Here is our fire department's radio repeater system, located conveniently at my house. I built the repeater myself out of discrete components.
The receive and transmit radios are RELM RH256's. They are the grey radios on the right end of the shelf. Next to them is the Connect Systems TP154 repeater controller. Power is provided by a TrippLite 40 amp DC power supply. The final signal is boosted by a TPL 100-watt power amp. The phone is used to program the repeater controller. The big, white cans are the Telewave duplexers. One day I found a Kingsnake curled up on the power supply taking a nap.
The tower is a 75 ft. Bedco freestanding tower. It's just tall enough to put the antenna above the trees. The antenna is a Decibel Products db224 6dB dipole antenna.
The repeater was struck by lightening in May 1999. The electronic equipment was fried and replaced. We changed the repeater controller to a Connect Systems TP163 repeater controller. It has nicer features and costs less than the TP154. I also moved the equipment to my garage.
Update 9/2005 - I purchased a Kenwood TKR-720 repeater from Ebay. Although my homebuilt repeater system worked well the Kenwood repeater is nicer. It is much more sensitive, has rear connections readily available, has its own power supply, and takes up less space. I paid around $350 for it. I took it to Electronic Communications System (ECS) in Bloomington where they reprogrammed it and gave it a checkup. They tested it and said it would put out 90 watts before it started limiting itself, but they set at its rated 50 watts.
Most of the gear was purchased from Hutton Communications.
Click here to see me build a repeater.
Most of the guys on my department use RELM radios. They have nice features, are reasonably priced, and most of all, are self-programmable. For mobiles I'd recommend a SMV-4099 (16 or 99 channels, 40 watts, PL/DPL, compact size). For a portable I like the MPV32. RELM just added DCS (digital coded squelch) to the MPV32's, and they're upgradeable to 64 channels. Mike just bought an MPV32 and he loves it. The best place we've found to buy these is Communications Electronics.
Update 2005 - For a few years RELM quit making VHF commercial radios. I'm happy to say they are back in the radio business and their radios are nicer than ever. We bought several RPV516 portables for the fire department in 2003 with part of our grant money. Several of us have purchased RPV599s for our personal use. Their new mobile radios are also nice. We have been buying our radios and pagers from Falcon Wireless.
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