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VHF radio suggestions

Old 05-02-2008, 08:34 AM
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Default VHF radio suggestions

OK, now that we are buying a new chartplotter (Garmin 4208), we of course need a new DSC VHF radio. Any thoughts on brands? One thing that we don't like about our existing radio is that it is just very hard to hear what people are saying while we are under way. I was looking at the ICOM M422 that boasts a "force 5 front facing speaker". What's the big difference between this model and the M504? Other brands? Uniden, Standard Horizon . . .

We don't need a lot of features, just class D, and to be able to easily interface with the GPS, and good sound clarity while under way.

Any suggestions? Thanks in advance
Old 05-02-2008, 02:35 PM
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Default RE: VHF radio suggestions

I had a Uniden 525 installed about a year ago and it has been flawless. It is flush mounted on the console and the audio is outstanding. No need for an auxillary speaker as I have used in the past with other radios. Good luck!!
Old 05-02-2008, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

Heck then in that case just get the S/H Quest X. ITU class D, and sounds fine. Cost is around $120.

The Icoms in that price range are all SC-101 radios, meaning they do not have a dedicated receiver always tuned to channel 70, they have to scan channel 70 and the channel you are listening to. With a SC-101 radio you will not hear any DSC calls if you are receiving a transmission on any other channel (weather, safety information on 22a, hails on 16, etc). With an ITU class D you will hear DSC calls as long as the radio is on and you are not transmitting.

Anyhow I think S/H are the better deals. Icoms are good - and I own plenty of Icom radios (mostly for the ham bands) - but in the marine VHF business S/H is ahead.

The step up from the Quest X is the Matrix. About $40 more and you get an ITU class D radio with a 30 watt hailer and the ability to accept two remote microphones and the standard microphone that comes with the radio has a speaker in it. The radio internal speaker is 2.5 inches (the size of a small external speaker) and the radio has treble and bass controls so you can adjust the audio to make it easy for you to hear.

And still it is only about $160, close to $90 less than the comparable Icom.
Old 05-02-2008, 03:22 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

The Quest X will allow for DSC polling which means someone can send (or you can request) their position via DSC and have them pop up on your gps display so you can navigate right over to them.

My Matrix 1280 (older last years versionof quest X) also has sound coming out of the mic (acting as a speaker) and can easily handle an external speaker as well using 2 attached wires. Can be had for about $140 or so.

I HIGHLY reco the Quest X!
Old 05-03-2008, 04:36 AM
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Default RE: VHF radio suggestions

I have a number of VHF radio reviews posted at:

http://www.marine-electronics-review...arine-vhf.html

Check them out and see if they help you make choice.

Old 05-03-2008, 08:05 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

I too have been basically a S/H guy, and will second what Iguana and mboy said. Uniden are good for the money, but not as, and ICOM's are fine radios, but $ for $ I generally prefer the S/H.
Old 05-03-2008, 10:31 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

S/H worries me since Yaesu bought them. 15 Years ago I had a Standard Handheld ham radio that couldn't be beat, metal case, and performance was night and day to all other handhelds I compared against.

In the past 10 years, I had a Yaesu and my friend had a Yaesu and they were both garbage. I'm worried Standard is taking the same approach as the parent company Yaesu, lower price and become the low price leader. But how can you lower price and not suffer quality? Ten years ago, Icom and Standard prices were similar, now Standard is significantly cheaper.

The Quest-X is very tempting, looks like a great radio on paper. I want to hear some more reviews before I'll get bit by Yaesu again.
Old 05-03-2008, 11:12 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

There is nothing at all wrong with Standard Horizon.

In the ham market, Yaesu is still a good brand name. They even make a radio to compete with the $12,000 Icom super radio. Contesters still love the top dollar Yaesu rigs.

Both Icom and Standard Horizon make good stuff. And both companies stand 100% behind what they make.

But how can you lower price and not suffer quality? Good point. 20 years ago an IBM PC with an 80286 processor costs well over $1500. Now you can get a laptop for $400. So quality must have dropped! Give me an old MFM hard drive any day!!

Radios are not new. The parts used to make them are not new. Nothing at all about them is new. So why not expect prices to go down? It is not like I am buying the latest technology here.

As a ham, you know that even DSC is old news. Hams have been doing APRS for how many years now? 15? Its about time the marine industry has caught up!

I still say that dollar for dollar, S/H is the better deal. This does not mean Icom is trash. It does not mean Uniden / Cobra is trash either.

Remember - all radios have to be accepted by the FCC. So all meet the same minimum standards and all are tested in a FCC lab. And those minimum standards are pretty good. If you just compare selectivity and sensitivity and power output and other technical stuff ALL marine radios look the same.

By the way, I have a Quest +. I got it before the Quest X was out. It is a fine radio. Does everything it is supposed to do. It gave me no trouble at all. It puts out a clean signal and has clear audio. I was going to get a Quest X but I decided to spend the extra $40 and get the Matrix to have the loud hailer functions.

Jim - it is possible to get a dud radio from anyone. Defects happen. They are not common, but they happen. However, if you are looking for an ITU class D radio without a loud hailer function - give the Quest X a shot. I do not think you will be let down.
Old 05-04-2008, 08:02 AM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

Nice review, thanks!
Old 05-05-2008, 08:37 AM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

Thanks for the TERRIFIC info! I will look closer to the S/H Quest X, mainly because it is Class D, vs the ICOM 422 which is RTCM SC101. I am a little concerned about the speaker clarity on the S/H. I've read elsewhere on this forum some complaints about that, but that could be because those people have especially loud boats, or their radios are installed where wind noise is prominent.

Also, my boat came with a Shakespeare Centennial 5101 antenna. This is probably the "budget" line. Is that going to be an issue? Are there minimum antenna specs that I should be looking for with these newer VHF radios?

Thanks again, people
Old 05-05-2008, 11:40 AM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

I am not convinced there is a huge difference in antennas.

There are differences, mostly related to construction and materials used. But any marine antenna will work the same as any other when new. And even the cheapest antenna will probably outlast the connector that attaches to the radio. What fails on antennas is the coax and/or the connector on the radio. Or the antenna gets damaged by external forces - like a low tree branch or a lightning strike or something. The radiating element itself almost never fails. Something else has to fail first.

If you are in doubt, a radio technician can connect a simple device to your antenna and tell you if it is good. The test only takes a few minutes. If it is good, leave it alone. If it is bad, try to put on a new connector. If this does not work then replace it. You can not really fix a marine VHF antenna. They are all either good for VHF use OR they make a decent flag pole once you cut off the cable.

The bottom line is no, there are not minimum antenna specs you should look for.

I had the Quest +, which is the SC-101 version of the Quest X. I upgraded to the Matrix because I wanted the loud hailer. The Quest + still works and will continue to see service as a second VHF radio. Anyhow, the sound quality is OK. It is unfair to compare it to another radio with a larger internal speaker, or an external speaker. But for the somewhat small internal speaker it has the sound quality is good. Can I hear it when running? Yes and no. I can hear it is receiving something. I may even work out a word or two. But the whole message? No. I have to slow down to hear it. But this is common with a lot of radios.

The Quest X looks exactly like the Quest +, so I would imagine it has the same speaker. I used mine without an external speaker. I did not think I needed one. It was fine for my use. A little tinny, but like I said the speaker is small (so that is to be expected) and I am not listening to music on it anyway.

Crank ANY audio control to maximum and you get distortion. So yea, at full blast the Quest series radios start to sound bad. And so would any speaker no matter how much you spend on it. The best speaker you can get for your house will also distort at some point. If you need or want loud, figure on connecting an external speaker to whatever radio you get.

Now the Matrix does have better audio. The internal speaker is larger. So is the radio itself, which may be an issue if you are flush mounting. I did not flush mount it however. The difference in price was not much between the two radios.

There are a lot of choices for a marine VHF. The average boater will spend far more time listening than talking, so really it does not make a huge difference with what you get. But like I said, I came to the conclusion that at the moment S/H radios are the best value for the money.
Old 05-08-2008, 04:32 PM
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Default Re: VHF radio suggestions

I have a Quest-X on a relatively quiet boat. The radio is mounted inside, and I have a remote access mic at the helm. There are two wires on the RAM cable to mount an external speaker nearby, but its just not necessary for me. I did splurge and get the RAM 310 that looks like a telephone, so I can load MMSI's without losing my cool. I think that will come in handy long before I change radios.

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