|Back to Ham||Back to CB||Back to Home|
The Cherokee Nightrider
The Cherokee Night Rider 150, is my first new mobile unit since my involvement in the CB craze of the 70s/80s. This is my third Cherokee radio product, and I am sorry that the company is no longer in business. They offered some great products, and didn't charge an arm and a leg for them. These radios were offered by Wireless Marketing Corp, and were well thought out, and of high quality. Parts of the Cherokee product line resemble the products of Cobra. This is no coincidence.
Wireless Marketing Corp. of Illinois was started by former Cobra Electronics marketing and sales vice president Doug Marrison. His connections with Cobra marketing allowed him access to the same suppliers and manufactures which made the Cobra radios, and supplied so many other American retailers. The company offered a few ham radio products; but mostly involved itself in the CB market. They sold base units, mobiles, and handhelds.
The Nightrider 150 is a full featured radio, with all the bells and whistles (and in this case, a beep as well). This was the Cherokee featuremate of the Cobra 148 GTL, or the upper end Galaxy radios. Inside, the radio seems to be similar to the excellent Northstar series of radios, which are no longer allowed to be imported into this country. Rear connections on the radio are for a PA speaker, external speaker, power cord, and antenna.
The 150 model is distinguished from the Nightrider 100 by its capability of working in SSB mode. These are sometimes referred to as 120 channel units, though it is not really a true 120 channels. Every AM transmitter produces three sets of frequencies on transmission. There is the AM carrier, which is the frequency upon which it is said the transmission is being made, and then there are the side bands. An upper sideband is the carrier plus the frequency of whatever it is that is being transmitted. the lower sideband is the carrier minus whatever it is that is being transmitted. So if you are humming at 10 KHz, and transmitting on 27 MHz, your transmitter will be sending out signals at 27 MHz, 27. 01 MHz, and 26.99 MHz.
An SSB transmitter will strip away everything except the upper or lower sideband, and put all of the transmit energy into the single sideband that is left. Upon reception, the SSB receiver will reintroduce the carrier, and add a mirror image of the received sideband to fill in for the one that was removed at the transmitter. There are a number of advantages to this. For one thing, you can get twice as many channels, since it is possible to have communication on both sidebands at once. Many radio manufacturers claim that you can have three times as many (120) channels; but strictly speaking this is not true. Though both sidebands can be used at once, neither sideband can be used while an AM transmission is being made. The biggest advantage to SSB is that it essentially triples the signal power, since the power that was going into the carrier and the other sideband can now be concentrated into the single sideband being transmitted. This is why many radio manufacturers will state a 12 watt power rating for an SSB CB radio.
I promised myself years ago, that I would never get a CB radio that did not have SSB capability. This was not so much because of the power advantages, but mainly because I would hear the occasional SSB transmission, and did not like the idea that I could not hear everything that was going on. In truth, for local communications, at four watts on CB, sideband is not really required. Still, it's nice to have the option.
Sideband capability is a nice feature, and is probably the most significant feature of the radio, but it is not the only one. The radio has adjustable RF gain and Mike gain, which can be handy, and can help when operating in congested environments. It also has a compressor circuit, which Cherokee called Clear Drive. This circuit is similar to the Sound Tracker feature that some Cobra radios have. The compression can be useful, but it is only usable when communicating with a similar radio. The radio also has the usual features of squelch, noise blanker, and the ability to function as a PA.
As with all SSB radios, this unit has a clarifier, which is used to fine tune reception of SSB signals. Such a control is known as a BFO on a SW radio. During AM transmissions, the clarifier has no effect. Less useful is the Roger Beep feature, which sends a short tone at the end of a transmission when the mike is no longer keyed. Fortunately, this feature can be easily turned off, which is how I have my radio set up. One great feature is the ability to measure SWR, for antenna tuning. This is nice for initial set up, and can be useful for magnetic antennas, which might not always be mounted in the same place. It should also be a bit more accurate than using an outside meter which would need to be connected by a short length of patch cable.
The final feature of the radio, and the one from which it gets its name of the Nightrider, is the illumination of the front panel. This is a simple sheet of electroluminescent material, which is pasted to the front of the unit. Cherokee called this light pipe technology, though true light pipe uses fiber optics. Actually, I think the electroluminescent material is neater than a fiber optic light pipe system. The face of the unit appears white in the daylight.
Overall, I like the unit quite a bit. CB is not what it once was, which is a mixed blessing. The band, as I remember it, was nearly unusable years ago. Now there is some traffic, and the radios are once more fun for general communications between cars, and locally. CB is still a popular and viable means fo communication, and requires no license. This can be a huge advantage, when you are traveling with unlicensed friend or family members, and what something a bit better than the low power, high frequency of FRS. CB radios are allowed good quality external antennas, and about ten times the power of FRS. Several miles fo range exists between a pair of full power CB walkie talkies, and perhaps ten or fifteen miles between a pair of mobiles. Bases are known to be able to communicate over 20 - 30 miles, or more, with proper antennas. Then there is skip.
A number of people have expressed the belief that CB may be making a comeback. Unfortunately, they have been saying this for years. Certainly the distributers of the Cherokee line thought so, ten years ago. What a pity they were so wrong. Even so, the band is probably as popular as it had been back in the sixties an dearly seventies, before the big trend hit.