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Retevis RA89 10 Watt Waterproof VHF/UHF Handheld Review

For the last couple of months, I have been extensively using a pre-release model of the Retevis RA89 10 watt VHF/UHF handheld radio. Now that the radio is fully released to market, I figured it was time to write a review.


The RA89 is marketed as an IP68 rated rugged radio. The IP68 rating means that it will survive being submerged in fresh water up to 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes and is also dustproof. After the first few weeks of basic, everyday use, I decided to put the IP68 rating to an extreme torture test and put it in the Pacific Ocean surf, allowing it to tumble around in the sand and saltwater to see what happened. This type of test is well beyond what is expected by an IP68 rating and the radio survived just fine, even if it did take me a few days to get rid of all the salt and sand in every crevice. The video of this test is at the end of this post. This is a tough little radio; I have dropped it more than a few times on accident and it has survived the concrete, so far.

This radio follows the trend of other recent radios by incorporating a USB-C charging port, which I really like. Unlike another brand I recently reviewed, the RA89 will charge when connected to a PD port, even if it doesn't charge at max speed. In my opinion, this is well thought out because it allows you to use any typical USB-C charger or battery. The included 2500 mAh battery lasts a long time and is absolutely needed if you plan to transmit at full power for long periods of time.

Interesting Features

The Retevis RA89 covers all of the basic feature you find in similar radios, including frequency scanning, CTCSS and DCS scanning, PC programming, and FM radio functions. The radio has "dual watch", meaning it can monitor both A and B VFOs but it is not true dual receive; whichever VFO detects a signal first is the one that wins. It can also monitor for traffic while listening to the FM radio, which is nice. A recent firmware update added Mic Gain functionality which is very helpful. Interestingly, there is a RX DSP Noise Reduction feature which greatly reduces background noise on the incoming signal much like the type of functionality typically seen in HF rigs or DSP speakers. The NR feature is called "RX ENC" in the menu. Personally, I find it a bit too aggressive, but it is helpful under certain circumstances, especially longer range simplex operations. If you are going to use the noise reduction feature, you should probably turn off the Receive Saver (RX. SAV) because you tend to miss the first word or two of an incoming transmission. Unlike a lot of other radios in this price point, the antenna connects via a female SMA, similar to what is found in the Kenwood, Yaesu, or Icom radios. I prefer this because I can use other antennas that I already own, if desired. Lastly, the audio is LOUD, which is always a plus.

Transmit Power and Spectrum Analyzer Tests

As always, I tested the radio to see if it provides the advertised power output. The test setup is a fully charged battery fed into a Bird 43P with appropriate VHF and UHF 50 watt elements transmitting into a dummy load.


Both the VHF and UHF tests produced the same power output results: 9 watts on high, 5 watts on medium, and 2 watts on low power settings. Keep in mind that the Bird 43 has a full scale accuracy rating of +- 5%, so these test results indicate the radio delivers power output pretty close to as advertised.

Spec Analyzer tests are done using a TinySA Ultra by feeding the radio directly into the spec analyzer through an appropriate amount of attenuation to ensure the TinySA is not damaged. This is not exactly how the labs perform the tests for the FCC (they test using the supplied antenna in a fully RF quiet room), but it's still a decent way for us to test spectral purity.

Here's the 2m test; the transmit frequency is on the far left to easily show harmonics:


The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th harmonics are all significant, well above what would be considered acceptable by the FCC.

Here is the 440Mhz spec analyzer test:


These results look a little better but are still outside the FCC parameters. Retevis tells me that they are trying to obtain FCC certification for amateur radio service, so they're probably going to be forced to clean this up a bit if they're serious.

Overall, I'm happy with the performance of this radio. I've received no transmit audio complaints and other locals even think the goofy roger beep which can be turned on is "cute" :) It is certainly rugged and at a price point that is hard to beat. The programming cable and software provided worked flawlessly on my Windows 11 machine and CHIRP programming should be supported soon. The starting price of this 10 watt radio is currently $63 on Amazon; affiliate links are provided below if you're interested in purchasing.

Single Radio:

Single Radio with Mic:

2 Pack:

4 Pack:

Retevis RA89 IP68 handheld radio torture test

Retevis send me their new RA89 VHF/UHF 10 watt handheld which is IP68 rated to test out. Being near the Pacific Ocean, I promised them a good salt water test. I don't think they had THIS in mind :cool:. More on this new radio coming soon...

Retevis RT95 VHF/UHF Mobile Review

Retevis recently contacted me to review their RT95 VHF/UHF 25 watt mobile radio. Of course, I'm always up for playing with a new (to me) radio, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Here are my initial thoughts after using it for a few weeks.


First, this mobile radio really is pretty small in size, but the screen is large enough to read clearly. Overall dimensions are 4.75" wide x 6.5" deep (including heat sink and main knob) x 1.5" tall. While it is small, I still wish the face plate was detachable like others on the market, but that would probably drive the price up. The mic buttons are backlit and large enough to also read easily. One interesting feature is that you can switch the audio output to the main speaker (radio body or external) and the mic, or both at the same time. Audio output from the main radio unit is nice and LOUD. Unfortunately there is no mic gain function.


One of the best features of this radio is the ability to flip the display upside down to suit mounting in either position so you can hear the speaker. For example, if you want to mount it overhead, keep the display in the normal position. If you want to mount it on the dash, flip the screen to make the speaker face up. In the flipped position, the main body buttons will be upside down (of course), but that really doesn't matter and only takes a minute to get used to.


A nuance I discovered right away is that the 440Mhz frequency range for the U.S. model is wrong, limited to 430-440Mhz. This is easy to correct by unlocking the radio to the full 136-174 MHz and 400-490MHz range by following the simple instructions published by Retevis. While the radio has "dual watch" capabilities to monitor transmissions on either VFO, it is not a dual receive radio. For operators in small towns or rural areas, this may not be an issue, but if you want to use this radio in area where you monitor multiple frequencies, or have a need to duplex, you're out of luck. The top of the radio has a heat warning, and I can confirm that when you get long winded, the radio body gets hot to the touch. The heat sink is beefy, but putting this radio in a well-ventilated location should be considered necessary. Programming the radio with the supplied cable and a current version of CHIRP proved very painless, but make sure you choose the VOX model from the CHIRP radio list.

User Interface
Another really good feature is the 10 programmable buttons: P1 to P6 on the main unit, and PA through PD on the mic can all be set to pretty much whatever function you want. The main P1-P6 buttons can each have two functions set: one by default and another activated when the FUNC button is pressed. That's a total of 16 programmable buttons! The main knob also has a press function that may be needed on several of the programmed functions. For example, while turning on CTCSS or DCS, you press in on the main dial to select the tone or code. While using the radio, a quick press on the main dial changes frequency precision, used while changing frequencies. A long press on the main dial locks the radio from accidental changes.

Power Output
The RT95 is advertised as a 25 watt radio. To test this, I hooked it up to a Bird 43P and a dummy load with 50 watt elements for 100-250Mhz and 400-1000Mhz. With a power supply delivering 13.7 volts as measured by the radio, the following was observed: At 146.52Mhz, the high power setting resulted in 21 watts, medium setting produced 15 watts, and low power setting resulted in 4 watts. Changing to 444.5Mhz resulted in 20 watts, 13 watts, and 4.75 watts at each power setting.

Spectrum Analyzer Results
I hooked up the RT95 to a TinySA Ultra to observe the spectral purity on both bands. On each plot, markers have been placed at the major harmonics. Here's the first plot with a fundamental TX frequency at 146.52:


The results were a little better than I was expecting; both the 2nd and 3rd harmonic are below -50db. Keep in mind that the FCC specs for radios that transmit at these frequencies are -40db down and no more than 25 microwatts. So while the 3rd harmonic of the RT95 on 2 meters is -55db, if transmitting at 20 watts, it is still putting out 60 microwatts, which is well over the FCC requirement.

The spec analyzer plot for a fundamental 444.50Mhz transmissions produce similar results:

The Retevis RT95 is a small but rugged radio that will fit nicely in most vehicles. In my opinion, it is especially suited for offroad vehicles such as Jeeps, UTVs and the like. The loud volume and rotatable display will be appreciated by most. It has plenty of programmable channels and includes all of the basic radio functions you'd expect including scanning. The user programmable buttons are a very nice feature. If the radio had mic gain and true dual RX, it would be even better, but the current $125 price point makes this radio difficult to pass up.

The Retevis RT95 is available on Amazon

TIDRADIO TD-H8: FCC Approved 10 Watt Handheld Radio

Sometime in 2022, TIDRADIO contacted me about testing a beta version of a new 10 Watt VHF/UHF handheld they called the TD-H8. Of course, I can't turn down an offer like that, so I jumped on the opportunity and provided them with a variety of things to consider for the production model. Fast forward to June 2023, and I received an email from the manufacturer that the radio had been approved by the FCC for both GMRS and Amateur services and was now available if I would like to try out the new release. I've now owned the radio for about a week, and here my initial review.

The first thing the manufacturer told me is that the new model now has a USB-C charging port instead of the traditional drop-in charger. The USB-C port is actually on the battery and can be charged without being attached to the radio. The radio also comes with two batteries!


Because the USB-C port is part of the battery, it cannot be used for data transfer / programming the radio. But the upside is that you can keep the extra charging while using the radio. As expected, the LED indicator on the battery changes from red to green color once fully charged.

This radio is remarkably easy to use. I don't think I really even looked in the manual for any of the menu functions, although I messed with one or two to figure out what they did. The color screen is large and easy to read; the buttons and menu are well laid out. One very nice feature is that this radio comes with Bluetooth, although it currently is only for use with the ODMaster programming software. The BL button is used to turn bluetooth on/off.


ODMaster is the proprietary app for programming with bluetooth via your phone. The web version can be used to create & save radio profiles from your PC, but you must use the phone app to load them. A convenient feature of ODMaster is that it can use your location to list repeaters in your current area which can quickly be assigned to radio channels. You can also save the programming files and upload them so others can use or you can keep them private to your account. For a more feature rich programming experience such as import/export from CSV files, Chirp can be used with a typical Baofeng cable. Note that as of this writing, Chirp is a little buggy with the radio - the latest version changed the language to Chinese and I had to use ODMaster to correct it. One easter egg in the programming software is the Mic Gain function, which can be adjusted from 1-32. My locals said it sounded good at setting 20. There is currently no menu function on the radio for this feature.

The radio ships with a hand speaker/mic shaped like a miniature Motorola mic, two batteries, a standard antenna and longer high gain antenna, belt clip, lanyard and USB charger. The USB-C charging port works with any standard, 5V USB charger. The manual has a warning about trying to use a charger with higher voltage. I tried it on a PD USB-C port and it did nothing, but didn't damage the battery.


Power Output
Now comes the question that everyone is probably asking: "Does this handheld radio really put out 10 watts?" To find out, I used a Bird 43 Meter into a dummy load with a Bird 50C element for 100-250Mhz and a Coaxial Dynamics 82048 50 watt element rated for 400-1000 Mhz. Here are my test results:

For each Ham band, I tested at the band edges and the center for the frequencies the radio is rated for. There is a small amount variance across the band, but this is normal for most radios. In the middle of 2 meters, the Low setting yielded 2 watts; Medium resulted in 4 watts, and High produced 11 watts. In the middle of the 440 band, Low produced 3 watts, Medium was 6 watts, and High produced 10 watts. The radio certainly puts out the power advertised! Note, when the radio is GMRS mode, power is restricted to 2 watts and 4 watts for Low and High respectively.

GMRS vs. Ham vs. Unlocked Modes
The TD-H8 is FCC licensed for GMRS and Amateur use. To change the band and power restrictions for the appropriate service, you can either use the programming software on the company's website or use some special button combinations. The radio can also be completely unlocked, as well. To toggle the radio for each service from they keypad, first turn the radio off. For GMRS hold PTT + 0 while turning the radio on. For HAM, hold PTT + * while powering on. For completely unlocked, hold PTT + # while powering on. In each case, press the MENU button when prompted for the mode you want. Be advised that changing the service will wipe out all of your settings and programmed memories.

Splash Tests
I created a codeplug with the VHF Marine frequencies, as well as a few local repeaters that I knew I could hit while ocean fishing Los Angeles / Long Beach inshore. My friend has a 20' center console, so I took it with me to see if would hold up knowing it was going to get sprayed with salt water. First, the volume on this radio is LOUD and I had no problem hearing it over the motor while running 20-30 knots (although to be fair, new outboards are pretty quiet). I had the radio on my belt with the hand mic attached by my collar. The radio and mic got soaked because their was considerable wind chop, which caused a lot of spray while we were running between spots. But the radio never cared. I rinsed it with fresh water when I got home to clear any salt residue.

Last Thoughts
The IP65 rated radio comes with a few other nice to have features, including NOAA Weather channels, FM Broadcast capabilities, and built-in flashlight. The programmable soft buttons can be set for different functions for long press or short press. For $89.99, you're getting a heck of a powerful FCC approved handheld radio. This is now my favorite inexpensive VHF/UHF handheld.

P.S. If you're interested in seeing how this radio measures up on the Spec Analyzer, I've posted it here.

*edited with price correction
*edited to add Splash Test section
*edit to correct Amateur certification as of 7/10/23. Added link to Spec Analyzer results

Kenwood Announced new TH-D75A

Today at Hamvention 2023, Kenwood announced and is showing the new TH-D75A 2m/220/440 handheld radio.


Features are largely the same as the TH-D74, but the new radio adds built-in Digipeater capability for APRS, as well as a USB-C for data transfer and charging. Details are just emerging; price and release date are unknown at this point.

Ultra Portable operating in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

This past weekend my wife I and met our daughter and fiancée at a remote cabin campground up in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California near the town of North Fork and Bass Lake. The location is quite remote. I needed to pack light as I had to go from there to another city on a business trip, so I packed up the Elecraft KX2 with a couple of batteries and the Elecraft AX1 antenna, the AX2 antenna, and a couple of ground radials cut for 40, 20, and 10 meters. Here's a few pics:


Starting on 17m (the AX1 antenna has a switch for 20m and 17m), I found the propagation round table active and checked into the station running it out of Arkansas. We had no problem having a good QSO. The path was good between Arkansas and California but not between any of the other stations.

The location of this camp site is where the devastating Creek Fire of 2020 ravaged. The desolation is breath taking, but the new forest growth and snow on the peaks is beautiful at the same time. I checked 20 meters, but it wasn't happening so after a while I added the AX2 40 meter coil, changed the ground radial and had fun there:


7.178 is home to the 24x7 Filipino net on the U.S. West Coast and I check in there often because there are always lots of stations from all over the pacific and they are super friendly. Sure enough, with only a few watts, I was talking to stations all over central California in no time. I also dialed around and listened in for a while and even made a contact with one of my locals back home in SoCal.

This little ultra portable setup is really fun. When propagation cooperates, it's amazing what you can do with 10 watts or less and an extreme compromise antenna. The rig weighs nothing and the little 4 cell battery pack that fits inside or can also plugs into the external port lasts for hours. The little boom mic in the pic is from ebay. Now I'm off to the outskirts of Albuquerque with the same setup to see what I can do when I have some down time from work!

A 160 Meter Vertical Buddipole Antenna Experiment part 2

In Part 1 of this topic, I showed how I accomplished creating a 160 meter vertical using mostly Buddipole parts, although I ended up using a Chameleon shock cord extension and whip which I already had for the length above the load coils. For this segment, I acquired a cap hat from a local ham that has 3/8-24 threads for use in mobile or portable antennas. I believe the cap hat originated from Chameleon, but I'm not 100% sure.

I put the cap hat between the shock cord extension and the whip:

The immediate, expected effect was that the low SWR point moved down lower in the band than desired. So now I needed to re-tap the coils. The capacity hat made the tuning process easier as adjusting either coil became more forgiving than without the cap hat. Before, the process was super finicky trying to figure out which coil to adjust to achieve the lowest SWR, but with the cap hat I could adjust either to move the low SWR up and down the band. In the end, I found that the best combination was to leave the top coil tap in the original position and then adjust the lower coil tap for the desired frequency. I ended up taking coinly a couple of turns out of the lower coil, but the process was much easier and more forgiving to adjustments with the cap hat installed.


Here's the new SWR plot; 1.74:1 at 1.903 Mhz, which is just slightly better than before. It has just a hair wider bandwidth, about 10khz more under 3:1.


I also tried this antenna with only 1 load coil and the cap hat, but there just wasn't enough length in the antenna to get it resonant in the 160 meter band - it was closest around 2.2 Mhz. So, I had to go back to my original idea and use two of the low band coils. Now its' time to make some more contacts!

A 160 Meter Vertical Buddipole Antenna Experiment

I live in the Los Angeles metro area on a small lot but have wanted to try out 160 meters for years. I have considered building or constructing various types of antennas that will fit on the property and even purchased a coil loaded sloper that I was going to suspend from a palm tree in my back yard. The palm tree was taken out because it became a hazard to the power lines that run along the property border in the back yard, so that plan was gone with it.

I've had a deluxe Buddipole kit for years, which I use mainly while RV'ing in places that won't let you put up wires. Last year I was looking for my Buddipole low band coil for 80 and 40 meters and when I couldn't find it, I assumed that I loaned it to someone and never got it back. I ordered another and of course, promptly found the one I already had. This led me down a path trying to figure out what to do with two 80 meter Buddipole load coils...and the 160 meter Buddipole vertical experiment was born.

My idea was to stack the two coils to create a pseudo 160m coil. I stacked two arms on the versa-tee and then the two coils. Then I used a 12' MFJ telescoping whip on top of the coils. I ran a single 160m 1/4 wave (roughly) ground wire out around the property for counterpoise and hooked up the Buddipole Triple Ratio Switch Balun at the feedpoint using the 1:1 setting. Using a Rigexpert AA-600 was absolutely critical for helping me understand the tuning of this arrangement. I figure that stacking the two inductors might cause them to interact in unexpected ways, but was hoping that the proximity of the two would make them act more like one big coil. I was wrong about the latter.


Ultimately what I found is that I could adjust the lower coil tap to find the best SWR on the frequency I wanted, and then adjust the top coil to affect the SWR curve and bandwidth while making the SWR dip even more. I expected that the bandwidth for a low SWR on this band would be very narrow. Making small adjustments and then sweeping with the analyzer helped me quickly understand how to adjust and it wasn't long before I had something reasonable. Next I decided to replace the telescoping whip to get more metal in the air, so I took it off and put a Chameleon shock cord whip and extended base on top of the load coils to make the whip a total of 17' above the coil. I extended the Buddipole tripod up just a little bit to get the coils about roof eave height, but not so high that it would tip over. The antenna is sitting right outside my shack so the coax run is less than 20 feet.


A quick retune of the coils, a bit of shortening on the ground radial, and I got an SWR of 1.8:1 at 1.915 Mhz. The antenna is under 3:1 SWR between 1.860-1.945 Mhz.


The 160 meter band isn't that wide, so the tuner in the Elecraft K4D easily tunes up the antenna at any frequency I've attempted. With such a short coax run, the coax loss using the tuner in this manner is small. So the real question: Does it work? Yes! Obviously this not a very efficient antenna. The noise floor in the big city is HUGE. In the short time I've played with it at night, I haven't come across many strong SSB stations, but I've heard a few weak ones...I will continue to listen when I have time on the weekends to see if I can make some phone contacts. I decided to try some FT8 - there is quite a bit of activity there. Currently my 100 watt station is heard better by others than I can hear - likely due to the high noise and local interference. But I have made more contacts than I expected in North America.

Here's a screen shot of my transmit activity last night and the stations that heard me over the course of a couple of hours:


I'm not done experimenting with this antenna - a local ham is gifting me a Chameleon cap hat that I am going to integrate to see if I can eliminate the top coil. I will also experiment with different RX antennas while using the Buddipole as the TX antenna. When I started this journey, I googled around to see if anyone had come up with a way to use the Buddipole system on 160 meters and came up empty. I'm pretty happy that I was able to accomplish even this much, so stay tuned while I see what else I can do with this setup on 160 meters on a postage-stamp sized lot in the L.A. metro area!

Edit: See Part 2 where I add a capacity hat.

Ham Shack Rebuild

After almost 20 years, it was time to do some remodeling in the house, and I decided to include the Ham Shack / Office in the process. It took me forever to find a desk that is large enough to double as a home office and ham shack, but I finally found one and completely redid the ham/cb station. Here's a few pics!





Tower build out

After almost a year I'm finally motivated to move forward with my tower install. Below is a photo montage of the steps in the process.

tower install6.jpg

tower install4.jpgtower install5.jpg
Prepped and painted the tower

tower install7.jpg tower install8.jpg tower install9.jpg
Time for the hole digging.

tower install3.jpgtower install.jpg
Had the concrete delivered and placed right next to the hole.

tower install.jpeg

Tower has been planted thanks to the help of a few friends! The plan is to use a 4 element beam with a GP on top. I'll post updates as time goes on.