Magnum Omegaforce S-45HP10 Meter AM/FM/SSB Export Review
When I was doing my recent review of the Magnum DeltaForce I contacted Magnum Radios (a division of RF Limited) to get some background information on the radio design and history. The owner of Magnum Radios, Sam Lewis, responded to my inquiry providing me with information but also offering me the opportunity to try one of their newest radios on the market, the OmegaForce S-45 HP. I told the owner at Magnum Radios that I’d be happy to review the radio but that I reserved the right to give a complete and unbiased review; he responded, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The following is a review of the new OmegaForce S-45 HP (high power) radio from Magnum. Interviewing the designer of a radio and then testing the product first-hand is a very unique experience. In this review I’m going to provide my own opinions of this radio along with a vast amount of information I obtained from Sam Lewis regarding design, function, and features on the OmegaForce.
FROM THE DELTAFORCE TO THE OMEGAFORCE
The Magnum DeltaForce radio first arrived on the market in 1996 and was developed by Sam Lewis who had previously developed the popular Clear Channel AR3300 and AR3500 radios. The DeltaForce was one of the few export radios (and still is) to use a microprocessor to control the many functions of the radio, it was packed with extra features and became a very popular radio.
In 2005 production ended on the DeltaForce and the next generation of the radio was released called the OmegaForce.
Picture of the Magnum DeltaForce (on left) and new OmegaForce S-45HP (on right)
The OmegaForce chassis and board are virtually identical to the DeltaForce but improvements were made to the receiver (in the DeltaForce model some people had complained of overloaded receivers when near strong signals) and a number of updated features were added to the radio including –
· Top Gun Modulator
· Top Gun Compressor
· Blue Leds
· RF Limited Turbo Echo
These changes gave the updated model much more “punch” on AM while giving very strong audio and stable performance on SSB (as noted in my review of the original OmegaForce 3 years ago). The newest version of the OmegaForce S-45 is a high power model that is identical to the original except for the addition of the RFX75 final system which gives this model increased output.
OPENING THE BOX
When you look at the box for this new model you’ll notice a couple of things. First the picture on the box is of the original yellow display model (all models are now blue display) and the box itself is obviously the same one used for the older 40 watt & 50 watt versions. The manufacturer has added a sticker in the upper right corner of the box to designate that this model is the HP (high power) 100 watt version. If you’re looking to buy the high power version make sure to look for the white sticker. (I will mention at this point that while the sticker says 100 watts this radio is set up from the factory to produce roughly 80-85 watts. In my discussion with Sam Lewis he said 80-85 watts PEP is the recommended output).
When you unpack the radio you are greeted with a very shiny front panel with modern styling and multiple dual pot controls. Some more traditional radio enthusiasts might be intimidated by the multiple buttons and controls but with a quick read of the instruction manual everything is easily explained.
If you flip the radio around you’ll immediately be able to pick out the RFX75 unit with its heat sink on the back of the radio. While this radio produces more than double the power of older models such as the DeltaForce, you’ll notice the heat sink is only slightly larger than the DeltaForce, meaning the radio still maintains a fairly small footprint for mounting. On the back you’ll also find your connection for the antenna, a PA and External Speaker Plug,
The radio case itself is identical in size to the original OmegaForce and DeltaForce radios.
Picture of the Magnum OmegaForce S-45HP (on left) and the Magnum DeltaForce (on Right)
On each side of the radio you’ll find microphone inputs. On one side of the radio is a 6 pin Magnum microphone plug where the included stock microphone can be plugged in. On the other side of the radio is a standard 4 pin microphone plug so you can use any of the 4 pin wired aftermarket microphones. This dual microphone plug option is unique to Magnum radios.
The radio uses a power cord that is attached to the radio and has a quick disconnect plug roughly 12” from the radio. The plug is designed so that when plugging the two pieces together you don’t accidentally reverse polarity.
The Magnum OmegaForce S-45HP is a high power output 10 meter export radio with AM, FM, and LSB/USB capabilities. It is modifiable for extended frequency coverage (including CB frequencies) and has an LCD screen with 5 digit frequency display.
Below is a list of features and components-
- Top Gun Modulator
- Top Gun Compressor
- Mic Gain
- RF Gain
- Variable Power
- Dual Control Echo
- Variable Talkback
- Rotary Channel Changing Knob & Up/Down buttons on microphone
- Roger Beep
- Rotary Switch for – STX, STX+RB, CAL, SWR, MTX, MTX+RB
- Calibration Knob
- Noise Blanker
- Last Channel Recall Button
- Hi/Low Tone Button
- Scan Button
- Dimming Button
- Step Button
- Mode Control Button
- Memory Button Control (for memory buttons)
- LCD 5 Digit Display
- Physical S/RF/SWR Meter
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
- Memory channels
I won’t spend a whole lot of time talking about the memory channel function as I covered it pretty well in the recent DeltaForce article (click here to read more) but I will once again say how much I like a radio that can save both frequency and mode for memory channels. It’s so easy to jump from 28.400 USB to 27.385 LSB to 27.025 AM with just a couple presses of the buttons. No knobs to turn and no messing around.
- STX vs MTX
The Top Gun Modulator is an impressive feature on this radio that allows for very clean loud audio and high swing from a low dead key, but there are times that may call for turning this feature off. The OmegaForce allows the user to disable the Top Gun Modulator by putting the selector knob in the STX position. Turn it on again by moving the selector to the MTX position.
Scanning may not sound like a normal CB feature but it’s something you’ll appreciate once you try it. This radio has the ability to scan the frequencies in two different ways. It can scan each channel with the squelch off going through the channels with a 2-3 second interval, or you can turn up the squelch and it will scan until it finds a signal that breaks the squelch. This can be a great feature for finding DX or for when you’re just looking to see if anyone is talking on other channels.
- LCD Display
The LCD display on this radio allows you to view either a frequency or channel readout. It also will display the mode you are in (AM, FM, USB, LSB) and shows which features are engaged (Tone, NB, Roger Beep). In addition it has a bar graph type readout along the bottom that works similar to the standard S/RF meter during transmit.
RF limited has designed possibly the best echo system on the market (this might be less of my opinion and more just a fact). Their TRB1 echo board is used in their radios and provides some of the cleanest echo you’ll hear and large amounts of adjustment. While many operators may still complain about people using echo, for those who want echo the RF Limited systems are tops. Look for the newest version (the TRB1-X2) to be included in models in the near future.
- RF Variable
Variable power is becoming a must have for most radios these days. Operators want to be able to turn down their output when it’s not needed and turn it up when they need the full power from the unit. This radio allows for you to set the deadkey low for running an amplifier, or you can turn it up for a 15 watt dead key. The variable power works in AM, FM and SSB modes.
This radio does have the Top Gun Modulator which allows you to set the RF power to dead key as low as 1 watt on AM and with modulation swing to full output. *Note* – with the Top Gun ON the radio will swing to maximum output and the RF control will only reduce the amount of carrier NOT peak output.
- Mechanical Meter
Most radios with digital displays have LED meters or bar graph meters but the OmegaForce has both. The mechanical meter gives this radio a little bit of the old school to go along with the newer technology. When mobile it can be a lot easier to look at a mechanical meter than to try to count lights or bars on a LED or digital meter.
LET’S TALK ABOUT POWER: RFX 75
The RFX 75 is a unit designed and sold by RF Limited (Magnum) and can be added to most CB and export radios on the market. Magnum is installing these on the new high power OmegaForce at the factory.
Originally the OmegaForce radio used dual 1969 finals which were good for about 40 watts and then later they used dual ERF2030 finals which would produce 50 watts. The new RFX 75 uses an ERF2030 transistor driving a newly released ERF7530 transistor. The ERF7530 is rated at 50 volts 9.5 amps 80 watts output and is described by Sam Lewis as a very “rugged” transistor rated at greater amperage and capable of handling higher standing wave than previous transistors.
On radios like the Cobra 29 that use a modulation transformer it’s possible to see 100+ watts PEP when a RFX 75 unit is installed, while on radios like the OmegaForce that use Audio Amplifiers (2SB817) expected output will be in the 80 watt range, depending on how the radio is tuned.
With the variable RF in the low position the OmegaForce S-45HP will have a carrier of 1 watt and with it in the high position the radio carrier is 15 watts (the recommended factory maximum carrier). With the Top Gun Modulator on the radio can swing to roughly full output from the 1 watt carrier.
When testing this new high power OmegaForce I did do some long talking (1 hour + conversations) and I did notice that when using high power that the heat sink will get what I would consider to be very warm. I asked Sam Lewis about this and he explained that part of the beauty of the RFX unit is that it’s designed to be very tough, dissipate heat well, and because it’s mounted on the outside of the radio the heat is unlikely to cause problems with components inside the radio.
When running these radios as a base unit Magnum recommends the Astron 20 amp power supply.
TOP GUN COMPRESSOR
The Top Gun Compressor is included in the “S” series radios and is also now included in the Magnum 257 radio. The Top Gun Compressor works in AM, FM, and SSB modes, keeping the modulation at peak performance in all these modes. This technology has been around for quite some time and was developed by the same people who came out with the SPA-1 speech processor.
Magnum has an exclusive agreement with the manufacturers of the Top Gun technology and their radios are the only ones which include these components from the factory.
TOP GUN MODULATOR
The Top Gun Modulator is a second piece of technology that’s included in the “S” series radios. Basically the Top Gun Modulator allows for a radio to have a low carrier and swing to high peak output. Although the technology and claimed abilities of this component seem to confuse some people, the tweaking of radios for “Double Sideband Reduced Carrier” (DSBRC) AM transmission is something that has been around for years. Ham radio enthusiasts after World War II began to experiment with suppressed/reduced carriers on early Collins radios. Even some older CB radios such as the Regency Imperial II had a double sideband reduced carrier (DSBRC) system to produce a low carrier and loud modulation on AM. This same method is what is used in the Top Gun Modulator.
Sam Lewis explains that 25-30% of your total RF is used up in the AM carrier and with these types of reduced carrier technologies their radios are able to achieve higher PEP numbers from a low carrier without creating distorted signals.
Now while this method and the results will continue to be argued on ham radio and CB forums for years to come, the real world results are easy to see. On a quality watt meter you’ll see higher PEP numbers with the Top Gun Modulator “on”. This is able to be achieved without squaring of the waveform.
In my testing with the Top Gun Modulator on and off I found that with it in the “on” position I saw higher output, increased modulation, and reports from other stations said that the Top Gun Modulator made my audio louder.
There will continue to be arguments regarding if 1 watts swinging to 50-80 watts can result in a clean signal, but I can personally vouch that it does produce the much desired loud AM audio sought after by many operators. I’m sure the speculation will continue for some time but the Top Gun technology is definitely proving to be popular.
POWER MICROPHONE with UP/DOWN Buttons
A surprising feature for these radios comes packaged inside the microphone itself. While most radios on the market come with simple stock microphones, the OmegaForce includes an amplified 6 pin microphone that is powered by the radio. The microphone also has up/down controls on the front of the radio for changing frequencies via the microphone. This is a very nice feature for use in the mobile so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road or touch the radio to change frequencies.
The power microphone has an adjustment inside so not only can you adjust the microphone gain on the radio you can also turn up the gain at the microphone. These microphones are quite loud and offer good audio response. I’ve tested these previously against D104M6B microphones and found they were just as loud and sounded better for my voice than the D104.
To adjust the gain inside the microphone you need to remove two screws on the back cover, remove the cover, and then pull out the small board that is recessed in the inside front microphone section. There is a potentiometer on this board that provides the adjustment.
CONVERSION FOR EXTENDED FREQUENCY COVERAGE
Converting this radio for expanded coverage requires removing the radio covers, locating a small board inside the radio and then moving a plastic jumper to a different set of pins. The instructions for converting this radio can be found (HERE)
(Left) Stock radio jumper position “CON 1” (Right) Jumper moved to “CON 3” for expanded coverage
A PEEK INSIDE
While most of us are concerned about how well a radio performs on the air, we often don’t give much thought to what goes into the construction of the radio to achieve that performance. Cheap radios with cheap parts aren’t going to give the same performance as radios that use higher quality components.
In talking with Sam Lewis he brought up some of the reasons he believes Magnum radios are built to last longer and have higher quality compared to other radios in the industry.
Fiberglass circuit boards– the Magnum OmegaForce S-45 HP is built using FR4 circuit board material. Most CB radios use a FR2 type paper based board which is more prone to breaking and water absorption resulting in dead radios (which many of us have experienced over the years). The FR4 boards are made of fiberglass making them stronger, more durable, and the material of choice for high-end electronics. Even in the ham radio market you usually will only see high end amplifiers and radios using the FR4 material.
Copper – while many radios use 1oz copper per square inch in their radios, Magnum decided to use 2oz of copper per square inch which is twice as expensive but provides a more rugged radio with added stability and better RF performance.
While these may not be the selling points most people research when buying a radio, I think in a tough economy people may appreciate radios that have designs that make them more durable and last longer.
Sensitivity is excellent and for those of you who are familiar with the receive in the older Uniden Grant or HR2600 radios, the OmegaForce has comparable abilities in pulling in far-off signals.
Some people have complained about white noise or hiss that you get with radios that have microprocessors inside them, but I didn’t find that an issue with this model. I made a couple of minor tuning adjustments in the receive section and I found this radio to be very quiet. I was able to tune it so that on AM I had almost zero background noise without compromising its great receive abilities.
Now the people interested in buying this High Powered model are all going to ask one question – “What’s the output”?
The RFX 75 doesn’t disappoint. On AM I was seeing 80 watts PEP and on SSB I was pushing 75 watts PEP. With more aggressive tuning I think the radio can achieve even higher output numbers but I found that at maximum power the heat sink did get quite warm. I retuned the radio for consistent numbers around 75 watts PEP and it seems to like operating at those levels.
This radio is easily capable of achieving 100% modulation and the way that the Top Gun Compressor and Modulator work together it can be a very loud 100%. These radios come from the factory set up for loud audio; there really isn’t a whole lot you need to do inside the radio to make it loud. In fact you really don’t need to mess with anything.
If you want a little louder audio just pop the cover on the stock microphone cover and increase the gain a bit. No need to mess with the AMC inside the radio – the Top Gun Modulator does the work for you.
These radios produce loud audio without the distortion you’re used to hearing on the CB band. Some people mistake this cleaner sounding audio as not as loud but those stations with “crunchy” audio aren’t producing clean audio even if they seem loud. This is the main claim behind the Top Gun Modulator/compressor: that their loud clean sounding audio is going to be punchy and will cut through the traffic on the airwaves better, resulting in a louder and more intelligible signal on the other end.
While this is all subjective to the listener of course, I personally believe that clean sounding signals will do better especially when talking DX. Of course there are some locals around here that insist on clipping the limiters in their radios and then running lollipop D104’s so loud that you can hear their goldfish in the next room pass gas, but each to their own right?
Perhaps my greatest requirement for a radio is SSB performance. I’m a die hard SSB operator and after years of dealing with export radios that drift I now look specifically for radios that are stable on SSB.
The OmegaForce series (like the Magnum 257, DeltaForce, and Clear Channel radios) uses a microprocessor controlled TX and RX system which ensures this radio has only minimal drift. While other radios have multiple systems that work in sequence or conjunction to maintain frequency stability these radios use a signal central system so there are less places in the loop for deviation to occur. (This type of system is also employed by RCI in the 2950DX and 2970DX).
When using these radios on SSB I find the only time I have to touch the clarifier is when other stations are off frequency and I have to tune them in. If you’ve spent years dealing with export radios that drift you’ll enjoy the stability of the OmegaForce.
- RFX 75 Heat dissipation
While I ran this radio harder than most people will in their daily talking I did find that the heat sink on the RFX 75 could get quite hot. Of course a heat sink on a radio is supposed to get hot because that means it’s actually doing its job correctly and is dissipating the heat. Based on my discussion with Sam Lewis the transistors used in this system are designed to be tougher than most others and the board used in the RFX 75 is also the heavy duty FR4 material. So although it may run hotter than what you might be used to with one of the lower wattage export radios you shouldn’t experience any problems.
- 5 digit frequency display
The OmegaForce does come with a 5 digit frequency display, not a frequency counter. This means as you move the unlocked clarifier on this radio and go from 27.3850 to 27.3849 the display will continue to show 27.385. Now since this radio doesn’t drift at all, if you just leave the clarifier centered you shouldn’t care all that much. If you need to tune to someone on SSB you’re doing so using their voice anyway so the 6th digit isn’t really necessary. I guess my only complaint would be if you do happen to knock the clarifier accidentally while operating in the mobile and without knowing it you’re calling CQ on 27.3847; that’s when it might be nice if it was an active frequency counter.
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 OmegaForce 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.
In our recent Magnum DeltaForce article we talked about the small number of “export” 10 meter radios that can work for amateur use. Since the Magnum OmegaForce improved upon the original DeltaForce model I’m comfortable in saying it’s adequate for 10 meter simplex phone operation. The radio audio quality is excellent and the radio can easily navigate the 10 meter frequencies. It doesn’t have a tone board for activating repeaters that require such, but since most 10 meter operators using this radio will be Tech license individuals who just want to make a SSB contact it probably won’t be an issue. While the addition of echo and talkback reminds us that the target audience for these radios may not be the U.S. amateur community, these radios are capable of operating properly on the ham radio frequencies and in many cases will offer better performance than many of the older type certified 10 meter radios being used.
Since I’ve reviewed the original OmegaForce previously (I’ve owned three over the years along with two DeltaForce models) it’s easy for me to give a thumbs up to all the features on the OmegaForce S-45 HP. The Top Gun Compressor and Top Gun Modulator provide some of the best audio on the market. The microprocessor controlled transmit and receive are rock solid with excellent stability and sensitivity. So the real test this time around was for me to see how the OmegaForce operated with the RFX 75 added.
People are buying the HP version of this radio for the extra wattage and I think it’s going to provide them with what they want. A standard export radio is going to put out anywhere from 30-45 watts and this HP model with the RFX 75 is going to give you roughly double the output. As shown in my audio test posted on YouTube, at 15 miles away when comparing a dual 1969 final radio against the RFX 75 radio the extra wattage of the RFX 75 combined with the Top Gun Modulator is going to get you heard better from farther away.
This radio would a very good choice for operators looking for loud AM performance and SSB stability. It’s rare to find both of those characteristics in one radio and when you add in all the other great features (memory modes, scan, dual mic jacks, variable RF & talkback) and then give the radio 80 watts of output it’s fair to say it’s in a class all its own.
Owners manual (OmegaForce S-45)
Factory Service Manual for non-HP radio (tuning locations will be the same, output settings will not, remember the maximum carrier on AM for this radio is 15 watts)