DRAGON SS-485H is Back

Dragon SS-485H

Dragon SS-485H

The Dragon SS-485H has been around in Australia for many years now and is a well respected little workhorse punching well above it’s weight. It was one of the first full SMD boards and one of the smaller SSB rigs of its day. Easily modified to work on 10m and expandable from 25 to 29mhz. In the 10m mode it also had split and repeater offset capabilities which were not shared in the expanded CB mode. 5 memories and a relatively easy to learn menu system made the original Dragon and “clones” a firm favorite in the car and at home.

But it had a few drawbacks. Remove the DC for more than a day and all your memories were gone and the radios were back to default was probably my pet hate. The steps would only step around 10khz in a circle. Couldn’t slide far in the 1khz step and it was an effort to get into the zeros from the fives. But it worked well and seldom messed up until Magnum started playing with the finals and substituted their 70w PEP final with no forced air cooling.

This new version shares a lot with the old one but it has a lot of new stuff too. I fiddled about with it for a little while, so probably have not found everything yet. It now includes the 12m ham band and I believe you can disconnect the power for a few days and not loose all the memories. Have not had it long enough to confirm this myself. I set it into code 3 which best suits the way I want to operate. Expanded mode just the frequency and no 40ch read out, with all the bells and whistles and 30w PEP or 40ch US with the channel read out and 12w PEP.  One button push to switch between them. It has a lot more in the menu system: Settings for various countries, CB bands, Ham bands only option and several expanded options. The mic gain and RF gain controls are now in the menu but easy to get to from Button 4 when required. Power and squelch controls have been separated and the power rotary control is now down where the mic/RF gain used to be. No more dual pots. The buttons all seem pretty much the same ..Got a memory scan now which is cool. Still only 5 memories. Function still works by pushing in the clarifier knob. Display size is the same, but now features an array of selectable colours ‘ala Anytone’ and the 6th digit that everybody has been asking for but which doesn’t really achieve a lot cos it is not a counter and the clarifier control has no effect on it. But it is there. The font seems to have changed. I don’t like it as much but what the heck. The S meter LED bar graph has more graduations so you can see S7 now instead of S5 or S9. It has a roger beep! In the menu so out of the way, and a TOT timer. Who uses a TOT timer? The mic is nice and big and still has the little pot in the mic to reduce or increase the audio. 6 pin mic plug and electret cartridge.

.Dragon 485H Mic

Dragon 485H Mic

Dragon 485H Mic

On air reports. Have not had long enough to really put it through its paces and to see if it also exhibits similar AGC characteristics as the Anytones. I suspect it might after seeing the display colours, roger beep and TOT timer in the menu! Hope I will be proven wrong! I did note that the volume was not easy to adjust with the external speaker. It was either too loud or too soft..Doesn’t seem very linear. From ‘too soft’ to ‘too loud’ in the first 10% of the rotation. Received audio was good and from all reports both near and far the transmit audio was also clear and punchy. The step control is limited in its coverage except in the default 10khz step when it can go from 24.710 to 29,965 in continuous 10khz steps. Bear in mind we are talking CODE 3 here and things may not be the same in one of the other modes. In CODE 3 you can switch between the expanded mode with all the goodies turned on and the 40ch CB mode. Yes we have another ‘export’ radio that has split ability in 27mhz. Pretty neat, but 12 watts max in the CB mode too! A long press of the ch9/19 button toggles between the modes. The heat sink did get a little warm after some long QSO’s at 30w. Nothing much to worry about..the heatsinks are quite substantial.

How to sum it up?

Dragon 485H purple Dragon 485H yellow Dragon 485 mainboard Dragon 485H Final

…Its pretty nice, easy to use, familiar for many, comfortable for most …..and it isn’t an Anytone!!

But it ain’t no MK3 Optima killer either! Not by a long shot.

It is now a few days on and the memories did stay with the power off. Good. Another thing I did not add was that each mode stores and keeps its own frequencies. In the past we could jump into the expanded mode if we had an expanded mode frequency in memory. Not any more. So the 5 memories programmed in for the CB band stayed, but were replaced by the 5 different memories we saved for the expanded mode. always have a memory saved ending in zeros for the expanded mode so you do not have to rotate the selector thru 10 500hz clicks to shift up 5khz. The lack of step option is a pain. Stepping in 500hz is a pain. No 1khz step is a pain. No 5khz step is a pain. Why don’t they do it right? I guess if they did not have the step in 500hz then it would be useless to have the digit there in the first place, but a better idea would be to have a 100hz step. The clarifier is RX only. It would be nice to have a couple of options re the use of the clarifier. Not a deal breaker but useful. Sounds beautiful in FM and Am but the small heat sink on rear got too hot to hold my hand on in a short period. The regulator or the audio chip I guess. It is nice, leave the rf gain and mic gain wound up full in the menu. I am using a blue screen which is pleasant on the eyes. There are a few choices: None, Red, Deep Blue, Purple, Green, soft Yellow, Soft Cyan, White.   5, 6, and 7 are my preferences,  soft Yellow, Soft Cyan and White. Red and Deep blue too dark and green a bit sickly somehow…The ability to turn the lighting off is probably useful..though I can’t think of any use for it yet and Red is great in the dark if you don’t want to loose your night vision.

Its pretty nice. Nicer receive than the anytones. I wont say they are any more sensitive than the anytones cos the anytones are too sensitive with a yagi antenna.  No issues with AGC so far, but with most CB radios the recived audio gets beat up a little bit by strong signals. But it is not too bad. Still it could have been better…Maybe Magnum will will do it right if they reintroduce the 257 again. But if they try to put a 70w final in a heatsink the size of a matchbox its going to mess up again. Whats wrong with 40W.? Or better still the 357 with the remote PA. And don’t forget the fan this time.! And take out the TOT and give us a little clock instead.

More usage. Receive is a little noisy. Have had to leave the RF gain backed off a little and have had to back off the mic gain 1 point for local QSO’s. Small heatsink for the audio chip heats up in AM and FM modes but not in SSB. I don’t think it sounds as good as the earlier versions on receive but it is no worse than any other CB radio currently available ie Anytones! Its OK but gets fiddly to use unless you keep everything you want in the memories.

Ham Modes. Just like Code 3 except nothing outside the ham bands. No extra goodies so no point in not using code 3 unless you really really do not want to monitor 27mhz to see what is going on. Or if you live in Australia.

Changing the mode involves opening the case and shorting a couple of pins while turning on the radio. Select the code you require and turn the radio off and it will apply the selected code when the radio is turned on again. Select code 3 and you should not have to open the radio again.

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