Call me biased if you like, but after playing around with the Emporer TS5010, a Ranger 6900, an S-45HP, a magnum 257, a superstar 3900 clone, an S-9, a realistic HTX 100, a president 2600 and an AR3300 recently none of them work as well on the freeband as the OPTIMA. It is not because the radio sounds better or hears better than any of the others because these things are subjective despite what the instruments tell you. Some people will like the way a radio sounds and some won’t. With the OPTIMA it is how it can be used on the freeband. This is where it shines.
It is really user friendly. I will start with the default step of 5khz. With all the other radios the default step is 10khz with options of 1khz, 100khz and sometimes 100hz. Either way when you want to flick thru the freeband…..that area between 27.405 mhz and say 27.855, (basically 40 channels above the normal 40) it is going to take you two runs to check it all because freeband uses 5khz spacing. And in some cases we have people splitting those frequencies as well; working for example on 27.477mhz. With the OPTIMA you can just step up the band checking all the channels as you go in 5khz steps. (or 1khz if you want but it takes a lot of clicking) The magnums are similar but you have to first go up in 10khz steps checking the frequencies ending in 5khz then pull a frequency out of memory ending in a zero (27.500 mhz) and then step through again checking the frequencies ending in zero. After a while this gets to be cumbersome…A tip for those with OPTIMA’s or Magnum S-45’s and 257’s Albrechts etc is to load the memory with frequencies ending in a 2 or a 7 so you can quickly scan up through the mid channel frequencies too. The Optima only needs a 2 or a 7 not both as it will hit them both due to the 5khz step. Magnums and albrechts also need to have a frequency ending in zero so those can be quickly accessed also. I am presuming everybody will load 27.555 USB into memory first. The Optima has the added bonus of being able to scan just the memories..this is very handy as the normal scan will spend a lot of time scanning the entire range of 24.5 to 29.995mhz !!! (a waste of a function. it needs to further defined as to the scan edges….perhaps the scan should be between memories 1 and 2 for example?) Memory scan is Func then button 4. One big advantage with the way the memories in the OPTIMA and Magnums work is that when a memory is accessed the mode it was saved with, remains. Try that with the president’s, Emperor’s and I think the Ranger’s. Those radios have the mode on a switch so this cannot be overridden by the memory recall. So with the OPTIMA when we scan the memories of 27.355 LSB, 27.385 LSB, 27.555USB, 28.490 USB and 27515 LSB the correct mode is scanned along with the frequency. The other radios would remain in the mode that was set by the rotary mode control. And thats not all…with the OPTIMA and Magnums etc, when the memory is selected we are ready to go..we can move up and down from there as we want. I was not able to do this with the Emperor. I was stuck in Memory mode. The VFO didn’t work till I backed out of memory mode and ended up where I started from. I use the memories in the Optima to take me around the bands, 24.950 to 28490, check the FM on 29.600 and then back to the freeband 27.555. Easy. Fast. The optima can also step in 1mhz jumps. The other radios step too but usually in banks of 40 or 50ch rather than 1mhz. The emperor and the presidents and Ranger 29XX series can scan in 100hz, 1khz and 10khz. The Optima and magnum’s can not scan in 100hz but I think the new versions of the magnum and Albrecht will have this function to go with the sixth digit they will bring or have brought out. I would like to see a 6th and 7th digit on the OPTIMA controlled by the clarifier in a similar manner to the Anytone and their clones. Working split. The OPTIMA can work split anywhere with a split of 5khz to 995khz. Plus or minus. And the split and offset can be saved in memory. Magnums and Albrechts can only work split in the 10m or 12m bands. Not sure about the ranger 29XX. I need to get one and play with it. On the subject of a ranger 2950…how can the online stores in the USA (No Names!) sell them for US$250.00 and the 2970 for US$375 while the biggest online shop in Australia based in Sydney sells the 2950 for A$995 and the 2970 for A$1299. The Aussi dollar is worth a little more than the US$ at the moment too. What is going on down under? They did list them as a special order….”Special numbnuts of the month order” if you buy them down under when it only costs US$100 max. to DHL/Fedex/UPS a radio from the US to Australia. Maybe that’s why the US is going down the tubes these days!! They aint charging enough! And here we are giving away the OPTIMA for US$375 including shipping to just about anywhere…..I have not mentioned the additional filter on the optima…To be honest I hardly use it. I find it easier to back off the RF gain to about 2 or 3 oclock! it takes too long to engage the filter with the 3 second push of the clarifier knob but I did hear the filter has been moved to its own switch and will deploy immediately on the new models of Optima. The fan on the heat sink…the radio runs cool no matter what you do to it. When you live in the tropics with 90′ F ambient temperature this is paramount. We can’t run the magnums with their RX-75 final brick here without a fan or they will cook. How can anyone in their right mind expect a heatsink of that size to disperse the heat generated to produce 60-70w? They only rate them at 20w FM. The optima does 50W FM and 50w PEP on SSB and it doesn’t cook! it is small, it is light and makes a great portable rig. Its got mic gain, rf gain and variable power on all modes. No SWR function so don’t forget your meter! I prefer to have a high SWR indicator, either a warning light of buzzer than the added complexity of an internal meter on a mobile “export” radio because most of us keep the meter in the RF mode to read the received signal strength all the time anyway…If something goes wrong with the antenna while you are transmitting chances are you won’t know till the finals burn out. A warning indicator will at least let you know that things are not right regardless of the meter setting. The other radios are back in the cupboard. The OPTIMA is still the optimum freeband radio in my book!
here is some thing to think about ..what would happen if Yaesu, kenwood or Icom decided to bring out a small 10-12m rig with all their goodies..IF shift, DSP, pre amp, attenuator, a bucket full of memories, scans, splits, VFO’s etc etc..I am sure they could do it and it wouldn’t be expensive as they have all that technology in house ready to go.
I even have a name for it; they could call it the “FREEBANDER” I reckon they would sell bunch of them! I would buy a few for sure!