Maxon FRS-214 Radio
These are cellphone-style Family Radio Service transceivers. Before
RadioShack.com came about, Tandy Corporation had an excellent
electronics catalog concern called Tech America who sold these radios
for around $110/pair (MSRP is normally $100 per unit). Around 1997
these radios were the only affordable 14-channel FRS radios that
offered the full 1/2-watt power, scanning, and CTCSS signalling.
Today there are many radios that can be bought in pairs for under $80
that have many of the same features but these Maxons are unique in a
couple of ways. They look exactly like a cellphone, right down to the
removable battery pack. I'm still trying to find a recharger pack
that can be used instead of this pack which is an enclosure for 4 AA
batteries. There is an option to charge the batteries inside the unit
but I could only get the charger directly from Maxon/Topaz3 at (800)
821-7848. There are no specifications on how to use any other
charger. Interestingly, the antenna can be removed; to my
understanding this is in violation of the FRS FCC regulations which
forbid improving reception in any way--including replacing the
antenna. They also come with cellphone-style "pleather" carrying
cases. There is a jack for a detachable earpiece but no microphone.
The radios work and sound very well for transmit and receive. Maxon
does use standard CTCSS codes but lists in them in Hz, not by number,
making it a little easier to match the codes to non-Maxon radios since
the manufacturers have not settled on a CTCSS notation standard. The
radios support different CTCSS codes for transmit and receive if you
want to get really fancy. A really nice feature is that the CTCSS
codes are programmed on a per-channel basis. This lets the great
channel-scanning feature work without disabling CTCSS. The radios
thankfully do not have the annoying calling tones or roger beeps. A
keypad locking feature is available but must be enabled each time the
unit is turned on. A power-save circuit that wakes the radio up when
receiving transmissions helps the batteries last longer than 24 hours
There is considerable room for improvements, such as reducing the
weight and the bulk, but these radios are thinner and only 1/2" taller
than the Cobra Microtalk and more conventional feel than the even
bulkier Motorola Talkabouts. For such an old radio, these are really
great to keep around as kickaround sets.
I had a pair of these for a couple of weeks and returned them. These
are full-power FRS radios that come in pairs. The product also
includes two NiCd battery packs, a handy drop-in desktop charger with
overcharge protection, and two belt clips.
I didn't like these for a list of reasons. The desktop charger
doesn't really hold the radios well. They seem to just balance in the
charger and the metal contacts can be easily bumped off the charging
pads. The charger takes entirely too long--about 14 hours-- to fully
charge the batteries. The belt clip doesn't protect the buttons from
being pressed, especially the very prominent channel changer. There
is no keypad lock--extremely bad since the channel changer consists of
enormous rubber buttons on the side of the unit that are easy to
change by accident.
Sound is very clear and loud. Your voice won't get distorted even
when holding the radios very close. There are no CTCSS codes, so any
interference or chatter on your channel will bug the hell out of you.
My computer room renders these radios worthless from the interference.
There is no scanning, either, and using the monitor feature is a
chore since you must hold the button down for 2 seconds.
At about $60/pair I should not complain, but as a practical matter I
really need the CTCSS and keypad locking features. It's too easy to
accidentally change channels without knowing it. I will miss the
desktop charger, though, even with its deficiencies.
Radio Shack was one of the busiest lobbiests for the FRS and have
enthusiastically produced an extensive line of overpriced and
under-featured units since 1996. I bought a pair of discontinued 150
milliwatt units for $50/pair in 1998 and I can't really complain.
These radios are extremely small and rugged. They have a backlit LCD
display and a rotary volume knob. The buttons are straight from the
Radio Shack generic parts bin. Monitoring a channel is easy--just hit
the "mon." button, mon! There is no option to charge batteries nor is
there an external power jack.
The sound is marginal but you have a remind yourself that the units
use 2 AA batteries that last about a day without the use of
power-saving circuitry. You must keep the radio far away from your
mouth to get a clear message to anyone else. Even with CTCSS privacy
turned on the radio breaks squelch quite often in the computer
room--that's pretty bizarre. There is a 2-hour power-off feature but
it's more of a nuisance and can be turned off. It accepts generic
two-pin earpiece/microphone sets. There is the all-important keypad
lock that is activated automatically when the radio is turned on--a
These radios are old and long discontinued. I haven't seen any radios
yet that are quite as tiny as these are. I use them around the yard.
They are extremely low-powered but get the job done.