Thoughts on the VX-8DR

The VX-8DR in all its glory.

The VX-8DR is an analogue-only radio that first debuted (as the VX-8R) around 2008, with the DR model coming out later as “a devoted APRS users version of the VX-8R series.” It was discontinued around 2017-2018, though. I recently came across one (thanks, Ryan). So why a post about a discontinued radio, especially now when my interests are primarily HF-oriented? The answer is I think this is my one of my new favourite radios, and it’s sad to see it gone.

The first thing I like about it is the aesthetic: no bright LCD display like you get on a lot of more modern radios (like the FT-5DR and Anytone 878UVII+). It fits well in your hand, it’s solidly built, and it’s a quad-band dual-receive radio. I don’t know of many decent quad band HTs out right now, which is unfortunate; I’ve had to resort to using my FT-817ND for portable 6m operation. I also like that it can listen to two amateur channels at once, and can send APRS messages directly from the radio; I’ve been using a Baofeng or the VX-6R with a mobilinkd TNC3 paired to my phone. The manual is readable enough that it only took about five minutes to program in some local repeaters.

There are things I don’t like about it:

  • The speaker isn’t very loud.
  • I would prefer if the dial’s primary function was to change the volume, not the memory or VFO.
  • The connector is a proprietary connector, so I have to try to find a hand mic and programming cable for it.
  • The keyboard is tiny and harder to use.
  • In dual receive mode, you don’t get memory labels — you have to memorize what memory or frequency belongs to which repeater. I really think this is such a bad thing, as it’s good to know these things and you can turn off the dual receive function if you need the labels. I’m just accustomed to a certain level of convenience.

I definitely like this more than the VX-6R. There’s just a certain classic nature to it1, and I’m sure it has to do with my personal history with radios.

On an unrelated note, I got my QRZ grid squared and all contintents awards today, so that was kind of cool.

  1. Another one is the Tecsun PL-368, which isn’t an HT. ↩︎

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10m Contest: no dice

I went to a local park to try to take part in the 10m contest. I brought the FT-817 because I don’t have a battery yet for the G90 and I don’t have an antenna connector for the KX2. For an antenna, I set up the Superantenna on the picnic table; I probably should have strung up something else but I was already getting enough weird looks.

I could hear quite a few people on SSB, and I could see a lot of activity on FT-8 and even some on JS8Call. However, I noticed my radio wasn’t transmitting at all. I poked around at it to see if I could figure it out, but couldn’t get it sorted. I had a brief bit of panic that I had blown the finals: at one point, the ATU had stuck in tuning mode. Fortunately when I got home, I thought to reset the radio1 (hold down the F key while you power it on), and then it began transmitting. It wasn’t receiving V/U modes very well, though. I’m not sure if that’s normal (I almost never use it for V/U), or if something else is going on.

Some lessons learned:

  • I really need to get some wire winders.
  • It would be nice to simplify the setup as much as possible: right now, I’ve got the radio, Signalink, and Z-817, with cables to connect pretty much everything to everything else more or less.
  • I’ve never had much luck transmitting on the MP1 Superantenna. It might just be bad luck, and to be fair, this time was due to the radio not transmitting. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever actually made a contact on it.

I’ve been coming to find I’m really only interested in FT8 as a “can anyone hear me” sort of deal. It doesn’t convey any useful information, and honestly just isn’t fun anymore.

  1. Yes, I tried turning it off and then back on again (more than once, even) while at the park. ↩︎


A new radio appears

A friend of mine is selling me his Elecraft KX2; he sent it to me ahead of time to get familiar with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a BNC antenna or a BNC→PL-259 adapter, so I haven’t been able to use it. It’s shiny, though!

Thanks, Jeremy.

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Apartment radio

I set up the G90 and power supply on my bench, and stuck the SuperAntenna in the corner. It’s not a great set up (my feed line is way too long), but I could receive a little. I think my roof is metal lined though, because I struggle to get much of anything.