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Tuesday, January 17. 2012
You will not hear me on D-Star anytime soon. I don't see any compelling reason to add D-Star to my ham setup. Don't try to convince me, it will be a waste of time from your part.
It is high tech, for sure. It offers some distinct possibilities that no other mode of communication can offer. The internet gateway capability is a real plus; its Digital Data is a nice feature. In fact I admire those who test and implement this digital mode. I can appreciate the dedication and the amount of work involved.
And I like technology, have no doubt about it. In my professional career, I have been has been designing and testing fiber optics transmission systems using cutting edge technology for the last 20 years.
But here are four reasons why I am not a D-Star user.
Also, the sound quality sucks. This, of course, is a matter of personal taste. When I first heard about D-Star, I imagined hearing noise-free audio with little or no compression artifacts. I was SO disappointed. The noise is gone, but the audio sounds robotic, and it is even sometime difficult to understand what the other person is saying. I find it worse than over modern digital cellular telephony. While the intent of cramming more DV+DD channels per bandwidth vs. analog modulation is met, it compromises the sound quality beyond reasonable. They did not need to go to this level of compression.
I also don't like the fact that only Icom is endorsing D-Star. Even though it is not one, it looks like a monopoly. Why is it that no other manufacturer is jumping on the band wagon?
Looking at the user cost, the D-Star-equipped gear is way too expensive. The handie-talkie (portable radio) cost is MUCH higher just because of this $20 codec chip and the additional R&D. Mobile radios are also much higher priced than the regular FM ones. D-Star has been around long enough to amortize the incremental R&D cost. Other than the pseudo-monopoly I am talking about above, I don't see how Icom can still justify this huge price difference. The price tag of the optional D-Star modules alone says it all... But the infrastructure cost is even more scandalous. Have you looked at the D-Star repeater cost? What proportion of the ham clubs can really afford such an investment?
So that's it. You don't have to agree with me. This is the nature of a blog. You may want to voice your opinion. That is fine, go ahead below. But stay respecful of other's opinion and adopt a good netiquette....
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Bert, I generally agree with you, including many of your comments about D-STAR. However, I take exception with your comment about D-STAR audio quality. In my oppinion, when things are working properly, D-STAR audio is exceptionally good compared to most other modulation schemes, including all common digital modes. I use D-STAR often and now find it unpleasant to listen to the audio of many FM repeaters. When a D-STAR communication is good, it is excellent but when it is bad it can be pretty bad. Severe interference, intermod, and multi-path tend to impact D-STAR more than they would an FM communication. A weak D-STAR signal generally sounds just as good as a strong signal as long as there is enough signal not to lose packets.
Also, like many parts of our hobby, and as implied in your comments, there is a lot more to D-STAR than just talking with your buddy. There are several forms of non-Icom D-STAR repeaters. Also, there are non-Icom devices which allow users to take part in D-STAR communication, without using Icom transceivers.
Bert, I don't think D-$tar is horrible but I do think it is inferior to DMR. Have you heard how DMR (Motorola brand is called MOTOTRBO) sounds? DMR has 2 voice channels from one repeater and the audio quality is very good, battery life is better, and it has less turkey talk than D-$tar. Not to mention, DMR is made by nearly a dozen manufacturers. Also D-$tar uses GMSK technology which is about 15 years old and does not hold up as well RF-wise. No other 2-way radio company is making GMSK radios now. Many of these companies have pivoted to DMR because of the technical advantages.
Check out http://dmr-marc.net
I agree that D-Star is much more expensive than it "needs" to be, but Icom is a company that wants to make a profit, so if no other large manufacturer wants to jump into competition with them - they really don't have much reason to sell the $20 chip for $20, do they? (For comparison, don't even get me started on the actual mfg. cost for the toner for my printer vs. what I actually pay, but at least I have some options there).
At this point, Icom has a "digital RF monopoly" for all intents, since 90% of the digital repeaters out there are using D-Star, so the folks that promote another digital technology are factually correct that there are "better" digital formats, but until another manufacturer steps up (with both radios, handhelds and repeaters in the new format) at a significant financial savings vs. Icom, I think they (Icom) have already won the battle.
Remember how Beta was technically "better" than VHS? Or how HD-DVD was technically "better" than BlueRay? Guess who won? Both times the "inferior" products with the greater market placement won the war.
I don't work for Icom, nor do I currently own any of their D-Star equipment, but I do look forward to adding one or more of their D-Star radios in the future, simply because it's another way to communicate and they have reached the critical mass that other manufacturer's have failed (so far at least) to match.
"If" Icom's D-Star products were less expensive, I would probably already own several, as I love to try out new gear whenever possible, but the economy in the U.S. has taken it's toll on our business (like many others I'm afraid).
In fairness, I do own several other Icom products, but I don't play favorites, as I also own several Alinco, Baofeng, Kenwood, Waoxun, and Yaesu radios.
It looks like Yaesu is finally starting to dip their toes into the digital market, but as much as I was personally hoping they would make a D-Star radio (to help pressure Icom to lower their pricing), they (Yaesu) did not. I fear they will have a long-uphill battle to establish their digital standard in the ham market since Icom has such a commanding market share lead.
Craig - N7LB
Craig, did you read my post above? D-star is not the only digital terrestrial ham radio mode. DMR is the alternative and it is a less expensive and higher quality alternative.
http://dmr-marc.net Take a look.
- 2 voice channels from one repeater
- Over a half dozen manufacturers
- Radios are less expensive
- No horrible IM or receiver issues
- Worldwide open standard
- over 275 DMR repeaters worldwide in 14 countries
- Higher quality radio mechanics
- no need to enter 1 link, 1 QSO, and 1 unlink channel for each reflector
- More spectrum efficient since only need 1 guard band between each SET of voice channels not each voice channel.
- Better error correction, less garbling
- Better audio quality from a generation newer CODEC
In response to the CRAP that is being banded about concerning D-STAR "fading in to obsolescence" in favour of the “closed” , and poor alternative for amateur radio use, Motorola Digital Business Radio system!
Firstly , Dstar is not an adapted after thought using a commercial business radio system nor is it a “mode”, it is a protocol developed by amateurs for amateurs carried by the mode GMSK.
2, Cheaper ? I’ve yet to see a “Dual band” DMR VHF/UHF DMR transceiver and all the single band transceivers I’ve seen for sale so far are just as expensive and in some cases more expensive (especially hand helds) than Icom Dstar equivalents and offer far less functionality for the user.
3, User friendly radio’s ? Not one Motorola DMR transceiver can be programmed by the user via the front control panel, expensive software is required. Icom’s Dstar radio’s offer a lot more functionality for the user with also extended receive coverage for the “scanner” enthusiast.
4. This statement from the DMR UK web site I find unbelievable,
“ You cannot simply walk into a shop, buy DMR equipment and use it straight out of the box”
What ? so you splash out a few hundred of your hard earned dosh and you can’t use it until some one else says you can , and they are probably the same people that complained about the “closed” Icom system where strangley their radio’s can be used out of the box!
5. As for audio quality, I’ve listen to DMR audio and it is NOT any better than Dstar (GMSK), in fact with the more recent Icom Dstar radio’s with separate tone adjustment both on transmit and receive the audio quality from a Icom 31 , 51 or 7100 is far superior to any DMR transceiver.
6. The Dstar network offers much more in the way of user choice regarding when and where a connection can be made, ie call sign routing, linking to worldwide or regional reflectors and repeaters either via the YOUR (UR) commands or DTMF and even echo test servers for users to test. You can even set up your own personal Gateway using a Dongle or DVAP, two Dstar items not made by Icom!
Finally, I’m not against DMR and I might even get involved (but not at the current prices for very limited equipment) but there is a considerable amount of rubbish being written and taken up by those who have never used/owned Dstar equipment and they are wrongly giving Dstar a bad name and creating ill feeling in the amateur world.
Also on a slightly different note but just as relevant, the UK is to get the use of 146-147MHz sometime during the summer of 2014, but it is not the result of pressure from Icom because “Dstar isn’t selling” as it has been suggested, it will be available only to those who apply for an NoV, so repeater use or any other commercial interest is irrelevant and at any time the frequencies can be withdrawn.
With no connection to Icom, de Mike G1ZRN.
You are correct that ICOM equipment is expensive. You should also note that since ICOM radios are the only one that can demodulate the DSTAR signal means that the users maybe getting some ciphering advantages that may violate FCC rules. I am not aware of any scanners that can decode DSTAR signals. So I am wondering what ICOM I going to do about that
Bert, from what I have experienced with D-Star, I agree with your comments. It seems like a 'gimmick' to me.... much like 'packet.' My opinion.....
Great, I'm very interested to know everything about MOTOTRBO, I would like to know more about this technology and compatibility you have with other brands.
Just a general comment. I am relatively new, just earned my Technician Ticket and working on General. Recently I purchased a non-Dtar radio in getting into ham radio. Not because I could not afford the technology because I can, but because I am trying to start small.
I have been in radio, electronics and computers for over 40 years now. I can see some advantages to the Dstar in traaveling but not regular talking or rag chewing. This may be just a preconceived notion.
We are on vacation right now so I took the new radio along and it picks up repeaters so far throughout my travels. But I noticed not alot of traffic in the repeaters that are non-Dstar. Could be just I am still just too new. But I did notice the area I am staying at right now has a Dstar repeater but that is it in the area so I can't talk on my portable.
I wont try to convince you of anything but I will explain why AMBE was used.
When D-Star was being developed by the JARL the available codecs were reviewed. Fast embedded processors were not as cheap as they have become so a software OSS codec just wasn't able to get the performance and there were no hardware implementations.
Today that would be a different story but no one can see the future so they went with what they thought was the best option, and AMBE was already being used in commercial digital radios.
D-Star, MotoTRBO, and P25 are just a few digital protocols that implement AMBE. There is nothing stoping someone from developing a new fully open digital protocol for amateur radio. I've thought about it but I don't have that much expertise in all the needed fields.
While I am a Dstar user and avid enthusiast I will be the first to say I do not embrace the AMBE chip concept. However the issue behind the fix is more interesting. The issue is how to bet 3.5 khz of voice into a 6.5 khz bandwidth space. The other issue is error correction; we need room for that as well. Compression is the only suitable answer; it must be able to be reproduced at the other end as audio. Looking at how the rest of the world does things the obvious answer was the AMBE chip. Every commercial and governmental agency all use the same chip. Yes it is proprietary, but before we get outraged so are half the chips inside just about every radio on the market. Look at your pc, try to convince me that the processor chip is not proprietary.. and what about those memory chips inside that HT on your hip? The list goes on, so while I would prefer another alternative the reality is this is the most cost effective and best solution available. Can it be done another way, absolutely but how do you make it cost effective and in a small package format suitable for a hand held? Possibly but you would have to use one of those proprietary memory chips to do it. At the end of the day what’s the big deal? DMR, system Fusion ( a DMR derivative), P25 and Dstar all use the same AMBE chip. The advantage of using a readily available mass quantity solution that is compatible with every other system makes logical sense.
You can say no to Dstar, BUT then you must also say no to digital voice. I seem to remember a very similar augment before, we all must say NOT to single side band AM is the only way to go.