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Author Topic:   Family Radio Service Radios
Frank O posted 09-13-2008 04:48 PM ET (US)   Profile for Frank O   Send Email to Frank O  
We need to buy a pair of Family Radio Service (FRS) two-way radios. Does anyone have a recommendation among the current models out there?

There seem to be a lot of negative reviews in general in this product category on, which I gather is mostly related to the apparently overstated distance range for most of them. The models I see that are well spoken of are unfortunately discontinued.

We don't want anything fancy such as integrated GPS or marine band coverage -- just a good, robust pair of radios that will do basic FRS with privacy codes. My son also wants a brand that has a remote mike (with integrated speaker) available as an accessory.

jimh posted 09-13-2008 05:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There really isn't much privacy in the Family Radio Service. There is a provision for continuous tone-coded squelch system (CTCSS) operation, but it really isn't a guarantee of privacy. Wikipedia has a good entry on both items:

Also, beware that not all radios will interoperate, as they use different sets of CTCSS tones. Cf.:

Frank O posted 09-13-2008 05:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
Thanks for the comments, Jim.

Regarding the "privacy codes," I should clarify that we have no expectation of actual privacy on these radios. The reason I mentioned these is that, apart from maritime use, my son belongs to a recreational club that uses FRS radios. They all agree to communicate on, say, channel 8 with "code" 02. I gather these would more precisely be called Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) codes.

The fact that the codes are not interchangeable between all manufacturers is more troubling. I think most of the members of my son's group use various models of Motorola Talkabout radios, but I'll have to look into this further.

In any event, though, if anyone has been happy with a recently purchased FRS radio and finds the build quality to be good, I'd be interested to hear about it.

ConB posted 09-13-2008 07:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
I have a pair of fancy Motorola's. I do not use them very often and when I do I have to reread the manual to get full use of them.


Chuck Tribolet posted 09-13-2008 08:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The squelch codes keep you from hearing other folks, they
don't keep other folks from hearing you. Almost all of the
radios have a way to disable the squelch codes and hear all
the traffic. So don't say anything on FRS that you don't
want in court.

There's FRS and GMRS and they share frequencies. GMRS is
allowed more power but requireds a cheap license from the

Motorola is the name you can take to the bank in this arena.
If you care about range, get some high end Mot GMRS radios,
send the FCC a check, and be done.

Me, I've got a couple of old Mot TA 280 SLKs that we use for
legal ship to shore (mostly for me to tell Linda I've got the
trailer hooked up and pull the anchor (trailer parking is
a half mile from the ramp)). They work just fine through
a half mile of trees. I just replaced the batteries after
about 7 years.

Any old wired cellphone headset seems to work with mine.


Frank O posted 09-16-2008 03:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
Thanks for the comments. We ended up ordering a pair of Motorola T9500XLR radios, which seems to be their current upper-end consumer model. Though a cellphone-style wired earbud/microphone would certainly work, my son (age 13) was looking for the "cool factor" of the state trooper-type microphone/speaker that clips to one's chest/shoulder area. Turns out that was available for most Motorola models, so we ordered one too.

Tom Hemphill posted 09-16-2008 06:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Hemphill    
Your 13-year old will probably want shirts with epaulets now, to clip the microphone to.
Frank O posted 09-16-2008 06:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
You know my son!

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