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Railfan Technology > Kenwood radios ?


Date: 08/21/21 11:40
Kenwood radios ?
Author: conrail4022

Hello all,

I have been hearing of this move to NXDN switchover becoming imminent in the next few years.

Right now I have a Motorola MCS mobile & MT2000 portable that I'm more than happy with & I'm reading these will no longer work (even for monitor which is what they are mainly used for outside NRHS/touristy type stuff)

I'm also hearing that Kenwood is now the radio of choice on the railroad.

Since I'm not a tech guy I'm wondering if there are specific Kenwood models  -both mobile & portable that I should plan to buy.

The next question is an extention of the first due to the programming that will be necessary.

Is there a shop somewhere (likeRailcom) that 'gets' what will need to be programmied to make these work.

Don't need to know how the soup is made - just want to eat it scenario.

At the end of the day I just need them to work & really don't need any expensive 'bricks' lying about....

Thanks.

 



Date: 08/22/21 06:49
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: WW

I have posted NUMEROUS times about this on this forum.  Please do a search for in-depth information.  Short answer:  the best Kenwood radios for receiving railroad NXDN transmissions (only a few railroads using NXDN at all so far) is the NX-200 portable and the NX-700 mobile.  Both are very good radios.  The NX-210 is a sister to the NX-200, only differing in that it has a larger keypad--the 210 is the portable model that many railroads use. Now, the bad part.  Kenwood radios can tend to be pretty expensive because Kenwood is pretty "territorial" about their dealers, strongly discouraging them from selling out of their region.  "Retail" sales of their software and programming cables to end users can also be difficult to find though there are dealers who will sell it. Yes, the radio must be computer programmed and that should be done by someone with experience and knowledge to get it right.  I've been programming Kenwood radios for almost a decade and I still find new tweaks and features in the programming that I didn't know about.  Even many Kenwood dealers don't have a lot of experience with programming NXDN radios.

You may want to consider buying one of the Icom NXDN radios.  The railroads themselves also use a lot of these.  My favorite models are the IC-F3161D (or its successor, the IC-F3261D) portable and the IC-F5061D mobile.  These Icoms can often be purchased cheaper than the Kenwood models, and have performance that is so close to the Kenwoods that most users would not see a difference.  Programming cables and software are also generally more readily available than for the Kenwoods.  Unlike Kenwood, Icom doesn't seem to care too much if their dealers sell outside their local territory, so there is more price competition and easier availability for the Icoms.  There are a couple of internet retail commercial radio outlets that sell Icom NXDN radios online.  Like the Kenwoods, the Icoms require computer programming done by someone with knowledge or experience.

Both Kenwood and Icom have newer and fancier NXDN models than those that I have listed, but they are also more expensive and contain a lot of newer bells and whistles that are unnecessary for a railfan radio.  For those who want to delve into programming these radios on their own, it can be done (I learned a lot of it myself in the school of hard knocks), but it is time-consuming and, at times, very frustrating.  The key thing to know is that the programming software and documentation are written for people with considerable prior knowledge and experience in two-way radio.  One other note--I don't know a single other railfan using the Kenwood NXDN radios, but I know at least a dozen who are using the Icom NXDN models.  So, I would think that there is a larger railfan "knowledge base" for the Icom models.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/21 07:07 by WW.



Date: 08/22/21 07:17
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: railrob

 I have an NX-700 mounted in the truck. Works great and I programmed the rail channels as both analog and digital. Surprising what you find traveling around that pops up on digital.  I don't have an NXDN portable but the Kenwood NX-200 is the vhf NXDN model. There have been other models introduced. The NX-700 has I believe is 512 channel capacity. It may be a while before you will need NXDN radios for the railroads. But railroads like CSX have bought nothing but NXDN capable radios for a few years. They are programmed with both analog and digital channels so they could switch to digital without reprograming the radios.
I got the radio through a Kenwood dealer who sold me the program and cable and the radio was a factory referb  at a reduced rate. The program is simple to use and allows me to change the Chanel line up to a specific area that I am traveling to as well as keep a bank with the full aar channel lineup. The radio works very well. I still have Kenwoods both UHF and VHF from work dating back to 1990 that kick butt and had  lot of abuse in service. Great solid radios!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/21 07:22 by railrob.



Date: 08/22/21 09:59
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: RFandPFan

This may be a dumb question, but when they switch to NXDN will they use the current AAR frequencies?

Also, when they switch to NXDN does the NX700 have to reprogrammed, or is there a way to switch over from analog?

Thanks!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/21 10:14 by RFandPFan.



Date: 08/22/21 10:16
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: WW

As far as I know, the Class 1 railroads have been buying nothing but NXDN-capable radios for close to 10 years now.  I know one Class 1 radio tech that told me that they were getting "boxcar loads" of NXDN-capable radios--that was back in 2012.  At the time, he was changing out any remote bases on his district that were scheduled for inspection or maintenance with NXDN-capable models. 

I strongly recommend NOT frequently reprogramming commercial radios.  I usually build a programming "template" that includes ALL of the AAR VHF channels and then enable a Scan Add/Delete keypad function to select channels to scan.That way, one does not keep having to reprogram the radio--all of the available channels are already programmed.  Most of my railfanning commercial radios have just two "banks" of channels, one for all of the AAR channels and a second for the 7 NOAA weather broadcast channels.  The latter can be helpful out in the field, and those weather channels are also a handy way to test antennas for performance without having to wait for a radio transmission on the AAR channels.  I also set my "railfan only" radios up as "receive only"--that way one can't inadvertently transmit on the railroad channels.  The NX-200 and 700 have a 250 channel per zone limit (which is less than the total number of AAR analog and digital channels), but the radio can be programmed to decode either analog or digital on a single frequency, which brings the number of frequencies under the 250 channel limit per zone.  For example, the frequency of 160.8600 mHz is analog AAR channel no. 050 and is AAR NXDN channel 393.  So, a single channel can be programmed into the radio for BOTH the analog and digital channel.  One might name that channel in the channel display something like 050-393.  As I have noted before, railroad employees almost NEVER refer to a radio channel by its frequency--they just know the AAR Channel No.

One other note, in answer to the post above:  The NX-700 is an excellent radio.  A few of its programming parameters can be a little wonky, but its main competitor--the Icom IC-F5061D--has its own little quirks, too.  Both are a good choice for an excellent-performing radio.  



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/21 10:23 by WW.



Date: 08/22/21 10:22
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: WW

RFandPFan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This may be a dumb question, but when they switch
> to NXDN will they use the current AAR
> frequencies?
>
> Also, when they switch to NXDN does the NX700 have
> to reprogrammed, or is there a way to switch over
> from analog?
>
> Thanks!

Yes, they can and will use the 97 "original" AAR frequencies, plus all of the "splinter" channels that were created that fit "in between" the original 97 channels. As to an NXDN-capable radio, if it has been programmed with the AAR channels with NXDN enabled, yes, it would not have to be reprogrammed.  If the railroads cut over to full NXDN tomorrow, I would not have to reprogram any of my NXDN-capable radios--all of the NXDN channels and capability has been programmed into the radios--long ago.



Date: 08/22/21 10:25
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: RFandPFan

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>  For example, the
> frequency of 160.8600 mHz is analog AAR channel
> no. 050 and is AAR NXDN channel 393.  So, a
> single channel can be programmed into the radio
> for BOTH the analog and digital channel.  One
> might name that channel in the channel display
> something like 050-393.  As I have noted before,
> railroad employees almost NEVER refer to a radio
> channel by its frequency--they just know the AAR
> Channel No.

My intent would be to load all the AAR channels as I have always done with my Motorola units.  So you are saying that the same frequencies can be programmed for both analog and digital and alpha-tagged accordingly?  Is there a menu setting that allows switching from analog to NXDN digital?  Are the railroads doing this with their new installs? Thanks.
 



Date: 08/22/21 16:25
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: WW

RFandPFan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> My intent would be to load all the AAR channels as
> I have always done with my Motorola units.  So
> you are saying that the same frequencies can be
> programmed for both analog and digital and
> alpha-tagged accordingly?  Is there a menu
> setting that allows switching from analog to NXDN
> digital?  Are the railroads doing this with their
> new installs? Thanks.
>

The railroads are predominately using NXDN radios with special railroad firmware installed.  This allows the user to enter from the keypad a channel using the AAR channel No.   For example, if the user wants to enter AAR channel 050 050 (the first channel no. is the transmit channel, the second the receive channel, in this example they are the same channel no.), he or she would enter this on the keypad and the radio would go to that transmit/receive channel pair. I've said this before--I DO NOT RECOMMEND RAILFANS PURCHASE AN AAR FIRMWARE RADIO.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, they can be set up with a scan function, but--it can be cumbersome.  Second, more importantly, the transmit function can not be disabled on an AAR channel.  When one enters the AAR channel no. combination into the radio from the keypad, the radio is fully enabled to transmit on that channel and the transmit function can not be disabled.  Third, the railroad firmware and/or programming software is hard to obtain.  Icom, specifically, uses a completely different software program for its AAR firmware radios.  

The easy way to program an Icom or Kenwood NXDN-capable radio is to simply program all of the AAR frequencies into the radio with the programming software--there are just under 200.  Both Icom and Kenwood programming software allow the programmer to program each frequency entered to be analog, NXDN, or "mixed."  By entering "mixed" (that's the term Icom uses, I don't remember off-hand what Kennwood calls it), the radio will decode either an analog or NXDN transmission on that frequency and send that audio to the speaker.  So, in my example from my post above, if the radio "hears" a transmission on the 160.8600 mHz frequency, it will decode it if it is analog (AAR channel 50) or NXDN (AAR channel 393).  Make sense?   



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/21 16:26 by WW.



Date: 08/23/21 10:59
Re: Kenwood radios ?
Author: RFandPFan

WW Wrote:
-
> The easy way to program an Icom or Kenwood
> NXDN-capable radio is to simply program all of the
> AAR frequencies into the radio with the
> programming software--there are just under 200. 
> Both Icom and Kenwood programming software allow
> the programmer to program each frequency entered
> to be analog, NXDN, or "mixed."  By entering
> "mixed" (that's the term Icom uses, I don't
> remember off-hand what Kennwood calls it), the
> radio will decode either an analog or NXDN
> transmission on that frequency and send that audio
> to the speaker.  So, in my example from my post
> above, if the radio "hears" a transmission on the
> 160.8600 mHz frequency, it will decode it if it is
> analog (AAR channel 50) or NXDN (AAR channel
> 393).  Make sense?   

Thanks, appreciate the info.



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