Review – BTech APRS-K2 Cable (TRRS/APRS)

by John ‘Miklor’

aprs-k2-25
APRS-K2
It’s long overdue, but there’s finally a TRRS/APRS cable available for radios using a standard Kenwood style K2 connector.

I’ve been wanting to get involved with APRS for a while now, and this made it extremely easy.

APRS-K2 interface cable
The APRS-K2 cable allows you to interface your handheld transceiver with your existing mobile device, including. iPhone, iPad, and Android.

One end of the cable uses the Kenwood style K2 connector, while the opposite end is aprs-xover-25terminated with a TRRS connector. Also included with the APRS-K2 is a Reverse Adapter to insure compatibility with all devices. This adapter allows cable to connect to earlier 3.5MM TRRS standards, such as Nokia.

App Driven
The APRS-K2 cable uses a virtual TNC found in several apps, such as APRSDroid, APRS.fi, and Pocket Packet. Plug in the cable, turn on the VOX, and you’re pretty much set to go.

Product Description
BTECH APRS-K2 TRRS / APRS Cable A simple way to start using APRS by using devices you already own. The BTECH APRS-K2 Cable will quickly connect your radio to APRS by using virtual TNC (app driven) on your tablet or device. The APRS-K2 cable is built with a custom circuit board that will automatically adjust the audio for clear packet transmissions with minimal adjustment; along with protecting your devices from strong over modulated signals.

Along with allowing APRS functionality the APRS-K2 cable can provide a simple interface gateway to allow several features to your radio!

Easily record radio conversations:
By connecting the APRS-K2 cable between your radio and any recording (line-in) device.

Use the APRS-K2 cable as a Mic In Connector:
Set up VOX on your radio to accept any form of incoming audio – such as a Push-to-talk application on a Phone – or a Line-out application from your computer.

Use the APRS-K2 cable to push transmissions over a speaker system:
Easily play audio over a intercom or speaker system from your handheld.

With a backup radio and your own ingenuity, the APRS-K2 cable can serve as an interface for a variety of applications for any amateur. Compatible with Kenwood K2 Accessory Slot Radios (such as BaoFeng, BTECH, Wouxun, TYT) Compatible with all phones, tablets, and computers with 3.5MM Audio In/Out Ports

Includes:
APRS-K2 Cable
Reverse Connector Adapter
Quick Start Guide

Conclusion:

The cable comes with a simple one page instruction sheet which should have you up and running in about 10 minutes after the appropriate app is loaded.
–  Plug in the cable
–  Set your handhelds volume control
–  Turn on the VOX
–  Set your handheld to 144.390 (US)
–  Activate the app

That’s all it takes. If you’ve been considering building an APRS cable, you might find this an easy Plus and Play alternative.

The APRS-K2 can be ordered from   Amazon, or if outside the US, you can go to their website and contact them directly.   Baofeng Tech

Too many toys, too little time.
John ‘Miklor’   K3NXU
http://www.miklor.com

Review – BTech UV-5X3 TriBand Handheld

by John ‘Miklor
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5X3 front 4UV-5X3
Although the case design is familiar, the radio inside is not.  BTech has recently introduced the new UV-5X3 to the US Ham Radio market.  This radio is a true triband transceiver with internal filters specifically configured for triband operation.The firmware in this radio has been reworked to include several new features not found in similar appearing radios.
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In the Box

Included with the radio are the:
–  1500mAh Li-Ion Battery **
–  85 page User Guide – English
–  Charger base & AC adapter
–  Hand strap
–  Belt clip
–  PTT Earpiece / Microphone
–  Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/8″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
–  Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
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** This is the identical battery that is commonly mislabeled as 1800mAh on some handhelds.
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Tri-Band – VHF  220  UHF
The UV-5X3 was specifically designed as a Tri-Band transceiver.  The internal filtering allows not only the traditional VHF and UHF frequencies, but also includes the 222-225 MHz Ham band for the US.
.   5X3 label 2Case Design
The UV-5X3 has the traditional case design, which allows me to use my high capacity  BL-5L  3800mAh battery with no alteration to the base. Accessories such as my mobile battery eliminator, Spkr/Micr, etc. are fully compatible.
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Transmitter
The frequency range is VHF 130-176 / 222-225 / UHF 400-480 MHz, supporting both Wide and Narrowband with 2.5kHz steps.The radio’s filtering scheme allows for full power on all bands. My OTA audio reports have been clean with clear with mellow audio.  Power levels are respectable using a Bird VHF/UHF Termaline.
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UV-5X3 146
MHz
224
MHz
446
MHz
High 5.2 4.2 4.6
Low 1.7 1.6 1.6
     
DTMF / IRLP Access

Something new also appearing on this model is a DTMF gain adjustment, allowing me to adjust the DTMF audio to the transmitter to a comfortable level for both repeater control and IRLP access.
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Tone Burst
If you are in a area that requires tone burst for repeater or network access, the 1000Hz, 1450Hz, 1750Hz, and 2000Hz burst are accessible by pressing the PTT along with one of the four pre-assigned keypad keys.
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Receiver
The receiver sensitivity is excellent, and the audio quality is clear, loud, and undistorted. Along with the 3 TX/RX bands, the receiver also includes the traditional commercial FM radio band. (65MHz-108MHz)
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Tone Scanning – The receiver also has the ability to identify the tone of a repeater being transmitted by a received signal.
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Scan Add / Delete
This feature gives me the ability to add / delete channels from the scanning list using the keypad. No longer a software only function. The more I can do from the keypad, the better I like it.
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Scanning
A Long Press of the [*SCN] button will start the scanning process.Channel Mode – When scanning with the Display Sync set to ON, the upper and lower display will scan together. This is explained below under Display Synchronization.Frequency Mode – When entering Scan, the image below will appear on the screen. Enter the first 3 digits set the range start, the second 3 digits sets the stop.
Example: Entering   146 : 146
Start  the scan range at  146.000
Ends the scan range at  146.999
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5X3 scan rangeAntenna
I found two antennas included with the radio. One was the standard upgraded A-V85 antenna, and a slightly longer one for the 220MHz band.
Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/4″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
The separate antenna specifically tuned for 220 MHz is a great addition. The SWR shows 1.3 which is excellent. No compromise. I labeled my 220 antenna, as they are very close in appearance.
220AntLabel.
Display

The radio has a tri-color display, allowing the color options of the blue, orange and purple.  The LCD can be formatted in either of three formats. Choices are Frequency, Channel number, or up to 6 Alpha Characters.
Display Synchronization
The UV-5X3 supports display syncing, which gives ability to track both the upper and lower LCD. I keep mine set to display the channel name in display A, and the frequency in display B. When you change the channel, both the upper and lower displays move together.5X3 sync.
Programming
Manual programming is pretty straight forward once you enter a few channels. A programming guide can be found at Manual Programming with a Menu Definition summary available at Menu Definitions.
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Software  
The software support for the UV-5X3 can be found in the Latest Daily Build of CHIRP. There are a few new options that will be added to the 5X3 in the near future. One is the ability to Stun, Kill, Revive. This gives you the ability to disable your radio remotely.
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3rd Generation Chipset
The new chipset (RDA1846S and RDA5802N) provides reduced AGC switching noise and a low-IF digital audio processor for improved sound quality.
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Programming Cable
The programming cable requires a traditional two pin Baofeng / Kenwood style. There are several cable available. The generic cables may require special drivers, due to the use of cloned chips. For Plug and Play, a cable using an FTDI chip is recommended.cableK2 Conclusion
The UV-5X3 firmware has obviously been reworked to include:
–  Tri-Band Support: VHF/1.25M/UHF
–  D-ANI  (Display incoming DTMF Tones)
–  Synchronized Displays
–  DTMF audio gain level adjustment
–  Add / Remove Channels from Scanning list via keypad (LCD Dot Indication)
–  On the Fly scanning by Frequency Range
–  4 Tone Burst options
–  Remote Stun, Kill, Revive
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It appears that BTech has once again managed to stay one step ahead of the curve. With the 220 MHz ham band operation back on the rise in the US, this radio hit the market at the right time.  Even if 220 isn’t popular in your area, the additional new features still give it an edge over the traditional dual band series.
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More Information:   Miklor.com,  BaofengTech,  CHIRP
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Review – BTech UV2501+220 (Tri-Band)

by John ‘Miklor’

BTech has introduced a low profile Tri-Band Mobile Transceiver to the ham radio marketplace.  It has all options of the UV2501 with the addition of the 220MHz US Ham Band, both transmit and receive.

The +220 is specifically designed for 210-230MHz operation.  This is note worthy for US hams as some models currently advertised as Tri-Band operate in the range of 240-260MHz. Unfortunately, this is not the the range needed for the US ham band, and they are not adaptable to frequencies below 240MHz due to their internal filtering. 
BT25+220L

In the Box
Included with the radio are:
–  Microphone with a 16 button keypad
–  Chrome metal microphone hanger
–  Metal mounting bracket with screws
–  DC power cable with connector
–  USB Programming cable (which was optional)
–  Full 30 page English User Manual (not a pamphlet)

UV2501+220 – Weight:  408 g (14.4 oz)
Size:  98(W) x 35 (H) x 118 (D) mm  (3.8 x 1.4 x 4.6″)

Enclosure
The frame is rugged, with a solid cover and a hefty aluminum heat sink and now includes a cooling fan that draws air from the inside of the radio, not just the heat sink.  I would still be careful mounting the radio in an extremely tight location.  As with any transceiver, it will need room to breath.

The radios are terminated with a standard SO-239 connector.

Transmitter
The +220 includes 210-230MHz transmit capability. My main interest was the 220MHz US ham band, as I have several 220 Ham repeaters within 35 miles from my house. The signal strength and audio reports have been excellent.

–   Power
– The UV2501+220 is rated at 20-25W and holds true to those estimates.

A 13.8VDC power supply was used emulate a standard auto battery.  Running the radio at high power into a Bird Wattmeter for 3 minutes showed no decrease in power. There’s a thermally connected cooling fan in the rear that helps keep the radio at a respectable temperature level. The fan pulls warm air from the radio, not just the heat sink.BT25+220Power

–   Frequency Steps –  Steps range from 2.5 to 25 kHz.
–   Audio Scrambler –  The Audio Scrambler utilizes the voice inversion process. This feature must be activated on two similar radios (Tx and Rx) to be effective. Although the function works properly, check with your countries regulations regarding its use.
 
Receiver
The radio has 200 channel capability with a top end range to 520MHz.  The receiver sensitivity is on par with any mobile I’ve used in the past and there’s plenty of smooth, clear and loud audio.

New Features Added 
–   High / Low Power – Now selectable from the microphone keypad.
–   External Speaker – This is a new addition for the UV2501 series
–   Cooling Fan – Increases the airflow from inside the radio

–   Display SYNC
– An option has been added to allow the Upper and Lower displays be synced, allowing the upper display to show channel Name while the lower displays the Frequency.  Dual channel display (TDR) is still there, but sometimes you just want to display the channel you’re using. Now you have a choice.
–   Memory Mode Lock – The radio can be Locked into the channel mode (MR).
–   Menu Lock – While in the channel mode, the Menu option can be locked out to prevent accidental field programming.
–   Reset Lockout – The Reset option can be locked out to prevent accidental reset. Another nice safety precaution.
–   Auto Power Off – This allows the radio to shut off if the receiver is inactive for a preset amount of time.
–   Dual Watch Delay – allows the receiver to stay on a channel for a preset amount of time before returning to the primary channel after the secondary channel is clear.  You can now select the delay time (up to 50 seconds) before the radio returns to the Dual Watch mode.
–   Squelch Tail Elimination – Eliminates the squelch tail if the station or repeater being received has the same function active.

Microphone
The radio comes with a full function keypad style microphone. Functions include: Menu, Up, Down, A/B, Exit, Reverse, Scan and Lock, and Hi / Lo power selection.
The OTA reports are excellent with plenty of audio, so there’s no reason to shout.  My best results were talking in a normal voice about an inch or two away.

Display
The radio has a tri-color display, allowing color options of the familiar blue, orange and purple.  The LCD colors can be selected to suit your personal preference with a screen size of 1.4″ (3.4mm) wide. The LCD can be formatted in three different formats: Alpha Characters, Frequency, or Channel number.

Programming
Manual programming is pretty straight forward once you enter a few channels. A programming guide can be found at Manual Programming with a Menu Definition summary available at Menu Definitions.

There is a single bank of 200 channels. You can set a channel to be added or removed from the scan list using software.

Software
The software for the UV2501+220 was designed specifically for this radio, due the added features and frequencies.  Prior software is Not compatible with this radio. Loading this software to another radio will Not add new features to that radio.  Use only the software that is designed specifically for your radio.

This software can be downloaded from Miklor.com UV2501+220_Software.
CHIRP software for this radio is currently under development.

Programming Cable
The programming cable is a 1m (39″) USB to 3 pin 3.5mm.  My recommendation is to purchase a cable that utilizes an FTDI chipset, such as the PC04.  It may cost a few dollars more, but it’s plug-n-play.  If a generic cable is acquired, it will more than likely require a backdated driver.  Those drivers can be found at  Cable_Driver

Front Panel Operation
The buttons may be a bit difficult to read in the dark.  There is enough light to show where the buttons are, but not to clearly read them. Fortunately, the microphone keypad is well lit, so programming can easily be done via the keypad.

The 7 buttons are Function, Monitor, Call, VFO/MR, FM Radio, Exit A/B, and Hi/Lo Power.

Up to six Alpha Numeric characters (upper and lower case) can be displayed to identify each channel.

Scanning in the VFO mode allowed me to scan either the VHF, 220MHz, or UHF band.  In the Channel mode, the scan would select any channel in the list regardless of band.

Prior issues resolved
Early first generation radios had a few audio issues that required ‘work around’. After many hours of drive testing with the new +220 series, I can attest to the UV2501+220 having none of the prior issues.  The developer and manufacturer listened and got it right.

Pros
–  No audio issues (base or mobile)
–  Display Synching option
–  Extra features listed above not found in similar models
–  Plenty of power with clean audio
–  Lightweight and durable enclosure
–  More than ample heat sink with heat sink fan
–  Excellent sensitivity and receiver audio quality
–  Small compact size
–  An external speaker jack
–  Added 220-225 MHz for the US Ham Band

Cons
–  Small front panel buttons

Conclusion
For mobile drive testing, I teamed this radio with a Nagoya Tri-Band TB320A and SB-35 NMO mag mount and the results were excellent.  With the added features mentioned above and no issues, this radio was quite an impressive tri-band package.

More Information:   Miklor.com    

Review Wouxun KG-UV950P

Rumors about a quad-band made by Wouxun were floating on the Internet for quite a while. Fortunately Wouxun didn’t promise anything light-years in advance this time – not many will have forgotten the KG-UV920R media frenzy years ago.

Look & Feel
The KG-UV950P looks almost identical to its dual-band sibling. The microphone is completely redesigned though, and the microphone connector at the front moved to the left side of the rig. Apart from that they’re difficult to tell apart.

At the back we find the two speaker outputs and one SO-239 antenna connector. Just like with the Yaesu FT-8900R you need to figure out yourself how to construct an antenna system suitable for use on all four bands. As far as I know the Comet UHV-4 and the Diamond CR8900 are the only antennas in existence, but both are specifically designed for mobile use.

For a base station setup isn’t too hard to construct one yourself. Four resonant dipoles, one for each band, all ending up in one feed point, would be worth considering. Nested dipoles are a common and reliable system often used for working the HF bands. Assuming you did everything right, this kind of multi-band antenna system doesn’t require a tuner.

But, first things first: let’s show some pictures. Click on the images for a larger version.

Wouxun KG-UV950P Front

Wouxun KG-UV950P Front

Wouxun KG-UV950P Back

Wouxun KG-UV950P Back

Wouxun KG-UV950P Left

Wouxun KG-UV950P Left: cloning, programming and repeater link

Wouxun KG-UV950P Microphone

Wouxun KG-UV950P Microphone

Wouxun KG-UV950P Inside

Wouxun KG-UV950P Inside

As you can see the build quality of the Wouxun is fine, just don’t get fooled by cooling paste and other sticky stuff used to keep various components in place and coils in shape.

Killing a rumor
One of the rumors was that any band can be assigned to any VFO. Because this information came from a normally very reliable source, I felt comfortable posting this a while ago. This proves NOT to be true however; 6/10 meters can only be accessed from VFO A. Now you know why I am very reluctant to post rumors. I hate it when this happens.

Microphone
I really like the microphone. It has been very well designed, feels just right and offers all the functionality you need – and more. Not visible in this picture are a speaker at the back and an extra volume control on top. This makes adjusting the volume much easier and precise. At the left you will find PTT and a programmable side key (default: monitor). A lock switch and a backlight switch are welcome additions too.

Frequency Range
The frequency range of this review model is exactly as described below, so the radio indeed covers the Citizens Band. Official versions will be limited to amateur bands, which in turn will depend on the country where the radio is sold. There are no jumpers or anything else on the PCB to make changes, you need special software to do that. This software won’t be in the box, nor will it be sold separately.

Frequency RangeRX Audio
RX audio sounds fine at first, but there is a catch. Just like the KG-UV920 series adjusting the volume is done with rotary encoders. Nothing wrong with that, but the steps are coarse. Volume at 1 is slightly on the loud side but still acceptable for indoor use, but when setting the volume at 2 the level becomes uncomfortably high already. With the volume at 3 the first hint of distortion shows up, and hiss and noise start to become annoying. Setting the volume higher than 5 results in unacceptable distortion. And there are 16 steps in total…

The audible results were such that I decided to measure the difference in audio output between the various steps. I never felt the urge to do that before, but I wanted to make sure my ears didn’t deceive me. With an audio generator plugged into an extra transmitter and the Atten ADS 1102CAL connected to the Wouxun audio output I was good to go.

Signal transmitted @ 145 MHz, audio 1000Hz (sine wave), deviation just below +/- 2.5 KHz. Measurements done in Vpp (peak-to-peak Voltage).

ADS00001

Volume at position 1: 288 millivolts

Volume at position 1 deliverers 288 millivolts to the speaker output. Sine wave still looks OK.

ADS00002

Volume at position 2: 1.4 Volts

Volume at position 2 deliverers 1.4 Volts Vpp, an increase of almost 5x! This is already LOUD. Sine wave still OK.

ADS00003

Volume at position 8: 3.64 Volts

Just for the fun of it: volume halfway (8) deliverers 3.64 Volts Vpp. Sine wave is now hopelessly deformed, clearly a result of clipping, and on its way to change into a square wave. In reality you’d run from your shack in total despair now, and we’re just halfway the volume scale. I left the rest of the settings for what they were. You get the point.

When you switch from the internal speakers to the speaker/microphone this problem is less prominent or absent thanks to the extra conventional volume pot on top of the microphone.

TX Audio
No complaints. There’s a bit more emphasis on mid-tones than most other transceivers, but nothing major.

Power Output
When starting measurements I ran into a bit of a mystery. Power output on VHF and UHF is well described in the specs, but output on 10 meters and 6 meters is not. I expected the maximum output to be 50 Watts or so, but I couldn’t be more wrong. To be absolutely sure I checked the numbers twice, each time with different test equipment. I paid a bit more attention to the 26-30 MHz range, just because it’s there. Measurements in Watts.

Frequency

Low

Mid 1 (H) / Mid 2 (L)

High

26.000 MHz  4.0  9.5 / 9.5  9.5
27.000 MHz  3.6  9.5 / 9.5  9.5
28.000 MHz  3.7  9.0 / 9.0  9.0
29.000 MHz  3.7  9.0 / 9.0  9.0
29.995 MHz  3.5  8.1 / 8.1  8.1
52.000 MHz  2.8  13.1 / 6.8  32.2
145.000 MHz  4.2  20.0 / 9.5  42.7
435.000 MHz  3.5  14.5 / 7.5  35.3

Power output on 11-10 meters is disappointing to say the least, and on 6 meters I expected a bit more too. On many frequencies there is no difference between High, Mid1 and Mid 2. Power output on 2 meters and 70 centimeters is well within the norm, but lower than the factory specs.

Air band reception
I know many people love air band reception and this radio does just that. AM detection is not the smoothest ever, but adequate.

Unfortunately the radio lacks 8.33 KHz channel spacing, which is needed in Europe. Increasing air traffic congestion has led to narrow-band 8.33 kHz channels in the ICAO European region; all aircraft flying above 19,500 feet are required to have communication equipment for this channel spacing. Outside of Europe 8.33 kHz channels are permitted in many countries, but not widely used yet.

Cross-band repeat
The one million dollar question was: can this radio cross-band repeat between the Citizens Band and amateur bands? The answer is: yes, it does, the KG-UV950P will happily cross-band repeat between anything on VFO A and VFO B, as long as the chosen bands are not the same.

Apart from real cross-band functionality, the radio can also act as a transverter (one way repeat). This came in really handy in my ‘Faraday Cage’ home. If that was not enough, you can construct your own repeater system by linking two KG-UV950P’s together. Just interconnect the two RJ-45 connectors at the left to get that to work.

Scrambler
A scrambler system is standard in this radio, and you can choose 8 different varieties of voice inversion. The garbled audio such a system produces will sound very familiar if you ever spend time on the HF bands and tuned into a USB signal while still in LSB mode.

Receiver quality
The receiver is sensitive enough to pick up even the weakest signal. Measuring sensitivity is becoming a bit boring, because all modern radios perform about the same. More interesting is the front end and its capability to keep unwanted signals out of the equation. Again Wouxun did something most other radios can’t: this radio survives most problems you throw at it, just like their dual-band KG-UV920P. I wished my Kenwood TMV-71 (the crappiest one I own) was half as good!

Harmonic suppression
This part is well under control, it’s actually better than ever. Most harmonics aren’t visible or below the noise floor of the analyzer. Only on 70 cm there is a small visible peak, but hardly interesting.

10 meters

10 Meters

6 meters

6 Meters

2 meters

2 Meters

70cm

70 Centimeters

Compared to the Yaesu FT-8900R
I would love to give Wouxun some slack, but Yaesu doesn’t need to worry yet: the FT-8900R is way more refined. Admirable as the KG-UV950P is as Wouxun’s first attempt to make a quad-band transceiver, it is obvious that some things need immediate attention.

Conclusion
Pros: low price, excellent receiver, excellent harmonic suppression, good TX audio, great microphone.
Cons: volume issue, power output not up to standards, lacks 8.33 KHz channel spacing.

The volume issue bothered me the most. How difficult can it be to make smaller steps? To be honest I’d be happy to see conventional pots here instead of rotary encoders; nobody ever had a problem with those.

The disappointing power output on some bands, especially on 10 meters, needs to be sorted out. This might just be an issue with this sample; I will have that checked as soon as another sample becomes available.

Would I buy one? Yes, assuming that these problems get fixed. The price here in NL is 349 euros, while a Yaesu FT-8900R sets me back 499 euros. That’s a big price gap which makes the Wouxun potentially very attractive. I’ll have to be patient.

Many thanks to K-PO, who sent me this radio. I couldn’t do this without their help!

Review Anytone AT-588UV

After reviewing Wouxun’s mobile transceiver, which still needed some work, all attention shifted towards the Anytone AT-588UV (now changed to AT-5888UV). I’m not the first to express my feelings about this rig, nor will I be the last. I took my time to review this mobile radio, as early reports contradict each other in almost every respect. When opinions vary from ‘Piece of junk’ to ‘Best radio ever’, I tread more carefully than usual.

First impressions
The Anytone AT-588UV is a good looking mobile rig. The front panel is detachable for mobile use. Eight direct access keys are placed just under the LCD. The readability of the typeface used to describe their function is excellent, even from a distance. Display color is highly configurable, thanks to the implemented RGB color system. An insanely loud beep, enough to scare the living daylights out of you, is heard when you switch on the radio. This can’t be changed.

The microphone connector (RJ45) is located at the right, a USB connector at the left. This connector isn’t there to program the Anytone by computer, as you might expect, but only to charge your phone, MP3 player or similar device. Programming is possible with an optional cable which has to plugged into the microphone input. At the back there are two outputs, one marked external speaker and one marked A/V. Because both accept the same 3.5mm plugs, it’s easy to make mistakes. I made a few mistakes on purpose, but not harm is done when you mess up. The antenna connector used is an old fashioned SO-239, not N.

When seen from above, this Anytone looks similar to the Alinco DR-635, up to the position of the internal speaker and cooling fan. The fan of the Anytone only kicks in when needed. Nice.

General
At first glance the supplied multi-functional microphone is one we would like to see standard on every rig, but there’s a catch. Instead of putting the up- and down buttons on top, where they belong, they’re located at the top right – exactly in the place where your thumb rests when holding the microphone. The lack of a ‘lock’ switch adds to the misery. Rumors are that new batches of the AT-588UV will be delivered with another (usable) microphone model.

The external speaker connector is unreliable. The only way to make it work is by inserting the 3.5mm plug firmly and pull it out slightly. One wrong move, one little tremble, and the audio goes dead. Probably easy to fix, but sloppy nonetheless.

Menus
The menus look very similar to the ones we know from Yaesu. Personally I don’t mind; Yaesu menus are relatively easy to work with once you understand the logic behind them. There are some options there you won’t see elsewhere. A two/five tone generator is one of them, AM detection up to 174 MHz is another. AM detection can be set to automatic or manual. The last option will allow you to listen to AM transmissions on 2 meters, not only air traffic.

Receiver
Sensitivity on both bands is fine, between -124dBm on UHF and -127dBm on VHF. I had really low expectations when I started to look at the quality of the front end. VA3ISP reported that he heard pager blasts while listening to the amateur bands, but I couldn’t replicate such problems. On the contrary, the receiver of the AT-588UV performed better than average when it came to handling unwanted and strong out-of-band signals.

Frequency range RX:
118-174 MHz (AM/FM)
220-260 MHz
350-400MHz
400-490 MHz
49-870 MHz (Optional)

RX Audio
RX audio is not very pleasant to listen to. There’s such an amount of distortion that’s is not something which is only measurable, but clearly audible. The audio amplifier also spits out a generous amount of noise, even when the volume is turned down to a minimum. On top of all this there’s an annoying high pitched tone present when the squelch opens. My frequency counter, DSO, nor spectrum analyzer were able to isolate the frequency due to the reported noise and distortion. I eventually managed to pinpoint the frequency by tuning my function generator until both tones were zero beat. I ended up at 4000Hz, give or take a few Hz.

Transmitter
My review sample suffered from a flaw which has the same effect as a broken microphone wire: sometimes your modulation is fine, sometimes it’s gone almost completely. To make sure it really wasn’t a problem with the microphone, I replaced it by another microphone which belongs to my Anytone 70MHz transceiver. The problem didn’t go away. Contrary to other reports there seems to be no relation to the input level – it doesn’t matter whether I whisper or yell. When it works, TX audio quality is great though.

The problem doesn’t impact the cross-band repeater system (which, BTW, works well.)

Power output
The Anytone AT-588UV offers four power output levels: Low, Mid2, Mid1, and High. Measurements done at 145 MHz and 435 MHz respectively are as follows:

145 MHz
Low: 4.8 Watts
Mid2: 9.2 Watts
Mid1: 29 Watts
High:  52 Watts

435 MHz
Low: 2.1 Watts
Mid2: 5.4 Watts
Mid1: 15 Watts
High: 35 Watts

Frequency range TX:
136-174MHz
400-490MHz

Harmonic suppression
Whenever you look at harmonic suppression, VHF seems to be harder to control than UHF. There is some room for improvement on VHF, but overall the Anytone does a good job.

VHF, second harmonic, 53dBm down. Room for improvement.

VHF, third harmonic, 64dBm down. Excellent.

UHF, second harmonic, 58dBm down. Good.

Conclusion
The Anytone AT-588UV is far from perfect. The rig is plagued by design flaws which all have to be sorted out by the manufacturer if they want to have any chance of impressing the ham radio world.

If I may be blunt: many flaws are impossible to live with. If I transmit, I want to be heard. If I listen, I don’t want to be annoyed by noise, distortion and high pitched tones. If this annoys a 57 years old guy who even can’t hear the complete audio spectrum anymore, I wonder how younger operators would think about this.

Then there’s build quality, which is only average. I’ve spotted coils which weren’t soldered properly, causing one end of the coil to hang one micron above PCB ground. There are PCB connectors which aren’t aligned neatly. The external speaker output is unreliable. You can’t get away with this, not even when it’s compensated by a rock bottom price.

Bottom line: good ideas, poor execution. I’m sure the manufacturer can fix the rig, but it will take time. If I would like to own a Chinese mobile radio, I’d rather put my money in an improved version of the Wouxun KG-UV920R.