After introducing several new AM and FM radios into the European market President have finally turned their attention back to SSB as demand for a new euro-norm compliant model has started to increase after many of the classics were discontinued due to RoHS regulations. Production of the original President Jackson, Lincoln and George stopped several years ago thus having been deemed uneconomic to keep on producing under the new EU regulations for type approval.
Just when everyone thought that President was sleeping the new Jackson II was dropped into the hands of radio dealers around Europe amongst some controversy over the legality of a “euro norm” radio having SSB capability at the flick of a switch and a crafty band change. The reality of having a legal all mode radio seemed to shock some people but in principle this is no different than the current multi country radios that offer AM and FM in countries that permit these modes. The onus is upon the user to comply with their countries radio regulations as per any other piece of radio equipment sold for a specific purpose.
The initial consignment of Jackson II transceivers were held up by a printing error in the user manual stating that when in the EU configuration mode the output power on SSB is 12W PEP. This should have read 4W PEP to comply with regulations in many EU countries. The problems were finally rectified and a few weeks after Christmas the Jackson II made its debut, surprisingly first in the UK for a change!
So what does the new Jackson II offer that the old Jackson didn’t? Well for a start it’s now accepted as a legal 80 channel FM radio here in the UK but has the wonderful ability to change its channel configuration and modes according to the country you are operating in. Therefore you can legally use this radio right the way across Europe by selecting the appropriate band as you travel and can use AM and SSB in countries that permit these modes.
Throughout Europe there are basically 6 accepted standards. The radio allows selection the bands by means of an “F” switch on the front panel whilst powering the transceiver up. You then simply rotate the channel change and the display shows the configuration mode options. There is a choice of E, D, EU, EC, U and PL bands. In the UK the “U” band is the one we would select as this gives us the original UK 40 (27/81 band) channels and the newer CEPT channels (sometimes referred to as FCC or Mid Block). Band change is done by means of turning the mode selector from FM to AM in UK mode – obviously this doesn’t change the mode of the radio but AM selects the CEPT band as it does on other similar multi norm radios.
The Jackson II has a lot to live up to considering the reputation of the original President Jackson. To this day many people still hold the Jackson is high regard as a classic Uniden boarded transceiver and even all these years later the Jackson holds its own against newer designs and in a lot of cases still out performs them. The Jackson II is not actually a brand new design radio but rather a re-worked classic with RoHS conformity. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the radio is based on tried and trusted methods and technology but with a new board layout based on mainly surface mount components. The radio is actually derived from a US Uniden model called the Uniden 78 Elite XL but several features have been re-worked and a new microprocessor has been created to give the Jackson II the all important euro norms.
President hasn’t forgotten the Export user either. With a trivial modification the radio can be made to cover 25 MHz up to 30 MHz but with a rather strange band order sequence that we will talk about later on in the review.
The radio we have reviewed here at Transmission1 is was kindly supplied by Mark at Rocket Radio in the UK. Mark along with Richard at Truck King are two of the first dealers to get their hands on the new radio and are already selling them via their websites. The radio arrived in a very familiar glossy President box in the same style as previous transceivers but President are so confident in the reliability of the new radio that they are now boasting a 5 year warranty on their newer radios and it is easy to see why when you look at the quality of the manufacturing compared to some other brands.
The first thing you notice about the Jackson II is that it is slightly smaller than some other SSB radios and the front panel is definitely styled around the AM and FM President Walker which has also been a popular model here in the UK. Meanwhile the microphone is pretty much standard, looking exactly the same as the Walker and Johnson II radios and features up and down keys which are also used on occasions for radio configuration when, for example removing the key-press beeps that some people find annoying. The radio is supplied with a user manual, heavy duty power lead of the familiar Uniden type and a mobile mounting bracket. I must admit to not really liking the supplied bracket as it’s not as substantial as previous President radios. It simply uses one thumb screw on either side but this is partially due to the smaller dimensions of the casing. When using a mobile radio as a home base many people use the bracket upside down to simply rest the radio on the desktop without fastening it down to anything. I found that the radio tended to move up and down a little when moving the microphone about even when the thumbscrews were full tightened but it’s no big deal.
The front panel layout of the Jackson II is excellent. All the controls are in the right places and the lettering clearly shows the functions of the radio. This is particularly important where concentric knobs are used and have more than one function. Above the knobs are a bank of 6 switches with various functions and a fortunately President have kept a traditional Uniden style S-Meter rather than using LCD panel or LED lights unlike some other modern radios.
Upon connecting the radio to the PSU and switching on the first thing you notice is the backlighting behind all the controls. This is a bright orange colour and looks stunning in the dark whilst the knobs and switches are of the traditional type the front panel has been fitted with LEDs behind each control to highlight the locations. This is superb for use in total darkness, as might be found inside a car or truck at night time. The lighting is dimmable by switch but only one colour of backlighting is available. It would have been nice to have a choice of Green/Blue or Orange but I guess you can’t have everything? Nevertheless it should fit in nicely with most interior décor!
When the power is switched on a bleep is heard from the radio and the current band configuration is briefly shown on the channel display to remind the user of the last configuration mode set and help them comply with local radio regulations. Once this has completed the display reverts back to the last used channel. Unlike many new radios the President Jackson II remembers the last channel used even when power is disconnected from the set. This is a nice touch since many newer sets always revert to channel 19 or channel 9 when power is removed.
At the rear of the radio the connectivity is quite basic. With the exception of the power connector there is a standard jack plug for connecting an external speaker and a 2.5mm connector for a VOX microphone. Yes indeed, President has added a new feature to a CB radio – voice operated transmit. This feature has been found on many PMR radios and most Amateur radios for some years now but it’s a fairly recent innovation to be included on a CB radio. VOX can be used either with the built in microphone or for best performance in the car or truck, connect a small external mic, the sort found in mobile phone hands-free kits to the 2.5mm jack.
VOX can be activated by simply pushing the mic gain knob. VOX is indicated by a green LED on the front panel and its setting can be adjusted by holding down the mic gain button for two seconds. Sensitivity, Anti-VOX and Delay Time can be adjusted to suit levels of background noise and the users’ voice. As with any VOX operated system it takes practice to get the settings right for individual preference. If set up correctly this can be an important safety feature.
The usual range of refinements are available on the Jackson II – these include Volume, Squelch, Mic Gain, RF Gain, switchable Roger Beep and built in SWR meter, Priority Channel monitoring (either Channel 9 or Channel 19 depending on configuration mode), Noise Blanker/ANL, Dimmer and of course the famous President ASC (auto squelch control), Fine and Coarse tuner (Clarifier) which only affects received signals until used in export mode (then it can affect TX and RX as any other SSB radio) and finally the all important Channel change knob and mode selector.
The channel change knob has a positive click feel to it but unlike the older Jackson model this is an electronic click switch rather than a mechanical one. It doesn’t feel as substantial as the original Jackson, partially down to the size of the new control but it does the job and you also have the up and down keys on the mic which wouldn’t have been possible using the traditional type of switch.
One feature that seemed to be missing is the scanning facility. At first I couldn’t work out how to get the radio to scan but that was easily solved by holding down the up or down key on the microphone for two seconds. The radio then scans at quite a fast rate across a 40 channel range and will stop whenever the squelch is broken and resumes again after about 2 seconds. The delay value is fixed at this rate but it proved to quite effective on a quiet band without skip.
Presidents’ famous ASC is implemented on the new Jackson II and works extremely well. This is probably one of the best ASC implementations to date and proved very effective at keeping the squelch closed in between transmissions. Basically the ASC circuit constantly monitors the background level of noise/hash on a given channel and adjusts the squelch level threshold to its optimum value to allow wanted signals through but keep hiss and noise on the bands away. President invented ASC and it has since been found on a number of other brands of radio in various forms and implementations, some better than others. ASC is enabled by rotating the squelch control counter-clockwise until it clicks into position. An LED indicator light illuminates red to show this function is enabled, however if VOX is also selected then the light illuminates orange. A very neat little idea!
So how did the radio actually perform on the air? Straight from the box I set up the Jackson II and connected to an outdoor antenna hoping for either some propagation or local stations. The radio was assigned the “U” band for legal use in the UK and I decided to have a listen on channel 19 for any activity. My local area is very quiet for CB users but I managed to pick up several truck drivers straight away on Channel 34 on the 27/81 band. The sound quality on FM was great through the built in speaker. The Jackson II has a brilliant internal speaker and the audio was deep and rich sounding and perhaps I would go as far as saying that it was some of the best audio I have heard from a CB radio for a while. An external speaker would give some improvement when mounted in a car or truck but for use at home I think it would be hard to beat the built in unit.
I put a few calls out on 19 and nobody came back to me. Nothing unusual round here though. Fortunately I have a couple of local stations on CEPT bands that I can rely on for testing purposes so I quickly changed bands via means of the FM and AM rotary switch. Selecting anything other than FM in UK mode selects the CEPT band frequencies (ie, AM, LSB or USB). After speaking with the local FM station for a while I got some very good reports from the TX audio and the standard microphone. The mic supplied with the Jackson II is of the electret powered variety and gives great audio even when used at arms length. I was told that the FM quality was excellent on air and one user went as far as saying it sounded as good as the Yaesu FT-450 that I had been testing recently!
Testing the power of the Jackson II into a dummy load in UK FM configuration shows that the output power was just a fraction under 4W and well within the expected tolerance levels. Later during the week I took the Jackson II mobile in the car and went to the local hilltops. I was immediately hearing distance stations over 30-40 miles away chatting on the 19 and music playing etc! The Jackson II appeared to have good sensitivity overall and even very week signals on FM were resolved better than expected and pulled out from the hash even at S1 level. The scan facility proved quite effective and even after a reasonably long QSO the radio seemed stable and didn’t generate much heat. This is hardly surprising since we were not using the radio to its full capability.
Curiosity soon got the better of me. Sure the radio seems great for FM but we all know it can do so much more than just one mode. It would be a shame not to check out the export range of frequencies for those who DX or live in other countries! The RU band modification was applied to the test unit. Please note that this should not be used in the UK and once converted you will loose all the EU Norms until the modification is reversed. It’s slightly disappointing that you cannot retain all the standards, it’s all or nothing so you basically loose the UK 40 but you can still reach them through means of selecting the equivalent band and rotating the Coarse clarifier (as per other SSB radios).
Once the RU band modification is complete the radio shows RU on the channel display followed by the current band selected from A through to L, basically coverage from 25 up to 30 MHz as you would expect. This is where the differences start though. President have started to program their radios with the export bands in a different order to what most of people have expected. This is rather confusing at first until you get used to the new band order and that looks something like this:
|Band Selector||Equivalent Band (FCC style banding)|
|High High (Super High)|
|Low Low (Super Low)|
H, I, J
|Up into 29 MHz through to 30.115 MHz|
This is a new crazy band configuration. Bands A, B and C are pretty straight forward but thereafter things get a little confusing and you would be advised to carry a frequency chart with you until familiar with the new band order. Apparently this also happens when the President Walker and Johnson II are modified. I can see why president have organised the band structure like this but habit dies hard. This is the only time you really wish for a frequency display on the Jackson. A frequency counter might be a good additional purchase if you are a serious DX’er unless you have a good memory! Speaking of which it would have been nice for President to have included a frequency counter option as a plug in unit in a similar way to the Superstar 3900.
Monitoring the 27.555 MHz USB calling frequency on band B I waited patiently for some conditions to arrive. Finally one weekend 11m band propagation improved and a reasonable opening to Europe was monitored. The usual range of stations from Italy, Germany and France were heard on the band loud and clear. The RX quality of the President Jackson II was equally as good as the previous Jackson model and the frequency alignment seemed to be spot on as I hardly needed to move the fine clarifier to hear most stations naturally.
Another trip up to the hill tops under flat band conditions produced a couple of interesting contacts into Lincolnshire (at least 50+ miles from here) and I was delighted to contact two new Tango Mike DX group members. Paul, 26-TM-901 and Caine, 26-TM-900. Using just 14W PEP I managed to contact them on 27.565 MHz USB using my standard Antenna, the Sirio Megawatt 4000. Paul gave a good radio report for the audio from the Jackson even though there was very little signal. He reported that the audio was crisp and punchy with just the hand microphone. I was actually quite surprised to get back to them so well considering the distance and the small amount of power that I was running. Sensitivity wise the Jackson II appeared to be making the most of the signals on the band and the s-meter calibration seemed spot on. Having a quick scan around the band I heard several other UK stations in QSO and whilst some of them were hardly moving the needle I could hear everything perfectly.
Listening around the bands was a real pleasure through the built in speaker. This is something that I feel President have done really well with and whilst it’s just something simple it makes all the difference when using a rig for several hours. I managed to make a few more DX contacts during the time on the hill top and all stations gave great reports. I certainly don’t have any issues with the audio quality of the supplied microphone or the transceiver.
Back at home again I decided to measure the output power in export mode across the bands. The power levels were surprisingly consistent across the large frequency range. I measured about 20W PEP on SSB modes and 8-10W AM and FM. Talking into the mic at normal distance gave about 12-14W PEP. This seems a little on the low side but I believe the radio can be tweaked up to 25W PEP but most reports on the internet suggest that this is the highest level the radio can currently be made to do. The output transistor in this radio is a single MOSFET part from Mitsubishi called the HHF1. Its datasheet is available here: http://www.digchip.com/datasheets/parts/datasheet/305/RD70HHF1.php
Apparently this transistor can produce up to 70W of RF output under optimum conditions but limits have obviously been put in place to protect the transistor from too much abuse. There is a reasonable heatsink on the back of the Jackson II but this is not fan cooled so care must still be taken when turning up power levels. Best to play it safe as this is an expensive part to replace if blown.
To conclude, the Jackson II is a nice radio. It is well made, looks the part and is worthy of the President brand name. After reading the forums both on TM1 and elsewhere many people commented about the pricing of the radio and a lack of frequency display. At around £200+ this is not a cheap CB radio but you are getting a well made product that conforms to all current requirements and there are now great costs involved in introducing a new product to a declining user base (compared to 20 years back) and now the additional headache of submitting products for various EU compliancy tests, type approval and ensuring that the product is RoHS certified sometimes means changing the way an entire factory production line works and you can soon see how costs stack up.
The lack of a frequency display is disappointing until you realise that this is a CB radio, not an amateur radio aimed at experienced operators. CB was designed as a simple to use system based on channel numbers and to many operators the frequency in use was irrelevant. They simply need to know what channel number they are using. If you are after a CB radio that has all the gadgets you might ever need for reliable communication plus a few surprise extras then this might be the one to go for. It’s solid, looks great in the dark and is equipped with VOX and this is a good safety feature for those people on the road for long hours.
My thanks go to several people that helped in the production of this review. Firstly Mark at Rocket Radio, for without his kind loan of the Jackson the review would not have been possible. Simon007 in Bavaria for his input with regard to the modifications and information before the release of the radio and also Paul 26-TM-901 and Caine 26-TM-900 for helping me test the radio on air and giving their opinions. I’ll be sorry to return the radio, its been a good performer over the past few weeks and I’ve enjoyed operating it.
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