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Thoughts on brands for a mobile / desktop radio?


WRZY946

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Sure, I could just google it.

But then you get fed through endless clickbait articles, often with misspellings or even obvious-to-noobs-in-the-hobby mistakes or misconceptions.

I'd prefer actual registered humans here on this site to give their thoughts, at least then I'm more likely to get real experiences, good and bad.

I know Yaesu is a well reputed brand. Wouxun seems to be a big deal in handheld territory for GMRS. Baofeng is bargain-bin no matter what kind of radio service, so they're great to learn on or try out first. That's what I've gotten ahold of.

But for a desktop / car mounted radio, I have no clue where to begin. Obviously we can only go up to 50 watts, so I'll want one with an antenna cable port so I can run that out to either the back of the car's antenna mount, or stick something outside in the yard, etc etc.

It also helps that our antenna size isn't nearly as hefty as something like this shortwave dipole strung across a house's wall.

But beyond transmission power, is there really any reason to get a high-wattage mobile/desktop GMRS transceiver? My impression is you can't really do anything extra with it beyond reach further - there aren't additional bands like HF or transmission modes like packet radio / RTTY. I'm not sure I'd be missing out on something beyond learning how to work a fancier box.

Thoughts?

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I highly recommend the Wouxun Kg-1000g Plus and the Wouxun KG-XS20G Plus for a bae/mobile GMRS radios. The 1000G Plus is 50 watts while the XS20G Plus is 20 watts. The Wouxun GMRS mobile radios are better than any Baofeng/B-Tech or Midland radio. I run a 1000G Plus as my base and in my vehicle while the XS20G Plus is mounted in my SxS. The Midland MXT500 is sitting in a box simply because it is not as good as the Wouxun radios.

Where a 50 watt radio will benefit is if you have trees and/or other obstacles to push the signal through. The local GMRS repeater is 21.5 miles from me and I can talk to others on it just fine even with my 5 watt Wouxun KG935G HT (hand held). I used my XS20G with my roof mounted antenna and was able to talk to the repeater sight on simples just fine.

When it comes to dual band 2m/70cm radios, I have had good luck with the TYT TH-7800 as a base and in my vehicle. You can get them for around $239. There is also nothing wrong with Yaesu or Icom mobile radios. Though those start around $300 and up. If money is a bit tight then look at the TYT TH-7800.

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Welcome!

I have and like Yaesu, but Yaesu doesn’t make a radio certified for GMRS. They make great ham radios though.  People will say that certification isn’t important, and as you progress you might even decide that it isn’t, but for someone trying to get started it sure makes it easier to use the radio without having to worry about violating a regulation.  Others will tell you that it doesn’t matter if you violate the regulations because the FCC doesn’t enforce them anyway.  Statistically there is some validity, but I still like to know where I stand with respect to regulations.

Wouxun is arguably one of the best GMRS radios made and certified for that purpose. The people who have one like the KG1000G Mobile Radio.  It’s a 50 watt radio.  As far as I know all mobile GMRS radios have a UHF connector for an external antenna.  They have to.

Several of us have purchased the Radioddity db20g, which is a tiny 20 watt GMRS mobile radio.  It’s small and easy to use, plugging into the cigarette lighter.  Like the Wouxun it needs an external antenna.  It’s about $100, unless you wait for a sale.  I bought two of them directly from Radioddity for $87 each.  It’s sold under a couple other names as well. Firmware might vary based on brand.

These forums have lots of discussions about what radio is best.  There will never be universal agreement.

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GMRS like dual band 2m/70cm radios all have a SO239 connector on them. And @Sshannon brings up good points about having radios certified for the bands you want to transmit on. I am running a 16" Comet SBB1-NMO dual band radio with my TYT TH-7800 and a 20" Nagoya UT-72G with my Wouxun KG-1000g on the vehicle. 

As I mentioned I have the same two radios in the house for base stations. I am using a Comet GP9 for dual band and a Comet CA-712EFC for GMRS.

One thing to pay attention to is the fact that the short dual band antennas will not work for GMRS and visa versa. Now if you can use a longer antenna on your vehicle then the Comet 2x4SRNMO will work for 2m/70cm and GMRS.

As always, everyone has an opinion on what they like and think is the best. Stick with Wouxun for GMRS, they are generally considered the best for GMRS by most. Icom and Yaesu are the best when it comes to dual band radios. But don't overlook the TYT TH-7800 or Wouxun KG-UV920P-A either.

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Thanks @Sshannon @WRYZ926 ! These are useful recommendations. It is appreciated.

I'm glad I wasn't too far off the mark with Wouxun. They did seem to be more or less the standard.

You do bring up a good point that the higher wattage will work with denser foliage or other obstacles between me and other simplex nodes or repeaters. I guess that's obvious, but in retrospect depending on where I take it that could really come in handy.

I do intend to stick to the certified side of things. If I wanted to hot rod a transceiver of dubious capability and origin I'd do it on ham bands. :D

Thanks again. I'll keep my eyes out.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I bought the Midland MXT575.  It was pricey,  but it had good reviews and I liked how it will mount hidden under my Jeep steering column and I can use a 100 ft extension cable for the mic for use at a campsite.  The downside is only 1 programmable channel for each of 8 repeater frequencies.  For local use, that's ok.  I found a repeater last night on a downtown Dallas skyscraper 35 miles away.  I spoke with someone who lives 45 miles from the repeater as clear as day.  This is with a 32" 6db lip mounted antenna on my hood.(roof is fiberglass and removable)

 

I installed my 575 a week before Christmas and didn't figure out repeater use until after my 3400 mile round trip to Delaware.  I missed a big opportunity.   A Wouxon or BTech would have been more convenient, as I could have preprogrammed dozens of repeaters along the route.

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I don't understand why Midland did not make the MXT575 have the ability to be programmed from a computer nor have more channels slots. The MXT500 at least can be programmed by computer and can be opened up to have more channel slots in the memory with a firmware upgrade.

And yes I replaced my Midland MXT500 with a Wouxun KG-1000g. I like the KG-1000g better overall. I won't even mess with a BTech mobile. 

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I have the KG1000G plus and it's a fantastic radio. I am running it in the truck and as a base station. It's a superheterodyne radio. A quality unit that is comparatively expensive for what it does.


But I also just ordered a Btech GMRS-50V2 to go in as my permanent base station radio because of a couple of features that I like about it. Number 1 is the quad watch feature for monitoring 4 channels simultaneously without scanning and Number 2 is the RJ45 to K1 splitter for the hand mic. I wanted that flexibility for recording nets and other things. So even though it's a system on a chip and supposedly inferior to the wouxun, for my needs as a base station it will work great. A repeater net friend has one and sounds great on it. He did have to turn up the mic gain on it out of the box.

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12 hours ago, gortex2 said:

If your goal is a base and base only alot of commercial LMR radios are much better suited for that and can be had for less than the ones discussed here. My parents have a M1225 I paid $75 for on ebay. It sits on 1 channel and scans a second repeater. Simple.

And how did you program it?

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4 hours ago, SteveC7010 said:

Software is free and easily found on the net. Version 4.0 runs fine on a WinXP  computer. Cables are cheap; serial is more reliable if the pc has a serial port. 

Thanks for your response, but I wasn't asking you.

"Software is free and easily found on the net."

So it's pirated?  Or on some sketchy website?  Can I use Google to find it, or do I have to use some other search engine?

I see the recommendation to use a Part 90 radio for GMRS all the time, both in these forums and on other sites.  I get it.  Some of the old ones actually have Part 95 certification, and they ARE better radios technically (sensitivity/selectivity/etc.).

BUT ... the people who make that recommendation either already have the programming software, or they "know a guy" (or "know a site") that has it.

The average new GMRS user is not in that category.  They want to buy a radio and be able to download the programming software from the vendor's website, or go get CHIRP, and program their radio.  They aren't interested in paying $$ for programming software, or "finding it on the net", and then searching for some special programming cable.

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Most people will use CHIRP to program, especially for Baofeng radios. CHIRP is open source and very popular. It also works with a lot of different radios.

I personally find the Wouxun software easier to use and you can download it for free from Buy Two Way Radios. It is legitimate software when downloaded from there.

For Midland radios that can be programmed with a computer, then download the software directly from Midland.

All of the above is easy to find, download, and use for new GMRS and amateur radio operators.

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1 hour ago, WRYZ926 said:

All of the above is easy to find, download, and use for new GMRS and amateur radio operators.

@WRYZ926If your post was a reply to mine, I think you missed the point.  I'm not talking about Baofeng/Wouxun/Midland radios.  The question is specifically about programming old Part 90 radios for use on GMRS.

I'll say it again.  I fully acknowledge that an old Motorola or Kenwood LMR mobile is a "better" radio than any of the current off-the-shelf GMRS radios.  But IMHO the folks who recommend them are not taking into account the barriers that a brand new user will encounter trying to go that route.

Let's pretend for a second that I'm a brand new GMRS user who doesn't know anything about radios.

First barrier is getting a good working radio at a decent price.  I start looking on eBay (because I am unaware of any other sources).  Is that the right model number and band split?  What does "band split" even mean?  Does it come with a microphone and mounting bracket?  Is $xxx a good price?  Does the thing even WORK???

The second and even higher barrier is programming my new radio.  "Gee I've heard lots about this 'CHIRP' thing.  Does that work for my radio?"  (And of course the answer is 'no'.)  OK then what DO I need, and where do I find it?  The answer I see all the time is, "Oh it's available on the Internet".  That's less than helpful.  Where do I look?  What am I looking for?  What if I subscribe to the "I don't download random software from sketchy locations on the Internet and install it" philosophy?

I'll say it once more.  Not arguing that a Part 90 radio isn't a "better" solution.  Just trying to highlight that telling a new user "Just get a used commercial radio" isn't helpful for most of them.

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On 1/16/2024 at 12:18 AM, wrci350 said:

Thanks for your response, but I wasn't asking you.

 

So first of all the CCR world is the issue at hand. Long before Baojuk and others the ONLY radio you could get on GMRS was a LMR radio with Part 95 certifications. My father bought many for our local radio shops. Hell back in the day it was a crystal so no adding 50 channels. We had RPT and TA to use thats it on our Unidens

Anyway I have software for the M1225 Ive had for decades and was purchased when we bought a radio back in the day. As other said the software is pretty easy to find. Folks seem worried about finding software yet have no quams at using a HAM radio on GMRs with a mod. 

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1 hour ago, gortex2 said:

As other said the software is pretty easy to find.

Depends on the radio model and manufacture.

For example the new KENWOOD radio series, NX-1000's, NX-3000's and NX-5000's they now require you to purchase a license key. The software communicates over the internet to valid the install before working. The keys are $100+ each and you can only have ONE install version of the software active at a time. If you have the software on more than one PC you have to deactivate the license on the one PC and activate the license on the one you want to use. Of course you can spend a wad of money buying more license keys. I have two desktop computers at work, one at home and a laptop. Buying a license key for each or trying to juggle the key between the various computers just isn't worth the hassle and cost.

So far I've only found a cracked version of the software for the NX-1000 series that has bypassed the license key check. That's why I'm an owner of several NX-1300DUK5 FM/DMR radios now, one I purchased new from a dealer. I've also purchased the DMR encryption license for each radio, which gets permanently written to it. If it wasn't for the cracked version of the software I NEVER would have purchased them. I would like to own one of the NX-3000's or better yet an NX-5000, but I can't justify the cost of the software license key to program one radio that i might use a few times.

IMHO if Kenwood is that worried about the software just roll the cost of the programming software into the cost structure of the radio and just give the programming software away.  That's what they do for their amateur gear. The radio programming software is free.

If I spot a radio that looks interesting I'll check for documentation for it on line. But most important I'll look for the programming software. If I can't get it I just forget about the the radio I was looking at. Just about all commercial radios are just paper weights without the programming software.

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28 minutes ago, Lscott said:

IMHO if Kenwood is that worried about the software just roll the cost of the programming software into the cost structure of the radio and just give the programming software away.  

I agree with this however many manufacturers have sone this in the past and are doing some again. Motorola for instance is doing APX and XPR free. The problem is folks complain about the cost of the radio. Cost of a radio can be argued to death but engineering costs and many other process's dictate price. Way more than we need to discuss here. But its also a supply demand situation. IF folks aren't buying new radios it doesn't bring funds into a manufacturer. In the end if you want a quality radio you research as you said and find out if you are capable and comfortable with the purchase you intend to do. Purpose built equipment, ham, gmrs, lmr is jsut that. The CCR world has caused most of the issues with all those services. Good or bad can be argued but the mentality of cheap stuff is much larger than 10 or 20 years ago. I go back to my first HT, HTX202 that I put on layaway at Radio Shack and paid $325.00 for and had no software or any of the stuff anything new has to offer. Our first GMRS mobile was a Uniden Xstal Radio with 2 channels. It had a button with RPT and TA. It was close to $500 which was about what Dad paid for the AMC Hornet that it was installed in ! 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I have only been in GMRS for about 2 months.  I went through a fairly lengthy period of trying to decide on which radio to get for a base station

I finally settled on the wouxun kg-1000 plus.   It does far more than I need, I also spent some time looking at the midland but settled onthe wouxun for the following reasons:  The wouxun will also work well as a mobile radio.

1.  firmware for the midland requires a windows machine -- I am on a mac

2.  the wouxun had programming software, and CHIRP seems to work very well on my mac m1 and uploading/downloading from the radio.  no extra drivers etc required  Search for "CHIRP gmrs software" and get to there website.   It is open source stuff, so if the software works out, donate a little.

3.  while the wouxun does xmit up to 50 watts, I am able to hit a repeater about 50 miles away on only 5 watts.  So the 50 watts may help out in some situations, (mobile); but does not need to be a priority from what I have experienced.  If your strictly on a base station you will have more flexibility regarding antennas.  Don't skimp on antenna, and use a hi quality low loss coax, since at gmrs frequencys coax loss can impact how well your system works.  I utilized dx-engineering for coax cables etc.  for mobile application, your coax runs will be shorter, but I would still recommend the best coax (flexible install) you can get.   With short runs, a little bit of loss you can deal with.  Bottom line, is if you go with midland or wouxun I don't think you will be making a mistake.

good luck, hope this helps.   all info is good info...   regards

 

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9 hours ago, WSAA254 said:

I have only been in GMRS for about 2 months.  I went through a fairly lengthy period of trying to decide on which radio to get for a base station

I finally settled on the wouxun kg-1000 plus.   It does far more than I need, I also spent some time looking at the midland but settled onthe wouxun for the following reasons:  The wouxun will also work well as a mobile radio.

1.  firmware for the midland requires a windows machine -- I am on a mac

2.  the wouxun had programming software, and CHIRP seems to work very well on my mac m1 and uploading/downloading from the radio.  no extra drivers etc required  Search for "CHIRP gmrs software" and get to there website.   It is open source stuff, so if the software works out, donate a little.

3.  while the wouxun does xmit up to 50 watts, I am able to hit a repeater about 50 miles away on only 5 watts.  So the 50 watts may help out in some situations, (mobile); but does not need to be a priority from what I have experienced.  If your strictly on a base station you will have more flexibility regarding antennas.  Don't skimp on antenna, and use a hi quality low loss coax, since at gmrs frequencys coax loss can impact how well your system works.  I utilized dx-engineering for coax cables etc.  for mobile application, your coax runs will be shorter, but I would still recommend the best coax (flexible install) you can get.   With short runs, a little bit of loss you can deal with.  Bottom line, is if you go with midland or wouxun I don't think you will be making a mistake.

good luck, hope this helps.   all info is good info...   regards

 

This is great info, thanks!

 

I do think I'll get a Wouxun base station sometime this year.

 

Overall I am really happy to see the discourse caused by my silly question. So, huge thanks to the community at large.

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There are several sources for Motorola and Kenwood programming software and cables. All you have to do is google/yahoo it. Blue 49ers, Twoway Radio Parts, and eBay come to mind and there are more sources.

Recently, Motorola stop supporting or providing resources for discontinued model radios such as the XTS & XTL and other older model radio programming software. This means they no longer pursue violators for unauthorized users and resellers for possessing and reselling, and violating a condition of their software license agreement.

If your base station is only for accessing a nearby repeater or two and you don't care about having a quality radio than your Cheap Chinese Radio (CCR) will work just fine.

In a mobile environment you'll more than likely end up wishing you had more radio features than any CCR has to offer such as Radio Zones/Banks of various channels, Talkaround, PL Defeat/Monitor Feature, Multiple Scan Lists, and in some areas some repeater owners are starting to implement/use MDC1200 PT-T ID to validate permission to access their repeater(s).

You won't find those features in a CCR and there is no such thing as a quality radio compared to a Part 90 Motorola or Kenwood radio.

In most cases, going cheap isn't always saving money in the long run and without some technical and operational user difficulties.

It is your decision to avoid the headaches and frustrations now or later.

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