Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
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
– 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Thanks for reading, watching the videos, and having a useful dialog about this very important change to the amateur radio regulations in the USA.
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.
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
In this video, I expound on another point of view regarding the ARRL petition to the FCC. The petition requests an expansion of operating privileges of Technician-class operators in the USA. The ARRL believes that giving broader shortwave access, using digital communications, to Technicians, will better entice the Techs to upgrade to General or Amateur Extra. In this video, I discuss this a bit.
If you are wondering why I’ve made a few videos about this topic, when the topic has been the hot item on many forums already, I believe that the drama will not cease until well after the FCC makes a decision, because this is a relevant topic, and one that has a significant impact on the amateur radio community at large. It is not a trivial conversation about which type of coax is best suited for Arctic field activity.
After some replies came from various viewers, I clarify my point. I stand corrected.
I failed to mention that there are a limited few slices of VOICE (SSB) spectrum on HF that the petition seeks for the Tech licensee. The ARRL states, “ARRL has asked the FCC to expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.”
More specifically, “ARRL proposes to provide Technician licensees, present and future, with phone privileges at 3.900 to 4.000 MHz, 7.225 to 7.300 MHz, and 21.350 to 21.450 MHz, plus RTTY and digital privileges in current Technician allocations on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters. The ARRL petition points out the explosion in popularity of various digital modes over the past 2 decades. Under the ARRL plan, the maximum HF power level for Technician operators would remain at 200 W PEP. The few remaining Novice licensees would gain no new privileges under the League’s proposal.” Reference: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-requests-expanded-hf-privileges-for-technician-licensees
My point holds: give some reason to desire to upgrade to a higher class. Do this by granting HF operations on lower bands (lower in frequency than 10 Meters), with more than a CW-only privilege.
If a tech can only use CW on 80m, but doesn’t know CW, then it is likely she won’t ever try making contacts on 80m. Hence, no exposure to the magic of 80-meter DX. If, however, the Tech can dabble with digital or limited SSB, on 80m, then she gets a real, practical exposure to the magic, and may well upgrade. Why do you think a General, who has limits, would ever upgrade? What am I missing here?
The following video expands this idea:
The truth is, I see a strong argument for just ONE license, permanent. Or a temporary entry-level training ticket, then the permanent. But, that would make us like some other countries. That can’t be good.
The original video to which this new video continues is here:
Some viewers are asking me why I am making a video while driving. They try to convince me that talking while driving is too distracting. My answer is here:
73 de NW7US
I just received some good news from Mike, WA9PIE. He writes in an email:
The first release of Ham Radio Deluxe for 2018 (Ham Radio Deluxe version 184.108.40.2064) is now available for download. Please download it from the Download pages on our website at:
This release includes a number of important changes including the addition of the Icom IC-7610, resolves a Logbook exit problem, resolves “sort on LOTW date”, API for QSO Forwarding now populates Logbook with My Station data, a number of fixes for the Kenwood TS-480, applications remember screen position, enable CI-V address to be entered directly, and a number of stability enhancements.
The full release notes can be found here:
I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Blaszczak (K7ZCZ) and our beta team on their hard work in getting this release out.
All those who have purchased Ham Radio Deluxe at any time in the past should download and install this version in order to benefit from all bug fixes. You are entitled to them. Our clients who are covered by an active Software Maintenance and Support period are entitled to Feature Enhancements.
As announced previously, we expect to release as many as 9 releases in 2018. There will be no releases between 1-Nov and 1-Jan. We continue to focus on reducing our development backlog with five developers dedicated to all applications in the suite.
Please watch these newsletters for updates. Pass these updates along to your friends. Newsletters will also be posted on our website’s blog at:
Thank you es 73 de Mike, WA9PIE
HRD Software, LLC
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!
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
For those of you who have dived into the crowded but fun pool of FT8 operation or one of the other Joe Taylor modes (such as JT65 or JT9) and are excited now about digital modes, here’s something you might enjoy, too. Unlike those modes that allow you to make quick work of getting DX stations into your logbook, simply by exchanging callsigns, a signal report, and a grid square, there are other modes that offer keyboard-to-keyboard conversational QSO opportunities.
One such mode is known as Olivia and this mode offers keyboard-to-keyboard chatting for when you want to relax, and maybe make a friend. Ham radio is the oldest electronic social networking infrastructure.
In 2005, SP9VRC, Pawel Jalocha, released to the world a mode that he developed starting in 2003 to overcome difficult radio signal propagation conditions on the shortwave (high-frequency, or HF) bands. By difficult, we are talking significant phase distortions and low signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) plus multipath propagation effects. The Olivia-modulated radio signals are decoded even when it is ten to fourteen dB below the noise floor. That means that Olivia is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is slightly over three times that of the digital signal!
Olivia decodes well under other conditions that are a complex mix of atmospheric noise, signal fading (QSB), interference (QRM), polar flutter caused by a radio signal traversing a polar path. Olivia is even capable when the signal is affected by auroral conditions (including the Sporadic-E Auroral Mode, where signals are refracted off of the highly-energized E-region in which the Aurora is active).
Currently, the only other digital modes that match or exceed Olivia in their sensitivity are some of the modes designed by Joe Taylor as implemented in the WSJT programs, including FT8, JT65A, and JT65-HF–each of which are certainly limited in usage and definitely not able to provide true conversation capabilities. Olivia is useful for emergency communications, unlike JT65A or the newly popular FT8.
Here is a demonstration of a two-way transmission using the Olivia digital mode on shortwave. I am in QSO (conversation) with KA5TPJ. There are two other Olivia QSOs just below our frequency. Just above us is a lot of FT8 activity. Below the two other Olivia QSOs are PSK31 QSOs. The band is active. Olivia is not dead!
The standard Olivia formats (shown as the number of tones/bandwidth in Hz) are 8/250, 8/500, 16/500, 8/1000, 16/1000, and 32/1000. Some even use 16/2000 for series emergency communication. The most commonly-used formats are 16/500, 8/500, and 8/250. However, the 32/1000 and 16/1000 are popular in some areas of the world and on certain bands.
This can cause some confusion and problems with so many formats and so many other digital modes. After getting used to the sound and look of Olivia in the waterfall, though, it becomes easier to identify the format when you encounter it. To aid in your detection of what mode is being used, there is a feature of many digital-mode software implementation suites: the RSID. The video, below, is a demonstration on how to set the Reed-Solomon Identification (RSID) feature in Ham Radio Deluxe’s Digital Master 780 module (HRD DM780).
I encourage ALL operators in any digital mode such as Olivia, set the RSID feature on as shown in this example. In Fldigi, the RSID is the TXID and RXID (I believe).
Please make sure you are using the RSID (Reed Solomon Identification – RSID or TXID, RXID) option in your software. RSID transmits a short burst at the start of your transmission which identifies the mode you are using. When it does that, those amateur radio operators also using RSID while listening will be alerted by their software that you are transmitting in the specific mode (Olivia, hopefully), the settings (like 8/250), and where on the waterfall your transmission is located. This might be a popup window and/or text on the receive text panel. When the operator clicks on that, the software moves the waterfall cursor right on top of the signal and changes the mode in the software. This will help you make more contacts!
+ NOTE 1: MixW doesn’t have RSID features. Request it!
+ NOTE 2: A problem exists in the current paid version of HRD’s DM780: the DM780 RSID popup box to click does not work. HRD support is aware of the problem. You can still use the textual version that you can select in the settings so that it appears in the receive text areas. If you click the RSID link that comes across the text area, DM780 will tune to the reported signal, and change to the correct settings.
+ NOTE 3: some websites publish frequencies that are right on top of weak-signal FT8, JT65 and JT9 segments. Even if that is a matter of contention, follow the regulations and be kind: DO NOT QRM weak-signal QSOs! AGAIN: make sure that your signal does not cross into other sub-bands where weak-signal modes are active. For instance, do not have any part of your signal at x.074 or higher, as this is the sub-band for FT8, JT65A, and JT9.
Quick Reference: we in the active Olivia group suggest 8/250 as the starting settings when calling CQ on the USB dial frequency of 14.072 MHz with an offset of 700 Hz, on 20m–that translates to a CENTER frequency of 14.0729 MHz. On 40m, 7.072 MHz on the dial with an offset of 700 Hz (and again 8/250) which translates to a center frequency of 7.0729 MHz.
Also, do not quickly switch to other modes without calling CQ for at least a five-minute window. It is really horrid when people call CQ and change settings, modes, bandwidths, tones, every time they call CQ during the same session!
There are several key resources that we in the Olivia community are developing, to make it easier for you to enter into the great world of Olivia. One is an active support e-mail group to which you can subscribe at https://groups.io/g/Olivia — a group containing topical areas of interest which can be filtered so that you are not flooded by email containing topics of which you are not interested. It has a files section, as well, in which we will add helpful how-to instructions and so on.
Another resource is our Facebook group, at https://www.Facebook.com/groups/olivia.hf — also with a files area containing help files. This group is a great resource for getting help from like-minded Olivia digital mode enthusiasts.
Some more eavesdropping on an Olivia QSO:
And, two more:
One last note: Olivia is NOT a weak-signal mode. There are no points won by barely making a contact. In the USA FCC regulations, you are directed to use only the power necessary to make the QSO. Typically, with poor propagation, using Olivia with an output power of 100w is the minimum to establish a reliable circuit. You just cannot go beyond your rig’s duty cycle (don’t burn out the finals in your radio!). You also must be sure that you do not overdrive the audio chain into your radio. Be sure that you do not have RF coming back into your audio chain. Yes, 100 watts is acceptable. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. After all, think about RTTY.
Welcome to Olivia! See you on the waterfall.
73 de NW7US