2m Radio Recommendations

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rfunger

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Hi all,
New to amateur radio, just getting my Tech license and am interested in starting out on 2 meters. Interested in any recommendations for a 2 meter mobile best for a beginner. Also where to buy. Any thoughts?
 

KG4INW

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Welcome! You can't go wrong with a mobile from any one of the big three, Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom. I don't have a specific recommendation other than if you can afford it, it may be advantageous to buy a dual band mobile. That way you'll be able to branch out and for less money than buying two separate transceivers.

However, if you haven't, take a look at these great reviews: eHam.net Reviews - Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held)

I've purchased from Universal Radio, Ham Radio Outlet, AES and Gigaparts, all with great service and prices.
 

kc5uta

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been a kenwood man myself..not exactly the cheapest, but I tend to have good luck with them. That being said, as the other gentleman said any of the big three will do just fine. Now if you are on a bit of a budget there is some Chinese "RF tupperware" out there Baeofeng, anytime, and wauxon...very good price, but horrible to program without the computer....good luck
 

W9BU

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That being said, as the other gentleman said any of the big three will do just fine.
Don't forget Alinco.

GigaParts lists six 2m mobile radios:

  • Alinco DR-135T -- $155.00
  • Icom IC-2300H -- $175.00
  • Icom IC-V8000 -- $199.00
  • Kenwood TM-281A -- $137.00
  • Yaesu FT-1900R -- $125.00
  • Yaesu FT-2900R -- $139.00
Any of them would be a good choice if all you need is 2m.
 

N0IU

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You can hardly go wrong with anything from "The Big Three", well OK and Alinco too, so just let your budget be your guide. And speaking of budgets, don't forget that you will also need an antenna of some sort. This will actually make a bigger difference in how well you "get out" than the brand or model of radio.

Diamond, Comet and Larsen are some of the more popular brands. The most common configurations are 5/8 wave or 1/4 wave. (Get the 5/8 wave!) And then you have to determine how you will attach the antenna to your vehicle. This can be magnetic (OK for 1/4 wave but not really for 5/8 wave because they are bigger), somehow mounting it to the lip of the trunk or rear hatch or mounting it to your roof rack or luggage rack if your car has them. Or you can just go for broke and drill a hole through the roof!
 
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Welcome to amateur radio, and you'll find no lack of answers and opinions on what to do/buy.

I've used Alinco, Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, and Motorola.I have several friends who have recently bought the Woxun and Baeofeng (spelling?), and while they were inexpensive, the programing was something they were not complementary of.

My recommendations, if you can, go to a ham store so you can actually see the rigs. Feel how the buttons work, look at the displays (color, brightness contrast, size) as well as the size and shape of the rigs.Will one fit your car better than others? Is the head removable/remote-able? Take your time. I do suggest a dual band, as it gives you more opportunities for contacts, unless you live in an area with only a couple of repeaters on VHF.

On antennas, the mounts and antenna combinations are nearly as diverse as the opinions you will be given on them. Someone has already said go with a 5/8 wave. Well, that depends on where you can mount it, which affects its pattern. I've used 5'8, 1/4, and 1/2 wave antennas. A 1/4 wave in the middle of the roof is hard to beat. I have had both on top of my truck connected to 2 separate radios, and found the 5/8 only had an actuall advantage when I was in remote areas. More so on UHF than VHF. I find the 1/2 wave to be the most flexible option on VHF when it comes to mounting options. The Diamond 770 is 1/2 wave VHF and 5/8 over 5/8 on UHF. It's an awesome performer. On the down side, it doesn't have a spring, so if it's mounted up high you can whack it pretty good on garages and other structures. If you get a dual band radio, will you want a dual band antenna, or separate antennas for the bands? Again, take your time. Dbi is a useless figure. If the antenna is rated in Dbi, ignore the rating and figure its a "Unity" antenna. Dbd figures will be somewhat accurate. If they only mention Db, you'll have to do some research to find out which method they are using.

Antenna mounting.
Again, as many options as opinions. I avoid mag mounts at all cost. Yes, I own one, but it is for use on rental cars and ECOMM deployment. With many cars using more aluminum, mag mounting options are getting slim. In the long run, the mag mount will do more noticable damage to you paint, than any NMO installation. I've had multiple NMO antennas on multiple vehicles, and have never been questioned at trade in time about the rubber plugs I put in the holes. Some of the other "no holes" options also cause more damage over time than drilling the hole as well. Scratched paint, bent sheet metal, damage to the coax by being closed in doors and windows over time. If you can, drill the 3/8 hole and use an NMO mount, or use an "L" bracket NMO screwed in along the trunk or hood gutter/gap area. You'll get a good ground and more effective antenna. The best antenna you can buy is worthless if it's not mounted effectively. An example is how many antennas you see mounted directly behind a pick up truck cab, or down on the bumper, with half of the antenna being blocked by vehicle structure. Take your time and assess your options and needs.

I highly recommend this gentlman's site, K0BG.com .His info is on the mark.
 

W9BU

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My recommendations, if you can, go to a ham store so you can actually see the rigs.
Very good advice. Read the reviews, study the specs, download the user manuals, then go to a ham store and play with the radio. These radios are all very similar when it comes to specifications and features. The real difference is in the user interface.

Feel how the buttons work, look at the displays (color, brightness contrast, size)...
Add off-axis viewing to the list of things to consider with the display. Few mounting options will allow the display to be directly in front of you, so you are going to need a display that will work at the viewing angle you plan to use.

I highly recommend this gentlman's site, K0BG.com .His info is on the mark.
Yes, K0BG has lots of good information. Most of it's focused on HF radio and antenna mobile installation, but many of the topics still apply to VHF and UHF.
 

rfunger

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Thanks all - appreciate the great feedback. Will print this thread out as a guide when I go shopping!
 

n5ims

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One other piece of advice (the above ones are good) which is more about your piece of mind and less about the radio. Once you buy and receive your radio, stop shopping!!! (The exception may be during any "free return" period you may have been given.) Like most things, once you buy your radio and start using it there may be a few things that take a bit to get used to (I keep turning the squelch instead of the volume, etc.). If you keep shopping (thinking about the other choices you didn't make), you may find that instead of getting comfortable with the radio and its features, you let those little things make you question your choice. You could end up not liking your new radio, perhaps even selling it for a loss to get what was your second choice and discovering why it didn't make the grade the first time.
 

sd_avguy

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I just got started a couple months ago and went with the Kenwood TM-281A and a Larsen dual band NMO mount antenna. Though the radio is 2m only, I know I'll be upgrading to a dual band eventually, so the antenna was a logical choice. I love the front firing speaker and the mic has a nice feel to it. For the price, it's hard to go wrong.

Another note on antennas, if you can bear to do it, go with the NMO mount. Routing the coax is easier and swapping antennas is a snap. I used a Greenlee radio chassis punch and installation of the radio and antenna took just a little over an hour. I ran a mag mount for CB years ago, but will never go back to one after mounting an antenna the right way. Good luck!
 

mrwilson706

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Hi all,
New to amateur radio, just getting my Tech license and am interested in starting out on 2 meters. Interested in any recommendations for a 2 meter mobile best for a beginner. Also where to buy. Any thoughts?
I horse-traded for a Radio Shack HTX-212 2m mobile and a 5/8 mag mount back in 2011 and felt a used rig was a good starting point. You should find a local club and befriend some elmer. - Hams always have extra gear they will lend/sell to you!

I think any working 2m mobile rig with a modest antenna will suffice until you know exactly what you're interested in. New ham or not, it's the radio features that should determine your purchase and only you can find out what features are important to you. That being the case, buy a used rig and play around for now. If you lose interest in the hobby, no harm no foul. Point is, your gonna blow lots of money on this hobby when you do find your niche, so tread lightly at first. I'm an aprs/em comms junky so...

My personal recommendation when you do get around to buying a new mobile would be the Kenwood D710A. Hands down one of the most flexible dual banders out there. Mine is connected to the garmin nuvi 350 with a gtrans cable but the greenlight labs gps is outstanding too! Heard they just came out with a D710 with integrated gps that you might ultimately consider.

Best of luck,

-Mike

Feel free to PM me if you want to hear more about the D710
 

KG4NEL

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I've been considering the D710A myself, but have to question how much I'd use the APRS functionality...the V71A looks like a good option, as well.

I've never owned anything Kenwood for ham gear before, but their current stuff just seems like a better value for V/UHF than anything Icom or Yaesu has now.
 

mrwilson706

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D710 also does crossband, digipeating and limited tnc stuff for connecting into bulletin boards, etc. I've owned it a few years and still haven't used all of it's abilities!
 

chief21

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Let me add another vote for Kenwood... the '281 has high power and a (loud) front-firing speaker; the V71 (a dual-band radio) can receive two frequencies at the same time, has cross-band repeat, and a slew of scanning functionality; and the '710 (also dual-band plus APRS) has additional features and a larger display.

I've had good luck with Kenwood radios and currently own a '271 and three V71's.

John
 

K7DDQ

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I own each of the three current Kenwood mobiles mentioned here. They each have their pros and cons but are all excellent radios. If you are sure you are fine with 2m only and don't need to remote mount the control head, the 281 is awesome. It is fairly straightforward to program, supports everything you need as far as features to access repeaters, top notch audio with that front firing speaker and a little extra oomph on transmit when / if needed.

The V71 is fully featured except APRS. Tons of features including the cross band repeat yet still not too complicated to operate.

The D710 well, it's the Cadillac with more features than many people ever use and as mentioned, it is now available with built in GPS. It's basically the V71 but with APRS and a larger display. And likewise, still not too complex to operate. All of these Kenwood mobiles share the same mic with DTMF keypad.

My suggestion is in agreement with others here, get your hands on some radios if you can and see what you like. I would add a suggestion for the future, when you find a brand you like, sometimes it is easier to stay with that brand. I "get" Kenwood programming but when my wife hands me her Yaesu handheld, I'm at a complete loss.

Good luck to the OP and anyone else who finds this looking for advice.
 

KR7CQ

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The Kenwood unit is great, but the "button operated" squelch is BS...the only downside.

Several of these radios are known to overheat when operated on high, so check the eham reviews before buying. The 1900r has a high failure rate. It's worth doing your research and taking into account the type of ratings you only get from a large statistical database, not just a few anecdotal reviews that you might get in this thread. Anything that reviews much below 4.5 and has a large number of reviews is likely to have issues, based on my experience.

As far as "upgrading" to 70 cm, it's not really an "upgrade" unless you have some specific reason to have that band, such as cross banding or that there are certain 70 cm repeaters that you really need access to. I use my the UHF side of my FT-7900R for cross banding, and that's about it. For simplex 70 cm can't compare to 2 meters, and simplex is one of the most enjoyable aspects of 2 meters. For a good 2 meter mobile antenna consider the Hustler collinear. It's the same story for useable repeater range also, no comparison. 2 meters is superior here also, though I personally have very little use for repeaters in either band. At least half the fun of Ham radio is found in constructing antennas and in point-to-point communication, so don't forget to explore that aspect of the hobby.
 

kayn1n32008

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The Kenwood unit is great, but the "button operated" squelch is BS...the only downside.



Several of these radios are known to overheat when operated on high, so check the eham reviews before buying. The 1900r has a high failure rate. It's worth doing your research and taking into account the type of ratings you only get from a large statistical database, not just a few anecdotal reviews that you might get in this thread. Anything that reviews much below 4.5 and has a large number of reviews is likely to have issues, based on my experience.
Very sound advice sir. Spend lots of time reading eham. Be warned though, while reading, look at the reviews of people that have owned for long periods of time. Generally if it is a 0-3 month review I take it with a large grain of salt.



As far as "upgrading" to 70 cm, it's not really an "upgrade" unless you have some specific reason to have that band, such as cross banding or that there are certain 70 cm repeaters that you really need access to. I use my the UHF side of my FT-7900R for cross banding, and that's about it.
I could not disagree more. 70cm is a very decent band to have. I use it as much or more than 2m. My clubs main repeater has 2m/1.25m/70cm repeaters all tied together, yet I very rarely use the VHF repeater. When there are inversion, I have been able to throw a UHF signal in excess of 300km.

For simplex 70 cm can't compare to 2 meters, and simplex is one of the most enjoyable aspects of 2 meters. For a good 2 meter mobile antenna consider the Hustler collinear. It's the same story for useable repeater range also, no comparison. 2 meters is superior here also, though I personally have very little use for repeaters in either band.
I do 70cm simplex fairly regularly, while the raw range is not as good as 2m, when you are chatting with a friend mobile with APRS , it is nice to be on UHF so desense does not cause problems. Same thing while doing public service events on VHF, it is once to use another band to chat with friends while working events to prevent desense. While repeater range is usually shorter on VHF, with a UHF repeater on a high point of ground at the top of a 300' tower, it can result in foot prints that rival a lot of VHF machines.

At least half the fun of Ham radio is found in constructing antennas and in point-to-point communication, so don't forget to explore that aspect of the hobby.

I agree, but turning a newbie off of a very useful band is not doing him any favours.

If you can afford it, go dual band, dual receive, you will not regret it.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
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KR7CQ

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As far as "upgrading" to 70 cm, it's not really an "upgrade" unless you have some specific reason to have that band, such as cross banding or that there are certain 70 cm repeaters that you really need access to. I use my the UHF side of my FT-7900R for cross banding, and that's about it.[/QOUTE]

I could not disagree more. 70cm is a very decent band to have. I use it as much or more than 2m. My clubs main repeater has 2m/1.25m/70cm repeaters all tied together, yet I very rarely use the VHF repeater. When there are inversion, I have been able to throw a UHF signal in excess of 300km.

If you can afford it, go dual band, dual receive, you will not regret it.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
I respect the fact that your club makes use of the 70 cm repeater(s), and that is why I mentioned that there may be certain repeaters in that band that are needed. This of course depends on every ham's local situation. I have good friends who I mainly talk to on simplex and HF who also frequent repeaters, even 70 cm repeaters, so I always say "each to his own". I would agree that we shouldn't be turning a new guy away from 70 cm on the whole, and agree that you might as well buy a dual band rig if possible, and give yourself access to both bands. That way a new guy can decide what he does or doesn't like on his own.

Point taken there.
 

milkman21218

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The Kenwood unit is great, but the "button operated" squelch is BS...the only downside.

Several of these radios are known to overheat when operated on high, so check the eham reviews before buying. The 1900r has a high failure rate. It's worth doing your research and taking into account the type of ratings you only get from a large statistical database, not just a few anecdotal reviews that you might get in this thread. Anything that reviews much below 4.5 and has a large number of reviews is likely to have issues, based on my experience.

As far as "upgrading" to 70 cm, it's not really an "upgrade" unless you have some specific reason to have that band, such as cross banding or that there are certain 70 cm repeaters that you really need access to. I use my the UHF side of my FT-7900R for cross banding, and that's about it. For simplex 70 cm can't compare to 2 meters, and simplex is one of the most enjoyable aspects of 2 meters. For a good 2 meter mobile antenna consider the Hustler collinear. It's the same story for useable repeater range also, no comparison. 2 meters is superior here also, though I personally have very little use for repeaters in either band. At least half the fun of Ham radio is found in constructing antennas and in point-to-point communication, so don't forget to explore that aspect of the hobby.

When did the FT-7900r start cross banding? The FT-8800 is a cross banding riig not the 7900. And I know that here in Maryland we have a 70cm repeater that I can work while driving for over 35 miles north to south... May work father.
 
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