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Digital Voice for Amateur Use - Discuss use of digital voice technologies on the amateur radio bands. This is to include technologies such as VoIP, P25, DMR/TRBO, NXDN, D-STAR, etc.

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Old 01-02-2018, 11:15 PM
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Default Should I Get An Icom D-Star Radio?

First off, let me say that I am not nearly as active on amateur radio as I once was. That having been said, I am trying to rekindle my interest in amateur radio lately. I have a Motorola APX7000, however the one APCO P25 repeater that I have used in the past decided over a year ago to switch their Quantar to analog only. So, I will probably sell my Motorola APX7000.

I did buy a Connect Systems CS750. I like DMR. I seems to be a very popular mode in my area.

I also have a Yaesu System Fusion FT1XDR. It reminds me of APCO P25.

I have never used an Icom D-Star radio. The prices seem a bit higher for Icom radios. I have heard some folks say that some repeater owners are switching from Icom D-Star to either DMR or YSF. I suspect that varies depending on where you live. Is there any evidence to suggest that there is a national trend to move from one digital mode to another?

Last edited by JASII; 01-02-2018 at 11:24 PM..
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Old 01-03-2018, 12:33 AM
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Some may disagree but in my opinion, D-Star is dead. DMR is the fastest growing digital mode in amateur radio. System Fusion is good but Yaesu is essentially giving repeaters away to build the customer base.

DMR is going to be the de facto standard for amateur digital. The numbers prove this. The good news is that amateurs can play with all sorts of technologies. But the adoption rate of DMR demonstrates that it is going to be at the top of the list.
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Old 01-03-2018, 5:35 AM
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The trend is definitely toward DMR. D-Star is basically Betamax.
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Old 01-03-2018, 6:14 AM
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While the number of D-STAR repeaters has fallen off in most parts of the U.S., there is an increase in the number of D-STAR reflectors. There are also some multi-mode repeaters going up that can do DMR/D-STAR/P25/Yaesu Fusion. Also, many of the hot spots do D-STAR.

I don't think D-STAR is dead. But, the influx of cheap DMR radios has had a major impact.
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Old 01-03-2018, 6:28 AM
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First, stating that D-Star is dead assumes perfect knowledge of the entire market and various manufacturers sales. Second, D-Star is not an Icom technology. Icom was simply the first of the big 3 to implement it. The Kenwood TH-D74a also does D-Star, as do several other devices, such as the DV-Dongle and the OpenSpot. I use D-Star and DMR. Which I use at any given time depends on what I functionality I need as well as what the people I need to contact will be using and the repeaters that are available in my location. Here's a good article comparing and contrasting D-Star, Fusion and DMR: D-star, DMR, Fusion, Which is right for you?.

Which you choose should depend on your intended use and availability of repeaters in your area. Do you want o be able to send data along with voice from the same radio (without an attached PC)? D-Star and Fusion do that. DMR does not. Don't discount the repeaters factor. In my area (south of Atlanta), there are zero DMR repeaters within reach of my QTH, so my DMR use is limited to when I am nearer to the city and a DMR repeater.

I do agree that DMR use is growing very quickly, as evidenced by the glut of inexpensive DMR devices being produced and sold by the Chinese manufacturers. If price is a factor, most DMR radios will cost significantly less than either Fusion or D-Star.

Regarding how you will use the radio - is there a reason you haven't mentioned good old analog (no reply required, just think about the question)? For sheer number of repeaters, analog is probably the best choice (and the most inexpensive), at least in my area.

Hope this helps.

73 - David, AG4F
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Old 01-03-2018, 6:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsalomon View Post
I do agree that DMR use is growing very quickly, as evidenced by the glut of inexpensive DMR devices being produced and sold by the Chinese manufacturers. If price is a factor, most DMR radios will cost significantly less than either Fusion or D-Star.
And that is why DMR is taking over the market. Dstar and system fusion are expensive, and neither has the manufacturer support of DMR. You have a lot more options at lower cost with DMR.
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Old 01-03-2018, 8:19 AM
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Simple answer. If there are D-Star repeaters near you. But as others have said, D-Star radios aren't cheap, so would you get your money's worth out of it?
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Old 01-03-2018, 9:03 AM
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I run all modes in my SUV. And I have traveled quite a bit...especially up and down the east coast. D-STAR is NOT dead. I purchased an Icom ID-4100 and discovered the DR scan selection automatically worked with the built-in GPS to add and drop repeaters (within up to 100 miles) as I drove long distances. What a NICE feature! Once I updated the DR list with everything I could find on-line for the US, and put the correct lat/lon in that list, no work is ever needed on my part to do anything to turn on/off channels. It does it all automatically as I drive/move.

Anyway, I was actually shocked at how much D-STAR was active while driving up and down from Florida to NY (and over to CT, MA & NH). There was always something coming in. I did my best to program DMR and change "zones" as I drove however, DMR is VERY HARD to keep up with...with all the changes on talkgroups and slots. I heard less of DMR for that reason. P25 (my personal favorite) is also a "zone based" programming thing. You have to switch zones as you drive. NXDN too. Fusion is actually easy to drive and scan. Just program the whole VHF and UHF bandplan (it fits) in an FTM-100D and scan away. I heard quite a few Fusion digital conversations through the same areas, but much more D-STAR. Truth be known, if you travel, DMR is a nightmare to track, and I don't like the sound of DMR. The audio dynamics suck, and I'm always futzing with the volume control. But CHEAP it is! You get what you pay for.

D-STAR is worth having, and sounds quite good, as it always had AGC compression on TX audio from day one. And now that Icom has finally put the DR List on GPS tracking, auto-selection is awesome. It may not have the range DMR, Fusion and P25 have (due to modulation and header/error correction design limitations), but it works. Too bad Fusion isn't getting more attention. It actually is the easiest to program (just need a frequency programmed...that's it!) and use, has great sound quality, has great range...and can be scanned easily without the need to set up localized zones.

Phil
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Old 01-03-2018, 9:12 AM
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Two Big down sides to DStar. No late entry. If you do not catch the beginning of the transmission, you get no caller ID info. Resync is non existent. Any multipath or picket fencing and you lose sync, never to regain it until the next transmission.

I agree DMR audio can be hard to listen to. I attribute this to DMR-MARC insistent requirement to keep AGC off. Having used DMR LMR Systems, where all the radios are the same brand, is a completely different experience.

NXDN has much more pleasant audio to listen to than DMR.

I have no Ham P25 experience.


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Old 01-03-2018, 9:37 AM
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I love the proclamations concerning one mode or another so easily made by the self appointed experts.

I travel the country, and find many of the didgtal modes have pockets of higher and lower interest. In my travels I find DSTAR is far from dead.

Fusion is not widely used, though many legacy repeaters were replaced with the low priced "Seed" Fusion repeaters, and they are in mixed or analog mode.

DMR has taken off like a rocket. I agree, fueld by the inexpensive euipment choices. Tha has also brought us many operator-centric issues.

P25 is still fairly hot in a lot of metro areas. I think in time we will see it decline.

"All Mode" transceivers are supposedly just around the corner. We shall see. Buy the mode you want to use. Buy to make YOU happy. We can't have too many radios.
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Old 01-03-2018, 1:17 PM
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The way I see it... A). Do you have any D-star repeaters in your area? And B) Is there anything on them that you're interested in?

We have one site where I live. It supports 1.2Ghz, 440 Mhz and 144 Mhz.

A group of hams got together, formed a club, and through dues and donations, got the site going. I'm friends with just about all of them. So, when I listen to the repeater, there's always someone I like to chat with. If this weren't the case, I doubt I would have purchased any D-Star equipment.
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Old 01-03-2018, 5:08 PM
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Yes.

First DStar is far from dead. I can easily say DMR is dead because there are only 2 active repeaters in my immediate area. I can say Fusion is dead because there are only a few in the area but no one knows if anyone uses the digital side. So there is that. DStar is still growing, adding capabilities, adding interoperability to other modes, and still provides a native amateur approach to DV commercial does not.

Second, the latest Icom and Kenwood DStar radios have DR mode. GAME CHANGER! This leverages the database of repeaters worldwide (or just local you decide on download) to program your radio for you. Download a file from DStarinfo and voila repeaters all programmed. Just turn on the gps, program your call and register. Want to use a DStar reflector (talkgroup in DMR) all the preset capabilities for the first generation (REF###)are built into the Icom. (To use XLX or other later reflectors, you can handjam it in with a three minute tutorial.) Kenwoodís HT includes an update that allows native access to all generations of reflector.

I personally have some stuff programmed: repeaters I use a lot or along travel routes I use frequently and know the repeaters I want, and some simplex stuff. Donít know an area? Get into DR mode, hit scan and itíll scan all the local repeaters in your database.

Wanna edit the database? Itís an excel file.

No money for an extra programming cord? Do it all on SD Card.

The negatives:
Icom makes lousy screens for the mobiles.
The rigs are not cheap.
Some donít like the DStar audio but I find you get used to it and the new Kenwood HT has made it even easier to understand. Icomís newest rigs are light years ahead of the first generation also. Best yet, donít like DStar, donít use it.

Just my 2 cents after owning my current 5100adlx about a year and an original 91ad for almost a decade.


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Old 01-03-2018, 6:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K5BBC View Post

P25 is still fairly hot in a lot of metro areas. I think in time we will see it decline.

I disagree with this on one point which may be unique in my area. A lot of ham P25 users also use the same radio for work. Then they just dump ham radio repeaters into the work radio. Needless to say many of them are radio shop guys (not all.) Second, a lot of Volly Fir folks buy their own gear. They use P25 at work and play. For these reasons alone Iíd say P25 may hang on in some areas.



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Old 01-03-2018, 7:50 PM
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DSTAR used to be the most popular, but it has basically plateaued and is not growing anymore.
Fusion had a big burst of growth the last couple of years because of the free repeaters, but not nearly as many people actually use it.
DMR is the new high growth system right now. The big attraction is that it is much more open and available from lots of different vendors, including Chinese radios, and surplus commercial gear. So all the hype and growth right now is with DMR, but who knows. My SUV - the Subaru Forester 2008 I bought from a Japanese platform (https://carfromjapan.com/cheap-used-...-sale-year2008) also has a DMR. I am going to recommend against DMR here. It's neat, and it's fun, but the radios that currently support it are all a pain to use and program on the day today.
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Old 01-03-2018, 11:03 PM
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i still dont get it
if any of the digital modes sound worse then analog what good are they?
none of them saves any bandwidth
the only one i can see a use for is DMR with 2 time slots, the rest is all just FM
and dont say "but networking to other machines, talk rooms etc"
AllStar gives us that and superb audio and no proprietary software or hardware
and i get to use a 30 year old radio that performs like a quality radio should
one might be surprised to find out how many AllStar machines you have access to
i run a simplex node here in the house on UHF so i can connect to any of the 7000 or so repeaters and nodes on the network with a tiny handheld
now we have some pretty promising efforts that are linking fusion,dmr,p25 and soon dstar using AllStar

there i go preaching again
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Old 01-04-2018, 5:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by k9wkj View Post
i still dont get it
if any of the digital modes sound worse then analog what good are they?
none of them saves any bandwidth
the only one i can see a use for is DMR with 2 time slots, the rest is all just FM
and dont say "but networking to other machines, talk rooms etc"
AllStar gives us that and superb audio and no proprietary software or hardware
and i get to use a 30 year old radio that performs like a quality radio should
one might be surprised to find out how many AllStar machines you have access to
i run a simplex node here in the house on UHF so i can connect to any of the 7000 or so repeaters and nodes on the network with a tiny handheld
now we have some pretty promising efforts that are linking fusion,dmr,p25 and soon dstar using AllStar

there i go preaching again


Because of 2 things:

1) I find you get used to the digital sound. Took a few days but my ears are accustomed to both P25 and DStar so well I donít notice any issue unless itís a hot mic or totally hosed/R2D2 situation.

2) I now find listening to static and repeaters that get occasional hash annoying. Something I never thought would happen.


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Old 01-04-2018, 5:43 AM
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All of the digital modes are narrowband--12.5KHz channel width or less. DMR and P25-II use TDMA to get 2 voice channels in one 12.5KHz channel, for an effective 6.25KHz per voice channel. dPMR and some flavors of NXDN use a 6.25KHz channel directly. So saying digital doesn't save bandwidth is totally wrong.
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Old 01-04-2018, 6:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SOFA_KING View Post
I run all modes in my SUV. And I have traveled quite a bit...especially up and down the east coast. D-STAR is NOT dead. I purchased an Icom ID-4100 and discovered the DR scan selection automatically worked with the built-in GPS to add and drop repeaters (within up to 100 miles) as I drove long distances. What a NICE feature! Once I updated the DR list with everything I could find on-line for the US, and put the correct lat/lon in that list, no work is ever needed on my part to do anything to turn on/off channels. It does it all automatically as I drive/move.
...
Here between Washington DC and Fredericksburg VA, we have D-Star, Fusion, DMR, and P25. D-Star has been around for years but only used by a few. There are several Fusion systems though primarily the repeater were bought for the low price but usually use in conventional FM mode. But only a few have Fusion radios. P25 is only on a few repeaters and again few users. DMR has rapidly expanded due to low cost radios but used by still very few. The obvious truth here is that unless someone sells a cheap digital radio doing multiple digital modes in a user friendly way, digital will not become a popular mode--and the likelihood of that is not good at all. also, there is nothing that appeals to most people about digital. Often it does not sound "normal". However, I have seen Fusion outperform analog on the same path, but not enough for that to matter to most people. Narrower bandwidth and being able to embed data will not overcome lack of natural sound, the lack of a standard digital mode, and the high cost of a radio for most people. It will remain something of an experiment for a few in many areas with a few areas where some mode becomes popular perhaps. (Note I own D-Star, Fusion, and DMR radios.)
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Old 01-04-2018, 6:26 AM
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Around Chambersburg PA, ham activity is about half and half analog and half DMR.
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Old 01-04-2018, 6:46 AM
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For handhelds, you get a longer battery life with modes like DMR. Unlike FM, the radio doesn't transmit continuously when your'e talking. It cycles on and off rapidly.
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