Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 AM/FM/SSB 10 Meter Review
We recently got our hands on one of the new Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 10 meter export "CB" radios, and after giving the radio a good thrashing, we're ready to give you our take. Every time a new radio comes out we all cross our fingers that the new radio will be "the one", the "holy grail" of radios. I think everyone in the hobby is always looking for that one radio that can do it all so you can get rid of the other three you own.
A lot of people have been excited about this new model and I'm sure they have their fingers crossed so let's get this review rolling.
OPENING THE BOX
When you receive your Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 you'll notice your box is white and very plain. If you look closer you'll discover it's a nothing more than a white box with a sticker on the top. The Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 is being produced by a factory in China and is sold to distributors in multiple countries. There isn't a specific company like "Cobra" or "Galaxy" based in the U.S. who is putting their name on this radio. As a consumer this means there is no customer service, no technical support, and no warranty on this radio. That alone may scare off quite a few people, especially on a new radio with a new design, but what the radio can do may be enough for them to take the risk.
Inside the box it's pretty simple - Radio, Power Cord, Microphone, Mounting Bracket and Hardware, Owner Manual.
FIRST LOOK AROUND
The face of the radio is a mix of old and new. It looks a lot like some of the old original export models but it also has an LCD display. The size of the radio is fairly standard and the grey faceplate with black covers gives it a nice contrast to other models.
The microphone jack is set up for 4 pin but the stock microphone has control buttons on the face. Up/Down channel controls and an automatic squelch on/off button make it easy to control the radio while driving. NOTE: Because the microphone has up/down buttons, pin 4 on the jack has voltage and if you try to connect a standard Galaxy/Cobra/Uniden 4 pin microphone you will damage the radio. To use a microphone other than the stock one requires removing the connector to pin 4 (cut the wire to pin 4 on your microphone).
Since the microphone looks similar to the small original Magnum 257 microphone, many people have asked if it is a power microphone that has a variable adjustment pot inside to increase or decrease gain. The answer is no. The microphone inside is fairly simple and you'll just find the mic element and the up/down buttons with a small circuit board.
At the back of the radio you'll notice the heatsink, which is substantial, and dissipates the heat created by the transistors. There is an External speaker jack and a CW Jack, SO239 antenna connection and 3 pin power cord (standard CB power cord) plug. The radio does have a PA function but no PA jack. In PA mode you'll hear yourself through the internal speaker.
You'll also notice a lack of serial number or even a mention of the country where it was manufactured. I'll mention that when I took this radio out of the box it smelled like some serious chemicals. The board inside was pretty stinky so hopefully whatever Chinese chemical they used on the board isn't releasing harmful fumes.
The following knob controls can be found on the Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 Radio. Many of these control are dual control pots (knobs with inner and other rings for dual controls in one location).
Volume / Squelch
RF Gain / RF Power
Band Selector (A,B,C,D,E,F)
Mode Selector (PA, CW, AM, FM, USB, LSB)
Clarifier (with push for secondary function)
This radio also uses 8 buttons to control additional features. Seven of these buttons have multiple functions (each button controls two different options) and the secondary functions can be accessed by using the "Function" button (the upper left most button).
The function menu of the Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 is really where the radio starts to differentiate itself from other models. Offering people the ability to toy with the radio functions and really customize a radio is the key to pleasing radio hobbyists.
We'll let our online video walk you through all the different abilities of the radio, since seeing first hand what the radio can do really is the best way to explain the functions, but below is a brief summary of what is possible in the function menu.
STP (Frequency Tuning Step) This menu is to set tuning step 10HZ 100HZ 1KHZ 10KHZ for the CLARIFIER.
CLA (CLARIFIER) Mode Setting - RX tune only, TX and RX only, TX only.
PUS (PUSH Function Setting on Clarifier) - You can pick which function you want to engage when you push in the clarifier. COA = Push to engage coarse tuning. T = TX only tuning. STP = Push function changes tuning step.
ASQ (Automatic Squelch Control) (Same as AQ on Mic) Default is OFF
TOT (Transmit Time-Out-Timer) Sets the TOT timer. When the mic is keyed longer than the TOT time set, the radio will stop transmitting on that single keyup.
TSR (Transmit SWR Protection) Sets whether to enable Transmit SWR Protection function or not.
TDC (Power Supplied Voltage Protection) This menu is to choose whether to enable Power Suppy Voltage Protection function or not.
DISP (Default is TF) Sets the content displayed on the LCD on transmit. Frequency, SWR, Voltage, TOT remaining.
RBF (ROGER BEEP Frequency Setting) Sets Roger Beep Frequency. (300KHz—3KHz. Shift step is 10Hz).
RBT (ROGER BEEP Holding Time) Sets Roger Beep Holding Time, (50ms - 1000ms). Shift step is 50ms.
CFR (CW Side Tone Frequency) Sets CW Side Tone Frequency. (300Hz- 3KHz) Shift step is 10Hz.
TON (Transmitting Single-Tone Frequency) Sets Transmit Single-Tone Frequency. (300Hz -3KHz). Shift step is 10Hz
Converting this radio for expanded coverage is very simple - just hold down the Function and Scan button when powering on the radio and it will reset the CPU for export coverage. The other option is to use the USB cable and software (sold separately) to program the radio.
PROGRAMMING SOFTWARE AND USB CABLE
This is something new for CB or export radios: programming via a computer. The Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 has a location on the inside board (removing the covers is necessary to access this) where a special USB cable can attach (cable pictured below). Once you connect the radio to the computer and install the proper software and drivers you can program the radio directly from the computer.
The programming is surprisingly simple to do and the software is fairly straightforward. Programming instructions can be found here. The level of customization is pretty awesome. Instead of being limited to 40 channels per band you can program the radio for 60 channels per band. You can pretty much program the radio to do whatever you want. In testing I made band "A" only my favorite CB and free band frequencies. For band "B" I did my favorite 10 meter call frequencies. Then I made band "C" just the 40 channel band. Band "D" was the 10 meter band and so on and so on.
Beyond the programming for frequencies you can also specify certain options to be enabled only on certain frequencies. For example you can disable the roger beep on one frequency but have it be enabled on another. So maybe when you flip from 27.385 to 28.400 you can set it up so the roger beep doesn't come on when talking in the 10 meter frequencies. This is the same for the hi-cut feature, NB and more.
Some people have complained about having to open the radio to do the USB programming but the idea is really that you set it up the way you want it and leave it. This isn't something you should really need to mess with every day.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this model and I can say I was surprised. The receive fell in line with other CPU type exports (Magnum 257, Magnum Omegaforce, RCI-2950DX) and was clear and DX stations were easily picked up. The background noise or hiss was actually lower than my two RCI-2950DX radios and while it was easy to listen to in the mobile with the ANL/NB and Hi-Cut turned on, it still sounded like an export radio and not a older quieter CB (think Uniden Grant here).
On the topic of the Hi-Cut, I'm not sure if it's just my ears but I'm one of those people that always takes advantage of this feature on radios. When I listen to SSB for hours on end I find the high end hiss wears on me quickly and so Hi-Cut on a radio is always a big plus in my book.
The radio talks well on SSB. It's not as loud as the newer Magnum 257, Magnum Omegaforce, RCI-2950DX, or the Galaxy 95T2 but it's loud enough and clear. The stock microphone was a disappointment right off the bat and sounded muffled on SSB (and AM). Once I changed over to a quality power microphone the reports started coming back a lot better. Louder SSB modulation and still clear.
AM modulation is nominal. It sounded more like a stock CB radio and after adjusting the modulation inside the radio it still sounded like a stock CB radio. With the addition of the power microphone the audio came up a bit and was less muffled but it wasn't anything impressive. There are many CB and export radios on the market that will blow this radio away on AM. I think if you are a big AM talker you'll want to steer clear of this model.
We did test FM and it sounded clear and once again while the audio levels were good it didn't sound quite as punchy as other radios I've heard in FM mode.
How much wattage a radio puts out is always a big question for potential buyers but in many cases they get caught up choosing a radio based on a 5 or 10 watt difference in advertised output and forget to buy based on features.
I think if you like this radio because of the features than maybe you'll be able to accept the lacking output numbers I'm about to divulge.
The radio is a bit anemic for output. SSB output during testing hit around 25-28 watts but didn't get into the 30's like many other models (new RCI-2950DX). AM output was similar, just into the mid-high 20's and not much more to go.
When you turn down the variable to 1 watt carrier on AM you'll be disappointed when you check the swing and PEP. With the modulation adjusted to max inside and a power microphone added the radio had very little swing. My Uniden 640e and Uniden Grant LT both displayed more swing from a 1 watt deadkey than this export radio with dual IRF520 finals. I thought maybe it was just me but I've now talked to two other people who purchased these radios and they ran into the same thing. Just something to be aware of, this is not a Magnum S-9 that can swing from 1 watt to 40 on AM.
This also is something to mention when pairing this radio with an amplifier. The radio will drive an amplifier without a problem but it won't drive it near as hard as other export radios. An RCI-2950DX will yield much higher results when paired with an amplifier and I found the Alpha 10 Max drove the amps much more like a standard CB radio.
So what the radio lacks in output it more than makes up for in frequency stability. I tested this radio in my shop and in my mobile in the middle of winter. I left it overnight in the mobile in 20F degree weather multiple nights and powered it on the next morning and keyed right away. I was on frequency for TX and so were the people coming back on RX. So much like my favorite SSB radios (Mag 257, RCI-2950DX) this radio acts like a microprocessor controlled radio is supposed to and gives you very nice frequency stability.
There has been some interesting discussion on the design of these radios and stability having to do with the tuning steps and their single VCXO design vs the Dual VCXO design in some other radios. Click here to read.
I wasn't sure if I would like the display on this radio at night because it has three different colors going on but after a week in the mobile I decided it's awesome. Easy to read, everything is easy to find and the LCD display is big and bright.
While many radios are called "export" models I think this one is more export than most others. It was exported to the U.S. but not by a radio company operating in the U.S., so there is no warranty on the radio. If it dies for some reason you're probably screwed. This radio is being sold around the world under different names and the branding for the U.S. consists of a sticker slapped on the top of the radio. Remove that sticker and you have a no-name export model. There is no manufacturer information on the back, no serial number, no made in China designation. The radio is definitely not FCC certified and falls into the illegal category for CB radio shops to sell.
The radio is not a powerhouse. On SSB it performed well enough for me not to really call it a negative but on AM it was pretty sucky. Maybe that's not the most eloquent way to describe it, but that was the feeling I was left with after testing. The FM is actually pretty good so if you're in Europe you might like this one.
If you are someone who likes to roll on channel 19 or hammer on the bowl (channel 6) than you will not want to come within 100 feet of this model. For anyone who does buy this model the first thing I suggest is to ditch that stock microphone!
10 METER USE
**Please note – the use of this radio on Amateur radio frequencies is limited to operators who have a valid Amateur radio license. If you do not have a ham radio license DO NOT operate this radio on ham radio frequencies. The CB band is from 26.965 to 27.405, if you intend to use the radio as a CB radio (illegal according to FCC rules) do not operate outside of those frequencies as you may be interfering with vital emergency or military communications.
Ham radio operators are the ones who actually may like this "export" radio the most. It's fairly inexpensive, it has programming features and CW features not found other export models. It works well on SSB and it doesn't fall into the loud and proud "splatter my signal all over" category that many CBer's like and all Ham's hate.
This radio has clean SSB operation and good receive so I think many Ham operators looking for a cheap 10 meter radio might consider it even though they won't ever tell their Ham friends what radio they are talking on. :)
DO-IT YOURSELF TUNING
Normally this is the section where I tell you about how to tune your radio. In my You Tube video I showed you the location of the modulation pot and that's about all you're going to want to mess with. Even with that adjustment you're not going to notice a whole lot of difference. My experience with this radio is that it is not a "stick the tuning tool in and turn for great results" type model.
Over the water in Europe there are shops selling other clones of this model and one tech in particular has come up with some solutions to some of the early problems these radios are having. While I think his mods are currently trade secrets, I do expect that eventually we will see some NPC mods and more to really get this radio to hit its full potential.
If I had a nickel for every time I was disappointed by a new radio I'd be a millionaire. I had high hopes for this new model and when it comes to features it delivers more than just about every other export on the market. Features can only take you so far though; when it's time to talk you need a radio that can get the job done in every way needed. That is where this radio falls short.
The Alpha 10 Max AM-1000 is a radio I would suggest to those who only run SSB or to 10 meter ham radio operators. Just don't expect it to be as loud on SSB as a Magnum 257HP or RCI-2950DX. For the average CBer who wants to talk on AM and SSB there are other exports that do a better overall job.
While this radio isn't "the one" to be all and end all for the export market it definitely is a step in the right direction and while a lack in on-air performance is noted, the features of this radio continue to impress me. The programming and functions all work exactly as advertised and the display was a pleasure to have in my vehicle at night.
To whoever is designing these and to which ever Chinese factory is producing them I give you a big thumbs up for the innovation. If you can get this radio talking louder on AM and get the radio to swing higher (especially from a low deadkey) you might just have me sold on the next version.
ADDITIONAL PICTURES AND INFORMATION