Sunday, 23 May 2021

DVMEGA CAST REVIEW

THE DARK SIDE I HAVE BEEN

I started my digital affair with a girl named DSTAR and then later flirted with C4FM, swapping between the two for a couple of years. But I never went to the DARK SIDE (aka DMR).

I've tried DSTAR on Kenwood's D74, Icom's 7300, 7610, 9700 and more recently the lovely IC-705. Due to accessibility issues with local repeaters, I've almost exclusively used a HotSpot to make contacts. Once the initial learning period was over, I found DSTAR easy to use and very reliable.

For C4FM I've used Yaesu's FT3, FTM400 and the FT991A. Again, due to a lack of access to repeaters, I've depended on my OpenSpot2. More recently, I've started to use my mate's Gateway (MB6HW/G4CFP). I also enjoy accessing Wires-X through my PC and FTM300. Access to Fusion repeaters has been much simpler when mobile in my truck using an FTM7250.

DMR I've purposely avoided because A) I'm already overloaded with stuff that I need to learn more about and B) I don't want another radio to pay for, charge, and worry about. Additionally, I believed DMR can be quite tricky to setup due to something called CodePlugs 😵 

But then recently, I spotted an advert on Facebook Marketplace for a device called a "DVMEGA CAST" at £175 (used). I didn't even know what it was until I Googled it. It turns out that it's an IP Radio which connects to your broadband router wirelessly or via an ethernet cable. It's based on the DVMEGA AMBE3000 utilising a Raspberry Pi-Nano. It has a built-in audio amplifier providing 3W to the internal speaker, which produces a good clean sound.

The unit has a 2.5inch touch-screen on the front panel, along with a rotary encoder for adjustments and an RJ-45 socket for a microphone. It's worth noting that a microphone (MH-48) is NOT provided, nor is a power-supply.

 
It will receive and transmit on DMR, DSTAR and FUSION  using networks such as BrandMeister, DMR+, YSF, FSC, REF, XRF, XLX, DSC etc. Wow, that spiked my interest!

Further reading revealed that the DVMEGA CAST is around the same portable size as an IC-705 and thanks to its wireless connectivity can be used anywhere - obviously without any need for antennas, which is great for when you're on holiday or working away from home. It's also great for those who live in antenna-restricted accommodation.



The rear panel provides a socket for an external speaker, two USB-A sockets, an ethernet socket and a power socket.

Inside my DVMC you can see the PCBs which make up the Pi-Nano and amp. At the back you can see the DVSTICK30 which permits remote operation of the device.



To operate remotely, one needs to download the (free) BLUEDV app for Windows. With this (and the DVSTICK30 installed) you can leave the DVMC switched on and access it from anywhere in the world.



Setting up the DVMC must be a simple operation - because I did it and I'm a newbie!! 😂 It's just a case of connecting it to your router with a network cable (RJ-45 to RJ-45) and then running the Pi config screen in a browser on your PC laptop/tablet (type http://pi-star).

You can update the firmware by downloading the latest version from the DVMEGA website. You'll need the Serial # and Service # from the rear panel of your radio. Once you're in the config screen, it's fairly obvious which settings you need to alter to get you on the air.



With the main configuration completed and network connection established, you need to make changes to the mode settings....


I already had a DMR-ID but I still couldn't get the DMR part of the radio configured because I didn't have a BRANDMEISTER ID. I registered for one but it didn't arrive for around 24hrs, so until that arrived I had to change the settings from Brandmeister network to TGIF. I wouldn't have had a clue about that change but for the help of a club-friend G0CTO, Ian. Now that my Brandmeister ID has arrived, I'll switch the setting back.



Anyway, I was now able to successfully receive and transmit on DMR, DSTAR & C4FM - happy days.


The radio is pretty simple to operate but I believe it's not always been like that. Recent updates have added much more functionality. In DMR and DSTAR modes, you can change TalkGroups/Reflectors straight from the screen and by using the buttons on the microphone, but Fusion Rooms need changing through your Pi-Star config screen. This may change in the next update. For me, it's no big deal because 90% of the time I want to tune into North West Fusion Group.


When receiving a signal, the speaker panel turns a green colour and when transmitting it turns red. Otherwise it displays a blue colour. These colour changes are also shown in the top right corner of the display screen.

The radio is a lot of fun! It's small, portable and simple to operate. Having the 3 main digital  modes in a single package is a first (for me) and I'm liking it - a lot. The audio quality on any of the modes is excellent and the only negative I can come up with is the fact that the screen is a bit on the small side. I don't know if there's a way to connect a larger external screen (I have a 7" HDMI hanging around somewhere), but I'll do some research to find out.

I've been using my DVMC in the corner of the lounge next to my IC-705 as opposed to being the Shack and so I've normally got my PC tablet in my hand. This allows me to have the Pi-Star browser open, giving me convenient access to any changes that I want to make... 







Finding this on FaceBook for £175 was a real bargain, because filling an ML&S Basket with the same goods would result in a bill of £460 😦😦😦



There are people out there who hate NON-RF radios. People who mock them. People who would rather not play radio unless their signal comes down an antenna. But I'm not one of them. I see them as true rag-chewing devices. I enjoy listening to ham operators and engaging with them via any means, be it an RF Radio, a Hotspot, a PC or a combination. I enjoy experimenting with anything that comes under the umbrella of  Ham Radio. 

So in summary, I'd recommend this radio without any hesitation! Having said that, I only paid 38% of the normal price, so that will influence my opinion somewhat. If you happen to have an MH-48 mic hanging around and don't mind connecting the radio to your existing power-supply, then a standalone DVMEGA CAST will only cost you £320 new. That's pretty good value for money - I can certainly think of a few things that cost me more which gave me less entertainment. It's got me onto DMR without all the (apparent) hassle of codeplugs and programming. Result!

To give you an idea of the quality of voice transmission, below is a video of Gregg (K6EGG) talking to me on Reflector 1C in December 2021. The video should start at the point where I'm about to respond to Gregg's call...




Specifications : 

- Cabled (RJ45) or Wi-fi to internet connected. 

- No RF connection or repeater needed! 

- Webinterface based configuration option. 

- 2.4" touch screen for setup and control. 

- Support Yaesu MH-48 with keypad for control. 

- Rotary encoder for volume and multi-functionality. 

- Embedded high-end CPU on dedicated mainboard. 

- Support D-Star, DMR, and C4FM mode. 

- Integrated Original DVSI AMBE3000. 

- Easy to use web-based upgrade utility. 

- Support a DVMEGA-pi radio for Hotspot functionality. 

- Supports an internal DVStick30 for AMBE-server. 

- Low power consumption 12VDC (2.1 mm Barrel Connector). 

- Colourful speaker indicator for status. 

- 3.5mm external speaker connection. 

- High performance 3 watt speaker 

- Extra USB-connections available for future use. 

- Solid full-metal powder coated housing 

- Lifetime free Software updates.


Thanks for visiting. Leave a comment.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

2 comments:

  1. No RF connection...no amateur radio

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    Replies
    1. I know PLENTY of Licensed Operators who enjoy chats with other Licensed Operators on Network Radios when RF hasn't been available to them for whatever reason. Who are you to judge them??

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