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Off-road setup using Tk-790H

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steves08gxp

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Hi Everyone,

I am new to this forum and radio in general. Other than a couple of hand held Baofengs and programming them i really don't know much

I just bought a few used TK-790H models to use off-road. They will be used at a base camp and in a couple vehicles. Planning to program in the channels we use with the handhelds. These are slated to go into lead/rear of pack vehicles.

I have been able to find most of my question answers here by searching and also reading the manual/google.

However i have a couple of questions and would like to get some guidance if you don't mind.

#1. I am looking for a way to hook up two set of helmet speakers/mics with a Push To Talk button. What do you recommend buying that i can plug into my 790H unit for these to work?

#2. Do you recommend a "race" style headset i can use inplace of the helmet mics/speakers. Sometimes we may want to just use a headset instead of wearing the helmets.

Thank you very much for your time and assistance
 

mmckenna

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#1. I am looking for a way to hook up two set of helmet speakers/mics with a Push To Talk button. What do you recommend buying that i can plug into my 790H unit for these to work?
The 25 pin D-sub connector on the rear of the RF deck will have the pins you need. It will require some programming changes to recognize the Push To Talk input, as well as routing the mic audio.

For equipment to do this, you may want to contact one of the off road racing radio suppliers. They may have a 'plug-n-play' system for this.


#2. Do you recommend a "race" style headset i can use inplace of the helmet mics/speakers. Sometimes we may want to just use a headset instead of wearing the helmets.

Thank you very much for your time and assistance
Or, check with the off road racing radio supplier. They can probably sell you the entire package.
 

steves08gxp

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Thank you for the reply, i did call them and they are working a quote together for me.

Since i have a feeling it is going to be quite expensive i would like to run an external speaker first until i can buy the intercom setup

If im reading and understanding the service manual correctly. I can run an external speaker off of the 9pin connector on the back of the transceiver. It should be 13watts. Which should be loud enough to do what i need it to for now.

Im assuming i need a female square 9 pin Molex .062" connector. Do you know of a speaker that comes with this connector already installed? Or a link where i can buy a few of these connectors with pins? Or even better, a molex 9pin to a 3.5mm headphone jack?

Thank you again for your help
 

mmckenna

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Thank you for the reply, i did call them and they are working a quote together for me.

Since i have a feeling it is going to be quite expensive i would like to run an external speaker first until i can buy the intercom setup
Good solution. I'm running Motorola radios in a couple of Polaris UTV's and the external speaker makes it easy to hear radio traffic while running 35-40MPH down a trail with full face helmet on.

If im reading and understanding the service manual correctly. I can run an external speaker off of the 9pin connector on the back of the transceiver. It should be 13watts. Which should be loud enough to do what i need it to for now.
Yes, 13 watts is what the Motorola radio is putting out and it works well. Just make sure you use a large speaker. The Kenwood KES-4 is the speaker that was offered with the TK-x90 mobiles.

Im assuming i need a female square 9 pin Molex .062" connector. Do you know of a speaker that comes with this connector already installed? Or a link where i can buy a few of these connectors with pins? Or even better, a molex 9pin to a 3.5mm headphone jack?

Kenwood Part number E37-0733-05 is the 9 pin connector.

It's a speaker level/13 watt output, so not suitable for connecting directly to a headset, you'd need to pad the level down quite a bit. There is a low level audio output on the 25 pin connector on the back of the RF deck. A built in intercom type system will likely use the lower level output off that 25 pin connector. It also has pins for microphone and push to talk.

Thank you again for your help
Happy to help.
 

steves08gxp

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Kenwood Part number E37-0733-05 is the 9 pin connector.

It's a speaker level/13 watt output, so not suitable for connecting directly to a headset, you'd need to pad the level down quite a bit. There is a low level audio output on the 25 pin connector on the back of the RF deck. A built in intercom type system will likely use the lower level output off that 25 pin connector. It also has pins for microphone and push to talk.
I ended up ordering 3 KES-5 speakers from ebay and i ordered a few sets of the Molex 9 pin connectors from amazon. I plan to use this only for the external speaker at this time. Ill have the low level stuff done by PCI or Rugged radios when its time to go that route.


Im currently looking into antenna solutions. And i need to have a local shop turn the power down as i was told by both PCI and Rugged that the 110 watt of the TK-790 will kill the charging system in my rzr. I am going to have them turned down to 45 watt or so. I bought 4 units,2 will go into rzr's, 1 into my duramax, and the 4th one into our toy hauler for a base camp radio. Planning on leaving the ones for my truck and trailer at the 110 watt, ill turn down the 2 for the rzr's.

Any other words of advice? I am currently researching getting my license as well
 

mmckenna

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I ended up ordering 3 KES-5 speakers from ebay and i ordered a few sets of the Molex 9 pin connectors from amazon. I plan to use this only for the external speaker at this time. Ill have the low level stuff done by PCI or Rugged radios when its time to go that route.
The KES-5 is a nice big speaker and will work well. I've used similar speakers in my own F-350 and the UTV's. Easy to hear and understand even at highway speeds with all the windows rolled down.

Im currently looking into antenna solutions. And i need to have a local shop turn the power down as i was told by both PCI and Rugged that the 110 watt of the TK-790 will kill the charging system in my rzr. I am going to have them turned down to 45 watt or so. I bought 4 units,2 will go into rzr's, 1 into my duramax, and the 4th one into our toy hauler for a base camp radio. Planning on leaving the ones for my truck and trailer at the 110 watt, ill turn down the 2 for the rzr's.
Yeah, you absolutely don't want to be running a 110 watt radio on a RZR. I'm running 10, 25 and 50 watt radios. Not a big difference in range between them. It's so much more about the antenna than the power level. The RF radiation hazards from 110 watts in close proximity to the driver/passengers on the RZR's is an issue. I'm reluctant to run mine at full power, and I work around radios all the time. The 50 watt radios are often a better choice. You can turn them down lower, and they are a lot lighter than the 110 watt radios.
The charging systems on the UTV's won't handle a whole lot of drain. But usually we don't talk a lot, so it's not a big deal. I do know that if I have my Ranger idling with the HID headlights and LED light bar on, the alternator will start complaining. At traveling speeds, not so much an issue.
My dad and brother both have Rzr's. My dad just traded out his old 2011 Rzr 800 for a new Rzr S 1000. Nice ride.

The antenna is the most important part of your setup and will make or break a system.
On the buggies, you are limited by the available ground plane presented by the machine. Most antennas want to see a nice flat conductive sheet under them to work correctly. Like on a vehicle, the ideal place is dead center on the roof. On the UTV's, that's hard to do unless you have metal tops on them. If you don't, you'd want a half wave antenna. They will work without a ground plane under them, but will work better with them. On my Ranger I have a Laird VHF ( https://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/laird-technologies-b1442ns-7116 ) half wave antenna mounted on a bracket off the back corner of the roll cage. My dad did something similar on his Rzr-S.

On your truck, you can use the same antenna, but you really want to mount it dead center on the cab roof. The metal roof will provide the ideal ground plane under the antenna and help it work to its potential. You want to install (or have installed) an NMO mount in the roof. Don't use mag mounts, bracket mounts, glass mounts, hood mounts, or any of that stuff. All those are compromises and will impact performance. Some people have an aversion to doing the permanent mount, but to spend all that money on radios and antennas, then cut corners on the mount is a waste of money.

On the toy hauler, that's a challenge. Getting a proper mount on the roof can be difficult. A better solution might be to have a push-up pole with a base antenna mounted on it. That'll allow you to get the antenna up higher and you won't have clearance issues on the roof. My Sandstorm trailer is about 12' 6" and I'd be concerned with an antenna up there with tree branches, low bridges, etc. Temporarily attaching the push up pole to the trailer can be done off the trailer tongue or off the ladder (if you have one). There are also "drive on" mounts that basically go under one of the tires and have a socket for the pole.



Any other words of advice? I am currently researching getting my license as well
Yeah, get your license. Unfortunately companies like Racing Radios, Rugged Radios and a few others have made customers believe licenses are not required. That is not the case in the USA. The blanket licensing they like to claim covers you doesn't work that way.
You have a couple of options, you can get a commercial license that will cover everyone that is working with you, or each and every person can get their amateur radio license.

The antenna is the most important part of your radio system, so don't ignore it. Stick with the known name brands, Larsen, Laird, PCTel. Those are good brands that will stand behind their products and you'll find them used in professional and public safety systems. Do NOT buy the Cheap Chinese Antenna brands, or the amateur/hobby grade stuff. They will not hold up to the abuse they are going to get subjected to off road. Stay away from Tram, Browning, Diamond, Comet, etc. They may save you a few dollars, but you'll end up replacing them in short order.
I've smacked my Laird antenna on my Ranger at 35-40mph on low tree branches hard enough to put a permanent kink in the antenna whip. No damage to the mount or coil. Hobby/amateur grade stuff won't stand up to that abuse.

And your power source is really important. The radios need to be powered directly off the battery. Do not tap into existing wiring for the power feed, including cigarette lighter sockets. You can get a lot of interference form noisy ignition systems on the UTV's or the computers in your truck. Positive lead always goes to the battery positive terminal and negative always goes to a frame/body grounding point. Also, ground the radio chassis direct to the body/frame.

I've got 4000+ miles on my Ranger with that setup, and never had a failure. I won't go riding without a radio, just too easy to get separated or hurt along the trail. I've flipped an ATV and broke my hip socket, and the radio saved me a lot of agony waiting for the pack to realize I was no longer there and come looking for me.
 

mmckenna

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Here's the mount on the back right corner of my roll cage. It's the standard light tab mount (1.75" roll bar diameter, same as on the Rzr), with a fabricated aluminum bracket to hold a surface mount NMO.


Here's the Ranger, you can sort of see the antenna on the back corner of the roll cage, next to the rear facing LED flood light:
 

steves08gxp

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so here was what i was thinking

The 2 rzr's i was looking into getting something similar to the Rugged Radio or PCI antenna kits. I have had that antenna you recommended in my shopping cart all day. I may pull the trigger. As far as the RZR's are concerned i am not trying nor expecting to get all the range i can. i only bought these units because i got a really good price on them. Id be happy if i can get enough range to keep the front/rear cars connected... the handhelds ALMOST do it for where we ride, but not quite. plus i like the idea of having stuff built in... I actually have the same light mounts already and think i have an extra laying around somewhere. What you did was what i was planning on doing.

The truck i will leave the unit at full power, but i didnt even consider the permanent mount thing. Thats a good point and something i could do myself. I will need to look into if i need a bulkhead or whatnot. I assume they make a particular sealant/silicone too? I can definitely pull the head liner and install the mount thats not a concern. What antenna would you recommend in this case? i really dont want a 5' antenna on top of my daily driver. Again, im not that concerned with Maximum range but would like a decent amount for this vehicle. It is rare but ive been known to just take the back of the pack with the truck depending on where/what we are doing.

The toy hauler i already have a drive on flag pole that sits approx 10' or so above the trailer. I was looking into the cheaper Tram or what not base station antennas to use with my flag pole. As i dont forsee it being used very often (we do more day rides than overnight trips) and it wont be abused. I cant swallow the cost of a name brand base antenna. But the tram one is fairly inexpensive and would probably work out well

I called Kenwood and asked them about the unit and power consumption. They gave me the name to a local dealer who can turn the power down on the RZR ones for the cost of 1 hour labor (total for both units). I asked them for a quote for the antenna's and coax as well i just dont want to end up paying 3x as much as what is fair if you know what i mean.

Ive known i need a license for the "sport" radios and have been looking into it. Its definitely on my radar as well as a non commercial class a. Heres a picture of the trailer and how we typically setup our flag pole.

Im pretty mechanically inclined, and technically inclined. This is just something new to me that i know nothing about.
 

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hill

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Your set up looks awesome!

Not to be critical of your flag set up I do have a questions. Why is the American flag not at the top. What is small flag flying above it?
 

mmckenna

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so here was what i was thinking

The 2 rzr's i was looking into getting something similar to the Rugged Radio or PCI antenna kits. I have had that antenna you recommended in my shopping cart all day. I may pull the trigger. As far as the RZR's are concerned i am not trying nor expecting to get all the range i can. i only bought these units because i got a really good price on them. Id be happy if i can get enough range to keep the front/rear cars connected... the handhelds ALMOST do it for where we ride, but not quite. plus i like the idea of having stuff built in... I actually have the same light mounts already and think i have an extra laying around somewhere. What you did was what i was planning on doing.
Shop around. PCI/RR is very overpriced in my experience. They charge a lot for their "kits", and you can often find the individual items a lot cheaper.
That antenna has been a good performer and has taken a lot of abuse. I do most of my riding in the Sierra mountains, Eastern Sierra around Mono Lake/Mammoth Mountain, and a lot up east of Mt. Shasta. Lots of trees and lots of rough roads.
For the short range you want, thats a helluva lot of radio. If you got a good price, that's fine, but those are big RF decks. If you decide to scale them down a bit, let me know and there are some really good low priced alternatives. I've been buying used Motorola CDM-1250's and 1550's for around the $100 - $150 range. They'll do remote head and are quite a bit lighter. You can crank the power down on those too. If your hand held radios worked most of the time, adding an external antenna alone probably would have worked out well enough.

The mount has worked pretty well. I've got a few of them, but not sure why. They've done pretty well up there.

The truck i will leave the unit at full power, but i didnt even consider the permanent mount thing. Thats a good point and something i could do myself. I will need to look into if i need a bulkhead or whatnot. I assume they make a particular sealant/silicone too? I can definitely pull the head liner and install the mount thats not a concern. What antenna would you recommend in this case? i really dont want a 5' antenna on top of my daily driver. Again, im not that concerned with Maximum range but would like a decent amount for this vehicle. It is rare but ive been known to just take the back of the pack with the truck depending on where/what we are doing.
Installing your own NMO mount is pretty easy. You'll need a 3/4" hole saw or punch. You'll want to use a fairly fine tooth one, not one designed for wood. They sell specific NMO hole saws that have some depth limitation to them, which is good. You can get suitable metal rated hole saws from Home Depot, also. I've used those in a pinch at work. Just make sure it's a true 3/4 inch/0.750 inch hole saw. Some of the "3/4 trade size" ones are for 3/4" conduit fittings, and they are somewhere around 1 1/8". Good idea to do some practice holes on some old sheet metal if you can.
A properly installed NMO mount will not need any additional sealing. They have an O-ring in the base that will seal it. I've had them installed on all my vehicles since the early 1990's, and never had one leak.

After 30 years of doing this stuff for a living, I tend to stick with Larsen or Laird brand stuff. Never had them fail on me.
I use these mounts: https://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/larsen-nmok-9088
You'll need to install the connector yourself, or have someone do it for you. Having the connector installed last makes it much easier to install the cable, plus, you only use the amount of cable you actually need, no bundling it up under the dashboard somewhere.
As for the antenna, this is what I'm using on my personal truck. About 18" tall, so no problems:
That antenna will need to be cut/tuned for your frequencies, but that's easy to do. They include a cut chart with the antenna that gets you pretty darn close.
Mounted up on the top/center of the cab will give you excellent performance.

The toy hauler i already have a drive on flag pole that sits approx 10' or so above the trailer. I was looking into the cheaper Tram or what not base station antennas to use with my flag pole. As i dont forsee it being used very often (we do more day rides than overnight trips) and it wont be abused. I cant swallow the cost of a name brand base antenna. But the tram one is fairly inexpensive and would probably work out well
Probably good enough. Budgets are a real thing, so I understand. I do this stuff for a living, so spec'ing out higher end stuff comes pretty easy for me. I have seen some pretty crappy Tram branded stuff. I've talked to one of their sales guys at a trade show, and I'm not really sure he knew much about what he was selling. They are fine for hobby use, but not suitable for professional or public safety use by any means.

I called Kenwood and asked them about the unit and power consumption. They gave me the name to a local dealer who can turn the power down on the RZR ones for the cost of 1 hour labor (total for both units). I asked them for a quote for the antenna's and coax as well i just dont want to end up paying 3x as much as what is fair if you know what i mean.
Bench rates will be somewhere around the $85/hour or a bit more. Turning down the power on these is as easy as programming the channel for low power. The 110 watt mobiles run 110 or so on high and about 45 watts on low. If you can program yourself, you can save the money. If you don't have the software and cable, then it might be worth it to have the shop do it, but be aware they may/should ask to see your license.
A TK-790H running the full 110 watts is going to pull just under 25 amps while transmitting. At the low power setting (45 watts) it is going to pull about 12 amps. With a decent battery and not transmitting a whole lot, you'll be OK. Even at 110 watts, you would be using it in short bursts, so not that much different than running a small winch.
With the radio just sitting there not transmitting, it'll draw around 1 amp, maybe a bit more if you have the volume cranked up and someone is talking.

Ive known i need a license for the "sport" radios and have been looking into it. Its definitely on my radar as well as a non commercial class a.
Yeah, I'm fortunate that my trailer is rated right around 9900 lbs. I had a Class B for a while at work, but wasn't using it anymore and didn't want to keep going through the physicals for the renewal.

Heres a picture of the trailer and how we typically setup our flag pole.
That's a really nice looking trailer! We looked at those, but a 5th wheel was out of the question since I needed the bed clear for my son's buggy. When he was 12, we bought him a Polaris Ace 150. He outgrew that and I found him a 2016 Ace 570 a few months ago. That takes up most of the bed. The Ranger rides in the back of a Sandstorm 271. Looks like down in Southern California?

Im pretty mechanically inclined, and technically inclined. This is just something new to me that i know nothing about.
You shouldn't have a problem with this. Hard part is proper programming of the radio once you have your license. Soldering on antenna connectors can be a challenge, but paying a shop to do it and tune your antennas for you can be a good option. Doing that stuff right takes some skill and test equipment.

Only point I'd make is to make sure you secure the radios really well. They are heavy and will really bounce around. You'll want to through bolt them and make sure you put a large backer plate in there.
 

mmckenna

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Not to be critical of your flag set up I do have a questions. Why is the American flag not at the top. What is small flag flying above it?
It's not a dis. People chose to put up the American flag for many reasons. The orange flag above it looks like the orange visibility flags that some locations require while riding in the dunes. Looks like someone stuck it on the end when they put it up. When you are out at one of these locations where there are a LOT of people camping, finding your own camp can be very difficult. Putting something up to make it easier to find is pretty common.
 

mmckenna

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Please for the love of God use PCI and don't support Rugged Radios. Please.
Yeah, I have a LOT of issues with Rugged Radios. From a professional point of view, they are sort of the bottom feeders of the industry. Overpriced commercial stuff sold to consumers with no requirements for following FCC rules. They sell Marine VHF radios to racers and tell them it's "OK". Many years ago they were selling high power UHF mobiles with FRS, business GMRS frequencies programmed in to anyone that gave them money. Their VHF radios will often have marine VHF stuff loaded in them. They ignore FCC rules and are purely in it for the money.
 

KK6ZTE

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You're lucky to be further away--they're here in town for me.

They are/were trying to get into local public safety radios. They already handle the headsets locally (which they do a crap job of) for the Motor units.

Then there's the new building they're erecting that took out the sewer line of the neighboring mobile home park and they aren't taking responsibility. But that's not radio related.

PCI is a Kenwood dealer and knows the 790H inside and out. They also encourage licensing and don't cut corners.
 
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steves08gxp

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Bench rates will be somewhere around the $85/hour or a bit more. Turning down the power on these is as easy as programming the channel for low power. The 110 watt mobiles run 110 or so on high and about 45 watts on low. If you can program yourself, you can save the money. If you don't have the software and cable, then it might be worth it to have the shop do it, but be aware they may/should ask to see your license.

A TK-790H running the full 110 watts is going to pull just under 25 amps while transmitting. At the low power setting (45 watts) it is going to pull about 12 amps. With a decent battery and not transmitting a whole lot, you'll be OK. Even at 110 watts, you would be using it in short bursts, so not that much different than running a small winch.
With the radio just sitting there not transmitting, it'll draw around 1 amp, maybe a bit more if you have the volume cranked up and someone is talking.
Yeah ive already been in contact with the shop and i think they will help me out. I was thinking the same thing, we dont have radios to sit there and talk to people.... but i am sure 45-50 watts will do everything i need it to

Yeah, I'm fortunate that my trailer is rated right around 9900 lbs. I had a Class B for a while at work, but wasn't using it anymore and didn't want to keep going through the physicals for the renewal.

That's a really nice looking trailer! We looked at those, but a 5th wheel was out of the question since I needed the bed clear for my son's buggy. When he was 12, we bought him a Polaris Ace 150. He outgrew that and I found him a 2016 Ace 570 a few months ago. That takes up most of the bed. The Ranger rides in the back of a Sandstorm 271. Looks like down in Southern California?
Yes! This picture was taken over the weekend in Johnson Valley. Ive been there every weekend for the last 8 weeks (its an hour and half drive) for day trips. The trailer is a big MOFO. 42' long, approx 22k pounds loaded up for the weekend with water, fuel, rzr, etc. Just bought the duramax to use to tow it. It pulls it well, but its not rated for it. Has a 15' garage. my 4 seat rzr fits in it but thats about it.

You shouldn't have a problem with this. Hard part is proper programming of the radio once you have your license. Soldering on antenna connectors can be a challenge, but paying a shop to do it and tune your antennas for you can be a good option. Doing that stuff right takes some skill and test equipment.

Only point I'd make is to make sure you secure the radios really well. They are heavy and will really bounce around. You'll want to through bolt them and make sure you put a large backer plate in there.
Im a decent solderer, and i did order the software to program it. mainly for my radio channels i want to use. I might eff around with it and see what happens.

Your set up looks awesome!

Not to be critical of your flag set up I do have a questions. Why is the American flag not at the top. What is small flag flying above it?
It's not a dis. People chose to put up the American flag for many reasons. The orange flag above it looks like the orange visibility flags that some locations require while riding in the dunes. Looks like someone stuck it on the end when they put it up. When you are out at one of these locations where there are a LOT of people camping, finding your own camp can be very difficult. Putting something up to make it easier to find is pretty common.
mmckenna is right... its a 6' lighted safety whip that ended up put on top of the pole after Friday night and getting lost trying to find camp. Ive been coming to this particular area for about 15 years and know it really well. But ive never done night rides with this many camps like this weekend. Every camp looked like ours until we found ours.... Sooooo the extra whip got hooked up to a battery and went on top. Helped out tremendously. I build the whips, so im thinking about making the flag pole pieces light up... need to come up with a plan.

Yeah, I have a LOT of issues with Rugged Radios. From a professional point of view, they are sort of the bottom feeders of the industry. Overpriced commercial stuff sold to consumers with no requirements for following FCC rules. They sell Marine VHF radios to racers and tell them it's "OK". Many years ago they were selling high power UHF mobiles with FRS, business GMRS frequencies programmed in to anyone that gave them money. Their VHF radios will often have marine VHF stuff loaded in them. They ignore FCC rules and are purely in it for the money.
I agree... I feel that way with pretty much all of the "race radio" guys... not that i know anything... but i know that my baoefeng handhelds are the same thing as their hand helds. And i know that they just charge you to program... PCI wanted 999.99 for the TK-790 setup i bought for 139 on ebay... i dont mind making some money, but thats ridiculous in my opinion.
 

KK6ZTE

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I agree... I feel that way with pretty much all of the "race radio" guys... not that i know anything... but i know that my baoefeng handhelds are the same thing as their hand helds. And i know that they just charge you to program... PCI wanted 999.99 for the TK-790 setup i bought for 139 on ebay... i dont mind making some money, but thats ridiculous in my opinion.
Yes, they are the same. Rugged's blue handhelds are three times the price for a crappy blue housing (or white on mobiles).

PCI is a Kenwood dealer, so that TK-790H would be a good tested used with good accessories unit, aligned and sold with some sort of guarantee.

The eBay unit is untested, unproven, and most likely far out of alignment. There's a reason the prices are so different--they aren't the same "setup". Not to mention these radios were $1239 for just the deck, no head or cables or anything else when they were new (2018 price pages).
 

steves08gxp

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The eBay unit is untested, unproven, and most likely far out of alignment. There's a reason the prices are so different--they aren't the same "setup". Not to mention these radios were $1239 for just the deck, no head or cables or anything else when they were new (2018 price pages).
I know what you mean./ Supposed to be tested and verified working, however does that just mean turned on and working or actually tested.

The local shop i have is going to run them through some tests. And im not afraid of paying someone to dial them back in if needed
 
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