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Author Topic:   VHF Radio Help
johnk posted 05-01-2001 10:56 PM ET (US)   Profile for johnk   Send Email to johnk  
I recall seeing a few top-line VHF radios that also had an FM band. I'm a bit cramped for space in the electronics box, and don't need a megawatt FM radio, just something to listen to occasionally. Anyone know who makes a quality combo unit. I've seen a unit by ICOM advertized in a few catalogs as having FM, but the same exact radio in other catalogs makes no mention of it, nor does their web site....

as always, thanks

jimh posted 05-01-2001 11:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
All VHF Marine Radios are FM.

Are you talking about the FM-Broadcast band at 88-108 MHz?

I don't think I've ever noticed a VHF Marine radio that has the FM-Broadcast band, too.
There really are such radios?

Tsuriki BW posted 05-01-2001 11:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
I started with ICOM in Japan back in '72 when all they made were crystal controlled amateur radios. Was involved in the development with the original M25. There was no thought then or since, as far as I know, to include an FM standard radio broadcast receiver in their marine radios. I think the same is true for other makers. (can always be wrong since I have been out of the radio business for a while).


johnk posted 05-01-2001 11:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for johnk  Send Email to johnk     
I'm looking in the new BoatUS catalog and Standard Horizon makes the Spectrum VHF/FM Marine Radio/Hailer. I ...assumed... that it was both VHF as well as received standard FM broadcasts (ie: music). Am I wrong? Wouldn't be the first time.


Tom W Clark posted 05-01-2001 11:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
John, I think you're mistaken but I really love the idea. Why couldn't a radio manufacturer make a marine VHF that also had the ability to tune FM commercial radio? I'd much rather listen to Terry Gross on NPR than a couple of yahoos bragging about the fish they just caught.
Tsuriki BW posted 05-02-2001 12:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
Since the frequency band of Marine and standard FM is different, the Mfg would probable have to incorporate 2 receiver sections in the radio. FCC testing would have different standards. Marine speakers are not Bose(sp) quality.

Maybe like the Cadilac that tried to run a V8 on 6 then 4 cy to satisfy users wants for economy. NOT!

Standard AM/FM radios (and speakers) are not that expensive. I would rather have a Marine radio that was specifically built to possibly save my life, rather than getting the latest tunes.


johnk posted 05-02-2001 12:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for johnk  Send Email to johnk     
Thanks to all that have responded so far.

Thanks Tsuriki.

While I won't speak for everyone, there are times on the water that I would like to hear a few tunes. I certainly appreciate the value of a quality VHF, but am a bit cramped for space and was hopefull that in this day and age someone could incorporate a good VHF and FM band into a single space efficient unit. Again, I'm not looking for something that has CD/tape capability, just FM. And yes, BOSE does manufacture speakers designed specifically for marine use....


jimh posted 05-02-2001 12:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
One problem with a dual band radio (VHF-Marine and FM-Broadcast) is the big difference in modulation standards used.

In VHF-Marine the modulation is 5F3, that is 5 KHz deviation frequency modulation telephony, while FM-Broadcast is 75F3, 75 KHz deviation frequency modulation telephony.

The two bands require quite different demodulation equipment to recover the baseband components of their modulated signals.


Tsuriki BW posted 05-02-2001 12:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
Johnk,,Understand exactly how you feel. With only a 14.5' boat I am also cramped for space. Tunes are important. I have ended up with just a protable AM/FM radio.

Wouldn't it be nice if the GPS or Fish /Finder people incorporated an LED TV in their unit...

Progress/customer needs (prices we will pay) may come totether with technology.

In the mean time, the old transistor radio will have to do for me.


johnk posted 05-02-2001 12:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for johnk  Send Email to johnk     
JIMH, thanks, I appreciate your input. It would seem reasonable to me that someone could leverage off of the commonality between the two radios (power supply/case/face/cable interface, etc) and build something with a form factor of 1.3/1.4 even 1.5x of a standard VHF. Would sure beat mounting two units. But for now, as Tsuriki suggests, I have resigned myself to a portable radio for my listening needs, even on a 25 footer. I just hate to drag out a portable radio when I could push a button......

as always, thanks

Eric posted 05-02-2001 10:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for Eric  Send Email to Eric     
Our local paper runs an occasional profile of a recreational boat. It's usually someone's Sea Ray cruiser, with the category for "favorite accessory" being the blender. One week though, it was a 1980s trihull bowrider, and his favorite accessory was a shower radio! Remember those? For those of us with small boats, it could be the answer to the transistor radio. Small, waterproof, and meant to be heard over the sound of the shower (loud).
triblet posted 05-02-2001 11:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
You get the best idea of the month award
for passing along the shower radio.


triblet posted 05-02-2001 11:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I have a Spectrum. It does NOT pick up FM
music stations. They meant that the VHF
marine bands are FM.


Whaletosh posted 05-02-2001 03:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whaletosh    
Modern VHF Marine band radios use digital synthesized frequency clocks. This means that all a manufacture needs to do is to program the CPU to select the broadcast FM band.

The frequency deviation of the signal limits the bandwidth and the dynamic range of the audio that is modulated on the RF signal. Marine Band being for voice only, and get by with a lower deviation than Broadcast FM. That doesn't mean that a Marine VHF couldn't demodulate Broadcast FM signal; but it does mean that the fidelity may be pretty bad.

I saw short write up of a new marine electronics gadget in one of my latest boating magaizines. Sorry I can't be more specific, but I think it was a hand held VHF radio that could also receive Television using the LCD display for the picture.


Tsuriki BW posted 05-02-2001 03:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
It is not just as simple as programming the frequency. The filters would have to be retuned, if possible, to cover the FM Radio band. Other considerations also exsist, I'm sure.


Been out of the business too long..

Whaletosh posted 05-03-2001 03:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whaletosh    
Let me take another stab at making my assertions.

As most of you know FM stands for Frequency Modulation. The frequency of the transmitted transmitted RF signal is changed in a linear manner; following the source signal. The source signal could be music, voice, video, data, etc. The frequency of the RF signal, but the amplitude remains constant.

AM stands for Amplitude Modulation. This is just the opposite of FM. The amplitude of the RF signal is varied according to the source signal; but the frequency of the RF signal remains constant. Again the signal can be voice, video, music, data, etc.

Both of these systems have advantages and disadvantages. Which is why both schemes are used depending on the situation. Neither one is perfect.

Since we are discussing FM audio, lets take a closer look at an FM Audio Receiver.

Broadcast FM has the range of 88 to 108 MHz; with a deviation of +/- 75 KHz for a total swing of 150 KHz.

Marine FM has the range 156.050 to 157.425 MHz; with a deviation of +/- 5 KHz for a total frequency swing of 10 KHz.

Weather Broadcast has the range of 162.400 to 162.550; with a deviation of +/- 5 Khz for a total swing of 10 Khz.

There are 6 sections of a radio receiver:

1) The RF section which is responsible for selecting and amplifying the incoming RF signal.

2) The Oscillator section which provides the internal RF used to generate the IF signal.

3) The Mixer section which mixes the RF and the Oscillator signals together to generate the IF signal.

4) The IF section that amplifies the IF signal. Also filters out other signals as well.

5) The Detector section which demodulates the IF signal and produces the audio signal.

6) The audio section that amplifies the audio signal and drives the speaker.

One concept that must be discussed before we proceed. If we mix two RF signals together we get four signals. The two original, the sum, and the difference. The difference signal is the one that is important for our discussion.

Here are how it works:

The antenna converts the RF magnetic signal that is radiating in the air from the transmitter into an electrical signal. The RF signal goes down the antenna lead to the RF section where it is amplified. The filters in the RF section only allow the current channel to be amplified and passed on.

The Oscillator section produces a variable RF signal. The Oscillator signal is such that the difference between the RF and Oscillator is constant (it is the frequency of the IF signal). The frequency of the oscillator is changed when the user changes the channel of the VHF or the FM receiver. The oscillator frequency of marine VHF units used to be set by crystals. Modern units use ICs to accurately set the Oscillator frequency. Crystal are no longer needed. Plus the ICs are controlled by the CPU. This means that the Oscillator frequency can be changed to allow a single receiver to tune VHF, FM Broadcast, and Weather channels. The proper ICs would just need to be used.

So we have the RF signal and the Oscillator signal. The RF signal is FM modulated at the source. The Oscillator signal is fabricated within the receiver; it is varied so that the difference between it and the RF base signal is constant. If we want the difference signal to be say 10 MHz then the Oscillator frequency will be a 10 MHz above or below the RF signal. The frequency of the Oscillator signal is varied when the user changes the channel, so as to keep the difference to 10 MHz. The key to remember is the Oscillator signal is generated in the receiver, is unmodulated, and is only changed when the channel is changed.

The RF signal and the Oscillator signal are mixed in Mixer section. This gives us four signals. The two original, the sum, and the difference. The sum and difference signals are FM modulated because the RF signal is.

These signals are fed to the IF section; the Oscillator, RF, and sum signals are summarily filtered out. This leaves the difference signal which is also called the Intermediate Frequency. This scheme is used because the difference signal is constant and much lower in frequency than the RF, Oscillator, or Sum signals. Thus we have a signal that is much easier to handle and is constant in frequency (not considering the modulation).

The IF section amplifies the IF signal (difference signal) and passes it on to the detector. The detector converts the FM modulated IF signal to an audio signal. The audio signal is passed on to the audio section which amplifies it and drives the speaker. Viola sound comes out the speaker.

So, can a VHF marine band radio receive FM broadcast? Yes. Is this a simple task for a manufacture to accomplish. That is a matter of opinion.

The two major tasks to accomplish:

1) Changing the Oscillator frequency. With modern ICs this is not all that difficult. “World-band” receivers have Oscillators that can be used over a very wide range.

2) FM Broadcast has a much higher deviation than VHF Marine or Weather bands. So the RF, Mixer, IF, and Detector sections would all need to be modified to handle the extra deviation. Otherwise the fidelity of the FM Broadcast would be terrible. In fact the sound would be so distorted that it would be unusable. Again I don’t think that this would be to difficult to accomplish. I have a Philips radio that can get Weather, TV sound, and FM broadcast. I got it for around $25. Clearly this means the possibility exists.

Greg also mentioned needing to change filters. The filters are used in the RF section to limit the incoming RF signal to the desired frequency. This is also a function of the RF section. This is so that only the RF signal of the current channel gets amplified and mixed with the Oscillator signal. Again, modern ICs have made it possible to have filters that work over a large frequency range, yet work well.

So is it possible to make a marine VHF receive Broadcast FM. Yes, definitely. Would the extra cost be justifiable to a manufacture; probably not. Even thought it would not be very much there simply aren’t enough boaters that would consider this an advantage to make it profitable. Not when one can by a small portable FM radio for $10 or less.


Tsuriki BW posted 05-03-2001 03:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     

Excellent post. Thanks.

I bet one of these days we will see a combo radio on the market and at a reasonable price.

Rember, a computer for less than $1,000..a usefull PDA, etc. etc. yea right...

For right now where can I get a shower radio?


Tsuriki BW posted 07-15-2001 02:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tsuriki BW  Send Email to Tsuriki BW     
Found a "Shower Radio" AM/FM/TV. $29.99 at "Linens and Things".

Direct web site of the distributor is:

News, tunes, Mariner's games....


hardensheetmetal posted 07-15-2001 11:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for hardensheetmetal  Send Email to hardensheetmetal     
I bought a nice Sony digital shower radio for my wife last Christmas, it hangs in our shower, unused, I think I know just the place for it...


Hank posted 07-15-2001 11:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hank  Send Email to Hank     
I wonder if the answer is simply that the purpose of the marine radiotelephony system is to provide " monitored distress and safety frequencies and to provide other navigation and recreational communications." If you have a VHF unit turned on, you should be monitoring the distress channel not listening to radio entertainment. I think that the Federal government would object to incorporating entertainment channels in the marine radiotelephone system. The FCC would
would probably "not accept equipment which operated at frequencies outside of the marine channels". I'm getting this from the text book used in my Coast Guard Auxiliary boating course. I don't think it's a technological problem to build a combination unit, it's against Federal regulations, and properly so.
jimh posted 07-16-2001 07:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Good point, Hank!

In the U.S., VHF Marine Band radios must be type-accepted by the FCC. This means the manufacturer has to submit a sample radio for test and inspection prior to getting approval.


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