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Motorola DTR Radios Part 1

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I always wanted to have my own professional radios.


I've used the Motorola CP200 for years and loved the convenience of having radios when touring. You really miss them on a fly-in when you don't have any!

The normal "Business" 2-way radios use the VHF or UHF band, and are using frequencies that require a license in the USA and Canada. I'm sure they do in other countries as well, but I don't know too much about the way things are licensed in other countries. I do know that they are usually more strict in Europe.
Anyway, I wanted my own radios, but the licensing issue always seemed to be a big hassle. Plus, these kind of radios aren't particularly cheap, especially when you fit them up with all the accessories, spares, proper casing and so on. So, after doing some random scouring over the internet one day, I heard about the Motorola DTR series radios. The really interesting thing was that they worked on the 900Mhz band and were license-free in the USA and Canada. They aren't cheap, but this license-free operation really got me interested.

The problem was, I couldn't really get any decent information about them on the internet. Usually I'm a pretty good googler and typically looking at sites, blogs and forums I can almost always find some good "first-hand" information on any subject or product. But in this case, there was almost nothing.
On paper these radios looked really good but I really wanted to see one. There's many Motorola dealers in my town, so I asked each of them about the radios. Most had never seen one, or if they had, they weren't that enthusiastic about them. Radio dealers are a funny lot, it seems that they really like to keep the information they have close to their chest, and they really want to sell you radios that they have to license and program for you. What's also interesting about these DTR radios is that the programming software is free and typical programming for VHF/UHF radios is only available to authorized dealers and is very expensive.
Still strange that I could find almost nothing about them on the internet. But I redoubled my efforts and with some determined searching, I eventually found a couple of forums and one in particular where a kind person named "Chickenhawk" had done a pretty thorough test and review of the radios. I found out that in addition to being digital, they used FHSS, they allowed private groups, would only transmit when the receiver is in range, you could see who's calling, they had vibrating call (for loud situations), a whole bunch of features that looked really good. They also were purported to have as good or better range than the usual UHF business radios. Well, now I was even more interested!
Thinking though that I didn't really want to invest a lot in these radios until I could see one or try them out, again I reached out to dealers and rental houses to see if I could get a set to try. Nothing. Nobody has them.

My next thought was maybe I'll invest a little money and purchase a used set. I started looking online. Lots of them available on eBay. Living in Canada and wanting to avoid the high costs of shipping across the boarder, I checked Nothing.
Hummed and hawed for a little more, and I couldn't stop thinking about these radios. I finally bit the bullet and bought 4 at a pretty good price on eBay when I was in the USA.
At first look, they seemed pretty good, but realized that the programming was pretty difficult. I knew I'd need to get them hooked up to my computer and program them using the CPS software. Ok, have to order the programming cable. It's about 40 bucks and when it finally arrived, I excitedly installed the software and hooked up one of the radios to the cable and to the computer.
"Non-CPS capable radio" (or something to that effect) was the popup I received. Sigh.

Back to the internet, ask some questions, see if I can figure out what's going wrong. I learn that there are a couple of versions of the DTR radios. A "Rev1", "Rev2", and a "Rev3". People are saying that the Rev2 can be "flashed" (firmware updated) to be Rev3, but the Rev1 cannot. The Rev1 will never connect to CPS, cannot be flashed and will never have the features that the Rev2 and Rev3 have.
Now the serious depression sets in.
But... I was determined that at least the IDEA of these radios is still the shiznik. I just got stuck with the early ones. Not sure what to do with them, maybe I can sell them back on eBay, so I put them aside for now. I'm still hooked though, and I still want to try out the newer version of these radios.

But even though I know now about the different versions, how do I tell without hooking them up to CPS what version they are? Well, it turns out that all Rev1 have non-removable antennas. Ok. BUT, there's no way to tell a Rev2 from a Rev3. Ok, with more cash than brains, I look around on eBay again for some more radios. The Rev2/3 ones with the removable antennas.
Again, I was able to find some good deals, and I picked up a bunch of them, crossing my fingers that they were Rev3. Yadda yadda yadda, I get my box of radios, and they are Rev2. Hook them up to CPS, and eureka! They connect. I can program them, and all is good. I look at the firmware version and see that they are "Rev2" radios. Ok, better, but I'm still not satisfied.

(Continued in Part 2)

Updated 11-18-2015 at 10:14 PM by Andy