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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Alinco DR-638 Part 90 Dual Band Mobile Help


Reviews Summary for Alinco DR-638 Part 90 Dual Band Mobile
Reviews: 2 Average rating: 4.0/5 MSRP: $360-399 at various dealers
Description: Part 90 Approved 136-174 and 400-480 TX/RX Good for LMR / Ham combination use.
Product is in production.
More info: http://
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You can write your own review of the Alinco DR-638 Part 90 Dual Band Mobile.

N9JIG Rating: 4/5 Feb 25, 2016 07:42 Send this review to a friend
Decent dual band with Part 90  Time owned: more than 12 months
After the recent death of my trusty old Alinco DR-635 I had planned on getting another one. I liked the size of the remote head and how sensitive the radio is. It also had a great sounding TX audio according to those I communicated with.

While scouting prices on Universal’s website I came across the then-new Alinco DR-638. This looks very similar to the DR-635 but was reported as Part 90 accepted. Thus it was listed as full TX from 400-480 and 136-174 MHz. Receive range is wider, with AM Aircraft and 220 covered.

I know a lot of people would mod their dual band ham rigs so they could get full TX in these bands and that the 635 was popular in some areas since it would work on part of the T-Band when most rigs stopped at 470. The problem is that it was not legal and the radios did not always work well out of band.

Now here comes the Alinco 638, which is legal on these bands but still retains the ham functionality of a VFO and direct frequency entry. Alas, GMRS users, it is not Part 95 approved, so while it works just fine on GMRS it is not technically legal there.

Since the radio was so new there is not a lot to read about it. Google searches showed 2 of the first 3 links as my various inquiries recently. I wanted to know if the 638 would work with my old 635 remote kit (it won’t I found out later) and if it would support full access to frequency programming, at least in the ham bands and receive (it does, and then some…).

So, after approval from the head office (AKA wife) I ordered the radio, the remote kit and programming cable from Universal. All in it was under $450, the radio itself is only $360. The radio was ordered on a Wednesday and arrived at my office on that Friday. The programming cable and remote kit were back-ordered, they arrived a week or so later. I later bought the RT Systems software for the 638.

When I first took it out of the box I checked how the head was connected to the radio, turns out it uses standard RJ45 8-pin Ethernet style connections. The 635 had used a 6 pin phone style modular connector. This should make life easier for those wanting to do some custom installs.

I also noticed that the mic was larger and heavier. Later I discovered that there is a speaker in the mic to hear the radio traffic (very cool). This will come in handy when driving with the windows down or other high noise situations, just hold the mic up to your ear and voila!

I brought the radio home and connected it to a power supply and antenna. The radio came to life and I started playing. I popped in a local 2M repeater and it worked fine. I then popped in a few from further distances and realized that, like the 635, the 638 was very sensitive. I then tuned into the 162 MHz. weather channels and received stations on all 7. I realized that the sensitivity of this radio was better than the R8500 I borrowed the antenna from. I then tried things on the AM aircraft band and was similarly impressed.

Without the programming cable and software I can see that programming anything other than a few standard offset repeaters and simplex channels is going to be a challenge. It can be done without a computer but I haven’t really done much except for a few channels. With over 700 various memory channels one wouldn’t want to rely solely on panel programming anyway.

Programming is done via the mic jack instead of the speaker jack as the 635. This could account for the extra pins needed for the remote head. This also makes it simpler to connect to for installations in which the back of the radio is in a cabinet or otherwise difficult to access.

Some of the features that the radio has according to the brochure and manual include DTMF, 2-Tone and 5-Tone signaling, Ignition Sense wiring, 4 power levels (5-10-25-50 watts, 40 on UHF), VV and UU modes, Crossband repeat and a color-selectable display.

For me this radio will replace 3 in my car, the dead DR-635 and the VHF and UHF Motorola's used for work channels before I retired. I had VHF and UHF LMR radios as well as the 635, and on UHF I needed to be able to use 470-476 T-Band. Now I can do all of this in one radio. While it may not have the selectivity one comes to expect from a Motorola, nor MDC ANI it seems to be a worthy replacement for me.

If you need a low cost, analog only radio for VHF, UHF or both and want to be able to do LMR and ham in the same radio the DR-635 might well be an option for you. I would hesitate to recommend it to a city dweller do to the lack of selectivity, but in suburban and rural locales it works great.

I had purchased my old DR-635 because the head was pretty small and would fit well in my wife's car, the 638 is the same size and will work well in the CR-V I drove after downsizing from a van. I have since reinstalled it in my Pilot. With this I was still able access my work channels as needed and still play on 2M and 440. The VV/UU function allows me to customize my listening. I like to use my dual bander while railfanning to listen to 2M and the local road channel, this works great for that.

With the oodles of memory I can program in a ton of channels and set it up for various uses.

I bought mine from Universal in July 2014. I am very happy with the service and pricing from Universal and have bought from them several times before and will again many times in the future.

I have no business interest in Universal or Alinco and paid catalog price for this radio.

When this review was first written in August 2014 I had only used the radio briefly, I have since had it for over a year, and the last 10 months in my Honda Pilot, It has worked fine and as expected, has great sensitivity and mediocre selectivity. I live past the edge of suburbia but there is a mountain near me with several assorted towers for various services. I occasionally get some digital hash from a 166MHz. P25 VHF repeater and when I drive into the city the squelch needs to go up...

It has a hot receiver however and I hear VHF rail operations (my main use for it these days) much better than on my Uniden scanners. I occasionally work 2M or 440 repeaters with it and everyone says sit sounds fine. Before I retired I used it occasionally on some VHF and UHF public safety channels with no complaints.

I have the head mounted on my dashboard and the shelf unit in the rear cargo area. I use a regular Cat-5 cable between them that works just fine. The radio can be used as a one-piece rig or as a remote head unit.

For the price it is an excellent radio with lots of memories and a bunch of features, some of which you might actually use. You will want to get programming software unless you just want to use it on a couple channels. I use the radio mostly for railfanning but it is not bad for a secondary radio on business of PS freqs.
 
KT0DD Rating: 4/5 May 10, 2015 14:41 Send this review to a friend
Good so far...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Bought mine at Christmas 2014 from Universal Radio but just got it out and programmed it on 5/10/2015. So far, no free software, so I bought RT Systems APK-638 Kit for $50.(The programming cable alone is $37.) Software is a bit more complex than the Chinese radios / Chirp or Miklor programs. I had to call RT systems to figure how to open the VFO function for ham use. In the Radio settings menu, Be sure to uncheck the channel lock box AND make sure the display box is set to frequency (the channel lock button will then un-highlight). Once you program the radio and unhook it from the computer you can then go back in and set the display to read freq, Name or Ch.as you like.

I've gotten so used to using my PC for programming that I don't manually program anymore but I don't think it would be too much different than the DR-635 ham version. Alinco's are a little better than the chicom radios as far as manual programming goes.

It's a bit more expensive than the AnyTone / Wouxun / HYS radios on the net but you have U.S. support thru Remtronix. I gave it a 4 because of the lack of free software. YMMV
 


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