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  #11  
Old 05-05-2008
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Couple of things...

"radios that transmit best" -- I'd ignore that "survey". Icoms are ubiquitous, but Standard Horizon's, Quest, and others transmit just as well. Technically, all VHF units on pleasure boats are limited to 25 watts VHF/FM emission. If the deviation is set correctly, and given identical antenna systems, they will all transmit very, very well.

They also hear pretty well, too. It's not hard to build a good receiver these days.

So what's the difference between radios? There are several to look for. One, of course, is the features: DSC (full Class D with two receivers, or intermittent), remote cockpit mic option, hailer, fog horn, etc.

Most new VHF radios include many of these features, but not all.

Another thing to look for is size (of knobs, readout, etc.). And -- very important -- audio quality. Many VHFs have small speakers with limited ability to operate well in noisy environments without a separate (remote) speaker attached.

Which to choose? Just about any will do well. The Icom 504 and 506 are very popular. After comparing a few, and installing a few for clients, I chose a Standard Horizon Quantum model a couple of years ago because it had the features I wanted and had a better audio output than the comparable Icom model. It was also available at a terrific price online at West Marine...about $100 less than the store price. I also installed the remote RAM mic in the cockpit, where it has been absolutely terrific. Wouldn't be without it, now, even though I have several handhelds and other VHF radios aboard.

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  #12  
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One additional note for MedSailor...

You said your old VHF will receive but "not send".

It may or may not be the radio at fault. IMO, more likely it's the antenna system, including the coax and/or connectors to the antenna.

At a minimum, you'll want to check these carefully. Much better, plan on replacing the coax and maybe the antenna itself. You'll be glad you did.

Use RG-8X coax or the heavier RG-213, depending on the size of your boat and the length of run. Other more exotic (and expensive) coax will have slightly less loss at VHF frequencies, but not enough difference to justify the cost on most boats under about 50'.

Bill
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A few comments. Disclaimer: I know nothing specific about the various brands of marine radios and have yet to research this, myself.

As to ebs001's comment about "which transmitted best": I suppose that's more important than receiving (much less bells & whistles) for distress calls, but just about any decent radio can transmit reliably. The real difference between radios is their ability to receive. (I assume my experience in CB, military, Amateur and commercial radio is applicable to marine radio.)

No offense to cam or brak, and perhaps this doesn't apply to Uniden's marine radios, or, for that matter, any of their products, anymore, but I've never been impressed with Uniden product. Always struck me as mediocre- to high-end (maybe) consumer-grade stuff. I tend to prefer commercial/professional grade equipment.

I note those wireless Uniden remotes operate in the 2.4GHz spectrum. I wonder what happens in the vicinity of a marina well-covered by 802.11b/g/n (especially n) WLANs.

Barry, BeneteauMark,

Are those SH and ICOM remotes water-proof? Or at least highly water resistant?

Jim
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Btw: I'd like to get us a new radio, too. The one currently on the boat works well enough (it's actually relatively new, from the looks of it), but it has no DSC capability and we cannot hear it in the cockpit, so something that'd take a remote would be nice. But this is a highly price-sensitive thing. $400-$500, plus the cost of a remote, isn't going to fly.

Jim
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Jim,

There are few bargains left in the marine world today. But, I gotta say, VHF radios are one of them.

If price is an overriding consideration, you can buy a brand new DSC radio for under $100. Consider this Standard Horizon for $88.99 new in the box: Plaid Enterprises

RE: a VHF in the cockpit, sometimes a good strategy is to forget about a remote mic and, instead, mount a completely independent VHF in the cockpit, attached to its own dedicated vhf antenna on the pushpit. This gives you great redundancy, plenty of distance for cockpit-type communications, and great backup in case of a dismasting. The aforementioned Standard Horizon model even comes with a 3-year waterproof guarantee!

There are other bargains out there, too. This is just one example.

Bill
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SEMIJim View Post
I note those wireless Uniden remotes operate in the 2.4GHz spectrum. I wonder what happens in the vicinity of a marina well-covered by 802.11b/g/n (especially n) WLANs.
It works just fine, as verified multiple times in marinas very well covered by wi-fi including my current one. I suppose being in a vicinity of cordless phone may be an issue (fortunately, those aren't too common around the dock), but wifi - hardly.

BTW, the remote is waterproof (as was tested quite a few times by accidental immersion in rainwater) though speaker sounds really tinny and quieter while wet.

I bought the Uniden because they were the only ones with remote mike like that. The range of my radio so far seems to be very good though not "scientifically" tested (I am planning on that though).
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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
Jim,

There are few bargains left in the marine world today. But, I gotta say, VHF radios are one of them.
I've noticed that. (Don't want to say it too loudly, tho .)

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
If price is an overriding consideration, ...
Price is almost never an "overriding" consideration with me. But it does tend to be a consideration--especially lately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
RE: a VHF in the cockpit, sometimes a good strategy is to forget about a remote mic and, instead, mount a completely independent VHF in the cockpit,
I really have no good place to do that (tiller steering). A remote mic on a shared radio would be much more practical for us, IMO.

FWIW: The lowest-cost radio + remote mic out there currently would appear to be the ICOM M402 + HM-217, for as low as about $300 for the pair, on-line.

Jim

Last edited by SEMIJim; 05-05-2008 at 11:17 AM. Reason: Fixed messed-up quotes
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I have the Icom M504 and it is an excellent unit, especially if you need fog signals and a remote mic setup. However, Uniden, Standard Horizon, Raymarine and Icom all make very good units...that are comparable in features.
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Old 05-05-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
One additional note for MedSailor...

You said your old VHF will receive but "not send".

It may or may not be the radio at fault. IMO, more likely it's the antenna system, including the coax and/or connectors to the antenna.

At a minimum, you'll want to check these carefully. Much better, plan on replacing the coax and maybe the antenna itself. You'll be glad you did.

Use RG-8X coax or the heavier RG-213, depending on the size of your boat and the length of run. Other more exotic (and expensive) coax will have slightly less loss at VHF frequencies, but not enough difference to justify the cost on most boats under about 50'.

Bill
I'm afraid of that... in fact I believe it to be the likely cause. I still want a new radio because the old one isn't shiny. Normally that's the LAST reason I replace something but in this case the old radio would double as a stern anchor....

Having said that I need to go up the mast and see what's going on up there. There is something weird currently with the VHF setup, if for no other reason than my boat came with a shakespere whip antenna on the mizzen head, one on the mast head, and a fiberglass (VHF?) antenna 1/2 way up the mizzen. Gotta sort all that out. Currently the non-working radio is connected to about 100' of cable (51' mast) and goes up the main mast. Big PITA and I assume $$$ to change that out...

I figured that since I want a new radio, it makes sense to buy it first, plug it in and if it doesn't work, then it's the antenna for sure. Is there any other way I should be testing my antennas?

As for features and such, I've never used the direct DSC calling features. I assume that's what is mentioned here:
"DSC (full Class D with two receivers, or intermittent),"

Does anybody use this feature? I'm not planning on getting the radio with the full keypad at this point. Am I going to wish I could play too if I don't get this feature?

MedSailor
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MedSailor-

What you really need is a SWR meter. They're not all that expensive, and well worth owning.

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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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