Your Questions Answered – July 2018

In my latest video, I answer another batch of your questions, including: how to set the reverse function and use DTMF tones on the Retevis RT-95, how high should your VHF antenna be, and what’s a good price for a popular used HF transceiver. We’ve got a lot to cover in this episode, so let’s dig in.

I’ve had quite a few questions stem from my video review of the Retevis RT-95 dual band mobile transceiver. It can be tough to tailor a review to what people are looking for, so let’s answer these individual questions:

Hello Michael, Can you please tell me the difference between this radio and the Any Tone AT-778UV ? They both look like the same radio with a different brand. Thank You, Mark

From what I can tell in my research, the Retevis RT95 and the Anytone AT-778UV are the same radio. There may be slight changes in the firmware between the two radios, but they seem to be functionally equivalent. Many Chinese radios may look the same and operate in a quite similar fashion, but there could be slight firmware modifications between the models. So don’t assume that if a radio looks the same, it is the same under the hood.

Hi and thanks for the video. Is there a quick and easy way to be able to listen to the input of a repeater?

The Reverse function is buried down in the menus, so in itself, it’s not a very accessible feature. But you can program one of the buttons to reverse the frequency, or listen to the input of the repeater. Maybe P3, which is the Monitor button by default, could be assigned that task. The six programmable buttons on the front of the radio are all user customizable, so feel free to set it up for one touch operation with the functions you use the most.

Alright, another question: Can you transmit DTMF for repeater control? – I read something that said you couldn’t, but I can’t find a definitive answer!

I’ve seen mention of the same, so I had to try it out. It works! I was able to transmit DTMF tones with the radio, connecting and disconnecting to a node or our local IRLP enabled repeater. To transmit DTMF you depress and hold the push to talk switch and press the appropriate numbers on the microphone. You’ll hear the tones as you punch them in.

Finally, this question on the RT-95: It appears that memory names (alpha tags) can only be five characters long. Is there any way to make them six?

Not that I’m aware of, doing so would probably involve a firmware update and I would question if the radio has enough memory available to expand the tags. The alpha tags are only 5 characters, which is weird because you are unable to put in an entire 2×3 callsign. I’ll have to note, though, I had troubles with writing the alpha tags to the radio. I’d put them into the programming software, but for some reason they’d never carry over to the radio. So I just made a cheat sheet instead.

If you still have questions on the Retevis RT-95, please keep them coming and I’ll answer them as I receive them.

Moving on, I received this question: Sir, I’m looking to buy a Baofeng walkie talkie ham radio, I read it has like a mini scanner for police, EMS frequencies, I looked at the questions for the technician license, why do i have to know certain things if i’m just having walkie talkie and not a huge home base system ham radio, I do have a learning disability, I had slight problems in high school, not saying i’m stupid.

You ask an excellent question on why certain information is necessary for your ham radio license. The amateur radio license exam covers four main topics: Rules and Regulations, Operating Procedures, Basic Electronics, and Simple Amateur Radio Theory. Could this be overkill if you are just planning to use a little handheld radio on the repeater; possibly. But they are all important concepts and a foundation for your enjoyment of the amateur radio hobby. So it is all good stuff to know.

But I do empathize with your troubles in studying for the exam. Everyone has a different learning style and not all methods are the same. I don’t recommend trying to study for the test by only looking at the exam questions, as it’s an inefficient method of learning and may not impart the key concepts to you. Fortunately there are many forms of study aids available such as the books by the ARRL and Gordon West, the free video series by Dave Casler, or online resources like hamstudy.org. Many local clubs also offer free classes or study sessions. I hope you can find a method that works for your particular learning style.

Next: Dumb question but is there a certain height that I can put my 2m antenna?

Actually that’s a great question. In a nutshell, 2 meter VHF propagation is primarily line of sight, and other factors that can affect your effective range or distance are transmit power and local terrain. Usually higher is better, but you do receive diminishing returns after you get above a certain height. For example, most 2 meter antennas do quite well at about 30 feet, but if you want big improvements past that level, you will need to double the height to 60, or 120 feet, or more. Once you get above 30-50 feet, just adding another ’10 feet’ won’t make a noticeable difference. But if you have your antenna at 10 or 15 feet in the air, then a 10 or 20 foot increase will be noticeable. I’ve got this topic on my list for a future video, so later one I’ll dig deeper into it.

Finally, this question: What would be a good price for a used Icom IC-718?

I’ve seen the Icom IC-718 go for around $400 – $450 at local hamfests. If wouldn’t pay more than $400 if the rig does not have the DSP board installed. Currently on eBay, they are selling for $350 – $450. This model seems to really hold its value, (I purchased mine new back in 2002 for around $450). Depending on condition, I think $400 would be a good price.

That’s it for this time, but I’ve got more videos in the works, including a review of a new handheld DMR transceiver by Retevis, you’ll not want to miss that one.