Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert

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Equipment Review and Evaluation:
Yaesu FT-1500 2-meter (144 MHz) radio

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First impression
My first impression of the hardware is also my first impression of HAM radio use: excellent. This is partly because the FT-1500 marks my initial foray as an amateur radio operator.

In essential terms, the FT-1500 is rugged and simple. Being much heavier than a run-of-the-mill CB, I realized that not only is this radio perfect for Jeep trails and off-highway trips, but I knew I'd enjoy the power and range that HAM operation provides.

All those little buttons freaked me out at first, but I've learned.

Couldn't have been easier! I dropped off my Jeep at my buddy's house and he installed it. Andy and Russ are responsible for the install.

Mounting a comm radio in a Wrangler isn't very easy because the choices are narrow. We put the FT-1500 inside the center console, which meant removing said console. But that's pretty easy.

Since the radio is tucked inside the console, we needed to do something that would allow me to operate it easily. Andy and Russ came up with these two items:

  • A plug in the dash for the handset/mic. I call this the Russ V System. See the photos below.
  • An external speaker attached to the roll bar behind the driver head rest

What great guys. I highly recommend taking advantage of brilliant buddies.

Decent. Most issues are BDS: Between the Dash and Seat.

The radio does what I need it to do, which is keep me in communication with my trail buddies when we're out on remote desert trips. With 50 watts for output power, I 've been pleasantly surprised with the repeaters I can get into as well. On my drive to and from work, I most often use the 147.080 repeater on Thompson Peak in North Scottsdale. From my driveway in Chandler, I get into that repeater just fine but lose some performance while going under the freway overpasses on Loop 202.

Yaesu says it well, "A masterpiece...blend of compactness and functionality."

Update, 3/30/2007: The volume knob moves so freely on the thing that it constantly changed volume on its own during normal driving. To remedy, I bought a rubber washer (3/4" OD), removed the volume knob and then put this washer under the knob before re-installing it. The washer provides some resistance on the knob so it doesn't change volume at random.

Another kicker. I give it 5 stars of value because I got this sucker for free. Discontinued model, but the FT-2800 is the next closest unit. Currently retails for $180 or so.

Story time: Some time ago, I mentioned to Andy that I was interested in learning about amateur radio. He's been involved for years, and tried to turn me onto it when we were roomies. Years went by, and one day he told me he was moving back to Phoenix. Over a three-way call with Russ, Andy explained that he was holding a contest -- who ever gets their HAM radio license first gets a free 2-meter radio for his Jeep.

I lost. Russ called me on a Saturday morning after he passed his exam, and I was on a road trip. He thought I had passed my exam two days earlier. To his surprise, he learned that he was the rightful winner and that I had to go buy my own radio. About a week later I passed my exam. The FCC refers to me as KE7JLE. I know, it's so damn impersonal isn't it?

But Andy was a sneaky bastard and bought two radios knowing that he'd give them both to Russ and I. He came up with the contest just to light a fire under our Jeep seats.


Here's what's really cool about HAM radios for Jeep use: excellent range. In simplex mode (direct radio-to-radio contact), we can be split apart by several miles and still have rock solid communication. Radio waves, though, don't go through mountains and other solid matter. But while your buddies with CBs are making some kind of racket that resembles speaking with doggy-doo in their mouths at 30 yards away, you'll rest assured knowing that you have excellent range and sound quality with a HAM radio.

The FT-1500 maintains a good position as a rugged and simple radio. For these reasons it's an ideal unit. The mic has functions for changing frequncies and adjusting power output. It can also be programmed with several other functions. The ones that I use are:

  • Squelch open
  • Battery voltage
  • Display dimmer
  • NOAA weather broadcast
  • Memory re-tune
  • Reverse tx/rx
  • TX power adjust
  • Home/MR/VFO

A radio with more options, toys, buttons, and doo-dads would be fun but not quite appropriate for my application. The FT-1500 handles everything that I need.

Click any image for a larger version
Yaseu ft-1500 microphone mount in Jeep Wrangler Yaseu ft-1500 microphone mount in Jeep Wrangler
Close up of the FT-1500 mic handset. Hustler SF-2 antenna mounted by tail light
Bracket from Quadratec
Yaseu ft-1500 microphone mount in Jeep Wrangler
The "Russ V System": Handset plug in dash. Used the clip to hang on the dash as well. FT-1500 mounted inside center console
Jeep with Hustler SF-2 antenna for a Yaesu FT-1500 radio

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Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert