Posts Tagged ‘TH-205E’

Third-party Kenwood accessories

Ebay is a good place to buy accessories like speaker/mics and headsets for your radios. A few years ago I used it to buy a speaker/mic for my Kenwood TH-F7E. After I sold that radio I used the speaker/mic with my TH-D72. When I tried it with my old TH-205E however I found that PTT didn’t work. I soon established that the reason was the genuine Kenwood accessories used a monophonic 2.5mm plug with only two contacts, tip and sleeve, for mic audio and PTT. The third-party accessories from eBay used a stereo 2.5mm plug with tip, ring and sleeve, but there was no connection to the ring. It looked as if the plug in the radio was trying to make contact in the area of the ring. This obviously was OK for newer Kenwood radios but with the 205E there was no ground connection for the PTT.

Ring and sleeve of the 2.5mm plug should be connected

My first thought was to open up the speaker mic, find the wire connected to the ring and connect it to ground. However I soon found that the cable of my speaker/mic had no wire connected to the ring at all. My only option was to try to bridge the two contacts together using solder. This I did, and the speaker/mic then worked with the TH-205E.

The Wouxun KG-699E and the Baofeng UV-3R+ also claim to use accessories with a Kenwood-compatible plug but just like the 205E I found that PTT did not work. I have just performed the same modification to the plugs on a “Kenwood-compatible” headset/boom mic and also one of the earpiece/mics that came with the Baofeng and Wouxun so that they would all work with all four radios. It is easy to do, but you need to take care as it’s easy to melt the plastic parts of the plug and you could easily ruin it if too much heat is used.

Using a sharp craft knife cut away a small section of the black plastic insulation between the ring and the sleeve of the 2.5mm plug to reveal an inner metal sleeve. Open this up a bit more using the edge of a jeweller’s file. Then make a solder bridge between the ring and sleeve. You need to apply heat using the edge of the soldering iron bit to the inner sleeve in order that the solder will bridge the gap. Apply the soldering iron for as short a time as possible to avoid melting the plastic insulation and destroying the plug. I used Blu-Tac to hold the plug in a steady position whilst soldering.

After you have bridged the contacts use a jeweller’s file to remove any excess solder from the plug. You should also smooth the plastic insulation between the plug contacts which may have melted and bulged a bit. The plug should be completely smooth between the contacts, the solder bridge and the insulation. It should plug easily into the socket on the radio. If it needs a firm push then try a bit more filing until it goes in easily. You don’t want the plug to get stuck in the radio nor for it to damage the socket contacts if force is needed to insert or remove it.

I accept no responsibility for damaged plugs or radios as a result of trying this modification. However I have done three of them now with success each time so it is possible with care. Now my “Kenwood-compatible” accessories will work with old and new Kenwoods as well as the Baofeng and the Wouxun.

Battery boost

A couple of years ago I won a 25 year old “spares or repair” Kenwood TH-205E for a few pounds in an eBay auction. I successfully repaired it, but the ni-cad pack had failed short-circuit. I then had a stroke of luck as I found someone selling an 25 year old but unused KNB-4 battery pack for a couple of quid. It held a charge, so the problem was solved. The only disadvantage was that it was the large high capacity battery pack, much taller than the original, making the radio even bulkier than it already is. I nicknamed it “the brick.”

A few days ago I was looking at the Strikalite web site and noticed that they do battery pack refurbishment. I enquired whether they could repair the 205E’s original battery pack. “Send it to us and we’ll take a look at it” they said, so I did.

A few days later I received a phone call from Strikalite saying “We need to take some money off you.” I was a bit concerned as to how much it would be as they had not provided me with an estimate before starting. But I need not have worried. The total cost including postage and VAT was £19.99 which I think is very reasonable. They did quite a neat job, with only a little marking of the case where they had to pry the two halves apart.

£20 may seem like more than a 25 year old boat anchor that doesn’t support 12.5kHz spacing nor CTCSS for repeater access is worth. But actually the TH-205E has the best, most intermod-resistant receiver of any of my HTs due to the fact that it is designed for the 2m band only, not wide band coverage. If I ever get out on the fells again, the TH-205E would be a strong candidate to take. There’s life in the old thing yet!

Handheld receiver blocking shootout

Ever since my outing on to Ling Fell yesterday I have been bugged by not knowing for sure whether the problems I experienced with the VX-8GR were really caused by receiver overload or blocking. I like the construction and features of the Yaesu. But a radio that makes you miss some of the contacts you have laboriously sweated up a summit to make is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I wondered if I could devise a test to give me an idea of the relative strengths of the different 2m radios. I did, and the candidates are lined up in order of merit below, the worst on the left and the best on the right.

The test methodology was crude. I connected each radio to my dual band vertical and tuned in a weakish station: the GB3AS repeater on 145.600MHz, which is normally an S3 signal – fully readable but with some background noise on the audio. I then transmitted a carrier on 144.025MHz using another radio on a helical antenna a few metres from the vertical. I tried two power levels of the interfering signal, 3.5W (“high power”) and 0.5W (“low power”), these being the available power levels of the test radio. This 8dB difference in the interfering signal level had different effects on the ability to receive the repeater signal.

I am well aware of the limitations of the test I carried out. In real life SOTA or WOTA use a radio may be subjected to strong in-band signals from activators on other summits but they will not be as strong as the signal from a radio a few metres away from the antenna. A radio is likely to be subjected to strong signals from outside the amateur band such as pagers and other commercial signals, which the bandpass filters in modern radios due to the marketing-driven necessity of providing wideband receive coverage will do nothing to attenuate. Many strong signals may mix together to cause intermodulation effects if not blocking. However, a receiver that can handle a strong in-band interfering signal is likely also to be better at coping with many strong signals being received over a range of frequencies. So I think my test results have some validity.

Beginning with the worst receiver, the results are as follows.

  • VX-8GR. This receiver was the worst affected by blocking. Noticeable desensing of the repeater signal occurred when the in-band carrier was on low power, while a weak noisy “4 by 1” signal was killed completely. The repeater signal cut out completely when the in-band carrier was keyed on high power. Engaging the RX ATT (menu option 1) caused the repeater signal to drop below the squelch threshold so it was not much help though it did reduce the desensing effect on stronger signals.
  • JMT-228. The VX-8 was slightly worse than the Jin Ma Tong JT-228, a £30 Chinese handheld bought on eBay. In fairness, the JT-228 is slightly less sensitive than the Japanese ham radios (judging by the signal to noise ratio on weak signals) which may have helped it a bit. Desensing was noticed when the in-band carrier was on low power, and the repeater signal cut out when it was on high power.
  • TH-D72. The Kenwood TH-D72 may only be third worst (or third best) but in fact it was a whole lot better. No detectable desensing occurred when the in-band carrier was on low power. Some desensing occurred, in the form of a drop in S-meter reading and increased noise on the audio, when the carrier was on high power.
  • GP-300. Excellent performance was given by the Motorola GP-300. No desensing was noticed when the in-band carrier was on low power. There was a very slight but hardly noticeable increase in background noise level when the carrier was keyed on high power.
  • TH-205E. I bought this old boat anchor as a “spares or repair” radio for £6 on eBay for the fun of seeing if I could get it going. With the high capacity battery pack it is about the weight and bulk of an FT-817 and not something I would particularly want to haul up a summit. But no desensing of the repeater signal was observed even when the in-band carrier was keyed on high power, making this the best performing receiver of all.

Out of interest I also carried out the test on my FT-817ND and the Kenwood TM-D710 I use as my 2m base station. The FT-817ND was slightly better than the TH-D72: there was no effect with the low power carrier but the high power one brought a noticeable background hiss on the signal. The TM-D710 performed close to the TH-205E. There was barely any noticeable effect from the high power in-band carrier.

I think the results of these tests, crude though they are, are interesting. The bigger the radio, the more likely it is to have a receiver able to handle adjacent strong signals. Paying lots of money for the latest technology is no guarantee of getting a better receiver. In fact, just the opposite. An ex-commercial handheld or a ham band one from the days when wide band receive coverage was not considered important will work better than the latest marvels.

Were it not that I find the full APRS functionality of the VX-8GR and TH-D72 useful, I’d be tempted to sell both those radios and just use a dumb tracker plugged into the mic socket of one of the others tuned to 144.800. Either I use the VX-8GR for APRS only and carry another radio for making contacts or I must try harder to love the TH-D72. Decisions, decisions. But at least I now have a bit more information to base them on.

Handheld receiver blocking shootout

Ever since my outing on to Ling Fell yesterday I have been bugged by not knowing for sure whether the problems I experienced with the VX-8GR were really caused by receiver overload or blocking. I like the construction and features of the Yaesu. But a radio that makes you miss some of the contacts you have laboriously sweated up a summit to make is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I wondered if I could devise a test to give me an idea of the relative strengths of the different 2m radios. I did, and the candidates are lined up in order of merit below, the worst on the left and the best on the right.

The test methodology was crude. I connected each radio to my dual band vertical and tuned in a weakish station: the GB3AS repeater on 145.600MHz, which is normally an S3 signal – fully readable but with some background noise on the audio. I then transmitted a carrier on 144.025MHz using another radio on a helical antenna a few metres from the vertical. I tried two power levels of the interfering signal, 3.5W (“high power”) and 0.5W (“low power”), these being the available power levels of the test radio. This 8dB difference in the interfering signal level had different effects on the ability to receive the repeater signal.

I am well aware of the limitations of the test I carried out. In real life SOTA or WOTA use a radio may be subjected to strong in-band signals from activators on other summits but they will not be as strong as the signal from a radio a few metres away from the antenna. A radio is likely to be subjected to strong signals from outside the amateur band such as pagers and other commercial signals, which the bandpass filters in modern radios due to the marketing-driven necessity of providing wideband receive coverage will do nothing to attenuate. Many strong signals may mix together to cause intermodulation effects if not blocking. However, a receiver that can handle a strong in-band interfering signal is likely also to be better at coping with many strong signals being received over a range of frequencies. So I think my test results have some validity.

Beginning with the worst receiver, the results are as follows.

  • VX-8GR. This receiver was the worst affected by blocking. Noticeable desensing of the repeater signal occurred when the in-band carrier was on low power, while a weak noisy “4 by 1” signal was killed completely. The repeater signal cut out completely when the in-band carrier was keyed on high power. Engaging the RX ATT (menu option 1) caused the repeater signal to drop below the squelch threshold so it was not much help though it did reduce the desensing effect on stronger signals.
  • JMT-228. The VX-8 was slightly worse than the Jin Ma Tong JT-228, a £30 Chinese handheld bought on eBay. In fairness, the JT-228 is slightly less sensitive than the Japanese ham radios (judging by the signal to noise ratio on weak signals) which may have helped it a bit. Desensing was noticed when the in-band carrier was on low power, and the repeater signal cut out when it was on high power.
  • TH-D72. The Kenwood TH-D72 may only be third worst (or third best) but in fact it was a whole lot better. No detectable desensing occurred when the in-band carrier was on low power. Some desensing occurred, in the form of a drop in S-meter reading and increased noise on the audio, when the carrier was on high power.
  • GP-300. Excellent performance was given by the Motorola GP-300. No desensing was noticed when the in-band carrier was on low power. There was a very slight but hardly noticeable increase in background noise level when the carrier was keyed on high power.
  • TH-205E. I bought this old boat anchor as a “spares or repair” radio for £6 on eBay for the fun of seeing if I could get it going. With the high capacity battery pack it is about the weight and bulk of an FT-817 and not something I would particularly want to haul up a summit. But no desensing of the repeater signal was observed even when the in-band carrier was keyed on high power, making this the best performing receiver of all.

Out of interest I also carried out the test on my FT-817ND and the Kenwood TM-D710 I use as my 2m base station. The FT-817ND was slightly better than the TH-D72: there was no effect with the low power carrier but the high power one brought a noticeable background hiss on the signal. The TM-D710 performed close to the TH-205E. There was barely any noticeable effect from the high power in-band carrier.

I think the results of these tests, crude though they are, are interesting. The bigger the radio, the more likely it is to have a receiver able to handle adjacent strong signals. Paying lots of money for the latest technology is no guarantee of getting a better receiver. In fact, just the opposite. An ex-commercial handheld or a ham band one from the days when wide band receive coverage was not considered important will work better than the latest marvels.

Were it not that I find the full APRS functionality of the VX-8GR and TH-D72 useful, I’d be tempted to sell both those radios and just use a dumb tracker plugged into the mic socket of one of the others tuned to 144.800. Either I use the VX-8GR for APRS only and carry another radio for making contacts or I must try harder to love the TH-D72. Decisions, decisions. But at least I now have a bit more information to base them on.

Foxed

My FoxTrak APRS tracker board is now installed in a plastic case, together with 4 x AA NiMH cells which provide near enough 5V to power both the tracker and the GPS. Two mini-DIN sockets on the side of the case allow connection to a PS/2 GPS or PC for configuration, and to the radio. Now I just have to make up interface cables to my radios and install the top half of the case after drilling it and installing the charger socket for the battery.

I purchased a GlobalSat BR-355 PS/2 GPS receiver on eBay and it works very well indeed with the FoxTrak, much better than the GPS in the Yaesu VX-8GR. It gets a fix within a couple of minutes when it is sitting on the shack window sill, unlike the VX-8GR which often never finds its position indoors at all, and the position remains rock steady unlike the Yaesu which tends to wander about.

I wanted to make a cable to use the tracker with my Motorola GP-300 hand-held. However I found that the jack plugs you can buy from component suppliers have too wide a body and can’t plug all the way in to the sockets on the top of the radio, which are a bit recessed. It appears that you need to use a proper moulded plug with the two pins. A cable for the Motorola GP-300 is available on eBay, so I’m waiting for one to arrive.

I was luckier with the old Kenwood TH-205E. The sockets for external mic, PTT and speaker are flush with the top of the case and the cable I made up using separate plugs works fine. Lacking a deviation meter I adjusted the audio output so the braaps sounded as loud as those from other APRS stations.

However, the TH-205E is a bit big and heavy for portable use, especially as it has a high capacity Ni-Cad battery pack (the original being as dead as a dodo.) I had expected the cable to work just as well with the little TH-F7E, because the Kenwood speaker-mic I have works with both radios. But although PTT works on the smaller Kenwood there is virtually no audio. I have to turn the audio up to maximum on the FoxTrak to get enough signal to be decoded by my gateway, and the deviation is still too low.

I am completely foxed by this problem. The only thing I can think of is that it is something to do with using two separate plugs and not the proper moulded two-pin connector used by the speaker-mic. Perhaps, as with the Motorola, the wide body of the plugs is preventing them from going far enough in to disconnect the internal microphone, which is shorting out the audio. Unfortunately the only way to prove this hypothesis would be to buy a cheap Kenwood speaker-mic or programming cable on eBay and cut the cable off. It’s a bit of a gamble, as I don’t know for sure if that’s the solution, and the cables in some of those cheap mics from China are very poorly screened so I could end up with an RF-induced problem.

Memory fix

Six months ago I bought an old Kenwood TH-205 on eBay for spares or repair. I got it working, managed to find a new replacement NiCad battery pack for it and built a drop-in charger for it for a total cost of well under £20. The backup battery had died so the memories didn’t work and the radio wouldn’t even remember the frequency it was last used on, but I was pleased just to have got it working and I was afraid the replacement would be an expensive part the cost of which couldn’t be justified.

Today I decided to have a look and see if the backup battery could be replaced. I wasn’t sure where the backup battery was, but I guessed it might be hidden under a foam pad in the centre of the circuit board. I had a peek and was pleased to find that it was a CR2032 3V lithium button cell. However it wasn’t your regular CR2032 cell that you can buy in stores, but one with solder tags spot welded to each side.

I looked on eBay, but although this turned up zillions of sellers of the regular cells at prices from five for a pound, no-one had the version with solder tags. I looked to see if I could fit a cell holder into the radio but the PCB mount one I had was quite a bit thicker than the cell itself and there was insufficient space for it.

I tried a Google search and Digikey had a CR2032 with solder tags for £1.17 a time, but there was a £12 shipping charge which made it uneconomic. The cost of the repair needed to be proportionate to what I paid for the radio.

So I decided to try taping wires to a regular CR2032 cell. I doubt that I could solder to it, and that probably isn’t a good idea anyway. I had a CR2032 which came in a kit I purchased recently but haven’t started to build yet. It was new and sealed in its packing so I thought I would use that. It was a good job I decided to check the voltage after taping the wires to it, in order to verify they were making good contact, because it was as dead as a dodo! Even the one I took out of the radio showed more signs of life, as it acts as a capacitor and charges up a little bit when the battery power is turned on.

So it’s back to eBay to order a couple of replacement cells, one for the Kenwood and one for the kit I haven’t yet built.

Watch Hill

It was a fine sunny morning. I remembered – having worked a couple of activators yesterday – that it was the Summits On The Air (SOTA) Activity Weekend, so I thought we would go to Watch Hill, G/LD-054, and see what I could work from there.

Compared to all the people who have slogged up thousands of feet to get to their summits Watch Hill is a bit of a cheat. It’s a 15 minute stroll from the nearest car park, with only the last couple of hundred metres being a bit steep. But as it is a less than 10 minute drive from home it’s a popular walk for Olga and I and we often take a picnic lunch up there.

I took with me the Motorola GP300 and the Kenwood TH-205E with the 5/8 telescopic whip. Getting the 4 contacts required for a SOTA activation can be a challenge from there, as it is a fairly low hill and there isn’t a huge amount of 2m FM activity round here. Many have tried and gone away disappointed. However on Sunday morning the Workington Radio Club has a 2m FM net. I broke into that and soon had 5 contacts logged. Future would-be activators of Watch Hill please note.

I also made a summit to summit with 2M0NCM/P on Lamachan Hill SS-061 in Dumfries and Galloway, and then caught Geoff G4WHA/P who was just stopping for lunch on Wether Hill, WOTA summit LDW-103. I wouldn’t have heard him from home, so that was a nice WOTA chaser point for me.

The Motorola produced great, loud audio which is ideal for listening on a windy hill-top, and I got an unsolicited report of “BBC quality” audio on my transmissions, so it seems to be working well. However I noticed that some stations seemed to chop up a bit. I’m not sure if they were weak and the squelch is very sharp or whether their deviation is a bit wide for the Motorola IF filters. I will need to investigate this further.

The TH-205E came in handy after the Motorola gave a few beeps to warn, I think, that the battery was exhausted. There is no visual indication of battery state on the Motorola so I had no advance warning. The station I was working said that he could hear a carrier but no audio after the battery went. Still, it does seem to be a nice radio and rugged enough for this type of use.


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