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Old 01-10-2016, 09:54 PM
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VGC 6600Pro ham install/review

I got my technician license a few months back (KG5KLW) mainly because our offroad group has had nothing but issues with CB's. Usually at least half of them were out of tune and couldn't be heard more than a few hundred yards. I wanted more powerful communication on the trail.

I started off with a Baefang UV5R, a good cheap handheld, but decided I wanted something with more power in case we ever had problems in the middle of nowhere. I know for a fact that a high power mobile ham radio mounted in a Toyota helped immensely last summer for getting S&R to a rollover wreck on Black Bear Pass.

I got a VGC 6600 Pro from Amazon. The one I ordered came with the APRS/GPS set up. I think the track logging feature of APRS would be very helpful on any cross country trips I make alone. The family could keep tabs on me.

The RX range of the radio is very good. I'm running a Browning 5/8 wave antenna mounted on the hood. In the high planes of Eastern NM, I was getting clear RX from the NM5ML repeater from over 100 miles away. TX was closer to 30 miles of range, but the channel was pretty busy with voice traffic.

I hit the local repeater in Broken Arrow, OK from Mounds, OK tonight, probably 35 miles as the crow flies.

I figured I would share my thoughts on the VGC 6600 pro. Its size makes it seem like it was built to be installed in a Jeep glove box.

Contents of the box:
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Mounting bracket with cooling fan:
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Plenty of 12ga wire included to run direct to the battery.
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Positioning mounting bracket in glove box:
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Body installed:
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Old 01-10-2016, 10:03 PM
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After a month, I am happy with it. I've tested it in a city environment, the high desert of NM, and the mountains of central Colorado and it seems to work very well in all.

Head unit installed. The suction mount is very good and feels strong.
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The screen is very adjustable with color, contrast,and brightness settings. You have no issue with it blinding you at night or being invisible in the day.
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Antenna mounting point. It seems to work much better than the bumper mount I had before.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:26 AM   #3
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Nice clean install. Congratulations on getting your ticket. How well does the suction cup hold on the windshield? Does the APRS Function work? I like the glove box install. My only concern is the airflow around the radio to keep it cool.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by grumpyguard View Post
Nice clean install. Congratulations on getting your ticket. How well does the suction cup hold on the windshield? Does the APRS Function work? I like the glove box install. My only concern is the airflow around the radio to keep it cool.
Thanks! The suction cup is very strong. I've tested it from 65 degrees all the way down to minus 15 and it's still hanging on strong. It's got a bit of adhesive on it for extra hold. Over 1800 miles of bumpy two lane highway and gravel roads it held on well during my past trip.

I have not hooked up the APRS yet. I will be doing it soon though. It's pretty easy to hook up and the instruction manual is actually very well written for a Chinese radio. No funny translation errors.

The mount has a fan with a temp monitor attached to it. If the transever gets above 45 degrees Celsius, the fan kicks on automatically. No idea of the heat level in the summer but with the heater on this winter, the transever never got hot enough in the glove box to kick the fan on. The nice thing is that if its getting too hot in there, you can just open the glove box for added airflow until it cools off.
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Old 01-11-2016, 12:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by okstatejk View Post
I got my technician license a few months back (KG5KLW) mainly because our offroad group has had nothing but issues with CB's. Usually at least half of them were out of tune and couldn't be heard more than a few hundred yards.
That's a nice setup and well done review but as a long-time general class ham (N6TAY), I don't understand why your club had so many issues with their CBs. It's no more difficult to tune a CB antenna than it is a ham antenna and the CBs themselves don't need tuning. I am either in large groups with CBs or lead large groups with CBs and we don't have problems with our CBs at all. I haven't touched my present CB in nearly 6 years since installing it and it's still working like the day I installed it.

That said, I also have a 2m Yaesu ham radio in my Jeep but I just don't get it when people getting their ham licenses say they couldn't get their CB working properly. It's probably easier to get a CB working properly than it is a 2m ham radio. If you can install and tune a ham antenna, you can install and tune a CB antenna.
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Old 01-11-2016, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by okstatejk View Post
I got my technician license a few months back (KG5KLW) mainly because our offroad group has had nothing but issues with CB's. Usually at least half of them were out of tune and couldn't be heard more than a few hundred yards.
That's a nice setup and well done review but as a long-time general class ham (N6TAY), I don't understand why your club had so many issues with their CBs. It's no more difficult to tune a CB antenna than it is a ham antenna and the CBs themselves don't need tuning. I am either in large groups with CBs or lead large groups with CBs and we don't have problems with our CBs at all. I haven't touched my present CB in nearly 6 years since installing it and it's still working like the day I installed it.

That said, I also have a 2m Yaesu ham radio in my Jeep but I just don't get it when people getting their ham licenses say they couldn't get their CB working properly. It's probably easier to get a CB working properly than it is a 2m ham radio. If you can install and tune a ham antenna, you can install and tune a CB antenna.
Well there were a number of reasons I "wanted" my license (entertainment on road trips, emergency coms, weather spotting, ect), but simplex use in the jeep is what pushed me to study and get the thing. I wouldn't have one if I didn't spend a lot of time on overland type trips.

I think the issue with CBs is everyone I run with mounts their antenna on the tailgate of the jeep (From what I've seen its The worst spot for a ground plane on the vehicle). Can't tell you why we have such issues and I still have a Cobra 19 with 4' fire stick mounted in my jeep. I actually am at a 1.3 SWR on my radio but it doesn't matter if no one else is tuned right.

And I could be wrong here but my understanding is that ground plane is not as much of an issue in 2m/70cm bands so the install of the antenna is more straight forward. I had my antenna mag mounted to my bumper and had clear RX/TX at ranges of 20 miles. That was simply hooking up the pre tuned browning antenna and talking. That's not gunna happen running 4 watts on CB. Now that it's up higher on my hood, RX/TX range has increased quite a bit.

But to be clear I don't spend any time driving in circles at the local off road park. We typically go out in small groups to mountainous areas with no cell service and miles from any help. I want the extended range 50 watts of 2m gives me.
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Old 01-11-2016, 04:13 PM   #7
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We typically go out in small groups to mountainous areas with no cell service and miles from any help. I want the extended range 50 watts of 2m gives me.
Ok but keep in mind that simplex 2m VHF/440MHz UHF doesn't work well in mountainous terrain... it's far more line-of-sight than 27 MHz HF CB is.

And if everyone else can't get their CB antennas tuned, I don't know why they'd be any more likely to get their 2m antennas tuned.

I'm not saying 2m is not cool to have on the trail but the tuning problems you described everyone in your group with CBs had don't go away by just going to 2m. They have to be tuned too.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:01 PM   #8
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... but simplex use in the jeep is what pushed me to study and get the thing.

I think the issue with CBs is everyone I run with mounts their antenna on the tailgate of the jeep (From what I've seen its The worst spot for a ground plane on the vehicle). Can't tell you why we have such issues and I still have a Cobra 19 with 4' fire stick mounted in my jeep. I actually am at a 1.3 SWR on my radio but it doesn't matter if no one else is tuned right.
I got into ham for the exact same reason: Jeep-to-Jeep communication, and a general frustration at all the drawbacks of CB radio. Even for those of us with properly tuned CB radio, you still have to put up with staticy AM operation, the annoyance of distant pirates illegally pushing a bazillion watts, the inability to talk to your buddy because his radio isn't perfectly tuned, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by okstatejk View Post
And I could be wrong here but my understanding is that ground plane is not as much of an issue in 2m/70cm bands so the install of the antenna is more straight forward.
In my own experience, a 1/2 wave 2m antenna seems to be fairly forgiving when it comes to a ground plane. At least with my Larsen NMO2/70B antennas, they give me excellent performance despite not being planted over a large flat metal surface.

Quote:
Originally Posted by okstatejk View Post
I want the extended range 50 watts of 2m gives me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
Ok but keep in mind that simplex 2m VHF/440MHz UHF doesn't work well in mountainous terrain... it's far more line-of-sight than 27 MHz HF CB is.
Jerry has a lot more experience than I do, and he is correct in what he says. Nevertheless, my own Jeep experience in the mountains around Moab has conclusively shown 2m simplex ham to be far, far superior to CB operation, even with properly tuned setups. I am going to repeat two small stories (I already told them in this thread) from Easter Jeep Safari 2015.


Story #1: on Sunday I ran Porcupine Rim. Some of us on this run had ham radios, so we all tuned in to a specific simplex frequency in addition to the CB channel that everybody was using. At various times, the group leader and tail gunner could not communicate (neither had a ham radio) due to the terrain plus the inherent weaknesses of CB. All us hams, however, could easily communicate with each other all day long. Not only that, we could also communicate with a distant group who happened to be on the same simplex frequency that was running Hell's Revenge (two trails away) and had broken one of their Jeeps... and not only that, but we could even hear and communicate with their buddy who was back in town trying to scrounge parts and tools for them. Yes, I myself did in fact talk to the guy in town during our Porcupine Rim lunch stop.

This was probably a distance of only 7 or 8 miles as the crow flies. Still, after seeing how CBs couldn't even keep our own tight-knit group in communication, it was impressive. Some of the CB-only guys were so flabbergasted that I might as well have been talking to another Jeeper on Mars.

Story #2: on Thursday I ran Elephant Hill--I got to represent my dealership since we sponsor this run. As traditionally happens on EH for EJS, our group had split into two smaller groups. Most of the hams ended up in the other group; only one other ham operator (a local friend of mine) was in my sub-group... until he dropped out at mid-day to assist with a broken vehicle in the other group, leaving me alone ham-wise. The trail leaders, being highly responsible, prefer to keep tabs on the entire group... but due to the terrain and the distance between us, CBs are completely useless for staying in touch with the other group. Nearly all day long, however, I was actively communicating with the other group via ham. I keep getting regular updates on the broken vehicle, that group's progress, and so on; I would then relay this info to my group's leader (and everybody else, actually) via CB. The trail leaders repeatedly expressed their appreciation to me for keeping everybody so informed.

Again, our groups were probably never more than 7 or 8 miles apart. However, the terrain here was certainly more challenging (as anybody who has run Elephant Hill can attest). Under more terrain-friendly conditions, I am certain we could communicate over significantly greater distances.

FYI, YMMV, etc.
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Old 01-12-2016, 09:17 AM
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Thanks for that Sherpa, it makes sense. I really don't want to get into a debate about wavelength properties but from what I've seen, especially in areas in central Colorado where 6500 feet of elevation change in a matter of miles is common, was that I could reach a repeater from a lot longer away than I could get anyone to answer on the CB.

I'm going to have my SWR checked this weekend on the ham, but if I'm getting 30+ miles of TX range, I'd say my antenna was pretty much plug and play. I doubt I'll need to do any tuning on it.

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