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Standard Communications, in its day, was known as a maker of some of the finest amateur and commercial gear in the world. They were best known for their maritime radios, and commercial gear. Eventually Standard was combined with Horizon, and ended up being bought and merged with Yaesu and Vertex. The Standard C228a was produced in 1989 to about 1993, back when Standard was an independent electronics manufacturer, and is a rugged high quality unit. It is also quite rare.
There is not much 220 gear out there, as any amateur operator will be aware. What there is can be expensive and hard to find. Even less common are multi-band radios having 220 as one of the bands. Alinco briefly offered its model DJ-G29T, with 220 MHz and 900 MHz. There were only two radios ever produced for 220/2 meter, with none being produced today, and the Standard is the better of the two.
This is a substantial radio, built for hard use, and perhaps a bit large and heavy by today's standards. The radio was dimensionally similar to the regular line of Standard radios, including the marine radios, and uses many of the same accessories and batteries. The unit has two completely separate and independent VFO's - one for 2 meter, and one for 220. This permits simultaneous monitoring, as well as cross band repeating. It also allows for a separate headphone jack for each band. The radio is very reminiscent of my Yaesu FT-530.
The build quality is likely higher than anything you will find today; but technology has moved on a bit since 1990. The C228a has twenty memories, ten for each band, a bit sparse by today's standards, but sufficient. CTCSS tones were an optional extra, though the unit is capable of working splits with no modification. It also has the older style tone burst squelch, and features call and page capability - not in much demand for amateurs, but something useful to commercial radio users.
What this radio also has is great sound quality on both send and receive. The built in speaker is of good quality and is fed by a 200 mw audio amp. I received compliments on my signal, and even had it compared favorably to that of my Kenwood TS-711 base on 2 meter.
Due to its date of manufacture, the C228a is able to transmit on the full original band, from 220 MHz to 224.995 MHz. Some years back, the band was truncated, with the 220MHz – 222MHz portion being given over to maritime use. So you have to be a bit careful of where you transmit, as there is no way to program this radio not to use the reallocated portion of the band.
The front of the radio features a full DTMF touch pad, with many multi function keys, the speaker and microphone, an LCD showing frequency, signal strength, mode, and state for both bands, and assorted controls for setting the various functions. The buttons are the soft rubbery type, with call/squelch controls off to the side, and a tone break button and display light button to the left top.
The top of the unit features a BNC antenna connector, frequency selector, and separate volume/squelch knobs for UHF and VHF. Frequency can also be set by use of the front mounted arrow keys, or by direct numeric entry on the front panel. Top mounted controls are a tiny bit small, as might be expected, but are smooth in operation and tactilely satisfying. There is also a jack for an external microphone, and separate speaker/phone jacks for VHF and UHF. A top mounted LED glows green on receive and red to indicate transmit. The top is covered with a very nice grippy rubber which extends part way down the sides. This gives a great grip and a nice feel.
The use of a standard BNC connector makes attachment of an external base/mobile antenna simple. The included antenna is a dual band base loaded rubber duck tuned for 220 and 2 meter. As this is a rare band combination, there are few after market antennas that will work on this radio, and the antenna should be handled with care.
The antenna side of the radio features the standard push to talk button, as well as the function key to enable the programing and configuration functions of the front mounted keys. In addition to the contoured rubber covering the switch, the whole side of the radio is ergonomically molded for a good grip. At the bottom of the antenna side is the release for the battery pack.
For carrying in the field, the back of the radio has a substantial metal belt clip, held in by a pair of screws. On the opposite side of the radio, near the frequency selector knob, is a wrist lanyard. This side of the radio also has an external power connector. One rather irritating characteristic of this radio is its use of a power adapter with a positive ground. I don’t know if this is due to the vintage of the unit, or if Standard simply had a different way of doing things. The vast majority of chargers and power adapters have a negative ground, so you need to be really careful when hooking this radio up to a power adapter.
The unit I bought had a dead battery and no charger. Fortunately the battery required is of fairly standard style, and is the same type accepted by my Cherokee radios, and some of my Midland models. The originals were designed to use drop in chargers, and can be easily removed from the radio. This was a huge step forward when compared to the old expensive rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, and far easier than popping open the back of the radio. Technology moves forward though, and I have some battery packs that fit this radio, and use the new Li-on batteries, which can provide 2300 mAH hours, as compared to the 700 mAH of the originals. Replacement nicad packs are also pretty cheap and easy to find. A close look at the bottom of the radio, with the battery removed, shows what has come to be a pretty standard mounting arrangement. Adapters are readily available for 12 v or AC operation.
With today's new high capacity packs, battery life on this radio can be stretched out to days. There are a number of battery options available, with the standard being a 700 mAH 7.2 volt pack. The maximum available was a 12 volt 600 mAH, or a 7.2 volt 1000 mAH. On 7.2 volt, the unit is limited to 2.8 watts output. The full 5 watt output is available with the 12 volt packs. This radio will operate on as little as 6 volts, or as much as 16 volts.
Setup and operation is simple, and within ten minutes I had repeaters programmed into memory, and was asking for radio checks. Everyone liked the sound of the radio. Band selection is simple, with both bands being monitored, and the primary band, selectable by front mounted buttons, available for transmit. For working unknown repeaters, the unit is capable of detecting assigned PL tones - very handy.
The radio is a joy to use and is absolutely depandable. it feels like one of my Motorola or Kenwood comercial radios, and is built to commercial radio standards. Everyone who sees it is interested, and surprised to see a 2 meter/220 radio.
It almost seemes like there might be a market for such a unit, yet 220 seems to be a black hole for radio manufactuers. This radio was on the market for three short years, the Alinco 220/900 radio was cleared out after about the same amount of time, and the kenwood dual band 220/2 meter lasted for even less time.
I almost never work VHF or UHF simplex. Like most people,
these are repeater bakds for me. To get on, you simply tuen to yrou
repeater frequency, press the function key and rpt (#8) together to put
the unit into offset mode. You will See either a little plus or minus
sign on the display, and may need to hit teh key combination again to
get the offset your reepater uses. This is the standard 600 Khz offset,
though others can be set manually. With the offset selected, you press
the function key and T SQ (#7) together to activate the tone. You may
need to hit function+set (#0), and the the T SQ key to select the
particular tone you need. This is doen using the frequency select knob
at the top fo the unit. Default tone setting of the unit is 88.
Also visible, towards the bottom of the left hand side of the radio, is the optional CTN520 tone board. It is the unit with all the orange wiring going down, and the chip with YE, on a sticker. I bought this radio used, and was relieved to find the tone board installed. These can be rare and difficult to find, and a VHF/UHF radio without CTCSS is at a great disadvantage these days. Back in 1990, when these radios were new, repeaters were few and far between and many did not require PL tones.
The big yellow disc on the left hand side is an insulator covering the easilly replaceable cmos battery. These batteries are said to last about five years. I also note no bulging or leaking from any of the caps. Some of the electrolytic capacitors from this era were notorious for leaking as their liquid electrolyte expanded or dried. The better ones did not do this. Apparently Standard used the better ones.
Adventures in 220 land - the 1.25 meter band
In most areas, if you are using the 1.25 meter band, you have it pretty much to yourself. Though this is usually called the 220 band, 220 MHz is no longer part of the U.S. band plan. In the Untied States, allowable frequencies for amateur use are from 222 MHz to 225 MHz. The FCC removed the 220 MHz to 222 MHz portion from the band plan in the 80's to turn it over to commercial use (primarily at the request of UPS, which then never followed through). These frequencies are presently being used by local maritime. This has left the amateur users of 220 with a justifiable apprehension about the future of their band.
The band has been not so much abandoned as ignored, more out of confusion than malice. When looked at on its own merits, the 1.25 band would appear to be a nearly ideal band, in terms of operating characteristics. Being a VHF band, it does not exhibit the scatter and attenuation characteristics of UHF; but it has a short enough wave length that it allows for an efficient antenna that is short and practical - the best of both worlds.
Despite its advantages, 1.25 meter never really caught on. The loss of part of the band is only a part of the reason. Like any radio band, 220 is a mixed bag. Its unique features are listed below.
The band is not used in many countries.
There is a limited assortment of gear available, and it is expensive.
The future of the band is somewhat uncertain, and there is some concern that it might be lost.
It has most of the characteristics of 2 meter, but uses antennas less than half the size. It does not scatter to the extent of 440.
If you get yourself a base or repeater, a mobile and a few handhelds, you can have a whole band to yourself in many areas.
Even six meter FM seems busy compared to 220. Still, I wanted to give 220 a try, and wanted a transceiver that could cover the entire band. I also wanted a digital display, and the ability to access repeaters.
Most operations will be FM via repeater - if you can find one. There are seven repeaters in my metro area, out of which I can only hit one on a regular basis, with occasional success hitting another. Many areas have little or no activity and few if any repeaters. The standard offset on 220 is 1.6 MHz A fairly large proportion of the repeaters on this band do not require a tone. Though I have heard such radios exist, I am aware of no 220 operations on AM or SSB. The band is also somewhat unique, particularly for a VHF band, in having a gap, between its upper and lower limits.
The band has been around since the thirties, and is quite ancient for a VHF band. Up until the sixties, it and the rest of the VHF/UHF bands were largely limited to commercial or experimental use. Though the antennas for these bands are relatively small, the electronics, shielding, and connection of the higher frequencies is quite complex, when compared to the regular HF bands.
Solid state electronics allowed for a bit of a boom in VHF/UHF. Permitting these radios to be made small enough and cheap enough to be practical for the more casual user. It also permitted repeaters to be more easily and more inexpensively set up. Large numbers of commercial, public service, and military radios were made at or near the 440 and 2 meter bands, permitting a great economy of scale to be passed onto the ham radio community. The same was not true of 220. The 220 band is sandwiched between Television channel 13, and the military aviation band. Neither use large numbers of radios, and neither are practical sources for surplus gear.
Interestingly, the loss of part of the band may ultimately save it, and increase its popularity. One big reason for the slow start that 220 has gotten, is the dearth of applicable radios. For most of its history, the adjacent frequencies were used by the military, and by commercial television. Where the more popular 440 and 2 meter bands had nearby police, commercial, and business users, there was no such common use on 220. This may soon change.
With the loss of the 220 MHz to 222 MHz portion of the band, and its reassignment to commercial and maritime users, we may see some relatively large scale production of radios for commercial use. This might filter down to amateur operators in a larger a larger selection of radios, and lower prices. It will result in a large number of radios produced for commercial users, many of which will eventually filter down to amateur operators.
In the meantime, the band has drawn to itself, a small but dedicated group of enthusiasts.
Listed above are the repeaters that I have programmed into the unit. These will probably only be of interest to people living in my area. There is little traffic on 220; but I actually have seven local repeaters, out of which I can hit two. I am hoping to do a bit better with a proper antenna connected to my 220 base. What is rather surprising, to those of us used to working 2 meter or 440 repeaters, is that so many of the 220 repeaters out there do not require tones. Open repeaters are very uncommon these days, outside of 220. This is part of the nature of how open and underutilized the 220 band is.
The seven repeaters in my metro area are actually quite an abundance. Even so, there is barely one repeater's worth of activity here. It is possible for me to leave my little radio tuned to a repeater all day, to monitor activity while I am on my computer, or perhaps working other bands with other radios, and not hear a single transmission.
A few of our repeaters are secondary or experimental repeaters by some of the clubs. Others are homebrew individual efforts. This is why so many do not yet require tones to access. It's kind of encouraging to see so much interest starting to be aroused in the band. Perhaps it is finally starting to get the respect it deserves. Alnico has recently come out with a new three band handheld that has 220, 1200 (another very underutilized band), and 440. A promising feature is the the 220 portion is capable of working at a full 5 watts, instead of the 200 Mw or so that is common on most multiband radios with 220. What is not so promising is that, in common with most 220 gear, the radio is quite expensive.