Author Topic: Which VHF radio?  (Read 4397 times)

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Offline ak-angler

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Which VHF radio?
« on: October 30, 2014, 08:36:08 AM »
I'm in the market for a new VHF radio and am looking for some input. If you were buying a new one, which of these three would you choose, and why? Also, if Santa Claus were bringing you one for Christmas, would you want the same one?

After answering those questions, are there any others that I should consider, and why?

Lowrance Link-8
AIS reciever and NMEA 2K capability

Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200
AIS and on-board GPS

ICOM M-506
AIS reciever and NMEA 2K capability
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 08:39:29 AM by ak-angler »
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Offline Wyrguy

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Which VHF radio?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2014, 09:46:45 AM »
Rodd, you know that you're going to get a myriad of answers... Not that it's a bad thing.
To jump in, I picked the Standard Horizon GX2150 Matrix. (Two & a half years old now) It has great specs when tested (independently from the Mfg sales goobleygoop) the DSC and AIS features I wanted. Yes, it's NMEA 0183, but IMO, NEMA 2000 connectivity for a VHF isn't a 'deal breaker'. I have it interfaced with the high speed NEMA 0183 port on my Raymarine E120w Chartplotter and it's a easy connection and set up. The other main concern with 'good' VHF performance, that some overlook, is the antenna and it's mounting location. I coupled mine with the Digital Antenna 529-VB (black!!!) and have it mounted on a ratcheting mount on the TOP of my rocket launcher tube. VHF works like line of site, therefore higher above the water = longer transmit/receive distances.

http://www.digitalantenna.com/prods/vhfantenna_8.html

Here's a few links that I 'go to' when I want straight techie info, no sales BS...

http://www.marine-electronics-reviews.com/index.html

http://www.frugal-mariner.com/VHF_Radio.html

As far as my 'Christmas' wish list...? I'm not sure that I'd change a thing!!!

Your mileage may vary...!

Rick


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Offline Kimbrey

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2014, 10:07:55 AM »
Listen to Rick.

Also 0183 isn't all that hard to deal with.
Probably more important than the radio is the antenna. Digital has a very good rep. Commercially we use Morad for most of our antenna needs which are good also but might be harder to work with on a smaller boat. 
2005 Sea Legend --Sold--replaced with 26' Duckworth

Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2014, 10:17:59 AM »
Thanks, Rick -

I've been running a Shakespeare Galaxy 5225XP on my 17SR for years now with no complaints. But, I did have an issue talking to the USCG this summer from the Cape Cruiser. I don't know if the issue was the antenna, or the radio, or both. But, I had already decided to install a new Digital 529-VW antenna at the same time I upgrade the radio. So, the antenna issue is already taken care of...

Back to the radio selection...  Would you see any value in having a GPS system integrated into the radio? And - be critical here - since you are already running a similar SH unit, would you have any nits to pick regarding its performance, functionality, or user interface?


1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

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Offline T-Rex

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2014, 10:28:22 AM »
I also have a Digital Antenna 529-VB on the Skip Top paired with an Icom IC-M424
The icom does not have AIS built in but is transponder capable ( i didn't care much for this anyway)
But i do have DSC working via 0183 with my Simrad plotter and external GS25 antenna, gps position is super solid
The new icom UI (user interface ) is very simple and the radio is clear as a Bell
Sea Chaser 17, Suzuki DF90A

Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2014, 10:29:09 AM »
Kimbrey -

I know that lack of N2K isn't a deal breaker. But, it does make for easier installation. If two radios cost about the same, and other features are comparable, can you think of any reason to not get the one with N2K? That is, would you prefer that a radio only have NMEA0183 network capability? Or, is a particular radio's networking capability just not a significant enough factor to consider?

(Is there anything I can do with N2K that I can't do with N183?)
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's

Offline Kimbrey

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 10:38:59 AM »
Kimbrey -

I know that lack of N2K isn't a deal breaker. But, it does make for easier installation. If two radios cost about the same, and other features are comparable, can you think of any reason to not get the one with N2K? That is, would you prefer that a radio only have NMEA0183 network capability? Or, is a particular radio's networking capability just not a significant enough factor to consider?

(Is there anything I can do with N2K that I can't do with N183?)
I really don't know as I've never worked with a 2000 interface with a radio. In theory it should be much easier than the 0183.
2005 Sea Legend --Sold--replaced with 26' Duckworth

Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2014, 10:54:43 AM »
Westcoaster -

Have you used the DSC/MMSI function on your ICOM unit to locate a friend's boat in the area? And, does it automatically display the location of the other boat on your chartplotter? ICOM says it will do that when interfaced with their MarineCommander system, but is eerily silent regarding this functionality when interfaced with equipment from other brands.
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's

Offline DSCS

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2014, 12:07:51 PM »
A couple of points:

I had a Lowrance VHF, relabeled Simrad. It worked fine, but I had to change my MMSI when I got my ships station license. The MMSI could not be changed, even by the factory. I don't know if things have changed with the newer Navico radios, but that really passed me off. Replaced it with a Garmin, the only other brand that offered NMEA2K conectivity at the time.

As for "Buddy Tracking"  or whatever the various manufacturers call the feature on their radios. Mine works with my Garmin VHF plugged into the otherwise totally Simrad system. I think Garmin is the worst offender about using proprietary PGNs in their network communications. If the Garmin plays nice with the Simrad network I would be pretty confident that any other mix of VHF and chartplotter brands will do "Buddy Tracking" with no problem.

Alan
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Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2014, 01:03:54 PM »
That's interesting info regarding the 'hard' MMSI number on the Simrad radio. Although, I'm not sure that I would ever have the need to have it changed. So that probably wouldn't be a huge issue, unless I was looking at a resale situation. It is definitely something to consider, though. In fact, I need to look into 'un-programming' the radio on my 17SR when I finally get around to selling it... I wouldn't want the new owner to have my info programmed into their radio if they ever had to use the emergency broadcast function.

Also, I kind of assumed that any radio would interface with any chartplotter, as long as they both have the capability to do so. But, the ICOM literature has me questioning that assumption.
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's

Offline Salmon King

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2014, 01:32:09 PM »
I'm in the market for a new VHF radio and am looking for some input.

I've been toying with the same issue.
My current radio is good but I don't even know if it has DCS calling features, let alone AIS.
Since I'll be relocting all of my electronics shortly I'm looking into the advantages of a radio with AIS.

A-K I'll be watching this thread closely...
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 06:26:46 PM by Salmon King »
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Offline Threeweight

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2014, 01:46:02 PM »
Standard Horizon, with Icom as a second choice.

With the SH, GPS (and thus DSC) is integrated into the radio.  No being SoL in an emergency situation if the chart plotter is down, or you need to cut power to the wiring in the boat (why your main radio and 1 bilge pump should be wired separately from the switched power.)  SH is known for great warranty and customer service.

Icom tends to be more expensive, but have the same kind of reputation in radios that Furuno does in sonar and radars.

Do you have radar on the Cape Cruiser?  If so, why do you want AIS?  It is receive-only as I understand it (meaning, it will only show where other boats w/ AIS transponders are).  For the same price, you could buy two of the compact SH Explorer 1700's w/ built in GPS units.  We have that set up on the Stabi, and it works great (one monitors Coast Guard channels while the other is used to monitor fishing chatter.)

Re: antennas... we have one of the units rigged to a Digital 529, the other to a Shakespeare.  The radio hooked to the Digital has significantly less static/noise.
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Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2014, 02:20:18 PM »
Standard Horizon, with Icom as a second choice.
Thanks for the input.

With the SH, GPS (and thus DSC) is integrated into the radio.  No being SoL in an emergency situation if the chart plotter is down, or you need to cut power to the wiring in the boat (why your main radio and 1 bilge pump should be wired separately from the switched power.)
Well, I do like back-up redundancy in my safety systems.

Do you have radar on the Cape Cruiser?  If so, why do you want AIS?  It is receive-only as I understand it (meaning, it will only show where other boats w/ AIS transponders are).  For the same price, you could buy two of the compact SH Explorer 1700's w/ built in GPS units.  We have that set up on the Stabi, and it works great (one monitors Coast Guard channels while the other is used to monitor fishing chatter.)
Well, I do like back-up redundancy in my safety systems. I do have RADAR. But, if the plotter goes down, the RADAR goes down with it. Not that I would get the same information from AIS, but... I dunno - maybe I don't need AIS at all. But, all the other kids are doing it these days. :whistle:

Re: antennas... we have one of the units rigged to a Digital 529, the other to a Shakespeare.  The radio hooked to the Digital has significantly less static/noise.
If you could, can you post the model # of the Shakespeare antenna. Just so I can compare apples to apples...
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's

Offline Kimbrey

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2014, 04:45:07 PM »
Actually that AIS overlay on your radar and chart plotter is tough to beat.  Really tough to beat.  It is a very good graphic display of the large shipping/commercial traffic that is in the area.  Think of fishing in dense fog in the shipping lanes out of Sekiu.  Personally I consider it one of the best safety features going even if you are only receiving...at least you know what is around you.  The display will show the ships direction and then in most cases you call call up their information which will give type of ship, course, speed et cetera. It will give better at a glance information than your radar.  Also there is at times radar misses a target.  If the target has AIS it shows.  Of course this only works from vessels that have the full blown AIS but I'd much rather have this information of the 600+' container ship bearing down on me. 

Like I said it is hard to beat.  Why would you not want to have it?
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Online Chief of the Boat

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2014, 05:16:54 PM »
I have the Standard Horizon 2150 with AIS hooked to Digital 529 (Black) and couldn't be happier.  The clarity of the radio is awesome.
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Offline BruceL2_Fish

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2014, 05:59:03 PM »
Ok, it sounds like I got the wrong antenna when I installed my SH 1700, I am running a Shakespeare Galaxy as well.  It works fine but sounds like a digital would be better.   I will keep that in mind because I am going to add a second radio when I get my skip tower installed this winter. 

Bruce
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Offline Threeweight

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2014, 08:28:12 PM »
Shakespeare Galaxy is the second one on the Stabi.
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Offline T-Rex

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2014, 08:32:06 PM »
Westcoaster -

Have you used the DSC/MMSI function on your ICOM unit to locate a friend's boat in the area? And, does it automatically display the location of the other boat on your chartplotter? ICOM says it will do that when interfaced with their MarineCommander system, but is eerily silent regarding this functionality when interfaced with equipment from other brands.

No i have not done this.
All i have done is a radio check with the coast guard and they verified my Vessel through my  MMSI  and DSC working..
I just don't know many people who have DSC so no real pleasure testing yet.



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Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2014, 08:37:14 PM »
Fair enough. Thanks for the feedback.
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Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2014, 04:49:00 PM »
OK... So far, it's 3 positive comments for the Standard Horizon, 1.5 for the ICOM, and -1 for the Lowrance. And, given the fact that the SH unit would give me a redundant/integrated GPS for the DSC, I'm sort of leaning that way. But, I still haven't made up my mind at this point. So, if there's any more feedback/recommendations out there, I'm all ears.

As a side note, I ordered a new Digital 529-VW antenna today. So, at least that's taken care of...   :biggrin:
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's

Offline Hydro-Therapy

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2014, 04:57:51 PM »

 AK I have the SH 2150 with ais matched to a Digital antenna / networked to Raymarine A70D and am very happy with the performance. The only thing about it that can drive you nuts is to have the AIS alarm on and be fishing within range of a large boat or ship that is at anchor with the AIS transmitting. On clear days I end up turning off the alarm.

 H-T
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Online amazing grace

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2014, 07:25:35 PM »
Rod, I have a brand new black GX1700 Standard Horizon. Probably does not have some of the options you desire. If you are interested let me know. The SH are made in China which I did not expect or check before ordering one. :facepalm:

I would go I-com. I believe they are still made in Japan.


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Offline CompTime

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2014, 10:40:19 PM »
I'm getting my new radio soon and will be going with the AIS option. Like Kimbrey mentioned it is a nice safety option. When fishing in the fog a large radar target is a large radar target. I had a past experience that made me realize a medium radar target may be a sea going tug pulling a large barge with a long cable. We were lucky that one crew member thought he saw the sea tug pulling a barge a ways back and stayed well clear then saw the barge later.
I'm getting the AIS and if the call out is a tug boat I'm heading 90 deg to its course.  :twocents:
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Online Croaker Stroker

Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2014, 02:32:32 PM »
There was a post a while back about a low flying helicopter pulling a sonar device on a long cable. A guy almost went between them in broad daylight. Gotta be very very cautious out there.
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Offline ak-angler

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Re: Which VHF radio?
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2014, 07:03:42 PM »
A Decision has been made.

Well, tonight I pulled the trigger on an ICOM M-506. After going through need/want/like features with the wife a couple of days ago, she actually preferred the ICOM. The one thing that really swayed her was the 'Last Call Voice Recording' feature. Over the years, there have been several instances where it would have been nice to be able to rewind the conversation and listen a second time. (Wait... where did the Coast Guard say that 'boat in distress' was again?) So it basically came down to the integrated GPS on the Standard Horizon versus the voice recording on the ICOM. And, weighing the fact that the USCG says that the "modified" Rescue 21 DSC system won't even be fully active in Alaska until at least the end of 2017, the integrated GPS in the SH unit just didn't seem like the deal breaker that I thought it would be. So, when I stumbled across the ICOM on sale for under $390 tonight, at a shop where I was already making an order so shipping was basically zero for the radio, the deal was done.

Thanks for the input, everybody.
1985 Sea Ranger 17 Skiff Top with 2012 Suzuki DF90A

2007 Cape Cruiser Marinaut 26 with twin 2006 Honda BF90's