Friday, 2 September 2016

Review - Yaesu VR120D

I've had my 120D for a few days now and honestly, I am not that impressed. It has some nice features for a low cost receiver but there are some obvious flaws in the programming. Also there are features lacking that I feel are necessary in a scanning receiver. Here is my review.

When I first opened the box the first thing that impressed me was the VR-120s construction. While the radio is all plastic, it is the hard, rugged plastic. The size is also impressive, being smaller than most other scanners I have owned / seen. I loaded it up with 2AA batteries, put the antenna on [which is not all that easy until you read the instructions on how to do it] and fired it up. The antenna requires a good firm pinch around its base when putting it on the radio, otherwise the BNC connector slips within the rubber antenna casing, preventing you from locking it in place. The 120D does not include a rechargeable battery pack standard so you have to use normal AA size batteries; I personally use a pair of 2000mAh NiMH rechargeable and these seem to last a while.

As you scroll through the memories, you will notice that Yaesu has pre-programmed several shortwave frequencies, like BBC, VOA, etc. This is nice for the first time shortwave listener because you will immediately have something interesting to listen to. I have personally deleted all of these from my 120D.

Next I manually tuned a few Air band and 000 service frequencies. The first thing I noticed is the audio is a bit quieter then what I am use to but given how small the radio is, it could not be any larger really. Sensitivity seems comparable to my other scanners although the 120D seems to pick up more stray noise than do my other receivers, I found that the 160mhz – 162mhz band to be really bad, even when I was away from high power transmissions. Unfortunately the 120D does not have a tone decoder so you will have to deal with the noises. Using the built in attenuator may help. The audio output of the 120Dis the lowest of my handheld receivers. This is to be expected, as the 120Dhas only an 80mW audio amplifier! The audio is nice and clear but expect lots of distortion when you turn the volume up.

Next I tried programming some of the memories. This was a fairly simple process. The 120D allows you to label each memory with a 6 character alpha tag. Once you do this, the alpha tag will display rather than the frequency. This is the default and you cannot change it. You can press the mode button when stopped on a memory to view the frequency but the minute you turn the VFO, the display reverts to alpha. If you make a mistake programming a frequency, you must reprogram it from scratch. You cannot modify a setting in the memory and save the changes. For example, I was programming some channels and found that I had left it set to AM instead of FM, I had to delete the channels and reprogram them, I could not just change the setting and write them back.

Another issue I have with the programming is that you cannot lockout or skip memories. You can select  the banks you wish to scan, but you cannot lockout or skip an individual memory. This is odd, since the 120D lets you set frequencies to skip during a band scan. On the plus side, you can set preferred memories and scan only those memories using a preferred scan.

One neat feature of the radio is you can select to use the earphone cord as an antenna for FM reception if you choose. You can also select either the whip antenna or internal bar antenna for AM broadcast reception. The bar worked better but not by much.

Another interesting feature of the 120Dis the channel counter. You can [supposedly] set the radio to measure the frequency of a nearby radio transmitter without knowing the frequency in advance. This is a quote from the manual. First, you must know what band the transmitter is on because the 120Dwill only search +/- 100MHz (default is 50MHz). At the 50MHz setting, it took over 30 sec. for the 120D to [incorrectly] determine the frequency of my UHF CB radio. This is not a very useful feature in my mind. I tried this feature two more times and got it to work once of the 3 times. It still took over 30 sec. though.

The 120D is an entry level wide-band receiver. The receiver is OK for casual listening. Sensitivity is good but the 120D does not do a very good job of rejecting unwanted signals. Audio output is low. Some features of the 120D are simple to use, while others are daunting. If you get stuck, there is no quick reference card and the manual is not much help. Scanning flexibility is extremely limited although the radio does have 10 banks of 64 channels each. Programming the radio is tedious and time consuming. If this is going to be your primary receiver, spend a little more and buy something better. If you are looking for a small, low cost backup receiver or one to throw in the car as I was, the 120D will do the job.

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