Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Review – BTech DMR-6X2

by John ‘Miklor’  K3NXU

Several Dual Band DMR handhelds have been introduced into the market in the past few months. Having owned most of them, I would have to place this one toward the very top of the list. The DMR-6X2 is both VHF and UHF, Tier II  DMR digital as well as FM analog with most features geared strictly toward ham radio use.

Important Note:  The BTech DMR-6X2 is Not made by Baofeng. (see note below).  That being said, let’s see what’s…

In the Box
Included with the radio are the:
–  Two (2)  Li-Ion Batteries   (2100 and 3100 mAh)
–  Two (2)  Belt clips
–  Hand Strap
–  37 page User Guide – English
–  Charger base & AC adapter
–  Antenna – 6.25″ (16cm)
–  Programming Cable
–  Earphone / Microphone

General Description
–   DMR / FM
–   VHF / UHF Dual Band
–   Size:  5.1 x 2.4 x 1.5″   (129 x 61 x 39mm)
–   Weight:    9.9oz   (282g)  w/ant & 2100 mAh battery
–   Weight:   10.8oz  (306g)  w/ant & 3100 mAh battery
–   136-174   400-480 MHz
–   CTCSS/DCS  DTMF/2TONE/5TONE
–   Digital Simplex Repeater
–   <1.0w / 6.0w transmit
–   4000 channel
–   250 Zones (up to 250 channels per zone)
–   10,000 contacts
–   150,000 DMR Database Contacts
–   Part 90 compliant – 2AGND-DMR6X2
–   N0GSG Contact Manager Compatible

Basic Description  (additional features)
The heart of the 6X2 is the proven Anytone D868. Under contract with Anytone, BTech had several addition features exclusively added to the 6X2.

Some of the additional features exclusive to the 6X2 include:
–  Multiple Scan Groups
–  Priority Scan
–  Change TG via Keypad (Adhoc) with Unlimited Hold Timer
–  Display Color Options
–  Digital Simplex Repeater
–  Analog Squelch Level Adjustment
–  Start Up Code Plug Compatibility
–  Display Hold

– Multiple Scan Groups in Same Channel
The 6X2 allows multiple scan lists to be entered  per channel. You are no longer limited to one scan group entry per channel. The scan groups can include and mix of DMR or analog channels.

– Priority Scan
When developing a scan list, up to 2 channels can be assigned as priority. This allows the priority channels to be interwoven in the scan list. As an example:
–  Channel 1
–  Priority Channel 1
–  Channel 2
–  Priority Channel 1
–  Channel 3
–  Priority Channel 1

– Change Group via Keypad (“Unlimited” hold timer)
This is specially nice when using a hot spot. By setting a key function to “Dial” or “Long Press 0”, and the Group Call Hold time to “Unlimited”, you can enter a Talk Group using the number pad and it will remain permanently or until the channel is changed. No longer is the hold time set in seconds or minutes.

– Display Color Options
There are two display color options available. They are White on Black background, and Black on a Powder Blue background. (shown below). They are selectable by either software or keypad menu.

– Analog Squelch Level Adjust
The analog squelch level can now be adjusted using one of the programmable keys.

– Start up Code Plug
To assist with start up, the software was written to initially accept an Anytone D868 code plug.  I’ve had a 868 since they first came out, and this was a huge time saver. Everything transferred and I was ready to play radio in minutes.
Note: Due to the extra features in the code plug, a 6X2 CP cannot be transferred back to a D868.

– Digital Simplex Repeater
Not to be confused with a standard repeater, this feature allows the DMR-6X2 to function as a Store and Forward Simplex Repeater. The 6X2 records a transmission and stores it in memory. Immediately after the incoming signal is dropped, the transmitter keys and re-transmits the recorded audio. The re-transmission can be either on the same or different frequency (not necessarily on the same band).

This feature allows the 6X2 to be used as a relay point during events such as marathons, races, etc. where a central relay method is needed and there is no local repeater.

– Display Hold
When a signal is received, the data image (name, call, location, etc) remains on the screen until the next signal is received rather than drop back to a standby screen. There is a Call End indicator at the bottom, but the data remains.

The Technical Side of the 6X2


The
Transmitter

The frequency range of the DMR-6X2 is both VHF 136-174 and UHF 400-480 MHz. Along with DMR, the radio also supports analog FM (Wideband and Narrowband)

The power levels hold pretty close to the specifications. There are four power levels with a high of 5.0W and a Turbo mode of 6.5W. I personally run mine in 5W mode. Turbo isn’t going to Make or Break the signal, but it helps the battery.

What I do like is the low power mode is less than 1W. I run a hotspot here and if the power was only 0.3W I would be happy.

My audio reports have been excellent both through a DMR hotspot and the local repeaters. There is a five level microphone gain parameter that allows you to select the microphone gain level that best suited for your voice. I use level 3 (mid-level) for a full smooth audio response. I tried level 5 and found the audio was way too hot.

Power levels are listed below and were taken using a calibrated Bird Termaline wattmeter.

Enclosure
The DMR-6X2 case has a good solid feel and weight, and fits the hand well.  It weighs in at  9.9oz   (282g) with the standard battery attached and 10.8oz (306g) with the high capacity battery. Battery removal requires a simple push of the release slide located at the top of the battery. No battery sliding or pushing is required.

I found the keypad buttons a bit larger than most with a lighted keypad layout of three across and four down. This puts the zero (0) at the bottom of the keypad where I believe it belongs. The PTT button requires only a light pressure that doesn’t tire the finger to press.


Antenna
The included dual band antenna is 6.25″ which is a fairly common size for a handheld. I found that there was a slight improvement of about 2db by using an NA-771.  The 771 is 10″ longer, so a difference would be expected, but I’ll probably stay with the stock antenna.



Receiver and Audio
The receiver sensitivity is very good on both digital and analog. I found the receive audio is amazing with wide and smooth frequency range.

The volume control range is adjustable with the software. Level 1 sets the full range of the volume control to a soft level, even at full volume. Level 8 sets the volume range to very loud at the top end. My preference is level 3 to 5 which is plenty loud, even for mobile operation.

Display
The radio has a two multi-color display options. The high contrast White on Black, and the softer is a Powder Blue with multi-color icons. The color is selectable via software or as a keypad menu option. The screen size is 1.1″ x 1.4″ with excellent resolution .

There are multiple sites where the current DMR User Database can be downloaded. There are various formats available allowing you to view name, call, location, user ID, license class, etc.

.
Software
Along with entering data in the conventional manner, the software allows you to import and export data to ‘csv’ files. Loading in a contact (TG) list, channel list, database, etc. is relatively simple.

I found being able to export to a ‘csv’ file has several advantages. I like having my channel list in sequence. With most software, you can only add new channels to the bottom of the list. Now I can sequence the list so it’s easy to view then load it back into the code plug.

Adding a new repeater can be done in minutes. I just cut and paste a copy of an existing repeater, change the frequencies, and load it back.

Note: The BTECH 6X2 can import a code plug (.rdt) from an Anytone D868UV directly. This is a great way to get your 6X2 on the air. Once loaded, however, due to the expanded parameters, the D868 is not capable of reading a 6X2 code plug.


CSV transfer Caution
Adding large amounts of data, updating and re-sequencing via CSV files is a major plus, but should always be done with Caution. For instance, Talk Group data must always be loaded before or at the same time as the Channel data. If not, improper data attachment may not occur.

Always backup your current code plug before modification.

Firmware
As additional features and future enhancements are developed, the radio can be updated to latest model. A firmware upgrades can be done with a Windows computer in about 5 minutes.

Note: The DMR-6X2 firmware is specific to this radio. It cannot be uploaded to a different model in hopes of adding new features.

Programming Cable
The DMR-6X2 comes with the necessary programming cable. The UART chip inside the radio, so the cable itself is straight through. There is no circuitry inside the cable itself. The driver will load automatically when the cable is attached.

For reference, although the cable appears to be the same as some that have the chip in the cable, those cables are not compatible.

 

The charger base requires a standard 12vdc wall wart (included). The LED on the front of the charger base is Red when charging, and Green when either fully charged or no radio in the cradle. The battery easily charges to full capacity with an overnight charge.

Battery and Charger
There are two batteries included with the 6X2, a 2100mAh and a high capacity 3100mAh. With battery save on, I can get 2 to 3 days out of the 3100mAh battery before needing a charge.

There are also USB charging cables available with output of 12V. These can also be used in place of the included Wall Wart.

Conclusion
If you think the BTECH DMR-6X2 very closely resembles a D868UV, you are correct, but as shown above, it is definitely not simply a rebadged Anytone. There are features and enhancements that set these two radios apart. I think BTECH was wise to wait for the bugs to be ironed out before introducing the 6X2 to the market.

If you’re waiting for this radio to drop in price, don’t hold your breath. Its features and performance make it well worth the price.

The obvious pros are the following:

–  True Tier II DMR
–  Same Band and Cross Band digital simplex repeater
–  Dual Band VHF/UHF operation
–  Multiple Scan Groups per Channel
–  Priority Scan
–  On the Fly Talk Group Entry
–  Built-in Voice Recorder
–  2TONE and  5TONE decoding
–  150K user database capacity
–  FCC Part 90 certified for commercial use
–  N0GSG Contact Manager Compatible

There are plenty of options geared more for hams than commercial use. It performs well and makes a nice addition to the ham shack.

Available from:    and    Amazon


For Clarification
BTech (BaofengTech) is not a division of Baofeng. They are an ODM that partners with OEM manufacturers to spec and build to their own requirements, whether from scratch (UV-5X3) or from an existing product. This 6X2 is an Anytone at heart with additional unique features found only in that model.

 

 

 

Here’s a comparison chart showing the major differences.
Click to enlarge.

Ham Radio Exam – Tech Study App Review

If you know someone who is planning on getting their ham radio license, this app may be just what they need.

It was written by Roy Watson, N1ZTL and has the current question pool (2018-2022). The app has 67 reviews on iTunes and boasts a 4.8 star rating — and it’s also free.

You can study each question in the question pool and each section is broken down by the number of questions per section as well.

Once you select a section, it gives you each question number, the text of the question and the four possible answers as well with the correct answer highlighted in green.

If you’re interested, check out my full review of this app.

73 y’all

My Rebuttal Regarding the Petition by ARRL to the FCC to Expand Technician-Class Privileges

This is my reply to many responses that I have been receiving on my original blog entry, located at this AmateurRadio.com website,(my shortened URL: https://g.nw7us.us/arrl2fccR2) as well as to the original video, posted in that blog entry.

I wish to reply to all of those who are against the idea of expanding the privileges of the Technician-class licensee, the expansions including the ability to operate Voice and Digital in limited slices in a subset of lower-than-Ten-Meter amateur radio shortwave allocations.

It seems to me, that…

…the issue is not one of Technician-class licensees wanting more privileges, as a whole. What the ARRL is addressing is the *lack* of desire by most current Techs to upgrade.

The logic behind the idea of expanding privileges concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement (by moving past the CW-only restriction on the lower tech allocations), then they *will* want to upgrade.

This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists! All that this proposal will do is allow the Tech to experience what could be very attractive–just like for the General.  If it worked in the past with Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra (exposing to all of HF, even if by way of a CW-only requirement), then it will work, now.  The difference is that the CW-only requirement on lower HF bands is highly restrictive because the mode is no longer needed to operate on any frequency, and, most will not take the time to learn it just to see if they WANT to explore the lower HF bands, or ever upgrade.

The bottom line is that we should make the Tech ticket more relevant. The expansion is not dumbing down, nor does it give away the farm.

I discuss this original point in the two videos that were lower down in the original post:

and,

Thanks for reading, watching the videos, and having a useful dialog about this very important change to the amateur radio regulations in the USA.

P.S., 

That aside: This may, in the long term, reveal one of two possible truths:

1. There is no real need for three license classes. Two would suffice. General and Amateur Extra, or Technician (merged with General) and Amateur Extra.

2. There is no real need for three license classes. One would suffice. Make the test hard enough to cover the Extra-class material, and all material under that class, and merge everyone into one tested class. I believe that this has been tried in other countries, and it appears to work well.

I’ll be crucified for stating those ideas, but, hey, this is just a hobby.

73 de NW7US dit dit

Short Demonstration of Using Ham Radio Deluxe with WSJT-X and FT8 Digital Mode

Ham Radio Deluxe can log your WSJT-X FT8, JT65A, and JT9 QSOs, via the JT-Alert software. This is a demonstration of my use of HRD and Logbook, during an FT8 QSO,today.

As some of you know, I have had some differences of opinion regarding the selection of frequencies chosen by the FT8 creators and advocates. Regardless, I do still use the mode. Here is proof:

Go ahead and share, if you would. And, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, as I will be creating many how-to videos in the near future.

Thanks and 73 … de NW7US

Review – BTech AMP-25 series for Analog & DMR

by John ‘Miklor’
K3NXU

The  AMP-25  series  VHF / UHF Amplifiers

The recently announced BTech Digital and Analog amplifier series puts a whole new spin on mobile operation. It performs more like a mobile than it does a power amp. The D series are true TDMA Tier2 DMR amplifiers.

Note: This review was done using an Anytone D868UV on both DMR and analog.

In the Box

Included with the 40W Mobile Amp are:

–  Mounting Bracket
–  3′  Interface Control Cable (Kenwood K1 connectors)
–  3′  RF connect cable (SMA-M to SMA-F)
–  Microphone and Hanger
–  All necessary mounting hardware
–  User Guide

General Description
–  UHF or VHF Power Amplifier

–  2-6W  >  20-40W  Output

                         Modes of operation include:

             V25  U25             V25D   U25D
Analog (FM)
C4FM (Fusion)
P25  (Phase 1)
NXDN
IDAS
dPMR
MPT1327
 >  DMR Tier II (TDMA)
 >  P25  (Phase 2)
Analog (FM)
C4FM (Fusion)
P25  (Phase 1)
NXDN
IDAS
dPMR
MPT1327

A Different type of Mobile Amplifier

I found these to be much more than a typical power amplifier. Although they can function as a simple ‘In and Out’ power amp, this is about as close to a full mobile as you can get. Although the driving force was my DMR handheld sitting in my cup holder, the transmit audio was that of the included hand microphone and the receiver audio out was coming through the built in speaker driven by a four watt audio amplifier.

Transmit Power

I tested the power on two different models. The VHF V25 (non TDMA) and the U25D for UHF DMR.  The power was tested using the analog side of both into a calibrated Bird Termaline wattmeter. The maximum current drain from my 13.6V 30A power supply was just under 6A. This is low enough for the amp to be powered by the 10A accessory jack in your vehicle.

Enclosure

The basic frame measures 4.6″W x 1.3″H x 5.5″D (excluding the SO-239) and weighs in at 26oz.  I was curious to see the internal layout of the amp and to no surprise, there was a 5/8″ finned heat sink spanning the entire length and width of the case along with air vent along the back of the enclosure.

Operating Modes

These are single band amplifiers.
V25(D) = VHF 136-174MHz
U25(D) = UHF 400-480MHz.

Note: The V25D and U25D were designed to include DMR Tier II (TDMA) and P25 Phase 2 along with all other modes. Their operation varies slightly.

V25  /  U25
To operate VHF through the UHF (U25) amplifier, or UHF through the VHF (V25) amplifier, simply power off the amplifier. This will allow you to run straight through directly to the antenna without power amplification on that band.

V25D / U25D
These amplifiers will only operate within their specified VHF or UHF range. This is due to the circuit switching design of DMR Tier II and P25 Phase 2.

Hook Up

The simplest configuration is using the included RF cable to attach the radio to the amp. You could add a Spkr/Micr to the handheld, but you would still be bypassing some of the best features.

I use the two included cables. The 3′ RF cable to attach the radio to the amp, and the control cable. This allows me to use the full size hand microphone as well as connecting the four watt audio amp powering the speaker. The power included power cable is compatible with handhelds using the standard two pin Kenwood style connector, such as an MD380, D868, GD77, UV5R, F8HP, UV82, etc.

I use an Anytone D868 on DMR as well as analog with the hookup diagrammed below. Depending on your radios antenna jack, you may need to pickup an SMA-M to SMA-M adapter.

 

Convenience

All channel selection and volume adjustments are done using the handheld. No duplicate programming or code plugs are necessary. Whatever is in my handheld is what I operate in the mobile

Operating my handheld in the low power position, I still get 22W out on UHF and my handheld’s battery life remains excellent, but high power gives me a solid 39W.

Conclusion

I was glad to see someone finally develop what is a full featured mobile amplifier capable of  DMR as well as all other modes including C4FM and D-Star that is small enough to mount in the car, boat, and on top of your computer. This amplifier is Part 90 certified and definitely worth considering.

Available from Amazon:    V25     V25D     U25     U25D
and     

VHF /UHF
Digital / Analog
Mobile Power Amplifiers

 

Let’s Call CQ – QSO Today Episode 184 with NW7US

I got a Skype call a few weeks ago from Eric, 4Z1UG–the creator and host of the QSO Today Podcast–during which he asked me about how and why I got into amateur radio.  Here’s the result.

Eric writes,

We talk a lot about the band conditions due to the Sunspot cycle. Most of it on Facebook and other places is about how “dead” the bands are at this point. We all can’t wait until the cycle starts to rise and we will be making contacts with little effort. I remember in my conversation with Chuck Adams, K7QO in Episode 58, that he really enjoys operating is “Pigrig”, one watt, CW transceiver on 20 meters. When I asked him, (I liberally paraphrase) “but Chuck, the bands are dead. How does that work for you?”. His reply was that while most hams are listening to the bands, he calls CQ until he gets a reply. Works every time.

My QSO this week is with Tomas Hood, NW7US, who has years of expertise in propagation and Solar activity. He is the propagation editor of more than a few radio magazines and websites. In our post-recording conversation we discussed this phenomenon of listening and not calling CQ. I even had this idea that maybe one of the reasons that the digital modes are so successful is because they “beacon”, as part of the whole digital experience, the same as calling CQ. This is why they make contacts. From what I see, looking at PSK Reporter, hams are making lots of contacts worldwide using the digital modes. While SSB may not be working so well, CW and the digital modes seem to work fine.

I like to work on my bench or make the podcast while listening to the bands. Jeff Damm, WA7MLH, in Episode 177, says that he will put his keyer in CQ mode while he is working on a new radio. Invariably, sometimes after many minutes, he gets a reply. Great idea Jeff!

73,

Eric, 4Z1UG

Episode 184 can be found here: https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/nw7us

Highlights of Episode 184:

Tomas Hood, NW7US is the propagation editor of a number of shortwave and amateur radio magazines, and has a wide variety of websites, that grew out of his love for all things radio, and for listening on the bands to far off DX and commercial broadcast stations. Tomas shares his understanding of propagation and the lessons we can learn from listening, really listening to the QSOs and exchanges during contest operation.

All of the QSO Today episodes are great.  I enjoy hearing about many different hams.  Do check out all of the episodes that Eric has published.

73 de NW7US dit dit

 

Demonstration: Using FLDigi to Communicate with Olivia Digital Mode on Shortwave

Are you interested in starting out with the amateur-radio digital modes on the high frequencies? Have you heard of FLDigi? FLDigi is a software control and modem suite that interfaces with your transceiver, your computer sound card, and other input/output interfaces so that you can receive and transmit one of many digital modes. For example, FLDigi allows you to operate using the Olivia digital mode.

Demonstration: Using FLDigi to Communicate with Olivia Digital Mode on Shortwave

Demonstration: Using FLDigi to Communicate with Olivia Digital Mode on Shortwave

Unlike the JT/FT digital modes–modes that do an incredible job under marginal propagation conditions–there are other modes that offer keyboard-to-keyboard conversational QSO opportunities that can overcome rough shortwave radio propagation conditions. (The meaning of QSO on Wikipedia: An amateur radio contact, more commonly referred to as simply a “contact”, is an exchange of information between two amateur radio stations.)

While making quick work of getting DX stations into your logbook by exchanging callsigns, a signal report, and a grid square, the JT/FT modes (JT stands for Joe Taylor, the fellow that pioneered these modes) are limited. They cannot handle any additional communications beyond a callsign, a signal report, a grid square, and a very limited set of acknowledgments and sign-off messages.

When you desire to get to know people from other areas of the world, or if you need to establish networks around the world for passing information–perhaps an emergency net in support of the Red Cross–or if you are motivated by any other of a myriad reasons to establish a keyboard-to-keyboard conversation by way of the ionosphere, modes like Olivia are great candidates for your consideration.

In this video, contributing editor with CQ Amateur Radio Magazine, NW7US shares some starting points in the FLDigi software for Olivia keyboard-to-keyboard chat mode.

Current CENTER Frequencies With 8/250 in MHz:

1.8269, 3.5729, 7.0729, 10.1429, 14.0729, 18.1029, 21.0729, 24.9229, 28.1229, and so on. See the pattern?

By the way: The current suggested CENTER frequency With 16/1000 or 32/1000 on 20 meters is 14.1059.

(Why the …9 frequencies? Experts say that ending in a non-zero, odd number is easier to remember!)

Q: What’s a ‘CENTER’ Frequency? Is That Where I Set My Radio’s Dial?

For those new to waterfalls: the CENTER frequency is the CENTER of the cursor shown by common software. The cursor is what you use to set the transceiver’s frequency on the waterfall. If your software’s waterfall shows the frequency, then you simply place the cursor so that its center is right on the center frequency listed, above. If your software is set to show OFFSET, then you might, for example, set your radio’s dial frequency to 14.0714, and place the center of your waterfall cursor to 1500 (1500 Hz). That would translate to the 14.0729 CENTER frequency.

The FLDigi Manual of Operation is found here: http://www.w1hkj.com/FldigiHelp/

FLDigi can be downloaded here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/fldigi/

Join the Olivia movement:

1. Subscribe to the mailing list: https://Groups.io/g/Olivia

2. Join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/olivia.hf

For additional information on Olivia, check out:

http://blog.nw7us.us/post/168515010062/olivia-digital-mode-great-compromise

http://blog.nw7us.us/post/169114702522/are-you-an-amateur-ham-radio-operator-check-out

73 de NW7US


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