S-9 Review (Different!) by Jake

Not by me but interesting enough to stick up! I don’t agree with him on ranger receivers. I bought a 2950DX etc tuned and ready to go and talk about hissy! White noise drove me mad. Hated the plasticky feel of the thing. Sold it within a week. Doesn’t compare to the S-9 on the receive side. Have not been using the Top Gun modulator on SSB so may give it a go. I did not know the meter turned red with hi SWR either….Any way…Porkchops review…..enjoy

 

10 meter and CB radio reviews have been lacking for quite some time now, the last of whom that was doing it was probably CBWorldInformer, owner of Bob’s CB’s. So I figured I would make as much a contribution as possible to this deficit. Expect more in the future, and if you like this review, email me.

This review pays attention the the technical details of the radio as much as I am capable to, but it is lacking in this area;therefore, it is best defined as a consumer review.

Magnum (RF Limited) radios have always come out with innovative products for the CB/freeband/10 meter world that have been copied by many but duplicated by none. This goes back to the AR3500. An AOR (Authority on Radio) engineer developed the receiver in this radio. These are very cool radios.

If you have a Magnum radio, for sure you are different. For whatever reason, you do not hear many of them. I had the Magnum 257 and Magnum Delta Force both excellent radios in their own right (with pros and cons).

I have owned numerous CB and ham radios over the years and I do not think I have ever come across the ‘perfect’ radio. There always seems to be something that I would want to add to it. Sort of like women. Or maybe it is my neurosis.

I discussed with Sam Lewis at RF Limited via email for a short time about the receiver section of the S9. This to me is the most important part of any radio and for some reason the most overlooked (lately). After all, unless you are some type of ratchet jawed slobbering retard, we all spend more time listening than we do talking. Sam told me that this receiver is the closest they have came to duplicating the AR3500, which had a great front end and was hard to overload.

First, let me put all fears or anticipations aside by saying this receiver is nothing at all like a Magnum Delta Force or 257. Many thought that these had too much ‘hash’ especially on AM. Nevertheless, they are nothing compared to any line of Ranger radio, pre DX or not.

The receiver is great on AM and definitely has better adjacent channel rejection than any Magnum I have owned, and better than many radios I have owned.

SSB received signals will sound very natural, clean, and clear to most. However, the SSB receiver is defaulted to a very wide bandwidth (for SSB) at 4.2 kHz, not uncommon for 10 meter and CB radios. It is probably set at this range so that it is just narrow enough to satisfy the casual SSB op and just wide enough for guys who normally do not operate SSB and find it hard to understand in a narrow bandwidth. This is why I am all for SSB rx filters and I cannot believe that a 10-meter company has not added one yet. All they would have to do is leave a socket and make it an after market feature, thereby increasing revenues. This would satisfy all. For example, if I am on channel 38 CB or 10 meter for that matter and want to make a contact that is in the mud, I do not want to hear your wide audio or beautiful bassy low end, I want to hear ear piercing, high pitched AUDIO FREQUENCY!

The RF gain on the S-9 is very interesting. Play with your knobs a little (don’t worry, you won’t go blind). You will notice that it does it’s job a little better than most RF gains which act more like a switch or attenuator. This one is variable across the whole excursion, thereby reducing much of the back ground noise without reducing received signals.

But I digress. Casual operators and truckers do not care about this stuff…All they want to do is walk the dog and kick the cat with a radio that looks like a million bucks. And this radio does that.

Do yourself a favor when you get this radio and turn all the lights off or get in a really dark area with it (hook it up with the lights on dummy!). It is beautiful. Sure, it is not that mysterious tube glow that some of us love, but it has its own mystique. The channel dial looks huge with the blue LEDs and the meter is very easy to read from far away. In addition, it looks like the needle is glowing on the blue backlight! Very cool. If this radio does not get you in Maggie’s drawers, nothing will.

The “TOP GUN MODULATOR” seems to be the feature that Magnum is promoting on this radio. It is pretty cool but it is only useful to me when I am in agitator mode. It works as advbertised on AM and definitely opens up the modulation to key 1 watt and swing 30 or more. Does this make you sound good? No. If it did, BBC would key 1 watt and swing 50,000. It does not add much AVG talk power, if any, on SSB (over an amplified mic). It reminds me of some of the old President/Cobra bases that had the mod limiters on switches (on/off) as a modification so you wouldn’t sound like crap all the time.

Another issue is the talkback. Delta Force owners, at least from the 2002 series, will notice this. The All Mode Talkback (AMT) now acts less like an AMT talkback! In SSB you will hear a slight warble depending on the audio that you are feeding to the radio. I use a Turner +3 at half tilt and definitely hear the warble. To have a monitor on SSB at all is very good though, so this is not a huge complaint. The AMT to me is the best monitor available that actually recreates the sound another receiver ‘hears.’

A bigger complaint is that the AMT sensitivity seems to be down from previous models. There is a point where if you are listening to the AMT through the internal speaker or a small external speaker, you will not hear the echo that is being applied to your voice. The only why I could hear it is on another radio or through a set of headphones, if all you want is very slight echo. For both of these problems, I *think* that this may be due to the fact that they may be using separate boards for the TRB-1 and UTB-1 talkback, like they did in the 1st batch of Delta Forces (which I never owned). If you have more info on this, email me. I emailed Sam about both problems and got no response, probably fearing potential warranty issues. These are not huge problems though, a faulty rx or tx section would have been much worse. With all these problems, the AMT still is the best.

I will be getting very used to the “DOUBLE BARREL MIC CONNECTORS” as well. This is a great feature for a mobile or a base unit. It is amazing that this is the first time it has been done.

In summary:

The board looks very tough. Definitely tougher than a Galaxy and other lines of Magnums. You will notice that they are using new boards in this line of Magnum radio, ones I don’t think I have seen in any other radio. It may survive a direct hit from a sledgehammer. However, I have already noticed more heat build up than I would like on the inside of the chassis even without much transmitting time. This is what scared me about the Magnum Delta Force and it eventually died on me. It was my favorite radio of all time too. So is this a sign of what is to come? Well the fact that all Magnum will honor is a 1 year warranty may answer this question. Anything that builds up heat will burn out GURANTEE IT!

There is no SWR meter. The meter blinks on and off red when the SWR is high, but a meter would have been nice. Maybe this is because many truckers pay 5 dollars to have them checked anyway. I have always thought of hanging around the truck stop and checking them for 3 dollars.

There is NO CW: At least allow me to justify it as a ham rig in my head by adding CW.

There are CHANNELS: This is a beef most probably will not have but I am a fan of the President Lincoln style VFO tuning with the span button changing in .1, 1, 5, or 10 kHz. The 2950/70 RCI’s do this too. Again, this is just another way for me to justify it as a ham radio purchase. SOME functionality on 10 meter is a plus.

The Roger Beep: Nitpicking here, but Ranger has their own beep that you can ID, as well as the President Lincoln. The Magnum beep sounds just like a Galaxy.

The Stock mic: The stock mic is a Galaxy stock mic clone. I was surprised that they went away from their 6-pin configuration with the phantom 13.8-volt power and ECM (electret condenser mic). That is the only stock mic I ever kept on a radio. It sounded great. What would have been cool is a 6 pin with the phantom power on one end and a regular cobra/uniden/galaxy 4 pin on the other. Undoubtedly, they changed it because truckers were confounded with the 6 pins and wanted to buy their mics at the truck stops to plug and play. A cool feature is the supplied mic plug which hooks at a 90 degree angle instead of straight into the jack.

The FREQUENCY STABILITY: This is another nitpick that I would not even have noticed in most radios, but it reminded me of a Galaxy. Turn the radio on LSB or USB and keep the fine/coarse clarifiers in place. Watch as it warms up and comes on frequency. It is about .2 khz off when you first turn it on. After warm up there does not seem to be any drift. This is definitely acceptable, especially for most uses, but this is just another nitpick.

YOU CAN TURN THE FREQ. COUNTER OFF!: If you place the NB in the NB+ position you can turn the freq counter off. This is what I do most of the time, it may be my imagination but I am hoping to conserve the LEDs and make them last as long as possible! Another cool thing about the freq counter is that it is a 5 digit in AM/FM mode and a 6 digit freq counter in SSB Mode. One thing you may notice is with the freq counter on in SSB mode, when you tx your freq counter may change .1 khz…I do not think that this change is audible (haven’t got complaints) and this may be cured with a good alignment.

Without a doubt, it seems to be a quality engineered radio (for the most part) with more features than someone could ask for. To justify it as a ham radio though is ridiculous, this is simply a kick ass balls to the wall CB radio. This radio is definitely geared towards the professional truck driver or wannabe truck driver in mind. For the SSB operator, I really cannot recommend it unless you split your time between AM and SSB equally, as I seem to do these days. The President Lincoln is still THE SSB CB/freeband/10 meter radio, but the S-9 is a close second and you will be hearing many of them in skip land!

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