|I'm on the road a lot for work and often wonder what I miss on the local repeater when I'm out of range. I built a circuit that would interface the data port of my dualband base radio to a tape recorder. It worked very well as the SQC pin of radio's 6-pin MINI-DIN jack would control recording, so it'd even record somebody dead-keying the local repeater. But, after a while I grew tired of finding out that my 45 minutes of allowable record time were over (one side of a 90min tape) and I likely missed a bunch of activity. And, there's something that's emotionally disturbing about using cassette tapes in 2011. :-)|
I sprung for the DAR-101 from Sangean. I never knew such a device existing but stumbled upon it by dumb luck at a ham vendor's website. When I initially got it I was not impressed as the top-dial was a little on the cheap side. It would bind up if I didn't apply even pressure on opposite sides of the dial. Additionally, the "Remote" jack on the back of the DAR-101 has a lot of latency, so I was not able to use it successfully with the interface I built for the tape recorder mentioned above.
After fooling around with the DAR-101 for a while I found an acceptible work-around. I simply route the audio from my VHF/UHF radios speaker port to the DAR-101's "LINE-IN" jack and set it to do VOX recording. There's a slight delay in the record start time, so if one is quick throwing out their callsign it's likely the DAR-101 will just catch the last letter or two. After the input audio signal goes away, the DAR-101 will record for another 10 seconds before dropping out, so it'll definitely catch 100% of the QSO in progress after that initial delay. While recording you can monitor the radio's activity using the DAR-101's built-in speaker with separate volume control, so there's no need to run another extension speaker.
Another nice feature of the DAR-101 is the timer-record function. Is there a net that you like to listen to that's waaaay too early in the morning, or perhaps it takes place while you're working? No problem. Simply leave your radio on the net frequency, then set the DAR-101's timer for the net start time, and the projected net duration time. When you get back into the shack the recording will be all set.
The recordings are saved on a user-supplied SD card. They can be listened either right on the DAR-101, or you can put the SD-CARD into your computers card-reader and listen to them through your computer speakers. It goes without saying that perhaps the nicest feature of the DAR-101 is that it will record DAYS worth of activity without the worries of running out of cassette tape.
The DAR-101 records in stereo and has a convenient left/right record level indicators on the display and a red PEAK LED at the front/center of the unit so you know if you're over-driving the recorder. One can adjust the left and right record levels independently (perhaps one could wire it up so the "left and right" channels on the DAR-101 correspond to the "left and right" sides of a dual-band, dual-receive VHF/UHF radio?.... or run a "control" tone on one channel, the real audio on the other channel, and just play back the audio channel on your computer?) Navigating through recordings is relatively easy with the dial on the top. When fast forwarding through a recording you get an audio preview, so it's easy to differentiate "real" recordings from intermod, repeater commercials, etc. The DAR-101 also does a heckuva good job in the phone record mode, but I'll refrain from discussing that here as it's not really a radio-related feature.
I gave the DAR-101 a "4" because the couple issues mentioned in the second paragraph. Other than those couple nitpicks I could not be happier with the DAR-101. I've used mine a lot and I feel much more "in the loop" being able to catch up with what happened while I was out.