Getting Started in DMR
Getting started in DMR is a very easy task, and does not cost a lot of money. Like most new things, without some direction it can become very overwhelming. There are many options and products to choose from to get you into DMR. Some products can cost a lot of money, as others are inexpensive. I have developed this guide to help you in navigating your choices.
First thing First
You can think of DMR as a large network of radios and Talk Groups. Each radio needs to have a unique ID, you can think of this like an IP Address for your computer. Even before you get your first radio, I would recommend getting an ID as it can take up to 72 hours to get it.
To get your ID head over to the DMR-MARC website. If you click on the link, it will take you right to the Registration page. Read through the information on this page and scroll to the bottom and click on the User Registration button. This will take you to a page, filling the required information and submit the request. In a few days you will receive an email with your new DMR ID.
When it comes to Radios, there are lots to choose from. You can go with the inexpensive radios made in China, or you can go with the more expensive radios from Motorola. If you are trying to get started in a low cost way, then look a the China Radios, below I outline some radios to look at.
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The MD380 is a very affordable solution to get into DMR. It supports Tier II, which means it will work on both a Hotspot as will as a repeater. This radio is a UHF radio and works in both Analog and Digital modes. There is enough memory to store up to 1000 contacts. Programming is done with a CPS Software running on a Windows or MAC computer. For the entry prices this is a very good radio (Yes I own one). The firmware is upgradable using Ty’s Toolz, which i will talk about in another post.
This is the newest radio from Tytera. It is a dual band (VHF/UHF) DMR/FM radio. For most people getting started in DMR, it is more radio then you need. As a second radio or you live in an area that have both VHF and UHF repeaters, this may be the solution for you. Like it’s brother, the MD-380, it is programmed through a CPS Software and will store up to 1000 channels.
If you want to stay away from the China Radios, then this may be the radio for you. The Motorola SL300 UHF includes enough memory for 99 channels and has the ability to do both DMR and FM. Programming is done via a programming cable and CPS Software available from Motorola.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to radios, I have only listed a few choices. With some research you will find the right radio for you. If you are only going to use DMR in your car, you could go with a mobile radio as well.
Once you have your radio selected, you have to figure out how to get on to the DMR Network. If you have access to a DMR Repeater in your area then you will be ready to go. If you don’t have a repeater, then you will have to look at a Hotspot. A Hotspot is simply a device that is connected to the Internet and has a embedded transmitter. There are several choices when it comes to Hotspots and I will list a few below.
The DV4Mini is a USB Stick that will connect to a Windows, MAC, or Linux PC. Once you install the control panel and setup the software you can get on the air. This is a great entry level device to get you on DMR quickly and easy. The main down fall to this device is that it will only connect to reflectors and you have to have access to the Control Pannel to change reflectors. There is one reflector that gives you access to the BrandMeister network, but you will have to change talkgroups via the BrandMeister Extended Routing or third party software. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to get started, then this is a good choice. You can pick one up at Wireless Holdings.
The DVMega is a daughter board for the Raspberry PI or Blue Stack. This device will not work on it’s own. Once you plug this board in to one of the devices listed above, you will have direct access to the DMR Network. Unlike the DV4Mini the DVMega will allow you to change to different Talkgroups from your radio. You will need to setup and install a codeplug for your DMR radios. Codeplugs are beyond the scope of this post, and will be covered in another post. This device costs a little more then DV4Mini, but you will also have to add a Raspberry Pi or Blue Stack, which will increase the price even more. If you want more freedom, then this may be the device for you. Once you set it up you will not have to monitor any software and can be run headless on a Raspberry Pi.
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The Openspot from Shark RF is the most expensive, but gives you the most freedom in the Hotspot class. This is a standalone device and only needs an Ethernet Internet connection to get you on the air. To set it up, open a web browser on the same network as the Openspot, and point it to the Openspot. Adjust the required settings, and you are ready to go. As with the DVMega, talkgroups are controlled via your radio and there are a lot more features to this device. If you want to jump into DMR feet first, then this is the Hotspot for you.
Getting started in DMR can be fun and frustrating at the same time. My hope is that you found some useful information in this post to get you going in the right directions. There is a lot more information about DMR, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Look for other posts about setting up a codeplug or even getting your Hotspot on the Air.
Until next time