostly) is having an effect on perceived results, since most of your results were so close to the noise floor.



#25 RCM

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Posted 23 November 2019 - 05:29 PM

I have my old 0.5W FRS radio. If I'm thinking about this test correctly, I would want to take both UV-5R and GMRS-V1 to Point A and my old FRS to Point C at the limit of its range, then see if one of the 2 radios at Point A has better reception?

If so, the radio with worse reception has a receive problem. If not, test transmitting from both and see which one sounds better on my FRS at Point C.

Am I going about that correctly?

Yes, exactly.



#26 gman1971

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Posted 25 November 2019 - 02:07 PM

It hasn't been too long since I started on GMRS and I started with Baofengs, fortunately it wasn't a very expensive mistake. Once you try to do anything in the real world where you need the radios to reliably work and receive almost all the time, b/c those cheap radios have very poor RF performance you'll hear static where you should hear a loud signal. These cheapies desense (receiver sensitivity goes to ZERO) at the first sign of RF noise... from anything... even other portables around it will make it deaf. You're better off buying used (or new) commercial gear that won't desense all the way when another Baofeng powers up 1 mile away from yours.

 

Have at it, this guy made this nice video explaining why most of those cheap things range is usually pretty bad. And remember, just because you can hit a repeater doesn't mean your radio is any good, it most certainly means that the repeater is using a very good setup to do the heavy lifting.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=uUQsZrd3IGo

 

G.


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#27 WREJ796

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 08:40 AM

Wideband/narrowband shouldn't matter at all on those radios. There's a single, wideband IF filter on the RDA1846/S front-end; and the radio just makes the audio louder to compensate for the lower narrowband audio levels. They'll achieve the same level of quieting at any bandwidth setting, but voice intelligibility would have a -6dB disadvantage on narrowband. It's possible that path variability (multipath propagation, mostly) is having an effect on perceived results, since most of your results were so close to the noise floor.

All I know is that I couldn't hear anything on narrow but results were much better on wide. You're saying it always receives on wideband and just amplifies the narrowband audio rather than receiving only narrowband? When I couldn't hear anything on narrowband in some tests is that because the "volume" was lower than the squelch level (sorry if that's not the right term), or was narrowband actually affecting the transmitted/received signal strength?

 

 

It hasn't been too long since I started on GMRS and I started with Baofengs, fortunately it wasn't a very expensive mistake. Once you try to do anything in the real world where you need the radios to reliably work and receive almost all the time, b/c those cheap radios have very poor RF performance you'll hear static where you should hear a loud signal. These cheapies desense (receiver sensitivity goes to ZERO) at the first sign of RF noise... from anything... even other portables around it will make it deaf.

Since I'm coming from a 0.5W FRS radio the bar wasn't set very high  :) . I'm happy with the GMRS-V1 overall, I just wanted to test the practical limits of range and understand the unexpected behavior, in reality we'll probably be within a half mile of each other most of the time and probably the only ones using radios so this is still a huge upgrade. 

 

I did take a look at some of the commercial Kenwood/Motorola radios but all I could find was well-used equipment from $50-150 that may or may not include accessories. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Even with the antenna upgrade I've only spent $60 on the GMRS-V1 for a brand new radio with charger/headset, so it's still the cheapest Part 95A certified option for me. If I could find a used complete radio package for around $50 I would probably upgrade just to see what all the fuss is about  :D



#28 gman1971

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 12:07 PM

I used the Baofengs for quite a while before going the Vertex Standard route... and again, so long you're aware of the limitations, it doesn't really matter so long it works.

 

G.

 

All I know is that I couldn't hear anything on narrow but results were much better on wide. You're saying it always receives on wideband and just amplifies the narrowband audio rather than receiving only narrowband? When I couldn't hear anything on narrowband in some tests is that because the "volume" was lower than the squelch level (sorry if that's not the right term), or was narrowband actually affecting the transmitted/received signal strength?

 

 

Since I'm coming from a 0.5W FRS radio the bar wasn't set very high  :) . I'm happy with the GMRS-V1 overall, I just wanted to test the practical limits of range and understand the unexpected behavior, in reality we'll probably be within a half mile of each other most of the time and probably the only ones using radios so this is still a huge upgrade. 

 

I did take a look at some of the commercial Kenwood/Motorola radios but all I could find was well-used equipment from $50-150 that may or may not include accessories. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Even with the antenna upgrade I've only spent $60 on the GMRS-V1 for a brand new radio with charger/headset, so it's still the cheapest Part 95A certified option for me. If I could find a used complete radio package for around $50 I would probably upgrade just to see what all the fuss is about  :D


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#29 WREJ796

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 02:02 PM

Great test! Thanks for posting this.

Sounds like either your GMRS-V1 has a receive problem or your UV5R has a transmit problem, at least on low power.  In my opinion the first option is most likely. Do you have a third, narrowband radio to add to the mix? Even an old FRS radio, although you would have to move closer for that test.

 

 

So this test wasn't very conclusive, partly because we had limited time and restricted terrain. UV-5R and GMRS-V1 were at Point A and my old FRS started at Point C about 1/4 mile away through a flat neighborhood walking away from Point A. The issue we had was the flat neighborhood drops off on both ends after about 1/2 mile so it's hard to test beyond that range.

 

Anyway, reception was clear on the FRS from both GMRS radios up to 1/2 mile, then as we lost line of sight there was quite a bit of noise and choppy audio. Subjectively it seemed like the audio from the GMRS-V1 was less understandable than the UV-5R, but it was close. From FRS to both GMRS radios reception was fine, but dropped off completely once we lost line of sight.

 

So *maybe* the GMRS-V1 has a transmit issue? To @gman1971's point about desensing, I did notice that sometimes when I was holding both GMRS-V1 and UV-5R only one of them would light up and receive from the FRS. Not every time, but probably 1/3 of the time. Holding them farther apart helped.

 

I don't know when I'll have a chance to do another proper test with multiple radios so for now I guess I'll just accept that my practical line of sight range is about 2-3 miles with the radios I have now.


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#30 gman1971

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 05:31 PM

It sounds like the same "wild goose chases" I went through when I was all about Baofengs and 20 dollar budgets "can you hear me now?"

 

Again, nothing wrong with that; its just don't hold your expectations too high with the lower end stuff. Otherwise police and military would be operating 20 dollar Baofengs instead of the APX8000 radios and whatnot.

 

 

G.


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#31 marcspaz

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 05:42 PM

It sounds like the same "wild goose chases" I went through when I was all about Baofengs and 20 dollar budgets "can you hear me now?"

Again, nothing wrong with that; its just don't hold your expectations too high with the lower end stuff. Otherwise police and military would be operating 20 dollar Baofengs instead of the APX8000 radios and whatnot.


G.


Man, can I relate. I have two Btech HT's that I use when off-roading. I'll settle for the reduced performance out in the mountains because we are only a few car lengths apart and if I drop a radio in the mud, I would rather have it be a $20-$30 BaoFeng than a $250 Yaesu.
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#32 gman1971

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Posted 26 November 2019 - 11:51 PM

Yep, if they break you won't have a big dollar burning hole on your pocket.

 

G.

 

Man, can I relate.  I have two Btech HT's that I use when off-roading.  I'll settle for the reduced performance out in the mountains because we are only a few car lengths apart and if I drop a radio in the mud, I would rather have it be a $20-$20 BaoFeng than a $250 Yaesu.



#33 axorlov

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 12:06 PM

Addressing the original question.

There are discussions on Motorola and Kenwood HTs on this forum. I settled on Kenwood because I was already familiar with their mobile radios. My criteria for handheld were:

- Part 95 (because I wanted to be squeaky clean legally and RF-wise when on GMRS), HAM frequencies is nice to have but not required

- No less than 16 programmed channels

- Reasonable price on ebay, below $100

- Lithium batteries (low self-discharge current allows them to be stored for months and maintain the charge) - that turned out not to be so much important

- Programming software avilability

- Parts availability, like cases, buttons, whatnot...

So I settled on Kenwood TK-3170-K (and it's brother 3173-K). I have four of these for 4 years, with 3 still working and one quit on me (receives but does not transmit). They are honest 4 Watts, Part 90 and 95, perform on 70cm HAM band just fine (software complains about out-of-range, but still works). They are significantly bigger and heavier than Baofengs, but still not a burden for a day hike. As all Part90/95 equipment they can be programmed in a foolproof way that people who have no clue about radio can easily operate them without fear of striking wrong frequency or rendering radios non-working. I did a quick and dirty comparison against Baofeng UV-B5 and Yaesu FT1-XD, the performance is on par with Yaesu, but outshoots UV-B5 both HT-HT and HT-repeater.

 

With all that said, should I start anew today, I would probably go with TK-380. It's bigger than 3170, has NiMh battery and weird connector for external headset and programming. But it is almost twice cheaper on ebay, and NiMh allows for an easy refurbishing with new cells.


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#34 DeoVindice

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 12:48 PM

The Kenwood multipin connector might be a bit weird, but it's extraordinarily secure with external mics. I far prefer it to the two-point connector.

I like the TK-380 as well, it can do a bit more than the TK-390 but I anecdotally don't think it is as durable. I have no experience with the TK-3170.

Admitted Kenwood fanboy and accumulator of public safety radios


#35 RCM

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 12:52 PM

I'm a fan of the TK-380 as well, and I also have a TK-280 and a couple of TK-481s which are the vhf and 900 MHz versions of the same radio.



#36 WREJ796

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 09:51 PM

So curiosity got the better of me while I was doing some shopping online for Black Friday and I found a Kenwood TK-360G for $40 on eBay with a new battery and extra antenna. I know the TK-360G is older, but I hoped it would give me that third data point to see which radio has issues. I also wanted to try setting up a crosslink to Zello to include some non-radio friends/family so I needed another radio  :D

 

As an aside the Zello crosslink is amazing and super helpful for testing. Since I can leave one radio linked to Zello at home and take the other radios with me, I can do all of this testing solo using Zello as an echo device back to my phone (bonus, it records everything for later review).

 

 

Testing was at low power/narrow since I was only in my neighborhood.

 

With the GMRS-V1 at home connected to Zello, I started walking with the UV-5R and TK-360G. Initially both sounded just fine, but as I reached my normal neighborhood limit where the UV-5R starts to hiss a bit, the TK-360G still sounded fine. Farther out the UV-5R dropped out completely, but the TK-360G went another 1/4 mile before it became unintelligible.

 

Returned home, connected the UV-5R to Zello and did the same test. This time both the GMRS-V1 and TK-360G went about to the point where the UV-5R dropped out before. Seems like the UV-5R was the limiting factor on this test.

 

Third time I connected the TK-360G to Zello, UV-5R went as far as last time before dropping out, GMRS-V1 went 1/4 mile farther. Again, UV-5R seems to have reduced range.

 

 

I wasn't sure if that was enough data to draw any conclusions, so I set up the GMRS-V1 at Point A (from the original test) on high power/wide with Zello crosslink, then drove over to Point B with the other two radios. With the UV-5R I couldn't hit Point A, but the TK-360G was clear (though a bit choppy at times). Talking through Zello (so GMRS-V1 at Point A was transmitting) I could hear pretty well on the TK-360G with a little static, couldn't hear anything at all on the UV-5R.

 

I drove back to Point A and put the UV-5R on Zello, drove back to Point B and tried again. I couldn't hear either the GMRS-V1 or the TK-360G, nor could either of them hear the UV-5R when I transmitted through Zello.

 

Based on that I think its fair to say the UV-5R is the "issue" here, why specifically I don't know.

 

 

Some other odd issues I noticed with the TK-360G was that it emits a high-pitched whine (almost like feedback, but it's a constant tone and volume) whenever the UV-5R is transmitting, but not when the GMRS-V1 transmits. Likewise the reception on the UV-5R sounds noisy, almost choppy when the TK-360G is transmitting while the GMRS-V1 receives just fine. Reception on the GMRS-V1 sounds fine when either the UV-5R or the TK-360G are transmitting. I'm not sure what's causing that, but as of right now the UV-5R and TK-360G don't like each other. I'll have to test with my friend's UV-5R to see if it's just my UV-5R.

 

Anyway, sorry about the massive wall of text. It's about as long as my Baofeng wild goose chase  :rolleyes:


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#37 Jones

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 12:51 AM


Anyway, sorry about the massive wall of text. It's about as long as my Baofeng wild goose chase  :rolleyes:

 

No need for apology.  Like an epic novel, you have us hooked.  We are waiting for the next installment of this series. Please continue this experiment, and keep us posted using charts, walls of text, epic novels, whatever.  Thanks.  Which radios work well? Which don't play nice with others? Where are the weak-links in antennas? You are getting down to what works best for your application, which may apply to others of us as well. This is interesting stuff.


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#38 WRAF233

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 12:30 PM

Hijacking:  

 

https://used-radios....-portable-radio

 

Right track for 1st HT?  Version 1 firmware so no Windows programming (DOS - yuk) but can have it programmed by seller.  Looked on ebay but usually radio only, no charger, etc.  Figure I can pickup a spare battery online.

 

Might jump into Kenwood mobile unit after messing with this..


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#39 berkinet

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 01:49 PM

...Right track for 1st HT?...

 

I have no specific information on the radio you noted, and I am not very knowledgable on Kenwood products. So, consider my two comments as very generic...

If you have, or think you might someday have, an interest in ham radio, you might want to look for a radio that covers both the (US) ham band (420-450 mHz) and GMRS band.  Other than that, the radio you noted supports trunking. Since trunking is not used on GMRS, you might possibly find a non-trunking radio at a lower cost. 


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Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

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#40 Downs

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 02:37 PM

Hijacking:

https://used-radios....-portable-radio

Right track for 1st HT? Version 1 firmware so no Windows programming (DOS - yuk) but can have it programmed by seller. Looked on ebay but usually radio only, no charger, etc. Figure I can pickup a spare battery online.

Might jump into Kenwood mobile unit after messing with this..

Commercial radios are great. Built like tanks and typically have long battery life. Upshot of Kenwood gear is finding programing software is typically pretty easy compared to something like Motorola.

Don't get scared off by the DOS programing. Its just some extra keystrokes. I program my HT1000s via DOS.

Also +1 to above no need for trunking for your use so if theres a cheaper version without go for it.

Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
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A pile of "cheap Chinese radios", BF888s, UV5Rs, UV82s, KGUV8Ds, BFF8HP, UV50X2, and a few "good" radios, Yeasu FT310 (airband/nav), Yeasu FT90R (no longer in mobile service used as a base radio)





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