Get ready for it…yes, I am repeating myself from previous articles…I love the Baofeng UV-5RA handheld radio!
I think this little beauty of a radio is an awesome piece of technology and an even awesomer price. It is one of the best pieces of technology that a prepper could own. Whew…got that off my chest…I feel better.
All that being said about my love affair with the Boafeng UV-5RA radio, it comes as no surprise that I am always trying to figure out the best accessories to use with the radio. Now, remember, I am the “mission” guy, everything that I buy has to have a specific mission. Otherwise, why buy a piece of gear just to have it?
I have used radios in my career since joining the Navy back in the 70’s. As a firefighter my life quite literally depended on my ability to communicate with radios. Hence, radios are near and dear to me in the prepper world. My life might just depend on it again.
One of the things that came up repeatedly as a structure firefighter was being able to hear incoming radio traffic. At first in the early days of my career all we had was a handheld “brick” radio. They could handle any adverse environmental condition and rough handling, but you had to take them out of a pocket of your heavy bunker coat. And that was a chore since you have these big thick gloves on.
Finally someone figured out that there was such thing as a speaker/mic that would plug into the radio and you could clip the speaker/mic right next to your ear. It only took the fire department leadership another five years to buy the little units. Life went so much better when they arrived and we put them into service.
Bringing my nostalgia back to the here and now, there is still that same need for radios and communications…and to be able to use it conveniently. If you have ever used a handheld radio by itself without a speake/rmic you know how cumbersome, or at least awkward, it can be to keep it in a pocket, hooked to your belt, or stored in a pouch. Then you have to turn the volume all the way up to hear when someone is trying to talk to you. But that is only the beginning.
When you did manage to hear someone calling you, then came the chore unhooking it from your belt, retrieving it from your pocket, or removing it from the pouch. Another awkward chore. Hopefully you got that radio out and responded before the other person got irritated with you and started shouting at you again over the radio to answer. When the conversation was over you have to reverse the entire process and proceed on your way with whatever it was that you were doing.
A speaker/mic can help resolve that near-nightmare scenario to a great degree. A speaker/mic plugs into the accessory jack connection on your Baofeng UV-5RA radio and takes the place of the speaker and microphone located on the front of your UV-5RA. The speaker/mic is just that, a combination of speaker and a microphone connected to the radio by a long coiled wire/cable. When the speaker/mic is plugged in, the radio’s speaker and microphone located on the front of the radio are disabled.
The way I use my speaker/mic is fairly straight forward. I place the radio in the carry pouch I am fond of (a flashbang grenade pouch) and then clip the speaker/mic on my tactical vest, collar, or lapel near my left ear. I adjust the volume to a sufficient level to hear an incoming call and I am ready to go.
When a call comes in I can simply lean my ear down to the speaker/mic and easily hear what they are saying. Of course that is dependent on the ambient noise. If I am in the middle of a shoot at the range I might not hear them, but that is another story for another article.
So I hear the incoming call, its for me, and I need to respond. I use a free hand (normally my left hand) to reach to the speaker/mic PPT button and talk. That is how things worked when I was a firefighter so I naturally brought that into the prepper world with me. But I am getting way ahead of myself. Let’s cover the most basic issue first.
The stated mission for my speaker/mic is –
“Improve radio operational capability in the field and reduce my profile as a radio user .”
I did a whole bunch of research and narrowed down my test subjects to five different brands of speaker/mics that represent four different price points. They are –
- Baofeng BF-S112 – (budget priced $3.50 – $5.66)
- DreamSky – (low priced $6.99)
- Wouxum SMO-001 – (moderately price $11.99)
- Retevis (moderately priced $11.99)
- AnyTone Tech QHM22 – (most expensive $22.89)
The aspects of the speaker/mic that I would look closely at were –
- Overall quality of workmanship.
- Clarity of transmission.
- Clarity of reception.
- The quality of the coiled wire.
- Earpiece jack quality
- Any additional features such as rain-resistance, rain-proof, etc.
It was kind of interesting as I went through the testing to see the different aspects of each speaker/mic brand. I was pretty open to price vs. quality since I’ve seen some decent stuff come out of China, and some real junk. Actually, same could be said for electronics made in the USA. But, I really wanted to identify the best unit regardless of the price.
The overall quality of workmanship:
- Tied – Wouxum & Baofeng
There just wasn’t any comparison when it came to the quality of the units. The AnyTone was simply superior and by a wide margin. You could feel the quality difference as soon as you picked up each unit. Everything from the solid “click” and operation of the PPT button to the way the clip felt when it was turned to different positions and how well the spring kept the clip closed.
The AnyTone also had the added benefit of being “rain proof” while the Wouxum & Baofeng are “water-resistant.” The Retevis and DreamSky units has neither capability.
The quality of the cable was just as apparent:
But, it’s not just the quality of the cable itself, it is also the quality of the connections on the cable. Things like secure connection through the housing plastic and how well the cable is protected and connected to the two-pin housing. The cable being high-quality is one thing, but if the connection to the two-ping or through the housing fails, then the cable quality makes little difference. The AnyTone was the clear winner.
Clarity of Transmission –
- Tied – Wouxun & Baofeng
I want to make it clear on this rating category, all the speaker/mics were more clear on the transmission than the built-in radio microphone itself. While Anytone was the clear winner, all of the speaker/mics did fine, much better than the radio’s built-in speaker and microphone. And all of the speaker/mics had clear reception and transmission, plenty good enough for me.
Winner with clarity of Reception –
- Baofeng & Retevis
Winners with earpiece clarity –
I used a 3.5mm extension cord to plug into the speaker/mic and then into a set of headphones to test for earpiece clarity.
- Tied – Baofeng & Retevis
- DreamSky – complete failure with lots of static
It was tough comparing these different speaker/mics, everything was pretty subjective, based on my opinion. But, I think 30 years or so of radio use allows me to give decent opinions on stuff like this. That being said, it was pretty clear early on which speaker/mic was the best quality and the obvious winner. And that speaker/mic is………..
Look for my article tomorrow ! 🙂
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