I got another BF-888S in the post today. This one was $18.03 from ebay seller jeenygq. It continues to amaze me that I can buy a frequency agile 70cm transceiver for less than a packet of cigarettes. My ‘reason’ for needing another one is that in addition to my uncompleted 70cm foxhunt project, I’m starting an AllStar Link Node project. I’m always keen to test eBay purchases straight away while they are inside the 45 day PayPal refund timeline, and this seemed to call for one of my other recent purchases – a Rike RK-560 frequency counter.
Previously, my only method of testing CTCSS encode and decode has been to program another radio and see if the squelch was opened. This is a bit hit-and-miss as low cost CTCSS chips can often be triggered by adjacent codes.
The $29 RK-560 includes CTCSS and DCS decode. It’s about the size of a packet of cigarettes with a single momentary press button on the side, a two line eight character LCD and a 5cm extendible antenna. Mine is in jungle pattern camouflage. I’m never sure if this is an Asian fashion statement or part of the US prepper radio movement. I’m not sure of the post-apocalyptic use of a frequency counter, but there you go.
The claimed frequency range is 50MHz to 2.4GHz, and it takes a standard 9V battery that you have to take the back off with a screwdriver to access. My first battery ran down pretty quick – I suspect the button has been inadvertently pressed jiggling around in my backpack. There is a small hole in the back of the case that you might imagine is aligned with a reset button, but the board underneath is unremarkable.
In the slow gate setting, the Rike has an error of plus or minus 1 KHz compared to my ACECO FC2002 frequency counter. Operation is pretty straightforward, but as is often the case, the manual was of little use. What I’ve been able to deduce:
Turn on: With the unit off press and hold the button for about 0.5 seconds. The display come on and toggles back and forward between the two gate speeds. When you release the button you are selecting the fast gate (1K resolution) or slow gate (0.1K resolution)
Signal capture: Nothing to do, the unit will automatically hold on a strong local signal. The frequency is shown on the top line of the display.
CTCSS and DCS decode: Happens automatically. CTCSS seems to take about another quarter second after locking the frequency, it looks like it tries to decode CTCSS first, then if none is found it scans the DCS. The DCS identification can take a few seconds. The code is shown on the bottom line of the display, or it says NOCDTCS.
Reset/Un-hold: short press of the button.
While I was playing, I thought it would be worthwhile to document the default frequencies of the BF-888S. It seems likely they are being illegally used in clubs and so forth, and if that is happening it’s also likely they are on the shipped frequencies – although there is no guarantee they are all shipped with the same test set of channels.
In the Australian 400MHz plan these channels cover some low power simplex licences (including a number of Kmart stores) and land mobile repeater outputs so, along with the low power and minimal antenna, the potential for interference is not huge.