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  • Choosing the right size power supply for your radio

    Power SuppliesMobile two way radios are built to install and operate in automobiles, pickups, commercial trucks, off-road or recreational vehicles and, for some models, even motorcycles. The power, advanced features and versatility of the typical mobile radio allows it to be easily converted into a base station. It can be placed on a table or desk without a mount or hardware, connected to a proper antenna, powered on, and it's ready to go on the air.

    Of course, there is a little matter of power. A mobile radio is specifically designed to operate on DC power from a vehicle. It has no internal power transformer or inverter of its own, so it isn't made to plug into the AC wall outlet of a home or office building. In that case, how do you power a mobile radio for use as a base station? That's easy. Get a power supply.

    We carry a selection of popular mobile two way radios for business, amateur, personal and marine use at Buy Two Way Radios. We also carry a full line of reliable AC to DC power supplies from several major, name brand manufacturers. But this isn't a cut and dry, one-size-fits-all sort of thing. Mobile radios have different power requirements, and power supplies have different power ratings. Choose the correct power supply for your radio, and you may have years of clean power with no noisy interference and uninterrupted service. Choose the wrong one, and your radio may not be able to transmit or even stay on from the start.

    So, how do you choose the right power supply for your radio?

    First, you will need to determine how much power your radio requires. A radio that is always on, but only listening, will use a minimum of power while idling in receive mode. However, the moment the Push-To-Talk (PTT) is pressed, the power needed to transmit will spike considerably. How much? That depends on several factors, not the least of which is the transmit power level set or programmed into the radio for a particular band or frequency.

    Second, you will need to consider how the power supply will be used. Will it power only one radio, or multiple transceivers at once? Will the radio sit next to or on top of the power supply, or will it be set somewhere else on the desk or bench a short distance away?

    Last but certainly not least, you will need to figure out what type of power supply will work best within your budget.

    Where do we begin? For starters, let's discuss how much power you will need for safe and stable operation. For this, you will need the operating specs of your radio. Since mobile radios are designed for use in a vehicle, they will typically need Direct Current (DC) between 12VDC and 13.8VDC operate. The wattage is also important, as it will fluctuate greatly depending on what state of operation the radio is in, i.e. whether it's receiving or transmitting a signal. This means the number of Amps it pulls while in each state of operation will also vary greatly.

    And yes, there is a formula to calculate how much power you will need for your particular radio.

    E= Voltage or Volts (V)
    I= Current or Amps (A)
    P= Power or Watts (W)

    For example, let's calculate the amp draw of a 15W mobile radio on 12 volts. 15W / 12V = 1.25A. Simple, right? Well, not exactly. There are other variables to consider. For instance, there is an initial power surge or spike when the radio is first turned on, and again each time the PTT button is pressed to transmit. That surge will vary each time, and the power supply will need to be able to handle those momentary spikes in power draw.

    There is variance in how many peak amps a radio will consume, and there is variance in how many actual continuous amps a power supply can handle. Plus, you have to factor in the heat produced and average load a power supply is under. Considering all these variables, there is not an exact formula for figuring this out. A better, safer amp rating to use is the maximum current consumption or amp draw listed in the manufacturer's specifications or in the owner's manual for the radio.

    To the average layperson, all this sounds overly complicated. So to simplify the process, here are some general guidelines for choosing the right size power supply for your radio.

    • Use the manufacturer's amp rating of the radio as the rule.
    • Use the maximum, or peak load rating of the radio, not the standby or typical draw.
    • If connecting multiple radios, add up the total amps of all the radios during peak load combined.
    • Choose a power supply based on the continuous rating, NOT the maximum or surge rating
    • Choose a power supply with a maximum continuous amps rating considerably greater than the maximum amp draw of the radio
    • Consider the difference between a linear (regulated) and switching power supply
    • Choose a power supply with a built-in cooling fan
    • Stick with a power supply from a reliable, brand name manufacturer
    • Consider the warranty, as power supplies do have a life span
    • DO NOT buy a power supply based solely on price

    For example, let's say you have a 50 watt radio and the maximum draw is listed at 10 amps. Buying a power supply advertised with a peak load of 10 amps might still be a bad move. First, power supplies have two amp ratings: continuous and maximum. The continuous rating is usually the number that you want to look for. Also consider the load. If a power supply is under a constant load that is close to its maximum, you'll generate more heat, and that can shorten the life of the unit. For that reason, it's a best practice to buy one with a built-in cooling fan.

    Choosing a power supply isn't really that complicated, although at the outset it can seem that way. Simply put, to convert your mobile two way radio into a base station, we recommend that you buy a higher amp power supply than is absolutely needed. When it comes to power, you can't over buy. If in doubt, go bigger. At the end of the day, you'll be glad you did.

  • Vertex Standard Announces New Audio Accessories

    Vertex Standard just announced that it is expanding their line of audio accessory products for their business two way radios in 2015. These new accessories will be digital capable and compatible with their entry and mid-tier radios. At least one product will also be SGS approved to be intrinsically safe.

    The new portfolio of Vertex Standard accessories include the following:

    VH-150A Behind the Head VOX Headset - this headset is SGS approved with an Intrinsically Safe rating for Vertex Standard IS radios. MSRP $70.00.
    VH-150B Over the Head VOX Headset - this headset is also SGS approved with an Intrinsically Safe rating for Vertex Standard IS radios. MSRP $80.00
    MH-100 3.5mm Earpiece MSRP $19.00
    MH-101A4B - This is a 1 wire surveillance kit. MSRP $40.00
    MH-102A4B - Similar to the MH-101A4B, this is a 2 wire surveillance kit. MSRP $55.00
    MH-103A4B - This 3 wire surveillance kit will be available in Q2 2015. MSRP $70.00
    MH-104A4B - A heavy duty OTH (Over The Head) headset due for release Q2 2015. MSRP $400.00
    MH-105A4B - This heavy duty BTH (Behind The Head) headset will be available Q2 2015. MSRP $400.00
    MH-37A4B-1 - An earpiece microphone available now. MSRP $40.00

    All of the new accessories listed above work with the Vertex Standard VX-231, VX-350, VX-261/264, VX-450 and EXV-530 series radios.

  • The new XLT CS200G Universal Two Way Radio Carrying Case is here!

    carrying case_03.jpgA portable handheld two way radio needs a portable radio carrying case, and they are not always easy to find. Radios come in varying shapes and sizes and not all of them have a case designed for every specific make or model. A case that is universally compatible with most, or even all of them is not very common, and a good one that can handle the rigors of everyday use is a tall order indeed. That is, it was, until now.

    The XLT CS200G is here!

    The XLT CS200G Universal Two Way Radio Carrying Case is designed for compatibility with many different brands and models of portable handheld radios. Based on the popular XLT CS100G, it improves on the original with a better design, higher quality materials, and solid construction for a heavier duty look and feel that will allow you to carry your walkie talkie more securely with confidence.

    carrying case_05.jpgThe CS200G is made of Cordura® fabric coated with DuPont™ Teflon® to repel oil and water. Liquids such as water will bead instead of soak the material to protect the radio and make the case easier to keep clean.

    The belt loop is large and can accommodate rather wide or thick belts. It loops around the belt and secures with a combination of hook-and-loop fasteners and two large metal snaps. The belt loop assemblies on some cases are often riveted or glued to the product. This isn't the case with the CS200G. The loop is stitched onto the case, giving it a more durable, heavy duty construction to reduce the risk of tearing or separation when handling heavier radios.

    Once seated in the case, the radio is secured in place with a heavy duty elastic cord the stretches over the radio and locks into the large clip on the front. The cord keeps the radio seated tightly in the case while it leaves the top and upper end of the radio open for the antenna and easy access to knobs, buttons and audio accessory ports.

    The CS200G also includes a three point harness that clips to rings on the bottom sides and top of case. The harness is adjustable and the clips allow for easy removal of the harness from the case.

    We haven't yet tested the CS200G with every radio we sell, but it does seem to fit with most consumer FRS/GMRS walkie talkies such as Cobra, Garmin, Midland, Motorola, Olympia and Uniden, as well as all of our Baofeng and Wouxun amateur handheld transceivers and a lot of our business radios, including popular Blackbox, Icom, Kenwood, Motorola, Olympia and Vertex models. It also works with some handheld marine radios. We even tried it with one of our Uniden handheld scanners and it fit right in the case, nice and snug.

    We're still checking it out ourselves, but so far the XLT CS200G has proven itself to be quite the universal case, indeed. With improved design, quality and construction over its predecessor, the CS200G is sure to become the case of choice for many two way radio operators.

  • Can I charge alkaline batteries in a two way radio or charger?

    The ability to accommodate multiple power options is a great feature to have in any device, and a two way radio with this attribute is an especially versatile transceiver. In addition to a rechargeable battery pack, such radios can operate from other power sources as well, such as 12v DC vehicle power adapters and, of course, regular AA or AAA alkaline batteries. It is rather common for some models of handheld radios to allow the use of both rechargeable batteries or proprietary battery packs and AA or AAA disposable alkaline batteries, a very useful and highly desirable feature. However, for all of its obvious benefits, this versatility also brings a certain level of risk: the possibility, whether by ignorance or accident, of the potentially costly or even dangerous mistake of charging the wrong batteries in the radio.

    Customers often ask us about battery compatibility with their radios, and most are the type of queries one would expect. Recently we received a question about the use of alkaline batteries in two way radios as a substitution for the supplied rechargeable cells that was a little different. While it is a very basic question, it's a very important one, with an answer everyone should know before they ever attempt to recharge their radio.

    If my two way radio accepts AA or AAA batteries, can I charge them when I plug the radio in to the charger?

    If they are alkaline or zinc-carbon batteries, the answer is no. These are disposable batteries and cannot be recharged. If they are rechargeable batteries, it depends. Some radios are designed specifically for AA or AAA rechargeable batteries and usually include a set of two, three, or four of these cells in the package with each radio. If so, only those rechargeable cells provided with the radio by the manufacturer are specifically intended to be charged while inside the radio itself. If the rechargeable batteries are not supplied by the radio manufacturer or are purchased separately from a third party battery manufacturer, they should only be charged outside the radio and only in a charger specifically made for those batteries.

    One might think this is just common sense, but it can be an easy mistake to make, especially with radios that support multiple battery types and charging options. Let's say you have a set of Motorola Talkabout radios with a battery pack inside each one that is charged when the radios are inserted into a desktop drop-in charger or plugged into a USB charger adapter. The radios also accept AA or AAA disposable alkaline batteries. Suppose you take your radios on a camping trip for the weekend. The camp has no electricity to recharge the batteries, but fortunately you carry along some disposables as a backup. During the trip, one of the radios drains its battery pack, so you naturally swap it for the alkalines. After returning home, you set the radios aside for a couple of months until you need them again and it's time to charge them for your next excursion.

    But, you forgot one of them has the alkalines, and which one? If you don't check first, you may get a nasty reminder after the fact, one that could pose a serious hazard to your radios, or, more importantly, to you.

    Think it can't happen? It certainly can. It isn't always due to operator error, either. Even the manufacturers themselves can make a mistake. The most recent example of this was related to the Midland GXT2000 and GXT2050 radios. These radios, which were intended to operate on either Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) battery packs or disposable alkalines, had chronic power issues, prompting Midland to change the power options of the series.

    Mistakes can happen, but they can usually be minimized or even prevented with a little care and common sense.

    To minimize the chance of an error or accident, follow these best practices when using batteries and charging battery packs for your radios:

    - Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable. NEVER attempt to charge alkalines either in or outside a radio.

    - Although you can use rechargeable batteries manufactured by a third party instead of alkalines to power the radio, you should never attempt to recharge them in the radio. ONLY charge rechargeable batteries in the charger they came with.

    - Never attempt to recharge one type of rechargeable battery in a charger intended for different type. For instance, do not charge Nickel Metal Hydride (NiCd) batteries in a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery charger or vice-versa.

    - You should ONLY use the radio charger to charge the radio with the rechargeable batteries or battery pack that came with the radio or a replacement rechargeable battery pack specifically approved to replace the original battery pack for that make and model radio.

    - Using the radio charger for any other type of radio, battery or battery pack than the one it is intended for can be very dangerous for you and/or your radio and is NOT recommended.

    - Always check the type and condition of the batteries in your radios before you charge them, especially if they have not been used for extended periods.

  • T-Reign ProHolster Case video

    This video produced by T-Reign demonstrates how the T-Reign ProHolster Case with Retractable Tether, can help you keep your two way radio safely by your side and securely in your hand when you need it. The ProHolster is available to purchase online from Buy Two Way Radios.

  • FTDI driver update bricks cloned programming cables

    There are a lot of USB programming cables on the market, many of which are purportedly made with a chip manufactured by either Prolific or FTDI. Some cables use genuine silicon chips from one of these two companies, but many others, particularly the more inexpensive programming cables, may contain a cloned or counterfeit chip.

    Recently, FTDI took measures to combat the counterfeit cable issue with the release of a driver update that soft bricks USB cables with cloned chips. Distributed silently through Microsoft Windows Update, the driver update essentially changed the PID of the chip to render it completely inoperable, thus effectively making the cable useless on any computer system. The update caused an immediate uproar among consumers who suddenly discovered that their hardware no longer functioned.

    Counterfeit hardware is a serious problem on a global scale, so it is understandable for a manufacturer to do what it can to protect its products from such unauthorized duplication. However, FTDI didn't simply issue a driver update that would only ignore the clone cable while recognizing a legitimate one; it attempted to destroy the allegedly cloned hardware itself. The results were immediate and unpleasant for all involved: the update created a lot of suddenly useless devices and a lot of serious backlash from the owners of the affected hardware, many of whom were completely unaware that the products they purchased were not genuine.

    At Buy Two Way Radios, we understand the importance of "keeping it real" for our customers. We do our best to stock only genuine OEM products from name brand manufacturers and deal directly with them whenever possible to ensure authenticity of product and quality control. However, we are a dealer and do not manufacture the product ourselves, so as hard as we try, there is only so much we can do. If the manufacturer is using a counterfeit component within their branded product otherwise marked as genuine, it may be difficult to ascertain. When a situation occurs such as the notorious FTDI driver update, sometimes the only way to find out is to test its authenticity first hand.

    So we did.

    We tested it on the FTDI programming cable from XLT.

    The XLT Painless Programming Cable is very popular among users of handheld two way radios, and with good reason. It's easy to install and easy to use for a painless programming experience. It also uses an FTDI chip. But is it genuine?

    To be sure, we intentionally installed the infamous version of the FTDI driver that performs the soft brick on fake chips and then tested it with the XLT Painless Programming Cable. We tested it with the update in Windows 7 and Windows 8, putting the cable through its paces. Each time, Windows quickly recognized the FTDI chip as genuine and the XLT cable worked flawlessly.

    Since its covert release, the FTDI driver update has received quite a lashing from angry consumers and a lot of unwanted attention from the press. In response, FTDI pulled the driver update, replaced it with the previous driver that was not hostile to clones and said it would work on other alternatives to fighting counterfeit hardware that are not as intrusive as the last one.

    In the meantime, Buy Two Way Radios will continue to provide our customers with quality products at great prices, deliver great service and do our best to keep it real.

  • New Motorola Talkabout Hearing Protection Headsets

    Motorola recently launched a new line of headsets for its Talkabout two way radios that are sure to raise a few eyebrows. These aren't your typical run-of-the-mill earbuds or D-ring style earpieces. These are actual over-the-ear, muff-type headsets. Yet this still isn't your standard audio earmuff. This is something completely different, especially for FRS/GMRS radio headgear.

    These are noise protection headsets.

    That's right. Motorola now offers high-end sound isolation earmuffs designed specifically for its consumer two way radios.

    There are accessories for ear protection when it comes to business radios, and there are a multitude of options available, but its rare to find such accessories in the FRS/GMRS arena. The introduction of such a product in the consumer market is quite a leap for the Motorola brand, or any brand for that matter. Yet, it does make sense.

    There is no doubt that ear protection is important when using any audio device, and two way radio users can sometimes find themselves at risk, especially when operating their transceivers in high noise environments. Activities such as hunting introduce sudden, harmfully loud bursts of noise from gunshots. Yard work such as lawn mowing, tree trimming and leaf blowing expose users to extended periods of potentially harmful, high-decible noise and can hinder communications. Throwing a noise reducing headset into the mix can decrease the risk of long-term hearing loss and improve communication at the same time, so producing such a product for a consumer grade radio and making it available at a reasonable cost is a very good idea.

    Apparently Motorola agrees, because it created the Talkabout Hearing Protection Headsets. There are currently three models designed to meet individual budgets and needs, and all three will be available from Buy Two Way Radios.

    Thumbnail image for MHP61_Angle.jpgMHP61
    The Motorola MHP61 Talkabout® Isolation Earmuff provides passive hearing protection against loud noises over 85dB and has a 21dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). Although primarily designed for two way radio communications, the MHP61 is also a bona fide stereo headset with high quality speakers that deliver a decently full sound and are quite acceptable for listening to music. It features a low profile cup design to help prevent it from hitting the stock when shooting with rifle. It also has soft ear seals to keep the noise out and an adjustable compression style headband that offers comfort for extended wear. The seals and headband are all replaceable and can be swapped quite easily.

    The MHP61 is packed with a cable with an inline PTT microphone and button designed to connect with Motorola Talkabout FRS/GMRS two way radios. It also includes a second cable with a standard 3.5mm connector for use with other audio devices. The MHP61 is also lightweight. As a passive audio accessory, it does not require batteries, so you can just plug it in and go. The MHP61 is now available. MSRP $49.99.

    The Motorola MHP71 Talkabout® Electronic Earmuff is the next step up in the series. Like its entry level cousin, the MHP71 protects against loud noises over 85dB and has a 21dB Noise Reduction Rating. Unlike the MHP61, however, this model isn't passive. It is an active electronic device, utilizing an audio clipping technology to filter out the noise while it amplifies low-level sounds up to 4 times with up to 20 dB gain, so you can hear what you want while you block out what you don't.

    The MHP71 also adds a volume control knob on each ear cup that allows you to control left and right cups independently to compensate for your individual hearing profile. It also has a connector jack on each cup for greater reliability when using external audio devices.

    Technical differences aside, the MHP71 has the same basic physical attributes of the lower-end MHP61, namely the low profile cups, soft ear seals and adjustable compression headband.
    There is one other difference between the two models, and it is a significant one. As an electronic noise-protection accessory, the Motorola MHP71 requires batteries. These are "N" cells, and they aren't included with the product, but they are readily available separately and can be ordered from Buy Two Way Radios. The MHP71 is due for launch December 2013. MSRP $69.99.

    The Motorola MHP81 Talkabout® Electronic Earmuff is the top of the line among the three headsets in the series. This is a comfortable headset with the same low profile cups, soft ear seals and light adjustable compression headband as the other two models. As with the MHP71, the MHP81 has the independent volume controls, external inputs and electronically protects against loud impulse noises while it amplifies low audio up to 4 times with up to 20 dB gain. However, while the MHP71 utilizes noise clipping technology, the MHP81 uses noise compression. The MHP81 offers low harmonic distortion, a step up from the MHP71.

    The Motorola MHP81 requires 4 "N" cell batteries (not included) which provide up to 335 hours of battery life. Two batteries hide away in each cup and are easily accessible. This model comes with a carrying bag for easy transport and storage. The MHP81 is now available. MSRP $119.99.

    Clipping and Compression
    The MHP71 and MHP81 both suppress loud noise, but they do it in different ways, and the difference can be quite noticeable. The MHP71 uses clipping and the MHP81 uses compression. Clipping the audio cuts a sudden loud noise, such as a gunshot, at a specified threshold. This clipping may cause a level of distortion that varies depending on the loudness of the noise. Compression lowers the volume of loud noises while raising the volume of low sounds, in effect allowing normal conversation to be heard while minimizing or supressing a sudden loud noise. Compression is a cleaner and preferred method of noise supression.

    The MHP61 is available in black. The MHP71 and MHP81 are available in hunter green with black overmold. Although designed for Motorola Talkabout two way radios, all three of these headsets can also be used for cell phones, mp3 players and other audio devices so you can listen to high quality audio while you filter out loud or harmful external noise.

    This video from Motorola shows how the MHP81 looks and works to deliver optimal sound while it supresses harmful noise.

  • The advantages of earloops

    EL-100-earloop.jpgFor discreet communications using two way radios, a surveillance earpiece is the way to go. With its small, footprint, light weight and transparent tubing, a surveillance earpiece with a traditional mushroom tip can be worn stealthily inside the ear, drawing little to no attention to the casual observer. It's a popular accessory for security professionals, hunters or anyone else who needs an earpiece that is easy to hear and is very discreet.

    For the most part, a surveillance earpiece is a great choice for stealth or low profile applications. However, there are a few drawbacks. The mushroom tip sits down inside the ear canal, blocking the ability to hear ambient sound. Once the mushroom tip has been used in the ear, for hygenic reasons it should be replaced before the earpiece is worn by another user. In addition, some users complain that the mushroom tip can start to be uncomfortable when worn for a long period of time.

    Fortunately, there is an alternative to the mushroom tip. It's called an earloop. Like the mushroom tip, the earloop fits inside the ear and is somewhat inconspicuous. It is also removable and replaceable to maintain hygenics. The difference is comfort and audio. Earloops will provide a more comfortable fit, while at the same time offering better sound quality. The earloop is designed to give you the fit of an earpiece similar to what a musician or newscaster would wear.

    Earloops come in 3 different sizes; small, medium and large and are packaged in pairs, providing one earloop for the left and one for the right ear. They are formed to fit inside the outer ear, so it is important to choose the correct size for the best fit.

    If you need a surveillance earpiece for your radio but find the mushroom tip awkward or uncomfortable during extended wear, give earloops a try. It's an easy and inexpensive alternative to swapping out an entire earpiece and may just be the way to go.

    For instructions on how to wear earloops, watch this Radio 101 video tutorial.

  • Wouxun SPS30 III Power Supply unboxing

    Want to turn that mobile business or amateur two way radio into a base station? You need the Wouxun SPS 30 III Switching Power Supply.

    In this video, Danny Feemster unboxes this powerful, yet amazingly affordable switching power supply now available from Buy Two Way Radios and shows you how it works, so you can convert your Wouxun KG-UV920P-A Dual Band Base/Mobile Two Way Radio, Wouxun KG-UV950P Quad Band Base/Mobile Radio or any mobile radio that runs on 12V DC into a base station for your desk or your shack!

  • Radio 101 - Using alkaline batteries in two way radios

    Most consumer and business portable handheld walkie talkies come with a rechargeable battery pack. However, there may be situations in which you may need to substitute the rechargeables with regular alkaline batteries. In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony from Buy Two Way Radios will tell you how some two way radios can take AA or AAA alkaline batteries as well as the manufacturer's rechargeable battery pack and why such an option may be important to consider.

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