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Radio Shack HTX-245
The radio Shack HTX-245 is a very compact dual band VHF/UHF transceiver. Actually, it could almost be considered a triple band radio, since it is capable of receive only operation on the weather bands. It follows in the footsteps of the preceding HTX-200 and HTX-400. I picked up the first of these little radios (an HTX-200), because it was a neat little thing, and was inexpensive enough to almost be considered disposable. It soon became one of my favorites. I was able to take with me anywhere, and was always able to hit part of the local repeater net with the little beast.
An HTX-400 followed, and when I spotted the HTX-245 at a good price, I was delighted. I now have the full set, and a matching external microphone/speaker as well. This is the smallest multi-band radio I own. Within its extensive capabilities, the radio does everything you could wish.
The most serious limitation is the 700 mw output power, which is all this little radio can muster under battery operation. When used with an AC adapter (email@example.comAh), the radio puts out 1.5 watts. Radio Shack has discontinued carrying it's entire amateur radio line, due to lack of sales. This is a shame really, as I remember this being one of the first chain stores to sell amateur gear. I got all of my initial study guides for getting my ticket here. These were part of the last effort by Radio Shack to keep a presence in the amateur radio market. Oh well, time moves on.
Though this radio begs for comparison with my Yaesu FT-530, they are
really two completely different animals. The FT-530 is much larger, much more
powerful, and quite a bit more expensive. Though I love the FT-530, in some ways
the little HTX-245 is much more satisfying to operate. It is smaller, lighter,
less complicated, and in many ways more practical. It is also quite a bit less
cumbersome than the big Yaesu. I picked this little beast up off of eBay, for
about $85 including shipping and a little external microphone. A photo of the
three little Radio Shack minis is shown above.
The 16 key DTMF tone pad is a nice feature and is something the other little Radio Shack minis do not have. It permits sending dual tones for autopatch squelch break or other purposes. It also permits the saving of auto patch sequences for regular use. Without the autopatch, the keypad itself is handy for direct entry of frequencies and other information.
Because of the small size of the unit, everything must serve multiple functions. This can sometimes make navigating the menus and setting the unit up, a bit confusing. The best advice I can offer is to carefully read through the manual, and set the features up one at a time as you need them. Most features are activated through front face buttons, in combination with the function key that is located under the PTT switch on the side of the radio.
Upon first working with one of these little radios, I tried to set everything up all at once, and managed to lose my audio completely. The radio would still transmit, and it would still show activity on the display for receive, but there was no audio no matter what I did. Finally, I simply had to entirely clear all of my settings (done by depressing the mo and func buttons while turning on). This restored my audio. I eventually discovered that I had set a tone for receive, as well as for transmit. What this did was blank out my audio unless a received signal generated a proper tone.
One thing that I have trouble getting used to is that the squelch is not adjustable by the top mounted knob; but must be set on the keypad. The other Radio Shack minis use a center volume/power knob, with a squelch collar. This radio has a power button on the front face, and uses the center top mounted knob for frequency selection, and the collar for volume. Squelch may be broken at any time by depressing the DTMF button. Even so, I have no real complaints about the unit. The sound is good, and I have not yet found the need for using the optional mike, or earphone. Regarding the use of rechargeable batteries, it is said that their slightly lower voltage will reduce the unit's output to a bit less than the stated 700mw, but that they are marginally usable.
A little radio like this is nearly
useless without a good local repeater network. Some of the better local
repeaters are listed below. All are programmed into this unit. For those new to
repeater use, a repeater is generally named for the frequency upon which it
transmits. There are some repeaters that work on a single frequency (simplex),
receiving a transmission, recording it, and then retransmitting; but this is
rare. Most repeaters work in duplex mode, receiving on one frequency, and
retransmitting in real time on another. Standard offset (upon which the
repeater receives, and the user transmits) is generally 600 KHz above or below
the transmit frequency.
The radio can also take an external power supply. Radio Shack offered two chargers, and a power supply. It warns in the manual, that chargers do not make good power supplies, and power supplies do not make good chargers. True enough, but I had no problem running the radio off of my standard power supply, and charging it off of a charger for another radio. In a refreshing change, the manual is very explicit on voltages, connector types, and polarities of chargers and power supplies.
These little radios would seem to be lacking in one major area, and that is in the area of power packs. For hand held use, no power packs are available. Instead, the unit requires three standard AA batteries. This is not as much of a disadvantage as may once have been the case, and can even be a good thing in most circumstances. There are no drop in chargers available; but internal charging (Radio Shack advises this can take as much as ten hours) is no great hardship.
Standard rechargeable batteries are
far less expensive than was once the case, and have become quite a bit more
The new NiMH rechargeable batteries are capable of supplying higher voltage than
the classic NiCD types - sometimes even higher than that of a standard throwaway
battery that has begun to run down. In addition to this, use of standard
batteries means no worries about not being able to find a battery pack that will
fit, or paying an outrageous charge to buy one. I wish my Yeasu FT-530 used
The unit uses three AA batteries, for a standard voltage of 4.5v at nominal, or 3.6 at the usual NiCD voltages. These voltages permit operating with 700 Mw of power. A nice feature is that upon turning the unit on, the display shows the current battery voltage. Using a 6 volt external supply will permit the full 1.5 watts of transmit power. The battery cover is unique, and frustrating, in that it does not slide down. It is not difficult to do, but it is different from the way that it is done on nearly every other handheld on the market. Once unlocked, the battery cover lifts straight up. Sometimes it pays to read the manual.
All of these little radios were blown out the door, a decade or so ago, at fire sale prices. This was when Radio Shack decided it no longer wanted to serve the ham radio market - pretty ironic when you consider the name and original product line of the store. The blow out prices devalued these radios a bit, but now prices are beginning to go up, as more radio amateurs realize just how handy these radios can be, and the quality of their construction. The HTX-245 makes a great first impression, is small enough to be taken anywhere, and usually powerful enough to get the job done. Everything is smooth, streamlined, and sealed against the elements. Though it has nothing like the power or capability of my big FT-530, it may very well become one of my favorite radios for knocking around and having fun. If you aren't having fun, than what is the point of a hobby?
Local Repeaters programmed into this radio
Holding down the 2 and 3 buttons while turning the radio on, extends the frequency range to 142.00 - 149.88, and 420 - 450.