Quansheng UV-K6 Radio Review

Quansheng UV-K6 Radio Review

Quansheng UV-K6

Quansheng UV-K6

I own several handheld VHF/UHF radios. Some are for Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) but all do analog or simplex frequencies.  I think just about all of us cut our teeth on the Baofeng UV-5R.  I’m no exception.  I think I have 2 or 3 around the house here somewhere.  On a whim I decided to buy a Quansheng UV-K6 radio which also is designated as UV-K5(8).  FCC ID information can be found here.

I recently purchased a Wouxun KG-Q10H which I really feel is the best handheld I’ve owned so far.

The only reason I picked up this Quansheng UV-K6 was for its ability to flash open source firmware onto it.  Additionally, the radio can be unlocked to transmit on a whole slew of bands.

The bad news here is that of course is against FCC Regulations.  Secondly, because the radio is a VHF/UHF radio, transmitting on any band other than those will be done in milliwatts.  So not only are you breaking the FCC rules, you aren’t really doing anything but spraying out weak transmissions with tons of 2nd and 3rd order harmonics.  In fact I’d recommend NOT unlocking the all the frequencies.  There is a difference between unlocking the radio and unlocking all frequencies.  Those are two separate actions or steps.  Don’t unlock the transmit frequencies so you don’t accidentally do anything illegal. 

Despite all this the radio is SOOOOOO hackable as to be almost irresistible to a guy like me.

Initial Observations

There are 6 ham repeaters near me that I program in to every radio I own.  I can generally hit 4 of them with most radios.  The other 2 can be hit given good conditions but usually requires me to stand in the magic spot in the yard and point the antenna towards the tower.

The Quansheng UV-K6 just does not stack up as well as most of my other radios.  One YouTuber calls this “fars”.  Like bars on your cell phone.  “How many fars can you talk?”  The answer with this radio is “not far”.  It just doesn’t hit but a couple of those repeaters.  Two more will hit but with horrific crackling and static, and the last two just aren’t reachable at all from my house.

So again, I give props to the Wouxun KG-Q10H which is still the best so far.

The Quansheng UV-K6 looks and feels cheap but of course it is cheap.   I paid $30 for mine whereas the Wouxun costs $219.  So no real surprise there.

And as a bonus the Quansheng UV-K6 can be programmed with CHIRP software.

Original OEM Firmware

Original firmware updates (and manuals) can be found towards the bottom of this page.

Custom Firmware

The real allure with this radio is the ability to load open source firmware on them.  There are a couple popular firmwares out there for this radio.  One is called Egzumer and this is the firmware I am currently testing.  Right now it is on version 0.22 at the time of this writing.  Another popular firmware is IJV.  Current version of IJV is 2.9R5.  I just got a 2nd UV-K6 and installed IJV on it.   It’s okay, but without getting too deep in the weeds I think I like egzumer firmware better.   Still I mostly use this radio for Air Band scanning and it performs flawlessly doing that with IJV firmware.

There are other firmware packages out there but I’ll just stick with mentioning these two.

Obviously, the custom firmwares provide features that the original firmware does not offer.  And those features are too numerous to list.  There is a good list on the Egzumer Github page.  I’ll just mention a couple of the features here.

But First The Chipset

The radio is based on a Beken BK4819 chip.  The same chipset is used in baby monitors and toys.  Chip frequency spread is advertised as:

• Worldwide band: 18 MHz ~ 620 MHz, 840 MHz ~ 1200 MHz

The radio itself however is advertised as operating from 50 MHz to 600 MHz. Much of that space being used for reception.   Applying a firmware mod can unlock transmission outside of 136-174 MHz (VHF) and 400-520 MHz (UHF).

Again, I don’t think it as much people wanting to break the rules as it simply is just that they CAN HACK THE RADIO.  It’s like climbing a mountain because it is there.

Spectrum Analyzer

Now this is a neat trick.  One item of note though is that this is for reception only.  While turning on the spectrum analyzer I was involved in a ham radio net on VHF and realized while it was enabled I could not transmit.  The spectrum analyzer is for receive only.

Spectrum Analyzer (click pics to enlarge)

Receiver Functions

Upping to a custom firmware can get you some CB radio reception which is pretty cool if you are into that kind of thing.  Transmission tests on the CB band I’ve seen show super low output power and spraying RF.  In fact 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level harmonics were intruding on some dangerous turf like Air Band.

Don’t push that PTT button on CB radio frequencies.  Just don’t transmit out of the legal VHF and UHF bands.  Don’t do it!

For Air Band be sure and set your Discriminator Function (Menu Item 13) to AM.  I thought Air Band reception was hosed.  Mine had super advanced static and was scratchy.  And then it flashed in my mind in the middle of the night that those comms are AM.  Sounds really good once I flipped Menu item 13 to AM.

Other Upgrade Niceties

You can add a battery percentage to the main screen which is cool.   You can also display channel name + frequency which is double cool.

Quansheng UV-K6

Name + Freq and Battery Percentage shown

And you can do backlight dimming.  Actually there are so many features that are added in custom firmwares that you’ll spend hours running them all down.  I have barely scratched the surface here and only mentioned a few that I think are beneficial to ME.

There is a fix for AM (item 56 in th menus) that greatly improves Air Band reception.  I live fairly close to an airport and sometimes it is fun to listen to the tower comms.

Power Tests

Does it put out the proper wattage?  Pretty close and pretty much mirrors the results on a lot of other 5 watt radios.   Quick video below.

Should You Buy This Radio?

I’m torn.  Quite frankly, it isn’t even close to being the best handie talkie out there.  As I’ve noted it doesn’t seem to have the range (UNDER MY CONDITIONS) that some of my other radios have.   I should note that I have not tested any other antennas on the Quansheng UV-K6 up to this point.

Last night while on a local repeater ham radio net I had to go outside on the porch with this radio to have solid comms.  Most of my other radios can hit this repeater indoors with a good solid signal.   Again, as that YouTuber says, “How many fars will it talk?”.  Answer again:  Not many.   And isn’t that why we buy radios?

All this being said, if you live in a good reception area with lots of repeaters you may not have the challenges I do.  I live in the woods, surrounded by trees and I’m barely above sea level.

If you live in a good reception area and don’t need to punch VHF through the trees then doesn’t it make sense to use a $30 radio versus a $220 radio?  I think that it probably does.

As always………Should you buy it?  It depends on your situation and your needs.

A lot of hams are like me and will buy it just so they can play with it and complain about it not being the greatest radio ever.   Hey, what do you want for $30?

Finally, the ability to hack this radio with all manner of custom firmwares is enticing.  Especially at this price point.  Opening up all those transmit bands could get a fella in trouble.   I have opted to apply the Egzumer firmware but to NOT unlock the transmit function on additional frequencies or bands.  There is no benefit to doing it, in my opinion.  And there is a whole lot of downside to doing it.

Do buy this radio if:

  • You collect radios
  • You like tinkering around under the hood AND understand all the rules and regulations
  • You live in a great reception area with a clean shot to your repeaters

Do not buy this radio if:

  • You live in a challenging reception area
  • If you are a new ham and don’t understand all the ins and outs of hacking this thing
  • You want the very best radio money can buy

Well, I bought one and I’ll surely keep it, but pretty sure after this week of testing it will become a dust collector.

 

 

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