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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:14 pm 
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I picked up one of these at a hamfest today and plan to use it to replace a Yaesu FT-8500 in the back of my truck that's setup as a dedicated cross band repeat rig. The Yaesu is nice but I've been having audio problems with it so it needs to come out for repairs. If this one works out then the Yaesu will become a spare cross band rig.

Out of the box but still not powered up I can say there are already things about this that I like and don't like:

Likes
  • Price - $325
  • Comes with the separation kit
  • Comes with the programming cable
  • Wide band receive (deleted from final production model)
  • 999 Memories
  • Cross band repeat (obviously I like this since that's why I bought it)

Dislikes
  • Poorly translated manual
  • Comes with a driver disk for the programming cable, but not the programming software (you have to download that from their site for free)
  • Stun and Kill functions do not work on zombies

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Last edited by KJ4VOV on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:47 pm 
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Okay, got it programmed and ready for testing. The programming was a bit of a PITA due to the very poor quality of the manufacturer's programming software. Part of the problem there is you cannot resize the program window. Well, you can, but it doesn't help. Let me illustrate...

This is how the program opens:

Image
SNAG-0000 by bwbehling, on Flickr


This is what happens if you try to make it full screen on a widescreen monitor:

Image
SNAG-0001 by bwbehling, on Flickr


And no, you cannot resize or drag the data entry area to make it fit the screen. Hell, if you try and expand the column headers so you can read what they say the last column gets lost off screen, with no scroll bar at the bottom, so you have no way to get to it. Really poorly designed user interface there.

This gets even more ludicrous on the Configuration Settings and VFO Settings screens:

Image
SNAG-0002 by bwbehling, on Flickr

Image
SNAG-0003 by bwbehling, on Flickr

On the Configuration Settings screen the left box has just two more lines that you have to scroll down to see or access, then the configuration settings continue in the right hand box, which also scrolls down two more lines, even though there's no data down there. Why they didn't just eliminate the scrolls by moving two items from the left box to the right is beyond me, but it obviously made some kind of sense to someone at the factory in China.

Anyway, I had about 35 frequencies I needed to enter, some were repeaters, some were simplex, and that lead to the next problem... the software does not automatically do repeater offsets. Okay, not a huge problem maybe, but still a PITA to anyone who's used to radios that do automatic offsets, or RT Systems software (more on RT Systems software a little later). Instead you have to enter the receive frequency and the transmit frequency in two different boxes. (Interesting note, in the menu settings there is an offset frequency setting, from 0 to 599.995mHz :shock: but no clue as to how it is used in the manual). One feature that I do like about this rig though is how easy it makes it to do odd splits, and different input/output tones. There's one repeater that's local to me which requires a certain tone to get into, and which transmits a different tone. This was done due to another repeater, using the same tone on the same frequency which sometimes comes through if the gods of propagation feel like fwonking with us that day. This makes programming for that repeater a little easier than some others I've used.

So, all the frequencies got programmed finally and the data transferred to the radio. Now it was time to see how it works.

One problem that immediately came up was that if you enter an Alpha name for a channel, only the name seemed to show up. A fast read through the manual shows that pressing the 6 key (VFO/MR) should shift between displaying the channel number + name and channel number + frequency and that indeed does happen, but there's no way to show name and frequency at the same time. I prefer name & freq (the way it's displayed on my Icom IC-706MKIIG) but this is still workable. The next problem to crop up, and one which I still haven't gotten a good handle on, is how the cross band repeat functions work. Remember, my sole purpose in buying this rig was to use it as a dedicated cross band repeater in my truck so this is kinda important to me. From my reading of the manual it seems there are four different cross band modes on the rig. Two of them seem to involve connecting two of these radios together with a data cable and then one would work for receive and the other for transmit (essentially full duplex) so I'm not looking at those. The remaining two are called directional cross band repeat and two way cross band repeat. I think two way is the one I want for what I use a cross band repeater for (use the truck radio to extend the range of an HT during public service events) but I'm not 100% sure since I can't seem to get it to work. And directional cross band repeat simply makes no sense to me at this point. I'm just not grasping the concept they used and that's frustrating for now.

So, back to two way cross band repeating... If I set the unit up to two way cross band between a local VHF repeater and a simplex UHF frequency it looks like it's working on the display but a test transmission on my UHF HT failed to bring up the repeater. No doubt this is simply user error and I'll eventually figure it out, but I really wish there were clearer instructions for this rig online. Oh well, by the time I get it all figured out and posted in this review I guess there will be, just I'll be the one writing them.

Other thoughts and notes:

The rig has a compander audio setting that, while nice, is of really limited use. Companded audio makes it possible to transmit a wider dynamic range of sound through a narrower bandwidth than could normally accommodate it. Amateurs won't find too much use for this I suspect, though it's a nice thing to have on commercial narrow band FM.

It's important to remember that this rig isn't really manufactured as an amateur radio rig. It is, first and foremost, a low price commercial rig, and as such has a wider frequency range than just the amateur bands and features (stun, kill, remote control, compander, etc.) usually only found on commercial radios. It would be easy to get yourself into hot water by transmitting out of band with it, and due care should be exercised so that doesn't happen. One way I could see this happening is if you programmed in the ten NOAA weather radio channel frequencies so you could listen to weather alerts. If you were to hit the PTT (such as accidentally sitting on the mike) while doing that these rigs will then transmit on that frequency, a major no-no. For that reason alone I strongly suggest that the rig not be used to monitor out of band frequencies, despite how convenient it might be.

While it's nice to have a choice of backlight illumination colors, especially colors that can be assigned to TX, RX, and standby, having only three colors (white, blue, green) and no brightness control really limits the usability of this. Wouxun should really have allowed for more color choices and a screen brightness control.

There are three speakers on the rig, and they're weird! There's two on the case, one for each VFO it seems, but one is bigger than the other, which makes no sense to me. The third speaker is on the back of the microphone, and I like that feature a lot. The speaker mike means they didn't need a speaker in the control head, and allows you to both mount the control head in more places and also to really bury the radio body somewhere (remember it still needs cooling though). I'm already making plans to get an extra control head mount or two and running extra control cables to different points on the truck. The radio is getting mounted inside the back compartment of the truck, riveted (the bracket) directly to one of the steel shelves. That puts it in the perfect spot for the rear operators position, but I'm also considering a mount for the control head in the cab of the truck, another closer to the rear doors, and possibly a third one mounted in a waterproof box on the outside of the truck. Heck, for that matter I could just stick a waterproof RJ-45 jack out there and carry a network cable to connect the control head while sitting outside at a table under a canopy. Lots of possibilities there.

RT Systems does sell programming software for this radio, but there's a couple of issues that concern me. First, maybe it's just my imagination but the RT System software looks a lot like the factory software, with maybe just a little tweaking and formatting here and there. Second, as with all their software, RT Systems tells you that only their own data cables ($30 each) will work with their software. Now, while I completely "buy" their story that they started doing this when a bunch of counterfeit Prolific chips were used in some cheap Chinese cables sold on eBay (and other places) caused them real tech support headaches what I don't "buy" is why they are doing that with this particular radio, considering that it comes standard with a manufacturer supplied and approved programming cable. In my mind this just sounds like greed on their part. Their software should be able to work just fine with the genuine factory cable, and if it does not then the only reason I can see for it is to make more money by selling you an overpriced cable. In my humble opinion there's no way in hell they aren't making at least $15-$25 profit on the cables they sell for $30, so this really smacks of price gouging to me, but hey, that's just my opinion.

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Last edited by KJ4VOV on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:40 pm 
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Interesting. I have been looking for a new mobile rig, this may bear further investigation. And yea, that software is a little wonky looking. Have you had a chance to test the audio quality / actual range / etc?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:12 pm 
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As a matter of fact, yes I did. I just finished a 30 minute QSO with a friend of mine on the local repeater. We tried all the power and audio settings. Final opinion? Lower overall audio level than my usual rig (Icom IC-706MKIIG) but higher pitch. Other than that he says it sounds like me. Received audio was also pretty good on my end.

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And selected hamsters.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:13 pm 
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Update: I had sent an email to the folks at RT Systems on the question about their software working with the factory supplied programming cable. Here is their response:
Quote:
As for the KG-UV920 software and cable, the electronics in the cables are incompatible with each other, which is why we develop our own cables.

If you have any other questions, let us know.

Thanks,

Domenic
Support Department
RT Systems
Phone: (303).586.6510


Hmmm... pretty much any way you care to read that it comes out that they deliberately designed their software to not work with the factory supplied and authorized cable and to only work with their non-factory and unauthorized accessory cable. The only reason I can see for doing that is to gouge an extra $15-$25 profit out of their customers.

Guess whose products I will no longer buy or recommend?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:22 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
Update: I had sent an email to the folks at RT Systems on the question about their software working with the factory supplied programming cable. Here is their response:
Quote:
As for the KG-UV920 software and cable, the electronics in the cables are incompatible with each other, which is why we develop our own cables.
. . . . .
If you have any other questions, let us know.


Hmmm... pretty much any way you care to read that it comes out that they deliberately designed their software to not work with the factory supplied and authorized cable and to only work with their non-factory and unauthorized accessory cable. The only reason I can see for doing that is to gouge an extra $15-$25 profit out of their customers.


Since RT Systems invited you to let you know if you have any other questions, I suggest asking why they didn't adopt the rather obvious approach and just engineer their "new" software to be compatible with the official Wouxun factory cables in the first place? Rather than going to all the trouble to develop both new software and new cables.

I mean besides corporate greed, that is.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:46 pm 
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That rig looks almost identical to the Anytone rag
Image
(299.00 Suggested retail) any chance the software would work on yours?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:56 pm 
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TacAir wrote:
That rig looks almost identical to the Anytone rag
Image
(299.00 Suggested retail) any chance the software would work on yours?

Image

While I see some similarity between them I think calling them almost identical is a bit of a stretch.

In any case, no, there's no chance of the software from that working on the Wouxun. The menus, settings and options are very different between the two rigs. (I checked out the Anytone at the same hamfest and considered it, but went the extra $25 for the Wouxun because there was no indication that the Anytone would do cross band repeating (found out later that it does) and that was my main criteria for the rig.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:09 pm 
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majorhavoc wrote:
KJ4VOV wrote:
Update: I had sent an email to the folks at RT Systems on the question about their software working with the factory supplied programming cable. Here is their response:
Quote:
As for the KG-UV920 software and cable, the electronics in the cables are incompatible with each other, which is why we develop our own cables.
. . . . .
If you have any other questions, let us know.


Hmmm... pretty much any way you care to read that it comes out that they deliberately designed their software to not work with the factory supplied and authorized cable and to only work with their non-factory and unauthorized accessory cable. The only reason I can see for doing that is to gouge an extra $15-$25 profit out of their customers.


Since RT Systems invited you to let you know if you have any other questions, I suggest asking why they didn't adopt the rather obvious approach and just engineer their "new" software to be compatible with the official Wouxun factory cables in the first place? Rather than going to all the trouble to develop both new software and new cables.

I mean besides corporate greed, that is.

The plot, or at least the "bull excrement" thickens...

I had replied to Domenic (odd spelling of the name... makes me wonder if it's really this person's name or if it's (as is sometimes done in customer service to protect the representative from angry customers) an alias that they didn't know how to spell) after that original response he sent as follows:
Quote:
I'm sorry Domenic, your answer regarding the cable issue with the KG-UV920
really does not make any sense to me.

The way you phrased your answer what you've actually said is that your
company makes its own cables to deliberately be different from the
manufacturer supplied programming cable so as to deliberately render that
cable useless. Why? Just so you folks can collect an extra $30 for the
cable? I'm sorry, that seems unethical and dishonest to me, and I will make
sure to note that in my reviews of this product.

Thank you.



Domenic responded to that today with:
Quote:
That's actually not what I meant by that. In the past they've had it opened to aftermarket cables and it make it difficult for them to identify issues that were going on with the cables. Which is why they started to manufacture they're own USB cables, so we didn't run into this issue again.

Domenic
Support Department
RT Systems
Phone: (303).586.6510


And then my response to that:
Quote:
Domenic, it seems you're being somewhat evasive and circular in your
responses here.

In my original message to you I stated, "I'm also wondering why your
software for the Wouxun KG-UV920 will not work with the programming cable
that comes standard with the radio. That gives the impression that you folks
are deliberately making it so people have to buy the cable from you for
additional cost. Personally, I understand about the problems with cheap
knockoff cables causing support headaches for you, but when the manufacturer
of the radio supplies the cable with it as standard equipment, well, that's
a different story altogether..." Your response to that was that your
company makes their own cables so that they will be different from the OEM
cables and so the OEM cables will not work with your software.

So, I had already told you I knew about the aftermarket cable problems (and
agreed with the company decision to make their own cables and not support
aftermarket cables) but wanted to know why this was being done in the case
of this particular radio and the manufacturer's original (OEM, not
aftermarket) cable. Since this is a factory cable, not aftermarket, the
reasoning you've given does not stand up. Again I'm left with the
impression that this is being done with this radio simply to put extra money
in the company bank account from the sale of cables that should not be
needed. In the case of aftermarket cables and other radios, yes, it makes
perfect sense to not support them, but it is my opinion that your software
should at least support the full factory package for this particular model
of radio, which includes a factory made and supplied programming cable, and
I have said so in my reviews of this radio.

73
Bernie



I will post any further response from the company here but I think any further discussion/debate about the RT Systems software for this radio should be done under its own review heading, and not allowed to clutter up the continuing review of this radio.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:44 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
TacAir wrote:
That rig looks almost identical to the Anytone rag
Image
(299.00 Suggested retail) any chance the software would work on yours?

Image

While I see some similarity between them I think calling them almost identical is a bit of a stretch.

In any case, no, there's no chance of the software from that working on the Wouxun. The menus, settings and options are very different between the two rigs. (I checked out the Anytone at the same hamfest and considered it, but went the extra $25 for the Wouxun because there was no indication that the Anytone would do cross band repeating (found out later that it does) and that was my main criteria for the rig.


The feature set is nearly identical, and so on. Since you've had a chance to see/touch/loo at these in person you have the better understanding. I thought is was one of those Chinese things where several radios come from one factory with different brandings or slightly different feature sets.

Have you looked at the TYT rigs? - assuming some were at the hamfest.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:02 pm 
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TacAir wrote:
Have you looked at the TYT rigs? - assuming some were at the hamfest.


I did indeed, and almost bought one for 1.25cm. That's a band I'm currently not covering well with my station, and one which is gaining popularity in my AO. One vendor had the TYT TH-9000 220mHz rig for (if I remember correctly) $149, but that, and an antenna for it, would have put me over what I budgeted to spend at the hamfest. This was after I'd already purchased the Wouxun and I only had about $160 left in my budget.

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