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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
VHF Radio Choice
|Author||Topic: VHF Radio Choice|
posted 02-26-2008 09:15 AM ET (US)
I've been planning to replace my VHF this spring with an Icom M504 as my old Icom is not a Class D unit. However, I also like the Standard Horizon Quest-X GX1500S at $139 delivered. The Quest has a three year warranty and is then protected by a flat rate repair cost policy for as long as you own it.
Is there any reason not to go with the Quest?
posted 02-26-2008 04:13 PM ET (US)
The GX-1500S is available for about $125, and it is a great value. The ICOM M-504 sells for around $280 to $300.
The more expensive radios in the Standard Horizon line come with a receiver which has greater inter-modulation distortion rejection. This can be useful if you operate your radio in very congested areas. In the Standard Horizon line they refer to this specification as an "80-dB radio." Unfortunately, I think you also have to upgrade to a radio with a built-in hailer and fog signal generator to get the better receiver function. If you need a hailer and fog signals, it is probably a good idea to get those features in the radio, but, for me, I don't plan to use the hailer, and I am very, very seldom in fog conditions.
I have been happy with my GX-1500-S radio. I did notice that on one occasion when an adjacent vessel just ten feet away from me made a call using 25-watts on Channel 16, the transmission broke through on my radio when I was listening on Channel 68. I have no idea if the "80-dB radio" would have been able to successfully avoid being overloaded by a 25-watt transmitter just ten feet away on an adjacent channel or not. But that is the type of situation in which a radio receiver with better inter-modulation distortion specifications would show the difference.
The low cost of the GX-1500-S is implemented in a few cut corners on the radio. For example, the external speaker output and the NMEA serial data input and output signals are provided on simple dangling wire pigtails. You have to supply your own connector or termination for them. On some other radios there might be a connector jack and you would be supplied with a mating plug for those signals.
I suspect the ICOM M-504 is a fine radio, but then it ought to be for more than twice the price. It is an "80-dB radio" and appears to have connectors for the external speaker and NMEA serial data.
I switched to a Standard-Horizon radio from an ICOM radio because the transmit audio I heard from Standard-Horizon radios continually sounded better than the audio I heard from ICOM radios. I also found that the ICOM radio user interface was often perplexing and required that I constantly refer to the user manual to make adjustments or use features. I found the user controls for the Standard-Horizon to better thought out, and in most cases I can make the radio do what I want it to without having to dig out the manual.
If you want a $300 radio you can find one in the Standard-Horizon line. I believe in the ICOM line that there are no inexpensive Class-D certified radios, so you have to move into the $300-class of radio to get a Class-D device.
posted 02-26-2008 07:12 PM ET (US)
I have the Standard Horizon Quest-X (GX-1500S) and bought it for about $135 last year. For that price, it's a "no brainer".
posted 02-26-2008 07:20 PM ET (US)
Thanks you both for the validation. Hailer and fog signals are not a priority.
I hope the hook up to my Lowrance LCX-111-HD is not too complex. I am a plug and play kind of guy when it comes to electronics. Any advice would be appreciated.
posted 02-26-2008 09:05 PM ET (US)
Two more points:
--when vessels are in sight of each other they should use low power (1-watt) on their radios;
--you can get an "80-dB" radio from Standard-Horizon in the GX-3000S model; it sells for under $170. That model also has the hailer and fog signal sounder, as well as Class-D certification.
posted 02-27-2008 09:07 AM ET (US)
I have the SH GX-3000S flush mounted on the inside bulkhead of my BellBoy cruiser. I use their RAM control mic at the helm. I spent the extra $50 for this radio over the GX-1500S because of the hailer / fog signal option as well as the upgraded receiver circuitry. I cruise frequently on Lake Ontario and that lake is well known for quick-changing weather conditions. The more safety options I have out there, the better! I have had impressive range both with transmission and reception performance. I would certainly recommend it. The Standard Horizon radios offer real value and, as Jim H has stated, easier and more user-friendly operation than the Icom 402 radio I replaced. When changing radios and if you are going to sell the old one, you will want to return that radio to Icom for them to remove the MMSI number. It is a nominal fee and neccessary if the radio will change owners.
Hope this helps,
posted 02-27-2008 07:10 PM ET (US)
Jim's right about the SH radios being easier to use. Here's an
example. When you receive a DSC call from a buddy:
ICOM M504: (quoted from the manua):
While monitoring Channel 70 and an individual call is received:
Pick up the mike and talk.
posted 02-27-2008 10:26 PM ET (US)
Just to add to Chuck's observation:
When you pick up the microphone and transmit on a Standard-Horizon radio the audio you modulate your carrier with will be rather decent and have a nice quality. When you get your ICOM in transmit the audio will [not be as good]. When it comes to transmit audio quality, the Standard-Horizon radios sound much better than the ICOM radios I have heard. You can verify this yourself; just go boating with two friends, one who has an ICOM and one who has a Standard-Horizon. Listen to the difference in the quality of the transmitted audio from each radio.
posted 02-28-2008 05:58 PM ET (US)
This has been an interesting discussion which has shed a lot of light on the subject for me. I nstalled a Standard Horizon on a boat in 1979 and never had a problem from it up to the time I donated the boat in 1999.
My current Icom, installed on my Whaler in 1999, has been trouble free but no Class D capability.
Based upon all responses to this thread I will replace my working Icom with the Quest.
posted 04-17-2008 06:07 PM ET (US)
Has anyone checked out the new Standard Horizons Eclipse GX-1000s with DSC. Is this a better choice the Quest GX-1500S(its $50 less).
posted 04-17-2008 06:17 PM ET (US)
The difference between the GX-1500-S and the Eclipse is in their size and in the DCS feature set. The Eclipse is a smaller radio and it is not Class-D rated for Digital Selective Calling. There may be other differences, too. I have not made an exhaustive study.
posted 04-17-2008 09:30 PM ET (US)
Icoms are great radios but I agree about the controls being difficult to use if advance features are desired.
posted 04-17-2008 10:45 PM ET (US)
The old Standard Horizon Eclipse did not have DSC, but the new one does. Does that mean that the new one is Class-D rated for Digital Selective Calling? Check out the Standard Horizon website for the new Eclipse and I would appreciate your opinion.
posted 04-18-2008 12:03 AM ET (US)
The Eclipse is a smaller radio and it is not Class-D rated for Digital Selective Calling. I am basing that on having carefully read the specifications for the radio. If the radio were rated for Class-D DSC service, I am sure that the manufacturer would clearly state that. To the contrary, they clearly state that it is qualified to the RTCM SC-101 specification. They state that in the owner's manual, which you can download from their website. They don't make all of this clear in all the promotional literature, but it is clear in the owner's manual.
What do I think about the radio? I think it is smaller than the GX-1500-S, it has a different DSC rating, and it is about $30 less expensive.
In terms of the cost of owning a boat, $30 represents about an hour of operation at cruising speed, so I don't find that the cost of the radio is a compelling difference. The smaller size might be a factor for some installations.
My general feeling about Standard-Horizon radios is they are quite comparable to other brands in terms of the feature set. They have generally better user interface to those features. I am also impressed with their transmitter modulation; I find the Standard Horizon transmitters tend to sound better than some competitor brands. Their price is very competitive and often significantly less for the same feature set than competitor brands.
posted 04-18-2008 12:10 AM ET (US)
Another difference between the GX-1500-S and the Eclipse radio is the channel selector. The Standard Horizon GX-1500-S channel selector is a rotary knob. The Standard Horizon Eclipse channel selector is a pair of opposing push buttons that increment the channel up or down. I prefer the technique of changing channels via a rotary knob.
posted 04-18-2008 03:07 PM ET (US)
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