COBRA 200 GTL DX
This is the new Cobra 200 GTL DX, the SSB/AM/FM hi power Cobra recently released in the USA. It did not take long for it to become the radio that “everybody loves to hate”! I couldn’t see why. If you looked at the price then looked at the specifications, no other radio comes close…30W on AM/FM/CW and 100W on SSB, Antenna warning light, SWR meter, 6 digit counter, echo, roger beep, Hi /Low power switch, NB/ANL, and coverage (Once modified) from 26.065 thru 29.695. The cheapest 100W 10m/11m SSB on the market is running around US$380.00 on up. Why did cobra price this one at US$229.00? On spec alone it should sell for US$350 minimum if they were trying to break into the market. Seems a bit more at stake here. Cobra is making a statement and we must all be wondering just how much we are being ripped off on SSB CB radios today? Obviously Cobra must be making money…they did not release it at this price to go broke! Unfortunately user reports on this radio have not been all good. The audio on SSB seems to be the problem. Regardless I had to have a look and see what Cobra was up to releasing a new 10m radio at the low point in the sun cycle. Doesn’t get much worse on 10m! Why didn’t they make a 40m 100W mobile for a couple of hundred dollars for the car…Now that would probably sell well at the moment!
Out of the Box
After waiting over a month for Fedex to clear a couple of these Cobras and a President Lincoln out of customs I eventually loaded up the wallet and drove out to the airport warehouses to do it myself. 3 hours later and a little bit lighter in the wallet I was speeding back to the house with the three radios.
One of the cobras had been opened by customs so I opened that one first.
First impressions. The box is impressive. Well constructed and excellent artwork. Designed to catch the eye. The box and the radio say they are constructed in the Philippines. I believe Cobra has a factory just out of Manila somewhere. This is a heavy radio. Finish is good and the heat sink from the back running down and underneath looks both effective and attractive. Heavy duty. First thing I did was pull the lids off. Had to see what it looked like inside!
The serial number on this was H506000270. No date.
As you can see the 100W PA stage is mounted on the main motherboard. Output transistors on this radio were the HF-50. I heard the new ones coming out had the 2290 finals and had specifically requested this but ….I wonder about the wisdom of placing the 100W PA stage on the main board. All amateur radios keep the PA stage well separated from the rest of the radio. Never seen inside a hi power Galaxy or ranger so I wonder if they do the same? Seems a huge potential for RF into the rest of the circuitry and all those resultant problems. But if Ranger and Galaxy can work it out then so can Cobra.
The boards look neat and lots of tiny components that I could hardly see with my eyes.
The speaker is huge also. The insert in the microphone looks like something out of an old telephone!
The heat sink wraps around the radio and protrudes about 2cm under the cabinet.
The speaker is really that big!
The microphone is huge and I was forever bumping my lips with it.
The Front Panel is relatively uncluttered and everything seems easy enough. So just what is everybody on about!
First things first…We had better convert this puppy so we can get it up and running on 11m and show it off to all my mates. OK no worries ..cut R138 and bridge the pad in front of it. Specs on and go searching….There are no component markings on the board and most of the surface mount stuff is microscopic. Black dots on the green circuit board! On to the net and email Dave in the states who has modded his. Help, Urgent, Do you have a photo. Impossible to do this without a guide! A couple of hours later and the pic arrived….Had to study it for a bit…This one was not quite the same..close enough tho.
My one looked like the one above. Went ahead and pulled out the side cutters and destroyed the resistor and dropped a blob of solder across the 2 points above it. A quick check and 26mhz on the counter.
Lids on and hooked up to the dummy load to run some quick tests.
Frequency coverage. (Expansion mod done)
There are 4 bands A,B,C&D. Each band covers 90 channels. All in order including the alpha channels which read out correctly on the counter and are marked with a dot after them on the channel readout.
We have 27085.0 on the counter and CH 11 on the channel readout.
We have 27095.0 on the counter and CH 11. on the channel readout
Sure looks like a CB set to me!
Band Frequency Talk Whistle
A 26.0650 – 26.9550 65W PEP 100W PEP
B 26.9650 – 27.8550 80W PEP 120W PEP
C 27.8650 – 28.7550 100W PEP 140WPEP
D 28.7650 – 29.6950 85W PEP 135W PEP
The -10kc switch does not appear to do anything.
ON AIR TESTS
First thing I found with this radio was that you can’t just put it down anywhere. The heat sink sticking out below the case means you have to prop up the front. Because this is a heavy radio the heat sink will mark what ever you sit it on if you leave it for long. I went back to the box and fitted the mobile bracket to it so it would sit up. Leans back on the heat sink but not too much..
The clarifier is in the wrong place for me. It is the third of 4 knobs and I always seem to go for the last knob which is the SWR Calibrate and echo. Received audio sounded tiny. With such a huge speaker they must have gone to a lot of effort to make it sound so sharp.
Everybody reports the transmit audio is too trebly. Clear but sharp. Just needs to get deeper somehow.
If nobody has heard you on the radio before they may not comment, but as all my testers confirmed it was not me and they did not like it. Need to try some other microphones and the mod listed below.
Cobra have released a fix for the 200 which involves adding a capacitor somewhere, but without a circuit diagram and a photo it would be impossible as none of the components on the board are marked. Impossible to find.
TECHNICAL SERVICE BULLETIN
MODEL(S): 150GTL, 200GTL
DESCRIPTION: Receiver overloads when receiving a strong signal, resulting in distorted audio. In addition there may be a warble in the modulation when transmitting (which the customer might describe as a popping sound during transmit).
ACTION: RF is bleeding into the receiver front-end. Apply the following fix:
For both the 150GTL and 200GTL, install a 1µF electrolytic capacitor across C607. (From C607 to ground)
Scrape to expose the circuit traces as indicated above. The large copper area is ground.
Solder the capacitor as shown. Be sure to observe polarity.
Put some glue under the capacitor so that it cannot move.
Some how or other Cobra have managed to make a radio that is actually less than the sum of the total parts. It grows on you like a wart.
It bugs you.. the big microphone, the poor audio reports, the round knobs that tell you nothing, the clarifier stuck between two other knobs and deciphering the dots on the channel selector to work out where in the in world you are today.
Its kind of like it was designed by a committee.
The workmanship is great but it was certainly not designed as an amateur rig even though it is being sold as such. It needs a better microphone and much better modulation. More watts we can get from anywhere but if it don’t sound good to start with it ain’t going nowhere
It is a 100W CB set.
No more no less.
And priced accordingly
A bargain for a CB’er but no amateurs and serious SSB’ers will touch it.
Even if Cobra sold this rig for a hundred dollars…until we can get that ‘telephone’ audio fixed it will be staying in the cupboard.
Come on Glen, lets see if you can make this thing come good without redesigning the entire audio department.
Dec 3rd 2005
tried this thing on air to go down 5k/c’son the slide. The counter is way off down there. 540 became 541.3 on the cobra. Something is seriously wrong here. That has pretty well killed it in my book. Audio acceptable until listener hears something else.