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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Motorola Spectra Help

Reviews Summary for Motorola Spectra
Motorola Spectra Reviews: 16 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $2,500
Description: High quality commercial grade transceiver.
Product is in production.
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W5DTW Rating: 5/5 Dec 11, 2015 06:46 Send this review to a friend
Awesome receivers worth every penny  Time owned: more than 12 months
As stated before, Awesome quality radios, I have been building these in various versions for a couple years, I have been a telecommunications tech for over 32 years, these are among the best Motorola has ever built.
K8OZE Why in the world did you go to a review site, give a radio a 2/5 and then ask a question showing that you have probably never seen one let alone owned one?
W7VAQ Rating: 5/5 Dec 16, 2013 05:39 Send this review to a friend
Indestructible  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
As a new ham operator I am completely unqualified to give an opinion on a Spectra or Astro Spectra radio, however, as a veteran officer of twenty nine years it becomes a different matter.

These radios are indestructible. I have seen them go from dash mounts to console mounts (between the seats). The dash mount afforded them lots of protection from damage, the console-none.

I have seen these radios survive coffee spills, big gulp dumps, hot chocolate disasters, spilled bags of dope, and tons of crumbs from woofed down 10-10 breaks (meals).

There's and old joke on how officers treat equipment. Lock two officers in a room with two new anvils, come back in an hour and one anvil will be broken and the other one missing, and neither officer will know a thing.

Bottom line is we are hard on equipment, period, end. You'll see lots of notes on the cruiser board for things 10-7 (out of service) but i don't ever recall seeing one for radio will not x-mit.

Once you learn how to flip through the zones it's easy. Think about it, we do it in a pursuit at 110 mph.

Scan is really fast, it locks you on your main channel and then scans the rest. The main will then automatically over ride the scanned ones if some one keys up. They have banks of 128 or 250 channels to fill up, thats a lot of room.

It also has amazing sound, even when turned up and the windows down. Nothing sounds like a Motorola, it's sweet to the ears.

The mic is heavy and has a good solid feel, mount it in a sturdy holder, you don't want to get cracked in the head with it.

The display is bright and clear even in daylight.

The buttons are also very easy to read and are illuminated for use at night. They also have enough space between them so your not hitting the wrong thing by accident.

Now the down sides: They are very heavy radios, you will need a solid location to mount one. Some models will also require trunk space or under seat space for the separate units of the radio. (High power or remote head)

Depending on where/how you mount it the mic clip in to the radio has a tendency to snag on things or snap off.

They will need to be re programmed. That requires a DOS based pre windows set up, cables and software (newer than or equal to what is in the radio). Once you lay it all out for the first radio it can then be used for the next one or hundred as the departments used to do. If you don't have the toys, paying for programming is not cheap.

You also need to know that they come in three band splits, NONE of them cover the complete 2 meter range. They are denoted by the fourth digit in the model number J=136 to 162 MHz, K=146 to 178 MHz and L=174 to 210 MHz. You can force a little out of band, but not enough to open up the full spectrum. If you bought an L split, you have a very nice door stop.

NOTE: If you are really lucky, there are a few out there are, there are some, mostly made for the Feds,that you can change the frequencies with out the laptop/software in the field. That was so they could dial in to local LE stations if the need arose.

They come in analog or digital. Wide band and narrow, some can do both. Make sure you check the numbers before you buy one.

BTW, I just bought my first 2 meter mobile last week, and it is an Astro Spectra.
K8CNN Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2013 10:00 Send this review to a friend
Spectra "Ya Gotta Love It!"  Time owned: more than 12 months
Okay, your talking to a Ham who up until a year ago would tell you "Kenwood or Yaesu stuff is just as good" plus I don't need to dig out the computer and programming software every time I want to change something (I love my VFO knob!) ... HOWEVER I did not know about the Spectra's 128 conventional channel capabilities, or the MPL (Multiple PL) frequency slection feature of up to 16 of you favorite CTCSS or DPL tones! This changed my viewpoint of needing the beloved VFO knob! Plus with the ability to easily enter a text line in the display window vs just a frequency was even better! So all the repeaters and simplex appears as the frequency, but things like the Weather and Public Service frequencies are named appropriately! and grouping them into banks is also great! But I would like to stress that navigation of the features is so much quicker and easier than ANY of my ham gear! even my XYL will use this radio! Now lets talk BUILD QUALITY! I have always loved how well built military equipment is, I applicate looking inside a radio and seeing all the shielding and quality PC boards, the attention to circuit layout and design! The Spectra is just BEAUTIFUL!! you know you are NOT looking at any "Amateur" gear! ... and don't get me wrong, I own my share of Kenwood, Yaesu and Icom, but the Motorola Spectra series leaves them all in the dust! PERFORMANCE! the Spectra's I own (VHF 144 / UHF 440 / 900Mhz) all have better RX sensitivity and MUCH BETTER filtering than my best Dual Bander, and on TX the Spectra has a REAL heat sink (not a cheap $2 fan!) and does not run hot like ham gear, I attribute this to better current limiting and circuit design. Also the Spectra has no shortage of information or great sites like that can answer about any question you could have, and programming the Spectra I personally did not find that difficult, I was able to get my entire programming package for $40.00 on eBay and all my Spectra's for under $50.00 each! With the FCC narrow band mandate, lots of Spectra's are popping up now for great deals! So I would advise you to grab up a few for the band(s) of your choice! "You will become a loyal Spectra user too!" ...It happen to me!
Tom K8CNN 73
WB0YLE Rating: 5/5 Oct 11, 2012 18:58 Send this review to a friend
Built like a tank and plays all day long  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've gone the route of owning Kenyaecom mobiles. Chinese throw-aways. Fuggedaboutit. With the narrowbanding efforts building steam, these babies are showing up more and more. Do yourself a favor and pick a few up, clean them up, replace the caps (you can use radial electrolytics if you have to...who the heck is going to know...if you can't do SMD work), pour new programming into them and go to town.

They just work. They were built to be used by people who had no idea other than adjusting the volume and twisting a knob to a channel. So they can take the abuse. They were massively overbuilt (and overpriced new...not so today) and rugged. No, they don't have all the useless (for the majority of users, face it, ok?) features, but how many do you REALLY use?

I've replaced the fragile pretty pacific rim boxes in my cars with what I've picked up online and at 'fests. Clean them up, polish the faceplates, pick up spares off the net for pennies on the dollar, and they just work.

You will NOT be sorry with the minimum investment you will have to make to move into commercial rugged built-like-a-brick-youknowwhere equipment.

Just do it. You know you want to.
KI6LNX Rating: 5/5 May 8, 2012 16:33 Send this review to a friend
Spectra is a Workhorse  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've Owned a Spectra A5 head for 3 years now. Used Echolink purposes and this model is a workhorse alright, I lowered the RF output to 20 watts and man, It just works, superb reception and clean modulation. I guess that the capacitor issue for this radio has not affected it as I checked the guts and not leaks of any kind. I am happy with it and will start using it as an RX radio to extend its life cycle. I don't dare to buy anymore spectra's as a lot of hams claim to have fix the capacitor issue and want to sell it for an unbelievable price. I paid 20 bucks for it and to this review I have no regrets, good investment.

Hasta la vista

KD8NFT Rating: 5/5 Aug 12, 2010 15:26 Send this review to a friend
VHF Spectra  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have a 50W VHF A4 spectra as a base it works great. I don't like the mini UHF connector, its very hard to work with. I use a adapter to a SO239 and that goes into my PL259. I like the receive on this radio it filters out all the stray RF signals, this helps me because I use to get a lot of RF interference on Yaesu FT 2900.
K8OZE Rating: 2/5 Dec 8, 2009 06:38 Send this review to a friend
Motorola UHF Spectra D44KXA7JA3BK  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Hello, being a real old timer I'm wondering if my newbie grandson is steering me straight to the Motorola Spectra UHF D44KXA7JA3BK? He came across several just out of government service which all test to Motorola specs with two types of control heads- any idea about this model, what to look out for? His friends say they are bullet proof and reliable and they've sold at least 80 at hamfests and shows in the midwest- should I give one a try?
KG4UFG Rating: 5/5 Jul 28, 2008 23:36 Send this review to a friend
Bullet proof  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have a spectra for 900mhz. The thing is like a tank. I live in the middle of a city and my ICOM 2m rig is all but useless. the spectra is quiet even on the noisy 900 band.

at 40w out, they are far better for longer distance work then the maxtrak.
K4JJL Rating: 5/5 Dec 7, 2006 13:20 Send this review to a friend
Built like a brick outhouse  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have three high power models (110 watts), one UHF and two VHF. The UHF model had the timebomb cap problem, and I'm still trying to get it fixed. Seems like everything made between 1989 and 1991 has leaky electrolytic caps.

I run one VHF (A9 head) in the house and the other VHF (A7 head) in my Mini Cooper S (which takes up half of the trunk). One advantage the Motorolas have over the Japanese brands is they are LOUD! Motorola chose to use a 30 watt car stereo amp for the audio. I can run 70 MPH in my Mini with the windows down and the sunroof open. No problem at all hearing the radio.

If you have space in your dash, the A4, A5, and A7 heads will fit in a standard DIN space. The A9 won't though, because the power switch is on the bottom. It's also theft deterrent. Not only does it look like a police radio, but the trunk module can be locked to the mounting plate with a key. Sure they can steal the head or the mic, but those can be replaced for $20 each (ebay surplus stuff).

No fans. You don't need them. The entire radio chassis is a giant, 10 lb brick of aluminum with cooling fins spanning half of the top (across the entire PA board). I've used my Spectra for hamfest talk-in and net control stations. Ran all day on 110 watts, getting only slightly warm to touch.

The 110 watts is the main reason I use it. I had a hard time finding a VHF mobile antenna that could handle the wattage. I ended up getting a Diamond SG-7900 (which is dual band). The combination of the Spectra with that antenna makes a mobile station that can't be beat on VHF FM. In the RF dead spots of Atlanta, the Spectra rejects the nastiest intermod (that would make any other radio scream) and reaches out to repeaters you wouldn't believe you could use.

The mic is very heavy duty, heavy and fills your hand nicely. It's not full of crazy buttons to accidentally press. The VFD display is very easy to read in all different light conditions. It also has a dimmer button you can use to adjust the backlight (as well as a pin on the back of the head to hook to your car to auto-dim based on your headlight switch).

The Spectra has 128 channels to use. I think I've used less than 40 and that included 10 simplex frequencies. You can group the channels into banks (called zones). Each zone has its own scan list with a priority channel to check even when it pauses on a busy channel. The Spectra is very fast in scanning. The priority channel check is so fast, it does it several times a second while receiving another channel.

With so many public safety departments switching to APCO, the old analog Spectras are popping up all over the place. I'm slowly getting my friends to convert to Motorolas. Just wish I had listened to one of my friends when he switched to Motorola stuff years ago.

If you need help setting one up, the guys at and the batlabs message board is awesome. Tons of useful info on there.

My only complaint with the thing is the mini-UHF RF connector. I hate those things. So flimsy, yet everything "post-Spectra" from Motorola seems to have those.
KC2OZU Rating: 5/5 Aug 9, 2006 11:12 Send this review to a friend
Great radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have the low-power trunk mount VHF, with an A4 head. Bought used on a big auction site.

It's a great radio, especially because I can (obviously) use it for public service (I'm a volunteer EMT) and ham. Built like a tank. The control head is good and sturdy. Mine has an intermittent failure on one of the display segments, but nothing to worry about. Programming can be a bit finnicky, but check the info on it at

My one small somplaint is that mine is an older radio, and has intermittent problems with the squelch opening up.

Also, you need +12VDC to a pin on the accessory connector for the radio to power up. The connector is a special 15-pin, or you can splice it in to the correct wire in the control head cable.

Also, with instructions from, you can deselect scan channels, set home channel, and set squalch through a menu in the control head.
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