Question about Midland Micromobiles

Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Messages
6
Location
Dandridge, TN
#1
New member here from the mountains of Tennessee. Due to patchy cellphone service we are looking to install land mobile radios in two vehicles. The radios will be used lightly, so I like the idea of the Midland MXT400 GMRS consumer radios, especially as there are two or three good GMRS repeaters in the area.

The issue I have with all of the repeater capable Midland Micromobiles (MXT115, MXT275, MXT400) is that they are narrowband because they are also FRS enabled. Since repeaters have a 5kHz offest can they truly work properly with repeaters? These radios seem like a compromise to me.

Would I be better upgrading to a business radio like an Icom F6021 which I believe is wideband? Problem is, with the programming kit I'll be stretching my budget a little too far.

Thanks.
 
Joined
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Location
Shawnee Kansas (Kansas City)
#2
As of January 1, 2013 most all VHF and UHF commercial and public service users were required to convert to narrowband. There are a few exceptions such as GMRS and MERS. Also the split for UHF is 5Mhz, not 5Khz.
BB
 

chief21

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Summer - western NC mountains; Winter - central
#3
I was curious, but I couldn't find the answer in the cut sheet or the owners manual, but it would certainly be possible for the FRS channels to be narrowband and the repeater channels (which are separate) to be wideband. I suppose you could contact Midland directly to get a clear answer. BTW, the correct frequency offset for GMRS repeaters is 5 MHz, not 5 kHz. Also, if I were buying these radios, I wouldn't consider anything less than the high-power (40w) model.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Messages
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Dandridge, TN
#4
Sorry my mistake, 5Mhz. So you think the Midland micromobiles will be fully compatible with the local GMRS repeaters or will audio be a bit light? I know there are better quality units out there.
 
Joined
Aug 17, 2003
Messages
3,528
Location
Peoria, AZ.
#5
Are you asking about the repeater offset, or are you asking about the difference in the deviation between NFM and FM?

GMRS repeater inputs are +5 MHz. If the Micromobiles are repeater capable, they will do this.

As for NFM vs FM, if the Micromobiles are NFM across all channels, and the repeaters are FM, yes, your audio will be low. You may have to turn your volume up to hear the person(s) you want to talk to, and turn it down when other users are active. You may notice some clipping of the other users audio as well.

If the repeaters happen to be NFM by the owners choice (*and they do exist, there are 3 here in the metro Phoenix area) then your audio will be fine.

You'll need to contact Midland in regards to whether the Micromobiles are NFM across all channels or not. Or find other users who have already determined that.

*Some GMRS repeater owners may choose to go NFM in order to eliminate interference to the input from FRS users on channels 8-14. NFM is not mandated for the GMRS by the FCC, but it isn't prohibited either, if a repeater owner so chooses to do so. 3 of the 4 GMRS repeaters belonging to a local group here in the Phoenix metro area are NFM.

John
WPXJ598
Peoria, AZ
 
Joined
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#6
There are other options, thought not quite as inexpensive.

There are many commercial UHF radios that have FCC Part 95 type certification, which makes them legal for use on GMRS with a valid GMRS license.
Take a look for a used:
Kenwood TK-880, TK-860
Icom F-420
Probably a few others, but those pop to mind. The older radios will do 5KHz deviation and work fine on the legacy wide GMRS repeaters.
You'll need to either get them programmed, or buy programming software and cable to do it yourself.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
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Location
Dandridge, TN
#7
Thanks for all your very helpful replies. In answer to KB7MIB, yes I am concerned about the difference in deviation. Where I live repeater access is vital and I've heard from several sources that the Midland GMRS units fall short in this regard. They are consumer hybrid radios, after all.

Would the Icom IC-F6021 be a more solid choice for vehicle to vehicle comms?
F5021 VHF and UHF Transceivers - Features - Icom America

Thanks again.
 
Joined
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#8
Would the Icom IC-F6021 be a more solid choice for vehicle to vehicle comms?
F5021 VHF and UHF Transceivers - Features - Icom America
Yes, if you compare the Icom to the Midland.
However, I'm not sure if the Icom has the necessary Part 95 certifications to be totally legal.

And, it's overkill, if using it for GMRS is your only plan, you can get something much cheaper that will work just as well.

And then add in the mandatory narrow banding requirements from the FCC. While narrow isn't required on the GMRS channels, there are some rules put on the radio manufacturers about making sure radios produced after a certain date are not capable of running wide band. Some manufacturers have approached this differently. Some have notched out specific segments of the band and allowed the radios to do wide. Kenwood does this on some VHF frequencies.
The other approach is to use a "key" that you get/buy from the manufacturer that unlocks the wide band function, and comes with documents that you have to sign saying you understand the narrow banding requirements on Part 90 frequencies.

The benefit to the older radios I posted is that they are pre-narrow band requirement radios and will do narrow band as is.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
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Dandridge, TN
#9
Just checked the FCC certification for the MXT400 and as I thought it is narrow band only +/- 2.5 KHz and not +/-5 KHz as GMRS permits. So the radio is not getting the full benefit of GMRS bandwidth and performance.

This was my original concern. Have they simply added a power amplifier to what is essentially an FRS radio? Why didn't they do a proper job and make the radio capable of proper deviation?
 
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#10
This was my original concern. Have they simply added a power amplifier to what is essentially an FRS radio? Why didn't they do a proper job and make the radio capable of proper deviation?
Thats a good question.
As for why they didn't make the radio capable of 5KHz, likely because it would require two sets of filters, and that adds to the cost. For the average user, it's "good enough". Power users know to use the correct radios. These are mainly aimed at consumer users.
 
Joined
Dec 30, 2014
Messages
846
#11
An FYI about those Midland Micromobiles...

As far as I have been told, when the repeater channel is set to transmit a PL, the squelch is also set for tone squelch with no way to set it to carrier squelch. This has created problems on our local repeaters because they are all set to open with PL and the tone simply passes through with the audio. There are multiple tones programmed into these repeaters and not all users are using the same tone. The effect is that the Micromobiles can open the repeaters and talk but can only hear other parties using the same PL. They miss traffic and are not able to tell if someone with a different PL is talking. The solution has been for them to use UV-5R radios to listen for traffic transmitting with other tones.

Perhaps this has been corrected in the latest models? Perhaps there is a programming work around? I don't know as my information has come from users of the radios. I haven't programmed one myself.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
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#12
In my opinion yes. The deviation mismatch is enough to create a problem with some repeaters failing to decode CTCSS tone. I would go for the Icom or any LMR radio that will operate wide band 16K0F3E +/- 5 KHz deviation.

If you can find a radio model that is Part 95 certified all the better. Otherwise Part 90 is functionally the same as far as specs as long as you choose 50 watts or less.
Thanks for all your very helpful replies. In answer to KB7MIB, yes I am concerned about the difference in deviation. Where I live repeater access is vital and I've heard from several sources that the Midland GMRS units fall short in this regard. They are consumer hybrid radios, after all.

Would the Icom IC-F6021 be a more solid choice for vehicle to vehicle comms?
F5021 VHF and UHF Transceivers - Features - Icom America

Thanks again.
Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk
 
Joined
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#13
Just checked the FCC certification for the MXT400 and as I thought it is narrow band only +/- 2.5 KHz and not +/-5 KHz as GMRS permits. So the radio is not getting the full benefit of GMRS bandwidth and performance.

This was my original concern. Have they simply added a power amplifier to what is essentially an FRS radio? Why didn't they do a proper job and make the radio capable of proper deviation?
If you look at the internal photos of the micro mobiles on the FCC certification, you will note a scarcity of parts. In my opinion, it is a "low parts count" FRS radio with GMRS programming and a power amp tacked on. It would not be so bad if it were wide band 16K0F3E, but Midland wimped out on the design. Shame on them, it would be a fair to middling radio otherwise.

Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2018
Messages
2
Location
Charlotte, NC
#14
I am a new member as well. I just got my GMRS call sign about a month ago. I have been looking at getting one of those Midland MicroMobiles to use on the local repeater here in Charlotte, NC
 
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
99
Location
Canton, Texas
#15
Why spend the amount of money one would on one of those cheapy Midland Miccromobiles when you just got your license and are starting out fresh when there are numerous amount of used radios on eBay and other sites for a lot less money, that generally have more functions, and are of better quality. Even after 20 years or so the Midland XTR was and still is a better radio than any of the new Midland Radios being made today and they were 95 accepted (some will argue that point but that's for another day).

As mentioned earlier by others, go to the Bay and look for some good clean used mobiles with brand names such as:

GE, Johnson, Motorola, Vertex, Midland, Maxon, Bendix King, Kenwood, and many others.

I personally wouldn't give you 10 cents for a Icom radio but that's me. I've seen too many of them on my tech bench over the years, and for what you pay for one, you really don't get that much in quality or options. Not sure why Amateur radio operators love them so much (till they bring to me for repair) in the beginning but they do.

Even on our Association's FB page, we have several listed that are good, clean, and quality radios for more than half the price of one of those 40 watt new Midlands.

Don't just jump on the first radio you see listed on Amazon or at Walmart. Look around for better.
 

vagrant

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#16
As mentioned earlier by others, go to the Bay and look for some good clean used mobiles with brand names such as:

GE, Johnson, Motorola, Vertex, Midland, Maxon, Bendix King, Kenwood, and many others.
How much would it cost to program one of the radios offered by these brands, presuming the end user does not have software or cables? Can the power be adjusted as well to comply to FCC specs?
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
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#17
I was curious, but I couldn't find the answer in the cut sheet or the owners manual, but it would certainly be possible for the FRS channels to be narrowband and the repeater channels (which are separate) to be wideband. I suppose you could contact Midland directly to get a clear answer. BTW, the correct frequency offset for GMRS repeaters is 5 MHz, not 5 kHz. Also, if I were buying these radios, I wouldn't consider anything less than the high-power (40w) model.
All you have to do is look up the FCC Certification grant. If you don't see 16K0F3E or 20K0F3E the radio has no wideband +/- 5 KHz deviation. But I will save you the trouble, the Midland GMRS micro mobiles are simply pimped out FRS radios. They are stuck in narrowband land.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
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#18
How much would it cost to program one of the radios offered by these brands, presuming the end user does not have software or cables? Can the power be adjusted as well to comply to FCC specs?
As far as programming, "it depends". Shop for software and cables before you buy the radio brand. Some older Motorola equipment it is no problem as long as you can find the cable and RIB box, but new fancy stuff, get out your checkbook. Also check with local friends in the LMR business.

If you find a model that is 50 watts or less, is part 90 and has 16K0F3E or 20K0F3E in the FCC certification and it tunes 450-470 MHz you are ready to go. If the radio has Part 95 certification, you are 100% legal. If it does not, I will not be one to complain as new Part 95 GMRS radios that actually meet all the wonderful characteristics offered by GMRS are few. Who wants to compete with Midland when by and large the customers don't have the knowledge to know the difference between a toy and an LMR ratio that meets or exceeds TIA/EIA 603D specs?

For portables I am using 1990 vintage Motorola Systems Sabers because they have Part 95 certification and are bulletproof. Also I found lithium ion batteries that are light weight and 3 times as powerful.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Messages
2,747
#19
Why spend the amount of money one would on one of those cheapy Midland Miccromobiles when you just got your license and are starting out fresh when there are numerous amount of used radios on eBay and other sites for a lot less money, that generally have more functions, and are of better quality. Even after 20 years or so the Midland XTR was and still is a better radio than any of the new Midland Radios being made today and they were 95 accepted (some will argue that point but that's for another day).

As mentioned earlier by others, go to the Bay and look for some good clean used mobiles with brand names such as:

GE, Johnson, Motorola, Vertex, Midland, Maxon, Bendix King, Kenwood, and many others.

I personally wouldn't give you 10 cents for a Icom radio but that's me. I've seen too many of them on my tech bench over the years, and for what you pay for one, you really don't get that much in quality or options. Not sure why Amateur radio operators love them so much (till they bring to me for repair) in the beginning but they do.

Even on our Association's FB page, we have several listed that are good, clean, and quality radios for more than half the price of one of those 40 watt new Midlands.

Don't just jump on the first radio you see listed on Amazon or at Walmart. Look around for better.
I will go a step further and suggest if one is looking for a GMRS radio, Walmart and Amazon are exactly the wrong place to look.
 
Joined
Dec 30, 2014
Messages
846
#20
Shop for software and cables before you buy the radio brand. Some older Motorola equipment it is no problem as long as you can find the cable and RIB box, but new fancy stuff, get out your checkbook. Also check with local friends in the LMR business.
One might want to check BlueMax49ers on Ebay. He's an amateur radio operator and many of us have had success finding relatively inexpensive programming cables through him. The last one I purchased was a USB programming cable for our Motorola M1225 radios. It works great.

https://www.ebay.com/usr/bluemax49ers
 
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