My “Ham-In-The-Box” Project – Yaesu FT-8900R Go-Box – Part #2

Ham in the box, ham-in-the-box, field deployable ham radio, ham radio in teh fieldnote: This article first appeared in May 2015.You should read Part #1 that appeared yesterday.

In Part #1 of this series I covered the mission of this Ham-In-The-Box project, requirements and limitations, and the initial challenges that I faced. I also outlined each piece of equipment that would make up the final product. In this article I will cover a step-by-step build process along with tips that I discovered along the way.

Just a reminder of the mission of this project –

To be able to rapidly field deploy a Ham radio, for which I am licensed to use, in the event of any emergency while maintaining a secure and protective storage environment.

 The “Build”

Step 1 –

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioI quickly realized how inconvenient working on the box would be with the box lid in place. So the first thing I did was take the lid off. To take the lid off get a punch and tap the hinge rod out from the inside out. Once you have about 1/2” of the rod exposed then grasp the rod with a pair of vice grips and pull it the rest of the way out of the hinge.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioHam in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radio

Next, I laid out the components to ensure they would all fit and be accessible as needed. The PWRgate warned about heat being generated by the unit so I decided to install it off to one side where I could install a cooling fan to blow air directly onto its heat sink. I had to implement a “remote head” installation of the Yaesu FT-8900R due to its overall size. If I didn’t the head would be too close to the lid when closed and I didn’t want to take the chance to damage it. It worked out great since it looks like a much cleaner install. I also took care to install the radio as far away from the heat generating PWRgate to avoid over heating the radio.

Step – 2

I laid out the first level of structural material (framing). I cut the upright 1-1/4” angle iron (aluminum) to fit very snugly into the box. The corners of the aluminum actually bite into the plastic. Once I had the uprights cut to length and placed in the box I then placed the lower cross-member into position based on securing the AC power supply that would be placed at the “bottom” of the unit when the box was placed on its side during operation. That was due to the power supply’s weight; it was the heaviest item that would go into the box.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radio

Next came placing the radio. I based the top cross-member’s position based on the radio unit’s size; I wanted the radio to be up and out of the way. I also wanted the rear of the radio to facing outward for access to the power cable, data port and antenna coupling. That positioning also allows for the fan to move the unit’s heated air to the outside of the box.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioHere was an issue I ran into; the radio attaches to the mounting bracket with screws that come from the sides of the radio into the bracket. With the bracket mounted to the cross-member I can’t access the screws to remove the radio from the mounting bracket. So I used the regular screws to mount the radio to the bracket but I used #8 bolts with wing-nut/star-washer to install the mounting bracket to the cross-member. To remove the radio unit you remove the wingnuts and then remove the mounting bracket with the radio attached.

Step 3 –

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioTo mount the PWRgate I used a short piece of 1-1/4” angle aluminum to mount the PWRgate to. I used #8 bolts with wingnuts and washers. I had already marked and drilled holes to match mounting the PWRgate mounting bracket to the cross-member. If I have to remove the PWRgate unit it won’t be easy. The left-hand wingnut it tough to reach with my big hands and fingers but it can be done. Trying to remove the bolts and nuts from the units mounting bracket would have been impossible since the unit itself prevents access to the bolts/nuts mounting the bracket to the cross-member.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioStep 4 –

Now it was time to get the AC power supply placed and secured. But as I was looking at that part of the build I was thinking this might be the time I could combine the structural parts. So I measured and placed a lower cross-member and put it in-place to secure the AC power supply. As I did so I realized that could use that same cross-member and the other lower cross-member as the “base” to install the battery booster too. But I had to space the cross-members to match the width of the booster’s base and mounting holes. A little giggling around and I got it all lined up. Then came the challenge to secure the AC power supply to make sure it wouldn’t move around. But, there was a problem that the height of the AC power supply was just a little too tall for the front cross-member. Solution – cut a small notch in the front cross-member to offset the height issue. The side-benefit to doing so was a very secure mount for the AC power supply. All that being said I did cut a small mounting bracket to mount the AC power supply to both the front and rear lower cross-members. That added extra stability to the overall lower structure. Notice I had to cut out some area of the mounting bracket to keep the AC power supply’s cooling vents free of obstructions.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioWhen I was working at properly placing the battery booster I had to ensure that I could mount a “T” on the antenna Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioconnection (SO-239) on the rear of the unit. The “remote” outlet is back there as well but I don’t intend on using that option. I did have to ensure that I could see the booster unit’s LED lights and have access to the button on the front panel of the unit. I also had to give consideration to connections on the top of the unit. All-in-all the placement was near-perfect.

 

 

Step 5 –

I felt that the front lower cross member was still not stable enough and could move around too much. I also wanted to start putting in the pieces that would integrate the front panel frame into the rest of the structure. I decided the best way to do that was to run a piece of 1-1/4” angle between the front and rear lower cross-members that would run vertical to tie into the front panel frame.

I used 2 rivets to secure the lower part of the vertical support to the lower rear cross-member. But for the front lower cross-member I used a #8 bolt with wingnut and washer to allow the removal of the front lower cross-member that would help me if I had to move the AC power supply.

Also, I pre-drilled the hole that I would use to secure the vertical to the front panel frame. To connect the two I used a #8 bolt with wingnut and washer. This would allow me to remove the front panel frame if needed.

Step 6 –

So now it was time to start actually installing the different components to the structural frame. I started with securing the PWRgate and then the AC power supply. Prior to installing the AC power supply I installed the fused pig-tail to the power supply and making the connection to the PWRgate.

Ham in tbe box - Ham-In-The-Box - Ham radio go box, proatable ham radio, field set-up for a Ham radioWhile I tightened down the bolts on the PWRgate mounting bracket, I left the bolts loose on the AC power supply bracket and cross members to facilitate mounting the battery booster.

Step 7 –

I placed a 90° SO-239 connector on the radio antenna to reduce the radical bend in the antenna lead that would connect the radio to the battery booster. Remember the battery booster has a RF sampling port that enables the booster to only boost the battery when the radio is actually transmitting. Receiving doesn’t require or need any boost in battery power.

I also had to make a custom remote head extension cable. It is a 6-wire cable with an RJ connector. I could have bought a cable but making the right length on the spot was easier and cheaper. The cable has to reach from the rear of the radio unit to the remote head.

Step 8 –

One of the easiest parts of this build was installing the remote head mounting bracket. I wanted it fairly low in relationship to my eyes & head. Looking slightly down at a small display screen and buttons is much preferred to looking straight ahead or elevated. I used two self-tapping, self-drilling sheet metal screws with hex heads.

Mounting the Yaesu ft-900r remote head bracket in my "ham in the box"

I was going to complete my “build” post today but while diagramming my wire layout I found a flaw and had to do a little re-engineering. Not to worry though, it is coming along just fine, a minor tweak is all. So I will post this part of the build, finish up with Part #3 being the front panel, the wiring, and the antenna.

 

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My “Ham-In-The-Box” Project – Yaesu FT-8900R Go-Box – Part #1

Ham in the box, ham-in-the-box, field deployable ham radio, ham radio in teh fieldnote: This article first appeared in May 2015. It was my first major ham radio and power project. I loved it and learned a lot. Later I wanted a smaller box for my radio and emergency power. That project turned into “Yaesu FT-8900R Go Box & Power Box Together”. But, I am resurrecting this series or articles due to the potential value in showing you what can be done…yeah, giving you ideas for your own project. Enjoy!

So I was talking to my fellow Emergency Preparedness Specialist here locally and we were discussing responding to  emergencies and disasters for our 13 church congregations that we are responsible for. Clearly “communications” was our number one priority; we simply had to be able to establish communications among the leadership over our three-county area in the event of emergencies and disasters. And we needed to be able to do it with or without the “grid” being in-place and functional.

So our Plan C is Ham radio communications using 2m and 70cm for local “tactical” channels and 10m band (28.000 – 28.300) for HF long distance communications. And yes, we have integrated our home-grown repeater into the plan as well. <Click here to read more about the cross-band repeater> But my partner was telling me about his “Ham Go-Box” and how easy it was for him to set-up in the field.

Well, I have my radios stored in hard cases <click here to read more> to protect them against weather and transportation issues. But it was kind of a pain to set one up in the field in a hurry. So I decided to put together my “Ham-In-The-Box” for rapid field deployment.

And as you already know by now, if you are a regular visitor to AHTrimble.com, I am very systematic about my gear, equipment and such. So the first item of business was to define the “mission” for my new project. So here goes –

To be able to rapidly field deploy a Ham radio, for which I am licensed to use, in the event of any emergency while maintaining a secure and protective storage environment.

Here are the Requirements & Restrictions:

  1. Radio had to cover the 2m, 70cm and 10m (28.000 – 28.300) bands.
  2. Radio had to be easily computer programmable.
  3. Radio had to be field programmable.
  4. Radio had to be high-quality and reliable.
  5. Radio should be able to scan and monitor multiple frequencies simultaneously.
  6. The overall combined unit had to be portable enough to be one-handed carry.
  7. The storage box had to be secure and protective enough to keep the radio free from damage and environmental harm (within reason) while the radio was in storage or being transported.
  8. The storage box had to be easily converted into a deployed radio unit with little effort while maintaining reasonable protection from the elements.
  9. The unit had to integrate the capability to operate on both 110vAC shore power and 12vDC battery power.
  10. Unit had to integrate a “battery booster” to lengthen operating time.
  11. Unit should be auto-switching between shore power and battery power to provide an uninterrupted operating environment.
  12. The unit had to maintain box integrity and have no “through-the-wall” connections.
  13. Unit didn’t have to be power integrated. In other words, the power (shore or battery) would be provided outside of the unit.
~ COMPONENTS ~

Radio –

Yaesu FT-8900r Quad-Band Ham RadioSo the first thing I had to do was identify which radio out of my stash that I would use. That was an easy choice; my Yaesu FT-8900R quad-band met all the radio requirements. <Click here to read more about the Yaesu FT-8900R radio> The Yaesu FT-8900R is an amazing radio! It is probably the ideal single radio for a “prepper.”

The FT-8900R is a ruggedly-built, high quality Quad Band FM transceiver providing 50 Watts of power output on the 29/50/144 MHz Amateur bands, and 35 Watts on the 430 MHz band. It includes leading-edge features like cross-band repeat, dual receive, VHF-UHF Full Duplex capability, and over 800 memory channels.

Box (container) –

I struggled with this one. My first inclination was an iSeries (Pelican style) box due to durability. But the cost would be Rigid Professional Tool Storage System 22" Too Boxvery high $300+ and I wasn’t ready to plunk that kind of money down for such a special purpose project. So then I was looking at the various options of military surplus metal ammo cans. I really couldn’t find one that was the right size; and the additional weight of the can was considerable and jeopardized my “portability” requirement.

Then I caught myself in Home Depot doing some tool “window shopping” one evening and came across this line of Rigid toolboxes that are really rugged. They are made out of impact-resin hard-plastic similar to hard-cases mentioned in my series of iSeries radio storage box articles. <Click here to read more> so I really looked at the Rigid toolboxes as a serious option. So for a mid-$30 investment I took a chance. Perfect! It looks as if the box was the right choice for this project.

Rigid Professional Tool Storage System toolboxes are made out of a durable impact resin hard-plastic. I chose the ’22” Tool Box’ it has a lid seal and no “through-the-box” openings to let in dirt, water, dust, etc. It secures really tightly and has a great quality “feel” to it.

Power Supply –

Ham In The Box - MFJ Enterprises Inc. MFJ-4230MV COMPACT SWITCHMFJ Enterprises Inc. MFJ-4230MV COMPACT SWITCH (COMPACT SWITCH PS, METER, 4-16V ADJ. 110/220VAC).  This is a great AC power transformer, high quality and very reliable.

This is the world’s most compact switching power supply that also has a meter and adjustable voltage control. Just 5″ W x 2 ½” H x 6″ D, it weighs only 3 lbs. — it is the perfect pack-n-go power supply for field day, DXpeditions, camping, hiking or to pack for your next business trip or vacation to some faraway place. MFJ-4230MV gives you 25 Amps continuously or 30 Amps surge at 13.8 VDC. The voltage is front-panel adjustable from 4 to 16 Volts. MFJ-4230MV also has a selectable input voltage: choose from 120 or 240 VAC at 47 – 63 Hz.

A simple front-panel push-button switch lets you choose either Ammeter or Voltmeter — allows you to select Amps or Volts as you wish to read them. MFJ-4230MV has an excellent 75% efficiency and extra low ripple and noise, < 100 mV. Awhisper-quiet fan cools by convection and forced air cooling. Normal air-flow around the power supply is continuous and a heat sensor increases the fan speed when the temperature rises above 70 degrees Celsius. DC output is five way binding posts on the back of the MFJ-4230MV so you can power your dedicated HF, VHF or UHF transceiver with ease.

Auto-Switch –

Ham In The Box - Super PWRgate PG40S by West Mountain RadioSuper PWRgate PG40S by West Mountain Radio is a 12 volt backup power auto-switching system rated at 40 amperes continuous from either a power supply or a battery. The Super PWRgate also has a built-in four-stage battery charger with selectable current rates of 1, 4, 7 or 10 amperes. Connected equipment will instantly switch to battery during a power blackout or power supply failure. Uses two 80 ampere Schottky diodes as an OR-Gate to isolate the battery and power supply from each other. Forward voltage drop of less than 0.3 volts at 20 A. Optimized for use with GELLED & AGM type batteries, but will keep flooded lead acid and marine type batteries near full charge as well. Measures 1.64″ x 3.9″ x 5″ and uses Anderson PowerPole connectors.

Battery Booster –

Ham In The Box - MFJ Enterprises Inc. MFJ-4416B BATTERY VOLTAGE BOOSTER.MFJ Enterprises Inc. MFJ-4416B BATTERY VOLTAGE BOOSTER. The MFJ-4416 Super Battery Booster eliminates low voltage problems by boosting input voltages as low as 9 volts up to the desired 13.8 volts. And it does so at up to 25 amps peak with a typical efficiency of close to 90%. It is compact at just 7 3/4W x 4H x 2 1/8D” and lightweight at 1.3 lbs. And the MFJ-4416 Super Battery Booster is designed to be rugged, reliable, and easy to use.

MFJ-4416 includes Anderson PowerPole connectors and high-current 5-way binding posts for both the DC input and regulated output. An internal 30-amp input fuse protects the unit from excess output current demands. There are also selectable limits on the minimum voltage that the unit will accept: 9-volts, 10-volts (default), and 11-volts. This protects you from over-discharging a battery and possibly damaging it. MFJ-4416 also includes output over-voltage crow-bar protection should regulation be lost.

Two additional features offer ways to increase efficiency even more! First, there is an RF sampling port which can be connected to your transceiver`s transmission line with an MFJ-7733 UHF-T connector. When this feature is enabled, the MFJ-4416 is bypassed unless RF is sensed so no regulator switching efficiency penalties are incurred during receive. The second efficiency enhancement feature is a user-adjustable output voltage control which lets you set the output voltage anywhere between 12- and 13.8-volts. When setting the output at 12-volts, input voltages greater than 12V will pass through, but the efficiency of the regulator is higher. And lower input voltage means your transceiver will run cooler!

Typically this unit saves over 30 watts in heat dissipation during transmit, and even 3-4 watts during receive. So it can actually be good to let the voltage sag to 12 volts, then let the MFJ-4116 protect you from lower voltages.

“Extras” –

USB Charging Ports –
Ham In The Box - Powerwerx Panel Mount Dual USB Socket 3 Amp Device Charger.Powerwerx Panel Mount Dual USB Socket 3 Amp Device Charger. Dual USB device charger features 2 USB ports with high charging output. Compatible with Apple and Android products and more. Fits standard 1-1/8″ diameter hole. Maximum output current of 2.1A per single USB device. 3A maximum total output.

 

Cigarette Outlet –
Ham In The Box - Powerwerx Panel Mount Cigarette Lighter Socket Automotive Marine GradePowerwerx Panel Mount Cigarette Lighter Socket Automotive Marine Grade. Panel mount receptacle is made out of marine grade materials and can be panel mounted in two ways. By utilizing the flange or the slim method by utilizing the large locking nut. The receptacle features a watertight sealing cap, and is easy to install.

 

Cooling Fan –
Ham In The Box - cooling fanAfter reading about the potential of heat being generated by the auto-switch I decided I wanted a cooling fan option (switch controlled) to be able to drive air directly at the PWRgate unit’s heat sink.

Computer CPU Cooling Fan; Rated Voltage : DC 12V;Fan Speed : 3000+/-10%RPM  Air Flow : 32CFM;Noise : 23.85dBA;Bearing Type : Hydro Bearing Size : 70 x 70 x 15mm / 2.8″ x 2.8″ x 0.6″(L*W*H)

~ The Challenges ~

The Biggest Challenge –

More than all the other challenges combined was the fact that I really have little to no experience assembling, wiring, and configuring Ham radios. Yes, I built the cross-band repeater than I mentioned earlier, and it works great, but this seemed like a far more complex project. And I was worried I wasn’t schooled enough to succeed. So I reached out to a few more experienced Hams (Elmers) and asked for their feedback on my configuration and wiring design. No of them felt I was going to burn the house down or fry my equipment.

First Challenge –

The first challenge I ran into was how to mount the internal components without adding a bunch of weight to the box. I ran down the list of various construction materials and it became obvious that aluminum was the only logical choice for this project. So off to Lowes I went. I quickly figured out their stock aluminum pieces would work out just fine so I purchased a variety of pieces such as angle iron and flat stock. I simply cut and drilled as required.

Second Challenge –

I really didn’t want any holes through the box itself. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the box and be able to reuse it later if the radio idea didn’t work out. So I made the decision to not actually connect the construction materials to or through the box itself. All the mounting pieces would simply be a tight fit; tight enough to hold the entire support structure in-place with no actual mounting to the box itself.

Third Challenge –

How to get everything into the box and mounted in such a way that I could access each component piece for adjustment, replacement, or repair. There was no easy answer to this challenge so I just started laying out the pieces in the box till they started to “fit” into place logically. It was like playing 3D chess.

Fourth Challenge –

I had to figure out how to connect the construction materials together to allow some changes and modifications as I went. And to ensure that I could relatively easily access each component should the need to arise. I decided that the base/first level of the insides would be riveted together to ensure stability. After that the upper levels would be bolted using regular hex-nuts or if, greater ease of access was needed I would use wing-nuts. To hold the front panel on and yet make it easily accessible I decided to use JB Weld to hold the bolts in place. The bolts then pass through the front panel and are held into place by wing-nuts. All nuts backed with external tooth lock washers. All bolts are #8 to make it easier by using a single sized bolt, nut, and washer.

Fifth Challenge –

This was a very easy challenge to resolve. I wanted to make sure it was all compatible with everything else I have. So all the wiring had to be Anderson Powerpole compatible.

 

 

 

 

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Baofeng UV-5RA Radio Speaker/Mic Options – Part #4

 

options. I tested five of the most popular brands of speaker/mics to see which one came out on top for preppers. If you haven’t already ready read those articles you might want to now…

< click here to read Part #1 >

< click here to read Part #2 >

< click here to read Part #3 >BaoFeng anytone QHM22 Platinum Series speaker/mic

I ended Part #3 announcing the clear overall winner is the AnyTone…no doubt about it.

But I also threw a little teaser out there about a great little option for a speaker/mic. This article covers that option…

Radio speaker Mic Headset howard leight impact sportsYup, your eyes are not receiving you! One of the cool spinoffs from that effort was pretty much unexpected. I found my hearing protection solution! This is the Baofeng UV-5RA radio with the Anytone speaker/mic attached to it. And then a Howard Leight Impact Sports hearing protection headset plugged into it.

Why all of this hooked together?

Have you ever imagined yourself in a building in a gunfight, especially with your AR? Yeah, some of you know all too well what that sounds and feels like. I am concerned about hearing. Yeah, as in losing your hearing.

A fairly long time ago I switched my hearing protection over to Howard Leight Impact Sports headsets. They are incredible electronic protection allowing you to hear conversations but protecting your eardrums then the guns start to bark. Actually, when the volume is turned up my hearing is way better for the normal ambient sounds around me.

One feature of the Impact Sports headset is a 3.5mm jack on one of the earphones. It is for plugging in electronic devices to be heard even with the headset on. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to integrate a radio with my headset. But, try as I might, I just couldn’t get the right combination of devices pulled together to be a realistic solution. So I stopped trying a couple of years ago. But, that changed a couple of months ago…yea!

While testing the different lapel speaker/mics I was testing the acoustic tube covert earpieces. I wanted to be a little more discrete in situations. While testing I saw the acoustic tubes had a 3.5mm plug that went into the 3.5mm jack on the speaker/mic. BINGO!

I ran to the garage and got my Impact Sports headset and the 3.5mm able that came with it. I plugged one end into the Impact Sports headset, the other end went into the lapel speaker/mic…YEAH!!! The radio was playing in my headset just fine, very clear, and easy to understand.

When the transmission stopped there was no leftover electronic interference at all. The ambient sound in the room was also available loud and clear to me in the headset as well. The headset was working perfectly!

So now I finally have that solution that I have been seeking for so long. I now have my radio, my hearing protection, convenient microphone placement, radio communications, and improved hearing all wrapped in one very affordable and practical package.

Radio speaker Mic Headset howard leight impact sportsI am not going to make this complicated…

  1. Attach the Anytone speaker/mic to the Baofeng UV-5RA radio just like the previous articles talked about.
  2. Plug the cable (came with the headset) into the Anytone 3.5mm jack.
  3. Plug the other end of the cable into the Howard Leight Impact Sports headset.
  4. Turn on the headset volume control.
  5. Turn on the radio and adjust the volume between the two sound volume controls to the right level.

Radio speaker Mic Headset howard leight impact sports

The headset will allow you to hear more ambient noise if you would like by turning its volume control up. The radio communications comes through loud and clear. When you start shooting the headset will dampen the incoming additional ambient noise below 89dB.

There you go!!

 

 

 

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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Baofeng UV-5RA Radio Speaker/Mic Options – Part #3 (covert acoustic earpiece)

Speaker MIcs for baofeng uv-5rOn January 16th I posted Part #1 of Baofeng UV-5RA radio speaker/mic options. I tested five of the most popular brands of speaker/mics to see which one came out on top for preppers. If you haven’t already ready read Part #1 of this article you might want to now…

< click here to read Part #1 >

I ended Part #1 as I was about to announce the top speaker/mic choice for the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. On January 18th I posted Part #2 BaoFeng anytone QHM22 Platinum Series speaker/micannouncing the top rated speaker/mic. The clear overall winner is the AnyTone…no doubt about it.

Along with announcing the top rated speaker/mic, I provided a lot of good information about each brand and even gave some advice on which to buy. Yeah, it might surprise you just a little bit. Part #2 is worth reading!

< click here to read Part #2 >Covert Acoustic Ear Piece

This article is all about a special little option for the speaker/mic…the acoustic earpiece.

Why the heck would I want to post an article strictly for something like this? Well, since you asked…how about…your life may depend on it!

Yeah, pretty dramatic, right? But, I am serious. Your life could depend on something so small and seemingly insignificant as an radio speaker/mic acoustic earpiece. And, for

 

I tested three brands –

  • Easy Provider IS16 – $3.61
  • Maximal Power RHF 617-1N – $8.95
  • abcGOODefg – $9.99

Don’t get too carried away just yet and guess at which one I am going to recommend. Hear what I have to say about each before you make your judgement on which t buy. And Yes, I am strongly suggesting you buy!

Here’s the mission statement –

“Improve overall radio security and reception clarity in a loud environment while providing a significant ‘user profile’ decrease. “

CovertEarPiece-002That means; don’t let other people hear your radio messages, hear better with lots of noise around you, and make it harder for people to think you are using a radio. Pretty simple, yes? And is the whole dramatic thing settling in on you yet? The reason I ask that question is most people don’t think of losing your life during incidents. And letting the whole world know that you are using a radio is pretty obvious in many ways. We want to reduce that “obvious” down to virtually nothing. I want you “low profile” as much as possible.

Easy Provider IS16 –Covert Ear Piece - EasyProvider

Testing Results…

  • Apparent Quality: Decent/Respectable
  • Speaker/Mic Connection Quality: Solid & secure
  • Pin/Wire Stress/Tension Reliever: Excellent
  • Clarity of Reception: Good
  • Ear Comfort: Very comfortable
  • Length of wire coiled / stretched: 18″ / 40″+

Pros –

  1. The 3.5mm plug has a good stress/tension reliever on it. The plug is also canted slightly which makes it slightly easier to work with.

Cons –

  1. I didn’t like the silver/chrome clip at the wire/tube connection. Just something else to reflect light and draw attention to you.
  2. The connection of the wire and acoustic tube didn’t seat together all the way, left a pretty good gap. I don’t think it will have much affect on the overall operations but it raises the question as to the manufacturing and the quality control.

Buy It !Summary –

My pre-purchase research  indicated some people thought the unit was poor quality and quite working after 10 – 14 days of use in the field. But, twice that many say it holds up just fine. My experience is these are inexpensive and the quality is not going to be at the SEAL operative level. At this price point you can afford to have several.

Covert Ear Piece - Maximal Power RHF 617-1N-001Maximal Power RHF 617-1N –

Testing Results…

  • Apparent Quality: Excellent
  • Speaker/Mic Connection Quality: Excellent, very solid and secure
  • Pin/Wire Stress/Tension Reliever: Excellent
  • Clarity of Reception: Excellent
  • Ear Comfort: Very comfortable
  • Length of wire coiled / stretched: 13″ / 41″+

Pros –

  1. Earbud piece is an excellent shape for my ear; very comfortable, and blocks out most ambient noise.
  2. Clip on the coiled wire that will act as a second point to secure it. That clip will also move along the wire to properly place it.
  3. Both clips are dark color, reduces potential for being seen.
  4. The connection point between the wire and the acoustic tube is excellent, very solid and secure. Not only is the connection itself very tight, but there is also a retaining piece to hold the connection together.
  5. There are two stress/tension point, one at the 3.5mm jack, the other at the wire/tube connection. Both stress/tension relievers are more than adequate, very good quality.

Cons –

  1. Unit didn’t come with a second earpiece if the first one gets damaged.

Summary –

Buy It !I was completely impressed with this unit as soon as I got it out of the package. It has a great feel to it. When I was looking at comments made about the unit I did notice that all the negative remarks are almost a year old. All of the 4 & 5 star ratings were very recent. That tells me there had been a consistent quality issue that has since been resolved. This unit is a great little unit That I think is well worth the money in every respect. This unit is worth the additional money over the Easy Provider unit.

Covert Ear Piece - abcGOODefgabcGOODefg –

Testing Results…

  • Apparent Quality: Very Good
  • Speaker/Mic Connection Quality: Very Good
  • Pin/Wire Stress/Tension Reliever:  Acceptable
  • Clarity of Reception:  Excellent
  • Ear Comfort: Good
  • Length of wire coiled / stretched: 31″ / 31″ (no coil)

Pros –

  1. The clarity of sound was excellent, the best of the units tested. But, that doesn’t mean the other units were “bad”, this unit was just a little better.
  2. The wire is not coiled so there is no “lump” under a shirt or tactical vest.
  3. Both clips are dark color, reduces potential for being seen. They are the same clips that is used on the Maximal unit.

Cons –

  1. There is only 31″ of wire, if you need more you are out of luck.
  2. The stress/tension relievers are barely adequate. I think these will fail before other units would.
  3. These units have not been up for sale for very long.

Summary –

Thumbs Down ReviewIt is obvious that this unit is better quality than the Easy Rider unit. But it is not as good a quality as the Maximal unit. One interesting tidbit I found was the presence of a “brass” nipple on the wire/tube connection piece. That would indicate really good quality to me since both the other units have only plastic. The earbud piece at the end of the acoustic tube (the piece that goes into your ear) is designed to really fill up that ear cavity. However, it is round, and most people’s ear cavity is not round, it is a oval. So for me, the earbud piece didn’t feel near as comfortable as the other two units and not near as comfortable as the Maximal unit. One of the things I do is check the manufactures website and reputation online, here is where it gets a little weird. When I looked up the abcGOODefg website my virus software gave me a big alert that this was a heavy duty malicious malware site. So I didn’t ever get to checkout their website. Looking up other abcGOODefg products on Amazon I saw they only got them mediocre ratings. However, it appears that this company has been making electronic products for a respectable length of time, but they are a China-based operation. It was just a little unsettling to get that virus alert about their website.

Bottom Line…

If I needed a large quantity of covert earpiece and the money was tight I would have no problem buying Easy Provider units. If I had a couple buck more, as in more than double the price, I would buy the Maximal unit. For more critical applications I would only buy the Maximal units. But, I would also have a spare unit on-hand for each one in-service. I would not buy the abcGOODefg unit based on a combination of the problem with the website, it doesn’t look like any better of a product than the Maximal, and the earbud doesn’t fit as well as the Maximal or Easy Rider.

 

NOTE –

Covert Ear Piece - pentagon g-typeAs part of the original testing concept I purchased a Pentagon G-Type Earpiece as part of the overall test. It is similar in many respects as the earpiece that comes with the radio originally and is tied into a mic as well. A couple things that disqualified it from being considered –

  1. It isn’t really covert, the big hunk of black plastic is obvious that you have an earpiece on.
  2. I don’t find it comfortable to wear inside my ear or the way it loops over my ear.

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Baofeng UV-5RA Radio Speaker/Mic Options – Part #2

BaofengSpeakerMic-006note: article first appeared in January 2016

Yesterday I posted Part #1 of Baofeng UV-5RA radio speaker/mic options. I tested five of the most popular brands of speaker/mics to see which one came out on top for preppers. If you haven’t already ready read Part #1 of this article you might want to now…

< click here to read Part #1 >

I ended Part #1 as I was about to announce the top speaker/mic choice for the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. So let’s get to it…BaoFeng anytone QHM22 Platinum Series speaker/mic

The clear overall winner is the AnyTone…no doubt about it.

 

Here are the final ratings –

  1. AnyTone
  2. Wouxun
  3. Baofeng
  4. Tied – Retevis & DreamSky

But it isn’t always that simple. Here are the retail (Amazon) prices:

  • AnyTone $22.89
  • Wouxum $11.99
  • Retevis $11.99
  • DreamSky $6.99
  • Baofeng $3.50 – $5.66

Therein lays the challenge…cost or quality. Or, is it really an issue at all?

To get the best quality you spend as much as 6.5 times more money than the budget brand speaker/mic. Then again, you can always settle for second best. But you are still paying 3.5 times more money than the Baofeng OEM (budget priced) speaker/mic. So, which is the right choice?

There are some folks who would fall back on “You get what you pay for!” And, they are right. But, if you don’t have the $22.89 but you do have the $3.50, then it doesn’t leave you a whole lot of choice.

Then there are others, “Get the inexpensive one, and have 3 or 4 backups.” And, they would have a valid point as well. It would be nice to have a couple of replacement speaker/mics if/when the one you are using breaks.

And then there is…”But the AnyTone is rainproof!” Yup, and that is a huge plus, no doubt about it. If you are using your radio in the rain, you can protect the radio from the rain and leave the speaker/mic exposed for transmitting and receiving. But the Wouxum and Baofeng are water-resistant which would hold up nearly as well in a rain situation.

I will give my final opinion on which speaker/mic to buy in just a minute. But, let me give you some details on each of the units I tested. So, again…which is the right speaker/mic for you?

AnyTone Tech QHM22 –

BaoFeng anytone QHM22 Platinum Series speaker/micThe overall quality of this unit is outstanding, far above the other units. The PPT button has a solid feel to it and a clear “click” that just gives you the feeling that the underlying switch is good quality. The clip in the back of the unit is large, strong with plenty spring tension to hold onto whatever it is clipped to. There is also a little “button” enabling you to clip the speaker/mic onto a microphone holder/bracket, great for vehicle operation. When you rotate the clip for any of the 8 possible clip positions you can feel the solid quality built into the clip housing.

The cable is good quality and 20” long relaxed. When extended it reaches well over 48”. One of the things I look closely at is the stress/tension reliever where the cable connects into the speaker/mic BaofengSpeakerMic-007housing. This point is the most prone area for failure of the cable. The AnyTone has the best stress/tension reliever of any of the speaker/mics by far…and I mean by far. You can see that in the picture to the right. The two prong connector is solid and easy to grip. It also has a sufficient stress/tension reliever as well.

Just a minor but telling point…the 3.5mm jack. The jack on the AnyTone is the only one BaofengSpeakerMic-008athat is built into the side of the speaker/mic housing. It is the only unit where it was easy to plug the 3.5mm cord into it without having a tough time getting the plug in/out and a potential weak spot.

Another little piece of information is the lack of a red transmit LED. Three of the five speaker/mics have a silly red LED light that glows when you are transmitting. I know when I have the PPT button depressed, I don’t need a glowing red LED in my face.

This unit is not made in the USA but feels like it. It is made in China, but you can tell the quality in this unit. The people who designed this unit either knew how a speaker/mic was used, used it themselves, or really listened to their customers. This is a high-quality unit. And just in cas you are wondering…it is made by Baofeng who makes the UV-5RA radio.

It is the largest of all the units: 2-5/16” wide x 2-7/8” tall x 15/16” deep (without clip) 1-1/2” deep (with clip).

The AnyTone rated the highest on clarity of transmission, clarity of reception, and clarity of the earpiece jack. It also rated the highest on overall quality and workmanship. The AnyTone is the best speaker/mic…period.

Wouxun –

Baofeng Wouxun SMO-001 SpeakerMicWhen I picked up this speaker/mic for the first time I wasn’t impressed at all, it felt small and kind of cheap. But then I realized that small didn’t equal cheap or junk. The quality, like the size, wasn’t in the same class as the AnyTone but the longer I looked it over and handled it, the more I realized that it really was a pretty decent little speaker/mic. And that is the point, it was designed to be little.

The cable is decent quality and 23” long relaxed. When extended it reaches well over 48”. The two-prong plug is solid, well-built, great stress/tension reliever on it and easy to grab. The stress/tension reliever connecting the cable to the speaker/mic housing is pretty inadequate (and will fail at some point) but acceptable. In addition to that, the earpiece jack is too close to where the cable comes into the housing. While it isn’t as bad as the rest (the AnyTone is not in this group), the jack should be located elsewhere. But, it is workable and acceptable. The clip on the back has plenty of tension, feels like it will hold up, and has a crisp feel to it moving it to one of the 8 positions available. This unit, like the AnyTone, doesn’t have the silly red LED light that glows when you are transmitting…nice.

The unit is made in China but it is obviously has been engineered to a higher standard vs. just pump out a piece of electronic gear to sell to dumb Americans. This unit actually feels like it was meant to be a good speaker/mic from the very beginning.

It is the second smallest of the units: 1-3/4” wide x 2-3/4” tall x 7/8” deep (without clip) 1-3/8” deep (with clip).

The Wouxon was tied for second best in terms of transmission clarity and second best in terms of reception clarity behind the AnyTone. The earpiece clarity was also tied for third best behind the AnyTone and Baofeng. The combination of all its ratings easily won it 2nd Place to the Anytone, and well above the rest overall.

Baofeng –

Baofeng uv-5ra SpeakerMic Handheld Remote Microphone Speaker MICThis speaker/mic is a contradiction in just about everything. It is the least expensive (notice I didn’t say “cheapest”) unit by far. But, it is still a decent little speaker/mic. It had a stupid red LED on the front that shows you are transmitting, insulting and no real purpose. But, the clip is really decent and great tension. The PPT swtich has a nice “click” to it, but the click is really loud relative to the other units. The transmission and reception clarity are both very respectable and the earpiece reception quality was second only to the AnyTone.

The cable is adequate but the two-prong plug is really well-built, and solid. The stress/tension reliever at the two-prong plug is adequate but the one at the housing really isn’t. And like three of BaofengSpeakerMic-012the other units (AnyTone excluded), the earpiece jack is not located very well. That and the operation of the jack protector piece make the jack hard to use. The cable is decent quality and 23” long relaxed. When extended it reaches to just over 48”, but is under stress when you stretch it that far.

The housing is a nice size and feels good in my hands, not too big, not too small. The tension on the clip on the back feels decent enough but not enough to make me feel really comfortable in a hardcore physically demanding operational environment. While the speaker/mic is supposed to be water-resistant, it isn’t rain-proof like the AnyTone.

It size is nice: 2-1/8” wide x 3” tall x 7/8” deep (without clip) 1-3/8” deep (with clip).

The Baofeng is clearly the 3rd place winner is overall quality, but the price really makes this little baby shine. I think this speaker/mic is absolutely fine for most radio operations. With its rain-resistant capability it simply is a nice little unit to use. Is it the quality of the AnyTone? Obviously not, but it will do the majority of jobs with no problems.

Retevis & DreamSky-

I was going to do an individual critique of this unit like the previous three speaker/mics. However, there is no need to. Why? I am telling you flat out…DO NOT BUY THIS SPEAKER/MIC! It is not worth the money and it is not the right quality to be used in a prepper environment, or much of any other kind of environment either.

So, if you really want to buy this speaker/mic…you are on your own. I am recommending to you that you don’t buy it. It is cheaply made, poor quality workmanship, transmission/reception quality is not good, and it is just worth it.

And bottom line…the DreamSky came in last place overall. It is a piece of crap.

Summary –

So here is how I would probably go about it –

  • I would not own or buy a Retevis or DreamSky…period. They are poor quality units that I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance.
  • If I had the money ($22.89) I would simply go with the AnyTone from the very start.
  • If money was really tight I would go with the Baofeng ($3.50 – $5.66) when I bought the radio. As a little extra money came available I would upgrade to the AnyTone.
  • If I was buying speaker/mics for a “cache” situation and I had the money I would probably go with the Wouxum ($11.99) since it is a good unit and the “rain-resistant” would be just fine. This would be assuming that the radios would be used in emergency or disaster situations and subjected to somewhat harsher conditions than family recreational use. That would make it worth the little extra money.
  • For my own unit, or my wife’s, or any tactical environment…the AnyTone would be my only choice. The $22.89 is worth it when your life depends on it.

But don’t get me wrong…the Baofeng speaker/mic works fine, it just isn’t the quality of the AnyTone or Wouxun. But, when you can buy the Baofeng for $3.50 each, you can afford to have multiple spare units. And that is especially inviting considering I preach “two is one, one is none, three is a good start.” The Baofeng is our back-up speaker/mic…actually, it is our multiple back-ups.

Bottom line, don’t let the price difference of the various brands keep you from buying a speaker/mic. You will appreciate the versatility that it gives you. If all you can afford at the time is the Baofeng…then do it. Upgrade as finances permit. The nice ting with an upgrade plan…your old Baofeng speak/mic then becomes your back-up unit.

I have purchased a variety of earpieces to test with the speaker/mic. When the testing is complete I will add another article to this series. I also have a slightly different take on the speaker/mic option that I will be working on within the next week or two. I will post article focussing just for that twisted option. Watch for it!

 

 

 

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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
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Baofeng UV-5RA Radio Speaker/Mic Options – Part #1

Baofeng SpeakerMicnote: article first appeared in January 2016

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. Baofeng UV-5RA Love ItWhew…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 Baofeng UV-5R with SpeakerMicjack 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 Baofeng uv-5ra radio with SpeakerMicmy 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 –

  1. Overall quality of workmanship.
  2. Clarity of transmission.
  3. Clarity of reception.
  4. The quality of the coiled wire.
  5. Earpiece jack quality
  6. 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:

  1. AnyTone
  2. Tied – Wouxum & Baofeng
  3. DreamSky
  4. Retevis

There just wasn’t any comparison when it came to the quality of the units. The AnyTone was simply superior and by BaoFeng anytone QHM22 Platinum Series speaker/mica 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:

  1. AnyTone
  2. Wouxum
  3. Tied – Baofeng & DreamSky
  4. RetevisBaofengSpeakerMic-009

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 –

  1. AnyTone
  2. DreamSky
  3. Tied – Wouxun & Baofeng
  4. Retevis

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 –

  1. AnyTone
  2. DreamSky
  3. Wouxun
  4. 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.

  1. AnyTone
  2. Wouxun
  3. Tied – Baofeng & Retevis
  4. 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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AA & AAA Battery Chargers

note: I started working on this article back in 2017 but due to the “crash” it got put on hold. I finished this article over the last couple of weeks.

What I was looking for in a AA & AAA battery charger was two-fold, ability to charge AA & AAA batteries; 1) using 110vAC power when it is available, 2) using 12vDC power for emergencies or field use. Of course, using the same actual charger, just changing the charger’s power supply. And the 12vDC option could come from a power box, solar charger, battery, vehicle accessory port, etc.

You may be asking why both voltages…legitimate question. I want the capability to charge my batteries under normal conditions and as quickly as possible…hence, 110vAC power capability. But, if the regular utility power goes out I want multiple ways to be able to charge my batteries; 1) using my portable Honda generator (110vAC), 2) 12vDC power available through car batteries, 3) my various portable power box, 4) solar panels.

“Redundancy” being a priority to me. The old “Two is one, one is none, three is a good start” mentality.

Mission Statement –

“Ability to charge standardized field operation batteries via 110vAC or 12vDC power.”

Requirements & Restrictions –
  1. Must be able to operate on 110vAC power for extended periods of time without damage to the unit or the batteries.
  2. Must have the capability to operate on 12vDC without modification to the unit.
  3. Must be able to charge AA and AAA rechargeable Ni-MH and Ni-CD batteries.
  4. Must have sufficient safety features to prevent damage to the batteries, the unit, or the area around the unit.
Test Units –
  • FrePow 8-slot
  • Tenergy TN160
  • Foxnovo F08
  • AccuPower IQ-338
  • BlueTech AV-1000
  • MaximalPower FC1000
  • Ansmann PL8
  • SunLabz SL00056

Each unit was tested against the Mission Statement, Requirements & Restrictions, and comparing features; price was not so much of an issue. Units were tested recharging batteries via 110vAC and 12vDC. The 12vDC test was done via a 110vAC -> 12vDC power supply to ensure no variation in power such as solar power fluctuations or 12vDC battery charge level or condition. The purpose of the testing was to test the charger unit itself not a solar panel / charger combination. I did test with a 12vDC solar panel test just to ensure compatibility and that it would in-fact work. These test units all ranged from being able to charge 4 batteries – 16 batteries.

FlePow –

No longer available – Testing results not included.

Tenergy TN160 –

Compact, sleek, and good looking unit. Nothing fancy about this unit and no frills or thrills. Both size batteries (AA &  AAA) were easy to insert and were held steady in the charger tray. Each charging station assessed the batteries individually and began charging within 5 – 6 seconds. The LCD screen was easy to read and made sense without any directions or instructions needed.

From the manufacturer:

  • 12 channels PWM switching fast charger with MUC control; accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging
  • 12 independent charging channels for individual charging and detection: AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging. AA & AAA, NIMH/ NICD can be mixed when charging.
  • 8 hours safety timer ensures extra safety.
  • Over-heat, over-current, short-circuit, & reverse polarity protection, (mechanically) ensures that charger and batteries will not be damaged when users insert batteries with reversed polarity.
  • Large LCDs indicate charging status.
  • Charger comes with refresh function
  • Input: 100-240v AC (Works Everywhere in the World).
  • Suitable only for 1.2v AA/AAA NIMH/NICD batteries.

I really like the automatic protection built into this unit, especially the safety timer that shuts down the unit after 8-hours of operation. During testing the batteries never got hot and that is a really good thing. Heat is what damages batteries more than just about anything (operating environment) else. The unit won’t recognize damaged or fully discharged batteries which isn’t particularly good.

Foxnovo F08 –

This thing is a hunk of plastic and electronics, there is nothing sleek or compact to it. There is no fancy LCD screen to look at, simply a series of flashing status lights. When I was inserting the batteries (AA & AAA) it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. First off you have to move the spring-loaded negative contact manually to get each battery to seat in the charging cradle. And here is the stupid part…the positive contact is this little “nub” piece of metal. If you look at the positive contact on a battery it too is a little “nub” of metal. Try putting two little “nubs” together and see how that works for you! It was fairly easy to bump one battery while inserting another. Bumping a battery more than just a minimal amount and the positive “nub” contacts decontacted. Yes, decontacted is a word I made up. Once the batteries were all in-place they were fine.

From the manufacture:

  • Capable of charging 8 batteries of different sizes, types and capacities at the same time; Each of the eight battery slots charges independently
  • LCD indicators lights shows the charging process of every batteries
  • Automatically identifies Li-ion, Ni-MH and Ni-CD rechargeable batteries.
  • Automatically detects battery status and selects the appropriate voltage and charge mode. Automatically stops charging when complete
  • Come with a US-plug adapter for indoor use.
  • Adopts negative voltage control technology to improve charge efficiency.
  • Excellent features of heat dispersion and reverse polarity protection. Protect opposite connection and short circuit, 0 voltage alarms
  • Compatible with batteries: Li-ion 26650, 22650, 18650, 18500, 18490, 17670, 17650, 17500, 16340, 14500, 10440, Ni-MH and Ni-CD A, AA, AAA, C, SubC

Here’s where this unit is way cool…charging time. And no, there wasn’t any noticeable battery heat indicating that the higher charging rate was damaging the batteries.

And then there are additional cool features to this charger; 1) charges a long list of Li-ion batteries, 2) charges C, SubC, & D size batteries. That makes this unit considerably more versatile than the other units tested. If you are wondering about the Li-ion feature I can tell you that is will recharge the rechargeable version of the CR123A (RCR123A). The CR123A is a popular battery for flashlights and weapons’ optics.

The testing showed that the unit charged all the batteries of different brands and sizes in record time. It only took the unit a matter of 2 – 3 seconds to analyze the batteries current charge and begin the charging process. There is no fancy LED screen to indicate much of anything. There is a series of four lights that shows current charge. They flash to indicate that charging is taking place at a specific level (25%, 50%, 75%, & 100%). When the battery is fully charged all four yellow lights glow steady.

Periodically a blue light will flash in the upper right-hand corner on the face of the unit. I have absolutely no idea what that means. So you wonder why I didn’t refer to the instructions. Ah, there aren’t any. Yup, no instruction guide of any kind with the unit. I searched all over the Internet looking for a user guide and nothing. But, fortunately the unit is pretty simple to use…so instructions aren’t really needed.

AccuPower IQ-338 –

This unit is sleek, compact, and way more intelligent than me. Yeah, surprising…right? Seriously, this unit has a ton of options for you and your batteries. The batteries fit in this charger like a glove, very nice engineering. The LCD screen is easy to read and back-lit as well.

From the manufacturer:

  • Fast Charge Li-ion or NiMH/NiCad Rechargeable batteries including most common 18650 size.
  • Test Li-Ion & NiMH/NiCad cells for actual capacity.
  • Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells.
  • For use with the following: NiMH/NiCad: A, AA, AAA, sub-C, C-baby size
  • Li-ion: 26650, 22650, 19650 (protected 18650) 18650, 17670, 18490, 17500, 17355, 16340 (RCR123A), 14500, 10440
  • With the new AccuPower IQ338 charge or test most round cell batteries. Automatic selection of NiMH/NiCad or Li-ion chemistry cells. Includes the most common 18650 cells, can accept cells up to 70mm in length. Easy to use, easy to program, informative display.
  • Four independent channels programmed individually.
  • Easy to read large Backlit LCD display.
  • Digitally displays battery information.
  • Adjustable charging rate from 300 to 1000 mA.
  • Three modes of operation:
    • Charge
    • Fast Test
    • Nor Test (Normal Test)
  • Delta Peak full charge detection for NiMH/NiCad cells.
  • 4.2V full charge for Li-ion cells. CC/CV charge profile.
  • 12V input powered and can be powered by an optional car adapter.
  • Worldwide voltage switching power supply.
  • Automatic detection of different battery type. NiMH/NiCad Vs Li-ion.
  • Thermal sensors to protect against overheat and overcharge.
  • USB charging socket. Supplies 5V 1000 mA.

So I figured out that this unit is actually a computer that also charges batteries. OK, on a more serious note, this is a great charger. However, it only has four slots for batteries. I wanted the ability to charge more batteries at one time than just four so I took some time and looked online to see if it has a bigger brother. It does, but the bigger brother is not the IC-338 with more slots, it appears to be a carbon copy of the Tenergy unit.

And unlike the Foxnovo unit, the AccuPower unit does come with instructions…very, very good instructions. It explains how to take advantage of each unit feature.

I like this unit, just wish it handled more batteries at one time. But…I really like this unit.

The latest version of this charger is the AccuPower IQ-338XL. The “XL” evidently added more battery size capability and higher charge rate which lowers the charge time.

BlueTech AV-1000 & MaximalPower FC1000 –

You might be wondering why I am grouping these two chargers together for review purposes…GREAT QUESTION!

Simple answer…they are the same unit other than a different name on them. Although there are two units being tested, I will refer to them as “unit” for the purposes of this article. I will only refer to the MaximalPower FC1000 unit since it is the only one of the two that is still readily available.

The unit solidly built, sleek, and compact. Good feel to it. The LCD was clear and easy to read.

From the manufacturer:

  • FC1000 Intelligent AA/AAA Charger and Capacity Tester with USB charging port
  • Battery charger for NiCd and NiMH AA and AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Features 4 function modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test
  • Overheat-detection to prevent over-charging
  • 4 separate LCD displays for simultaneous readouts

The unit worked as stated in the description. I liked the fact that is displayed the individual “mAH” of each battery in the LCD display. It was also nice to have a USB charger as well, especially a 1A USB charger. Only being able to charge 4 batteries at one time was a drawback. Unfortunately I couldn’t get real excited about this charger.

Ansmann PL8 –

Nice basic “brick” recharger unit. Has overcharge protection but I didn’t see any smart overheat protection, but it does have a built-in time shutoff to help prevent overheating. The 500mA charging current helps charge your batteries quickly, but it completes the charging cycle in a “trickle” mode to help ease the potential heat buildup problem.

From the manufacturer:

  • For 1-8 AA/AAA (NiMH/NiCd) cells
  • Discharging of the batteries before charging is possible, Multi-coloured LED indicators show the battery status for each charging slot
  • Individual supervision of each cell, Multiple over-charging protection per cell and Automatic cut-off (-dV) & Trickle charging
  • Faulty cell detection / accidental alkaline insertion detection
  • Reverse polarity protection

Single use battery detection (i.e. alkaline batteries) prevents any chance you might accidentally try to charge the wrong types of batteries. There is a “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. I like units with the more informative LCD displays, but this unit’s flashing light display of this charger unit gives you all the information you actually need. The USB charging port is a nice little extra.

Going back to the “trickle” charge feature. One of the nice things regarding this feature…self-discharge offset. You can leave the batteries in this charger and the trickle charge feature will keep them fully charged but not overcharge them. That will offset any self-discharge of your rechargeable batteries. And I really like that each charging port is individually monitored and each battery “smart charged” individually to its own capacity.

I would love this charger if it had 12vDC power capability but it only runs off 110vAC. And that gives it a “fail” compared to my mission statement. But, if you are looking for a 110vAC only unit…this is a great option.

SunLabz SL00056 (MOSL00056) –

This unit suspiciously looks a whole lot like the Tenergy TN160…with 4 additional battery bays.

From the manufacturer:

  • 16 INDEPENDENT CHARGING SLOTS – Allows you to mix and charge AA / AAA / NiCD / NiMH 1.2v rechargeable batteries.
  • SMART AND SAFE – Accurate voltage detection ensures no over-charging and under-charging.
  • Reverse polarity protection and 8-hour shut-off timer ensures extra safety.
  • LIGHTED LCD DISPLAY – Intelligently shows the charging status of each rechargeable battery.
  • 1 YEAR WARRANTY
  • SAFETY WARNING: The charger should not be plugged into an outlet with batteries for extended periods of time to prevent damage. Remove the charger from the outlet once the batteries are charged and use the recommended charging times in the manual.

Each battery is charged individually based on its own state of charge. There is “discharge” capability to reset the battery’s memory to a fresh state. Nice to clear battery memory and revitalize batteries.

I don’t like that you can’t leave the charger plugged in with batteries in charger. So this tells me there is no overheat protection…and the potential for battery damage. I don’t like that this charger gets batteries fairly hot. As long as you monitor the charging process this is a decent no-frills charger. And it charges 16 batteries at once!

Comparison Chart –

Summary –

Let’s clear up one thing right off the bat…The FlePow and the Tenergy chargers are made by the same company in China, SunLabz.. SunLabz simply does what’s called “private label” manufacturing. In addition to SunLabz selling their own chargers they market them to other companies such as Tenergy who then sell them under their brand.

The ability to charge the other types and sizes of batteries could prove to be a real benefit in long-term emergencies and disasters. In terms of grid-down, the ability to recharge the rechargeable CR123a batteries (RCA123A) could prove really valuable. It should be noted that I am NOT a proponent of the CR123a batteries (rechargeable or standard), I only use and recommend AA & AAA batteries.

I can’t recommend the FlePow unit because it is no loner readily available.

I can’t recommend the Foxnovo unit, it simply cooks the batteries with too much heat and is no longer readily available.

I don’t recommend the Maximal unit because…well, I just couldn’t get excited about it…something just seemed off about it.

The only reason I don’t recommend the Ansmann unit is it doesn’t have a 12vDC power option. If I was only going to use AC power this would be my #1 choice.

I liked the Tenergy unit but it is a “private label” charger unit made by SunLabz. This is a unit I use and would buy again. And yes, I put the SunLabz unit in this same category. These are not high-end chargers…but solid and get the job done.

The hands-down winner is the AccuPower IQ-338 unit!! But, I would NOT buy it. I would buy the newer version AccuPower IQ-338XL to take advantage of more battery options, etc. The only drawback is the number of batteries it charges at one time…4. But this is simply the best charger…my “go to” charger.

However………….if I was only going to use AA & AAA and an occasional C battery…AND I needed to charge more than 4 batteries I would go with the AccuPower IQ-312. That bad boy can charge up to 12 batteries at one time. It is also 4.7 star rated on Amazon. If I wanted a 16 bay charger for AA & AAA batteries and an occasional 9v I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the AccuPower IQ216.

So I own and use the Tenergy charger, the AccuPower, and the HiTech IC1012. I didn’t test/include the HiTech IC1012 in this article because the technology is 7 years old and the unit is no longer available.

Are there other good units out there? Yup! Should you buy any of them? No idea! I can only tell you my experience and what I use…and I am happy with my choices…they are all still working and doing a good job.


If you are interested in buying any of the chargers I use I will provide the links to Amazon. If you click on the link I provide I might make 1% or 2% as a finder’s fee from Amazon. Hey, every little bit helps in this day and age. If you don’t use the link that’s no issue. I hope you find that battery charger that you need and that it serves you well.

AccuPower IQ-338 $47.24 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ-338XL $53.45 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ-312 $37.97 <click here to buy on Amazon>

AccuPower IQ216 $32.30 <click here to buy on Amazon>

Tenergy TN160 $47.99 <click here to buy on Amazon> (you also get 12 Premium Tenergy AA rechargeable batteries)

SunLabz SL00056 $44.99 <click here to buy on Amazon>

 

 

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