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COBRA 148 GTL Review

Discussion in 'CB and Export Equipment and Accessories' started by Robb, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. Robb

    Robb Yup

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    Cobra 148 GTL with CR-577 mic
    [​IMG]

    The Legend...

    This radio has been a standard 'go to' radio of CB fans for decades. It has left a permanent mark on the minds of beginner radio operators and veterans alike. I can still remember hearing a Cobra 148 that left an impression on me back when I first got into CB's in the early 1980's. The guys who owned and operated these radios were the 'big dogs' of the airways. And sideband - aka 'SSB' - was their kennel.



    Early in the 80's, I would go over to my friends house and listen to the DX banter chattering away on the 148. With just an external speaker, an Astatic D104 desk mic, and a decent antenna the audio received and transmitted was remarkable. I was amazed this little radio was capable of so much for just a mobile radio. One thinks of Cobra 2000GTL's as a bona fide base station. But this radio gave all of the 'base radios' a run for the money - and often won or at least matched performance tit for tat. Mobile operators using this rig were also top dogs when they teamed it with just a small linear amplifier and the right antenna and mic. It seemed that its reign could not be stopped nor matched. Even when being resold after years of use, they always demanded a high price and were hard to get. No one wanted to part with their trusted 148...


    [​IMG]
    (Editors note: These photos were taken under low-light conditions. The front panel is a bright brushed aluminum color - like the pictures on the box)


    Them changes

    Originally built by Uniden and sold under the Cobra name, this radio had a 5 pin mic plug that was mounted on the left side of the radio - not on the front as you see pictured here. The move to the front of the radio was inspired by cost-cutting and by those who used it in a tight-fitting mobile application. But between these two points in time, a LOT has changed under the hood. Today, it is a mere shadow of its former self, since Uniden and Cobra had problems on agreeing for the cost of manufacture and production. Uniden hasn't built Cobra radios for the last decade or longer.

    These radios can still be modified as past radios have. The scuttle among radio techs and forum gurus will reveal a weakness being built into these Cobras in the last few years. Which leaves this radio as a sore spot for those who sought it out for its stable and desirable SSB performance. The change from the 5 pin regulator that supplies voltage for SSB operation has been swapped out for a cheaper 3 pin version. Which has been detrimental to SSB stability and performance. This has become common knowledge to the gurus of radio and passed on. AM performance isn't lacking, but when one pays for a AM/SSB radio that will function on both levels, it is less than one paid for and would expect. It is clearly not what I would expect from Cobra when one considers their past. On USB, it was on frequency. On LSB, it was off a little bit. It was tuned by Cobra for this review. So it might have been out of adjustment slightly. But just not as strong when modulating on SSB as they used to. The true strengths of this radio has been a sensitive receive and strong modulation on AM and SSB.


    The Box - front and back
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    The Front Panel

    Little has changed dimensionally on this rig.
    The front panel has seen a number of button functions both come and go.

    The same controls for the most part are the same as past 148's have. The Noise Blanketer/Automatic Noise limiter ("NB/ANL") still works well. When shut off, any car that drives past my station will upset my receive until I turn it on. It does this fairly well - with only a minimal effect on the incoming/receive audio. No better or worse than any other radio that has the same function switch.

    With the stock mic, the PA functions works fine. I seldom - if ever - use this function. For that matter, I seldom use the stock Cobra mics. I have a small box full of them and give them away upon request or include one with a radio that I might sell to make the sale complete. So do may other people that buy Cobra radios. However, these radios respond exceptionally well to Astatic D104 mics - a classic combo.

    The SWR meter matched up with the same results as my Dosy meter did. It was pretty accurate in that regard. The receive meter was also spot-on, as was the SSB and AM output/transmit readings. I have always liked this kind of analog meters on the Cobras; easy and clear to read and fairly accurate if adjusted properly.

    The radio has the regular gaggle of knobs: Volume, Squelch, RF Gain, SWR adjust, Dynamike, and Voicelock (or 'clarifier'). They all work smoothly and function as expected. The clarifier - is of course - 'locked' and will not transmit alongside the receive when clarifying. Oh; when will the FCC change this stupid and useless rule? ANS: when enough people make a big enough fuss about it to their representatives. It has always been up to the people. Trying to get radio operators to agree on any one thing in large groups is like trying to herd cats...

    They have added a 'Dim/Normal/Bright' switch on the far right side next to the channel selector. Perfect location if one was to modify for a variable power knob - if one was so inclined. The tone selector switch would also be great to use for upper/normal/lower frequency selector if one was to modify its frequency ranges. I ran the tone switch in the 'Hi' position using an external speaker preferring that setting. Otherwise, the 'Med' or 'Low' tone position was just too muffled for my ears. Note: Modilfying CB radios is against FCC regulations.



    Rear panel
    [​IMG]


    This is only a test...

    Since I cannot hear how well the radio is transmitting, I had three locals that I trust to make the test evaluations - Russ 222, Brian WR264, and Roger 238 (all members of this forum). As well as WR000, an unexpected help from South San Francisco - some fifty miles away. I only ran the stock mic for less than two minutes on AM, and previously ran it on SSB for five minutes. I used the RF Limited CR-577 mic and an Astatic D104/TUP9 for the rest of the remaining time. The stock mic is fine on SSB; but is less than desirable on AM mode.

    After testing the radio for both AM, USB and LSB performance, they all agreed - unanimously - that from a scale of 0 to 10 it deserved a 7. The common complaint is that it was off frequency on SSB mode, and only improved slightly after thirty minutes of constant conversation back and forth. WR000 in SF said the same thing as well; although he could hear me with only 1 S-units in that distance. Not bad - when one considers a ~50 mile distance with LOTYS of urban sprawl in between! The AM performance was adequate and clear modulation was noted when using the CR-577 mic. This mic also improved SSB performance substantially as well. Perhaps if they included a Cobra power mic with this radio it would help them get more interest.

    As well as receive goes; well that is another story. It is still a strong point on this radio. I can envision the receive modification making it even better that it does presently. The receive audio is still one of the best - as surprising as it may be to some who dislike this radio - I must be honest about what my ears tell me.


    [​IMG]


    In Conclusion...

    I would have to say that Cobra must see the need to improve the SSB capacity of this radio. They need to make it right in order to compete with Ranger and Galaxy radios in the same CB class. These radios all share the same price bracket and do not suffer from SSB maladies as the Cobra did. The Cobra 148 GTL is at an distinct disadvantage for this very reason.

    For a first buy radio - or if it was a gift for a first time radio user, they will probably be happy with it on AM. I did use a D104 on it on AM and SSB, and it sounded OK with the crew who helped me evaluate the radio (thanks guys!) But on SSB, it won't take long before they hear complaints from other radio operators that cannot receive them - for being off frequency and just a little bit squirrely/weak/unclear sounding. I didn't unlock the clarifier for this review, but I was curious to see how it would perform with this modification. Maybe in the near future I will venture under the covers and give it a try. But the receive was nice - that is so.

    Based upon those that helped evaluate this radio from their stations and what I can hear in this radio's receive, I would have to give it 3 1/2 stars out of a possible five. What is the point in buying this radio for the SSB function if it cannot measure up to the rest in its peer group of similar radios? Fix it please, Cobra. Put another $1.00 of the right materials where it counts the most. We want what the original Cobra 148 GTL can do. Other than that, the rest of the radio is fine.

    To change this pervasive attitude twards this radio by the CB community at large, Cobra will need to make it a strong modulating radio once again. It is not beyond the realm of possibility. Perhaps it is because it has been so modified and adapted by so many that Cobra had to build limitations to keep its true potential muzzled by request from the FCC. That is pure speculation on my part - of course. One thing is for certain, that radio enthusiasts will still try to make it work as before. Or Cobra can spend a little and make it a "top dog" once again.

    *This radio was provided by the mfr to the writer for the explicit purpose of review*
    #1
  2. "It was tuned by Cobra for this review"

    so they knew it was gonna be review and still couldnt make the damn thing work like its supposed to .
    good luck to anyone buying a regular off the shelf one that wasnt picked out to tune up for a review .

    thanks for the effort robb ;)
    #2
  3. IMD262

    IMD262 Well-Known Member

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    Who is building cobra now?
    #3
  4. Robb

    Robb Yup

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    All in all, it isn't a terrible radio. It just doesn't measure up to its CB competitors that have SSB. It didn't measure up to its past - and my Cobra 148/5 pin that I still have. It was just 'OK'. The recieve was nice tho - that helped its score. If the receive was weak, average, or lacking - I would have given it a 3 or worse..
    #4
  5. Switch Kit

    Switch Kit Active Member

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    Hmmmm , well , Cobra sent it to him , cool. Anyway , IM guessing from the label that this radio is possibley a 2008 model , Here tell once again that the newer models from late 2009 to now are being made slightly better , that's what I said , slightly better. But there's alot of old stock out there for now.

    Here tell they have changed a few parts here and there to stabilize ssb for the better. Now why wouldn't Cobra (or whomever) send you a new one ? ........anyway , a good tech can stabilize the worse of them. Bill Good could ,but it would cost you a little. And no , they are not as good as the R.O.C./Philly/Malay .......hopefully these newer models will prove the point and be as decent as I heard they were. Time will tell.

    So if one might decide to buy one ? look at the date on the box or the radio for a 09/10.
    #5
  6. Shockwave

    Shockwave Sr. Member

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    You guys didn't have to go any further then the back label of that 148 GTL to figure out how it would stack up. When was the last time you ever heard of a production operation being moved to China and still have the quality remain intact? Based on every experience I have seen, this is not even remotely possible.

    I would be interested to measure the no load versus full load voltages on the input and output of that 3 terminal regulator. I've had very good luck with the stability of the LM7808 series of regulators. Many times not being able to measure a tenth of a volt drop between no load and 1 amp.

    Without confirming an output voltage change on this regulator I would be more inclined to suspect some type of RF is getting back into the transmitter or even the regulator itself. Was the voltage confirmed to be changing? Can we put a scope on it and see if there may be any abnormal levels of RF present on SSB audio peaks?
    #6
  7. Switch Kit

    Switch Kit Active Member

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    This is what was explained to me SW , that the newer ones I have spoke of have done something with that regulator to stabilize it better , or changed it to something else. I honestly don't know about this Robb 148 because it looks like a 08 model , IM no tech , but the tech I deal with pretty much commented on what you just said. So there is hope for these "newer" manufactured 148s ....... ((((((I've had very good luck with the stability of the LM7808 series of regulators. Many times not being able to measure a tenth of a volt drop between no load and 1 amp.)))))) ..........Well SW , What's not made in China ? we buy the parts , design the boards and they slap them together.......if the design and parts were right for them to work with , don't you think they would get it right the first time ? You can't blame the Chinese for doing what there told.........or can you ?

    Remember the older models and the AM regulator going out on those ? Was that the chinese fault as well ? I believe the designers called for that. There is also a chance IM just missing your point on this ? They were originally made in China in the first place , I guess after they went from 23 to 40 channels , the Japanese wanted more money to make them so they went to China instead ? My point is this , I don't blame whoever is making them I blame those that are putting up the cash and design to have them made.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2010
    #7
  8. Robb

    Robb Yup

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    Well, I hope that is true Switch Kit and Shockwave. These were always fine radios that have fond memories for me. If they have already straightened the regulator problem out, that is certainly a positive step in the right direction - IMO...
    #8
  9. since the radio was tuned by cobra for this review , why in the world would they use an old radio from 2 years ago ? if they had fixed the problem wouldnt it have been very much to their benefit to use a newer version radio that worked properly instead of a (alegedly) bigger screwup from a few years ago that doesnt ?

    no matter how you slice it , these front mic 148's are not something you should buy for yourself or somebody else (if you like them) . they should also not be considered anywhere near the equal of the older side mic 148's/grants .

    cobra is living off their brand name . IMO with their multiple versions of the 200 and 150 that they just dont have the ability anymore to make a solid radio these days . it also seems they dont have the ability to update one of the very finest radios ever made without screwing it up . and then they cant even take one of them and set it up to be reviewed and have it work properly .
    #9
    1 person likes this.
  10. loosecannon

    loosecannon break on through

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    Robb, if you wouldnt mind taking the covers off that radio and taking a few closeup pics of the PC board, im sure many would like to see that.

    im curious as to what driver and final transistors are in this radio?
    what AM regulator (TR41)?

    where the power connector connects to the PC board, is there any ferrite or coils on the positive and negative leads?

    is there still an 11.3258 crystal in this radio?
    how big is it?

    im sure there are other things that folks would like to know about, but those
    are the biggies to me.
    LC
    #10
  11. Switch Kit

    Switch Kit Active Member

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    we who have been in this hobby long enough already know the older 5 pin versions are superior over these newer versions. It's just good to know that the newest of these 148's are better then they were and there's hope on the horizon for this old classic.

    I thought there was still even better hope a few years back with the Cobra 150's and 200's , seems to me that they just couldn't get it right and they have since been discontinued. :oops: I hope the new Magnum's that will be coming out doing 350 watts out of the box will pass the test of time. ;)
    #11
  12. mackmobile43

    mackmobile43 Jock Supporter

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    The five pin connector went the way of the dinosaur as did Cobras initiative to carry overhead thus using it's evolved brain capacity for figuring out how to make as much money as possible without putting it's monies up front.

    For the sake of argument Cobra is Uniden and Toshiba and only a figurehead in the loosest of terms.

    ...............................................................................................

    The history of Cobra


    Address:
    6500 West Cortland Street
    Chicago, Illinois 60635
    U.S.A.

    Telephone: (312) 889-8870
    Fax: (312) 889-1678


    Statistics:
    Public Company
    Incorporated: 1961 as Dynascan Inc.
    Employees: 239
    Sales: $82.1 million
    Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
    SICs: 3661 Telephone and Telegraph Apparatus; 3825 Instruments to Measure Electricity; 3663 Radio and TV Communications Equipment; 3651 Household Audio and Video Equipment


    Company History: Cobra Electronics Corporation designs and markets consumer electronics products like cordless telephones, telephone answering machines, citizen band radios, and car stereos. Its products are built to specification by manufacturers in East Asia.
    Cobra was founded as Dynascan in 1961 by electronics engineer Carl Korn, who served as president, and Samuel Horberg, who became chief financial officer. The two had worked together in the electronics field since 1947, and they had formed another company in 1954. Dynascan initially sold electronic testing equipment like oscilloscopes and television testing equipment. It soon added a limited range of remote-controlled materials handling tools under the brand name Telemotive. They were used to operate cranes used for mining, construction, and shipping.
    The U.S. government delegated radio spectrum for a citizens band in 1958, and in 1963 Dynascan took advantage of the new market by bringing out its first citizens band radio. CBs were still an obscure medium, used by some hobbyists and truckers. Dynascan initially manufactured its own CB radios but switched to importing lower-priced models manufactured by two Japanese companies, Toshiba and Uniden, in 1971, around the time CBs became more popular with a wider public. Dynascan's Cobra brand CB radios caught on, propelling the company to sales from sales of $13.8 million in 1973 to sales of $102 million in 1976, with gross profits of $15 million.
    Part of the popularity of CB radios proved to be a fad, however. And just as the fad was fading, the Federal Communications Commission abruptly increased the number of channels CBs could use to 40 from 23. Overnight, 23-channel CB radios became obsolete, and Dynascan was caught with a large inventory that no one wanted. A large number of other CB manufacturers suffered from the same conditions and several went out of business. But Dynascan sold its inventory through dealer promotions and could rely on earnings from its other equipment and tools to carry it through the crisis.
    The firm moved to lessen its dependence on CBs. It introduced a line of sound products for cars that included speakers, amplifiers, stereos, and cartridge and cassette players. Dynascan's engineers designed these products after thorough market research. The products were then manufactured in East Asia. The firm's products had a good reputation and were considered a higher-quality option to lower-priced competing products like the Radio Shack and Realistic lines manufactured by Tandy. The firm sold its Cobra products via a two-step distribution network composed of 90 wholesale distributors who in turn sold to 10,000 local outlets. The Cobra line of audio products accounted for 74 percent of 1977 revenues; the other 26 percent came from the firm's industrial products.
    In 1979 Dynascan introduced another important product: cordless telephones. Like CB radios, they were still something of a novelty item when the firm introduced them, but demand soon exploded. Dynascan aggressively sought market share for its Cobra telephones and earned $17 million in 1983 on sales of $173 million. In four years the firm's stock rose to 35 from 3.5, making it worth $165 million.
    Once again the fad came to an end. Cordless telephone sales in the United States plunged from $850 million in 1983 to $325 million in 1984. Once again caught with a large inventory, Dynascan lost $31 million in 1984. The firm had to borrow large amounts of money to remain solvent. It postponed raises and froze hiring for six months.
    As a result of these boom and bust cycles, Korn rethought the firm's priorities and decided to focus on merchandising rather than manufacturing. Because it imported products from Asian manufacturers, the company's investment lay in inventory and receivables rather than the high fixed costs of owning a factory. Korn forced out the firm's president, Frank DiLeo, and in April 1985 replaced him with Jerry Kalov, a turnaround specialist who was signed to a ten-year contract. Kalov had already saved the speaker company JBL Inc. in the 1970s as well as the stereo maker Jensen International Inc. Dynascan began a three-year plan geared toward profits rather than sales volume.
    When another of its products caught on, this time the Cobra radar detector, Dynascan refused to overextend itself. Kalov was unwilling to invest too much of the firm's capital in inventory, even if it meant passing up some sales. Rather than emphasizing total sales, the firm'management began pushing all of its product lines, giving it a broader base and, it hoped, less vulnerability to business cycles. Cordless telephone sales began increasing again, and Cobra had become the leading brand of CB radio. The firm was also manufacturing telephone-answering machines and corded telephones. It ended its losses in 1985 and made a small profit the following year.
    Dynascan began placing more emphasis on creating new products. In October 1986, it introduced a line a line of high-frequency radio scanners that enabled users to listen to radio bands used by the police. It also began producing some of its phones with decorator colors, responding to consumer demand for more choices. Neither of these introductions cost very much because they were extensions of existing products.
    By the end of 1986, Dynascan had experienced seven consecutive quarters of stronger profits. It had $20 million of debt and working capital of $47 million. Feeling that it had successfully turned around its own consumer electronics operation, Dynascan decided to do the same for companies with similar businesses. In late 1986, it bought 51 percent of Marantz Co., a manufacturer of high-quality audio and video equipment based near Los Angeles, for about $15 million. Although its products were well known and respected, Marantz had lost $1.6 million in 1985 on sales of $50 million and hadn't made a profit in five years. Like Dynascan, Marantz ordered its products to specification from manufacturers in the Far East.
    In 1987 and 1988, Dynascan worked to expand its lines of telephones and answering machines, feeling it had a tiny percentage of a huge market. The firm used an in-house sales staff but also used independent manufacturers' representatives to market its products to retail outlets like catalog showrooms and electronics stores. A line of precision test and measuring equipment was sold to electronics distributors for use by schools, electronic service technicians, and electronics firms. It monitored its suppliers via a subsidiary, Dynascan AK, and had buying offices in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
    Continuing its attempts to expand, in 1988 Dynascan bought Lloyd's Electronics, a money-losing manufacturer of low-end clocks and portable stereos based in New Jersey.
    With consumer electronics increasingly competitive, Dynascan began stressing its own research and development. Around 1985, the firm was spending about 1.5 percent of sales on R&D, or $2.18 million per year. The firm had not been known as an inventor, usually copying the technology of others and adding a few innovations. But in 1988, the firm introduced the first cordless answering machine, which proved popular with consumers and retailers. It then introduced the first cordless telephone that did not require an exterior antenna. Competitors asserted that the Intenna, which used a built-in antenna, would suffer from poor reception, but Dynascan initially had trouble meeting demand for the popular phone. With a price under $100, the Intenna also got Dynascan into the discount distribution network that its high-end cordless phones had prevented it from entering.
    These successes were tempered by losses. Though 1988 sales rose 12 percent to $213.8 million, income fell ten percent to $7.2 million because Lloyd's and Marantz continued to lose money. Lloyd's proved difficult to turn around. For not much more money, consumers could buy name-brand products like Sony, and Lloyd's continued to be unprofitable. Dynascan introduced a new Marantz line in 1989 aimed at the high end of the market. Called Century, the new line won approval from the trade press, but, with some components costing over $1,000, it proved too expensive for Marantz's dealer base. As a result, Marantz continued to lose money. Finally, in October 1990, Dynascan announced it was selling Marantz to Dutch electronics conglomerate Philips N.V. for $8 million.
    The early 1990s was a difficult time for Dynascan. Revenue shrunk, and the firm lost money four years in a row, losing $5.7 million in 1992 on sales of $117.7 million, for example. In 1992, Kalov became president, and he began cutting costs by shrinking the corporate staff by one-third and shutting down the firm's Tokyo office. He also moved the firm's products into corporate phone centers, the Fingerhut and Spiegel catalogs, and home shopping networks, which brought higher profit margins and fewer product returns. Many Cobra products, such as a cordless telephone that used a scrambler to give users privacy, required explanations to make consumers understand their benefits. Consumers did not receive such explanations while shopping in the aisles of discount stores, and so they either failed to buy the product or returned it later. In 1993, to emphasize its successful lines of Cobra products, the firm changed its name to Cobra Electronics Corp. In 1994, Cobra expanded its retail presence by signing an agreement to sell its Cobra line through Sears, Roebuck and Co. stores.
    In 1994 the struggling company hired Stephen M. Yanklowitz as chief operating officer in hopes of turning itself around. Yanklowitz had no background in the consumer electronics industry. Instead, he was hired for his marketing skills. As executive vice-president of Western Publishing he had marketed children's books and software. He had also served as the president of a firm that marketed porcelain and china sculptures, and as general manager of the Crayola products division of Hallmark Cards, where he added new products to the line.
    Yanklowitz's arrival beefed up the firm's marketing muscle and gave Kalov more time to work on expanding Cobra's product line. Kalov visited defense contractors, looking for technologies with applications in the home electronics market. Some of the more advanced technologies used in cordless phones had their origins in military communications.
    "We're a little company and we can't afford to develop this stuff in our back room," Kalov told Crain's Chicago Business in September 1994. "We've got to get hold of some of these emerging technologies in other ways."
    Cobra continued to reshape its management to strengthen its new emphasis on marketing. In 1994, Charles Stott, who had a background in product development, became the firm's new vice-president of operations. John Pohl, an experienced consumer-marketing executive, became vice-president of marketing in early 1995.
    New products included two radios geared toward car travelers needing inexpensive communications for emergencies, as well as new CB radios that automatically alerted drivers to predicted weather emergencies. The CBs signaled users to tune into National Weather Service channels whenever it sent out an alert signal. To better stay in touch with consumers, the firm expanded its customer-service hotline, which received 400,000 calls in 1994. Cobra also began using focus groups and quantitative market research. It began plans to expand its consumer advertising and promotions, direct-marketing programs, and point-of-purchase techniques.
    The firm was profitable the first two quarters of 1994, but, largely because of problems with product availability, it lost money the following two quarters and had a loss of $1.5 million for 1994. Sales volume declined because of Cobra's switch from low-margin, high-volume distribution. Also due to this switch, the firm redesigned old products and introduced new ones more quickly than in the past, causing some problems with the firm's contract manufacturers.
    #12
  13. hotrod

    hotrod Well-Known Member

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    nice review there robb.i think cobra/uniden should should join up
    and make a very good ssb mobile to compete with the texas ranger fd1
    a excellent base to compete with the galaxy 2547.and a complete
    overhaul of the cobra 200 10 meter.back in the day when uniden
    built ssb radios they were the best of the best.and imho
    that kinda performance wont ever be matched again .unless
    they let uniden make them then just maybe
    #13
  14. Robb

    Robb Yup

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    Uniden hasn't made any SSB radios for years either.
    It's hard to say if they would be any better or worse. Thing is, Cobra can still get the 148 right like they used to.

    They sent me a radio that looks like a refurb - which is fine. I didn't notice the date of mfr on the radio they sent me until someone else pointed it out. LOL!

    I'm going to open it up sometime this week and unlock the clarifier. Also, I will check the VFO and TX settings at the same time...

    I'll take some pictures of the inside of the radio and get the info on the finals and reg numbers for LC too...
    Anyone have a link to unlock the clarifier on this newer model of the 148?
    Maybe a dual final ERF2030 and the receive mod - if I can make it happen.
    #14
  15. IMD262

    IMD262 Well-Known Member

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    I thought Copper Electronics was sending you the radio for review?
    #15


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