New to the Scene and Looking for Advice

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FlyingHam

Newbie
Joined
Mar 26, 2017
Messages
2
Location
Houston, Texas
I've decided on a whim today to get into this great and confusing world of HAM and am looking for advice on what I should look into getting. First I'll give a little bit about where I am/will be and then my goals for this first setup.

- I'm in Richmond/Katy, Texas in Fort Bend County (This would be where I will spend most of my time)
- I regularly drive through Wallis, Eagle Lake, Hallettsville, Yoakum, and Gonzales (Channel memory would be nice for this so I can put a little note when I need/should change frequencies quickly as I go through different areas)

I know this is a very wide area and there will be overlapping areas, that's why my first requirement/desire is listed below

- Simultaneous listening on multiple frequencies (I want a radio that has an A/B side where both can be listened at the same time)
- I am an aircraft buff and really want to be able to monitor Airband (of course I don't need/want to transmit over these frequencies)
- Mobile setup (I plan on making my first build in my truck, so no base only equipment, and I would prefer to not worry about batteries with a handheld)
- Quad-Band (I'm looking for a 1 size fits all radio where I won't have to change it out unless I'm looking for a specific feature I'm not getting, I don't want to buy one radio and then 2-3 months down the line say "I wish I got that instead")
- The ability to monitor the 800Mhz band used by Houston Emergency Services, if this is possible, is desired (I know it's encrypted but if there's a consumer radio out there that has the ability to decrypt it I might be able to get the codes because of some contacts in the emergency services world around here. If anybody has any experience with that, by all means, please tell me.)

Those are pretty much what I'm looking at wanting to have getting started. Unfortunately I'm going to have to piece a system together over time, and fairly cheap if I want to do it fast, as budget is a little tight until September. I'm clueless on Antennae and have only seen a spattering of transceivers that jump out at me. The Wouxun KG-UV950P is what I'm leaning towards unless someone here points me towards something else. The logistics of the build in my truck are already thought out, station will be mounted behind the rear seats and tied in with existing electrical wiring that is currently unused underneath the seat (wiring is run by factory for upgraded sound system, but since my truck doesn't have it there's just an open plug). Remote faceplate will be run in the headliner or under trim work to the front where the microphone and keeper will be installed.

I've always wanted to give back to the community and would like to build out my truck for things like search and rescue and or disaster support (so a radio that operates on frequencies used for this purpose is extremely desired).

I know I'm new to this, and I'm willing to take any advice and/or criticisms. I have a lot to learn, but I learn fast and love to listen.
 

ce2576

Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2003
Messages
119
Location
Keene, TX
- The ability to monitor the 800Mhz band used by Houston Emergency Services, if this is possible, is desired (I know it's encrypted but if there's a consumer radio out there that has the ability to decrypt it
1. It's important to understand that John Q. Public will NEVER be able to monitor encrypted radio traffic. That's the whole point of encrytion in the first place. They don't want anyone to listen in. There is no radio now or to ever be made that will be capable of monitoring or even decrypting encrypted radio traffic. Even if you had a radio just like the police department uses you would be nowhere without the encryption key programmed in. Rest assured that you, me, nor anyone else will be getting that encrypion key anytime soon. We are all pretty much SOL when it comes to listening to any encrypted radio traffic.

2. Houston is on the TXWARN P25 system: Texas Wide Area Radio Network (TxWARN) (P25) Trunking System, Various, Texas - Scanner Frequencies
12 towers on this system which are labeled "Houston Public Safety" are in the the 700 MHz range. Houston's talkgroups are mostly encrypted. But there are also some digitial and TDMA modulated talkgroups.

Some one else with more knowledge of Ham radio's will have to tell you if there is a radio capable of serving your 'ham' needs while also being capable of monitoring the TXWARN system and any unencrypted digital and TDMA modulated talkgroups. I would venture to say that one might not exist to do everything you are wanting to do. However I've never really researched ham radios before, so I could be wrong.
 

mfn002

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Apr 26, 2006
Messages
2,142
Location
Bryan, Texas
Some one else with more knowledge of Ham radio's will have to tell you if there is a radio capable of serving your 'ham' needs while also being capable of monitoring the TXWARN system and any unencrypted digital and TDMA modulated talkgroups. I would venture to say that one might not exist to do everything you are wanting to do. However I've never really researched ham radios before, so I could be wrong.
Depending by what you want with a HAM radio, the only choice for monitoring Motorola TDMA systems and amateur radio is the dual-band APX7000 and multi-band (VHF/UHF/700/800) APX8000. I'm not quite sure how you can program one of these units to passively monitor a P25 TDMA system, but I suspect it might be able to be done. The only drawback is the price tag: well over $5000 (I think). Even on eBay, these radios can go for over $2000. So, unless you have that amount of disposable income, there really isn't anything else that I know of that meets your requirements.
 

hiegtx

Mentor
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 8, 2004
Messages
8,180
Location
Dallas, TX
You have a lot of requirements listed, some possible, others, not. Like Chris, ce2576, I'm not a ham radio operator, so you would need to get suggestions on those from someone who is.

I've decided on a whim today to get into this great and confusing world of HAM and am looking for advice on what I should look into getting. First I'll give a little bit about where I am/will be and then my goals for this first setup.

- I'm in Richmond/Katy, Texas in Fort Bend County (This would be where I will spend most of my time)
- I regularly drive through Wallis, Eagle Lake, Hallettsville, Yoakum, and Gonzales (Channel memory would be nice for this so I can put a little note when I need/should change frequencies quickly as I go through different areas)

I know this is a very wide area and there will be overlapping areas, that's why my first requirement/desire is listed below
Are you looking for a radio that will transmit as well, or actually a scanner usable in the areas you list.

- Simultaneous listening on multiple frequencies (I want a radio that has an A/B side where both can be listened at the same time)
That would require a radio with two receivers, I don't know if such an animal exists on the ham radio side, but it does not in scanners. You can, of course, switch channels , but no "true" A/B switch. The newer Uniden scanners, with the Number Tag feature, let you jump to specific channels pr talkgroups with a minimum number of key-presses.
- I am an aircraft buff and really want to be able to monitor Airband (of course I don't need/want to transmit over these frequencies)
Current scanner models include the civilian aircraft band, and many also cover mil-air.
- Mobile setup (I plan on making my first build in my truck, so no base only equipment, and I would prefer to not worry about batteries with a handheld)
There a number of base/mobile scanners out there.
- Quad-Band (I'm looking for a 1 size fits all radio where I won't have to change it out unless I'm looking for a specific feature I'm not getting, I don't want to buy one radio and then 2-3 months down the line say "I wish I got that instead")
Again, are you looking for a Ham radio here, or one for public safety communications? For receiving only, the current crop of scanners covers the various ham & public safety bands used (not counting long-wave).
- The ability to monitor the 800Mhz band used by Houston Emergency Services, if this is possible, is desired (I know it's encrypted but if there's a consumer radio out there that has the ability to decrypt it I might be able to get the codes because of some contacts in the emergency services world around here. If anybody has any experience with that, by all means, please tell me.)
There is not, nor will be, a consumer available radio that will decode encryption. To monitor Houston, along with Harris & the surrounding counties, you will need a radio capable of P25 Phase II.

Those are pretty much what I'm looking at wanting to have getting started. Unfortunately I'm going to have to piece a system together over time, and fairly cheap if I want to do it fast, as budget is a little tight until September. I'm clueless on Antennae and have only seen a spattering of transceivers that jump out at me. The Wouxun KG-UV950P is what I'm leaning towards unless someone here points me towards something else. The logistics of the build in my truck are already thought out, station will be mounted behind the rear seats and tied in with existing electrical wiring that is currently unused underneath the seat (wiring is run by factory for upgraded sound system, but since my truck doesn't have it there's just an open plug). Remote faceplate will be run in the headliner or under trim work to the front where the microphone and keeper will be installed.
For scanners specifically, the Whistler WS1095, WS1098, & TRX-2 do have remote heads, so you could mount the scanner in the back or where ever is convenient, then place the small detachable control head where you can see & reach it.

I've always wanted to give back to the community and would like to build out my truck for things like search and rescue and or disaster support (so a radio that operates on frequencies used for this purpose is extremely desired).
To actually operate on a trunked system, you would need to have approval from the system administrators to have a suitable radio programmed for the system with transmit capabilities. Otherwise, the system admins can remotely disable it, as well as prosecute for unauthorized use.

I know I'm new to this, and I'm willing to take any advice and/or criticisms. I have a lot to learn, but I learn fast and love to listen.
Good luck.
 
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