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Here we go again – Sainsonic AP610 APRS microphone with a twist

 

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Sainsonic was kind to ask me to review their newest APRS product.  A mic with integrated TNC, GPS and BT.   In China this device is also known as AVRT8, which has been on the market for a while but not in EU/US.  This is my short review about the mic (first thoughts) and I will update it along the way I get more experience with it and also from the feedback of you people who read this blog. So feel free to participate and ask some questions. We got an open line to Sainsonic and from my opinion they are quite helpful people. 

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Okay, back to microphone itself. Sample kit is packet with:

– mic
– prolific-chip based usb programming and charger cable

I must assume that the instruction sheet/manual booklet comes with the actual package.
 

Mic specs:

– compatible with baofeng uv5r, prob also with wouxun and kenwood handhelds with the right connector
– internal tnc based on avrt8
– internal gps
– battery for the tnc/gps (charged via usb-port on bottom)

Mic opened. Picture is from the yo27.com forum:

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To get this unit working you need to do few basic steps:
– programming via avrt8 config application which  is pretty straightforward once you get it working)
– configuring your basic data: callsign, beacon value, status etc.
– starting to use the mic either with HT only or with HT and iphone/android via BT-TNC interface
 

Ive had now one week of fun with this device and here is the pros/cons:

– application (as many Chinese based) need work to do before you get it working, for example on this case you need from two to four .dll downloaded separately before the configuration app can start working. This is something that Chinese vendors should already to do better.
– atleast on sample kit USB-port is not protected at all
– there is no indication how big is the internal battery or how long it will hold its charge
+ huge fun factor with this one, just add any* (*baofeng, wouxun) with right connector to your handheld and you have a 5W tracker for bike, hike etc!
+ price is okay
+ sainsonic support is better than the original developers 

 

I will continue to update this post along the summer, so stay tuned! 

 

 

URL and screenshots for the software:

http://www.sainsonic.com/sainsonic-ap610-bluetooth-talk-speaker-black.html

Radio 

 

Baofeng/Pofung handheld design by SainSonic what?? Review of GT3 MK II

 

2014 12 05 00 43 28

 

In 2014 SainSonic brought mk2 version of the GT3 handheld (copy from Pofung/Baofeng).  This special model is designed by SainSonic and got some nice improvements compared to other Baofeng models.

Price for this HT is around 40 to 55 euro (including shipping). As the actual UV5R cost these days around 30 euro you may not be interested to buy another chinese handheld which cost 10-25 euro more but in my opinion it is worth of the money.

Tech specs for a starter (atleast most interesting ones):

  •     RX/TX  VHF/UHF  136-174, 400-479.995 MHz
  •     Dual Memory/Frequency display, possibility to listen two separate freq/memory (not real two RX thought)
  •     Output Power 5/1W
  •     VOX
  •     128 memory channels, 50 ctss and 104 dcs
  •     1750Hz burst tone (for repeaters)
  •     FM-radio with 65 to 108MHz range. (4meter RX possibility?)
  •     Channel step 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz

on new firmware versions have atleast 2 or 3 different burst tones:

ptt + band = 2100Hz tone

ptt + a/b = 1750Hz tone (normal)

I assume this is Baofeng/Pofung way to try make firmware more compatible with their all handheld models so they dont have todo separate firmware images. This is my wild assumption, you can correct me if I am wrong.

 

plus 

+ good rx (some modification improvements done compared to UV5R) see picture below:

Screenshot 2014 12 05 00 56 18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+ overall the antenna seems to be a bit better than other OEM baofeng antennas.

+ easy to configure with chirp (donationware awesome programming app)

+ look/and feel (sturdy, dust/water proof, not sure about IP-ratings)

+ audio (both receive and sent are reported as OK, seems not to suffer about tinning voice as with other older models)

 

minus:

– firmware is different on batches, may and caused some misunderstanding ie. with burst tones. (also manual has not been updated within the firmware changes)

– charger dock is bad as always (need two hands to put it on charger)

 -mobile charger needs the charger dock

– headset which comes with the kit was as bad as with all the chinese handhelds. (well it works but cheapest possible)

 

feedback:

I aquired few units for my ham-friends around Finland and here is what I got as feedback:

– One charger was not working (opened it,  it had blown capacitor and indication led was off from the board)

– one headset was not working

I aquired few “baofeng” monophone mics which were advertised as for UV5R/GT3MK2. One worked on both units, second did not work on any.

So the connector must be a bit different than on normal units or the connector (mic/headset) has some design flaw. I actually went a bit further and compared one stock uv5r, and two gt3mk2.  uv5r and one gt3 workd with the microphone so I digged deeper with the handheld which did not work as expected.   Mic connector on the handheld was buried deeper on the “faulty” unit, prob 0.2-0.5mm difference, this caused mic part not to work at all.  This was fixed by manually turning suitable drill bit few turns on the plastic (on the radio side)  so the mic connector would go in better. Joys of finding simple fixes hi. (this fix is done by you at your own responsability) 

Connector pinout for the general mic is  from miklor.com site:

Baofeng mic pinout from miklor site

overall:

Compared to its price range and compared to uv82, uv5r etc it is very nice handheld on its price range. My favourite handheld for last 4months.

 

What could be improved:

Real squelch,  faster scanning options.

 

Where to buy:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Baofeng-Pofung-GT-3-Mark-II-USB-Cable-V-U-136-174-4-00-520MHz-Ham-2-way-Radio-/191191659271?pt=UK_Mobile_Phones_Communication_Ham_Radio_Receivers_Transceivers&hash=item2c83e93307

 

Other reviews:

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/11789 

http://radioblogi.blogspot.fi/2014/12/baofeng-pofung-sain-sonic-gt3-mkii.html in finnish(by oh6gzt)

 http://www.radioddity.com/us/baofeng-gt-3-two-way-radio-dual-band-uhf-vhf-136-174-400-480mhz-2014-latest-version.html

 

Awesome Baofeng related site:

http://www.miklor.com/

Baofeng/Pofung similar item (with different antenna)

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/BAOFENG-B-580T-A52-Dual-Band-VHF-UHF-136-174-400-520Mhz-Radio-UV-5R-Earpiece-/111299748634?pt=UK_Mobile_Phones_Communication_Ham_Radio_Receivers_Transceivers&hash=item19e9fb631a

 

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 73 de OH2FXD

Good Moooorning Chiiina! TYT UVF-9

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Testing my new blog-app and best way to start is with this cool TYT UVF-9 review :–) I have been testing various of chinese handhelds (vhf/uhf single/dual) in past few years since I got my radioamateur licence and today I am positively suprised for the TYT handheld im holding in my hands.

Handheld itself feels nice, sturdy and finished feeling. One thing what is missing is again the real SQUELCH control as in all chinese

handhelds, so it is done via software. Both receive and transmit audio seem to be very nice. Menus are logical and I was quite fast familiar with the whole setup. TYT’s antenna could be a bit better but you can always replace it with “rat-tail antenna” as nagoya-701. First thing which made me to order this radio was the nice screen and sturdy look (hey im fan of rugged-rigs and ht’s) hi. There is thought ofcourse some negative parts also to be noted: ht seems to pick up rf quite easily, so proper shielding of internal components feels a bit unfinished. I have two examples allready: driving around a car and ht picks up noise, also walking around the neighbourhood and it does the same @certain places.. actually this was inspected further on next day and radio is just so sensitive on RX!. Radio also has 2x 128memories (for both banks) and this is COOL feature among the nice screen too 🙂 I like to use my handheld for RX (scanner like) so the banks were filled up quite fast, too bad it misses AM-mode so no air traffic for me.

 

Here is tech details from http://tyt888.com manufactures site:

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Here is some pictures about the HT, and programming software (best ive met on baofeng/quansheng/tyt/wouxun):

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Cons and pros for the end:

look/feel ++++

working menu/programming software++++

 

73 de OH2FXD/TYT

 

XT60 – To Connect Or Not?

From time to time  on the fields of radio-amateurs you heard about discussions about banana connectors vs powerpole connectors and both parties tend to prove their views to be better than other. I have myself  been using banana connectors as the overprize of powerpole has been too much for me. Also as mostly being a QRP or 100W user bananas (also the eatable) were more than OK. Until now! Happily Im still among friends, and few of those are rc-hobbyists. Slowly they are brainwashing me to the RC-world and while stumbling as a rookie, there is alot of good stuff you can and should use on the HAM side too :–). XT60 connector is the one which im propably at first going to use on my field installations. Here is a short description of the connector and url to sparkfun as the image and description is from their website.

https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10474

and here is where I bought mine!

http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewitem.asp?idproduct=9572&aff=913086

Be extra caution where do you buy the connectors, some sites do sell cheap copies which are not filling the requirements. I have myself using lately http://www.hobbyking.com and price per one pair was about 0.64eur (including postal fees).

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73 de OH2FXD & keep the bands sane!
 

Im so BLUEtooth today.

Testing BLK-MD-BC04 Bluetooth Module +Demo Board

Thirtyseven (37) days ago I made an order from EBAY to an item I found rather interesting to test out. Finally today it arrived via  airmail from Hong Kong :–).  Bluetooth module set is via Bolutek and here is the specifications for the bluetooth module itself:

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Description:

The BLK-MD-BC04-B is a Bluetooth serial module for OEM manufacturers who want to implement Bluetooth functionality with their products cost effectively and also in timely manner. The BC04-B supports UART, USB, I2C, PCM, PIO interfaces for the communication with the OEM products.

The BC04-B is provided with Bluetooth v2.0 compatible firmware runs internally for SPP (Serial Port Profile) applications by default. It based on CSR BC04 External chipset with an antenna integrated and with the firmware provided by our company, it could be easily used for kinds of Bluetooth products.

The BC04-B is fully qualified with Bluetooth v.2.0+EDR specification so OEM manufacturers can save cost and time for overall OEM product certifications, which makes the BC04-B ideal solution for larger volume and cost sensitive applications.

Specifications:

Bluetooth protocol: Bluetooth Specification v2.0 + EDR

USB protocol: USB v1.0  2.0

Frequency: 2.4GHz ISM band

Modulation: GFSK (Gaussian Frequency Shift Keying)

Transmit power: ≤ 4dBm, Class 2

Sensitivity: ≤-84dBm at 0.1% BER

Rate: 2.1Mbps(Max)/160 kbps(Asynchronous);1Mbps/1Mbps(Synchronous)

security features: Authentication and encryption

Support profiles: Bluetooth serial port (master & slave)

Power Supply: +3.3 VDC 50mA

Operating temperature: -20 ~ +55 Centigrade

Dimensions: 26.9mm x 13mm x 2.2 mm

Application:

Personal Digital Assistants

POS Terminals

Data Logging Systems

Audio Gateway applications

GPS receiver

Industrial control

MCU projects

Bluetooth module is hooked up to serial (RS232) demo-board which is very useful on many forthcoming applications I have in my mind. With the demo-board you can either choose the Master/Slave/Off modes and programming the interface itself with AT-commands is easy via RS232 interface.

It took some time to go through different types of serial programming applications to get AT-commands running as they should. By default the BC04 is configured with this setup: PIN: 1234 NAME: Bolutek  SPEED: 9600  .. So if you are fine with default settings you can start hooking this tiny device on rig, firewall, anything which has a serial port actually. Just keep in mind that you need external power 5VDC for device to work. You can choose to use USB-port on device or either solder  5VDC power source as accu/battery. Here is the instructions for setup BT-module on OSX, but the principles will be the same no matter of the Operating System: First make sure the module is set to “Slave”. Then connect it via serial cable to your computer, and use your default serial terminal application to access it via following settings:  COMx (where X your COM-port), baudrate: 9600, parity: none, bits 8, stop bits 1, none for hardware flow control. Turn the module on (USB-cable plugged in for power), open your serial terminal software  and hopefully you will be able to start typing AT-commands.

Then comes the best part (AT-commandline) Start with AT: AT -> Should Respond “OK” AT+HELP

Command Description


AT Check if the command terminal work normally

AT+RESET Software reboot

AT+VERSION Get firmware, bluetooth, HCI acess code

AT+ROLE Get/Set master or slave mode

AT+STATE Get current state

AT+SENM Get/Set security and encryption mode

AT+IPSCAN Get/Set page and inquiry scan parameters

AT+SNIFF Get/Set sniff power table parameters

AT+LOWPOWER Start/Stop low power mode

AT+UARTMODE Get/Set uart stop bits and parity

AT+ENABLEIND Enable/Disable Indication print

AT+LSP List Paired Device List

AT+RESETPDL Reset Paired Device List

AT+REMOVEPDL Remove one entry from Paired Device List

AT+SUPERVISION Get/Set supervision timeout

(M)AT+AUTOINQ Start/Stop auto inquiry

(M)AT+AUTOCONN Start/Stop auto connection

(M)AT+INQM Get/Set inquiry parameters

(M)AT+INQ Start inquiry

(M)AT+INQC Cancel ongoing inquiry

(M)AT+CONNECT Connect to a remote device by BD address


Note: (M) = The command support master mode only, other commands

support both master and slave mode.

For more information, please visit http://www.bolutek.cn

Copyright@2011 http://www.bolutek.cn. All rights reserved.

AT+VERSION

+BOLUTEK Firmware V2.42, Bluetooth V2.0, HCI V2.1, HCI Rev37, LMP V4, LMP SubV37

AT+NAMEOH2FXD

OH2FXD

OK

AT+PIN2505

2505

OK

AT+BAUD8

–> change to 115200 on terminal app & test once more (close and reopen)

AT+VERSION

+BOLUTEK Firmware V2.42, Bluetooth V2.0, HCI V2.1, HCI Rev37, LMP V4, LMP SubV37

Then poweroff  the module and plug it back into your favourite serial port accessible machine 🙂

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73 de OH2FXD, Mikko 

Thoughts about Yaesu FT-1900 Mobile Rig

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Yaesu FT-1900

Yaesu’s tiny 2 meter mobile rig comes with many features including:

  • 200 Memories (6 Char limit) + 8 Memory Banks
  • Max 55 Watts Output
  • APO/ARS/BCL
  • DTMF
  • CTCSS/DCS
  • CW Trainer

and many more..

RX/TX coverage is from 136 to 174Mhz and seems to have quite nice RX sensitivity. Radio requires 13.8 VDC when running at full steam (11A). Supplied microphone is Yaesu’s MH-48 with backlit +DMTF capable keyboard.  For my setup I added the Yaesu MLS-100 external speaker for extra kick, more information about it later.  So after the boring stuff lets face some facts and my views about the rig, its usability and configurations.

Dimensions for the rig: 5.6 x 1.6 x 5.8 inches. So suprisingly small for a 55W rig 🙂 Easy to fit even for newer cars. Sadly front panel wont come off so cant hide the rest of the radio under the seat.  Radio should draw max 11 amps so even use of cigarette lighter socket is possible. I was planning to use rig with 25 Watts only.. so no worries about blown fuses.  Radio has normal SO239 connector in the back. For antennas I chose to  use Nagoya mobile sticks with car and Diamond SG-7900 at home.

I got fast fond with the “rugged” look of the FT-1900 and the mic felt very nice in hand. Was also positively suprised that the mic connector was on front panel and not at the side.. makes installing it much easier.  And even the internal speaker sound is OK and can wake up your wife middle of the night if you don’t appreciate your life and keep it quiet. Buttons on the radio can feel a bit tight at start (at least the squelch) but I am sure in time they will feel much better. Screen is very easy to read and can be dimmed to suit your eyes for night driving.

Programming the rig is easy task after you get the basics. Of course you can be lazy and fiddle with your computer and proper programming cable. I chose not to and wasted a few hours with manual trying to get all usage out from the tiny box 🙂  Memory Bank-settings are nice and this is what I did:

Home Button: 145.500 (2m CQ freq)

Then I first programmed all  simplex, radio-amateur repeaters and others in to the FT-1900 memory. After that I also used different banks  for different stuff:

  1. Bank: repeaters
  2. Bank: simplex
  3. Bank: others (for RX fun)

Use of memory banks will give you good advantage when you want to scan only just repeaters etc.. And of course you can scan the whole memory range too!

TIP:  Use SmartSearch! Get to know it well.. very nice feature when traveling in a new place and you don’t know where all the local gangs hide.

I’ll keep it short with the Yaesu MLS-100, think my seek for the ultimate mobile speaker has just ended hi 🙂 I am mostly using speaker with my 2m rig’s or with  the 10m mobile radio.  I have not tested it so much on SSB but for FM its a nice performer at least.

Few links:

More talk about FT-1900 – http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/8282                                    

More talk about MLS-100 http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/3097

MANUAL http://www.yaesu.com/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=4933&FileCatID=150&FileName=FT%2D1900R%5FOM%5FEH023N110.pdf&FileContentType=application%2Fpdf

Keep the bands safe!

73 de OH2FXD

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