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#67017 - 06/01/06 07:15 PM Portable Radios

I was wondering what some good portable radios out there are. I just got myself an Eton Grundig S350, nice radio.

I was also looking at Eton’s emergency radios, and got to thinking was there a radio out there with AM/FM/SW and UHF TV 2-13 all in one. With the Eton emergency radios, you get either TV and NOAA or SW, both nice by themselves. However, is there something with both, but still small (not as big as the S350 I got)? Different manufacture is fine. This is not necessarily for emergency use, but for all the traveling I do on the weekends.

In addition, where would I look for a regular AM/FM radios with great long range receive?

#67018 - 06/02/06 05:04 AM Re: Portable Radios
pizzaman Offline

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 183
Loc: The Great Pacific Northwest
IMHO, SW radios are over rated for survival purposes. Most of the domestic broadcasts are evangelistic or conspiracy shows. The conspiracy stuff can be entertaining, but doesn't help you stay alive. They do not have any local coverage either. Most of the over-seas stuff is boring beyond description and primarily thinly veiled propaganda. The US govt sponsored SW broadcasts also fall into this category.

The BBC arguably has some of the best world wide news coverage, but their transmissions to the US have been cancelled. It is still possible to pick up some of their broadcasts from the eastern US, but quite difficult now from the NW US. Great info, but not so useful in a crisis.

There may be some limited benefit to receiving ham radio broadcasts, but this is going to be exclusively SSB broadcasts, requiring a more sophisticated SW receiver. Even then, the ham broadcasts are often logistical in nature and may be of little benefit to you. Locally after the last earthquake I found the local ham communications were of little benefit. On the 2m band there were lots of folks sharing their personal observations and experiences. It was interesting, but of limited survival value. The 2m and 440 MHz communications are available on a simple UHF/VHF scanner.

On the other hand, after the Northridge earthquake in So Cal, it was determined that the TV stations had better and timelier information than the government run Emergency Operations Center. TV stations with their helicopters and news gathering staffs have honed the craft of local information gathering on a daily basis.

An AM/FM/TV radio would be ideal to help sort out a local disaster or emergency. Weather band would be a nice bonus.

I also find a UHF/VHF scanner (police/fire etc) to be indispensable. If you take the time to program it correctly, you can get info on specific concerns before it is available to the TV news folks. It is especially nice if you live in an area that uses trunked communications. All communications for a specific incident use the same "Talk Group". All communications go through a repeater. This allows you to monitor an incident without changing frequencies and allows you to hear even the low power handi-talkies. I have monitored local emergencies that were being covered by the TV stations, but with 10 times the details, and in real time.

Shortwave is a hobby.

AM/TV/Weather radios and UHF/VHF scanners are survival tools. Shortwave is a hobby.

Good luck, TR

#67019 - 06/02/06 02:17 PM Re: Portable Radios
harrkev Offline

Registered: 09/05/01
Posts: 384
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
I would look at a Yaesu VR-120D. This is a "DC to daylight" receiver. http://www.yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cmd=Dis...mp;isArchived=0

You could also choose a similar Icom IC-R5. http://www.icomamerica.com/products/receivers/r5/

You could also get an Alinco DJ-X3, but I would prefer the Icom or Yaesu.

Both the IC-R5 and VR-120D have bar antennas for broadcast AM reception. I do not know about the Alinco.

All three of these are under $200 - which is still a bit expensive. I must admit to be impressed that they can make such a versatile radio that is smaller than a pack of cigarettes.

Here is one store that I trust. http://www.gigaparts.com/matrix.php?catcode=z-rx Scroll down to the "handheld" section.

Note that the antenna makes a BIG difference. None of the included antennas will be that good for shorwave. Your best bet is to get a SMA or BNC plug (depends on which model you get) and attach ten feet of wire to the center conductor. This setup should also be OK for CB radio too. The included duckie should be OK for TV reception all the way up to police bands (including weather, marine, FRS/GMRS, FM radio, and aircraft).

Edited by harrkev (06/02/06 02:19 PM)
Darwin was wrong -- I'm still alive

#67020 - 07/06/06 10:02 PM Re: Portable Radios
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
The Yaesu VR-120D and Icom IC-R5 look like very good DC-to-daylight receivers, but can someone explain what makes these two products "receivers" while products like Uniden Bearcats are "scanners"? Besides scanning speed and possibly frequency range, depending on the model, I'm wondering where the difference lies? Or is it an artificial distinction?

#67021 - 07/09/06 10:56 AM Re: Portable Radios
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
I agree about shortwave. Don't forget, too, that TV band radios will stop working in a couple years, when the shut down analog TV.

#67022 - 07/10/06 01:29 PM Re: Portable Radios
harrkev Offline

Registered: 09/05/01
Posts: 384
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
The Yaesu VR-120D and Icom IC-R5 look like very good DC-to-daylight receivers, but can someone explain what makes these two products "receivers" while products like Uniden Bearcats are "scanners"?

There are some differences. Scanners are designed for the purpose of scanning large numbers of frequencies, usually public service and aircraft. Therefore, scanning speed will be pretty high. Also, scanners usually omit certain frequency ranges. Nobody is going to scan broadcast stations, so scanners usually omit all broadcast frequencies. Scanners (almost) never receive anything below 30MHz. Usual is three bands: around 30-50MHz, around 110-180MHz, and around 400-500MHz, and some may offer around 800MHz to 900MHz. This leaves out: shortwave, CB, AM broadcast, FM broadcast, TV audio. Some of the more expensive scanners can also receive digital and trunked police bands.

A DC-to-Daylight strives to receive as much of the spectrum as possible, including AM/FM/TV/shortwave. Scanning speed may not be quite as fast, and forget about monitoring any digital transmissions. But I would much rather have one of these.
Darwin was wrong -- I'm still alive

#67023 - 07/10/06 02:36 PM Re: Portable Radios
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Thanks, Harrkev. Useful response. Although similar in many ways, they're different tools for different jobs.

#67024 - 07/11/06 06:11 AM Re: Portable Radios
Fitzoid Offline

Registered: 08/23/05
Posts: 289
Loc: WI, MA, and NYC
Oh my, I haven't posted here in a while since I was busy finishing grad school (yay!), but this thread caught my attention.

I think some of the info in this thread is slightly misleading, so I wanted to throw in my $.02.

In my humble opinion, for the typical person a small, inexpensive battery operated AM/FM radio is more than sufficient for emergency needs. NOAA reception is a fine bonus, but you can certainly manage without it. Most modern radios get well over 100 hours of continuous play on a single set of batteries. (Just for example, my C.Crane CCRadio gets 250 hours on one set.)

I tihnk the rechargeable crank radios are largely a gimmick, as *all* current rechargeable battery technologies have very finite life spans. (In other words, the rechargeable batteries entirely die after some period of time and become useless.) I collect radios, so I do have a Freeplay Plus, among others with built-in generators, but I'm not particularly impressed by any of them. I definitely prefer disposable lithium batteries (10 year shelf life) or alkalines as a power source for emergency use. (CostCo sells alkaline AA's in 24 packs for $10.)

Also, just for information's sake, your car's radio is probably the best one you own, unless you are seriously into radios. This has to do with it having a better antenna, a better ground plane, its being outdoors, and the fact that car manufacturers tend to put excellent radios into cars. Also, in case you aren't aware, AM signals can travel enormous distances at night (this phenomeon is called DX), which is why you should be sure that your emergency radio has AM reception. You can hear halfway across the country on AM at night, so you'll be able to get news even if all your local stations are down.

As for getting a fancier type of radio, I think they are total overkill for most people. The "DC to daylight" reference above is a HAM radio term for wideband radios that cover many legal frequencies bands (e.g., MW/HF/VHF/UHF). I just don't see the point for the average person to buy one of these expensive radios. This is all the more so since 9/11, when so many state and local governments have moved to trunked or digital systems which are inaccessible to general wideband receivers like the ones mentioned above. (The dubious wisdom of this move and the waste of tax-payer money it represents is perhaps best saved for some other thread of forum.)

As for getting the latest type of scanner, which can receive/decode the more modern transmission modes, they are fairly complex to learn to operatate, program, and keep up to date. I think most people's preparation time is better spent elsewere unless you enjoy this type of thing. I don't happen to think monitoring the police/EMS/fire bands is of critical importance in most emergencies. Your local AM news station is probably more informative. And unless you're willing to take the substantial time in advance to understand what you'll be hearing, how to interpret it, and how to use your radio, you won't benefit from a scanner. It is not something you can figure out at a moment's notice.

I'll add for background that I'm a ham, active in ARES and NTS (those are amateur radio groups), a long-time DX'er, never leave the house without either a Yaesu VX-7 or a VX-2, and almost always carry a Uniden 396T, which is the current king of the consumer-grade portable scanning world. I've also hand-built my own radios (not from a kit), so I'm not anti-radio by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I don't think most people need to bother with anything beyond AM/FM for information gathering purposes. (For the most part, forget about shortwave these days -- it's for entertainment, not news.) Also, if you happen to have XM or Sirius, you can get CNN (and other networks') audio feeds which is great too, although my portable XM unit eats through batteries like they're going out of style.

Finally, I'll add that I *do* think everyone should get a ham radio license to communicate with family and friends in the event of an emergency, but that's a topic for some other thread.

Glad to be back!
"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." Henny Youngman

#67025 - 07/11/06 07:47 AM Re: Portable Radios
Leigh_Ratcliffe Offline

Registered: 03/31/06
Posts: 1355
Loc: United Kingdom.
Best emergency radio is any small AM/FM/MW/SW radio that can pick up the B.B.C. world service. Local or CONUS stations may be hors de combat or subject to censorship. Depending on the nature of the emergency.
I don't do dumb & helpless.

#67026 - 07/11/06 12:41 PM Re: Portable Radios
Nomad Offline

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 463
Loc: Just wandering around.
I have “credentials” similar to Fitziod. Long time ham etc. However I add the experience of having been in New Orleans during Katrina and Miami right after Wilma as a Red Cross Disaster Communications operator. I second Fitziods recommendation of a simple AM/FM radio. Something that anyone can operate and has simple electronic circuits.

Believe me, trying to remember how to run a complex radio when stressed, is very frustrating. The simple electronics means much longer battery life. Get one that runs on AA batteries if possible.

You may not be the one using the radio. Even with a simple radio, include a small “cheat sheet” describing its operation for those who may be “techno-challenged”.

In New Orleans, the local Public Broadcasting System stopped their normal programming and did a combined program using many of the local radio “personalities” who knew the local area and its unique circumstances. It was a very effective communications method and everyone listened to it. The information was accurate and they had a lot of “call in” type conversations providing up to date information.

I did not listen to local radio in Miami so can not speak to that. However I did spend a lot of time in areas with no power and it seemed that everyone had a radio on the local stations. Wilma did not affect such a wide area like Katrina so there were many functioning radio stations outside the affected area that were providing programming to devastated areas.

Also these radios are cheap. There are many very good ones available for under $25.00. Get some lithium batteries and it will be ready to go for the next 10 years.

Also, interested folks should investigate getting a ham radio license. There were many repeaters (systems that greatly extend the range of walkie-talkies) operational within a few hours of Katrina. These were of great benefit to those wanting to keep in touch with other hams and as a local communications and information transfer system. For the first week, most of the public service (fire, rescue, police etc.) was transmitted over amateur radio.

It sounds odd, but the ham stuff was repaired so quickly because there are lots of hams and very few commercial repair folks. The local commercial repair people were working very hard, but they had to also take care of their families and still try to repair very complex systems with limited time, energy and parts. The ham equipment is much simpler, usually there is a large accumulated source of parts in the individual hams “junk boxes” and each repeater had a crew of hams working together to get the systems operational. I was very impressed with the actions of the ham community during Katrina.

For those trying to understand the somewhat complex world of radio, I have put together a bit which may help at my blog. Take a peek...look under the section about Understand Radio. I would appreciate comments (PM me directly please).

...........From Nomad.........Been "on the road" since '97

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