Ham Radio Reviews

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Am-Com ClearSpeech Speaker 

  By John Sabini WB1GRB

ClearSpeech Speaker CSS-1Am-Com manufactures and sells a device called the ClearSpeech. This is a speaker that includes audio digital signal processing (DSP) designed to remove static, steady tone noise like carriers, and other interference.

ClearSpeech-Speaker is a digital speaker that removes up to 95% of the background noise from the receive side of any two-way radio communication for greater intelligibility of the incoming conversation. The most common complaint about mobile communications is background noise. ClearSpeech-Speaker is a high-tech, low cost solution that enhances the audio quality of car and truck fleet, emergency vehicles, marine and ham radio communications. Improves clarity and intelligibility of communications. Listen with less fatigue and greater concentration.

The adaptive noise reduction algorithm is remarkable and it just wipes away the noise from fuel pumps, ignition, etc., making working HF a pleasure. Continuous and adaptive removal of background noise from speech Improves the signal to noise ratio. It adds some digital artifacts to noisy signals, but they are very similar to what you hear on a digital cell phone and don't hurt intelligibility. The improvement made is worth the cost of the speaker.

Easy to use, activates automatically when connected into your mobile radio or base station with a 12-volt power supply. Easy to install, mounts like a standard external loudspeaker. The speaker measures 5.5Ē x 4.5Ē x 2.5Ē, and comes with a tough plastic mounting bracket and hardware.

ClearSpeech-Speaker needs 12 volts DC to operate, and it does have a steady current draw because itís never off. The draw is said to be around 150 mA, which may not be of concern in mobile use if you start your car every day. If I were going to leave it parked for a week or more I would disconnect the power. I used Anderson Power Pole connectors so I could do that easily, and installed my speaker to the left inside wall of my car behind my left ear so itís easy to hear while driving.

I bought mine because I was very impressed with a demonstration we had at one of our radio club meetings. I turned it on, and MAN! WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Barely copy able without it, it killed the static and brought in the weak station to where it was COMPLETELY copy able! I turned it on and off a few times to see if it was the speaker or if it was selective fading, and it was NOT fading, it was the speaker performing magic on a weak signal!  I was very impressed!  I have used the speaker on my Icom  IC - R70 communication receiver which enhanced the audio quality and made listening a pleasure.

I  hooked the ClearSpeech-Speaker to a 2 meter base station. I opened the squelch wide, then turned on the speaker. The noise vanished. Other results with other radios were also dramatic on 2- meters FM. It is possible to run with the squelch wide open on 146.52 and you can hear simplex QSOs miles away that were buried in the noise before. Truly amassing.

Excellent noise reduction. I am really amazed how effective it is. Dramatically reduced white noise and other static, and practically silences heterodynes on adjacent frequencies. Makes listening a pleasure. I enjoy working for long periods and it reduced fatigue by silencing constant background noise.

The tone quality with the DSP engaged sounds a little bit like a digital cell phone. I got used to it rather quickly, because it makes reception possible under noisy band conditions that would otherwise be impossible. There is one slight effect which some may not like too much, but when you transmit it cuts off your audio (or, if you listen to a repeater with the squelch normally set), each time the audio comes back itís unfiltered for a second until the DSP kicks back in. I believe this is normal recovery for the DSP function, otherwise it would keep on filtering when the interference is long gone.

The ClearSpeech, unfortunately, puts out some birdies. One particularly bad one is right near 146.94 MHz. I have found 2-3 others but they arenít as bad. This would be about the only downside if you want to use it on VHF.

Specifications

Dimensions: 5.5" x 4.3" x 2.5"
Power supply: 9 to 18V DC, 3 amps maximum
Audio input: Input impedance - 8 ohms
Audio output: Nominal power - 2W, Maximum power - 3W
Noise cancellation characteristics: 300 Hz to 3,400 Hz voice bandwidth, Single tone noise reduction - >50dB, White noise reduction - > 12dB

 

 Icom IC-736 / IC-738

By John Sabini WB1GRB

I would recommend the Icom IC-736 HF plus 6 meters and IC-738 HF only. These radios were a bit pricey $1800 in 1996. I bought this radio used 3 years ago and never had a problem, excellent trouble free radio. Money wise this is the rig to buy. They are very good values on the used market today.

Additional Information & options / Photo

Simple radio with all you need, without all of the menus. Radio has an internal 12V power supply and uses 24V for the mosfet finals. Good 100W output from 6 to 160 meters and easy to crank down for QRP. RF is very flat from band to band and from one edge of the band to the other. Works really well on PSK31. Modes SSB, AM, FM, CW and RTTY. The radio has a full die-cast aluminum frame/heat sink, with dual (push pull) cooling fans, that are very quiet, when they do come on. The case dimensions are such as not to take up half my desk top. It is wider than deep. For me, the size is perfect. Radio has a very fast built in antenna tuner that will surprise you what it will match, even works on 6 meters. Dual antenna jacks that remember what antenna to select according to the band selected. The big analog meter is a dream. I love the large LCD display that can be viewed from anywhere in the room and under any light conditions, even direct sun light. The main tuning knob is weighted, with adjustable drag for smooth tuning. Works just fine in TX and very good general coverage RX too! The rig is very stable and receiver is sensitive, even without the pre-amp switched on. The dynamic range is as good as anything out there in a pre DSP rig. The notch filter works very well and helps to pull in weak stations in noisy conditions. All controls are fast and easy. The buttons are large enough and spaced for easy access for band switching, split, memory, tuning, etc. If youíre not happy with the tuning rate, it is programmable from the front panel. I like the 2 kHz per knob revolution for easy ssb tuning. There is a tuning speed button for wide frequency movements. It will also select 1 Hz steps along with 1 Hz readout. It works split frequency. Radio has 99 memories or more. Has various scan modes.

I use the Icom SM - 8 Desk Top Microphone, which works great. I've received very good reports on audio. I also have the IC-SP3 External Speaker. The IC-SP3 External Speaker sounds howl and has terrible flat audio. I had to use a small communications speaker which sounds much better. Radio has a internal speaker which sounds descent.

If you see one used and need a HF rig, you should consider it. I'm going to hang onto my IC-736. I am very pleased with the performance, features, and styling of this rig, and highly recommend it.

Some of the options for the IC-736 and IC-736. UT-30 PROGRAMMABLE TONE ENCODER UNIT: Provides 38 programmable sub audible tones. FL-52A/Fl-53A/FL-100/FL-101 CW NARROW FILTERS: 455 kHz: FL-52A (500 Hz/-6 dB); FL-53A (250 Hz/-6 dB) 9.0106 MHz: FL-100 (500 Hz/-6 dB); FL-101 (250 Hz/-6 dB) Check your Icom dealer for availability of options.

Send your review to, John WB1GRB.

ICOM IC-V8000

By John Sabini WB1GRB

I bought the Icom IC-V8000 3 years ago. This is the best 2-meter mobile radio I have ever owned. The ham side of the business has finally caught up with the commercial side. This radio is constructed like a tank. These units are ruggedly built, and with the ease of computer programming. Other radios I owned that came without a fan would get so hot you could not touch them. Radio's that run cool are more reliable. The fan on this radio runs very quietly for 2 minutes after transmitting, but you can also choose low, medium, or high speed. You can also choose to have the fan run continuously. RF output 5/10/25/ and 75 watts on high power. You can easily search and lock in an unknown PL -tone of a repeater with the CTCSS tone scan. This radio is very easy to program and all the buttons light up including the microphone. You can program all of the radio's functions from the microphone including the squelch. The microphone is lightweight and comfortable to hold. I have not had a bit of intermod with excellent receiver sensitivity. The front mount speaker sounds great and cuts through loud road noise.

I can hit all the repeaters that I want. If you are in the market for a solid reliable 2 meter mobile, I would highly
recommend buying the Icom IC-V8000. These radios were originally $249.00. You can now purchase them new for about $165.00. Great radio for the money. I am planning to buy another IC-V8000 for my base station.

Other Features: RX: 136 - 174 MHz, Wide/narrow operation, Front firing speaker, Cooling fan, Dual color Display, Auto repeater offset, CTCSS Encode, CTCSS Decode, CTCSS Tone scan, DCS Encode, DCS Decode, DCS Code scan, DTMF Encode, DTMF Decode (optional) DTMF) Code squelch, Dynamic Memory Scan, Weather channels, Weather alert, Weather scan, 207 Memory channels (3 scan edges) Call channel 6 Character alphanumeric display, PC programmable, Radio - radio cloning, Programmable keys, RF Attenuator, Channelized operation, Alpha only operation.                                                                                     

Icom web site is located at www.icomamerica.com/

 

Autek Research Model VA1 RX Vector Analyst

By: Allan Valeo NN1H   Autex web page: www.autekresearch.com/ 

There are several good RF Analyzers around. I decided to give the Autek Research VA1 a try. It has several advanced features that help in putting the finishing touches on an antenna system. It runs on a single 9 volt battery and is palm sized.
The VA1 has a built in oscillator that covers 0.5 MHz to 30 MHz in 7 bands and connects to the line using a standard SO-239 connector. It makes 11 different determinations using an on-board microprocessor and reads out on a 4 Digit LCD display. The readings are broken down into four Functions and three Levels. It reads out the Frequency or one of the three Level values for a Function at a time It can also cycle between one two or all three Levels and the Frequency continuously. The VA1 can be switched to measure using 12 different line impedances from 25 ohms to 450 ohms.
It makes three measurements directly, Impedance, Phase and the Frequency of the oscillator. It keeps two numbers in memory, the impedance of the line and one measured frequency that represents the 1/4 Wavelength Frequency of the line. To derive the 1/4 Wavelength Frequency the line is left open circuited and the Frequency is scanned to find the lowest frequency that has an impedance
minimum and the value is stored with the push of a button.
Using these known values it calculates SWR, Capacitance, Inductance, Equivalent Series Reactance, Equivalent Series Resistance, Equivalent Parallel Reactance, Equivalent Parallel Resistance, Equivalent Series Reactance at the Antenna and Equivalent Series Resistance at the Antenna.
The last two measurements are the VA1's real advantage. The 1/4 Wavelength Frequency of the line and the Frequency of interest don't have to be the same, so it allows an analysis of the resistance and impedance of an antenna with the antenna in place using it's own transmission line. Matching and tuning are simplified by knowing the real values of X and R, and the amount of cut and try can be minimized. In fact trimming the antenna length adding a reactance in series for tuning
or checking a trap's resonance are a cinch and the manual provides a lot of other practical tests and measurements.
The VA1 is a good tool that makes understanding an antenna system come alive. Autek Research has some minor quality issues that need to be addressed with this line, but all in all I'm very pleased with the VA1's abilities and performance. Autek Research, PO Box 7556, Wesley Chapel, FL 33544 USA. (813) 994-2199.