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Yaesu VX-8R, sign of VHF handhelds to come?

Yaesu_VX-8R

I recently spoke with Standard Horizon VP Jason Kennedy, mostly about the HX850s cracked case issue which I commented on today (and which has become a Sailing Anarchy thread). But we also discussed the future of GPS/VHF handhelds, a future that’s especially rosy as the HX850s is selling well beyond Standard’s projections. When I asked what’s possible, Jason suggested that I check out the Yaesu VX-8R, a new amateur radio handheld which comes from a sister division. I did look at the brochures and manual available at that Yaesu site and, while the button labels above suggest what a complex beast this HAM set is, the obvious potential for a related marine VHF product is…wow…

The VX-8R is a tiny waterproof handheld that contains two wide band receivers and a 5W transmitter, as well as an integrated APRS data modem and temp/baro sensors. And, as shown below, it can be accessorized with a variety of Bluetooth headsets (including a stereo model that would be neat with the FM stereo reception possible) and a GPS receiver (labeled “1”) that can attach either directly to the case or to an optional wired mic. The basic unit has a street price of about $400. APRS, incidentally, is the Automatic Packet Reporting System that some boating HAMs use to make their vessel movements available to friends and family. I don’t know a lot about it, but figure that if Vertex Standard can fit that technology into the ultra-compact Yaesu VX-8R, then Standard Horizon can make an ultra-compact DSC VHF with all or most of the same features. If it thinks there’s a market (?).

Yaesu VX-8R diagram

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher since 4/12/2005, and now excited to have Ben Stein as a very able colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

8 Responses

  1. Microship says:

    I carry Yaesu’s earlier VX-6R everywhere I go… it is definitely the rig of choice for the harsh environment of sailing/kayaking, and lives in my shoulder pack along with wallet and camera.
    Integrated APRS is nice (and already available in a couple of Kenwood models, though not waterproof), and I am glad to see this product family growing. The tiny VX-2R is also waterproof and very easily pocketable… would be nice to see a marine VHF that size.
    (I use the combination of VX-6R and VX-2R for the “back door” user interface to my boat’s server, querying with DTMF and getting synthesized speech responses. The radios can maintain a link and let me know if they are out of range… cool stuff.)
    But the holy grail is probably more a regulatory headache than anything. There is no good reason, technically, why marine VHF can’t be integrated… the ham units already receive it (channelized), but transmitting there requires a hack that opens transmit to out-of-band (and potentially illegal) operation. It always bugs me to have to carry both this and the equally excellent Icom M72, when their functions are nearly equivalent. But the potential for abuse is probably too high for this to ever happen.
    Cheers and 73,
    Steve
    N4RVE

  2. Russ says:

    Let’s see, dual receivers, 5W transmitter, packetized data and a street price of $400. I guess the integral GPS required by an AIS unit must add about $600 – $5,000 to the cost…

  3. westsail42 says:

    Yaesu has been the king of rugged handheld miniaturinzation. Great to see APRS and Bluetooth. If they entered the marine market, they could give ICOM some stiff competition.

  4. Russ says:

    Yaesu is in the marine market. They have 3 brands in the US:
    Yaesu = Amateur
    Vertex Standard = Land mobile
    Standard Horizon = Marine
    Check the top right of the home page for any of those brands.

  5. alanspicertelecom says:

    Happy New Year Ben!
    I own a Yaesu VX-6R and carry it with me a lot of times. I’ve broken the original belt clip plus a swivel one that I bought online. Too much crawling into helm console compartments and getting in and out of the work truck I guess.
    The programming took a little to get used to, and I still have to peek at the manual once in awhile – as it’s always stuffed full of vhf, 220, and uhf ham repeaters and other stuff. I like the fact that I can switch over and listen to marine VHF when I’m working on or around yachts.
    The VX-8 seems to come with the capability to operate on two bands simultaneously – something some of their mobile rigs can do… I remember doing cross-band repeater with the mobile I used to have, where you can have it receive – say on VHF and re-transmit that out on the other band – say UHF. With a couple of compatible handheld radios – it makes a heck of camp site repeater that you can activate on-the-fly.
    The ham radio versions … obviously a lot more complicated to use and program than marine radios. Not counting what your dealer had to do to program any particular radio. But most marine crew don’t go flipping around on frequencies and programming frequencies as much as a ham radio operator would.
    The VFO that you see on the screen on the pictures of the VX-8R is Variable Frequency Oscillator… which means it’s down on the “dial” where you can step tune around in a frequency range, rather than being on a Memory “channel”.
    I might be interested in that radio as a purchase this year, don’t know what I’ll do with the VX-6R though if I get it.
    It’s interesting how many of the technologies available are the same or very similar as used in Ham Radio and Marine Applications. A lot of boating people are ham radio operators. Often they are more advanced users of SSB radios as well being that some SSB gear can be used on both marine and Ham SSB frequencies.
    No doubt as users demand it the technologies will eventually cross over. We hope anyway
    73 de KA4UDX

  6. Jacob says:

    Can I send and receive on the Marine Channels with the Yaesu VX-8R?

  7. S Hamons says:

    Jacob,
    To answer your requestion about whether or not you can send and receive marine channels on the Yaesu VX-8R.
    The answer is yes and no. Technically, with a simple modification that is found all over the Internet, you can enable the ability to transmit on marine channels. Out of the box, without any modifications, the radio will receive marine channels.
    There is one technical challenge of doing this mod. Although the mod itself is simple, if you go into the “Marine Band” function of the VX-8, you will not be able to key up the microphone. What you have to do is go in and program the various marine channels into a memory location and recall that memory location (or scan it) to be able to transmit on that frequency. It isn’t difficult to do, I was able to make the change on my radio and enter in the marine channels manually, including labeling them all in about an hour (I don’t have the software to do it with a PC).
    Now, to the legal aspects of this. The VX-8 is not “Type Accepted” by the FCC for marine band operation. That is why it is so difficult to get the radio to transmit on those frequencies. I live out in the bush of Alaska, and there are very few amateur operators out here, but everyone has a marine radio on their boat. I did the mod so that I could get someone on the air if I were ever stranded. However, I don’t use my VX-8 to talk on marine channels on a regular basis. I do have it setup to scan channel 16 along with our local amateur repeaters in the area, and I have returned calls from boaters who ran out of gas in my local area to let them know I would either offer help or call someone for them. I have never heard any comments about bad transmission quality or anything like that from the boaters I have spoken to (but I doubt they would say anything to the guy who is offering them a tow).
    I would hope that anyone wishing to purchase this unit would go ahead and take the very simple Technician Class amateur radio exam and get their amateur license. My wife did it with about 8 hours of studying, so it isn’t hard. This would open up a whole new world of communications for the operator, and you would have access to the marine channels that you want to monitor as well. I would like to reiterate that I would be cautious about using the radio to transmit on marine frequencies routinely. I don’t think anyone would say anything about “emergency” use (take the test and you will understand why), but routine use is another story. No point in risking equipment confiscation for doing it…especially in RF dense areas around the lower 48.

  8. Peter Allwood says:

    Hi all. As a pilot and also a British Radio Ham, does anyone know how to mod the Yaesu VX-8 to transmit on the air ands?
    Regards Peter

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