Magnum 1012 Hand Held 10 Meter AM/FM/SSB Export Review
The Magnum 1012 is a new hand held AM/FM/USB/LSB radio that hit the market within the last year and fills a void that was left open for many years.
Handheld SSB 10 and 11 meter hand held radios were something of a rarity up until the late 90's. People in the hobby might remember models from that time period such as the Spitfire 454, Cherokee AH-100, Titan Roadpro RPSY-201, Dragon AH-100, Albrecht AE201, and Intek SS-201, which were all variations on the same radio chassis. There was a love/hate relationship for many with these radios as they provided the SSB in a handheld everyone wanted but they also were quirky and lacked certain common features found on many mobile radios. They sold very well regardless but from around 2003 onward the various versions of these radios disappeared from the market.
Fast forward 10 years and the market was itching for someone to bring back a SSB hand held radio. Even ham radio operators were posting up looking for 10 meter hand helds to be ready for the peak DX cycle. Magnum saw the opportunity, got a hold of the original cases for these models and went to work redesigning a new and improved hand held radio.
The result is the Magnum 1012 and it's an impressive unit that can be programmed for 10/12 meters, 11 (cb radio) or expanded mode 25.165 - 29.655MHz.. While the radio may look similar to its predecessors it has been re-engineered and offers a lot more in the same package. The Radio Shop provided this unit for testing and since it's been many years since I sold off my Spitfire 454 so I was excited to give it a try.
Let's jump into explaining some of the buttons and functions on this radio. Looking at the picture above you'll see some of the buttons along the side of the radio -
In this second picture above we have a FUNC button which is designed to initiate secondary functions on many of the buttons and it also will turn on the display light if held in for 3 seconds. Below it are the Up/Down buttons which allow you to change frequencies and also will be used to turn up or down squelch, microphone gain and RF gain. The large button is the PTT (push-to-talk) button and it is used to key the radio for transmit.
On top of the radio you'll find the connection for an antenna (BNC type connector seen on the left), clarifier control for fine tuning (controls RX and TX), volume knob (which also turns the radio on/off) and your jacks for plugging in an external speaker or mic (Magnum sells a special speaker/mic which plugs into the jack).
On the back of the radio is a large belt clip and you can see the battery pack located below the top transmitter unit.
With the battery pack removed we have a clear view of the bottom of the radio and you can see both the positive and negative terminals where the battery pack attaches and makes contact. You'll also notice a third point that says ANT (antenna). This is a contact point for the optional external 1012 mobile adapter which allows you to run off of your car's 12V power socket and to use an external antenna. We'll talk more about this add on accessory in a minute.
The battery pack consists of two halves which snap together. One side holds 5 batteries and the other side holds 4 batteries. At the top of one side is a small circuit board and this is also where you can connect power to the radio via a 12 volt adapter. The battery pack takes AA batteries (either standard or rechargeable) and the manual suggests not mixing types of batteries.
One downside of the battery pack is that since it uses AA batteries it's not rechargeable. Some of the older hand held models did used rechargeable ni-cad battery packs. If you want to use rechargeable batteries you can charge them using the charger station they came with and when you're done just stick them back in the battery pack.
The two halves make connection through a small metal prong at the bottom of the one case (left side of the pack in the picture below). When connecting the two sides be careful of this piece and not to bend it or insert it incorrectly, otherwise you won't get a connection between the two sides and you'll have no power.
After powering up the radio you'll enjoy a six digit frequency display and it will act much the same as the display on the Magnum 257HP or RCI-2950DX. Also on this display you'll be able to see your mode of operation, battery power, microphone gain, squelch, TX indicator and RF gain.
On the front face of the radio (as seen in the photo above) you'll see two buttons. On the left is a band/lock button. In stock mode the band button switches between 10/12 meters. In expanded mode it will rotate you through "bands" or banks of frequencies and in CB only mode it acts as a channel 9/19 selector. The lock portion of the button is accessed with the function key and simply locks the features and prevents accidental activation of any features or transmit.
The other button is a little more interesting. It activates your squelch, microphone gain and RF gain controls. You press it once to access squelch and then use the up/down buttons on the side of the radio to raise or lower the squelch. If you press the button again it scrolls to the next function (microphone gain) and so on. The secondary function of the button is only active in 10 meter mode and that's the repeater function. When enabled it allows you to access a 10 meter repeater with an 88.5Khz tone burst.
Going back to the memory functions the MS (memory save function - enabled with the function key) allows you to store up to 5 frequencies including mode, a very nifty feature. The memory locations are the other buttons - SCN is M1, Mode is M2 and so on. When using the radio you'd just hit ML (memory load) and then one of the other 5 buttons to access the save frequency. It's neat to be able to save 27.385 LSB on one memory channel and 28.400 USB or 27.025 AM on another. Since it remembers the mode as well there's no need to mess with multiple buttons to move from your favorite frequencies and modes.
The radio uses blue LED lighting which is only enabled by the user by pressing and holding the function button in for a couple of seconds. The LED light only stays lit for as long as you continue to press other buttons on the radio. When you are done changing channels, etc it shuts off after 5 seconds.
Perhaps the coolest thing about these hand held radios are the accessories. The first one we'll discuss is the Magnum SM1-1012 speaker microphone.
While this feature is labeled as a Magnum accessory the microphone has the Dragon name on it and I suspect it was one of the original speaker microphones made for the old Dragon hand held radios. Either way it's a fun addition to the 1012 and it easily plugs into the top of the radio. Once plugged in it allows you to hear RX through the mic and it also becomes your external microphone. It has a small PTT switch on the side and I found it picks up audio well and in many ways is easier to use than the standard PTT on the radio as you don't have to hold the whole unit up to your ear to talk. It also has a small headphone plug on it as well so you can plug in a small headphone and listen while still using the microphone to talk.
The antenna included with this radio for review was a 28.5 inch flexible whip antenna with BNC connector. Its length is longer than many short hand held antennas currently on the market but it's also relatively shorter than some of the extending mast type antennas for hand helds.
Perhaps the coolest accessory is the Magnum MOB-1012 mobile adapter. This adapter is for using the Magnum 1012 in your vehicle. The adapter slides in place of the battery pack and has a 12V cigarette lighter type power connector and a SO-239 jack to screw on your coax. This unit allows you to power the 1012 from the vehicle and use an external antenna. I actually gave the unit some good testing using this setup and transmitted using my mobile antenna with good results. It made the experience very similar to using a Cobra 75 WX type CB radio except with the benefit of all the added features and SSB modes.
Looking closer at the connections on the mobile adapter you'll see the positive and negative terminals and you'll also see the ANT connector which we discussed earlier. This mobile adapter was also an accessory for some of the older hand helds from the early 2000's so Magnum took advantage of previously developed accessories. This is one reason I'm happy they used the same chassis for the 1012 as it still works with many of these older style accessories.
In the picture below you'll get a closer view of the power and antenna pieces that come off of the main unit.
The last accessory I tested was the Magnum CLA-1012, which is a 12VDC adapter. I ended up using this to power the radio at home during testing (I have a jack on one of my power supplies that accepts the cigarette adapter) but this can be used to power the unit in your mobile if you choose not to go with the mobile adapter and external antenna.
Now I have heard that there is an accessory currently being designed that will incorporate a RFX 75 type unit into a piece that can connect onto the bottom of the radio, allowing you to transmit 50-75 watts out when wanted. It will be interesting to see if this unit comes to market and what kind of output it will do when matched with the 1012.
The receive on this unit is excellent and when I hooked it up to my antenna in the mobile and drove around listening to the DX it was easy to forget I was listening to a hand held unit. Tuning with the clarifier is simple, although it doesn't have a center notch position so if you knock it off frequency it may take a little messing to get it back to center. I made multiple contacts and could easily hear stations even while driving on the freeway and listing through the speaker microphone's small speaker.
One thing about hand helds is that they will never perform like a mobile or base radio in terms of transmit but most people buy them understanding the limitations. In fact part of the fun of owning a hand held radio is making contacts using minimal power. I was reading a review on eham of an older SSB hand held and a ham there was discussing how his ultimate QRP contact was made using a hand held unit in his driveway.
Transmit on the radio is fairly conservative. On AM you'll see 2 watts swing to around 5 watts. On SSB you'll see around 2-3 watts SSB peak. FM will also be about 2-3 watts. Now these numbers may seem low as some of the old hand held models did do higher wattage, but they also suffered from over heating issues and used ni-cad battery packs. This radio was designed to run lower on output but don't let that completely scare you off; I found on SSB with just the battery pack and 28" antenna that I could talk 8 miles during testing and while the other station had me at static level at that distance I could still be heard and confirmed. You might see slightly higher output numbers when hooked up to the 12v in a vehicle.
In the mobile using the mobile adapter and my external antenna I was able to talk from the west coast into Massachusetts and make a solid contact there. I also tried running the unit into my Cobra 350 XL and the output on the unit matched up well and gave me over 100 watts output with an external amplifier.
I got good reports on the audio on SSB and while it's not going to be as loud as many of my standard radios I didn't run into anyone having an issue hearing or understanding me. I will make a note here - I have one of the latest units sitting in front of me and on some of the early units there was an issue that caused a warble on SSB during transmit. More than a few people ran into the issue and sent their unit into Magnum for a modification to fix the problem. All new units should have the fix from the factory and I had no problems with my unit whatsoever.
10/12 METER OPERATION
While I didn't get a chance to make any DX contacts I did give this radio a run in 10 meter mode and I think ham radio aficionados will be excited that this isn't your standard CB type export radio. In this mode it allows for different tuning steps and the repeater and offset options are enabled. For more info see my 10 meter operation video on you tube.
While for many people a hand held SSB radio isn't a necessity I found that they can be a ton of fun to operate and this unit actually is much more than your typical hand held unit. While many of us have struggled with drifting issues on SSB with many mobile units this small unit has none of those problems. Again I'll compare this tiny unit to the Magnum 257 and 2950DX in terms of frequency stability. I talked for 30 mins in the mobile and didn't need to touch the clarifier.
The radio can be operated as a CB, Ham radio, or export radio depending on how you modify it (see here on the options for frequency expansion). It really is a very versatile little radio.
Our main complaints would be in regards to the battery pack, I would have liked to see a battery pack that was rechargeable or maybe used lithium batteries. The transmit power could also be slightly higher but I found 3 watts was enough to get me out locally 8 miles so maybe my complaint would be unfounded. Terrain and other factors will play a part in transmitted distance. In a city with lots of interference or in a valley you may only get out a mile or two but if you live on the 10th floor of a apartment building or you want to transmit at the top of the lift at the ski area who knows how far you might get out.
I think the real beauty of this radio is its ability to act like a mobile unit with the mobile adapter. Pack the radio in your checked luggage along with a K30 antenna and next time you're in Hawaii you can slap the mag mount on your rental car and plug the unit in and talk to the locals or shoot skip to Australia. When you get to the beach, slap on the battery pack and flexible antenna and lay out in the sunshine listening to 10 meter DX roll in. When camping, traveling, or even just hiking in the local mountains, this radio is an opportunity to have some fun. Pack a 10 meter dipole and some coax in your backpack and when you get to the peak try some QRP.
While a hand held SSB may not be a necessity for everyone this radio proves that they can be a lot of fun and it will surprise you with how many features can be packed into such a small unit. The mobile adapter turns this hand held into a great mobile radio and if you aren't careful you could even find it replacing your traditional mobile SSB radio. :)