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Radio Communication - Randy’s Electrical Corner

Posted in How To: Electrical on January 19, 2015
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Let me tell you a little something about when I was a kid. When I found out about being able to talk to Earl over in the other bed with a soup can and a string, I was so happy. Normally, daddy would come in and yell at us for staying up too late. We could hide under the covers and talk, and daddy would never hear us. If you’ve ever tried the soup cans, you know they don’t work too well. They don’t work around corners, and heck, you even have to keep the covers off of them. Even then, it is kind of hard to hear what the other person is saying.

So when our parents bought us our first walkie-talkies (you know the black ones with the orange buttons?), we were so happy. Yeah, that’s right: I’m old enough that my first walkie-talkie wasn’t some beanie-thingy-themed dumb-looking thing. Looking back, I know they only had one channel and almost no power, but they did survive us two kids. We played secret agent man, spied on our neighbors, like Jethro, the fat guy in the kiddie pool, and Bethany, the woman who never took the rollers out of her hair. We had a lot of fun with those little walkie talkies.

Then the Smokey and the Bandit movies showed me CBs, and I was shocked. Wait, a big walkie talkie you could put in a car and talk to someone you couldn’t even see? I felt like someone had been hiding something from me. Why were we playing with these silly little black things when those big boxes existed? So I started hounding my dad about it. After about a week, he took me out to the shed.

He then showed me (no, not a thing or two) an old 27-channel Cobra dial-select CB that was just sitting on the shelf covered in brown dust. I brought it inside, cleaned it up, and spent the next week bugging him to put it in the truck. I think Earl might have been chasing girls.

Anyway, fast-forward however many years, and now I’m hanging out with you Jeep guys. It was hard for me to believe at first, but I see now how CBs could be better, and Race Radios and HAMs can get expensive. Plus, what if you actually leave the Jeep?

So, when I found out about Motorola’s handheld MU350 that claims a range of up to 35 miles and was only $149.99 for the pair, I had to know more. I mean, most good Jeep-mounted CBs are that much and aren’t even a little water resistant, not to mention can’t touch that range. So, I got a pair with a couple of accessories to test them out, like only Randy can. Do they replace CBs? Eh, I don’t know. Are they better than CBs? Oh, yeah.

Here is the base MU350 kit: two radios, two belt clips, a charging cable, and two batteries (which I’ve already installed here). The radios charge off of mini-USB so if you have a cell phone charger in your Jeep, you can charge them on the go or at camp. They would also charge off a Motorola docking station. The one on the left, you can see the metal bars to protect the screen and some of the rubber-covered buttons. On the right, you can see the high- and low-power transmit buttons. The radio can access weather stations, it has privacy codes so people can’t listen in, and can be placed in vibrate mode. There are too many features to list, so just Google “Motorola MU350” and you’ll see them all. Here is the base MU350 kit: two radios, two belt clips, a charging cable, and two batteries (which I’ve already installed here). The radios charge off of mini-USB so if you have a cell phone charger in your Jeep, you can charge them on the go or at camp. They would also charge off a Motorola docking station. The one on the left, you can see the metal bars to protect the screen and some of the rubber-covered buttons. On the right, you can see the high- and low-power transmit buttons. The radio can access weather stations, it has privacy codes so people can’t listen in, and can be placed in vibrate mode. There are too many features to list, so just Google “Motorola MU350” and you’ll see them all.
The 1692 Bluetooth PTT pod can be paired with the radio via Bluetooth and adapts headsets to the radio. You can use either a wired or Bluetooth headset through this button to the radio. Then you press the button on the PTT as though it was the button on the radio. That way you can put the radio in your pocket and use the PTT button and a headset and never have to touch the radio. The PTT button isn’t water resistant so you’d have to keep it under your jacket in the rain, but the button (arrow) is huge and easy to push through all but the heaviest jackets. The 1692 Bluetooth PTT pod can be paired with the radio via Bluetooth and adapts headsets to the radio. You can use either a wired or Bluetooth headset through this button to the radio. Then you press the button on the PTT as though it was the button on the radio. That way you can put the radio in your pocket and use the PTT button and a headset and never have to touch the radio. The PTT button isn’t water resistant so you’d have to keep it under your jacket in the rain, but the button (arrow) is huge and easy to push through all but the heaviest jackets.
I wanted to make sure the whole thing worked with a Bluetooth headset like Motorola said it should. The pairing was a little tricky, but I finally got it done, and it worked as advertised. The sound on these things is amazing, and if you use them with your cell phone, people on the other end will tell you the same thing. However, for you open-top Jeep guys, there is no noise-cancellation so wind and background noise makes it hard for people on the other end (either of the walkie-talkie or the phone call) to hear you. The buds are better suited to quiet environments and do really well if you wanted to listen to music. I still feel like Jody LaForge when I wear them, but after a few minutes I forgot I had them on. I wanted to make sure the whole thing worked with a Bluetooth headset like Motorola said it should. The pairing was a little tricky, but I finally got it done, and it worked as advertised. The sound on these things is amazing, and if you use them with your cell phone, people on the other end will tell you the same thing. However, for you open-top Jeep guys, there is no noise-cancellation so wind and background noise makes it hard for people on the other end (either of the walkie-talkie or the phone call) to hear you. The buds are better suited to quiet environments and do really well if you wanted to listen to music. I still feel like Jody LaForge when I wear them, but after a few minutes I forgot I had them on.

So How’s It Work?
If it was me and I was a hard-core Jeep guy that also liked camping and backpacking, I’d go for these radios. I don’t want to pay all the money for the HAM test and equipment, and the range on these is pretty good. While I was only able to hit about 7 miles away up in the mountains, I think on flatter ground they would go way further. I think the 35 mile rating must have been in perfect conditions.

I didn’t think I’d use the PTT button that much. I mean, I did—I had to try it out after all. The retail price on the PTT button is $129.99 and includes a charger. It has the same mini USB that the walkie-talkie have. I think what it comes down to is if you would use them where it is cold, has nasty weather, or somewhere you can’t hold a walkie-talkies in your hand (like when driving the Jeep) all the time, this would be a good add-on for you.

The Motorola Buds are cool. Motorola lists them for $69.99, but a quick Interwebs search shows ’em for less money. For that price, I was really happy with the sound. Aside from bass, they are probably better than the three studio-style headphones I have laying around. And the buds are the first Bluetooth I’ve ever tried where people commented on how good I sounded. It was kind of weird at first hearing walkie-talkies in stereo, but it was kind of cool too.

Overall, the setup works great together. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know that it can replace CBs, just because everyone has CBs. But HAM operators can pick up these radios up. I know if I was a Jeep guy, I’d much rather use these than CBs. Those 7 miles I got? Yeah, CBs struggle to get 1 mile in the same area. Plus, these just sound better than CBs do. Also, I got a full day of usage out of them and only drained the battery down by half.

Sources

Motorola
800-734-5870
http://www.motorola.com

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