A look at and repair of a Motorola DP4800 with an SMA aerial socket.

I have a love / hate relationship with the Motorola DP4800, It’s a great HT for Amateur use, if a bit high teir compared to the usual (and perhaps even better suited) Chinese sets that seem to dominate the Amateur DMR airwaves, The DP4800 and the rest of the DP4000 series unfortunately have a design problem, namely that you can’t connect an outside aerial or a coax fed one. This is a huge fail from Motorola, although the latest DP4800e versions *can* be ordered with SMA, it’s adds even more money on to the cost of an already expensive set.  When our GB7MB DMR repeater was on-air a year or two back, my previous DP4801 was the normal ‘stud mount’ aerial connection, and thus limited in aerial connectivity,  and sadly, GB7MB was a pretty poor signal indoors at my QTH, and so the HTs aerial limitations were an insurmountable issue, and rendered the DP4801 useless here.

So, fast forward, with local Lurkio-in-Chief, Dave G6CRVs GB7MP repeater just a mile away coming on air, i reconsidered again a DP4800, the signal was way better here than GB7MB was, and  i already had the external mic and an old charger, so i thought a cheap DP4600 would serve as a DMR HT.

A used DP4600 was found on Ebay, but it refused programming totally, so had to return it. The seller was adamant that it worked and said he would not accept a return, and got snotty. he must have got confused as he accepted a return the day after but i had already started a Paypal claim as the seller was refusing any refund, Paypal took three weeks to process the refund however. i was really not impressed with Paypal, and i will likely not be requiring their services again.

A DP4800 appeared online,  it was cheap and had no accessories, it was only a few dollars more than the DP4600 that Paypal had refunded too, so it was purchased, and for a good knocked down price too, to make it a better buy.

When this next Ebay DP4800 arrived, it appeared to have a SMA antenna, further investigation revealed that indeed, someone previously had done a very clever mod to change the useless stud to a very useable SMA. I was very happy indeed.

A week or two later on however, and during a routine swap of aerials, the HTs’ modified SMA was rotating in the HT’s body, i noticed as i was using a SMA to BNC adaptor, and i saw the SMA itself was unscrewing itself out of the set too, because of the tight crappy chinese adaptor., this was bad news, but there was nothing i could do, i had no option but to repair it or bin it.

Upon closer inspection the trashy looking golden coloured SMA looked to have had a fair bit of use, or perhaps it was just cheap chinesium metal, and the outer threads of the SMA did have some unexpected tight spots too, so a tiny pinhead of light oil was applied to the threads which made the ‘mechanics’ much smoother, only thing was a thin wire had snapped off the bottom of the SMA mod internally.

I ordered another nicer silver SMA bulkhead socket that wasn’t made from reclaimed chinese coke tins, or one of one of these gold-coloured chinese ‘turkey foil special’ bit’s of crap you see all over the place, i fitted a *proper* one, and also added a minute dab of threadlock too.

In regards to Motorola’s decision to NOT fit a SMA, If i were cynical, i’d say it seems Motorola have deliberately made the set and the whole DP4000 series compromised, with no option to add a coaxial or external aerial.. thereby forcing even occasional mobile users to stump up another few hundred £ for a DM4400 / DM4600.
This is discussed on some of the serious professional radio comms forums, and i think the argument holds water too.
Sure, there is a MS147 Hirose RF socket on the HT’s PCB – if you slide off the small back cover above the battery.. but you can’t just go and buy a normal MS147 cable or adaptor, plug it in and get going using an external aerial, that would be far too easy. No.
The standard, ‘off the shelf’ MS147’s don’t fit, so you have to buy the special Motorola one, which is longer, and reaches deeper into the secret trap door ‘hidden’ in these sets, down on the HT’s main PCB, doing so will disable the HTs set top aerial connection when it plugs into the HT’s internal ‘RF port’  I wish China would make a few hundred of these elongated MS147s, i think most Motorola using Amateurs would buy one.

So Motorola would have you buy the (over 100 uk pounds) to stump up and buy this rip-off MS147, and once you’ve quite recovered from that, Motorola then expect you to buy yet another rip-off in the shape a clip which holds the already grossly overpriced Motorola RF adaptor that you’ve just bought, into the set solidly, and, here is the funniest bit, the clip costs around 100 uk pounds as well.  How dare You !

There is an British company, who told me that they made the GMLN5099A external aeriel connector, he didn’t tell me where i could buy one however,  which is rather odd, and of course nowhere in the UK sells them either, so lord knows what the deal is with them, maybe us, the great unwashed aren’t allowed them, or maybe the firm doesn’t think any UK people want to buy them..

I can only assume that Motorola hired the Guy who priced up Apple’s $999 monitor stand (a bit of polished metal) – over to Motorola HQ to dream up a suitably ridiculous price for their Moto MS147 adaptor,  both prices are things that even Hans Christian Anderson would reject as a fairy tale.   Thanks Motorola.

A company such as Motorola, itself employing radio amateurs…  are all too well aware of Amateurs buying its gear, but what appears to be either corporate arrogance or paranoia ensures Motorola continue to be curiously hostile to the Amateur community, even though some smart guys have contacted Motorola to help them with bugs and improvements in their Motorola firmware, only later to have these fixes implemented in the next ‘improved’ firmware updates by Motorola. Talk about having ones cake and eating it..

Motorola’s literature suggest that the MS147 is actually an ‘RF test point’ for measuring and aligning the set, most digital Motorola HTs I have seen that have no ‘proper’  external antenna connection either, seen seem to have either an adaptor similar to the Hirose MS147

Here is a MS147 lead :
The cheap BNC to MS147 lead above is about a fiver, which would be good value if it were it to enable you to use your DP4800 at home, or in the car, as i say, bit it’s too short and needs to be something like half the length again to fit in the DP4800, some people say they have found MS147 extensions, but i’ve spent months looking, and i still haven’t found the extension yet, not in the UK anyhow, neither have i seen or read about such a thing anywhere else either.
I’ve messaged Chinese RF suppliers and the nearest i got was a longer MS147 connector on AliExpress, but it was crimp-on only, and it was for that crappy 2mm, or 3mm wide coax the Chinese seem to love so much, so not much use to me, and no other sellers really seemed to understood what i was actually asking for, so I’m going to say good luck with your search.

Some home made BNC  adaptors, made by mechanically savvy Amateurs  *are* available on Facebook groups and elsewhere for the DP4800, but I’m quite skeptical, as they provide no answers when asked simple questions about the general ‘how it works’ and $40 from California could likely turn into £60 or £70 wasted by the time it’s arrived.

The SMA mod seems pretty easy if you have a good microscope & eyes and fine SMD or suchlike soldering gear and skills.
i thought I’d take a couple of photo’s and think and ponder how the mod was actually done.

I wasn’t overly thrilled to have to be messing with the HT, but i did enjoy the whole orangeness of the gasket however, so that kind of helped, as i think orange is a calming colour, that is until you come to reassemble the HT…

So, with PCB removed, i inspected the MS147 and aeriel socket and tried to figure out how they’d done it. They had taped over the MS147 socket to insulate it from a wire they needed to add, not with kapton tape or anything, but with what looked like masking tape, or some other fibrous tape.

The threaded antenna frame / chassis we see would normally be ‘hot’  – so they cut a track or two and isolated this threaded frame, and then just jumpered it with a short link to the GND of the set, so the threaded frame was now GND.

The top end of the tuning coil on the PCB has a wire soldered to it and that appears to have a short wire link soldered directly on to the centre pin of the SMA socket, and that seems about it for the mod.
The photo’s aren’t great i know, but they looked much sharper on the phones screen.
I know it’s not Louis Rossmann quality PCB detail. i wasn’t expecting to do such work.  Sorry 🙂

You can perhaps see in the photo below a little more clearly, above the top of the coil what looks like a piece of track was removed or perhaps a SMD component like a small cap. I haven’t checked the circuit diagram  – i don’t have one.

You can see to the left of the coil (which is the top)  a missing SMD or portion of track.

It looks like a simple enough mod to do, I’m not 100% sure how to isolate the frame and which track(s) to cut or whatever, though the PCB would make it pretty obvious if you had a good magnifier and set of eyes.

I’d fancied a BNC really, but the frame is already threaded nicely for a SMA, and BNC would be a mess and wouldn’t fit.

I wouldn’t want to mod a brand new DP4800, but this DP4800 was cheap enough, so i’ve only relatively few qualms about having to fix the SMA, although i’m not set up for SMD or anything remotely fiddly, this was pretty simple to repair, but damn fiddly, but interesting to note. i just wish i had a suitable magnifier and tinier soldering iron, this was at the extreme limit of what i could do with the basic low tech gear i have.


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