President’s 3rd Generation of CB transceiver tried and tested. Is this the essential SSB radio for your DX station?
According to President, the George is the third generation of CB transceivers and is also Presidents’ top of the range radio. We’ll investigate this and see how it compares to other radios on the market in a similar price bracket. On unpacking the box you will certainly be impressed with the contents. The George looks very different from other CB radios, it has a very clean design with a “amateur radio” feel to it.
A lot of CB equipment is let down by the fact that it has a rather cheap and tacky finish or badly fitting case due to the relatively low cost of many radios. While it is fair to say that the George is one of the more expensive CB radios you can buy, this proves that you get what you pay for in terms of design.
Dual Colour Lighting
Moving on slightly from the above points the radio would look great in a car due to the styling, it’s very similar to a lot of car stereo systems but here’s the best part – the radio is fully illuminated on it’s front panel and it’s dual colour! Notice on the left hand side controls above the mic socket there is a button called “DC”, nothing to do with power but “Dual Colour”. Simply press this button and the radio will change like magic to either green or amber illumination. Perfect for home use too.
I found the green to be best during the day and the amber to be best after dark. It’s a case of whatever you prefer though. I would imagine that the lighting on the George is provided mainly by LEDS positioned strategically along with front panel behind the buttons. The large LCD display that runs right the way along the front panel is also very well lit. I would say that this is one of the most effective displays I have seen on a CB.
The George has a number of interesting features, one of them is a security code which I haven’t found on many other radios. Taking it’s ideas from car stereos, when the power is removed from the rig a four digit code is required to reactivate the radio before it can be operated again. This is another useful idea for those brave enough to leave such a rig in a car on display! When power is first applied the word “codE” appears on the display and flashes. At this point enter your security code which is a four digit keypress combination, by default this is pressing the “program” four times then press power. The radio will switch on and be ready for use until the supply is disconnected. This is a useful feature but it is a shame that there is no facility to turn it off or disable it! If you are using the radio at home then this could be a real pain after a while because if you turn your power supply off you will need to re-enter the code next time you put it back on. Easy to get used to but I wish there was an option to turn off this feature. The President manual gives instructions on how to change the PIN code and warns that incorrect entry more than X times in a row will lock the radio out and you will need to return it to an authorised President repair center, so you have been warned!
Depending on where you purchase your George it will come with a certain amount of channels or modes. Our review model (operated somewhere in Europe) is an “Export” version, meaning this has the full lot – 240 channels, AM, FM, SSB. Believe it or not, many of the George’s around can be re-programmed from the factory preset. For example, you can buy the radio as a 40 channel FM CEPT version then press a few keys and as if by magic you have an export rig with all the modes and bands. Have a look in our modifications section for more details. Recently Chris from C&L Electronics wrote and informed me that some 40 channel FM only sets are available in the UK which will not respond to the usual key presses. The reason is that a resistor has been removed from the CPU board and will need replacing for the full functions to be enabled. Anyway, the mode button on the front of the rig selects AM or FM and holding this same button down for a second switches the rig to USB or LSB.
The George features 18 memories that are very flexible. Channels from any band can stored in these and they remember the mode too which is a great help. On the frequency selection side of things you have three ways in which to select them.
The VFO which runs in increments of 10 KHz or 5 KHz depending on whether you press the “Select” button or not. The “select” button basically lets you go in between channels such as Alphas or work stations on the zero’s. For example if you wanted to select 27.520 MHz you would tune to 27.525 MHz then press the “select” button and rotate it down one position. The other two ways of tuning are via the standard mic up and down keys or via the “up” and “down” buttons situated on the front of the rig.
Here comes a slight problem for UK users. As standard the rig only tunes on 5 KHz and 10 KHz steps and there is no way of adding the 1.25 KHz shift onto the end. As you probably know, the UK 40 FM frequencies have a shift different from anywhere else in the world. Channel 19 UK, for example is 27.78125 MHz but the nearest you could get with the George is 27.780 MHz which is quite a way off, useable but you might sound a bit dodgy to the other stations, especially over long distance. There is a solution to this but it involves modifying the clarifier so that it is unlocked, ie. it will move on transmit as well as receive. You could take the other attitude and say that the rig isn’t designed for the 40 FM channels on the UK band but I’m afraid a lot of people living in the UK would say that this is a disadvantage. [since publishing this article we understand there is now a way to provide the UK FM frequencies but you need to take the radio out of “Export” mode and this limits the power to 4 watts only]
Well, here it is at last. It’s not how something looks, it’s how it works, or at least that’s what people say. We’ll split the review into two sections here. First a list of equipment used with this installation.
Watson 20 Amp PSU
Standard George Microphone
Zetagi Power/SWR Meter
On the receive side of performance the radio seemed quite sensistive. The radio was compared to a Kenwood TS-140S, ok, I know this is in a different class but should show up how the rig compares to Ham gear and I can now tell you that the receive performance seemed almost identical in this range of frequencies. Incoming stations on SSB/AM were very clear and the quality of the built in speaker was good. The George has a filter called “Hi-Cut” which proves quite effective at reducing background noise although makes stations sound a little muffled. I prefer to put up with the background noise but thankfully this is switchable. On the FM side of things the incoming audio was also reasonable but slightly ‘raspy’. Maybe this would be cured by the use of a better quality external speaker but I didn’t have one to try this.
The test was performed with just the standard microphone. Let’s start with the FM results. On FM the standard mic audio was reported by other stations as being very clear but a little on the quiet side. This was talking normally with the mic about 7-8 inches away. The microphone gives better results when worked up close. When I test a radio for modulation quality I usually also do my own tests which include connecting a HF receiver up and listening to my voice through headphones. This gives a very good picture of the audio quality as the headphones used are very high quality with a good frequency response. I can confirm that the George has good FM audio but could do with a bit of a boost on this side of things.
SSB audio was much different again! It was really good, you’ve got to hear it to appreciate what I am talking about here. On the outgoing SSB transmissions the audio was loud, crisp and ‘punchy’ even with the microphone at arms length. This is great for DX use and I am sure that putting a desk mic on this rig would probably spoil the quality as it would be over the top in most cases. Come to think of it, why would you want to? The standard mic gives good balanced audio. On AM the case was similar, good clear audio.
An interesting button on the front of the George is the echo feature. One press of this and you will sound like you are broadcasting from inside a dustbin. Seriously, the echo feature is not nice and I suggest you keep it off. It’s not a full slapback echo or anything special like that. It’s reminiscent of the old Altai DM-315E handheld echo power mics that everyone used to use. No, it doesn’t do anything for me and reduces the readability of your signal to everyone. There is one adjuster inside the rig to make some fine tuning of the echo but it sounds tacky whichever way you turn it. Definately a novelty value function.
The George comes with a Roger Beep facility which is fully switchable. It’s a lovely small beep that sounds very mellow and rounded. I love this feature. It’s not irritating and everyone who has heard it liked it. The most bizzare thing about this is that if you switch the echo on at the same time as the beep is selected the roger beep echos on it’s way out!
Strong Signal Handling?
OK, audio quality aside now, how did the rig perform when used at home? When you have a lot of strong local stations in your area, ie across town this is a perfect test for any radio. I waited until a local op came on the air on the triple five calling channel (27.555) and I had to hold onto my radio. The distortion on the incoming signal was quite bad. It would appear that the radio does not like strong signals very much at all. The problem was easily cured by just turning the RF gain back a small way. After this adjustment the SSB audio was crisp and clear. This is something to bear in mind with the George if you are thinking of using one at home – you are likely to run into strong signals quite frequently so turn the RF gain back a little. I would say that the problem itself isn’t to do with the strength of the signal so much, but maybe the AGC attack rate being too fast(?). Another radio that suffers from strong signal overload is the President Jackson. Fortunately, if you are careful you can do a small modification to fix this problem. On the AM and FM side of things the strong signals were not a problem.
The George is an excellent radio feature wise, there’s more than enough controls to play with for hours of entertainment and not only that, it will look great in your radio shack or the car Great dual colour lighting feature and security system. You will not be disappointed with the rig if you predominantly work SSB and DX but if you are an FM person then you could buy something a little more friendly and useable for UK channels, such as a President Lincoln.
Strong signal handling on SSB was a little questionable but turning the RF gain back helps lots. Build quality of this rig is excellent. The current price is £225.00 which may be a little expensive for some CB operators but this is a top class set. If you want something a little different then this may be it! [edit, since this article was written back in 2004 the George has now been discontinued by President and is only available on the secondhand market. Expect to pay around £160 for this set on Ebay if it is in good condition – TM1].
Note: The Modification for the UK (software mod via key presses) can be found on this very good website: http://www.radiomods.co.nz/presidentgeorgemod.html