Pros: Good range and signal quality
Cons: Low Volume
This radio has been discontinued for some time. This is a review I typed up a long time agio:
Maxon has created a product line, the Topaz series. I am reviewing the TK14 Handheld unit.
Initial appearance thoughts:
This radio is about the size of a pack of cigarettes (100s) This makes this the shortest unit
I have personally used. The radio has an LCD display with a great deal of information
provided to the user. Two very nice display functions are the indicator of a presence of a signal
on the channel. This is very useful when using CTCSS tones. The other is a battery level indicator.
Of course, all the other typical display functions of an FRS radio are present, such as channel, CTCSS tone,
The case at first glance looked a little fragile. Upon handling the product for a while, I decided
the unit is built rather sturdily. All the controls are laid out in a well thought out manner, which
should not confuse those using the equipment.
Opening the owners manual, and looking at the radio has led me to believe that people
operating this unit should have no problem operating this unit. This radio is what I consider
"Full featured", and for all the functions this radio can do, the manufacturer has made
operating mode selection VERY easy. In fact, I consider this unit the easiest of all the
radios I have owned, to operate.
This unit uses 4 AAA cells. You can use alkaline, rechargeable cells, or the Topaz NiMh
pack. This unit has a dual well desk charger available, which can be used with the NiMh
The radio has an accessory jack which can be used with the multitude of accessories available.
You have two headset choices, one of which has VOX capability.
Battery lifetimes vary on the type of battery used. The manufacturer gives a 30+ hour
lifetime with alkaline cells. I have found this to be true. Using AAA NiMh cells has
given me about an 18 hour service life. Using the Topaz NiMh pack has given me about a 24 hour
service life. With an AAA configuration, this is pretty darn good.
Reviews of modes of operation:
This radio has a ton of features. A backlight can be accessed at the touch of a button.
You can decide whether or not you want a confirmation tone when you press any of the buttons.
The radio gives you the option of using an "end of transmission tone" which will let the
other party know when they can talk. I have heard many people on FRS talking over the
tops of one another. Telling people to "wait for the beep" will help. Those who have no
problem with such "operator error" can elect to disable this function.
This radio does have a scan function. You can scan all 14 channels. Also, once on a
channel, you can set a CTCSS tone scan to scan the CTCSS tones for whichever channel you choose.
The scan function seems a bit slow. It could scan faster, especially when going through 38 CTCSS
tones. Also, I would like to see a way to lock out channels you wish to bypass on scan.
With all that in mind, however, I consider the scan function functional under most operating conditions.
A very nice feature is the ability of the radio to remember channel settings. If you use
CTCSS this will be a VERY big help. The radio will remember the CTCSS tone set for each
channel. Once set, the CTCSS tone stays set. You can select a CTCSS code for one channel,
and if you wish to use another on a different channel (or none at all) you can set a different
(or no) code for that channel, and so on. When in scan function, the radio disregards CTCSS
settings, which is well thought out.
Bad news first:
Volume levels are sufficient for around the house; but in a crowded or noisy area, forget it.
Volume levels are low with either the speaker or headsets. At an amusement park you will easily
miss calls, even if you use the call tone.
The sound quality of the received audio is nice and clear. There is no background hiss or
crackling within the very functional operational range of this unit.
My wife and I have used these radios from a home-to-car, and home-to-store type situation. In
both cases there was a perfect signal. We can use these radios to communicate from our house
to the grocery store and video store which are about 1/3 a mile away. Bear in mind
that these are concrete-and-steel stores... the radios work without a hitch.
I have NOT done a maximum range test. In my mind I do not need to. I have used these radios
in rather harsh operating conditions and they have performed perfectly. I believe they will
easily meet or exceed any FRS expectations.
These radios are advertised as having a 500 mW power output. Many manufacturers rate this as input
power, before antenna loss, not actual transmitted power from the antenna. This radio's FCC data shows
an Effective Radiated power above 475 mW, which means you ARE getting this power sent over the air with
a very efficient transmitter. FCC data sheets confirm these thoughts with a very stable signal report.
Receive sensitivity is right with the best of them. These radios had a better receive
sensitivity than my $100 a unit Kenwood units. They were right on par with my most sensitive
receiving units. You pair a hot receiver with an efficient transmitter and you get PERFORMANCE!
Appearance and control layout: A
Ease in operation: A
Battery lifetime: A
Operating range: A
Signal quality: A
I considered the experience with these radios to be a joy. I was provided with a set of
battery packs and a dual well desk charger. These radios can be charged and ready to go
in a moment's notice. I am very proud to have a batch of these radios to add to my FRS
radio collection. I am sure they will provide me with many years of good trouble free use.
These radios have the features of units costing twice as much. They also perform in many cases
better than the most expensive units.
Additionally, When using the desk charger, sufficient current is provided to both charge the radios and
provide operating power.... This could provide a "base station" like system.