Before I begin, I wanna thank HAM Operator, AKA: Boss, Tom Nasso, for introducing me to Motorola HAM operations: analog and DMR. Thanks, Tom, for helping me program my Motorola and for introducing me to the wonderful world of CARLA.
All you need to do is spend one night at the PAPA System DMR Round-table and listen to operators talk about their problems with their hand-held transceivers to appreciate the pride of owning a Motorola hand-held transceiver: Motorola XPR 7550(e).
I purchased ~95% of the most common hand-held DMR transceivers you will hear operators talk about on the airwaves; and, I returned all of them back to their distributors due to lack of build quality and lack of ability in RX and TX performance.
To date, I have NOT heard a Motorola operator say, “my antenna connector broke.” Worse yet, I have NOT heard a Motorola operator say, “my modulation chip or board burned out.” Nor have I heard this from a Motorola owner, “my firmware update didn’t work; because, I had to first update my firmware with an update before updating my firmware.” Finally, I have never heard a Motorola operator say, “when I’m on analog, I’m getting reports that my modulation sounds weak and/or muffled.”
These statements of problems came from Anytone operators while I was listening to the PAPA System DMR Round-table; and, I empathized with these Anytone Operators; because, I experienced some of these issues when an acquaintance asked me to test out the Anytone products.
When I tested my acquaintance’s Anytone hand-held transceiver, I set the power to Turbo. I was trying to hit an analog repeater that was ~35 ground miles east of my location: CARLA System 5. After several attempts, I finally hit it, and Boss caught my TX. He told me my modulation was weak and muffled.
I pulled out my Motorola XPR 7550e, and I hit CARLA System 5 in one attempt. Boss caught my TX, and he said, “there you go — so much better — what did you do, move location?”
I replied, “didn’t move locations — I moved to my Motorola transceiver.”
I told my acquaintance to return the Anytone hand-held transceiver back to the distributor purchase one from different manufacturer.
For these reasons, I prefer commercial-grade hand-held transceivers: iCom, Kenwood, and Motorola. (Although Yaesu is amateur-grade, they are built like a commercial-grade hand-held transceiver; hence, I consider Yaesu to be in the same quality and performance as iCom, Kenwood, and Motorola.)
I use Motorola hand-held transceivers; because, I want the best in quality, durability, reliability. I use Motorola hand-held transceivers; because, Motorola is a company that specifically focuses research and development in providing excellent high-quality state-of-the-art RX and TX transmissions for many decades.
Unlike mobile and base station transceivers, hand-held transceivers don’t offer much real estate given their compact size for mobile activities; therefore, the use of state-of-the-art high-quality electronics and the utilization of that small real estate is key. I need to be able to make contact in the same manner I do with my 100-watt Yaesu FT-857D mobile transceiver but with smaller amount of watts, smaller speaker, and smaller antenna. Not many hand-held transceivers can do the job well, except Motorola.
My weapon of choice is the Motorola XPR 7550e.
When I need to use my hand-held transceiver on a amateur or commercial or professional level, I need it to work; if I’m in a rainstorm, I need it to work; if I’m in a dirt and dusty environment, I need it to work; if I’m in the snow and freezing temps, I need it to work; if I happen to drop it, I need it to work.
Also, I buy top of the line equipment because, in the long run, it is less expensive to put the initial capital up front in stuff that will last through time rather than buying cheap stuff and having to replace it through time.
Motorola is the Ferrari of professional and commercial hand-held transceivers and has been around for many decades and created the first car radio and home radio. They have decades of research, development, and experience in refining the TX and RX operations of their radios and hand-held transceivers.
My mentor, Tom Nasso, Boss, uses only commercial and professional hand-held and mobile transceivers. He was a Motorola technician years ago; and, he got me into using Motorola transceivers for my HAM operations.
He showed me the stuff their Motorolas hand-held transceivers can do, and I heard the quality in my voice when using their Motorola hand-held transceivers, and I was hooked. I learned all about Motorola toward my goal of making a purchase of a brand new hand-held transceiver.
With my Motorola I can:
- store contacts via front panel programming or via CPS,
- send text messages,
- make private transceiver calls to other transceivers,
- make cellular calls,
- access the Internet via built-in Wi-Fi,
- send out my GPS information,
- reduce or eliminate background noise in my TX,
- automatic volume control when background noise reaches a certain decibel,
- text to speech,
- wide frequency band,
- over-the-air firmware updates,
- and so much more.
However, the journey to getting the pot of gold, which is using Motorola hand-held transceivers is not an easy task up-front; but, once you get past the up-front barriers, well, you’re home free and will be rewarded handsomely for the pain and suffering of having to break through the up-front tasks in order to get your Motorola hand-held transceiver working the WAY you want it to work for your specific HAM personality and/or commercial and professional personality. I will detail the up-front challenges in this BLOG.
Nothing in Motorola’s existence was designed for the amateur HAM operator; but, HAM operators are creative people; and, always striving to get the best sound and best signal transmission out of their equipment. So, began the venture of using a commercial and professional hand-held transceivers, Motorola, for HAM operations.
Through the creative ingenuity and the spirit of exploration, HAM operators before me found ways to use the Motorola commercial and professional hand-held transceivers for their amateur HAM activities.
Notwithstanding the headway from past HAM operators before me in creating an easier path for Motorola HAM operations, using Motorola hand-held transceivers for a large majority of HAM operators is still a daunting, labor intensive, and an expensive proposition; hence, only a small population of HAM operators use Motorola hand-held transceivers; but, those that do cross the chasm from amateur HAM hand-held transceivers to Motorola’s commercial and professional hand-held transceivers are rewarded by owning a product that his high-in-quality, reliable, durable, and produces and receives strong, clear, rich and robust RX and TX signals under any circumstances with or without competing background noises — these characteristics and features captivated me and other HAM operators to make the jump from amateur HAM hand-held transceivers to Motorola hand-held transceivers.
Man, that sound — you can’t beat that Motorola sound: rich and robust notes — one HAM operator told me, “You must be using a Motorola; because, you have that radio-staion-broadcast voice.”
Yesterday, while traveling up the 101 North into San Francisco and hitting a repeater inside my car, which was 45 miles North East of me with my Motorola XPR 7550e, a HAM operator answered my signal check by saying, “Alfonso, you’re modulation is always consistently strong and clear.”
Because Motorola hand-held transceivers are built for professional and commercial use, they made certain each frequency performed within its specific megahertz in each of their respective bands: UHF and VHF; and, they made certain that they made their equipment to best utilize the 5 watt parameters — in fact, like my Ferraris, Motorola hand-held transceivers get finely tuned to ensure optimum performance — hell, you get what you pay for!
For example, my Motorola CP200 UHF — I’ve had that transceiver for over 10 years, and its RX and TX is just as good as any of the newer Motorolas; and, its RX and TX are superior to any new and current amateur transceiver out there. I would take this old model Motorola CP200 over any new advanced current amateur transceiver any day and over Anytone.
Like my Ferraris, Motorola hand-held transceiver features come in as additional purchases, which they call Entitlement Keys — the automotive industry calls their additional features as, Options. Because each commercial and professional use varies from industry to industry, Motorola doesn’t make their hand-held transceivers as a one model fits all; rather, quite the antithesis…Motorola hand-held transceivers are fully customizable based upon the user’s specific needs. So, the user gets a base Motorola hand-held transceiver, which by the way, is feature-rich in and of itself and more than perfect for HAM operations, with the option to add specific features to the operator’s specific needs.
For example, when I purchased my Motorola XPR 7550e, I knew I was going to be out in the field competing against lots of background noises at a fire scene, police scene, or training environments with sidearms being discharged; hence, I purchased an entitlement key that filtered out the background noises during my TX and increased the RX into my hand-held transceiver when dealing with competing background noises. So, when a sidearm discharges near me; and, I’m listening to my hand-held transceiver, the hand-held transceiver automatically detects the competing background noises; and, while filtering those noises out, adjusts the volume of my speaker to overcome the sounds from the exploding cartridges from the sidearm.
Likewise in my TX…when I’m at the gun range with cartridges being discharged from shooters’ weapons, my Motorola XPR 7550e, will filter out those competing background noises and enhance my voice, so the receiver of my TX won’t hear the discharging of cartridge while my voice is carried into his transceiver — very useful feature for guys like me.
Does Motorola hand-held transceiver satisfy 100% of my HAM operational needs? Yes.
The only little inconvenience I have is having to carry two hand-held transceivers on Tuesday afternoons at 1200 hours. Every Tuesday at 1200 hours, I participate in an OPWS net control; and, they use a VHF frequency. With the exception of one Motorola hand-held transceiver, all their hand-held transceivers are single band — UHF or VHF; so, on Tuesday afternoons, at 1200 hours, I’m carrying two Motorola hand-held transceivers: VHF CP200 and my UHF XPR 7550e. The rest of my time, I’m only carrying one: XPR 7550e. One hundred percent of my HAM operations, commercial, and professional operations are done on the UHF band from 403-521 MHz.
Now, with my Motorola…in the East Bay, approximately ~25 miles east of me exists a DMR repeater that is part of the CARLA network: K6LNK. While inside my unit, with my Motorola XPR 7550e and with a 2.5″ OEM Motorola stubby antenna, I can hit CARLA’s DMR repeater in the East Bay; and, hitting that repeater automatically connects me to the Talk Group I select in my hand-held transceiver, which I spent many hours programming. Moreover, the GPS constantly locks to the satellite with my Motorola XPR 7550e anywhere inside house.
This is one of the many reasons I use a professional and commercial hand-held transceiver and the commercial and professional digital network, DMR, over the amateur HAM hand-held transceivers and amateur digital HAM networks — the quality and performance of my Motorola and DMR exceed that of amateur hand-held transceivers in many instances and environments.
I would be remiss in my assessment if I left out the front-end user screen features that aren’t available for Motorola hand-held transceivers, which are one of the main reasons the majority of the general HAM population deters from purchasing Motorola hand-held transceivers.
For example, HAM operators want front panel programming. Most amateur HAM hand-held transceivers allow for directly programming frequencies into the hand-held transceiver via the front panel keypad, like Yaesu.
Motorola, although it has a front panel keypad, doesn’t allow the operator to directly program frequencies into the hand-held transceiver via the front panel keypad — there is an exception — some Motorola hand-held transceivers have the option of a firmware modification that allows frequencies to be directly entered via the front keyboard panel…but, guess what? It costs extra — usually, the cost is between $150 – $175. Commercial and professional users use Motorolas for their jobs; so, they don’t need to nor have the interest to program frequencies into their transceivers — they just wanna pick up the hand-held transceiver, push a button and talk. They have a geek like me that programs their transceivers and make sure it works while they are out in the field.
For amateur use of Motorola hand-held transceivers, without the aforementioned programmable front panel keypad programing firmware, amateur HAM operators need to learn about using Motorola’s CPS (Customer Programming Software) to program their hand-held transceivers. The CPS costs anywhere from $170 – $360.
So, lets get the large list of challenges of owning a Motorola hand-held transceiver that turn many HAM operators off — remember, Motorola is NOT a HAM hand-held transceiver — it is a professional and commercial hand-held transceiver for businesses, government entities, law enforcement, secret service, and fire fighters; so, remember that demarcation between professional and commercial versus amateur…so, here’s the list:
- if you use Yaesu’s APRS feature for APRS.fi and found it super-easy to set up, well, you’re gonna have to go through a little code-change to get your Motorola, both VHF and UHF, on APRS.fi;
- with the exception of one Motorola model, all Motorolas are single band — in other words, the hand-held transceiver is either UHF or VHF;
- unless you are a Motorola hand-held transceiver programmer, you have to pay a programmer to set the hand-held transceiver’s frequencies, general settings, and customized settings;
- seldom will you be able to enter frequencies directly into your hand-held transceiver while out in the field — once again, you need to send it to a Motorola hand-held transceiver programmer;
- for the price of a Motorola XPR 7550e, the one I have, you can purchase a feature-rich multi-band mobile/portable Yaesu FT-857D, which is a unit I also have;
- all their stuff is proprietary — in other words, you can’t go to a store like, HRO, and purchase accessories for Motorola — no antenna will fit except a Motorola antenna;
- if you do happen to know the way to program your hand-held transceiver, you have to go through a background check and narrow-bandwidth certification course before you can purchase the licensed CPS (Computer Programming Software) from Motorola;
- usually, the cost of the CPS is the price of a Yaesu FT1XD or more;
- in addition to the CPS, you need to purchase entitlement keys to unlock certain features in your Motorola hand-held transceiver — for example, all Motorola hand-held transceivers are set to 12.5 kHz — in order to widen the bandwidth to 25 kHz, you need to be certified, and you have to pay for the bandwidth entitlement key, which might be another $20;
- the CPS is not easy to use, and unless you have a Motorola mentor or can figure the CPS on your own, you will be SOL, and you will not be able to get your Motorola hand-held transceiver working properly;
- in order for the CPS to communicate with your Motorola hand-held transceiver, you need a programming cable; and, they are expensive — about $85 for mine;
- using a Motorola hand-held transceiver is not user-friendly and usually requires some kind of training from Motorola or a Motorola mentor;
- each time you make a change to your Motorola hand-held transceiver, you need to send it to a programmer; or, if you know the way to program, then you have to get to a Windows OS laptop, hook up the cable, access the CPS, and make the programming updates — if you’re out in the field, you will need to bring our laptop just in case you need to program a repeater into your Motorola hand-held transceiver while out in the field;
- Motorola’s CPS does not work on Apple OS personal computers; and,
- you usually will end up getting a second Motorola or other hand-held transceiver to cover the frequency band that the Motorola hand-held transceiver you purchased does not cover — so, if you have a UHF, you might find the need to purchase another Motorola or other hand-held transceiver to cover the VHF frequency band — although, in my experience, after studying my communications pattern, I find I’m 99.9% a UHF and DMR user; hence, I don’t need a VHF Motorola hand-held transceiver.
If this list, supra, hasn’t turned you off, and you still wanna get a Motorola hand-held transceiver, then I recommend following the steps, below, before getting your Motorola transceiver for your HAM operation needs and wants:
- Meticulously evaluate your HAM operations needs. For example, with the exception of Tuesday afternoons, I use UHF frequencies for my HAM operations and my professional communications operations as a volunteer with fire department, police department, and sheriff’s department. I also use DMR. So, the transceivers that I’m gonna shop for are UHF hand-held transceivers with digital and GPS capabilities;
- Register with Motorola Online. This will take a while to get a approved. I don’t engage in knowingly purchasing pirated boot-leg software on any level; hence, registering with Motorola Online is the only way to legally purchase OEM Motorola CPS for your particular Motorola hand-held transceiver. The reason you want to register with Motorola online before you get your hand-held transceiver, is you want to make certain you are approved to purchase the CPS and the entitlement keys. When you get approved, you will also get OTA firmware updates for your hand-held transceiver. If you don’t get approved, then you would not have spent $1000 or more on a Motorola hand-held transceiver only to have it as a nice fancy paper-weight on your desk;
- Once you get approved, then find an authorized Motorola dealer and representative. Motorola dealers and representatives provide the hand-held transceivers and will program them for you — usually, they provide free programing for a certain amount of frequencies and entitlements, then you must pay for additional frequencies. Of course, you can just purchase the hand-held transceiver; and, you can use your own legally purchased CPS, after you’re approved, or your might have a registered Motorola programmer in your department that can program the frequencies and entitlements for you;
- If you purchase a used or new Motorola on eBay or online, avoid dealers and sellers that don’t have a return policy. Often times, sellers will give the reason they don’t accept returns because people swap parts — well, that’s a bunch of crap in my opinion — the bottom line is these types of sellers don’t want to support the product, they just want the quick cash, or they got the product in a malfeasant manner — stay away from these sellers — they just want the quick sale. Should you decide to purchase a Motorola from these questionable sources, you do so at your own risk;
- I only buy new equipment; but, if you do purchase a used Motorola, make certain you have a return policy and make certain you get a certificate indicating the used Motorola hand-held transceiver was bench-tested usually with Aeroflex equipment. The seller will provide you with a document or a certification sticker on the transceiver;
- If you buy used, make certain you get the serial numbers checked with Motorola. Often times, sellers will get a Motorola and change up the serial numbers. If this happens, Motorola will not provide your with support.
- Take your time and research the Motorola hand-held transceiver you want — these are super expensive hand-held transceivers; and, you wanna make certain you get the one that meets your needs — for example bandwidth…know the bandwidth or your Motorola — if you’re using frequencies in the 443.0 megahertz range, and your Motorola’s lowest frequency is 450.0 megahertz, you won’t be able to program a 443.0 megahertz frequency; because, it’s below 450.0 megahertz;
- The narrow bandwidth FCC ruling might not apply to you; so, make certain your hand-held transceiver is programed with wide-bandwidth — if not, you will have to purchase an entitlement key to unlock the transceiver to accept wide-bandwidth;
- If you end up doing your own code-plugs make certain you get the proper support from either the Motorola authorized dealer or a HAM operator that is familiar with the programming for Motorola hand-held transceivers. If you improperly code your hand-held transceiver, it will not work, or it might create havoc to you and your listeners;
- Stick with OEM Motorola parts — they are more expensive; but, they are specifically designed for your hand-held transceiver; and,
- Don’t be a Motorola snob or have an elite attitude. Motorola HAM operators that constantly put down other HAM operators’ equipment on and off the air is a major turn-off for me. It’s not the equipment you use; it’s the person using the equipment; and, if the person using a Motorola is a schmuck, he is a schmuck off the air and other areas of his life — don’t waste your time with Motorola snobs and schmucks — we are all here to enjoy the activities of HAM operations during peace time and here to help each other out during times of crisis and emergencies regardless of the transceivers we use.
I assure you, after going through these steps and learning to create your own code-plugs, you will really be proud of yourself and will experience HAM operations on a new and higher level than you did with your amateur hand-held transceivers. You won’t have the interest of going back to using your amateur HAM hand-held transceivers other than for nostalgic reasons or having to access a band that you don’t have on your Motorola; but, as I mentioned, we operators tend to use one band more than the other; and, most likely, your selection of the Motorola band you purchased would have satisfied that need for you.
After getting past all those up-front barriers, I’m so happy with my Motorola XPR 7550e — I have Wi-Fi option; I have Bluetooth; I can make a cellular phone call; I can send and receive text messages; I can call other HAM operators over the DMR; I can do so much more with my Motorola XPR 7550e than my amateur hand-held transceivers, and my Motorola XPR 7550e does so much more than my amateur hand-held transceivers; but, most importantly, I have reliable and high-quality state-of-the-art electronic technology that makes RX and TX transmissions consistently clean, clear, robust, and reliable, so I know the person on the other end can understand me in times of peace and in times of crisis.
If you decide to get a Motorola hand-held transceiver, register with Motorola Online before you purchase your Motorola hand-held transceiver. Afterwards, purchase the DMR MotoTrbo Motorola XPR 7550e — this is my weapon of choice for all of my professional and amateur transceiver communications.
Enjoy your shopping.
/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)