Monday, June 25, 2007
I am pleased to report that I was able to put on the finishing touches on our real-world review of the innovative Cobra XRS R7/R9G radar detector.
We've had this radar detector in our possession and have been driving with it for about a month now and we've gotten to know its behavior well.
Cobra XRS R7/Cobra R9G Review
Please enjoy the reading/viewing!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I continued on my easterly route on I-78 through north-central New Jersey to I-287 North towards the I-87 portion of the New York Throughway. I had seen two other vehicles—a Red Jeep Grand Cherokee and Silver Nissan Altima—pulled-over by another State Trooper—that had been lasered about a half-mile past the Viper on the west-bound side.
It was clear to me that today was going to be a busy one and that I had to be at the top of my game.
I came upon another NJ state trooper on I-287 north—a green pick-up truck— but I couldn't tell what he was using. South of Mahwah had picked up a strong X-band source and later a Ka at 33.8Ghz but wasn't able to identify the location of the cruisers using them. When I approached the Riverdale town limit another vehicle was pulled-over by an unmarked Gold Crown Vic.
Picked up I-87 north in New York and proceeded to the Harriman exit on my way towards the Bear Moutain area. During a pit-stop at the rest center, I saw a beautiful '86 arrest-me red Ferrari 328GTS that was being flat-bedded and towed. It's owner told me that he had a failing fuel-pump. I wanted to take a picture of it for the blog, but resisted the temptation as I didn't want to perpetuate his misery on the Internet.
Things remained pretty quiet until I got on 6-East , SR-293, and 9W south. This is when things really started hopping!
I picked-up a weak 35.5 Ghz Ka on my Beltronics STi Driver for about 15 seconds at 60 mph followed by a laser alert. This time around the Cobra XRS-R7 and XRS-9700 alerted was well. I was so busy documenting the action, I forgot to dis-engage my Blinder M-20 and inadvertently managed to jam [him]-to-gun—with the assistance of VEIL—although that wasn't my intention.
As I passed him I noticed has was being lazy—shooting his police laser gun through his windshield from the driver's front seat. I wasn't able to identify the gun he was using on this first pass, so I decided to pull a Jason maneuver and made a u-turn down the road to make another pass, this time with the Blinder OFF using VEIL only.
I positioned myself in the left-lane on 9W south for another laser shot. The portion of this road is prime for creating revenue—it's is two lanes each-way with a posted limit of 55mph with a nice sweeping descent in altitude—as it is very hard not to speed here, especially if one isn't too attentive.
Again I got the alerts of the radar detectors to 35.5Ghz Ka-band (which had been left-on by the officer) followed again by a laser alert. Again, all detectors alerted to the presence of the laser which lasted this time about 5-7 seconds and while I didn't get a JTG which I didn't expect to do with VEIL only with a big silver sedan, it provided me more than sufficient time to get my speed down safely to successfully avoid a speeding ticket.
As I passed him, I noticed that this time he was positioned outside of his car and was hand-holding a Kustom Pro III. I decided to really push my luck and attempt yet another pass. As I was making my u-turn I realized what probably happened—from the officer's point-of-view.
I figured, he had been shooting cars for a while with no problem while sitting comfortably in his air-conditioned cruiser through his windshield. As most of you already know, shooting police lidar through the windshield tends to reduce the range of the guns and is generally not recommended for this reason.
For most vehicles, though, this doesn't present a problem as they make for easy prey, at least in this type of targeting situation.
The officer must have been surprised that I had managed to mosey on by without being able to clock my speed. That's probably why he decided that he better get a little more engaged with his job and began lasering outside of his vehicle.
And, sure enough, he was able to finally get his reading on me. So all was well, indeed—we both got what we wanted.
By the time I had managed to do a u-turn I, it was too late—he had his next victim already.
Moving on, I managed to pick-up a host of other bonafide police radar alerts, mostly of the K-band variety. One officer was hiding off the road south of Highland Falls using a combination of steady and quick-triggering instant-on K-band that proved pretty lethal. The posted limit on this road SR-293 was 35mph—something that I respected. In this case I managed to make a number of repeated passes while attempting to change my appearance at each pass.
In one instance, the officer took a very quick shot of me. While the Bel STi Driver did alert briefly to it, neither one of the Cobra's did. This encounter suggested to me that "sensitivity" isn't just a function of signal strength, but duration as well. Apparently, the Cobras weren't quick enough in their sweeping pattern or signal processing analysis to report this one pass. With all other passes they did fine.
Returning to the lasering spot on 9W, by the time I arrived there, it was again too late. This time his victim was a hapless motorcyclist—judging by his appearance—who didn't have a clue as to what hit 'em.
Riders of motorcycles, take note, you are not immune to police radar or police laser. Fortunately for you guys, there are solutions, including VEIL (Veil video 00:23), specifically tailored to your unique requirements including radar detectors, laser jammers, and wireless helmet-based alerting systems.
I continued driving around the area of Highland Falls and the town of Highlands until I had my fill of police radar encounters. Saw some spectacular views of the Hudson on SR-218.
It was starting to get a little late, so I decided to make my way west back towards SR-6 and I-84 west to head home, in PA. As I was leaving the grounds of West Point, we got some more police radar action, courtesy of a New York state trooper who was operating instant-on 34.7 Ghz Ka pretty hard from a dark Chevy SUV from the shoulder of the road.
Again I made repeated passes by him, each time, trying to change our appearance profile— cowboy hat on, then off; sun-glass on then off; headlights on then off; foglights on then off. Each time I got hit with instant on Ka. The STi Driver didn't miss one of them. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the Cobras whose performance didn't appear quite as consistent as did the BEL STi Driver—keep in mind, though, that the STi Driver retails for quite a bit more than either of the two Cobra models I was exploring.
Having had my fill of 34.7 Ka, I decided to leave my obliging testing companion and proceeded towards Newburgh, NY by way of SR-6 East.
The closest call that I may have had all day was an instant-on blast of 34.7 Ka from a cruiser traveling eastbound on I-84. He almost had me, which would not have been pretty.
Fortunately, my STi Driver faithfully provided the sufficient fractions of a second that I needed to appropriately respond to his instant-on Ka shot at me.
When I arrived back into my home state, things returned to their more-normal sedate form, thank goodness, because by this time, it was starting to darken, the sun was pelting me directly in my eyes, and my remaining fuel range was rapidly heading towards zero again.
All told, I put on about 600 miles and good number of those miles at a very good clip.
Thankfully, my investment into all of this equipment served me faithfully and I managed to successfully avoid every single ticketing potential I encountered today while getting a very close look at Cobra's new XRS-R7 (detailed review to be published shortly) and the synergistic performance of VEIL and a laser jammer combined—mission accomplished.
Why more drivers don't own and use radar detectors and related countermeasures, like VEIL, remains a real mystery to me.
Now, believe me when I "say" this: no more radar detector testing next weekend!
I gotta get a life...
Saturday, June 23, 2007
As it turned out, I am glad I broke that promise to myself, because today I got hit with more police radar and police lidar—upwards of 14-16 times—than I can recall happening on any other day in recent memory. (What do you think of that Steve? :) )
I started out my day intending to simply test the relative performance of the new Cobra XRS-R7/G9 to our current reference radar detector—the Beltronics STi Driver—and a predecessor to the XRS-R7/G9—the Cobra XRS-9700, but ended-up inadvertently testing the capabilities of my VEIL and Blinder M-20 (video1—00:59,video 2—19:51) set-up as well—more than once, actually.
I began my trip in the usual fashion, heading out of the south-eastern part of Pennsylvania on my way to upstate New York—where I spent my college years—and West Point makes a good mid-way point for my travel route.
On the way there and back, I routinely see just about everything that there is to see—X (10.5 Ghz), K (24.1 Ghz), Ka (33.8 Ghz, 34.7 Ghz, 35.5 Ghz), and police lidar (904 nm). That's a lot of enforcement technology in one trip—even if that one trip is 600 miles-long.
I prefer testing the real-world performance of radar detectors in the North East region of the United States [more than any other] because of this great variety of technology—most of it operated in instant-on mode—not steady-state continuous and in a much trickier/riskier terrain.
And, while I believe testing here allows for a much better showing of performance differences between radar detectors than say, a flat desert, it also comes at a much higher risk of getting nailed, but fortunately I have been lucky to this point.
One thing is for sure—laser usage in this region is on the rise—and SUVs make extremely good targets. That's a good thing, because so is the value of using a police laser countermeasure product, like VEIL.
My first bonafide police radar encounter happened this morning on a back road close to where my wife and I reside. A Pennsylvania state trooper was operating instant-on K discreetly from an industrial business parking lot. It is unusual that I encounter state troopers operating police radar on anything other than major thoroughfares. As it turned out, this was just a harbinger of things to come.
My trip almost came to a premature-end this morning when I had realized that I had left my wallet at home and my gas tank was damn near empty. Knowing that it wasn't too smart to be tooling around well in excess of the posted limits, particularly in another state like NJ—all in the name of testing, of course— without any form of ID and knowing that the rate of gas consumption at those hyper-speeds is often in the single digits, I quickly decided to make a 180 and head back to a midway point between where I had been—a couple of miles into New Jersey on I-78— and home to meet my adoring wife—who just loved the idea of having to drive 45 minutes to hand me my wallet at the gas station that I somehow managed to make it to while my BMW's estimated fuel range had dropped below zero miles for about five of them.
What I didn't tell you yet is what happened on my return to that gas station. I was lasered at around mile marker 3 just east of the western NJ state-line on I-78. The only reason I knew that I was lasered was because my Blinder Xtreme M20 had managed to detect and jam along with VEIL down to what was essentially point-blank range. As I passed the NJ State Trooper—who had been on the other side of the road facing towards me just before a U-turn area—I noticed that the police laser gun he was using appeared to be a Stalker LZ1.
This is the first time, I have actually seen a Stalker LZ1 in use in New Jersey. It would appear that Kustom Signals' loss is Stalker's gain.
An important item to note here is that neither the Beltronics STi Driver nor the Cobra XRS-R7 nor the Cobra XRS-9700 alerted to being targeted with it. If you have already read my laser detectors review, you know that radar detectors have different sensitivity to different police lasers— some are more difficult to spot than others. The Stalker LZ1 is harder to spot than the Kustom Pro III, for example.
I know that if I had been driving with any one of my Valentine One radar detectors, the V1 would have most certainly alerted to it—I have yet to encounter a police laser trap—from the front— where a Valentine 1 hasn't been successful in alerting to it, while being targeted.
Thanks to both the Blinder Xtreme M-20 and VEIL, I managed on by, without incident or a speeding ticket. Remember, this is the M-20 that has one head that's been compromised by some debris—fortunately for me, the units were not acting up today and worked flawlessly.
At any rate, to get back to my little dilemma, thanks to the Veil Gal, I was able to continue on my journey back east towards New Jersey and New York, with ID and a full-tank of petrol.
Not one mile inside the New Jersey border on I-78, I spotted a bright red Dodge Viper pulled-over on the west-bound side by the NJ state trooper who had lasered me earlier. It would have made a nice picture—but I did have the time to pull-over and snap that one.
I am getting pretty tired—I have been at this since about 0915—so I think I will continue with the next portion of this trip tomorrow. I am pretty whipped...need rest—at least that's what the Whistler Pro-78 or XTR-690 would likely be telling me now had I been driving.
Too be continued...
Friday, June 22, 2007
NOT EVEN, a week has gone by since my review was initially published and already Whistler's engineering team has read it, acknowledged some of the issues I had observed, and has implemented changes in their firmware to address these issues as well as provide a couple of other surprises and goodies for us all to enjoy.
Some of these programming enhancements include:
- Auto-Dimming [onset] delay
- [Alert] display hold time
- POP OFF [results in] sensitivity increase across all radar bands
- Additional filter signatures to suppress [falses from] more radar detectors
For once, I have met up with another company that can move at the speed at which I [sometimes] drive.
The future is looking very bright for Whistler, indeed, and it's a real pleasure to see the old guard make his re-appearance.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I picked this new unit up from Danny and Frank at Cricket Ventures (www.buyradardetectors.com) and examined it's performance and capabilities during a 2000 mile trip to Atlanta and back several weeks ago.
I am going on a trip to western PA later this morning and will use this trip to begin focusing close attention to this new radar detector—results of which will follow in an upcoming full-fledged and detailed review.
In the meantime, you can watch this short video-clip to get brief introduction to the new Cobra XRS-R7, provided by Danny, Frank, Jake, and myself. For more information about this new model, you can visit, here:
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I was able to get Blinder Extreme on the phone on Saturday and Leon (aka, the Blinder Dude) was gracious in helping me determine where the fault may lie. Examining the front of my vehicle, I noticed that one of the heads apparently was knocked loose out of its screws to the bottom portion of the Bimmer's front fascia. I can only imagine something struck the head and may have damaged the electronics.
Up until now, my Blinder M-20 has provided flawless performance. Leon, being the cool guy he is, offered a replacement of the damaged head with a new Blinder M-25 -- since the M-20 has been superseded by the newer Blinder M-25 and Blinder M-20 parts are scarce.
It is a real pleasure doing business with a company, like Blinder, that really cares about its customers and products, alike, especially when you consider that the unit is already two years old.
I am looking forward to installing this more powerful successor to the Blinder Xtreme M-20 and M-40 series even though I never received a speeding ticket with it and Veil running in combination.
It's still nice to know, though, that one coat of VEIL is still going strong after all these years. The total cost of ownership is definitely lower with this solution, no pun-intended.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Whistler Pro 78 and XTR-690 Radar Detector Review
I hope you find it an informative and worthwhile read.
I am currently working on preparing a detailed review of the new Cobra XRS-R7 interior/remote radar detector.
Friday, June 08, 2007
As some of my friends and close followers [of my postings] already know, I recently drove to Atlanta, GA and back from Philadelphia, PA, to attend a conference with my good friend and business associate RadarRoy (of radarbusters.com).
Instead of flying, I decided to drive it -- all in the name of testing the latest radar detectors (including new models from both Whistler and Cobra). I managed to take copious notes on my traveling experiences and will include a summary of them in my upcoming blog postings and our full-review entitled "the ultimate radar detector review 2007." Our trip included a journey through Virginia (where radar detector usage is still banned in Draconian fashion) -- you can guess which radar detector we used for that portion of the trip. We also managed to visit our friends at Cricket Ventures (buyradardetectors.com) in Rock Hill, SC.
It's going to take a bit of additional time to compile all of those experiences and post them. That is something that is in very short supply of late since a lot of things are going on both in my personal and business life. (For example, my sister is tying the knot this weekend and the pre-wedding activities, alone, are demanding on what little time I have).
As you may already know, I recently purchased another retail model of the Beltronics STi Driver, which brings my current ownership count to two units. Once I got familiar with the operation characteristics of both them (on both an absolute and relative basis) I decided to take a unique approach to empirically examining the actual effect of operating the radar detectors in AutoScan mode.
One particular reviewer -- Craig Peterson of RadarTest.com -- has mentioned the use of AutoScan mode (in terms of generally quieting Bel's and Escort's detectors 'even more') but has not gone into depth about its utility and generally recommends to drive with the radar detectors in Highway mode when on the highway -- to maximize their effective performance by minimizing filtering. All other tests with which I have read (such as SpeedZones.com or GuysofLidar.com), either in print or on-line, always focus on performance of their tested radar detectors set in Highway mode (or in the V1's case -- all bogeys mode).
But since the default settings of Beltronics and Escort radar detectors are, in fact, AutoScan mode, I felt it was high time to really explore, in depth, the actual effect of running their detectors in AutoScan while driving on the highway and around town.
And what better way to do this than with two BEL STi Drivers running concurrently.
First things first: Establishing a Base-Line with both BEL STi Driver Radar Detectors
Before I could really explore the effect of AutoScan, I have taken a few weeks and about 3500 miles of driving with both of them in Highway mode. In this manner, I was able to accurately access the intra-model performance production variances of each radar detector.
My conclusions are the latest STi Driver that I purchased is slightly "hotter" on X-band and Ka-band reception (at least on the observed frequencies of 33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz, and 35.5Ghz) while not being quite as "hot" on K-band reception. These performance variations are relatively small (about 1-2 seconds max between each radar detector) and not completely consistent. In other words, the new BEL STi Driver doesn't always beat my other STi Driver. But, it does enough times for me to draw these basic conclusions.
Empirical Findings of AutoScan mode (BEL STi Driver)
After several weeks of close examination of each radar detector (run in AutoScan and Highway modes) and many additional miles I believe I have formulated some opinions which may be helpful for you to determine whether AutoScan is the right mode you or not.
It appears that AutoScan mode effectively reduces sensitivity to both X-band and K-band by a very little bit and reduces sensitivity to non-police Ka-radar bands while not effecting reception performance to (at least) the three U.S. police radar Ka-bands (33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz, and 35.5Ghz). To the contrary it appears that reception performance may actually increase (slightly) on those three police radar Ka-Bands relative to their Highway setting counterparts.
I write effectively because I believe their is much more to AutoScan than merely "dialing-back" sensitivity to certain radar bands. I believe the detector still receives the signal but it may be doing some additional processing to "squelch" the initial reporting of weak X, K, and non-essential Ka signals that normally would register about a 0-3 signal strength level. It may also be that the (listening) sweeping pattern (remember a radar detector is a very specialized radio-scanner) may be altered so that an AutoScan'd radar detector may actually focus a greater amount of time on Ka (in the case of the STi Driver, at least) at the slight expense of both X and K-bands. Or it may be a combination of all of these. Regardless of how Beltronics actually accomplishes their advanced filtering, the ultimate effect, is slightly reduced sensitivity to X and K and non-essential Ka.
And I do mean slightly...nothing really dramatic...just enough to eliminate some of the observed variance advantages of one detector over the other.
The benefit to all of this advanced filtering is a quieter radar detector! Gone are are a good number of X and K "falses" one often receives with a high-end radar detector when traveling on the highway by interchanges and adjacent shopping centers. Gone too are the occasional Ka-falses which occur from other cheap radar detectors which leak RF (harmonics in the wide Ka-band) at frequencies like (a reported) 33.458Ghz.
AutoScan does not appear to have any adverse impact on the Beltronics STi Driver's ability to report multiple and simultaneous radar encounters. Each radar detector seemed equally adept at identifying concurrent encounters of X and K-band regardless of the filtering mode selected.
So the trade-off appears to be a very slight reduction to both X and K reception -- in some cases -- for getting an even quieter detector which falses even less frequently. Having driving with Valentines for many years, I am really warming up to the quieter nature of the Beltronics STi Driver since it really doesn't appear to come at the expense of extreme sensitivity to real bona-fide police radar traps. Too much sensitivity without advanced filtering becomes painful over time and your mind can start to do its own filtering (eg; ignoring) which may not be a good thing.
Empirical Findings of AutoScan mode (BEL RX65-Pro and Escort 8500 X50)
Over the years I have examined the performance of AutoScan mode relative to Highway mode on both the Escort Passport 8500 X50 and the Beltronics RX-65 Pro radar detectors and although I haven't published anything, I have formulated some opinions which I will share with you now.
AutoScan appears to have a very interesting effect on the Escort Passport 8500 X50 (of which I own four -- two blue and two red). It appears that K-band reception actually improves slightly where X and Ka reception is affected similarly to the Beltronics STi Driver.
The Beltronics RX65-Pro detector doesn't quite seem to be affected to the same degree as the Passport 8500 X50 (at least in terms of K-band reception).
I suspect these performance variations in operating modes may be tied to an altered sweeping pattern for listening. In the instance of the 8500 X50, the detector may have allocated more time to listening to K-band relative to X and/or other parts of the Ka-band that are not police radar. The Beltronics, in general, feels a little quicker and as a result performance changes are somewhat less noticeable.
At least for now, I am going to continue driving with my STi Drivers with POP-OFF and AutoScan on (which is their factory default operating mode). You may want to try the same -- for your own edification -- you may actually prefer it.
Regardless of which mode you use, it's good to know that both Beltronics and Escort are continuing to push the envelope on super-advanced filtering modes -- that have minimal adverse impact of genuine police radar reception -- to deliver their owners the most enjoyable high-end radar detector ownership experience possible.
I can't wait to see how the Escort Passport 9500i matures over time!