Midland XT511 Base Camp Two Way Radio

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The Midland Base Camp XT511 is a FRS/GMRS two way radio with emergency attached Dynamo crank power. The Base Camp XT511 can also operate on battery power (included rechargeable battery or 4 "AA"). The rechargeable battery can be charged using the AC/DC adapters, or by turning the Dynamo crank.

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The XT511 also features a flashlight, digital clock with alarm, an AM/FM radio, two-way transceiver and a NOAA weather alert radio. It supports 22 FRS and GMRS channels with 121 sub-audible tone squelch (CTCSS and DCS) codes per channel. Hands-free (VOX) mode is supported and a corded speaker microphone is included. A USB connector is also provided that allows you to charge your USB enabled devices such as a mobile phone.

Specification

  • 22 Channels with easy button access
  • 121 CTCSS codes to help you block other conversations
  • NOAA Weather Alert Radio with auto alert when monitoring weather channels
  • 5 Call Alerts - Different call tones to notify you of incoming calls from your group
  • eVOX - 3 Sensitivity Levels - Easy voice activation
  • Keypad Lock - Locks in your selected settings
  • Flashlight
  • USB Connector - Allows you to recharge your cell phone in an emergency
  • 5 Power Options - Uses 4 standard "AA" batteries, Rechargeable Battery Pack, Dynamo Crank, AC Adapter, or DC Adapter
  • Dimensions - 7.25 x 6.38 x 2.75

power options

The XT511 can be powered with AA batteries, its internal rechargeable battery, a DC power supply, AC power supply**, and the crank arm. The included 700 mAh, 6.0V, rechargeable Ni-MH battery pack can be charged by the power supply or by use of the crank. To get the best charging condition, it is recommended to charge the battery pack thru the Dynamo Crank with the radio turned OFF. Only use our NiMH battery pack.

** The Midland 18-394 MODEL: U090030D AC adapter is rated 9 volts at 300ma. It supplies enough current to charge the battery pack, operate the radio. It will allow you to transmit at the low TX power setting. It has insufficient current to allow for transmit at the high TX power setting. An aftermarket 9v AC adapter is recommended with at least 1000mA rating or higher.

external mic/speaker

The microphone speaker attachment uses the standard ham radio style twin TRS connector jack harness. One part of the plug fits in the microphone jack,and one fits into the speaker jack. While connected the built-in microphone and speaker on the front of the radio are disabled. The handheld speaker/mic also has an input TRS jack on it for attaching an earphone.

transmitter

High and low power settings let you adjust the radio's transmit power to conserve battery life. Max transmit power: XT511 GMRS Power: 1.0815 FRS Power: 0.2622 final amp stage 9.9 output to antenna 4W max

Maximum range can only be achieved over water or open rural areas under optimum conditions.

receiver

  • GMRS: 462.550 - 467.7125MHz
  • WX: 162.400 - 162.550MHz
  • AM: 530 - 1700kHz
  • FM: 87.9 - 108.1MHz

Review

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Midland's XT511Base Camp emergency crank radio serves as an all-purpose communication tool with two-way radio, NOAA weather and AM/FM radio functions. The radio is useful to take along on a camping trip or hiking. It is also useful for neighborhood communication. Examples of use include monitoring the kids, as a shop to house intercom, or coordinating a community event. It is both well suited for recreational use as well as being an emergency tool.

Having the ability to turn a crank for power is something that makes this a true emergency radio. I tested this having the unit gone completely dead with the rechargeable batteries installed. I was able to crank up enough power in a couple minutes to make a transmission on high and announce my position. Transmitting consumes more power than monitoring or listening to broadcast radio, so this is better than expected for manually generated crank power.

There are two transmit power settings for the GMRS channels. FRS only channels are set to low power and cannot be changed as to comply with FCC Part 95 regulation. Setting transmit power to low helps to conserve battery life while operating on DC power. I was able to easily communicate in town between this unit and a mobile, neither operating on more than 1 watt, over 12 city blocks with hills and trees being common where I live. The mobile was 500mw and the XT511 set to low transmit power.

The range is comparable to the standard bubble pack two-way walkie-talkie. It does not have extraordinary range, however, it is comparable for a unit with such a small attached antenna. The small antenna really is the limiting factor in the reduced transmit range and receive sensitivity. A longer antenna would have helped this unit a lot.

There is no manual squelch for the transceiver. Sometimes weak signals from your party can be missed because the hard coded squelch cuts the transmission out. It does have, however, a "monitor" button that will deactivate squelch. While in this mode you will hear static and weak transmissions. So basically, this unit can operate with squelch on or off. It would definitely be better if the squelch level was adjustable.

Another feature lacking in this model is the ability to have a received transmission on your set channel "cut in" over the broadcast radio, such as some of 2-meter walkie-talkies do. I want to listen to music on broadcast radio but not miss a transmission from a family member using a handheld trying to reach me at "base camp." I have a cheap wrist style walkie talkie that will do this, so I don't see why Midland couldn't have implemented this 2-way channel monitor as a feature in their XT511.

The optional attachable microphone also serves as a mini handheld speaker. This gives the feel of a classic CB Radio with one strange exception. As the user manual states, "When the HAND MIC is connected, all audio will play through the HAND MIC because it is a speaker mic. This is normal operation." I didn't like the fact that when attached, all speaker audio ceased coming from the base unit and only emitted from the handheld mic. I would prefer it was more like a traditional transceiver whereas the handheld mic was a mic only and sound continued to emanate from the base unit. By cutting the speaker plug from the connector the hand attachment becomes a mic only. However, this is a modification that would void your warranty.

On two-way radios an attachable microphone or speaker accessory connector is the M1 two prong standard. The Midland XT511 visibly appears to have the standard M1 two prong connector, however, it is not. The two prongs are spaced slightly closer together than the industry standard. The result is that standard M1 headsets, microphones, and accessories will not connect to the Midland XT511. The spacing difference is intentional as their unit doesn't follow the M1 standard wiring and electrical convention. This makes no sense.

Although adequate, the unit could use optionally more rechargeable storage. It will operate from dusk to dawn on battery power if not used to make a lot of transmissions. It will not go 24 hours while monitoring GMRS channels. Bring along extra batteries on your camping trip or be prepared to use the crank feature a lot. I consider this a minor issue as it is somewhat dependent on limitations in rechargeable battery technology and restraints regarding the overall unit price point.

Midland, please add two valuable features missing from this model:

  1. Ability to listen to broadcast radio while monitoring one of the 22 FRS/GMRS channels. It should override broadcast radio and cut in when a transmission is received.
  2. Ability to adjust the squelch level on the transceiver.
  3. Ability to switch sound from mic back to base unit while mic is attached and implement it with the standard M1 connector pair.

Overall I liked the size of the unit and the sturdy attached carry handle is a good design. The unit rests well in an upright position so that it doesn't fall over easily on non-level surfaces such as an outdoor picnic table. Some of the limitations are reasonable for a unit in this price range. After all, for the price there really is no competing product on the market as of this writing. Yet, some of the missing options could be implemented without adding much, if anything, to the manufacture cost, and would be well worth it. I would like to see an updated model Base Camp radio released by Midland that will dual monitor AM/FM broadcast and a selected GMRS channel with adjustable squelch control. With a standard M1 connector and the aforementioned improvements, Midland could have a true 5 star product in the same price category!

Special Feature Guide

The basic features are easy enough to figure out. Here some of the enhanced features are discussed.

GMRS DUAL WATCH

Your XT511 Series has a DUAL WATCH function, to enable user to monitor 2 selected channel/privacy code for any activity. It is similar with the SCAN function but will only monitor 2 channels instead of the whole 22 channels. The first channel/privacy code is the current setting, the second channel/privacy code is the one you will set on the MENU. To turn on the DUAL WATCH function, press the MENU button until the DUAL WATCH icon appear while in the right an “oF” icon appears. Select the second channel by turning the TUNING knob.

It cannot be tuned to AM/FM radio and watch for incoming GMRS transmissions. This is a missing feature.

NOAA WEATHER ALERT

If the radio receives a WX ALERT signal from a designated NOAA station while on AM/FM or GMRS/FRS mode, the radio will beep for 20 seconds while the NOAA WEATHER (WX) ALERT icon will appear blinking on the display while the FLASHLIGHT and the display illumination will blink altogether. In this case, the user should set the BAND switch to WX position to listen for any weather alert broadcast.

Antenna Mod

The really limiting factor on the Midland XT511 is the antenna. It appears to be only an 1/8-wave antenna. If it were possible to replace the antenna there would be a dramatic improvement in both transceiver reception and range. It should be possible to dismantle this radio and hack a BNC connector as a replacement for the built-in antenna.

FCC Reg Part 95 requires any FRS capable transceiver have a non-detachable (fixed) antenna. This is why Midland did not include an external antenna jack. Modifying the XT511 by adding an antenna jack or replacing the antenna would make it illegal to operate on the FRS frequencies, however, GMRS does allow an external antenna. The GMRS channels allow for more transmit power. If you modify the antenna then do not use the FRS only channels to transmit.

If you do not use a properly SWR tuned antenna, or you transmit without an antenna connected, or there is a short in the antenna, you will destroy the transmitter inside the radio. It will cook itself if there is not a well tuned antenna functionally attached while keying down. Know what you are doing, or get help from someone that does know what he is doing before attempting an antenna mod. Don't cook your transceiver!

Microphone Mod

This microphone is compatible with Midland XT18 XT20 XT511 XT511MO G-225 G-226 G-227.

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Modify the microphone for auto from the base speaker and mic from the hand mic.

There are 4 wires in the cord.


  • Black - sleeve on the 3.5mm TS Phono Plug ~ SPEAKER ~ ground
  • Red - tip on the 3.5mm TS Phono Plug ~ SPEAKER


There's 2 strands of white string in the cord not to be confused with the single white wire.

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Make the hand mic / speaker a mic only (like a CB radio): To disable the hand speaker part of the mic unit you may simply cut off and remove the 3.5mm TS Phono Plug. Attempts at removing the entire connector and replacing with a single TRS by soldering may be met with difficulty. The Midland microphone uses extremely cheap, thin Litz wire. It is difficult to make a good solder with this type of wire. This type of wire is typically crimped, however, in this case it is so small and extremely difficult to work with all over a $5 cheapo mic it is not worth the trouble. Just cut off the 3.5mm TS Phono Plug if you want a CB radio type mic, the sound output will continue to come from the main radio unit. Buy a second hand mic / speaker if you change your mind and want to return to the combined functionality.