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Who makes the good Cobra 148 GTL?

Discussion in 'CB and Export Equipment and Accessories' started by CroMagnum, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. CroMagnum

    CroMagnum Member

    Dec 6, 2010
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    You have to excuse me because I've been out of the scene for a few decades.

    I think I'd like to get a Cobra 148 GTL to play around with - peak & tune, add some mods, etc. Obviously I'm looking at the old side-mike units.

    It seems like everyone favors the radios made in the Philippines, but you hardly ever find those for sale. And some sources say the Taiwanese are good, but Malaysian are junk, and others vice versa.

    So can someone clue me in on where the good ones were made? And which ones had Uniden or RCI boards? Which are best to mod? Which to avoid?


  2. Toll_Free

    Toll_Free Active Member

    Jul 28, 2006
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    The good ones say Cobra on them.

    Honestly, the old ones (the ones everyone wants) are so old now cold solder joints, old capacitors failing, etc. that they aren't all their cracked up to be.

    Pick up a 148. They are all the same. They all do the same watts, within 4 or 5, they all slide the same (for the most part, if it's a competent tech), and they have the same issues.

    You might find some have a few different parts as availability changed (ie, the MB3756, MB8719 / RCI8719), but they can all be made to do pretty much all the same.

    Incidentally, I have two radios with the RCI plls in them. Never had a problem, never did a thing different to mod them.

    Some people just like to sell the stock of used radios they have.

  3. loosecannon

    loosecannon Sr. Member

    Mar 9, 2006
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    i think it depends on what type of hobbyist you are.

    if you have the know how, and like to do all your own repair/refurb work; then a taiwan model (oldest, ca. 1980-ish) is fine for you.

    if you just want to be able to plug it in and use it, the philippine models (ca. 1992-ish) might be more reliable simply because of its age.

    i am a big fan of these radios and my favorites are the Taiwan models.

    why? because i think people cared about CB radio back then. the components used were better made in my opinion, and the boards used really thick copper on the foil side. (i just recently learned how important that is in the overall quality of a radio's receive)
    they are sturdy as all heck, and for some reason i cant explain; the noise blankers work amazingly. better than any newer 148 ive personally seen.

    yes, they are are old. about 30 years old by now, and that means some components are near the end of their life span.

    that doesnt bother me, as i like doing this type of work. i just remove all the old electrolytic capacitors, replace them with brand new ones, upgrade a few other components, give them an alignment, and they operate like brand new radios.
    well, better, but thats just my opinion. LOL
  4. 9C1Driver

    9C1Driver Sr. Member

    Aug 13, 2008
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    Some of the best ever Cobra radio's were built by Uniden years ago. The not so good Cobras were the Soundcrappers.... er I mean soundtrackers. I would stay clear of the brand new version of the 148 as well.
    Roachman likes this.
  5. jazzsinger

    jazzsinger Bullshit Buster

    Jul 3, 2008
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    As you can imagine being in the uk i haven't had a lot of experience with the US 40 ch version 148, but i have had a fair bit of experience with the equivalent export chassis pc879/pb010 (and other similar export chassis) both taiwan and philippine (uniden) made and also a fair bit of experience on chinese/malaysian (mainly rci but some uniden jacksons from china too) modern day clones of that chassis.

    i found both the philippine and taiwan made radios to be excellent quality with little too choose between them (maybe a slight edge in favour of the early taiwanese ones), the modern versions sometimes don't have the same quality control but when they work there's very little to choose between them and the originals either, so i doubt very much the US versions will be much different in that respect.

    as Toll Free says the differences are minor and mainly reflect parts unavailability, in my experience most peoples favourites come down more to nostalgia than actual measureable performance differences.

    here in the UK the cobra 148 gtl dx mk2 holds cult status yet the superstar 360 fm is often overlooked, despite the fact they are identical inside, built in the same factory, the only difference is the faceplate stuck to the bezel. i think that proves nostalgia plays a far bigger sway than measureable differences. in the modern clones they had to change a couple of circuits to allow more bands which i believe plays a part in people saying they drift more,

    another thing they upgraded was the regulator circuit, which means they tend to be run at higher power levels (usually higher than they should be as they didn't upgrade the final), which in turn means more internal heat which i also believe adds to the drifting, bottom line is a little drift is a small price to pay for the extra bands. they also swing a bit more which also adds to the drift.

    one thing that may have given a slight edge to the early ones was uniden used inhouse filters, obviously the clones can't as they are made by different people. but in everyday use i doubt its even noticeable.

    the very latest cobras if they are anything like the 200 gtl dx i would avoid like the plague. From what 9C1driver is saying that sounds like the case as they are neither built by uniden or rci anymore.

    as LC says if your handy with radios then just about any of them can be made to perform, if your not then I would agree sticking to more recent versions (ca 1990's) may be a better/safer bet. age and retards messing with them are their biggest enemies, especially the latter.

    as for modding them, when it comes to extra frequencies they are all basically the same, the most you might have to do is swop out an mb8734/rci 8719 (not sure about that one,Toll Free would know more than me on that score) for an mb 8719 to get them to mod fully. the other option would be to convert them using an mc145106p although its not a straightforward conversion. there will be more modern methods too using eproms and pic microcontrollers.

    Here in the uk my experience is most of the techs slagging any of these chassis off are the least technically proficient, although i suspect some do it to devalue them so they can buy them cheap later (just my personal opinion). like LC and Toll Free, i'd be happy to own any of them, a bit of tlc and they can all shine brightly.
  6. Low_Boy

    Low_Boy Active Member

    Jan 21, 2010
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    My guess would be any of the side Mic. versions. Taiwan,Philippines or Malaysian. The chassis seem to be built better. Strong Aluminum with brass screw inserts. When you compare all of them to a new China made I think you can see the difference.
  7. psycho

    psycho Running a special on our rooms!

    Aug 25, 2006
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    The side mic phillipine and malaysia 148s are the best. The side mic Taiwan made 148s perform the same but have a history of dried up electrolytic caps......much more so than the other 2. Anyone who states the malaysian made 148s are the worst clearly has no experience with Cobra 148s.
    The 148s with the front mics suck. The Texas Ranger 296s are rebadged Malaysian Cobra 148s that are excellent radios to invest in.
    SIX-SHOOTER likes this.
  8. radiohobby

    radiohobby Active Member

    Dec 21, 2010
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    I guess Taiwan made the first ones, that is what I have and I bought it new way back then. It has worked great for me all these years and still talking on it today with great long range local and dx.
    I say just get any side mic version without any concern for where it was built. The oldest ones have a white power connector in the radio and all the rest are black. So if a concern about dried out caps is a concern then those would be the ones to avoid, mine is white and so far no problems and still getting good sounding radio complements.
    I have bought 4 of them off ebay for friends and only one that has had to be fixed was the newest one of the whole lot. It had no receive on SSB, found a bad transistor and now ok.
    Needless to say this is my favorite radio. Every time I get one for someone I want to keep it. I always try to get the ones that don't have mods because you never what kind of condition one of those might be in.
    If you happen to get one with a sticky meter there is a very small screw on the meter that you get at from the pcb side of the chassis to free it up, you just turn it ever so slightly and flex the meter and problem solved.
    Good luck with your choice.
  9. Eastside

    Eastside Well-Known Member

    Apr 29, 2011
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  10. TonyV225

    TonyV225 W9WDX Amateur Radio Club Member

    Apr 18, 2005
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    Yes the philippines models were certainly of the better track records as far as holding out. Ive worked on a few of thoses soundtrackers and they are (terrible)!! I am sure like anything else there are some soundtrackers that hold or have held up but for the most part stay away from the soundtracker models.

    Also alot depends on if the radios had work done and what was done and importantly (who did the work) I can also tell you from owning a few that some ofe the Cobra 148F models were something to be desired aswell and one should also take caution when looking at these models.

    I have to say from reading reviews that one of the best bang for the buck 11 Meter /CB radios on the market is the Galaxy 959 and Im not into 11 Meter radios really but if I bought one Ide love to play with a 959. These radios are solid on SSB which is a must for me. They also seem to hold up well. Yes again Im sire there are some lemons of this model floating around or better yet (on someones junk pile) but I can say from what Ive read for the most part their a great radio.

    All in all unless you can find an older Cobra 148GTL that has not been beat to $h!+ then chances are you just may be purchasing a potential headache. As mentioned this will change on who you talk to because some may have only seen or owned one model and either it was great or trouble free or again it was a headache and thats what their basing their thoughts or review or thoughts on. I guess like anything its also LUCK OF THE DRAW.
  11. psycho

    psycho Running a special on our rooms!

    Aug 25, 2006
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    I like the term Soundcrappers. The truth no doubt about it.
  12. Robb

    Robb Yup

    Dec 18, 2008
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    DEFINITELY stay clear of the 'SoundTracker' model!

    They will work until they break - which is often. Don't even attempt to push this radio beyond its limits if you are attempting to tune them up beyond the modulation and ALC specs. SSB tends not to work very well. AM is just passable.
  13. Superidgit

    Superidgit Active Member

    May 24, 2011
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    Not trying to be an ass here. However if you are going to modify the radio, aren't you the one thats gonna build it?

    I like loosecannons idea if you are the one that is gonna be doing the mods and repairs.

    As far as the SoundTracker, My expirence with ST has been you can only benifit from this add-on is to talk with someone that has the same ST on their radio. However that being said I have owned several Cobra 29's and 25's with ST. Eventually I would get someone that told me I was making a nasty squeal when keyed up or trying to talk. I always simply removed C118 from the ST board. I don't know if this will be the same for the 148.
  14. roadrage

    roadrage Active Member

    Aug 3, 2011
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    I have a Philippines model Uniden pc76 that I really liked and I have a new Cobra 29. Both are good performing radios. Will that new Cobra be talking 30years from now? It sounds funny to even ask that question out loud. I have serious doubts about it.
    Longevity wise, I would pay if someone could show me anything that is built as durable today as yesteryear. Nothing is built to last these days.
  15. 5711

    5711 Member

    Nov 14, 2011
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    Original units are actually from the mid-1970's

    The original 148GTL was actually introduced in the mid-1970's. Yes, they have a white power connector and side 5-pin mic connector. My grandfather left me a nicely modified one when he died in 1978....I'm guessing it was at least several years old by then, so likely one of the first built. Maybe we can dig him up and re-constitute him so we can ask...ha ha. It's made in Taiwan. S/N: 83003217

    Has a slider switch coordinated with 4 different color LED's in the meter so you know where you are sitting based upon the color. Unit covers from ~26.4 Mhz up to ~28.2 Mhz. Has the open clairifier mod, so voicelock adjusts both transmit and receive frequency. No internal power mods (it's legal output), as a separate 75/150/225 watt linear amp takes care of that when working winter DX on the SSB (above ch 40, but below 28 Mhz)

    Yes, the electrolytic caps will go dry and need replaced someday, but no problems with my rig yet. Nevertheless, replacing the caps is worthwhile to restore a rig with such build quality. Hell, my computer motherboard I'm using to send this message had all new caps soldered on several years ago, and that's a lot more disposable than a vintage 148GTL.

    Unsure about quality of the later Cobra units, but the earliest ones like mine were awesome.

    Since I use my 148GTL as a base station, I wish there was an easy mod to convert to a standard 4-pin mic jack so I can use a nice base mic, I hate that 5-pin mic design. Any tips????

    Coupled with an automatic antenna tuner (I run an LDG Electronics AT-11) set up for remote-tune (where the tuner sits in a box right under the antenna), a good SSB frequency counter (I run an Optoelectronics SSB-220), plus a few watts of heat into a simple ground-independent half-wave big-stick vertical antenna, and that old 148GTL will kick one hell of a signal in skip conditions! My farthest hit from here near Cleveland, Ohio is over to Macedonia in eastern Europe! We have antenna restrictions here, so the big-stick mounted at ground level is all I can get away with.

    Overall, I would re-solder all the electrolytic caps any day to have another one of these oldest units!

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