Testing Motorola’s New Digital Radio

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Digital technology has changed nearly all facets of life, from how we shop and listen to music to how we get our news and social interaction. Today’s influx of digital radios is also changing how we communicate at the track.

Speedcom Communications has specialized in motorsports radios since 1996, and company founder Toto Lassally invited us to try out his latest digital product, the Motorola CP-200D. First, though, he had a disclaimer: This new two-way radio was no upsell, as it retails for less than its analog predecessor. What the Motorola CP-200D does have more of is improved range and clarity.

Motorola designed this radio for commercial use–picture security officers, a hotel staff or a construction crew–so at its core it’s a tough, easy-to-use piece of equipment. It’s compatible with analog radios, too, and the controls are the usual: a talk button plus knobs for volume and channel.

The CP-200D does need some work to make it track-ready, Lassally says, as the default settings aren’t suitable for motorsports. “These default settings do not work well in the racing environment and with the different microphones and headsets and wiring harnesses that are out there,” he explains. “To get maximum performance, the radios need to be programmed in such a way that they will cancel out the noise and have no delays and exceptional range. We know how to do this.”

We set up a little head-to-head comparison, digital vs. analog, to sample the new offering. Our driver took off from Speedcom’s headquarters with an older analog radio plugged into a helmet, and once he got about 2000 feet away–measured as the crow flies–we started to lose the signal. At 3500 feet out the signal had disintegrated, making communication nearly impossible.

Next up was the CP-200D. Lassally cautioned that the digital radio would slightly change our voice signatures, and he was right. While our voices came through clearly, they sounded a bit modulated. It wasn’t distracting, but we could see that characteristic making it tough to identify some parties by voice alone.

We again set our driver loose, and at 2000 feet away, the signal was still strong; at 3500 feet out, we could easily communicate. We were still chatting at 8000 feet out (still measured as the crow flies); at that point, we considered it a successful test.

While the digital radios slightly alter the voice signature, they do have the advantage of noise-cancelling software. Our test car was our Classic Motorsports Shelby project car, which is a rather loud, droning machine. The digital radios allowed easy communication.

We didn’t get to test battery life, but Motorola specs up to 18.5 hours for the CP-200D. They say that its predecessor, the CP-200, will deliver just 10 hours of battery life.

Are all digital radios created equal? Before calling it a day we tried a pair of lower-cost digital radios from another vendor. They couldn’t touch the Motorola’s range, and the radios themselves felt lighter and less substantial.

(386) 760-7110
MSRP: $499.95

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