Sunday, January 7, 2018

All about the Baofeng UV5-R

A Most Popular Hand-held Transceiver Choice

A lot has been written about Baofeng transceivers. They are affordable, multi-band, and deliver a pretty good bang for the buck given that they can be had new for less than Cdn$50 (less than US$30). There is now a video on YouTube that claims to perform the ‘Extreme Test’... watch, you’ll be surprised!

Loved or despised, many people are passionate about the Baofeng UV-5R.  Why? Simply because it is a basic dual band radio at a very affordable price. Where once you paid $250+ for a dual-band handheld, you now pay less than Cdn $50, perhaps much less. The UV-5R had a 5-year evolution.

The Basics:
  • Frequency Range: 65-108 MHz (Only commercial FM radio reception), VHF works from 136 to 174 MHz( both Rx/Tx), UHF works from 400 to 520 MHz (both Rx/Tx)
  • Channel Names customizable and many other adjustments by using the PC03 FTDI Programming Cable (which by the way, is highly recommended)
  • UV-5R model is equipped with a 1500mAh Battery (1800mAh Label); 
  • Broadband (Wide) 25khz / Narrowband (Narrow) 12.5khz Selectable
  • AUTO Keypad Lock, Dual Band, Dual Display and Dual Standby
  • 1(low) or 4 (high) watts output
  • Selectable frequency steps of the cheap radio include 2.5, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5 and 25 kHz
  • Dual watch and dual reception, and it can store up to 128 memories; plus:
  • selectable wide/narrow, battery save function, VOX, DCS/CTCSS encode, key lock and a built in flashlight.

This Radio Comes With:
  • an SMA-Female antenna,
  • flexible antenna,
  • BL-5 Li-ion battery (7.4V 1500 mAh,
  • belt clip and wrist strap,
  • AC adapter (8.4V 600ma) and a drop-in charging tray.
Accessories , such as a hand-held mic, extra batteries, car adapter, better antenna and external antenna adapter, a programming cable and software and cases are mostly less than $10 each.
    Baofeng radios have proven to be reliable and inexpensive. Hams buy one to use just in case of emergency, camping, chatting on a repeater with other fellow amateur radio operators, and, at the price, you can keep one in your glove compartment permanently without losing to much sleep worrying about theft of your expensive gear. Moreover, the Baofeng UV-5R is the perfect first radio for a new operators after they passed their exams.

    I doubt he has a ham license but yes, this militia member uses a Baofeng UV-5R.

    Baofeng started to sell the UV-5R Dual Band, Dual Display radio in 2012. Since its introduction the UV-5R has seen a massive growth of its sales. There were  two major releases after its launch, with the second generation being signified by BFB297 Firmware in early 2013 and the N5R firmware tweak in August of 2014. Variations include the UV-5R v2+, UV-5RA, UV-5RE, UV-5R+ (Plus), along with several other lesser produced variants.

    At the end of 2013, the Baofeng UV-5R was released with a new variant featuring  the inverted display series and the introduction of the BF-F8+ and its own aesthetics variants (the GT-3 and 997-S). During the fall of 2014, the Baofeng UV-5R was replaced by the brand new Baofeng BF-F8HP.  There are lots of new UV-5Rs still available. This is why today, the Baofeng UV-5R is the least expensive VHF/UHF radio ever available.
    The BaoFeng UV-5R is able to operate on narrowband (12.5kHz) and wideband (25kHz). It is a dual watch receiver. The BaoFeng UV-5R has one built-in receiver but can “watch” two channels (semi duplex). Monitor two different frequencies (even on different bands (VHF/UHF)) and the radio will monitor both frequencies, giving priority to the first station to receive an incoming call.

    If you purchase a Baofeng UV-5R you can listen to the FM Broadcast band, because your Baofeng will be able to receive your favourite FM station in the background. Any incoming call will be given priority insuring you never miss an important call while listening to the radio.

    The BaoFeng UV-5R supports the most common Analog Tones. It supports CTCSS, DCS, and DTMF calling methods. Configuring your calling methods to call by group tones it’s easy. A simple tone call is required by most repeater applications and the Baofeng UV-5R is able to supports the latest standards. The BaoFeng UV-5R can send DTMF tones. This allows for sending ANI (Caller ID) or remote commands that require DTMF tones.

    You may program your BaoFeng UV-5R exactly how you want it as there are 128 programmable memory channels ready for you. And it is easy to add or remove channels from scanning list using free CHIRP software. You can name the channels alphanumerically, display the frequency or a channel number.

    You can easily program from a PC to set-up the radio as shown in the video at:

    I do recommend a better antenna. All handheld antennas are compromised and inefficient because of their length. A company called Nagoya sells an after-market antenna (model NA-771) that is about three times the length of the stock rubber duckie. It is much more efficient and very flexible so it doesn’t get in the way (see below).  Another good investment is a mobile or base antenna. You’ll need an adapter (photo right) to transition from Baofeng’s reverse SMA (M) to SO-239 (F).  

    The other recommended purchases are an AA battery holder, so that when your power drains you can simply replace the battery with dry cells, a programming cable and perhaps a car adapter, which powers your radio from your car battery.

    The Nagoya antenna referred to in the article

    Hopefully you found this review useful. When I bought my first handheld, a single-band 2m iCom, it cost Cdn $600 from a local dealer, and had a whole lot fewer features. Is the UV-5R the best handheld out there? No, but there are lots of choices out there, and  I don’t think this handheld will disappoint you at the price; I’ve even worked satellites with it.
    The Surrey Amateur Radio Club has a programming file for CHiRP with frequencies in use for the Vancouver area. Download the file in .CSV format at

    Sunday, December 31, 2017

    The Communicator - January 2018

    Here is the latest Communicator. In this edition you will find:

    • QRM 
    • The Rest Of The Story—Heinrich Hertz 
    • Back To Basics 
    • Tech Topics—Mobile Installation Basics 
    • What’s Happening This Month In Ham? 
    • News You Can Lose 
    • Club News—SARC 
    • Club News—OTC 
    • Radio-Active 
    • Emergency Comms 
    • Club News—SEPAR Report 
    • Satellite News 
    • News From Clubs 
    • Hardware - The Baofeng UV-5R
    • Tech Topics II  - Antenna Modelling Software
    • Tech Topics III - Programming Chinese Radios
    • Field Day 2017 Reviewed
    • and more... 

    You can read or download this edition here

    My deadline for the February edition is January 20th. If you have news from your Vancouver area club, events or other items of interest please email them to the

    Sunday, December 24, 2017

    A Ham's Night Before Christmas

    A Christmas Classic

    Here are the three video versions of A Ham's Night Before Christmas, one of KN4AQ's most popular productions.

    First is the standard-definition original, produced in 2010. It's accumulated 62,000 views!.

    Second, the Special Edition,is the high-definition remake produced in 2012, watched another 15,000 times

    And finally the live version from 2016 (um, 400 views?*). In the Live version, Gary first describes how he came to write the poem back in 1996 and perform it in person at radio club meetings around North Carolina, then produce the various audio and video versions for YouTube. Then he recreates those radio club live performances — with feeling — over a playback of the video and music track. The Live version was produced for HamRadioNow Episode 283. That episode page has links to a text version of the story and the poem, and audio versions with and without music. You can play the no-music recording on the air (on your club net Christmas eve?).

    Sunday, December 17, 2017

    Mobile Transceiver Installation Basics

    A Communicator Reprise: March 2011

    Mobile installations can be complicated, whether it is for a complex rover rig setup or just a relatively simple two meter FM installation. Here are some lessons that I have learned in that area over the years.

    Getting power to the rig:
    Connect directly to the battery. This provides a degree of filtration against alternator whine and ignition noise. A direct connection allows you to use your gear without turning the ignition on, though you must take care to turn the radios off or you will end up with a dead battery. Some rigs have an auto-off function that solves this problem.

    This is the fuse box installation in my 2005 Toyota Tundra. The box is a small fishing tackle box with some partitions removed. It is affixed to the air filter housing with Superlock® fasteners. The large PowerPole® connectors enable me to unhook the power in an emergency. Note that this container even provides for the storage of spare fuses.
    I suggest putting fuses on both legs of the power lines as close to the battery as possible. This protects your equipment and your vehicle if you have a catastrophic short circuit. In addition, you’ll need individual fuses for each piece of equipment. Don’t forget to stock up on extra fuses too. Check out the accompanying photos to see the installation I recently did in my Toyota truck.

    Cigarette lighter circuits are light duty and are usually unsatisfactory for radio installations. If you must use one you should reduce power on the rig to limit the current draw. There are several power distribution panels on the market, and nearly all of them use Anderson PowerPole® connectors. They make a much better distribution system than a cigarette lighter socket.

    Power panel - This is one of two power panels in the Tundra. The other one is located on the transmission tunnel just forward of the passenger seat. Each will handle 30 amps and has a main fuse plus individual circuit fuses. These panels are available from the nice folks at
    Anderson PowerPoles are the national standard for many organizations and a wide variety of accessories using them are available. These panels usually have individually fused circuits and some even provide audio alerts for low voltage. When doing a mobile installation I prefer to put in a power panel to provide for future needs. The panels come in handy for connecting other radio’s, a GPS, a power inverter or other accessories.

    Routing cables:
    Getting cable through a firewall can be a hassle, but it can done. Most vehicles have holes in the firewall that are sealed with plastic or rubber plugs. Once you have determined that you can get to both sides of the plug, pull it out and punch an appropriate size hole through it using a gasket punch. Use a hole that provides a snug fit to the cable. Inexpensive gasket punches are available at Harbor Freight, item 6770-9VGA. This gives you a clean hole for your cable and will prevent the grommet from splitting. Once the cable is in place, seal around the cable opening with RTV or silicone caulk. This will reduce drafts, engine noise and the possibility of carbon monoxide entering the cabin. When running cables inside the engine compartment, be sure to avoid hot exhaust component and moving parts such as the steering linkage. Likewise, if you are routing cables under the dashboard make sure that they do not rub against or interfere with moving parts such as heater control cables, brake cables, etc. Installing cables inside the vehicle can require some effort.

    You can usually lift trim panels on the door sills by removing screws. If you are lucky, there will be a cable trough under the panel. An electrician’s snake can be handy for pulling wires, especially under carpet or between the headliner and roof. If you route cables under carpet do not route under heavy wear areas.

    Where to put the rig:
    The placement of the transceiver is critical. It should be ina convenient location for operation and should not interfere with vehicle controls. Many mobile rigs have remote control heads which makes installation a lot easier. The only downside to remote heads is that the speaker is in the main body of the radio and it may be hard to hear. This problem is solved by installing a small mobile speaker. If possible,place the rig and control head where it cannot be readily seen from outside the vehicle. This will reduce the chances of theft.
    Mounting the control head – Here’s a view of the control head for my IC-706MKIIG mounted on the dash of the Tundra. I was able to snake the remote cable under the dashboard and out through a gap by the windshield. The mounting bracket is bolted to an aluminum mount that is affixed to the dashboard with Velcro. The Velcro on the top of the control head is to affix a sun shield. This shield is necessary to keep the unit from overheating in direct sunlight. It extends over the defroster vents and directs cold air to the control head.

    I prefer to have the microphone cord routed so it comes from behind me and has tension on the cord when I am using it. This allows me to drop the microphone without it getting tangled in the controls. I learned this lesson the hard way when I wrapped a mike cable around the steering wheel and ended up in the ditch! Securing the microphone can be a distraction when driving, so you might wish to use self-adhesive Velcro rather than the catches that come with the gear. I like to put the scratchy side of the Velcro on the dashboard or console so I can feel it with the backs of my fingers when I am stowing the microphone. I also use Velcro to secure brackets for control head mounts. Radio Shack sells Superlock Fasteners that are a lot like Velcro, but much heavier and stronger. It is not cheap, but it allows you to mount gear without drilling holes in the car if you have a clean flat surface.

    Mounting an antenna:
    Antenna mounts can be tricky, especially with newer cars. If you are willing to punch a hole in a fender or the roof, use a Greenlee punch or a metal-cutting hole saw. This gives you a nice clean hole that is easier to weatherproof. If you own a pickup, consider the GeoTools pickup stake hole mounts. 
    Their web page is at: I’ve used two of them on my 2005 Toyota Tundra. They are beautifully made and it is easy to make a clean installation with them. You should take care when routing antenna cables. They also must be kept away from moving parts, exhaust parts and sharp edges. Consult your auto dealer to determine the location of on-board computers and give them a wide berth for fear of interfering with vehicle electronics.

    Do yourself a favor and tag your antenna lines at the radio end. This is especially important if you have more than one antenna. If the antenna connections on the rig are not easily accessible, you might consider running a piece of coax to a more easily accessible location and installing an antenna splitter switch there. This will enable you to switch to a portable antenna should the need ever arise.

    The next step is to check the continuity between major body parts such as the roof, fenders, trunk lid and hood. If you do not have continuity between these parts it will affect the antenna ground plane and reduce ignition noise shielding. Fortunately, it is usually easy to bond these components with
    small pieces of ground braid.

    Once everything is in place, check the SWR and make appropriate adjustments. An antenna analyzer is the ideal tool for this, but you can also use a SWR bridge that registers in the appropriate frequency range.

    Find the original article at in the March 2011 Communicator

    Sunday, December 10, 2017

    Better VHF/UHF Performance

    A Communicator Reprise: September 2010 (2)

    There is more to your radio than just your radio; and just because you can bring up a repeater with a click of your PTT button, doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a full quieting signal sufficient enough to actually get whole words out.  

    I hear far too many stations, be it hand held, mobile or base who consistently try to check into a net or have a conversation with poor quality signals or audio issues.

    Here are 6 tips to better VHF/UHF Performance
    1. Use the correct coax cable.  You may be losing transmission efficiency if you’re using coax that’s too small for long cable runs.  Here is a rule of thumb: For runs under 20 feet you can get away with RG58 A/U cable.  Avoid using RG-174 for handheld jumpers.  For runs longer than 20 feet, use RG8 or RG213 or better yet, LMR400.  Over 100’ LMR600.  Use the right connectors too.  You can get away with a good quality PL-259 (UHF) connector up for 144 or even 220 Mhz.  But for 440 MHz you need to start using N-Connectors.  Not only for better low loss characteristics, but because the PL-259 does not present a consistent 50-52 ohm impedance above 300 MHz.  Use the best quality you can afford as the quality of the connector will severely affect your performance.
    2. Stop corrosion with lubrication. Your antenna cables and hardware are extremely susceptible to moisture.  Check the ends and lubricate them with marine or silicon grease and use coax seal or splicing tape for wrapping connections.  You can expect a 10-15 year life span out of your stainless steel or anodized aluminum antenna. Far less for uncoated copper or unprotected aluminum.  Scotch 33 or 88 is the best electrical tape over the layer of splicing tape or coax seal for added protection. [see also]
    3. Mount your antenna as high as possible. VHF/UHF communications is determined by line of sight, and the higher you mount your antenna, the further your transmission will carry.  Dense trees, lots of metal in and on buildings will diminish your transmit and receive signals.
    4. Get a higher gain antenna! You’re stuck to 5 watts on a hand held with a rubber antenna that offers negative gain (a loss).  ¼ wave antennas are unity gain or NO gain.  Antennas come in 3, 6, 9-10 or higher DB gain.  Even a 3db antenna on a hand held is going to effectively increase your ability to transmit and receive by a factor of 2 (or twice).  6db is twice as good as a 3db antenna.   You can’t use the repeater as a crutch for a poor signal. Bad in, bad out...
    5. Check your antenna mounting location.  If your antenna is mounted within 3 feet of a parallel metal surface, it will “de-tune” your antenna system and your radio will lose efficiency.  If it’s mounted low on a bumper, next to your AM/FM antenna on your car, or you are using the wrong antenna for the installation – e.g. a 5/8th on the mirror mount, where a ½ wave is a better choice.
    6. Don’t yell into your microphone!  This is FM, not SSB or CB… Get your radio tuned properly, use the original mic or at least one with the same input impedance and don’t over deviate by yelling.  If you have a wide band FM radio, and you are trying to work into a narrow band FM repeater, your audio will sound terrible and yelling only makes it worse.  If you are next to each other or a car length away, then fine… 500 mW is good, you annoy fewer people, the rest of the time use adequate power to have a good signal.

    Friday, December 8, 2017

    A Call For Your Opinion...

    What Direction To Take?

    Calling members of SARC and our readers worldwide to participate.  Our hobby has seen changes over the last century, from nothing through significant DIY, to sophisticated computer-radio combinations.   How will our current membership enhance this legacy; how do our current “Elmers” see the future; what changes at the club level will best move this knowledge into the future.

    Myself, as with many hams, employment and family building put radio into the background only to come alive as the nest empties.  This 25-year break opened my eyes to the huge differences; when I left transceivers were just coming in and being cautious of interference was between my station and the public.  That has reversed.

    Now, about driving that legacy: “What direction should a club take to guide/drive our future?”  Here are a couple of thoughts upon which comments are invited/appreciated.

    In BC over half of the population live in Strata aka HOA areas with accompanying by-laws relating to outside structures – Read that as no towers, masts, or dropping wire off your 20th floor balcony.
    • A local, country and world-wide effort to invalidate these big telecom supported by-laws such as FCC 98-273
    • Publicity to educate (propaganda?) that ham radio towers are insurance against natural disasters (e.g. After several disasters Japanese towers are a neighbourhood plus)
    • Ensure remote (internet) operation is part of the planning process and encourage participation
    • “Your suggestions here”
    Our executive is heavily HF biased; not by design but that’s the way it worked out.  This means that direction often follows that same bias.
    • Suggestions for direction and legacy building is needed, neigh mandatory, from experienced VHF operators
    • Much public services involve VHF (parades, cycling events, car rallies) yet the local emergency services group has limited involvement.

    There is so much more that cannot fit in this column.

    We would like to hear from the Amateur community. Comment below, or better yet, PLEASE SEND SUGGESTIONS including what you, or your local club, are or would like to see happen.  Send to and we will publish a summary in an upcoming Communicator.

    Have a happy holiday season, 73

    Stan Williams VA7NF
    SARC President

    CQ CQ CQ

    All about the Baofeng UV5-R

    A Most Popular Hand-held Transceiver Choice A lot has been written about Baofeng transceivers. They are affordable, multi-band, and deliv...