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Baofeng Crackle in motion - solved!

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nanZor

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Well, actually not solved per-se, but once you know what it is, you might be able to live with it.

The radio is not malfunctioning. The sdr part of it controlling the rf-gain is rapidly changing, which is much more active as your strong signal changes as you move / wave. The weaker signals don't have as big a ramp-up/down rf-gain change going on.

Knowing this allows me to ignore it, since it's not really broken - just acting normally. But I only use handhelds and maybe for some mobile applications this might be an issue. So now that you now, embrace it! :)
 

Firekite

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What radio? What settings? What are the symptoms, exactly?
 

nanZor

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There was a long thread many moons about it long ago (now closed), that went through the usual diagnostics and declarations of bad qc etc etc. My UV82's do it, so does the Btech gmrs-v1 and some other models in that long ago thread.

What brought this out was that a few years ago, I witnessed the same problem when I was trying out a budget Yaesu amateur handheld (looked like an frs radio and got majorly dissed - even though I dug it completely) which had direct-conversion chip componentry. It was not as prounounced as the Baoefengs, but had the same symptoms, so I dug into it with other users and found out that is a natural consequence, not a failure mode.
 

nd5y

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What radio? What settings? What are the symptoms, exactly?
As far as I know most low end radios that have the RDA1846 (now AT1846) transceiver chip can do it. That includes Baofeng hand helds and clones and some of the cheap low end mini mobile radios. I don't know if it happens on higher end radios with a better receiver front end that use the same chip like some Alinco and Yaesu models.

The sympom is a crackling noise on strong otherwise full quieting signals that only happens when the radio is moving. The noise sounds almost exactly like a geiger counter. It's not normal mobile flutter/fading/picket fencing. Many people report that it is worse on UHF. Some people don't seem to have the problem at all. A lot of newbies that have no experience and have never used VHF or UHF FM radios before probably don't notice it or think it's normal.

If you search for "baofeng crackling geiger counter" you should find several posts and other hits on the internet about it.
 
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Firekite

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So these radios are using SDR for receive? That’s what he’s talking about? I’m surprised, but good to know. I do have a BF-F8HP, but I’ve never seen/noticed that.
 

nd5y

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So these radios are using SDR for receive? That’s what he’s talking about? I’m surprised, but good to know. I do have a BF-F8HP, but I’ve never seen/noticed that.
They have some form of SDR. I have not compared data sheets or block diagrams between the RDA/Auctus walkie-talkie chips and the ones used in the DTV SDRs. Cheap DMR radios are basically the same thing but they have a different chipset for digital voice. I don't know if any of the cheap DMR radios make popping/crackling noises like that on FM.

Some people never have the problem. I could be due to piss poor quality control or it could be caused by certain combinatons of strong local FM or TV stations or something that is different in various locations. As far as I know nobody has ever figured out exactly what is going on. Probably because the people who have the knowledge and test equipment to figure it out aren't interested in wasting their time on Chinese toys.
 

TassieJay

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Myself and a few other hams have dived deep into this very issue, and found that it is indeed the SDR receiver, based on the AT1846S RF transceiver chip, changing 'target AGC gain' values rapidly in order to keep the input signal within a certain range necessary for stable operation of it's DSP core. The video shows typical behaviour in this regard, though it is the most extreme example of the effect - most are not that bad.
Similar manufacturer's DMR radios also use the same AT1846S.
Better shielding etc. does not help.
But what does help is better audio shaping & filtering of the received signal coming out of the AT1846S, plus careful setup of the hundreds of parameters sent to the AT1846S on initial power up. The AnyTone 868 / 878 uses the same SDR chip, but the 'clicking' sound is far, far less noticeable on those models, and shows the potential of the cheap AT1846S when attention to detail is given to the design.
 

Bob1955

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It's most likely a design flaw. I have a UV-5R from 2012 and a UV-82 from 2015 and they both crackle while moving.
nd5y, Yes, mine does the same thing while moving--it crackles around but I got mine free so I'm keeping it along with the programming cables too.
 

nanZor

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That explains a lot - the direct conversion sdr receiver chip... maybe like frs radios, the front ends are smoking hot.

On the flip side concerning audio quality itself - not being a straight analog chain either. Ok, so click in motion, and multipath aside, when I got a UV82 a few times years ago, I was blown away by the audio reproduction and asked myself:

"Why can't scanners have this kind of audio?" And now I think I know - it's not just power or the audio amp, but the typical dual/triple conversion scanner has a conventional audio chain. Gigo.

Trying not to go off the deep end here, but if one truly listens and has a discerning ear, (hearing beyond the usual comms noise issues themselves), there is some really wicked-fast transient response. And overall frequency response is pretty amazing for what it is. Listen to something like a classical FM broadcast station with high dynamic range, and it seems to be repeated very quietly too when the classical stuff goes barely above the audio noise floor.

Intelligibility and fidelity of the reproduced audio signal is such that I'd even suggest to those who wouldn't be caught dead owning one of these, to pick one up if only for stationary spot-monitoring, and be truthful about how it sounds to you.

In fact, I picked up the Yaesu direct-conversion budget handheld and had the same experience with fidelity above and beyond the usual collection of other stuff over the years - with real commercial Motorolas notwithstanding of course.
 

nanZor

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This time I'm SERIOUS. I fixed the crackle-in-motion by accident on two different UV82's.

I was experimenting with squelch levels using CHIRP, and by changing them, I don't hear any more crackle on my nearby flamethrower when moving around!

Other references to changing the squelch levels were too agressive for me, so I ended up just playing with these values - nothing magical about them, but it did stop the crackling:

0 = 0
1 = 2
2 = 15
3 = 20
4 = 25
5 = 30
6 = 35
7 = 40
8 = 45
9 = 50

I applied these values to both the VHF and UHF sides. No major slope testing or anything like that. And I don't have it cranked, usually just running at level 4 with these new values. I suppose the new level 4 is just above the highest original level 9.

Certainly more testing could be applied, but for now the crackling while in motion has stopped! And I still hear the normal stations just fine ...
 

nd5y

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This time I'm SERIOUS. I fixed the crackle-in-motion by accident on two different UV82's.

I was experimenting with squelch levels using CHIRP, and by changing them, I don't hear any more crackle on my nearby flamethrower when moving around!
Thats's strange. When the squelch menu values were added to Chirp several years ago I tried all kinds of high and low values on the UV-5R and UV-82 and they had absolutely no effect on the crackle noise at my location.

Some other observations about the sequelch settings:
Values under about 10-15 are about the same as 0.
Menu #0 is ignored. When the radio squelch menu is 0 the quelch is open regardless of the value it is set to.
 

nanZor

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Still tracking down the variables - check this out:

Using latest daily build of CHIRP.
Crackle is just normal movement of radio, say from one side of desk to another while listening to flamethrower.
Three different radios, but only solved on two of them.

What these values seem to work with in regards to crackle elimination:

Recent PoFung (Boafeng badge change) UV82 dual-bander.
Baofeng UV82x3 tri-bander. (vhf/220/uhf)

What it does NOT work with (crackle still evident)
BTECH GMRS-V1

So we have possible Chirp variable, radio firmware(s) variable, and squelch settings variables.

So at least the *recent* UV82's have been tamed with these settings. So I still need to experiment with the Btech GMRS to see if some different squelch settings will stop me from hearing that dsp gain ramping crackle.

The relationship to these settings seems to be evident, but may not work on all models of radio. More testing ....
 

nanZor

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Fascinating variables

Makes me wonder if there is a relationship beyond just squelch as we normally think about it:

Is it only a matter of emulated rf-gain in this sdr environment, or do the values affect the overall front-end, much like tuning a commercial radio via software?

Should the values always be a rising slope towards the end, or can we tweak it to say have a rising slope in the middle, and bring it back down towards the top end of the spectrum? I'd have to let some of the sdr guys figure this one out. :)
 

nd5y

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As far as I could tell the squelch menu settings are independent of eachother and don't affect any other receive parameters.
If you set the squelch menu to 5 then the firmware uses whatever value 5 is and it makes no difference what 1-4 and 6-9 are.
 

nanZor

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Understood - but there is something beyond just squelch action going on here (at least with two of the UV82 models)

Using the new squelch values listed above, there is no more in-motion crackle, regardless of whether I set the squelch wide open at 0, or fully tight at 9. It seems like some sort of reference overall is being changed (noise floor? dunno)

The UV82's now seem to handle the flamethrower with ease and no ramping-crackle. Something is afoot - and for the better, at least my classic UV82's are happy. Still working on the Btech gmrs to get it to play nicer ....
 
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