I’m starting a thread to discuss the Motorola DTR radios. There’s very little on the internet about them, and what I’ve learned I’d like to share.
I always wanted to have my own professional radios.
I’ve used the Motorola CP200 for years and loved the convenience of having radios when touring. You really miss them on a fly-in when you don’t have any!
The normal “Business” 2-way radios use the VHF or UHF band, and are using frequencies that require a license in the USA and Canada. I’m sure they do in other countries as well, but I don’t know too much about the way things are licensed in other countries. I do know that they are usually more strict in Europe.
Anyway, I wanted my own radios, but the licensing issue always seemed to be a big hassle. Plus, these kind of radios aren’t particularly cheap, especially when you fit them up with all the accessories, spares, proper casing and so on. So, after doing some random scouring over the internet one day, I heard about the Motorola DTR series radios. The really interesting thing was that they worked on the 900Mhz band and were license-free in the USA and Canada. They aren’t cheap, but this license-free operation really got me interested.
The problem was, I couldn’t really get any decent information about them on the internet. Usually I’m a pretty good googler and typically looking at sites, blogs and forums I can almost always find some good “first-hand” information on any subject or product. But in this case, there was almost nothing.
On paper these radios looked really good but I really wanted to see one. There’s many Motorola dealers in my town, so I asked each of them about the radios. Most had never seen one, or if they had, they weren’t that enthusiastic about them. Radio dealers are a funny lot, it seems that they really like to keep the information they have close to their chest, and they really want to sell you radios that they have to license and program for you. What’s also interesting about these DTR radios is that the programming software is free and typical programming for VHF/UHF radios is only available to authorized dealers and is very expensive.
Still strange that I could find almost nothing about them on the internet. But I redoubled my efforts and with some determined searching, I eventually found a couple of forums and one in particular where a kind person named “Chickenhawk” had done a pretty thorough test and review of the radios. I found out that in addition to being digital, they used FHSS, they allowed private groups, would only transmit when the receiver is in range, you could see who’s calling, they had vibrating call (for loud situations), a whole bunch of features that looked really good. They also were purported to have as good or better range than the usual UHF business radios. Well, now I was even more interested!
Thinking though that I didn’t really want to invest a lot in these radios until I could see one or try them out, again I reached out to dealers and rental houses to see if I could get a set to try. Nothing. Nobody has them.
My next thought was maybe I’ll invest a little money and purchase a used set. I started looking online. Lots of them available on eBay. Living in Canada and wanting to avoid the high costs of shipping across the boarder, I checked eBay.ca. Nothing.
Hummed and hawed for a little more, and I couldn’t stop thinking about these radios. I finally bit the bullet and bought 4 at a pretty good price on eBay when I was in the USA.
At first look, they seemed pretty good, but realized that the programming was pretty difficult. I knew I’d need to get them hooked up to my computer and program them using the CPS software. Ok, have to order the programming cable. It’s about 40 bucks and when it finally arrived, I excitedly installed the software and hooked up one of the radios to the cable and to the computer.
“Non-CPS capable radio” (or something to that effect) was the popup I received. Sigh.
Back to the internet, ask some questions, see if I can figure out what’s going wrong. I learn that there are a couple of versions of the DTR radios. A “Rev1”, “Rev2”, and a “Rev3”. People are saying that the Rev2 can be “flashed” (firmware updated) to be Rev3, but the Rev1 cannot. The Rev1 will never connect to CPS, cannot be flashed and will never have the features that the Rev2 and Rev3 have.
Now the serious depression sets in.
But… I was determined that at least the IDEA of these radios is still the shiznik. I just got stuck with the early ones. Not sure what to do with them, maybe I can sell them back on eBay, so I put them aside for now. I’m still hooked though, and I still want to try out the newer version of these radios.
But even though I know now about the different versions, how do I tell without hooking them up to CPS what version they are? Well, it turns out that all Rev1 have non-removable antennas. Ok. BUT, there’s no way to tell a Rev2 from a Rev3. Ok, with more cash than brains, I look around on eBay again for some more radios. The Rev2/3 ones with the removable antennas.
Again, I was able to find some good deals, and I picked up a bunch of them, crossing my fingers that they were Rev3. Yadda yadda yadda, I get my box of radios, and they are Rev2. Hook them up to CPS, and eureka! They connect. I can program them, and all is good. I look at the firmware version and see that they are “Rev2” radios. Ok, better, but I’m still not satisfied.
I still see that the Rev3 has some additional features that I want. Reply to group call privately, vibrate on call (not just alert), over the air programming, more volume adjustment options and more. I need this Rev3 update.
Back to the internet. Search for firmware, software, any kind of information about how to get the firmware, how to do the update and so on. Silence once again. Not even torrent sites have them (even though this is not illegal software to own or anything). I see that this is not going to be easy. Eventually, though, I was lucky enough on a particular forum that one kind soul reached out to me and e-mailed me the firmware update software and the latest firmware. I was feeling very lucky and very thankful at that moment.
Quickly I order the flash programming cable - $80!! and I can only get it in the USA, of course. Again, more waiting until I’m back in the USA so I can get my cable. So, I get my cable, I’m back home and I install the flash software, and with bated breath run the update.
Error> unable to flash due to unsupported radio version Please upgrade to Gen3, then flash again.
Again the depression sets in. NOW what to do?
I leave it for a while as I’m pretty frustrated now. I keep thinking though, that this message seems to indicate that I need an interm version of the firmware which is between the firmware on the radio and the latest firmware. So, I guess it’s time to go back to the manufacturer.
I’ve been to the Motorola site many times, getting info about the radios, searching for software and so on. I’ve used their customer service “chat” to ask about software - they always direct me to a dealer. (As I said previously, I’d be happy to work with a dealer, but all that I contacted knew nothing about the radio and would not order anything for me). Contacting Motorola one more time, I explained my situation - there are no dealers in the country that have these radios, software, cables, anything. Can I set myself up as a dealer? Imagine my shock when they said yes!
I filled out tons of forms, each one would get sent and another bunch of questions would come back. Eventually they had what they needed and said they’d let me know. A few weeks go by, and low and behold, I get a customer number. I jump on the computer, log into the MOL site and start looking around. Surely the firmware files are here somewhere? Of course the site is awful, one of those sites where you need to know the exact part # to search to find out the part #… Anyway, I eventually found that I could download the catalog, so I did that, and did a search through it. Lots of software, just nothing for the DTR.
No problem - I now have a customer number so I can talk to tech support. I called there, after a while on hold, they put me through to Business Radio Tech Support. I explained my issue, I need firmware for the DTR radios. “Oh, there’s no firmware for those radios. They’re old”.
Huh? I explained that I already have some firmware, I’m just looking for an older version. “Hmmm, he says. Well, that’s not something we’d have, you’ll need to speak to a dealer.”
I explained that no dealers know anything about these radios, nor do they have any software or support for them.
“Ok, well, maybe contact the distributor. Here’s their number”.
Well, that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Can’t give up just yet though. Not expecting any real results, I call the distributor, go through their auto-attendant Hell and leave a message with my customer number, and my desire to get ahold of some firmware.
Surprise of all surprises, I get a call back from someone from the distributor’s office. Friendly enough person, says that the person I need to speak to “passed the call to him”, so he didn’t know whether he would be able to help. I explain again what I’m looking for, interm firmware for the DTR radios. He said he has no idea whether such a thing exists, but has a look on his computer. He says, “Well, there’s 3 files here (I’m thinking he’s going to want to sell the software to me), I dunno if they’ll do you any good, but I’ll just e-mail them to you”.
I was almost speechless, but thanked him profusely.
A few hours go by, and no e-mail. I’m thinking if I call back, I’ll never get that guy again, I’ll get the “other guy” who probably won’t give me the files…
I wait a little longer, and all of a sudden I get an e-mail. It’s a link to the files he spoke of.
At first it didn’t look good. The same firmware file I already had.
But wait! There’s one additional .exe in there. I download it and install it. Run the software, connect up my Rev2 radio, and it starts the flash update!
Oh no. I’ve bricked my Radio.
Start again and wait, wait, wait. It’s progressing. It’s DONE.
Unplug the radio, reset and restart it. It’s updated. To the elusive interm version of the firmware. Run an update with the latest firmware and it takes. My radio is now Rev3 with the latest firmware.
I’m literally jumping for joy now!
I take all my Rev2 radios and flash them all. All of them take the firmware update and I can flash them all to the latest version. Oh joy oh bliss!
So it’s all done, and I’m really happy now.
But wait. What about those Rev1 radios? I guess I’ll box them up and sell them on eBay. Hmmm. Everyone says you can’t update the Rev1 radios. What the hell? I’m feeling so lucky right now, I have to give it a try.
Hook it up to the flash cable, run the interm flash… AND IT STARTS!
Again, an error part-way through, but no matter. Restart and it completes. Are you kidding me???
I update it to the latest firmware and it takes. These old Rev1 radios are now on the latest Rev3 software. AND THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE!!
I flash the remaining Rev1 radios and sit back and breathe a sigh of great satisfaction.
The moral? Never give up, I guess.
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