The TCB-1100 is TTI’s flagship multiband CB radio with front mounted speaker and DIN sized form factor. It has been designed to be mounted in several different combinations where space is at a premium. The best thing about this type of design is that the radio can be mounted in a free DIN size dashboard space in a vehicle. Many cars and vans have a spare DIN slot available so this radio could fill that gap with something attractive and useful. Some earlier attempts have been made at DIN mount radios by Team in Germany but whilst the TCB-1100 looks similar I am informed by the supplier that this model has a different PCB to the Team models and some additional features not found on models like the Roadcom FS.
A comprehensive multi language user guide is packaged with the radio detailing the large amount of features found on this set. The usual power cord, thumb screws, bracket and microphone are supplied along with a metal DIN mounting cage similar to those supplied with a car stereo system in case you wish to make the most of this mounting option.
A first look at the TCB-1100 shows that this is no ordinary CB radio; indeed it looks more like a professional PMR set such as the sort you might find in a Taxi or delivery van. To the non-radio user they might be forgiven for thinking that this is a PMR set. The front panel is made from heavy duty plastic whilst the casing is all metal giving an impression of solid built quality. As we have come to expect the TCB-1100 is a “EU multi norms” radio meaning that it can operate legally right the way across all European countries with the correct channel, power output and mode settings. The radio can quite happily operate in AM and FM modes but here in the UK our band plan limits us to 4 watts FM but we do however have 80 channels available, the original UK 40 sometimes known as 27/81 band and the old EU favourite, 40 channels FM mid-band called CEPT, EU or mid block etc. Whichever way you look at this the radio offers a big choice for the travellers and means that you can simply select a band from the hidden menu at start up so providing it is set correctly there will be no legal issues surrounding the use of this radio across Europe.
As you would expect in a flagship CB radio the feature list is quite comprehensive and includes a few extras that are not normally found on CB radios such as VOX (Voice Operated Transmit) for hands free operation and in rare cases the CTCSS function more commonly used on PMR radios. Only a small number of CB radios feature CTCSS such as the Albrecht AE-6690 but the list is slowly growing and one day it may become more commonplace. In some respects CTCSS goes against the principle uses of CB radio as the service was designed as an open system allowing users to communicate freely with anyone else on the band. CTCSS turned the system into a closed user group so that only people using the same CTCSS code can communicate with each other and other stations on the channel will not be able to talk to them. This might sounds like a perfect solution for keeping the squelch closed until a valid signal is detected and certainly stops random noise and propagation from blasting through but if you enjoy using CB to make random contacts this is a feature that you won’t want to switch on in a hurry.
On the other side of the coin if you want to make use of CB for business purposes then CTCSS could be of real value to you. For a start you could choose a channel and a CTCSS code number and you’ve got a “private” channel up and running without the fear of anyone else on the shared channels playing music and profanity blasting through the speaker in the office, unless of course it’s your employees doing the swearing! Of course it has to be mentioned that CB is a public radio system so you shouldn’t pass any information over the radio that you wouldn’t shout across a room full of people as you never know who is listening.
Other uses for CTCSS include the ability to designate groups of radios a CTCSS code so that you can target only the users you wish to speak with and everyone else’s radio remains silent. For example you might have warehouse users on code 10 and office workers on code 12. When you need to call the warehouse you simply set your code to “10” on the master radio and this will open up the squelch on the warehouse radios but the office will remain silent until you change to code 10 again. As you can see there are quite a few applications for CTCSS even on a CB radio. Other uses might include internet gateway/repeater applications so you could create an FRN node that can be accessed by anyone supplying the correct CTCSS code. The TTi radio is advanced enough to allow different codes to be selected for both receive and transmit independently.
Powering the radio up I was greeted by bright green LED backlighting on the LCD display and keys. This is excellent for night time illumination but it gets even better as the TCB-1100 allows the user to change the backlighting colour to suit the interior of your vehicle. Three choices are available, Green, Amber and Blue. I found that the green illumination worked best in all cases for day and night use being the most intense colour but the blue and amber were also excellent and the chances are that one of these colours will match your car dashboard illumination. A quick press of the “BL” key cycles through the available colours.
A great feature on this radio is the large LCD display which shows all the important information at a glance. A nice touch on the radio is that it not only shows the currently selected channel number but the frequency in smaller digits directly below. This is an excellent idea for those people who travel across the continent who may not be so familiar with the band plan. In any case it’s a welcome addition to the radio. The LCD display also contains a 10 segment signal meter and also shows the various options that can be switched on or off such as dual watch, scan and mode indicators.
Moving onto the front panel keys these all perform at least two actions depending on if the button is pressed momentarily or held down for more than a second to perform the secondary function such as locking the keypad or storing memories etc. In a similar fashion to the smaller TTi TCB-771 that we recently reviewed this radio has a range of options and preferences that can be set by holding down a key at the power on stage and then pressing the “menu” button repeatedly to cycle through the available options.
The channel selector is a pretty standard type of control along with the volume and squelch controls. Fortunately TTi have decided to stick with analogue controls for these items so it’s very easy to adjust the squelch level and volume. This radio contains the DSS system we reviewed on the previous TTi TCB-771 article which works in a similar way to President’s ASC. Basically the radio determines the optimum value for the squelch setting and constantly monitors background noise to keep the squelch from opening unless a valid signal is detected. In practice we found that this worked quite well on the TCB-1100 with signals down to around 2 “s points” but anything lower was ruled out straight away so not good for DX contacts but for normal usage it saves the operators from having to constantly adjust the squelch whilst mobile where noise levels can vary tremendously thanks to RF pollution in towns and cities.
My first proper test with the TTi in the car involved travelling around 15 miles from my home location to a country location on a Sunday morning. Conditions were favourable as there was no propagation from other countries on the EU band so my wife and I decided to use the EU range of channels for a test. My wife used a radio back at home on the base antenna and I used the TCB-1100 in the car hooked up to a Sirio Megawatt 4000 antenna – one of the best rated mobile antennas and certainly a reference standard for serious CB operators.
We managed to make the contact almost all the way there through town and villages with very little drop out during the travelling time. The received signal was very crisp and clear through the built in front mounted speaker. Whilst the tone of the speaker lacked bass it was loud and clear but to be fair the front mounted speaker is only small in order for the radio to fit inside the single DIN specifications. TTi still provide a 3.5mm jack socket on the rear of the radio should you wish to upgrade to a full size speaker but it’s really not essential. Taking about the facilities on the TCB-1100 I found the microphone up and down keys to be very handy when working mobile. This is the same microphone supplied as with other recent radios in the TTi Series and you can also lock the microphone to prevent accidental channel changing. The microphone plugs into the solid front mounted 6 pin socket and is located well away from the channel change unlike some other radios where this can get in the way.
By the time I got to my destination the signal had dropped down somewhat to around an S3 level but in the incoming audio was still consistent. As I travelled along I almost forgot that I was using a CB radio as it sounded as clear as some PMR radios I had been using. At the other end of the link my wife reported the audio from the TTi as reasonable but slightly muffled. I think this was actually down to how I was holding the microphone but the supplied microphone does seem a little fussy when trying to get the best out of the audio. One of the other features that the TCB-1100 has is a speech compander circuit. I did wonder if this would improve the audio quality of the speech but in the case of our review model and the other radio in use back at home it made the audio quality more “fuzzy” around the edges without really improving the quality in any way. I also noticed that the compander works on the receive circuit of the radio acting a little like a filter but this made the received FM audio pretty weak and it started to clip the squelch. I would imagine that the compander is best used if you are operating two or more similar radios together. For other “normal” radios I would probably turn off this function.
After having a scan around the bands I was able to hear quite a number of distant CB operators on the UK FM channels and some on the 19 calling channel around 40 miles away which is pretty impressive considering I was a mobile station. Sensitivity seems good on the TCB-1100 and the S-Meter calibration appears to be about right. After I had parked up I had a scan around the EU mid block and I heard some low propagation beginning to build up. Very soon I had FM stations coming through from Italy and France with perfectly good readability.
The list of features contained in the TCB-1100 is impressive. Along with the Dual Watch facility, backlighting colour and memory channel storage I noticed the VOX option, this is yet another great feature built into the radio without purchasing any optional extras. There are three levels of voice operated transmit available to suit different levels of sensitivity and these are adjustable through the system menu at power on. I left the radio set to the defaults and talked normally into the microphone. This trigged the VOX without too much trouble. As with all VOX implementations there is a very small delay when you begin talking to the point where the radio starts to transmit but this was minimal. It could certainly be a useful feature and there is some scope here for experimentation with different microphones including desk mics and specially designed hands-free microphones for use in vehicles. Well done to TTi for including the feature!
There appears to be an undocumented feature on this particular model. After looking around the main configuration menu to set the parameters for scanning etc I found that the radio can produce a call tone a little like the ones found on PMR radios. I looked through the instruction booklet twice and I couldn’t find anything regarding this feature but yet there are 5 different call tones available on the menu so how do I find them? Well I looked for a call tone button but still no joy but in the end I found out by accident that pressing the microphone PTT button twice quickly (within half a second of each press) triggered the call tone noise and transmitted it on the current channel although I couldn’t hear it myself I noticed the radio fire up into TX mode and stay keyed up for a couple of seconds whilst the call signal was sent. I was told by other users it sounded a bit like a fire engine! This is clearly a bonus feature on the radio but one that does not appear to be documented anywhere in the current English manual. It may have limited appeal or irritation depending on what you think about call tones on the CB band!
On the whole this is a well thought out radio and TTi have made a brave attempt at innovating CB radio use with this flagship model. The addition of CTCSS, VOX and DIN mounting make this unit a cut above the average CB radio and in terms of build quality the set excels previous TTi models. Whilst this isn’t a cheap radio it sets the standards of the future and given time I am sure that other CB radio manufacturers will follow on the developments at TTi and Albrecht.
The only thing I would like to change would be better tailoring of the transmitted audio on the TCB-1100 as I am sure it could be improved with a better quality microphone. One of the best features of the TCB-1100 is the ability to DIN mount this radio. In the case of this type of mounting it would give a very professional look to an “in vehicle” install of a CB radio and may be worth buying for this feature alone if you have the free space and do a lot of travelling.
Having looked at the latest TTi product catalogue I can see that they also produce another export version of this radio with a higher output power level. If you look at the rear panel on this radio you can see a thick metal blanking plate held in place by two screws. This would appear to be in place for the higher power version of the radio so that a heat sink can be installed. Apparently the export version can produce 25 watts straight out of the back of the radio. This would of course be only used outside of the EU legally. I am also aware that some modifications are available for this radio to expand frequency coverage into the 10m ham band and all the way down to 25MHz. This would, of course void any warranty remaining on your radio but it could be a useful modification for those possessing a ham licence wishing to operate the FM mode on 10m at a relatively low cost compared to a dedicated HF transceiver.
My thanks extend to Murli at Sharman Multicom for the loan of this radio. For further information please feel free to visit their website at http://www.sharman-multicom.co.uk/ for more details on this product and thousands of other radio related items.
Remember to mention the TM1 website if you are purchasing!