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Ham Radio And The Chinese Market
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Ham Radio And the Chinese Market

Cheap ham radio equipment

As I pull the small BaoFeng UV-5RE dual band out of my shirt pocket i cant help but feel a sense of amazement at how tiny the radio is, and yet so capable. I give the ON/OFF switch a quick twist to turn the radio on and tune to my favorite FM broadcast station as the sounds of music fills the speaker. Good solid sounding audio without that tinny sound like so many other small portables. I then tune up into the UHF portions and listen to the local FRS operators chatting away about picking up groceries and getting signal reports from different locations. I know I can't use the radio here but it sure is tempting at times. I suppose that if it were an emergency situation and someones life were at stake that maybe the F.C.C would slap me on the wrist and tell me not to do it again without fining me some outrageous sum of money.

One has to wonder just how the Chinese are able to make so many of these radio's and sell them for such a low price. The current pricing over at Amazon has them for about one fourth of what a Japanese made radio would cost. The big three manufactures Kenwood/Icom/Yaesu have been in the radio business for almost forty years now, so you would think that they would be building quality radio gear by now.

With ham radio being such a specialized market in the communications field there is also the possibility that the big three have been running the price's of the amateur radio gear up to make a bigger profit.That does seem possible but wouldn't explain the fact that American radio companies such as Ten-Tec and Elecraft also have gigantic price tags on most of their gear.

One has to wonder if maybe it is the ham radio operators fault. We are always on the lookout for a good deal and the BaoFeng radio's certainly fit. Although I am not sure of the quality of the radio gear coming from China. You would think that ham radio operators would want the best communications device possible and not be so concerned about the cost. In this digital age most people including ham radio operators seem to want instant gratification with a plug and play radio.

The BaoFeng UV-5R 2m/440 hand held radio's seem to get good reviews. They are an excellent choice for backup radio gear and use out in the field during emergencies. With a price tag under fifty dollars you aren't as concerned about the radio getting broken or destroyed. I know that I personally would not want to take my five hundred dollar dual band radio out into the rain and snow.

It would seem that the smart choice for most hams would be to look into buying one of the new radios from BaoFeng or one of the other Chinese manufactures. With the capability to not only listen to FM broadcast stations but also everything from 100 MHZ to 170 MHZ and 400 MHZ to 480 MHZ it is no wonder why these little radios are so popular. The frequency coverage includes Weather stations in the VHF range as well as 2m and 70cm ham radio and FRS/GMRS communications. You can even use it as a local police scanner, just be careful not to transmit there and get yourself into trouble.


Street Talk

Don, nice article. Hope you can clear up something for me. I bought a Baofeng UV-5R+ unit, love the radio, (Although I am buying a better antenna). Like it so much I want to buy 2 more for my cars. Amazon has both the UV-5R+ and the UV-5RE+ They listed the UV-5RE+ as "UV-5RE plus (UV-5R plus)" Is there any difference?

Reply
  about 3 years ago

The main difference between all of the Baofeng UV-5R radios is cosmetic, except for the UV-5RAX radio, which is 2M 220. They also have a UV-5RAX+ (Plus) model, that is 2m/440. Very confusing radios, but fun and inexpensive. I have several models here, including the UV-5R (Camo) and a BF-F9 model, that has the black display. Makes it a bit easier to read in the sunlight.

Reply
  about 3 years ago

Very interesting article Don! Have always been interested in Ham radio but never found the time to get involved. Also, cost of basic gear was rather prohibitive. Who knows? Maybe at these kind of prices it might warrant a re-look.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Definitely worth a look, since the Baofeng UV-5R series of radios are now under 50 bucks.

Reply
  about 4 years ago
Mike56  

Good evening Don, very nice piece and it sure did cause me to think..........to me there are a few reason why there is a price difference between the rigs made in China and let say Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu or Elecraft for that matter. I don't want to step on any toes but here we go. The big 3 radio companies (as well as Elecraft) spend money on development and research of the rig they are joffering for sale. Each trying to come out with better spec and options than the other. Also they all are involved in sponsoring DXpedtions, donating to clubs and the red cross, they have huge adds in CQ and QST for promo just to mention a few. This all cost money and has to be recouped somehow. As for BaoFeng I don't see them going out of their way to promote ham radio over and above making money off it. It seems they wait for other to develop the technology and they they use it. As for me I am going to stick with companies that promote the hobby as well as sell products to it. Mike VE3WDM

Reply
  about 4 years ago

wow, great point Mike, Thank you. I still hope that these radios do get popular enough to drive the price down some. I dont really see the big three doing that much other than trying to push their own modes and protocols on us anymore though.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Nice article Don! I used to play around with short wave way back in the 70's. I bet a lot has changed since then!

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Shortwave is a lot of fun to listen to, and your right, it has changed. The radios are smaller and better than ever. I still enjoy listening on older tube gear, and have several that I am currently working on. My favorite is the Hallicrafters S40A, which I recapped and cleaned up, so it works 100% like brand new.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

The one I was lucky enough to use when I was growing up my father bought out of a WW2 airplane.

  
  about 4 years ago

Man I would love to find something like that. Most of that sort of radio gear goes for big bucks nowadays.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

I bet! I wish I remember what it was. I know it was pretty cool!

  
  about 4 years ago
C. Hughes  

My SAR team is needing new radios due to the narrow band change. Now the ICOM radios that we have affectionately been calling Bricks are in fact just so much trash. With the heavy use in all weather that our radios get, we are not in a position to have radios that may fail in the field. The Big 3 manufacturers put out a good product that is ruggedized for our application so we will be sticking with that manufacturer for our new purchases and upgrades.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

I totally agree. In the field communications are life and death, and you are better off going with something that is rugged and made for that type of work. Our local FD uses all motorola HT's that are old but still work great. You can drop them from the top of a building onto cement then run them over several times and pick it up and talk to dispatch. The only point that is great about these radios is that they are inexpensive. If you purchase one with your own money and break it out in the field you aren't out a lot of money compared to the price of one of the others.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Made in China no longer mean to say bad quality. I have noticed that most electronics today are made to have a lifetime and they all fail in a shorter period, unlike their older generations.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Electronics today are made to use and throw away when broken, unlike he older gear which you can work on and fix if something went wrong. I still have a Hallicrafters S40A from the late 1940's that with a little bit of work receives like brand new. I wouldnt want to try working on something made today.

Reply
  about 4 years ago

I have to agree with Dom. I would not refer to a negative unless it meant that it was the reason for not purchasing it. As the product seems to be high quality, where they are made is irrelevant as almost "everything" is now made in China to someone else's specs. I would simply go with the pros and cons. Regards

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Thank you Dave, will take that approach with the next article.

Reply
  about 4 years ago
Dom Wells  

"Made in China" sometimes has a bad ring to it, but the thing about China is that they can make any kind of product, "Made in China" can also mean extreme quality. Just look at the iphone

Reply
  about 4 years ago

Apparently the Chinese have learned a thing or two over the years. These radios are a HOT item for Ham radio operators as well as survivalist/prepper communities. They are even being used by FRS (Family Radio Service) users and in the Police and Fire departments. And the price can't be beat either, being under 50 dollars. A similar radio would cost over 300 dollars from one of the big three (Icom/Yeasu/Kenwood).

Reply
  about 4 years ago
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