Cobras are in the house, & mistakes are made

Cobra MR HH425 cPanbo

Yesterday loaner units of two new Cobra VHF’s—the MR F80 B and MR HH425LI VP (who makes up such names?)—showed up on my doorstep. I plan thorough tests, but first some initial reaction to the handheld, which I wrote about when a similar model was introduced in Europe. If you read that entry, you’ll see that I liked the “Rewind, Say Again” memory feature in part because I pictured using it when I missed an important bit of a long NOAA weather forecast loop. Well, guess what? The memory feature does not work when you’re on the weather frequencies! Now, in many other ways the feature is quite well done, like that count down timer shown on the screen (my replay has 13 of 20 seconds left to play), the way you can record your own transmission (though you won’t know how without the manual), and the “REW” on screen showing if you have the recorder on or off. And, by the way, 20 seconds turns out to be fairly long in terms of VHF transmissions. (And, yes, there is something a bit unbalanced about the screen lighting, more on that later.)
  I want to whine some more about my wrong presumption re: replaying weather forecasts. I know that at least one knowledgeable person at Cobra read that entry, but did not think to explain this particular limitation to the feature (or missed it). That’s a shame, because such corrections are a real Panbo feature. In fact, to some extent I use these entries as raw writer’s notes, and that usually works well because I get the feedback of electronics enthusiasts and the trade, I can correct mistakes nearly instantly, and all that means that what I eventually write for print publication is more accurate. In fact, I just mentioned that same weather replay bit in a piece on this radio for Sail. It happens that it’s still fixable, but in a week or so it would be headed to ink where it might have put a wrong idea into the heads of possible Cobra customers for many months to come. Plus, I know that others in the marine press use Panbo as an electronics research tool. So, head’s up, manufacturers, please, please correct mistakes made here before they go further! 

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

6 Responses

  1. Russ says:

    Product naming indeed, these are really bad!
    I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that MR = Marine radio, F = Fixed, HH = Handheld and LI = Lithium Ion battery. But VP has me stumped. The numbers usually mean larger is better is more expensive.
    None the less, if they add a two letter code very time they add a feature the names are going to be even more ridiculously unwieldly than they are today.
    At the end of the day it’s lousy product management, confuses the channel, confuses the customer and probably frustrates their support personnel.
    Too bad they also messed up the new feature. In my experience with my Tivo, if the dialog is not heard the first time, it’s usually not heard the second and third times that I replay it. The best solution is better audio clarity to begin with (better signal processing, speakers, etc).
    However, with weather broadcasts, there is just a lot of information to transfer and voice is not terribly efficient. It would be great to be able to record a few minutes of weather so that I wouldn’t be scrambling to write it down or remember it all.
    Once you have the replay logic, the incremental cost of memory is pretty close to zero. A standard voice codec requires 8kb/sec, so the difference between 20 seconds and 180 seconds is only 1.3Mb or 160KB of memory. That’s not much these days when you iPod Nano is sporting 4GB of memory.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Bill Boudreau, Cobra’s Marine Product Manager, wrote to apologize for the confusion and explain some 425 details:
    “1.) No Weather on Rewind-Say-Again(tm) for the Handheld
    The digital voice recorder on the HH425 does not record weather channel info. The F80 does record the incoming weather channel info. You ask why? This was done on purpose by Cobra Engineering. The logic is:
    a. Turning OFF rewind allows the unit to store what is in the unit’s memory indefinitely. We tried to make it easy to turn OFF Rewind on the Handheld and it is done by simply holding in the REW button. However, we thought this might not be clear to all users without finding it in the manual. We also found, through user testing, that people were dissatisfied when erasing their Rewind info because they listened to the weather. So because we do not have the larger screen, setup menus, soft keys and other items that make turning OFF rewind on the MRF80 easy, we decided that the handheld should not overwrite existing Rewind data with NOAA weather.
    b. The handheld radio is normally worn on your hip with the speaker directed away from you. We hear from our consumers that it was easy to miss the first part of a call. This problem in the market occurred at any price point with any level of audio quality. The main function of Rewind for this product is to play back the first part of a call that you sometimes miss. Once you have it near your face/ear you can hit the Rewind button and play it back. Even turn up the volume if you need.
    c. The weather will play in a loop. Although you will not want to sit at the VHF station with the fixed mount and wait for the loop, you will not be as unhappy on the portable handheld. It can be carried around with you until the desired section of the NOAA broadcast loops around.
    2.) Part Numbers
    To make it easier for our customer we generally refer to the MR HH425LI VP as simply the “HH425” or “425” when talking internally and really externally in any other medium than print, spec sheets, etc. For example, I would have referred to it simply as the “425” when talking to you in Miami.
    I agree that our Cobra part numbers can be a little long at first glance. Once you get to know Cobra they can actually make things easy to understand. I think our dedicated dealers are happy.
    Please keep in mind that these are both the part number and the product name. Why is this important to mention? Most manufacturers have different numbers for both. For example, “GPSMAP 492” is not the part number for the Garmin GPSMAP 492. Most manufacturers have part numbers different from the product name. I am not saying one method is definitely better than the other but we like having one common “number” for both the product name and part number.
    One of your blog contributors, has it mostly right. The “MR” is for Marine Radio. The “F” is for fixed. The “HH” is for handheld. The “LI” is for Lithium Ion. In addition, the “VP” is for Value Pack, meaning that it has all the accessories and chargers bundled with it. So for example, the MR HH325 VP is a “325” with all the accessories, charging base, etc. This same method is used for our other Cobra products like Car Navigation and GMRS.”
    Thanks, Bill!

  3. FN says:

    Just got the MRHH425LIVP. I got it because of the GMRS/VHF combo as well as being waterproof.
    Regrettably the squelch delay is one major shortcoming with this radio and it is discussed below. The effect of the delay is to drop the first word or part of a first word of a received message. This is a serious shortcomming if you have ever used a radio to say yes, no , stop , go etc.
    I contacted Cobra tech support (voice mail only) with this issue but had no response so the next best thing is to see if someone else has had the same problem.
    When communicating to the HH425 with an FRS radio, it takes the HH425 squelch approximately 1/2 second to open (even when the squech setting is right on threshold). This delay is enough to clip the first word or so of any received message and makes the radio virtually unusable. I used 2 differnent Cobra FRS radios and a Radio Shack FRS radio for signal sources for this test and all gave the same (long) squelch delay on the HH425. Note that CTCSS (PL tone, private code) was not enabled.
    Yet the 3 FRS radios had near zero squelch delay when talking to each other or when reciveing audio from the HH425. I did not have another marine radio as a signal source to test against the HH425 but I did use an HP 8920A service monitor to generate RF test signals on VHF and UHF and repeated the tests. The squelch delay on both UHF (FRS/GMRS)and VHF (marine) was identical for the HH425. The dealy is long enough to make the the single word responses “yes’ or “no” entirely clipped off (silent) or at best unintelligable when delaying speaking at the sending end.
    I will try again to resolve this with Cobra Tech support. I would really like to see this radio work out.
    I will follow up with full review including sensitivity and output power tests on VHF and UHF as I am equipped to do these tests.
    Contact Frank at 480-926-6069 to discuss if your test results differ or if I have overlooked a setting.

  4. JJ says:

    Anybody purchase this for the purpose of hunting? I am GMRS liscensed and I currently use a Midland G30 which I am having some issues with and cannot get parts for any longer. I like the idea of this radio due to waterproof and I will also be able to use it when I go out on my boat on the river in the summer time. Dual purpose sounds pretty good. Any comments?

  5. Jon R. Schwindt says:

    I Purchased my 425 a 9 months ago and Cobra has replaced it once. The Weather alert would not detect the NOAA alert signal. My new unit will not detect the signal either. With this years tornados passing 1500 feet from my house, I was glad to have NOTIFY by the Weather Channel because my 425 stayed quiet. This is not even trying to activate the S.A.M.E. detection soft ware, Which is painfully complicated to use. I carry a GMRS License and use the W/T for Jeeping in the mountains of Tenn. I also use it on my boat in Tenn and the Gulf. I often use the GMRS on the water to free up the Marine frequencies. The Radio is great. I have found the range and clarity to be excellent. Just don’t trust your family’s lives to the weather alert feature.

  6. Craig Petku says:

    Purchased one this week. Looking for others experience with GMRS performance. When comparing reception with some old T5710 Talkabout units I hear a slight whine in the MR425HH that is not present on the T5710’s. Also not sure if the cheap Motorolas are more sensitive since the signal seems cleaner. Regarding build quality, my scan button does not have good tactile feedback unless pressed slightly sideways. Shame that these little flaws have left me un-enchanted with what looked to be a good radio.

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