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2 way radio Opinion

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by rdagit, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. rdagit

    rdagit Member

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    Ok, I've read the couple of forums on that people have used FRS radio's to communicate, but I was looking to an opinion as to "what would you do?" I have a set of old two-way radios (UHF) that work fine except that they are around 6 years old and the rechargeable batteries do not hold a charge any more. I've found a website that I can get the 5 batteries for them for around $200 bucks. I've been debating that it may be better to update the radio's and get FRS radios with privacy settings, of which I have found that I can get 4-5 with rechargeable bases for around the same price. Even looking towards getting a set with weather function built in (we are in the tornado alley, so it would be nice to have the heads up)....

    So, the question I'm wondering is what would be the better thing to do? Replace the batteries or get new FRS radio's?

    Also, if there is a FRS radio that someone loves... works well... please feel free to share...

    Just in case it might be asked, the radio's need about 500-1,000ft range. Last for around 4 hours... Rechargeable batteries... and be private, though the theatre is in the middle of no where, so interfearence from other parties using them shouldn't be a issue...
     
  2. Oobleck1441

    Oobleck1441 Member

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    Just got a brand new set of theese.. I didn't really look over if they'd be for you.. but I know they are priavte, havent had interference at all yet, and i dont plan on it.

    they're called: TriSquare TSX300-2VP
     
  3. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    I'm not really sure it matters either way. A few comments:

    The "Privacy Settings" most radios offer is simply what's called a PL Tone or a DPL Tone in the two-way industry. Essentially, the radio's modulate a subsonic tone (PL) or a digital code (DPL) onto the transmitted signal, and a radio set to decode this simply won't output any audio unless it sees it. These "privacy settings" offer absolutely NO privacy at all, since you can set your radio to not look for a PL or DPL Tone.

    RE: The TriSquare radios, I have heard mixed reviews. These are 900 MHz digital frequency spread spectrum units, and depending on your building, you may get less range on them than you would from equivalent-power UHF (460 MHz FRS/GMRS) units. You're also stuck with their brand - they're not intercompatable with other 900 MHz radios, and definitely not with FRS radios.

    A note on frequency use: legally (in the US), you CANNOT use GMRS frequencies for theatrical (or any business) use. You CAN use FRS, but remember that this is restricted to 500 mW of output power and a non-removable antenna.

    As I've recommended before, for anyone who needs serious two-way radio communications, either get an FCC business-class license for UHF radios (and buy real Kenwood, Motorola, Icom, etc commercial two-way radios), or get some used VHF commercial two-way units and program them for MURS frequencies (no license needed). Let me know if you'd like more information on this.
     
  4. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    Mbenonis, I've been looking at getting true Motorola radios down the road, and had a few questions about the license.

    1) Do I need a license per radio? Say if I have a license to use x frequency, would it be legal to then let say, the other department heads on a show to use that frequency?
    2) Will the license essentially follow me where I'm at, or does it depend on the venue/city I'm working in?
    3) What's the average cost of a business class license?

    I've been using a combination of Motorola FR60 and FV700 radios, but I'm looking at finding some real ones to use. I feel like I'm gonna break the little FRS ones, as much as I like them.
     
  5. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    No, part of your license will indicate how many radios are to be used under the license, as well as how much power they will use.

    Unfortunately, no - however, you can specify locations where the license is to be used, as well as a radius of operation. For instance, our bus system at U.Va. is licensed for Charlottesville and a 121 km radius around it (not that you'd need nearly that radius).

    This is a question that I don't know the answer to. Your best bet would be to call a local two-way radio dealer and ask them about the procedure to get an FCC license.

    BTW, tons of UHF radios appear on eBay all the time, often for cheap (not as cheap as FRS/GMRS, but cheap compared to new). Any UHF business-band radio should work for your needs - you just need to program it for your frequency (which is coordinated/assigned to you). It's also worth noting htat Motorola radios tend to be the most expensive. I'd look at Kenwood or Icom for your needs - I'd say you can get a new Kenwood or Icom radio for the same price you'd pay for a USED Motorola radio.

    More on business-band radio here: http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=industrial_business

    One more thing - as I said above, there is a set of five VHF frequencies that are license-free. All you need is a commercial VHF two-way radio programmed to those frequencies, and you can use it anywhere. Of course, you are subject to interference from anyone else who wants to use those same frequencies.

    More on MURS here: http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=multi_use
     
  6. maxkelley

    maxkelley Member

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    I agree with mbenonis about MURS, you are limited to a maximum of 1.5w out of the transmitter, but if you get radios with antennas with gain, for example a 3db gain antenna, you have 3 watts. Besides, for the distance you need, 1.5w is going to be fairly sufficient.

    As far as the privacy issue, you can get radios with tone and tone-squelch capability (CTCSS, continuous tone coded squelch.. system?), which doesn't hide your transmissions from others, but since you're running fairly low power, you probably won't have too many people listening in, or any problems with interference (CTCSS makes sure you only hear your radios, which emit the tone you specify).

    Here's some more info on the band: Multi-Use Radio Service - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    There are, as mentioned before, 5 frequencies: 151.820mhz, 151.880mhz, 151.940mhz, and there are two others, but they are a part of the business band, which means that you may have interference issues with others on the frequency.

    So, yeah, find some low-power VHF radios, and have fun!

    Ok, enough geeking out with the radio stuff, my ham radio-ness is showing! :p
     
  7. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Ah, a fellow ham AND a theatre person! Welcome to ControlBooth.com!
     
  8. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Well, more or less we just sit there and yap, often about geeky radio stuff. Yet it's strangely fun...

    As far as getting started, the first place to go is eham.net. They have practice exams there, (you'll want to take the Technician exam), and you can get a feel for what you need to know. Once you feel up to taking the test for real, log onto: ARRLWeb: Exam Session Search and see when the next exam in your area is. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions!
     
  9. maxkelley

    maxkelley Member

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    KI4RIX de KC2SPY :)

    Yep, it's quite a bit of fun, and nice job with the ham plug there, Mike :) I seriously encourage anyone who is even mildly interested in the idea of radio communications to go ahead and get their ham ticket, the first level test, Technician, is not too hard to get, the test is fairly easy. QRZ also has practice exams, at QRZ Ham Radio Practice Tests

    I just recently got on the HF bands (1.8mhz to 30mhz) where most DX (long-distance communications) are made, and have been having a blast. From my home QTH in Webster, NY, I made contacts with Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennesee, Canada, and the Turks and Caicos islands (south of Florida, in the Caribbean). When atmospheric conditions are good, overseas communications are not uncommon at all. Worldwide wireless contact is truly possible.

    Any questions, mbenonis or I would be happy to help, email me at max at maxkelley dot com

    73s all from KC2SPY
     
  10. georgeb

    georgeb Member

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    hi, I do volunteer stage management for the tabor opera house in leadville colorado. this thread gave me some very good info on radios but i have a couple of questions. can i get voice activated headsets for the MURS radios and what's everyones opinion on the best brand model.
    TIA
    GAB
     
  11. georgeb

    georgeb Member

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    Also, for the hamm folk another question. I wrote the race timing and racer management application for the leadville trail 100 bkie and running races. the run especially has a route that is not cell phone friendly therefore we use hamm radio communication. we already set repeaters in the appropiate locations for the hamm operators so we have voice comm at all aid stations. for the more remote aid stations i would like to use a packet modem to transmit racer in/out times from the aid stations to the central control office. is there a good existing software solution to allow the operator to key in bib number and time and transmit a tab delimited text file to the CO?

    TIA
    yours in ingnorance
    GAB
     
  12. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Re: Voice Activated headsets, probably not. At least not that I know of...

    Re: Packet Radio, I'm honestly not sure. There probably is, but I'm not terribly familiar with what's out there for packet radio other than APRS. Though you might be able to send APRS messages to net control with a small amount of data (i.e., as a rider comes through, send a message with the rider number and the time). You might be able to write something though, either for APRS or general packet use.
     
  13. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    I didn't have time to read this whole post but here's my two cents. You get what you pay for. FRS isn't a bad system, but it gets a bum rap because there are so many cheap radios. I invested in a set of Cobras that list for around US$80 a pair but I got them refurbished at six for US$100.

    The UHF spectrum that FRS radios use is perfect for theatre use, line of sight is not needed as the wavelength is in the neighborhood of a couple feet. The signal will float through doorways and bounce off walls. FRS is a perfectly good solution due mostly to interoperability and readily available accessories. Everybody and their cousin has FRS radios so it's easy to get them in on the action if you have volunteers or other crews on site.

    Just invest in a better radio. The few hundred milliwats that FRS radios put out is plenty for your environment, but a radio with better audio in it will serve you much better. Louder receive audio and better dynamic range in the mic help immensely. Good radio technique cannot be overlooked either. My radios work perfectly well even in rock concert environments. Training the users to simply hold the radio close, talk across the mic instead of directly into it, and not shout means that even in the loudest situations better than 80% of the information gets through, which is plenty good for the error correction built into the human brain.

    As for batteries, it's nice to have drop in chargers, but if you go that route, look for radios that use AA cells and invest in some of the NiMH cells. Make sure your charger can handle them and you'll be loving life. NiMH AAs have at least twice the life in them that alkalines do and at around $10 for four of them you're way ahead if you need to replace a few. Most pre-built packs for radios start around $30 and go up from there.
     
  14. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    And really, do you want a headset with vox? My experience is no, vox never works right.

    That whole new D-star thing, as I understand it, would let you do that sort of thing, though that's much more trouble and cost than it's worth.

    I think packet might allow for file transfers, especially small files, but it's been ages since I've looked at it.

    I don't play around much at all in VHF/UHF-FM land; I too find the fun of radio below 30 megs, as well as VHF SSB (worked all over the States on six a few years ago!). Finishing building and aligning the 6M transverter for my Elecraft K2 slowly this year -- all my 6M work has been on a Heath SB-110, a fun radio, but I screwed up the neutralization a while back and so it's been off the air.

    Best regards from AD5ST.
     
  15. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Agreed.

    I tend to work the opposite end of the spectrum - 2m and up. 220's a lot of fun, and I like to play with 900, though we haven't gotten a repeater up yet. I'd love to get into 1.2 and 2.4 GHz work as well.

    I know a few folks who do microwave work as well, 50 GHz and up. WA1ZMS even got the first ever Worked All Bands award from the ARRL for working in every single amateur band listed by the FCC.

    73 de KI4RIX
     
  16. maxkelley

    maxkelley Member

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    As far as information, you can have, simply, a laptop and a mobile radio and use software to transmit data using PSK31.. All you need to do is plug the radio's mic input into the soundcard output, the radio's output into the soundcard input.

    As far as MURS radios and VOX... don't do it, VOX is a bad idea. I know radioshack has headsets that have lapel microphones and earbuds, the ptt button is on the microphone, should work.

    FRS works fine, too!

    KC2SPY
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2008
  17. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Don't waste your time or money on cheap two ways.
    -
    This is my new friend:
    [​IMG]
    Motorola XTN XV100
     
  18. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    As you know, Phil, using this radio requires an FCC business license, which isn't a trivial matter to get (it's not impossible, but it does require paperwork, a fee, and time to issue the license). Using this radio without a license could result in a fine of $11,000 per day.

    So not to say that others shouldn't look into it (I think they should), but you MUST make sure you get the correct license to use these radios.
     

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