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Posts Tagged Baofeng

ARRL Baofeng testing revisited

A while back I wrote a post called “Why FCC tested transceivers should matter to Ham Radio operators.” As part of this post, I drew attention to testing performed by the ARRL on used ham radio transceivers. One of the highlights of this article was that the Baofeng HTs performed exceptionally poorly due to a high level of spurious emissions.

However, I recently stumbled onto an article on PD0AC’s Ham Radio blog called “Baofeng UV-5R Spectrum Analysis Revisited,” in which Hans (the author) looked into comments about the UV-5R’s suspected spurious emissions. I quote:

“But wait, we did this(link) already … and the UV-5R wasn’t too bad at all. All of his bothered me enough to pick up a few of my own UV-5R’s and repeat the measurements… The only way I could replicate his [failing] results was by reducing external attenuation to such a low level that the linearity of the spectrum analyzer was compromised”

In his initial testing, Hans and Tom (PA2TSL) used a 30 dB attenuator for the spectrum testing.

So I went back to the original QST article (November 2015, page 74) and re-read it. It’s important to note that the following quote appears under the test results table on page 75:

“Specific makes and models in which the majority of the units tested were noncompliant: Baofeng, UV5R, UV5R+…”

I found the following description of their test equipment and setup:

“Our convention tests measured … using a test fixture consisting of a Bird Model 43 RF Power Meter, a Bird Model 8322 30 dB power attenuator, a Hewlett-Packard HP355C 0 to 12 dB step attenuator, and a Rigol DSA-815TG spectrum analyzer. … First, the power output … was measured using the Bird Model 43 meter. … Next, with the radio push-to-talk (PTT) button pressed and held, the Rigol DSA-815TG spectrum analyzer was used to perform a sweep…”

So, I went to the FCC’s testing setup. They’re the ones who initially gave the UV-5R a pass, so let’s see what they used to do it. Starting on page 37 of the FCC’s published test results, you can read for yourself the detailed setup and testing of the transceiver, including the directly-connected spectrum analyzer test. Note that they specifically show that the signal from the radio passes through an attenuator (if I’m reading the report correctly, the attenuation is 13 dB).

On page 76, of the QST article, Figure 3 shows a borderline result of a tested UV-5R. The attenuation displayed on the display of this figure shows an attenuation of 10 dB, below either of the previous two test setups.

Let me say that I appreciate what the ARRL does, and I don’t believe for a minute that they are unfamiliar with their equipment, but testing at the informal environment of a convention could lead to simple mistakes in the test setup. I would have really liked to see a clear spelling out of what level of attenuation, if any, was between the equipment and the spectrum analyzer. It’s also important to note that the ARRL clearly mentions in their article that this testing was performed on used equipment, not newly-manufactured units specifically submitted for testing. In light of the two previous articles I mentioned above, and the lack of clearly-mentioned attenuation between the radio and spectrum analyzer, I have to say that, in my opinion, the ARRL’s testing is inconclusive.

Your comments are welcome below. Thank you for reading. 

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Counterfeit radio programming cables and Windows 10

If you have purchased a cheap programming cable for your radio from Amazon, eBay, or another dealer, you’ve probably run into an issue where the cable initially won’t work, and someone (perhaps the vendor) told you that you have to use an older driver to get it to work. What you have is a cable that uses a counterfeit chipset. The Prolific chips seem to be the most problematic, while FTDI chipsets work very well. This page on miklor.com offers some background information on this subject.

The Miklor Cables & Drivers page talks about this and offers the older Prolific drivers that work well with cables that feature those counterfeit Prolific chipsets. You will run into one of two problems while dealing with them, however.

Under Windows 8 and previous Windows versions, Windows will offer the newer, non-working driver through Windows update. It is sufficient to go in and block the update, as described here, but you may have to do that each time you plug the cable in to a different USB port.

Under Windows 10, it’s a whole different situation. Windows 10 will install all updates offered through Windows Update, and you have the option to defer upgrades, but not to block individual updates. Windows 10 will continue to install the updated driver, which will continue to cause your counterfeit chipset cable to stop functioning.

So, if you’re using the counterfeit chipset cable under Windows 10, do yourself a favor and get a genuine programming cable. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and frustration.

A good source for programming software and cables is RT Systems, as they offer both cables and software for radios they support. If you’re only interested in the cable, and you want to use it with the factory software or the open-source software Chirp, look for cables that mention using genuine FTDI chipsets. They aren’t hard to find, but they will cost a little more. For the Baofeng 2-pin models, this cable from Amazon works well. This cable should work for all Baofeng 2-pin cable compatible radios, such as the UV-5R (and variants), the BF-F8+ (and variants), UV-B5 and UB-B6, and UV-82 (and variants). This should also work for all 2-pin cable compatible radios from other manufacturers, as long as they use the same pin out.

You could also try replacing the chipset with a $3 adapter, as described here. A good eBay seller for that adapter is here. Many other people report success. but I tried it with a counterfeit cable for my Baofeng and couldn’t get it to work.

Questions and comments are welcome below.

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Using KF5INZ’s Easy-Digi with Baofeng UV-B5 or UV-B6 for PTT control

I wanted to interface my Baofeng UV-B6 using a K5INZ “Easy Digi” board from eBay for PTT control.

The K5INZ “Easy Digi” boards are very inexpensive interface boards, which are available on eBay. You can find them by searching here. The Baofeng UV-B5 and UV-B6 feature a Kenwood-style 2-pin 3.5mm and 2.5mm connector on the side of the radio. Although the radio supports PTT keying, you have to take care to wire it correctly.

I found the pinout on the Miklor site confusing. After a quick search, I found this better image of the pinout:

BMmRJ

Source: http://ham.stackexchange.com/questions/1891/whats-the-pinout-for-kenwood-2-5mm-trs-3-5-mm-trs-connector

Going off this, you can see that the 3.5mm shield is the PTT, which gets pulled to ground to enable. You can also see that the grounds are on the 2.5mm side (ring and shield) and are for the speaker, mic, and PTT.

This should work for all Baofeng 2-pin cable compatible radios, such as the UV-5R (and variants), the BF-F8+ (and variants), and UV-82 (and variants). This should also work for all 2-pin cable compatible radios from other manufacturers, as long as they use the same pin out.

Special Note for UV-82 series: The UV-82 series supports dual-PTT keying. As such, the pinout is slightly different. The rest of this article will give you a working setup, but will key PTT for the bottom display only. The top display is keyed using the tip of the 3.5mm jack instead of the shield. See this page on miklor.com for more details. 

I used a USB A-to-B cable and cut off the ends. This left me with 4 conductors, of which I only needed three. I wired the RTS, DTR, and digital ground to a DB-9 female connector, with a little bit of electrical tape to keep the cable shield from causing any problems.

20151027_184016294_iOS 20151027_180521227_iOS20151027_180728183_iOS

Pinout source: http://www.db9-pinout.com/

Then wire the connections to and from PC audio in the usual manner. On the Easy Digi the polarity is not marked, but if you follow the wiring diagrams included, you will see the two negatives are in the center, and the positives are on the outside. I marked them myself with a silver marker to help during assembly. For this I used two 3.5mm stereo cables, and wired tip (+), shield (-), and left the ring disconnected.

20151027_191711795_iOS

Next I took a 3.5mm stereo cable and connected the ring to mic in, the shield to PTT high, and left the tip disconnected. (UV-82 series owners only, this is where you want to connect the tip instead of the shield if you want top display PTT instead of bottom display PTT)

Next, I took an Arduino jumper and cut it in half. Put one pin in mic ground, one pin in PTT ground, and twist the free ends together. Tin the twisted end, and solder and snip the excess pin leads. You could use any suitable wire for this jumper. It should end up as shown here:

20151027_195438719_iOS

Next, solder on the audio in using the tip (+) and shield (-). The radio side of this cable needs to go down to 2.5mm, and can be mono or stereo, but if it’s stereo, be sure to leave the ring disconnected. You can use a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, such as this one from Monoprice, but either wire your own plug or test the adapter before use.

Take the jumper lead you made previously and wrap it around and solder it to audio ground. If you’re using the Easy Digi case, don’t go around the long side of the board (as I did in this photo), go around the short side of the board. You won’t be able to fit the board back in the case if you go around the long side. you could have also made the connections from the bottom side of the board if you so desired.

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You should have your board fully assembled now.

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You can now control PTT with either DTR or RTS control over your serial port, and it works fine with USB-to-Serial adapters.

This works great for an EchoLink simplex repeater, or for APRS digipeating use.

UVB6withEasyDigi

Audio leveling: I found this to work best when the Baofeng volume is set between the 9 o’clock to the 10 o’clock position, and the PC mic input is set to 20 with +20db boost. I found that the PC volume level may have to be set anywhere between 20 and 50, depending on the particular PC and software. You will likely have to adjust to your own environment.

NOTE: If using this with DireWolf v1.2 for APRS, you will need to specify both DTR and RTS control in the DireWolf configuration file, or DireWolf will hold PTT down. All other programs seem to work normally. Example configuration line for DireWolf:

PTT COM4 DTR RTS

Comments are welcome.

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Why FCC tested transceivers should matter to Ham radio operators

I have been engaged in conversation with several other hams in regard to Chinese imported transceivers such as Baofengs and Wouxuns. These radios are very inexpensive (usually less than $50 a piece) and readily available from US suppliers via Amazon and eBay. They frequently do not come with an FCC label on them.

The question is, does it matter?

Some hams are of the belief that FCC certification doesn’t matter because they’re used in Amateur Radio, which operates under Part 97 of the rules and does not require certification.

Other hams are of the belief that the transceiver requires at least Part 15 certification since it will receive outside of the amateur band.

So which is correct? Technically, the latter belief is correct. Part 15 certification is required because the device will receive outside of the amateur band. But more importantly, a large part of the Chinese imports do not even meet the emissions standards of FCC Part 97. We should care about Part 15 certification because FCC testing proves the emission standards of the radio, such as harmonics and splatter, and poor emissions can cause harmful interference in other radio bands.

In the November 2015 issue of QST, the ARRL published results of testing Amateur-owned handheld transceivers at various conventions from 2012-2015. This testing was done on attendees’ used radios which were brought to the conventions. Each transceiver was hooked to a calibrated set of test equipment and was tested for emission standards compliance.

While I can’t provide the actual article due to copyrights, I will sum up the findings here. For all brands listed in the article over the entire test period, I’ve provided the total number of radios and the average percent of compliant radios across all years.

  • Baofeng: 186 tested. 29% compliant.
  • Connect Systems: 13 tested, 100% compliant.
  • Icom: 151 tested, 100% compliant.
  • Kenwood: 129 tested, 99.5% compliant.
  • Motorola: 11 tested, 100% compliant
  • RadioShack: 11 tested, 100% compliant.
  • TYT: 6 tested, 50% compliant.
  • Wouxun: 79 tested, 82.5% compliant.
  • Yaesu: 280 tested, 99.8% compliant.

For greater detail of the radios tested and the emissions findings, including spectral graphs of the emissions of a few tested radios, please see the issue of QST I mentioned above.

Comments are welcome.

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Counterfeit Prolific programming cables and the Baofeng UV-B5 and UV-B6

Miklor has an excellent tutorial which explains the situation with counterfeit Prolific cables, and how to get the correct driver installed and working.

In short, it’s simply a matter of installing the correct cable driver (the older Prolific driver), plugging in the cable, and then choosing the correct driver in Device Manager. In Linux, the cables seem to work fine with no issues.

There are a couple of additional things to keep in mind:

1) After installing the working driver, make sure you continue to plug the cable into that same USB port. Plugging it in to a different port will cause the Windows driver to reload. If you do, just update it with the working driver again.

2) Windows Update may offer an update to your “outdated” Prolific driver. Just block or hide this update.

3) If you plug the Prolific cable into your radio with the wrong driver installed, the LED will turn red. You ARE transmitting a carrier. Keep that in mind. Make sure your radio is tuned to an in-band, unused frequency before plugging the cable into your radio if you’re not sure of the driver situation, or just check Device Manager, as the wrong driver will show a yellow exclamation mark.

Here’s a photo of the led gone red from the wrong drivers installed:

Baofeng_Cable_Transmit

Have anything else to add to this? Please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you!

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Baofeng UV-B6 frequency issues above 499Mhz

The Baofeng UV-B6 (and B5 too, I’m assuming) are factory programmed to operate UHF up to 480Mhz. You can easily unlock this to 520Mhz through either the Baofeng software or CHIRP.

However, the radio exhibits some really strange display issues when you tune above 499Mhz. Take a look at the two videos below for a demonstration.

It’s also worth noting that the UV-B6 antenna that mine came with was only indicated for use up to 480Mhz. Yours may be the same.

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If you have anything to share about this, please do so in the comments section below. Thank you!

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