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Author Topic:   VHF Marine Radio and Antenna Recommendation
David1877 posted 01-17-2007 06:31 PM ET (US)   Profile for David1877   Send Email to David1877  
I am shopping for a marine radio and antenna for an Eastport 205.

I have heard that radios with the rotary dial channel selector are preferred over push button models. I have a LOWRANCE 333 or 337 SONAR with GPS. I want to link the GPS to the radio so that the distress button on the radio will send location information. A dealer tells me that most radio can be linked in.

What antenna works well?

jimh posted 01-17-2007 08:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Get a CLASS-D DSC radio. Read:

Chuck Tribolet posted 01-18-2007 01:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
I've had radios with both up/down button and dial channel
selection. Dial is faster, but if the radio has A/B presets
you use those instead.


BW23 posted 01-19-2007 08:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for BW23  Send Email to BW23     
If you can afford it, get a ICOM 504 with a DIGITAL Antenna(brand) 529.

You won't be disappointed.

jimh posted 01-19-2007 09:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Could you explain precisely what characteristics those particular devices possess which make them recommended above all other very similar devices?

For example, in published tests of antenna performance the Digital brand antennas were shown to be below average in performance. Do you have any data which shows that the Digital brand of antennas are now able to perform on par with other good antennas?

The ICOM radios have previously been characterized by several reviewers as being awkward to operate and having rather difficult user controls. Could you elaborate on why you think the ICOM-504 is a superior radio? The ICOM-504 was about the last DSC Class-D radio to make it to the marketplace. It lacks a full numeric keyboard for entry of MMSI data. It is also about twice the price of other Class-D DSC radios. I would be interested to know why I would want to pay twice as much for an ICOM-504 as for other Class-D DSC radios.

David1877 posted 01-23-2007 05:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
What is Class D DSC? Why is this a preferred feature?

I live in Wisconsin. My boat is stored winters in freezing temperatures. Some radios are LCD. I am concerned the extreme temps might be hard on an LCD display. Is this a concern?

If so, what type of display will be best for a permanently mounted radio?

My other option is to mount a radio that can be removed at the end of each season.

dmeswi posted 01-23-2007 06:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for dmeswi  Send Email to dmeswi     
After a fair amount of research, I just purchased and installed a Shakespeare 5225 XP on a 22' Dauntless. It seems so much more substantial than the one that came with the boat.

I called the rotating rr bridge for a radio check from 8 miles away with the antenna down and the attendant said the signal was loud and clear as though I was right at the bridge.

You may want to check on one of these.


Buckda posted 01-23-2007 06:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
I use a 5225 XT as well, and have been well-pleased with it's service. I reached another boat from 15 miles out on Lake Superior - although mine is mounted atop a Radar Arch - giving it about 15 1/2 feet of total height off the water.

The previous antenna, a 5101, also worked very well, although I like the robustness of the 5225 for a small boat like a Whaler. We pound in the Great Lakes chop quite a bit, and this sturdy mast was designed for atop arches and T-TOPS where the whip action is greater - they do a nice job.


jimh posted 01-23-2007 08:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The minimum radio recommended by the U.S. Coast Guard for the VHF Marine Radio service is a radio which is a Class-D DSC radio.

For information on DSC--Digital Selective Calling--see the United States Coast Guard's web page explaining all about it:

If you are buying a new radio, there is no reason in the world to not purchase a Class-D DSC radio. This is the recommendation of the United States Coast Guard.

Do not be mislead by uninformed fellow boaters or teenaged sales clerks at chain store boating outlets. Get a DSC Class-D radio if you are buying a new radio. End of story.

jimh posted 01-23-2007 11:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also, when you get your DSC Class-D VHF Marine Radio, be sure to register and get a Marine Mobile Service Identifier (MMSI). Program your radio with your MMSI and interconnect the radio and your GPS receiver.
BW23 posted 01-24-2007 02:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for BW23  Send Email to BW23     
The Digital Antenna has better finish and attention to detail. The coax is also pre-terminated with a mini-connector to make installation easier.

I was happy with my ICOM 502 on my Whaler which I have since sold.

I based my recommendations on previous ownership of both Brands.

The only 2 brands I would seriously consider are, Standard Horizon or ICOM.

David1877 posted 01-26-2007 12:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
Thank you all for your recommendations.

Class D DSC it shall be.

My fish locator has a GPS. Lowrance 337 and I am sure I can connect the radio to it. Never know when one might need that capability eventhough I am in a Whaler.

Spent this much.....whats a few hundred more.

Do you guys remove your radios for winter storage or leave them in the cold?

davej14 posted 01-26-2007 12:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
You should check your owners manual to see if you need to remove any device with an LCD display during winter storage. Low temperatures for extended periods of time can cause precipitation within some LCD fluids which is irreversible. Some LCD's are made for extreme cold but most of what we get in the moderately priced displays could have a problem. For example, your Lowrance 337 manual states:

The storage temperature range for your unit is from -4 degrees to +167 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees to +75 degrees Celsius). Extended storage in temperatures higher or lower than specified will damage the liquid crystal display in your unit. This type of damage is not covered by the warranty. For more information, contact the factory's Customer Service Department; phone numbers are listed on the last page."

Removal will also prevent your equipment from "growing legs" and walking away :-))

jmorgan40 posted 01-28-2007 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for jmorgan40  Send Email to jmorgan40     
I have a digital 529 with an Icom 422 on my OR 20. I am not sure if Jim is referencing a recent review or an older one but when I chose the digital antenna about 18 months ago it was because of a review giving the 529 far superior scores. I can not remember where I read it. Before that, I had a Shakespeare Galaxy 5400 XT on my Montauk with an ICOM 402. That antenna also had great range for not having much height. I have no other reason for choosing ICOM other than that has been my choice back to when I ran charters off the NJ coast. I am a creature of habit and stick with what I am comfortable with. As for digital antennas, I am not sure if it performs any better than the shakespeare. I do know I have no problems hailing anyone and will often reach people 18-20 miles away on radio checks. So in my book, the digital antennas work great. I know that Jim has also done some extensive research on other antennas. Good Luck on your choice. Hope this info helps.
kingfish posted 01-28-2007 01:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
I've had 3 Shakespeare 5225 Galaxies and 2 digital 529s mounted on the same arch on the same Outrage 22(don't ask), and while I think both are *best* quality antenna, I like the Digital better, not only for its appearance, but for what I believe to be greater range and clarity of transmission/receive. I'm not an expert, but like Bullwinkle, I know what I like. And JimH, you've commented more than once that I come across from my radio to yours better than any other radio you've heard; I don't know if that is my Standard Horizon radio, my Digital antenna, or the dulcet tones of my voice...
kingfish posted 01-28-2007 01:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Now that I think about it, there was the narrow strip of high land (closer to me) between us *and* an even higher island (closer to the hand-held) between us...


kingfish posted 01-28-2007 01:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Oops - wrong thread - sorry!!


jimh posted 01-28-2007 02:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
John--It is just about impossible for the antenna to affect the modulation of an FM radio, so the antenna is out as a possible cause.

I think the reason your radio sounds so good is a combination of

--the Standard Horizon radio and microphone
--good communication radio technique by the operator

In my opinion--which is based on spending most of my free time fooling around with radio between the ages of 13 and 33 (when I gave up radio for boating as a hobby), while at the same time spending most of my professional life working in broadcast radio from the age of 25 to 55 (now)--the audio from Standard Horizon radios tends to be superior to that from ICOM radios. [Yikes--that is 42-years of radio experience! Maybe I am getting to be an "old timer" by now.]

And your radio microphone technique is very good.

At this moment I do not own a Standard Horizon radio myself, and there is a reason for that: in their older style microphones the channel change buttons were located in an awkward position. Every time I picked up the microphone to transmit I would inadvertently change channels. The design of their microphones has since been revised, and I believe that problem is eliminated.

The next radio I buy will be a Standard Horizon Class-D radio. Probably a GX-1500.

The inclusion of a pre-attached connector may be a plus for the Digital antenna, however, I have some skill in connector installation, so it does not carry too much weight for me. The fit-and-finish differences are also legitimate concerns, but, as I wrote previously, I have settled on THE GAM antenna, and it is primarily stainless steel.

kingfish posted 01-28-2007 07:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
I am stuck, at least until I get ready to spring for a Standard Horizon phantom set with RAM mike, with the type of mike you just described, with the attendant irritation of forever inadvertently changing channels...
El Chigon posted 01-30-2007 12:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for El Chigon  Send Email to El Chigon     
just purchased Uniden 625 with Shakes XP!
WOW what a combo!!

305 Conquest

David1877 posted 01-30-2007 01:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
Many of you appear to prefer Standard Horizon over ICOM.

Thanks for the links to Daves. Pretty good pricing.

I was not bale to find dimensions on his site for the GX-1500 but I will locate before I buy. I am also considering the Quantum GX 3500S but his may have more features than I may ever need or use. Has channel 70 ITU Class D Receiver. Might be larger than the GX 1500 at 3.5x9.1x6 inches.

What are the wire connections like on the back of these radios. I want to be able to remove it seasonally or for theft control. Lowrance fish locator wires screw into the back of the unit. Are power wires, GPS and antenna connections similar on radios?


where2 posted 01-31-2007 07:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Standard Horizon offers their manuals online as PDF documents. Although I received my PS1000 (not Class-D) via FedEx yesterday, I still hopped on the website below and pulled up the manual to review it rather than dig through the box... (obvioius computer geek)

David1877 posted 02-01-2007 04:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
why not get a Class D?
jimh posted 02-01-2007 09:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In the case of an antenna installed on an 205 EASTPORT, if the antenna is mounted on the cabin bulwarks, like the antenna is mounted on my similar cabin-style boat, the antenna feed line usually is brought to the transmitter by drilling a hole in the cabin bulwarks and passing the feed line through it.

In an installation such as that, purchasing an antennas (such as the DIGITAL brand antenna recommended above) which has a pre-attached connector will be a drawback. I say this because, in order to pass the feed line though the hull cabin structure, you will have to either:

--drill a much larger hole in the cabin to permit the connector to pass, or

--cut off the pre-attached connector, pass the cable through a properly sized hole just large enough to admit the cable, discard the pre-attached connector, purchase a new connector, and install the connector on the cable.

Either option seems like a poor choice, and, for those reasons, I do not find the existence of a pre-attached connector to be something which makes a particular antenna more attractive in this type of installation.

Regarding reasons why NOT to get a Class-D DSC radio, I would much prefer that become the topic of its own discussion. A future article on this precise question is anticipated. Rather than hash that out in the midst of this discussion of the best radio and and antenna for a Boston Whaler 205 EASTPORT, let's hold that off for a separate topic.

jimh posted 02-01-2007 11:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
More about the 205 EASTPORT and antenna choice:

The EASTPORT is a lot like my REVENGE. If an 8-foot antenna is mounted on the side of the cabin, the situation will be exactly like those on my boat, that is, the base of the antenna will be close to the helm and instruments, the antenna height will not be as great as it could be, and the lower part of the antenna may be shielded or blocked by the boat itself. That's why I encourage you to read my article and study the reasons for going to the THE GAM antenna on a 4-foot extension mast in preference to the more typical 8-foot antenna.

towboater posted 02-02-2007 04:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for towboater  Send Email to towboater     
great thread, always learning. thx all.

on rotary vrs button, I prefer the rotary just because it is easier to find and function than trying to figure out which one is the chan up or chan down button among all the others.

Whatever radio I buy, (2 sport boats with 1 ea, Tug has 3) I always look to find out if the radio will return to the last channel used when it powers up. Dailing in the VHFs are not part of the warm up process.


David1877 posted 02-02-2007 05:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     

Thank you for the thoughful commentary regarding [Digital-brand] antenna installation.

David1877 posted 02-06-2007 05:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
It does not appear radio installation is overly complicated. A simple matter of drilling holes for the antenna, radio mounts and wires.

[Please begin a new discussion to change the topic to NMEA-0183 interconnections between devices--jimh.]

jimh posted 02-06-2007 11:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I just came across some more information on the Digital-brand of antennas and the pre-attached connector they use. In the Digital antenna set-up the transmission line has a pre-attached Mini-UHF connector on it. This connector is not much larger in diameter than the cable itself. The Mini-UHF connector then threads onto an adapter which converts to a regular UHF-Series PL-259 type connector. (The PL-259 is the mate to the connector found on most all VHF Marine Radio transmitters.)

The Mini-UHF connector is small enough to pass through a hole not much larger than the size of the transmission line itself. This removes the disadvantage I mentioned above regarding having to drill an overly large hole to accommodate the pre-installed connector.

Also, POWERBOAT REPORTS magazine had a recent "shoot out" with several popular marine antennas. The Digital antenna did not perform as well as the best antenna, but the reviewers were very impressed with its excellent construction. The difference in radio performance of the antenna was not very great--possibly within the margins of error for the test given the techniques used--so I would characterize the Digital antenna as an average performer electrically and above average mechanically. This is in reference to their 8-foot antenna, the model 529-VW. The Digital antenna was significantly more expensive than other antennas that had better electrical performance.

roloaddict posted 02-17-2007 10:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
I still like my SEA-156 and a Morad 156 HD with a Morad VHF deluxe as backup. Channel 16,14 or 13 will bring help if I need it. I am more of a listener than a talker on the radio anyway.

For small boats, pitch and roll will greatly effect the performance of your antenna. The higher gain models will generally have a narrower vertical beam width and as the boat moves, the signal fades in and out. In such cases a 3DB antenna may perfom better that a 6DB for instance.

bigjohn1 posted 02-18-2007 09:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigjohn1  Send Email to bigjohn1     
A random data point which may be helpful for some. I own a 2005 170 Montauk and had an 8' Shakespeare 5225XT mounted up forward on the rail. The antenna gave very good performance but it eventually cracked from the effects of leverage in using the Montauk in rough off-shore conditions - I did get 2 good years of performance though.

I recently switched to a 4' Digital model 528 mounted up on the forward rail. I realize I have less range now but it doesn't really matter in my case as I venture far off-shore less now. This 4' Digital matched up to an ICOM 302 works very well for me.

I personally believe that overall, the Digital line and the Shakespear Galaxy line are very close in performance. I will give the overall nod though to the Digital brand though for their construction and the pre-installed mini connector. Digital "fills" the fiberglass antenna case with some sort of silicone or other compound which prevents the antenna element from coming loose and rattling around. This is particularly important in my application since the 170 Montauk will get slammed around quite a bit in the offshore environment.

David1877 posted 02-28-2007 05:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     

Thanks for the contributions to the thread.

After review of your comments, I think I will go with the Standard Horizon GX1500S and the Digital antenna 529.

So I can see it better and remove it easily, I might mount the radio on top, in front of the windshield in line of sight. A black radio might show less dirt from my fingers.etc. Undecided about white vs black.

If the radio is mounted flush in the console it may be out of the way, but may not be as visible. Also, it might be more difficult to remove it end of season for boat storage. LCD may not take the cold well. Are they hard to pull out if installed this way?

WHat additional parts/hardware might be required for antenna installation?

jimh posted 03-01-2007 09:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Do not mount the radio transceiver near the compass. The magnet in the transceiver's loudspeaker will affect the compass.

You will need an antenna base mount. The base attaches to the hull with fasteners. The fasteners may be supplied, however they may not be supplied or if supplied they may not be suitable. You may need to purchase fasteners. The mounts are available in metal and plastic. They are available in a wide price range. If your antenna is a large, long, and heavy antenna, choose a base which is of appropriate material and strength to support the antenna. You may need to fashion a backing plate to reinforce the hull bulwarks at the point of attachment. I recommend using aluminum alloy 6061-T6 or similar, 0.25-inch thick for a backing plate. This is a good alloy for weather resistance and it is easy to machine, cut, and drill. Of course, use stainless steel hardware. This should go without saying.

The antenna threads onto the base, no hardware needed.

The transmission line may need to pass through the hull; there is special hardware available for this, but, since you have chosen an antenna with a pre-installed connector, these cable pass-through devices may not be suitable. If you have to make a large hole in the hull to pass the pre-attached connector through, provide some means of preventing ingress of water. Seal the hole with a flexible sealant. Be cautious that the sealant will not attack the cable insulation. Silicon is generally benign to cable insulation.

A PERKO CLAMSHELL is often used to cover holes through which cables are passing.

Do not make sharp bends in the antenna transmission line. Form a drip loop in the transmission line on the outside of the hull bulwarks so that any water will tend to drip off the transmission line and not be carried into the hull.

Do not cut the excess transmission line. There are many myths about this. I say this only because you have a pre-attached connector. Why waste the connector? Also, you never know when you might need more transmission line. In electronics there is a corollary to Murphy's Law:

"Any cable cut to length will be too short."

It is more likely you will create a problem from cutting off any excess than you will gain any significant electrical improvement from shortening the line.

Form any excess transmission line into a solenoidal coil winding and gently secure it with Ty-wraps or with 3M SCOTCH-33-Plus Vinyl Electrical Tape. The coil diameter should be about four or five inches. Do not pull the Ty-Wraps into too much tension. The cable can be easily distorted, and this is very undesirable. Make the coil close to the point where the transmission line passes through the hull bulwarks, on the interior side.

There is an electrical reason for making the coil. Forming the transmission line into a coil will help to decouple any antenna currents which are trying to flow on the outside of the transmission line's coaxial conductor. This will improve the performance of the antenna system. This is not a myth. I am a professional radio engineer, not a trucker with a CB set.

David Pendleton posted 03-01-2007 12:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Jeez Jim, the two over-the-road truckers I know are extra-class HAM's...

bluewaterpirate posted 03-01-2007 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
PL 259 connector pictures ...... this is the connector Jim refered to in his early post. This connector is associated with the Digital Brand VHF connector. sitebuilderpictures/plc3.jpg sitebuilderpictures/plc2.jpg


David1877 posted 03-01-2007 01:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for David1877  Send Email to David1877     
Thanks all for the posts.

I think I will order online from Daves/ Very competitive pricing. I have not ordered from them before but shoudl be ok??

jimh posted 03-01-2007 08:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
David--Probably recent no-code licensees. :-)

Ask to see their copy of Terman's.

edvb posted 03-01-2007 10:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for edvb  Send Email to edvb     
I choose a Morad 156 HD for my antenna for a new QUEST-X GX1500S Radio I just ordered. At 59" and 6DB gain It will fit my boat perfectly. Jim I almost pulled the trigger for your setup but with the bimini I will need to adjust the angle whenever I raise it. It seems to be the most durable of the antenna's and being a J-pole design should perform well. Like you with real life measurements I know a 4' Galaxy antenna did not come close to a 8' galaxy when picking up weak signals. We will see if I won or lost with this antenna. I will post pictures or direct you to Photobucket when I get it installed. I am using the Morad adapter to a new Shakespeare's 5187 ratchet mount. Hope it does not look too ugly but performance counts.
David Pendleton posted 03-01-2007 10:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Ed, I saw in the Marketplace thread that you ended up buying the Morad.

Looks like you got a good deal, also. I paid much more than that direct from Morad just a few weeks ago. I'm not bothered by that though. You will be pleased with the quality of the manufacturing.

I'm upgrading from a Shakespeare 5225XT, and I'm anxious to get out and see how it works.

jimh posted 03-02-2007 12:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
According the POWERBOAT REPORTS, the 5225XT to MORAD 156 may be more of a side-grade or a down-grade.

I'd like to see some detailed pictures of the Morad antenna. Give us a peak when you have some good shots.

edvb posted 03-02-2007 08:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for edvb  Send Email to edvb     
Dave Can you send me a picture of it as mine will not be in till next week? A close up of the base would be nice.
David Pendleton posted 03-02-2007 10:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I'll take some pictures today when I get back from snowmobiling and post links.

I'm going to put the SWR meter on both this spring, so I guess we'll see...

David Pendleton posted 03-02-2007 11:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     

How does the POWERBOAT REPORTS compare them? I compared the two antennae when I decided to go with the Morad. The numbers looked pretty-much the same, e.g. 50Ω input impedance, 6dB gain, 100W max, 1.5:1 SWR, etc.

I really wanted the Morad for it's durability (and if the truth be known, the coolness factor).

David Pendleton posted 03-02-2007 11:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Be aware, these are big images (700-800K).

I can't take more if you like different angles, etc. As you can see, I'm not the greatest photographer.

edvb posted 03-02-2007 12:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for edvb  Send Email to edvb     
Those are great. Can you take a couple more of the full antenna including the whip?
Mambo Minnow posted 03-02-2007 05:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow    
Standard Horizon brand all the warranty and repair service.
where2 posted 03-02-2007 08:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Mambo, I agree, But the true radio techs (radio geeks) at Standard will tell you to get a Shakespeare antenna for their radio. I flat out asked one of their reps that I see every year in Miami (we talk with him for 30 minutes every year!). He was explicit about avoiding that bottom of the line Shakespeare antenna that did so poorly in the POWERBOAT REPORTS test. (I need to go read that article again).

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