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Author Topic:   VHF radio is not loud enough
Highwater posted 12-21-2001 11:55 PM ET (US)   Profile for Highwater  
I'd like to buy a dash-mounted, waterproof VHF radio. My current handheld Shakespeare radio is is not loud enough and I cannot attach an external speaker to it. Does anyone have a favorite brand or model that they would recommend?
LarrySherman posted 12-22-2001 12:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for LarrySherman  Send Email to LarrySherman     
I have the Standard Horizon Intrepid LE+. It has been great so far. About $160.00 at a marine discount shop.
Peter posted 12-22-2001 08:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
I've had pretty good luck with Standard's products. I had a Standard Horizon Nova+ (not made anymore) on my 18 Outrage which had a speaker function in the microphone that was useful for using the radio while underway. My radio was surface mounted in the space below the steering wheel and above the hatch in the console and so it was virtually impossible to carry on a conversation without the microphone speaker while underway.

ICOM also makes good VHF radios. ICOM and Standard were both rated favorably by Powerboat Reports.

Larry - Does the Intrepid LE+ have a speaker function in the microphone?

White Bear posted 12-22-2001 11:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for White Bear  Send Email to White Bear     
I've had Standard Horizon radios for years in various boats. When one quit last year and Standard declared it to be unrepairable due to lack of parts they offered me a new Spectrum with remote microphone for $200. You can't beat that kind of support. I would go with a new Standard and use an external speaker mounted on the console. The "wind cancelling" feature on the Standard radios seems to work very well so I would mount the radio inside the console and pull out the microphone when I wanted to use it.
jimh posted 12-22-2001 02:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Radio is a favorite topic of mine.

As it happens I have had a chance to use both the ICOM and STANDARD radios this past year.

I had the Standard SPECTRUM model, the top of the line radio. I ended up trading in for the ICOM M-402, the mid-line radio.

They both seem to transmit and receive very well. Here is what I liked and did not like about them:

ICOM
----------------
LIKE: off-white case; display shows channel's authorized use; microphone has good grip, no accidental touch on buttons; smaller size; continuous volume range.

DISLIKE: transmitted audio not as clear.


STANDARD
---------------
LIKE: good transmitted audio; many features for GPS integration for advanced chart plotter NMEA buss systems.

DISLIKE: microphone shape always caused problem with accidental hitting of channel buttons on mic (I would change channels without realizing it.); stepped volume control hard to set to lower levels.

To explain a bit more, I found that almost everytime I picked up the STANDARD's microphone I would accidently change the channel on the radio. Even after becoming aware of this I would still discover the channel had changed. I think it might have also been caused by the large weighted knob that is used to tune the receiver channels. Perhaps it was moving when the boat landed hard on a wave. (The mid-line STANDARD radio does not have this heavy knob.) In either case, I was frustrated with the channel changing all the time.

The other problem was the stepped volume control. In the mornings when cruising I like to listen to the weather broadcasts, but with this radio I could not set the volume to the proper level. The control has steps in it and it would be either too loud or too soft. It is funny because the control really is continuously adjustable, they just impose a mechanical stepper on the shaft. I could not set the radio to the proper volume.

I got the ICOM, but in a way I miss the STANDARD. I think it had better modulation on the transmitted audio. Perhaps the mid-line STANDARD in off-white would be better? But that stepped volume was a real pain, ugh!

Both radios have the DSC and GPS-position MAYDAY transmit function.

triblet posted 12-22-2001 09:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Whatever you do, get a radio that's rated
submersible, not waterproof. Waterproof
can mean as little as kinda sorta
splashproof. Submersible means 3', 30
minutes. And no need to hide it in the
console (except perhaps security).

The Standard Intrepid, Intrepid LE, and
Spectrum are submersible. So are some of
the ICOMs.

I have a Spectrum.

The ICOM that's equivalent to the Standards
will take up less space on the console.

Neither Intrepid has a speaker function in
the normal mike. The Spectrum does. The
Intrepid (not LE) and Spectrum can also take
a remote mike, but that's probably not
interesting on a whaler except maybe on a
Defiance.

Chuck

InHerNet posted 12-22-2001 10:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for InHerNet  Send Email to InHerNet     
I have the ICOM M15 handheld and it is submergible as stated above. The first thing I did when I bought it was to throw it into the pool to test it out. Worked fine except the speaker was hard to hear until I blew directly into it. I wanted to make sure it would really work if I needed it in an emergency. I would never leave shore with out it. I have a Raytheon 53 built in and sometimes I can not hear it when underway even with the volume all the way up. I turn to the handheld and hold it up to my ear. Does anyone else have the Raytheon 53 and have the same problem?
I think having both gives me the peace of mind if the batteries go out, or if I am in the water. The only thing I would like to see and maybe they make one, I do not know, would be a submergible handheld GPS. I know they make a waterproof one. If anyone knows of one I would like to hear about it. Thanks.

Don
2000 23' Outrage, Twin 135 Optimax
Englewood, Florida

Fishin is my Mission!

triblet posted 12-23-2001 12:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I had an Apelco 5200, and it wasn't too loud.
The Spectrum is louder, but could be still
louder, especially because when you turn it
all the way up, it distorts (no surprise
given the tiny speaker. The speaker mike
helps.

The 5200, btw, was only "waterproof", and
it died of "severe saltwater intrusion". Ray
replaced it on warantee, and I still have
the replacement. In the garage. Anyway,
the Apelco 5200 got a name change to
Ray 52, then they added DSC and it became
the Ray 53.

Chuck

Highwater posted 12-23-2001 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
About 20 years ago, I connected a $10 Radio Shack external speaker to a VHF radio (I don't remember the brand) and—even at WOT—I only needed to turn the volume up a little to hear everything loud and clear. Are any of you doing that today?

Unfortunately, I no longer have that radio (or that boat!) and with my handheld I can only communicate at slow speeds. I can't even hear if someone is calling me when underway.

I only have a 13' Whaler but I use it a lot and am willing to spend top dollar to outfit with the best equipment available. It sounds like the ICOM M-402 might be the radio for me if it has a sound-out port for an external speaker.

I imagine that I would want to use the ICOM with a top-of-the-line 8' Shakespeare antenae (rather than a 3') to maximize the range of my output. Are the quality and length of the antenae as significant as I assume them to be?

Thanks for the advice!

Highwater posted 12-23-2001 05:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
I mean "antenna"—I never have excelled at spelling....
triblet posted 12-23-2001 06:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
dB gain (which is more or less proportional
to length) is important to how well the
radio works. Most (all?) of the 8' antennas
are 6 dB gain. I went from a $35 8' Shake
to a $100 8' Shake Galaxy, and it maybe
sounded a touch better. Maybe. I do
recommend the Galaxy on Montauks because the
cable on the $35 version is too short to get
to the radio.

But a 3-4' 3 dB gain antenna might be good
enough for what you do, esp. with a 13 that's
probably not going offshore. Ask around with
people who boat where you do.

Note that VHF is FM, so antenna gain won't
show up as louder.

Back to the subject of speakers. I've been
thinking about an external speaker, but
couldn't figure out where to put it. Every
place I thought of was either where I
couldn't hear it, or too close to the
compass. Last night it struck me to build
a box that sits on top of the radio. I'm
going to have to give that some more thought.
It would be a good product for the VHF
makers.

Chuck

jimh posted 12-24-2001 09:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
An external speaker is a big improvement. Most of these radios can make a couple of watts of audio, and that is really quite loud when coming from an efficient communications-grade speaker.

The problem with an external speaker is its magnetic field can affect the compass quite a bit, so the usual recommendation is to mount is as far from the compass as possible.

For best results, the speaker should be mounted in such a way that the sound path is direct from speaker to listener's ear, and the sound originates from forward of listening position and at about eye level.

Sound coming from above, below, or behind is not perceived as clearly as sound coming from directly ahead. Blame that on evolution, I guess.

It is also important that the sound be heard well by both ears. When binaural hearing is used, a great deal of filtering and noise suppresion can be done by the brain, making the audio much more intelligble. It is amazing how much noise can be masked by the brain when binaural hearing is available.

An alternative to a loudspeaker is a pair of lightweight earphones.

There is also a tendency for boaters to raise their voice when transmitting from a noisey environment (like the helm console of a Whaler at wide-open-throttle), with the result that the modulation on their transmission is garbled and distorted. I try to intentionally speak in a lower or normal voice level in those situations to avoid that.

Some Standard units have noise-cancelling type microphones which improve the transmitted audio significantly when in noisy locations.

--jimh

jimh posted 12-24-2001 09:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As a demonstration of how poorly sound is localized when heard from below, you just need to observe this common situation these days: several people are standing together talking and someone's beeper (attached to their waist) goes off. The sound localization is so poor that no one can tell whose beeper made the noise, and everyone reaches down to check their pager to see if it was theirs.
Highwater posted 12-24-2001 12:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
Jim—You make a good argument for either getting two external speakers (one port and one starboard) or for using headphones. The headphones may be the way to go for me.

When I drove a Honda GoldWing motorcycle (before having children), I used a component made by J&M corporation that allowed CB radio transmissions (and radar detection beeps) to interrupt the music playing through the headphones in my helmet. Maybe I can find a similar device that would allow me to listen to iPod-driven music through headphones but have VHF transmissions override the music.

where2 posted 12-26-2001 07:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Just curious which model Shakespeare handheld VHF you've got Highwater? My SE600 (currently needs new batteries, but no longer available, shakespeare offers upgrade) has an external mic/earphone jack pair. Looking at the newer SE700, but I haven't decided if it meets my needs. Certainly an earphone jack is handy to connect external speaker(s) which I have done around the house on weekends to listen to the people fortunate enough to be able to go boating.
Highwater posted 12-27-2001 07:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
Where2—I have the SE700. I have been happy with the radio except for the lack of an earphone jack. I wonder why Shakespeare put it on the the SE600 but discontinued it on the 700?
reelescape1 posted 12-27-2001 08:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
I have a Raytheon fixed unit with 4" external speaker mounted underneath the electronics box on my 22' OR. I also carry a Ray 106 hand-held for backup and/or emergency. For those who have a hand-held check out www.e-floatsite.com
InHerNet posted 12-27-2001 07:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for InHerNet  Send Email to InHerNet     
reelescape1, that e-float is a great idea and for $10.00 I'm in. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.
Don
Highwater posted 12-27-2001 08:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
Reelescape1—Am I correct in assuming that you cannot use the handheld while it is in the floatation bag? I need a floatation device that I can clip to my handheld so that the radio will float if I drop it overboard while using it. Ideas? Thanks!
reelescape1 posted 12-27-2001 10:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
I'm not familiar with the bags but I know my Ray 106 is submersible, but floats like a rock!
triblet posted 12-28-2001 12:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Just for grins today (Linda's in Madison to
see her mom, and Neptune is having yet
another tantrum), I wired in an external speaker
to my Spectrum. It's really not any better
than the builtin speaker. I suspect the
distortion is in the transmission or in the
audio amp (likely the latter). The extension
speaker was a Bose 151 I stole off the hot
tub sound system, so it's unlikely the
distortion was the speaker. (A 151 as a VHF
extension speaker is swatting flies with
nuclear weapons.) I'm going to
play with it a bit more tomorrow. It is
perhaps a bit lounder.

I also played with the fog horn stuff, and
was surprised that if I wanted to use the fog
horn, I couldn't use the radio.


Chuck

Highwater posted 12-28-2001 08:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
Triblet—Thanks for conducting that experiment. Could it be that the Radio Shack external speaker—although much cheaper than a Bose stereo speaker—is deisgned specifically for this application, and therefore has certain components to amplify the spoken voice without increasing distortion?
Highwater posted 12-28-2001 08:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
Triblet—Thanks for conducting that experiment. Could it be that the Radio Shack external speaker—although much cheaper than a Bose stereo speaker—is deisgned specifically for this application, and therefore has certain components to amplify the spoken voice without increasing distortion?
jimh posted 12-28-2001 09:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Audio amplifiers that operate from 12-volt supplies are limited by OHM's LAW considerations in the amount of power they can develop. If you use an 8-ohm loudspeaker you can only deleiver half as much power as if you use a 4-ohm loudspeaker.

Speakers intended for Hi-Fi reproduction are often much less efficient (at converting electrical power into acoustic power) than "communication" loudspeakers. In other words, for the same amount of electrical "watts" they don't produce as much sound.

Both these factors may have affected Chuck's test of a BOSE loudspeaker. By the way, the early BOSE 901 model loudspeaker was known for its very low efficiency and depended on fairly high power amplifiers to drive it. I don't think that is the case with the 151, but it is probably not as efficient as the OEM speaker in the radio.

triblet posted 12-28-2001 12:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
The Bose 151 is a 4 ohm speaker.

Yes, probably, not as efficient as a
communications speaker.

Upon reading the manual -- you can leave the
fog horn on and still use some of the radio
modes, but not all (and not the interesting
ones).

Upon playing with it a bit more this morning:
reversing the polarity of the 501 helped --
I suspect it and the little speaker in the
radio were fighting with each other. The
501 is a bit louder than the radio speaker.

Chuck

Highwater posted 12-29-2001 08:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for Highwater    
The Radio Shack external speaker that I use to own cost less than $20 and it was several times louder than the little speaker in the VHF radio. It probably would have sounded terrible if I had cut off the 1/8th-inch mini-headphone jack and used it in conjunction with another speaker for music. But plugged into the VHF earphone port, it was outstanding.

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