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CIARC - Resources - DMR - TYT MD-9600 Issues
Resources - DMR - TYT MD-9600 Issues

The following enumerates issues found with the initial release of the TYT MD-9600 dual-band DMR transceiver:

  1. Obtaining the current Customer Programming Software

    The software disc that is included with the radio has a DMR folder, but no MD-9600 CPS is found in this folder. A search of the Analog Portable, D{MR, and Mobile Radio folders also do not contain the MD-9600 CPS.

    I incorrectly assumed that the CPS found on the service download page on the TYT web-site would be the most current version of the software. After installing this software, and fully constructing my contact list, I discovered that a newer version of the CPS is available on the downloads page on Grapevine Amateur Radio, where the radio was purchased from, and was downloaded from that location. After installation of v1.18, I opened the code plug that had been created under v1.07 and found that the contact list was empty. DO NOT use versions of the CPS that are earlier than v1.18.

  2. Firmware Update - Instructions & Procedure Do Not Function

    The firmware update instructions for version v1.18 firmware, which call for pressing the P1 + Alarm (red key) to turn on the MD-9600, do not function. The radio will not power on with this sequence, and as such, will not blink the display as indicated in the instructions prior to moving to the next step. Further, the user interface screen images contained within the v1.18 operation document do not match the user interface elements actually present in the software. No firmware update was performed due to these issues.

  3. Microphone Not Powered From Switched Power Supply

    With the radio turned off, the microphone back-light is enabled, and pressing the PTT will illuminate the PTT LED [which means that the user will need to unplug the microphone to avoid running the vehicle battery down on a mobile installation when the radio is directly powered from the vehicle battery].

  4. Dual-Watch Always Enabled & Apparently Cannot Be Disabled

    With a zone programmed with a UHF channel in channel member A and a UHF channel in channel member B, and where both of these channels share the same talk group, and where both repeaters are in range, a speaker icon will toggle back and forth between channel member A and channel member B. I implemented a test zone where channel member A and channel member B are on different repeaters with different talk-groups and verified that the radio is indeed performing a dual-watch mode. There are times when a dual-watch feature is useful, but there are also times when a dual-watch feature is catastrophic. An inability to disable dual-watch mode is not conducive to conducting effective communications. There does not appear to be a control (I may be missing something here, but haven't found one yet), either in the CPS or via the front panel, which allows for the enabling or disabling of a dual-watch feature. The only work around I see is to program the zones so that they only contain channel member A or channel member B but not both channel member A and channel member B. This would defeat some of the utility of having a dual-band radio. In our area, we have a VHF and UHF DMR repeaters, with overlapping coverage, and dual-band operation (without dual-watch) would allow manual roaming by simply switch band when driving out of one coverage of one repeater and into coverage of the other (provided each channel member has the same talk-group), where simply hitting the BAND button would move you to the other repeater. Perhaps this could be addressed in a firmware update.

    There is only one volume control, shared by both channel member A and channel member B. This means that it is not possible to have the sub-band at a different audio level than the selected main band. Any conversation on the sub-band may capture the receiver (which is scanning alternately between the channel member A and the channel member B), making it difficult to engage in a QSO on the selected band.

    I am hoping that something was missing in user knowledge here, and if so, a correction will be applied to this observation.

  5. Beeps & Tones Uncomfortably Loud

    The alert tones emitted from the radio are not well balanced to the volume knob when compared to receive audio. In fact, the tones are extremely loud (uncomfortably so) when the volume is set to provide a comfortable listening level for receive.

  6. Both Bands Must Share The Same Memory Zone

    Both the channel member A and channel member B share the same zone and channel index within the zone. It would be extremely useful if the zones could be unique for channel member A and channel member B and if unique channel indexes could be applied to channel member A and channel member B.

  7. Active COS Exits Menu Mode

    This issue appears to be present on other TYT radios (observed on both the VHF and UHF version of the MD-380): It is not possible to go into the menu when a signal is present on the receiver. This was evident in the test at item 6 above, where USA 3100 (I know, bad choice) was placed into channel member A with a UHF repeater and a quieter talk-group was placed into channel member B with a VHF repeater. Once USA 3100 / channel member A became active, it was not possible to use the ENT key to enter the menu to change zones. Using the P2 key (programmed for zone selection) did function, however, while the receive signal from USA 3100 was active.

  8. Channels Per Zone (Specification Differs From Reality - Not A Bad Thing)

    The specification for the radio indicates that there are 250-zones with 16-channels per zone. Applying a limited number of channels per zone is a construct that is held over from radio architectures that used a 16-position switch for channel selection, and imposes compromises in organizing channels into groupings that are coherent to the user/operator. Simply reorganizing how the channel data is internally structured, where the channel data holds a reference to the parent group, instead of having a fixed array structure where a group has 16-channels, would allow for a group to hold an arbitrary number of channels. A good example of where this is done is with the Icom IC-F5021 and IC-F5061 LMR part 90 radios. With these radios, if you want a zone with 48 channels, or a zone with only 3 channels, you can implement these user defined groupings. This would be of great utility if this capability were brought forward to amateur radio DMR radios. A good example would allow a group to encapsulate a large number of DMR talk-group channels (i.e. more than 16) for a specific repeater to be placed into one group, rather than having to spread these channels across multiple groups. This leaves it to the user to determine the best organizing of channels into groups instead of having a manufacturer imposed constraint that forces the user to adapt a channel set into something that doesn't make quite as much sense as it could. There is no reason to carry hardware imposed constraints forward when the channel selection is performed by either an up/down button set or a rotary encoder.

    Interestingly, the actual implementation of the software within the radio differs from the specification, and in a good way. Although the radio is specified as having 16-channels per zone, A single zone was created containing 18 analog FM 2m simplex channels in channel member B. After flashing the CPS code plug to the radio, all 18-channels ARE accessible under channel member B. Channel member A only has 2 70cm simplex channels programmed, so the total channels within the zone (combined channel member A and channel member B) are 20-channels, which is below the 32-channel total that might be inferred from a 16 channel per zone per channel member specification. It is possible that the firmware did implement a reference back to the parent zone and not use an array of a fixed number of elements. Hooray!

  9. Up & Down Buttons Inverted

    Pushing the up/down buttons on the microphone inverts the action. For example, pushing the down button when on channel 1 will place the radio on channel 2.

    It appears that the software is navigating visually in an up and down manner as applied to a list, where the first entry in the list is channel 1, the second entry is channel 2, etc. Under this type of implementation, the down button advances up a channel. But if you're expecting the buttons to behave as if there are channel numbers for each memory position, the impression is one of inverted behavior.

  10. Good Ergonomics

    Ergonomically, the 9600 is much nicer (and easier to use) than my CS800D. At least that is the impression on the bench. Road experience might present a different impression.

    However, a remote-head option would be very desirable.

  11. Performance

    Initial indications are that the radio performance is good. Access to a UHF DMR repeater, located 60-miles away and with no direct line-of-sight path, appears to be very good. A thorough evaluation, based on drive-testing DMR on both UHF/70cm and VHF/2m, is pending.

    Received signal strength on a VHF/2m analog FM repeater more than 80-miles away shows very good analog FM VHF/2m receiver performance.

  12. Some Settings Not Preserved Across Power Cycles

    The band selection is not preserved across power selections. If you are operating on the bottom band, and power down the radio (e.g. shut-down vehicle), on the next power up cycle, the radio will be active on the top band.

The above observations occurred while using CPS MD9600 version 01.18 with MCU version D 003.027. It is unknown whether a firmware update or documentation update will lead to resolving any of the issues outlined above. As updates become available (presumably with a functional procedure to apply a firmware update), this article will be revised appropriately for any changes in observed behavior of the radio.