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Early DMR Experience Pretty Positive

early dmr experience

My early DMR experience has been pretty positive. Here’s a summary of my accomplishments during the first month.

My first realization using Digital Mobile Radio is the astounding quality of voices received from all corners of the planet. You should not be surprised by this, given how ham DMR networks work. But for those of us schooled in DX contacts on HF, we have never gotten used to hearing DX as if it was just next door. I am listening to hams in Asia, Europe, Israel, South Africa with amazing quality.

My initial setup links my handheld TYT MD-UV390 to either my hotspot or my local repeater. Currently, I have the hotspot connected to the BrandMeister network, which provides global connectivity to other hotspots and BM repeaters. At the same time, my handheld can access our local Calgary Amateur Radio Association DMR repeater, VE6RYC. This CARA repeater is on the DMR-MARC network, connected to many such repeaters around the world.

According to RadioID, there are close to 200,000 users worldwide running on over 8,000 repeaters. Perhaps 20,000 DMR users are also using hotspots like mine. All in all, you will find lots of hams to chat with.

My early DMR experience shows that audio has some digital artifacts, though. You will find many folks sound a bit like the late Steven Hawking, while others sound perfectly natural. So far, I have not figured out whether this is due to the quality of the radio or strength of signal. After all, each is using the same CODEC.

In case you are new to the subject, here is a basic introduction to DMR.

Early DMR Experience – Radio Configuration

To get started, I configured my radio with two zones. Zone 1 is called “Home” and is set up for use with my hotspot around the house on the BrandMeister network. Zone 2 is called “Calgary”. It contains access to my local DMR-MARC repeater as well as a few analog FM repeaters and simplex channels. I can switch between these zones with a simple click on a side button on the radio.

Each code plug that I have written is named and dated. I programmed the TYT to display the current codeplug ID on its screen during start-up.

One thing I have noted is a ton of activity on the worldwide and regional talk groups, but not enough use of local and regional TG. When you ask a contact to move to a less used talk group, it is a challenge to find one that both parties have programmed into their radios.

Anyway, everything works well and I am enjoying the learning process.


  1. Mike Lanoway says:

    Great work John, I have been keeping up with your posts on DMR and enjoying it very much since you are very much of a “pathfinder”. Nice to see you have it operational and are testing the local and international waters.

    I am sort of kicking around the can of ham radio and thinking about any next steps or interest areas. Pretty well decided that restoration and collecting old bones are past my time. In downsizing I sold all my VHF/UHF equipment and antennas and currently do not have any handhelds, mostly due to quiet activity here and commercial VHF mostly digital trunking technology.

    With the hotspot technology it eliminates any new antenna structures, plus I can still have analogue access to local VHF a great idea for condo living or those of us who are in bordering Calgary communities. Kinda chuckle when you look at the low cost to to experience quality voice communications world wide is amazing.

    Time to seriously think about DMR

    Cheers , Mike.

  2. Gareth - M5KVK says:

    John, you are spot on as regards talk groups.
    A couple of years go, I did an equipment review for RadCOM that involved a DMR radio (I don’t recall which one now). At that time I was completely new to DMR, as were many others, so I did a short explainer as I saw it as a newbie.
    My comment on the talk groups was that I felt they had been designed by an engineer (I.e. somebody like me) rather than a practicing ham. Somebody had seen how TGs there could be and thought up a way to use them all. I contrasted this to the approach adopted by “Network Radios” (an internet based equivalent). The latter set up a single channel (equivalent to a TG) and only set up more when the traffic or users demanded it.
    The excessive subdivision of the community on DMR has meant that, with the exception of the global TGs, and maybe some national or language-specific ones, very few TGs have a critical mass.
    73, Gareth

    • John VE6EY says:

      Hi Gareth, I agree. Hope it will sort itself out eventually. I think the CB folks had it easier with only 23/40 “channels”. 🙂

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