My reason for purchasing a PMR 446 radio was to enable bike to bike communication. I needed a radio that would be robust, have a good battery life, and be able to accept the standard headphone & mic accessories. When I discovered that Alinco did this PMR 446 version of their VHF DJ-193E, which has the same body, chassis, and internals (except for being UHF) I decided it would fit the bill. My initial impressions of the radio were biased by the fact that I already had a very good experience using the Alinco DJ-596 (HAM VHF/UHF Multi-band) Hand held Transceiver. The build quality and functionality are of the same standard. The DJ-446 just doesn’t have quite so many features!
What you get
The radio comes packaged in a utilitarian brown cardboard box, just like the expensive HAM handheld radios do. I prefer this to the horrible plastic packaging a lot of PMR 446 radios come in. I guess once you take it out and use it, it doesn’t really matter what it arrived in, but at least you can put the radio back in its box if you have to.
The package contains: The radio, 9.6V 700mAh Ni-MH battery, charger, Belt clip, Hand strap, and instruction manual (English only). Just the basics.
Here’s the advertising blurb:
The Alinco DJ-446 heavy duty hand held radio is packed with features that make it the ideal choice for business, professional and reliable leisure use.
High quality design and construction ensure the best possible performance and reliability. Outstanding audio clarity and receiver specifications ensure maximum range. The DJ-446 is factory programmed with all 8 PMR 446 channels.
Each channel has 39 CTCSS tones giving an effective 312 usable ‘privacy’ channels.
– 8 frequencies
– 312 channel modes
– 30 memory channels
– Battery level indicator
– hi-low power
– CTCSS on/off (39 tones per frequency)
– Channel monitor
– Private call channel
– Time out timer
– Bell function
– Memory scan
– Channel scan
– Auto power off
– Power save mode
– Optional desk top quick charger
– Thin type NiMH battery (700mAH, 9.6V)
– Channel finder feature
Setting up & programming
It takes up to 12 hours to charge the battery when using the standard charger. So it’s worth setting it to charge overnight. That, or buy a good book when you purchase the radio.
To turn the radio on, press the POWER button for 1 second.
To change channel, rotate the dial on the top of the radio.
To change the volume – Press the VOL button and then rotate the dial on the top of the radio. This ranges from 00 (volume off) to 20 (maximum volume).
To enter channel scan mode – Press the SCAN button ( SCAN again to stop).
To engage the lock: Press FUNC button (F appears in the top left of the display) then press the MONI button (same again to unlock). This locks everything except the PTT and the POWER button.
So far, so good. Now the tricky bits:
To change the CTCSS setting – Press the FUNC button (F appears in the top left of the display), then press the TONE button (the CTCSS numbers start flashing) and then rotate the dial. To finish your CTCSS selection press “any other” button or to select CTCSS OFF – press the TONE button again.
To change the Squelch setting – Press the FUNC button (F appears in the top left of the display), then press the SQL button and then rotate the dial on the top of the radio. Once you have the desired squelch level press any button to exit squelch control (or wait 5 seconds).This ranges from 00 (squelch off) to 20 (maximum squelch).
To enter CTCSS Scan mode – Press the FUNC button (F appears in the top left of the display), then press the T SCAN button. The radio now starts to step through the CTCSS tones v e r y s l o w l y (one a second?) …. It stops when it finds the one you are attempting to listen to (assuming the other person hasn’t died of old age). To halt the CTCSS Scan, press the T SCAN button again.
To change output power – Press and hold PTT (yes, the transmit button!) and then press SCAN to switch between Low power and High power. This switches between 100mW (Low) and 500mW (High). Unless you have performed one of the soldering modifications, in which case it switches between 500mW (Low) and 5W (High).
The radio has 30 Memories plus a dedicated call memory that can have channel/CTCSS combinations programmed into them, and also features a six digit alphanumeric label for each memory. This is an excellent feature, unfortunately programming them in isn’t. It requires a lot of multiple button pressing. On the bright side, once you have one radio programmed, you can clone the information into all your other Alinco DJ-446’s you own with a simple audio cable connection.
One very nice feature of the radio is you can feed it with any DC power supply between 7V – 16V. Handy for permanent installations. It also has a “free channel transmitting function” which basically uses the SCAN function to pick a random unused channel to talk to a person using the same CTCSS as you.
There is an extended menu mode called “Set mode” that allows you to change a variety of radio functions, such as: Beep: on/off, Stand-by Beep: on/off, Bell: on/off, Clock shift: on/off (in case you are receiving a lot of nearby computer CPU noise!), Battery save: on/off, Time Out Timer: on/off, Auto Power Off: OFF-30-60-90-120 (in minutes),and an Alert tone setting.
I have primarily used this radio for motorbike to motorbike communication. It has done an admirable job. The limiting factor has been the headset mic and earpiece I used when travelling at speed. Battery duration has stood up to all day use with recharges in B&B wall sockets at night. The antenna is longer than the usual PMR446 radio and while this is usually a good thing, it can be a pain (literally!) when in your pocket on a motorbike. However, the radio always made contact, so I guess the long antenna is good for something! On occasion the radio got a bit wet. This happened when getting on and off the bike in the rain and sorting out waterproofs. It never really “lived” in the rain, but it certainly lived in a wet pocket or two. It never seemed to have a problem with this. It certainly counts as shower proof.
Used on the bike, in a leather jacket it proved to be a most usefull tool. The range was good by PMR446 standards. I had no problem keeping in touch with other riders, and sometimes we were split up and not within line of sight. Perhaps a mile or so apart.
I now use the radio as a general purpose hand held as well as on the bike and I have found the radio to be superb at range. My last outing with it was to the Hop Farm in Paddock Wood, Kent for the Garden of England Motorcycle Show (GEMS) where I used it as a hand held to stay in touch with friends. I was able to stay in clear communication with people across the entire facility (a mile and a half across, perhaps?), and with people who left the show and travelled to a pub about three miles away. Not scientific I grant you, but a good field test.
It lacks Digital Coded Squelch (DCS) which is a bit of a shame at this price level and the display is raised above the surrounding bodywork, which means it is the first thing to get scratched if the radio falls over. It doesn’t come with VOX as standard (you need a special VOX headset for it, but I found that VOX on a motorcycle doesn’t work anyway!) and the FUNC based menu system takes a little getting used to. However, this is an excellent commercial grade PMR 446 radio. It has good build qualities, is easily modified for greater power (good or bad, you decide), and has a very adaptable power supply (7V – 16V) requirement.
If it had a middle name it would be “Dependable”. Scores a solid 7 out of 10.