|Great all mode very portable radio
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|Got one of these gems when it first came out. Very versatile, SSB works great, narrow band AM makes international broadcasts easy to listen to. Bnc antenna connector, makes it easy to hook up external antennas and lots of memory locations for all the stations you want. Fits in you pocket, and if you are a ham or electonics buff, you can power it off a USB dongle you wire up. Compared sensitivity with my SDRPlaydx and very close results, as it is with the other hand helds. Much easier than my cheap Chinese radios or country comm. Even my Sony top of line unit is difficult to tune SSB comparatively. If you can find one buy it.|
|Nice, small & capable
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|Scanner ownership isn't what it used to be. It's a shame but the mobile phone revolution and the widespread use of digital radio systems has massively reduced what you can hear with a regular scanner like the Yaesu VR-500.|
However the Yaesu VR-500 isn't just a regular scanner, it's an all mode communications receiver which goes all the way up to 1.3ghz.
It is a little bit battery hungry but it is quite sensitive, more so than my 2m HT.
I have had this radio for almost two years, bought used from an internet auction website, was a little and it had slight keypad issues which were easily rectified using a guide found on the web. This radio is a keeper.
If you can find a good one at a good price, buy it. You will love it.
|Great little receiver!
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|All things considered with its portability and compactness, this is a winner! Too bad it's out of production now. I'm kicking myself for not getting another VR-500 when stores were "giving" these away in clearance specials.|
I've had my VR-500 for over eight years now, between being my mobile and base station scanner. The only problem I've had is that my EPROM chip blew, probably from being in my truck for several days in subfreezing temps in winter months over the life of this unit. The fix was relatively cheap though, considering the use I've gotten out of it.
Just a warning (and no fault of the receiver) that the ADMS software I think is very poor. ADMS seems to be buggy, depending on which MS Windows version you run it on. Probably be wise to try another software source if you can find one.
||Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
|Pros: small package. decent SSB. nice VHF/UHF|
Cons: poor AM selectivity even in narrow. very poor FM BCB selectivity/sensitivity. weak SMT
the AM decoding is 'unique' to say the least. youll often hear 3 or 4 broadcasters at once, in narrow AM. its pretty much useless for shortwave listening compared to an off the shelf unit
its also less sensitive to AM and much more finicky about the impedance matching. but even with a proper match, a DE1103 just does a better job near the noise floor
tuning resolution is only 50 hz so you cant zero-beat well - all warbly noise and hets - so, you cant use SSB modes to get around the crappy AM
SSB is considerably better but there are bugs
especially on 80m. the tuning of the BFO/product detector seems to skip around much larger than the quoted 50 hz. often times pitch will jump from being too low to being way too high, in 1 khz boundaries. its hard to pin down but something smells about the design. shortcuts?
the UI for finding channels is complex. you have to first set to 1 khz mode, then get close. then invoke a menu to choose 0.05 khz to fine tune. if you can even tune it exactly (see above)
FM BCB is atrocious. you usually hear a channel not even on that frequency.. it seems whoever has the most power on the band wins 'all' frequencies
for VHF/UHF scanning it does fine. i hear 2meter repeaters from the entire region no problem. significantlly less intermod than my GRE
finally, due to the size the entire thing is made of 3 circuit boards, vertically stacked inside a metal cage.
when i got mine, there was a small amount of water-related corrosion near the earphone jack. opened it up, and little resistors literally smeared right off with light finger pressure! both plugs were already dead but now it flashes the main screen in some kind of error loop. they dont make em like they used to!
this reciever really has a lot of potential but id love them to fix AM selectivity, and the SSB tuning jumps. also the math seems to be off. it reports 2-3 khz below where the carrier is (or would be) for all modes, and theres a roughly 0.5-1khz difference between USB and LSB readings. and give it the submersibility of their 2m/70cm HTs
|Good for the traveler.
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|For a good travel portable, the Yaesu VR-500 makes a good choice, in my opinion. Although chock full of user-defined settings, it is fairly simple to operate. Being that it covers from longwave to 1.3 GHz, it's a decent "single radio" for traveling, especially when there's nothing interesting on the motel's cable TV. :P|
This being said, there are also its shortcomings, some of which have already been noted here. The most obvious of these is its broadband input. Behind this Yaesu has placed a rather "hot" RF amplifier, with the result that this radio hears very well...perhaps a little too well. On a weekend when Amateur Radio operators are having one of their many QSO contests, don't expect this receiver to pull weaker stations out of a "pileup." It simply isn't designed for it.
Another shortcoming is of the various settings and presets, many of which may not be used by the casual listener. Certainly the Dual Watch and Band Scanning features are nice, but I personally haven't used them yet. Not saying that I won't, just not yet. I have used the Band Scope, however; kinda nifty. ;)
Still another may be the number of memories: one thousand. Of course, finding frequencies to fill these up shouldn't be too much of a problem [just look around on the Internet!]. :) Programming so many frequencies can be a bit of a chore, and so I recommend Yaesu's optional ADMS-3 programming software [it runs in Windows, from W95-up, again, as noted here]. One can import comma-delineated files into its database, or cut-and-paste from MS Excel.
Again, in spite of what this little rig isn't, taken as what it is, it is a fun radio. I personally have a "kit" made up of my VR-500, a BNC-to-1/8" adapter, a roll-up wire antenna [Radioshack #278-1374], earphone, microcassette recorder, audio attenuator adapter and patch cable, and batteries. All this fitted into a soft vinyl camera case. Great for keeping entertained and informed while traveling, and for casual listening just about anywhere.
Mikey likes it. :D
|very good pocket receiver
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|I have owned one for several months now. Whilst not expecting too much from the reviews about the rubber-duck aerial supplied, I was surprised to pick up air traffic controllers from a transmitter site approx 30 miles from my home. It is pretty useless on SW frequencies but have tried a variety of antenna. Whilst a 10-section telescopic is completely OTT, the best that I've found is a 5 section tele with knuckle joint. This I picked up from Maplins for the princly sum of £4.99! I have found this to be ideally matched across the whole spectrum. With the antenna fully extended I can get New York, Gander HF and sometimes Bombay ATC if conditions are right. I find this quite amazing on a set that you can fit into the palm of your hand. Having a Yupiteru 7200 that weighs a ton, I was looking for something you can slip into your pocket that covers all bases. I can honestly say that I have not been disappointed. With the correct aerial this set is a little stunner, you won't regret buying one. |
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|DO NOT DROP THIS RADIO ONTO THE DIAL KNOB!|
Sorry for shouting, but a warning to you guys. I dropped my newly bought VR-500 THREE feet off my knee onto a CARPETED FLOOR.
The knob totally sheared off - requiring a £60 ($120) repair bill. I'm going to attempt to fix it myself though.
BEWARE - this radio is NOT rugged!
|exellent for monitoring
||Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
|Well my thoughts on the VR 500 our really good in my opinion. I have owned for about a year now in central illinois and I have been very happy with it. The sensitivity is exellent and really can bring in those weak signals. It also has 1000 channels and very wide band coverage which made it very appealling to me when looking for a good handheld receiver. The bandscope feature is a fun feature to have as you can actually monitor small or big portion of the radio spectrum and just look for the spikes which would indicate activity. I tell you i have owned a lot of communications receivers and I find this a really fun receiver to own. I paid 200.00 for mine in the summer of 2004 on EBAY so you can get a good deal on this.in May I used this when visiting my brother in Chicago and it was nice to have when going around the city. I used an earbud so it would not bother anyone and it worked great. I guess the negatives on this rceiver would be terrible documentation which is very brief,however with enough trial & error you'll find it easy to operate.I also had a tough time getting the computer to connect to the receiver which seems to take a lot of patience and know-how. Also the stock antenna is not that great, but you can get a decent telescopic at radio shack that will really help below 200MHZ. I am not a ham operator but I wanted to give my 2 cents worth on this receiver as I find it exellent, chocked full of features,very small & compact what more could you ask for. God Bless|
|Thanks to N5NSL
||Time Owned: more than 12 months.
|I agree with N5NSL re: this great little radio. I use mine in the shack with my spare Diamond Discone (another great product) and am completely satisfied with its performance. The stock rubber duck is minimally good for VHF/UHF but not much more. |
And once again, it pays to read eHam, where I just learned about the Narrow AM setting, which greatly improved my listening pleasure. Thanks!
Earlier 5-star review posted by JIMBO3 on 2002-09-25
As long as you keep the radio separate from the antenna, this one deserves a FIVE. Quality and features are superb. Performance is only as good as the antenna that's connected to it. The supplied antenna has its limitations - just look at the size of it and you can predict which bands it should do well with and which ones may need some help. Other reviewers have made some good antenna substitute suggestions that I'm anxious to try. I've had nothing but fun with this small wonder -- its size encourages on-the-run radio listening! I'd recommend it, but I'll add a small caveat regarding the antenna.
|Excellent Little Radio
||Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
|I saw the VR-500 as an excellent little radio which held value in it's small size, high sensitivity, sturdy construction, continuous tuning, multi-mode receiving, PC-programmability, and adequately featured little bandscope. I was so impressed I bought six of them! |
First released in 1999, the Yeasu VR-500 was due to a joint venture between Yeasu Japan and Standard Vertex in the UK. Early versions of the radio had the all-caps "STANDARD" word-logo as the title badge, but later versions (most of the VR-500s made) were badged with the "YEASU" word-logo. They are the same radio. I set out to write a short entry, but as the VR-500 does a lot, this grew. Even as long winded as it is doesn't mention everything.
The radio tunes easily either by direct-entry, is relatively easy and straightforward to use and program, and can receive any frequency (excepting cellular frequencies with the USA models).
The bandscope is a wonderful capability with the radio. The bandscope has two modes, mode A which sets the scope to 540kHz to 600kHz and varies the number of samples for that range, and mode B, which sets the scope to a variable range from 3kHz to 6MHz at increments corresponding to the the highest resolution capable on the VR-500's LCD display (60 pixels). The bandscope also has a cursor pixel underneath the bandscope's baseline which can be moved by the tuning knob. A frequency from the bandscope can be selected via the cursor, allowing easy location of and tuning to active frequencies. At various resolutions, you can also see the modulation envelope of transmitters, including harmonic and vestigal emissions , and with some work "zoom" and "pan" around the transmitter's emission spectrum. In this capacity it also has some use as a diagnostic tool for other equipment.
The radio is extremely sensitive to RF compared to most radios. When in the shortwave bands, the radio can receive DX with a whip antenna. Although the radio has attenuation capability, when I tested the radio with a 200 foot random wire the radio overloaded on strong local AM stations without attenuation, and when attenuation was active still had light intermod from nearby AM broadcast band stations near the antenna. In rural areas far away from powerful AM transmitters, the VR-500 can tolerate large HF/MF antennas and can cleanly resolve very weak signals and will receive a lot of stations with astounding sensitivity. However, with a 20" whip antenna in town or in rural areas, it can routinely receive international broadcasts on shortwave nearly as well as with a 200 foot random wire.
The radio can run on 12VDC or two "AA" batteries. The radio has the ability to periodically turn it's receiving circuits on and off to save batteries. Best endurance with this feature (little or no signal duty cycle and all lights out) is about 10 hours on a pair of Alkaline AAs, about 12 to 14 hours on Lithium batteries, about 5.5 hours on NiCDs in their prime, and about 6.5 hours on NiMHs in their prime.
There are also many additional components for the radio, including wall adapters, automotive cigarette lighter adapters, leather cases, and special cable and software for PC programmability.
The radio supports the ability to connect to a PC to transfer memory contents between a file on the PC and the radio's memory. The functionality is limited to memory and (meaningless) language settings (only the software can set between English and Japanese, to which the VR-500 ignores and only displays in English) and cannot remote-control the radio.
Yeasu's "ADMS-3" for MS-Windows and "tk500" for Linux support VR-500 memory transfers and programmability. Also, two VR-500s can exchange memory contents using a standard 3-conductor 1/8" stereo plug patch cable using a built-in "clone" function.
The keypad and display on the radio's face are both illuminated by Yellow/Orange LEDs and adequately illuminate the buttons and display. There is an option to automatically temporarily illuminate the buttons and display on a keypress, explicitly toggle illumination on or off, and have either the display only, or display and buttons illuminated.
The radio has a limited ability to "learn" up to 41 frequencies during scanning. It also has the ability to scan within nine programmable variable frequency ranges, learning frequencies it finds if requested by the user. The radio also has the ability to turn on at some count-down time in the future (up to 24h:00m) and remain on for another count-down time (up to 90 minutes), all changeable in 30-minute steps.
The radio receives continuously from 100kHz to 1299.9999 MHz, with the exception of USA models which are firmware-limited to not be tunable to 807.1 through 819.6999, 824.0 through 848.999, and 869.0 through 893.9999 MHz. (The permanent frequency lockouts for the USA models are due to the US ECPA laws compensating for original and some current cellular radiotelephony transmitting ordinary narrowband FM voice in the USA.)
When the radio is squelched, the power save feature is on, no signal is on the frequency, and when listening through an earphone, the radio will emit a quiet "thump-thump" at periodic intervals as the receiver circuits are periodically powered up then down. It sounds remarkably like a human heartbeat at 1/4 duty (.25 seconds on, 0.75 seconds off) and is a useful aural reminder that the radio is powered on and is not receiving a signal at the moment.
The bandscope seems to have an AGC function, meaning the relative strength of the signal is sometimes proportional to the strongest signal it's receiving. If there is an extremely strong signal or ATT is active, the rest of the scope appears attenuated. The bandscope also reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the receiver. As the VR-500 has some propensity for intermod without the ATT (attenuate function) being active in very strong signal fields, the bandscope also reflects the intermodulation. The bandscope sweeps about 30 frequencies a second, so the 6MHz resolution in mode B paints 60 samples in about 2 seconds while the 100kHz resolution in mode A paints six samples about 5 times per second.
Also, there are two hidden functions in the configuration controlling the "User Port" and "Narrow AM" functionality. Of the original 32 functions in the configuration, these are respectively 33 and 34. The "User Port" function is stubbed (permanently inactive due to lack of code in the firmware) as the VR-500 hardware only permits one port (a serial port always available through the earphone jack). The "Narrow AM" function is very useful in improving selectivity (adjacent signal rejection), QRM, and selects between wide (about 8kHz by my guess) and narrow (about 4 kHz by my aural guesswork). The VR-500 AF output in either mode is too narrow to support goodies like a Digital Radio Mondial decoder (which requires at least as 12 kHz AF bandwidth). Wide sounds like about 8-9 kHz and Narrow sounds like 4kHz by ear. The means to enable these extra functions is to press and hold     keys while powering on the radio.
The manual isn't large or technically detailed, but gives a good user-level introduction to the basics of the radio. It's good to get a basic familiarity with the radio and appears to appreciate the adventurous spirit of the user to learn the deeper meaning of the VR-500.
The radio can readily receive AM and FM broadcast bands, but has no provision for high fidelity operation or stereo reception, nor the AF bandwidth to accommodate AM-, FM-, or MTS-stereophonic audio. However, it receives the bottom 8 or so kHz with fine clarity. The internal speaker is a small form-factor 1-inch unit which gives satisfactory-quality sound for communications and produces about 60 dB of amplitude at 30 cm (12 in.) --both qualities about like that of a typical hand-held transistor radio. The amplifier clips slightly after 70% rotation of the volume knob at typical broadcast FM audio levels.
The radio is sturdy and well-built, but not adequately sealed for use in wet weather. It fits the average hand fairly well.
Also, the radio is sensitive to spiking from external power sources. The manual and all documentation admonishes users not to ever exceed 15 volts. Respect this or unpredictably damage the radio's functionality. Don't connect it to any power source which may exceed this for any amount of time. Also, the radio becomes more sensitive to noise from external sources beyond the power source when using an external power source.
The radio is really an outstanding little machine, but as nothing is perfect I found a few things to mention.
The OEM antenna supplied with the radio is of wonderful physical quality and is usable, but not an outstandingly great antenna. I don't have the equipment to determine the OEM antenna's resonance , but /every/ BNC-connector antenna I had for 900MHz through MW (several fixed resonance and two variable resonance) greatly outperformed it. I mounted the VR-500's OEM antenna on other radios and noted a consistent reduction in performance in all modes. Simply replacing the OEM antenna greatly improved the VR-500's sensitivity.
Also, there is no lockout capability for a scanner memory. The best alternatives are to add a frequency into a memory called "skip memory" (which explicitly ignores frequencies) disabling memory banks, or deleting the frequency from memory. (Lockout would have been nice and is common elsewhere, but it's not an option on the VR-500.)
The firmware is very stable and reliable, but when powering up for the first time after never having batteries and not doing a reset before starting use under such conditions, I found that some of the characters on the display in some sporadic cases would either be graphical or in Kanji (a Japanese alphabet). This only occurred with one radio, and disappeared after I reset the radio. I tried to reproduce the Kanji display (I liked it!), but was unable to produce any abberant behavior in the radio's firmware after that first reset after first power-up. Also, there is no way for the units I've tested to ever intentionally display Japanese.
The ADMS-3 software runs on Windows Win32, and is only as reliable as the version of Windows 9x, NT (or descendents) under which it is running. It seems to be a VB program. However, when Windows is working flawlessly, the ADMS-3 software is similarly wonderful. If Windows crashes in mid-transfer, the VR-500 will simply display an error.
Also, Yaesu has several models of radios, including the VR-500, which have a problem of the on-button legends rubbing off. It appears the compounds used to create the legends have some soluability with oils from the skin and with dirt and dust break from the rubber face of the key. This can be countered by pressing the key without rubbing it (very hard to do), minimizing contact from finger/skin oils to minimize those oils from impregnating the legends and rubber key face, not greatly deforming the keyface on a keypress, or using the VR-500's protective case and keeping everything clean so as not to create contamination or abrasion to the key face.
Also, although it has the ability to turn itself on and off based from count-down timers, it has no real-time-clock functionality or alarm function.
The VR-500 is an outstanding little radio. While not perfect, it is an impressive and extremely capable little radio. I've heard this described as a handheld receiving station--it very nearly is.