Radioddity MU-5 Review Report
-- by Tony D. KX1G
I received two MURS MU-5 Radios today and immediately put them to the test, which they easily passed. Seeing that there was no review of the radio yet posted I wrote one. I wanted to show it to you before posting it. It is quite long, but contains information that shows the radio in a good light. I will let you decide. I can post the long review, or I can cut it down. Here is my draft of the review:
I purchased two (2) Radioddity MU-5 MURS radios and they were delivered this morning. (August 3, 2022)
I have been qualifying low cost, low power radios to be used by a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to use in emergency and disaster communications. I had previously tested FRS and GMRS radios with mixed results. I had made a preliminary decision to go with GMRS, but the need for a repeater make it an expensive undertaking.
But I recently noted that the FCC changed their rules for the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) to allow any person to use the MURS radios, not just business use.
I reviewed the rules, the features of the radio, and gave my two new MU-5 radios a field test to see if they would provide solid, clear, easily understood signals over a short distance (up to 2 miles).
I am pleased to report that while there are a few issues, there is nothing that I can see that would disqualify MURS or the MU-5. And the MURS radios have certain advantages over the other two Wireless Bureau radio services, the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and the Family Radio Service (FRS).
Let me start with a quick Description of the MU-5
The MU-5 radio is designed in the common style and solid materials that Radioddity radios have, which is good. It has a good feel in the hand. The radio is about ½” shorter than the Radioddity model 510 2m/70cm ham radio. It has a battery pack, rechargeable from power mains using a wall wart power source. It has a 6” removable whip antenna, and a few other accessories most radios include.
The specs of the MU-5 radio say that it has an OUTPUT POWER of 2 watts. This is the same as FRS radios, and less than the 5 watts GMRS handhelds offer. The MURS service does not allow the use of repeaters. The two watts was assumed accurate and not measured.
I see these advantages of MURS radios
• The 5 pre-set channels assigned to the MURS service use frequencies in the 151-154 MHz band, which is slightly higher than the 136 MHz Ham band. I expected this was close enough that the transmit and receive characteristics of the radio would be similar to ham radios.In that they have a certain amount of tolerance for obstacles in the path of signals. I can confirm that they are similar. Further, my testing shows that the 150Mh frequencies do aid in this, and I can meet my distance objective of 2 miles. As tested, a half mile was solid contact, full quieting; 1 mile solid with some underlying static; 2 miles copyable but weak. I expect further distances are achievable if the number of obstructions is small. My tests were run in a populated area with houses, businesses, trees, and undulating ground swells. The performance you get may vary.
• The FCC rules for MURS are that none of the 5 MURS channels are assigned for any explicit purpose or the exclusive use of any user. Users must cooperate in the selection and use of the channels in order to make the most effective use of them and to reduce the possibility of interference. This is aided by the available of DTS and CTCSS privacy codes. These rules have kept the number of users down and the bands relatively quiet, as opposed to the multitudes who are now using FRS and GMRS. That will help in emergency use.
• MURS radios can be designed with removable antennas, making it possible to use optional high-gain antennas like the two used in my tests, the Nagoya NA-771 and the 42” ABBREE antenna.
• Unlike GMRS, but similar to FRS, MURS radios are licensed by rule and there is no license fee. This means an individual is not required to acquire an FCC license to operate a MURS transmitter if not a representative of a foreign government and if it uses the transmitter in accordance with the MURS rules outlined in FCC 47 C.F.R. Part 95 Subpart J.
• Unlike GMRS, but like FRS, A station identification announcement is not required to be transmitted.
• The only disadvantage that I can see is that the FCC has not yet authorized the use of repeaters. User demand may result in lifting that restriction as it did for GMRS.
I see these Advantages of the Radioddity MU-5:
• The MU-5 can also receive (but not transmit) on 11 NOAA weather channels, FM Radio frequencies, and 2 meter (136Mhz) and 70 cm (440Mhz) frequencies in the amateur radio bands.
• The antenna is removable, which allows the owner to put on optional antennas that have increased gain over the antenna that is supplied.
• The radio has many advanced features found in other Radioddity radios, including 250 memory channels capable of storing UHF/VHF frequencies, scanning, dual band receive, DTS and CTCSS privacy codes, the ability to display frequency or alphanumeric channel names.
• The radio can be programmed from the front keypad.
• The radio has a built in LED flashlight.
• Aggressive low pricing.
Disadvantages of the Radioddity MU-5
• The display screen of both radios was somewhat faded, making it hard to read when the back light was off. However, when the user presses any key the back light comes on to make the screen is easily read.
• The radio uses a rechargeable battery but does not accept ordinary AA batteries. Additional battery packs are available for purchase as options.
Additional information on the testing
Tests were conducted in a wooded, downtown, heavily populated area in Eastern Massachusetts. The terrain was gently sloping from the north to the south and east. No line of sight was possible given the density of the trees and houses. At a distance of 2 miles I estimate there was an elevation drop of about 100 feet. The terrain and constant obstacles would have thwarted any radios that depended on a clear line of sight.
I was able to transmit and receive solid signals from up to 2 miles away.
There was static, as expected, but not loud enough to interfere with the voice audio, which was clear and loud enough to be heard over traffic. Transmissions and reception was made from both inside and outside a car and a wood frame house.
The goals of the testing was to determine the ability to (a) make clear transmissions (b) at set distances of up to 2 miles (c) using a range of antennas.
I tested three antennas:
Antenna A – The 6” long whip antenna which came with the radio
Antenna B – A 13” long Nagoya 771 UHF/VHF high gain vertical whip
Antenna C- A 42” higher gain ABBREE foldable/tactical whip antenna
Test transmissions were made at distances of 1/2, 1, and 2 miles
Antenna A, the 6” whip that came with the radio, allowed solid but noisy communication of about ½ mile. The noise was static from various sources.
Antenna B, the 13” Nagoya antenna, reduced the noise by about 20 percent and the distance by ½ mile. It was good for up to a mile.
Antenna C, the 42” tactical ABBREE antenna reduced the noise even further and extended the distance to a good 2 miles.
Here is the same information in grid format:
|6” supplied whip||13” Nagoya NA-771 whip||ABBREE 42” Whip|
|1/2 mile||Clear, static||Clear, little static||Clear, full quieting|
|1 mile||Readable, heavy static||Clear, medium static||Clear, minimal static|
|2 miles||Partly readable, heavy static||Readable, high static||Clear, medium static|
The 6” whip antenna supplied with the radio was good for reception out to about 1 mile. The two high gain whip antennas were good for reception out to the goal distance of 2 miles and beyond.
It needs to be noted that radio signal reception also benefits from height above ground. If either the sending or receiving antenna was to be elevated to a height of 20+ feet the signal strength and the distance could be expected to improve
I find the MURS radios have the capability to provide solid communication similar of that produced with amateur radios used in direct contacts (no repeater) between two points, separated by significant obstacles, up to 2 miles apart.
I believe in most cases this level of communication would not be possible with FRS radios or GMRS radios. that are not supported by repeaters.
Other distinct advantages when used for emergency use include not requiring the user to purchase an FCC license, and the ability to swap out the supplied 6” antenna with a better, higher gain antenna, such as the popular 13” Nagoya NA-771 and the 42” HEMBREE Tactical whip.
A disadvantage is that is requires a battery pack and does not accept regular AA Batteries.
In the one square mile of residential homes my CERT team will service in an Emergency, responders with MURS radios will have solid point to point communication without the use of a repeater.
MURS and the MU-5 are both a good choice.