Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Veil Guy's FSHD Awareness Campaign

All it takes is a few quick mouse clicks to change the lives of people for Good.

Campaign Links:

FSH Society  (to learn about FSHD)

Veil Guy's FSHD Campaign:

FSHD Lab Rat Blog
FSHD Lab Rat Google Plus
FSHD Google Community

Forum Discussion:

Veil Guy's FSHD Awareness Campaign

Thanks in advance for any help you can lend to this effort!

Be Blessed.

Veil Guy

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Deep dive review of the V1, Part VII: Conclusion

Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART VII

Wow, am I thrilled that I made it this far!  I've got other articles and reviews to publish that I've put on hold.

It's hard to believe that it has taken me more than three months to pen this bad boy.  I didn't expect that when I set out to cover the many subtle and intimate details of the Valentine One.  But, as you can see there was a lot to cover and I seriously doubt that you will come across a more complete and thoroughly detailed review.

V1 Versus...

I often get questions from drivers considering a radar detector as to which one they should acquire.  As such I have written this review about the V1 in the context of not only its individual performance and characteristics but also how it compares and contrasts to other notable detectors. As I wrap-up this deep dive review of the V1, I will summarize what I believe are the most notable similarities and distinctions between the V1 and certain other detectors.

Choosing the right detector for your individual needs

When it comes to choosing which radar detector is right for you, you must take into account many different things.  Yes, the purpose all radar detectors serve is the same--to protect your driving record and make you a more attentive and safe driver.  

Though, in my mind, the Valentine One really has only two other windshield-mount radar detectors that are most closely related to it's technical nature.  The first one, is the lower-performing and value-priced Whistler CR90.  Although technically similar and a wonderfully inexpensive detector serving many drivers well, the Whistler does not (attempt to) play in the same league as the V1.  That is reserved for the Escort Redline.

You will find comparisons being made to the Passport Max and at first blush, these comparisons may seem logical, but upon closer inspection, they are entirely two different sorts of detectors and as a consequence, serve two different masters.  The Passport Max/Max2 are more appropriately compared to the Passport 9500ix and Beltronics GX-65--essentially as the evolutionary model of both models.

In my opinion, the Escort Redline is the only serious alternative to the V1.  Not just because of their similar performance characteristics but because of their similarity in nature which makes the comparison most apt.

No nonsense performance 

Both the Redline and the Valentine One are pure radar and laser detectors--geared to the most technically proficient and knowledgeable drivers.

Neither have built-in GPS capabilities nor include internal GPS redlight and speed camera databases.  These enhancements can be made to either unit with the use an optional Bluetooth module which integrates into a smartphone.

Only Escort provides the comprehensive and class-leading Defender database along with its Escort Live app.  Valentine on the other hand has what many regard as a superior smartphone app--called YaV1 (available only on Android phones)--written by an exceptionally talented RD forum enthusiast.  For those that wish to have a similar (and better) GPS crowd-sourcing experience, there is Waze (from Google).  This happens to be my most preferred setup.

Both models are comprised of two radar antennae.  The V1 has one forward and one rearward facing which gives it superior detections from the rear as well as imparts it with the unique ability to indicate direction of detections thus enhancing a driver's situational awareness while providing advanced muting, something that can not be found with any other detector.

The Redline, without a doubt, utilizes the most sophisticated dual-horn forward facing radar antenna design ever to appear in a consumer radar detector.  It's alerting range and off-axis capabilities, in certain notable instances, remain unmatched.

Off-axis detections can be a great thing for those who drive on secondary windy roads surrounded by heavy foliage.  It can also be a draw back on more densely populated highways and urban areas and tends not to provide for significant alerting advantages in areas of open (desert) terrain.  The decision of which capabilities prove more important remains a highly personal and subjective one.

While both detectors provide class-leading performance in their out-of-the-box standard configurations, both can be taken to unimaginable levels of performance when tweaked for responsiveness coupled with minimal filtering overhead.

The Redline has excellent laser sensitivity, however, the V1 is beyond sublime--being able to see both front and rear laser shots from the newest, most advanced, and hardest-to-detect guns currently proliferating in the wild.  As the inventor of Veil, my preferred choice, should be pretty obvious.

The Redline and its M3 brethren remote mounted radar detectors, the Beltronics STi-R+ and the Escort Passport 9500ci, remain the only detectors that are completely undetectable by radar detector detectors (RDDs) leaving the Virginia, District of Columbia, Military, and CDL drivers only one viable option.

Both models have the ability to filter to one degree or another K-band lane departure systems and traffic monitoring systems, but I have found the V1 handles these systems most effectively (although it does come with some reduction in range and responsiveness--as all of these K-band filters do).  The V1 also does a better job at filtering and muting than the Redline and its overall alerting behavior remains the very best.

Both models are built to the highest levels of construction quality and either one will provide years of service.  However, my hunch is with Valentine's approach of no-planned-obsolescence, the V1 will age better than the Redline as new challenges appear, leaving a V1 owner less compelled to purchase a new detector every year or so.  That appeals to my nature.  I tend to keep things for a long time.  I don't have a leasing mentality.  The last car I purchased was a 1999 Dinan 5 series which currently is sitting in my garage with an odometer indicating an excess of 255,000 miles.  It's still an awesome sports sedan, perhaps BMW's best ever, so why mess with a good thing?

In terms of customizations, the V1 has it down, in spades.  Many different performance profiles can be created and easily selected with a single push of an app "button."  A profile can be chosen when one is driving in NJ for example where X-band, 33.8Ghz & 34.7Ghz Ka, and Laser rule the day but can quickly be changed for use in driving in neighboring PA, where only K is used.  With any other detector, including the Redline, a time-consuming complex set of menu changes would have to be performed to accomplish the same thing.  The V1 even allows its owner to import and export these profiles.

Suggestions for Improvement

It would be nice to see a V1 having its Bluetooth function built-in and compatible to both the Android and iPhone.

I would also welcome the incorporation of a USB jack to allow for connection of a smartphone directly to the power cable. Whistler, Cobra, and Escort offer cables with this capability, it's high time that Valentine gets with the decade with their cables.

Speaking of cables, now that a smartphone can act as a remote display, a more compact cord option with a push-button mute and/or other quick control functions, and a two USB jacks would be the hot-ticket.

How about a stealth V1?  Years ago, an Aussie friend of claimed to have custom-modified V1 that was undetectable by RDDs (that was more than nine years ago!).  Hell, if he could do it, why not the wizards of VR?

Improved documentation both in the package on the website would be most welcomed.  Why make it so difficult for owners to tweak their detectors?

An improved display and control front fascia is an obvious area that could benefit from an update.  I think you guys have extracted as much as you can from a single digital display digit!  There's a lot more to tell an informed driver than just a bogey count, general bands detected, and direction.  (Note: This may finally be addressed in a forthcoming model).

Perhaps incorporating a USB data connection into the detector directly as does Escort and Whistler to allow for some firmware updates or, even better, incorporate the ability into the V1Connection app to push new firmware via Bluetooth.  On the other hand, it's very nice when one sends a V1 back in for an update, that VR extends another one-year warranty as if it were a new purchase as part of the upgrade fee.

Update your ad copy and your website!  Both look essentially unchanged from their original forms.  Enough about the arrows already and the same tired testimonials about them.  A lot has changed from the early nineties and we drivers have many more challenges to overcome. There are so many other fine attributes to the V1 and leaving both virtually unchanged, serves to only perpetuate the narrative of some (competitors) that the V1 hasn't really changed in years.  Hire a marketing guy for goodness sake (they're not all bad), and proclaim how so very well the V1 handles them!

I am sure there are other things that I would like to see, I just can't think of them at the moment. 


In the final analysis, whether or not the V1 is the detector most appropriate for you will remain rooted in subjectivity--no "objective" alerting range chart will suffice.  I have done my level best to lay out, in complete and unvarnished detail, the subjective nature of not only the latest V1, but of a number of other radar detectors which rightly merit consideration as well.

Utterly meaningless chart

To be sure, the V1 isn't for everyone; it is perhaps the most technical of all radar detectors and requires a high level of sophistication and commitment from a serious owner, for it to be fully appreciated. Don't ever expect to see brightly colored V1s mounted upon other windshields of cars you will surely pass.

There has been quite a bit of expectation that Valentine may be forthcoming with a major enhancement which many of us expect to propel it definitively ahead of its competition.  Whether or not this proves to be the case or when, rest assured, VR will surely provide an upgrade path (to it).

So, no matter which path you ultimately choose to take, I want to be explicitly clear on these two parting thoughts:

The Valentine One represents a towering achievement and comes with my highest recommendations.

Drive safe and smart.

Veil Guy

Previous: Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART VI

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART VI

Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART VI

Filtering versus Muting

Some background and how the Valentine One compares and contrasts to other manufacturers' models

Filtering techniques and muting--whether automatic or manual--while different in execution, accomplish a similar outcome: a detector which does not alert to a detected signal. As I have already covered how the V1 uniquely handles muting, I will now discuss how the V1 handles filtering.

As stated in an earlier part of this deep-dive review, Valentine's philosophy is to minimize the use of filtering for the sake of prioritizing alerting performance.  This does not mean that the V1 doesn't employ any filtering at all, but they have chosen their battles quite selectively, so to speak, as to the ones that have the least impact on performance, preferring the driver to make the determination based upon his or her's intimate knowledge of the V1's alerting behavior.

Ka Band Filtering

Most of the more advanced detectors employ Ka-band filtering to some degree or another.  Notable other manufacturers which do this are Beltronics, Escort, and Whistler.  Much of the history of filtering Ka-band is rooted in the manufacturing of older Cobra detectors, which emitted frequencies that could be detected by other sensitive detectors within close proximity.  However, unlike, conventional police radar which consists of one specific frequency, emissions from the LO of any super hetrodyne detector are typically accompanied by other frequencies at the same time and those frequencies detected in the Ka-band range are actually harmonics of the selected LO frequency.

When a well designed radar detector, detects frequencies in the Ka-band, it will quickly analyze other potentially related frequencies in an attempt to determine if the detected Ka-band signal is actually a harmonic of another or is that of genuine police radar.  If the detector concludes, in a finite amount of time, that the signal is an emission from another detector, it will reject the signal as being spurious and not alert (to it).

However this advanced signal processing does take a finite amount of time to perform.  If the time to analyze the detected signal takes too long, the detector may miss a bonafide police radar source, such as I/O or quick-triggered I/O or briefly appearing multi-path radar (even more difficult to detect).  While quick-triggering is uncommon, it is not without possibility of being encountered.

Each of the three spiritually-related models, the Valentine One, the Escort Redline, and the Whistler CR90 allow for the user to reduce or eliminate the processing overhead (and therefore efficiency) of this filtering technique, for the sake of performance.

Valentine was early in providing this feature, called Ka-guard.  However with Ka-guard disabled, older Valentines tended to false excessively which seriously reduced its overall effectiveness.  In other words, the tradeoff for either responsiveness or apparent sensitivity was not worth it and therefore the feature was not widely used.

Escort and Beltronics M3-based detectors (and now some newer M4 detectors) allow for the reduction in filtering to Ka as well, in the form of a feature called RDR (radar detector rejection).  Similar to Ka-guard, it improves responsiveness and apparent sensitivity to brief (and/or weak) Ka detections, but can lead to increased levels of falsing, especially since the Ka-band is such a large collection of frequencies to scan.  There are a large number of frequencies in the Ka-band spectrum which are not home to police radar.

In the US, there are primarily three Ka-band segments each centered at 33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz, and 35.5Ghz with a spread of frequencies of a +/- 100Mhz frequencies on each side of their centers.

So how does one benefit from improved performance without penalty of increased falsing by relying on the signal processing?  Well we've already touched on it in an earlier part of the review.  The answer is Ka-band segmentation.  When those two methods of employed together, the driver can essentially have his cake and eat it too.

To be fair to history, Beltronics had provided a one-button "preset" form of "band-segmentation" with Ka USA mode (similar in effect) in contrast to Ka International modes and it worked very effectively in its day.

Today, all three manufacturers provide more advanced and fine-tunable configuration to the advanced user steeped in the knowledge of how to unlock these additional performance potentials.  Whistler offers the most simple form of configuration changes.  Escort/Beltronics offers a somewhat more involved program customization, followed by Valentine.  While the programming effort of the Valentine is mildly more involved, its capabilities of fine tuning are the greatest.

K-band filtering

New to the game is advanced K-band filtering.  Starting with the appearance of "pulsed" short-duration traffic monitoring systems transmitted at different durations at different times of the day, depending upon expected traffic volumes, new filtering algorithms appeared from Escort and Beltronics with the introduction of TSR.  Valentine came later with TMF, followed by Whistler with their TFSR.

Each of these systems were designed to add a delay to alerting to detected K-band for a finite period of time, long enough for the "pulsed" signal to disappear before it was alerted to.  The difficulty with static predetermined delays is that the longer the latency in alerting, the greater the chance of missing a brief K-band I/O short from an officer.  This presented a serious challenge to the manufacturers and each one has taken slightly different paths for attempting to minimize this risk (with varying degrees of success).  Whistler allows for the most advanced fine-tuning of the additional alert latencies and is therefore my favorite approach.

As if this weren't bad enough, an even greater nuisance has made its arrival.  The K-band emissions of the latest "nanny" systems being incorporated into an increasing number of automobiles in an attempt to protect drivers from themselves and their poor driving habits, known as the scourge of inattentive driving.  Unfortunately the manufacturers have opted to use a systems of FMCW (frequency modulated continuous waveform K-band radar).  These emissions are proving to even be more difficult to filter out without imposing significant penalty in K-band alerting performance.

For a time, Whistler had devised the best approach at minimizing a performance hit.  Conventional detectors from Escort and Beltronics remain too broad in their approach, while the Passport Max and Max2 have not been able to deliver on their promise of advanced "DNA/HD" digital processing technology.  Valentine, on the other hand, is continuing to fine tune their filtering algorithms to handle both of these sorts of K-band modulations and I would say that it is Valentine that remains is staying most ahead of these continually-evolving technologies.  While the latest version of TMF is not perfect, Valentine is genuinely striving to achieve the best "compromise" of performance and livability.

X-band filtering

Fortunately for most drivers, X-band is not widely deployed throughout the US and most drivers can feel confident disabling the band altogether, with some notable exceptions.  Drivers in NJ, OH, NC, MS, and other confined regions aren't so lucky.  On a stretch of California highway heading out of LA towards Arizona, X-band traffic monitoring systems, directed at commercial vehicles, can set off detectors for many many miles at a time.  The flat desert-like terrain coupled with low humidity really exacerbates the nuisance.  To my knowledge, only Whistler has attempted to filter out these systems effectively.

To make matters worse, I recently came upon a vehicle that I was passing that was causing my detectors to false on X-band.  I am not aware of any lane departure systems designed on X-band, but there it was.  Something was consistently setting of my detectors on X-band.  I am not aware that either Valentine or Beltronics and Escort are attempting to filter out X-band signals such as these.  Given its limited deployment relative to K-band and K-band throughout the US, this is not as much of an issue, in my opinion.  But it would be nice to have anyway.

Laser/Lidar filtering

While certain detectors may appear to filter spurious laser detections out (think Escort Max), in fact, a detector that can barely detect laser to begin with, doesn't really need to filter anyway as the sensitivity is not there to begin with.  Detectors from Whistler and particularly Valentine are sensitive enough that filtering does matter and each company does a very noble job at doing this.  Whistler allows for the selective filtering of pre-established pulse rates emanating from lidar-based systems incorporated in vehicles such as those from Volvo, Infiniti, and Honda as well as airport wind shear monitors. Valentine is more minimalistic in its approach and therefore tends to false more to these systems.

Despite this, both Whistler and Valentine are particularly resistant to falsing from the shadows cast by trees along the side of the highway.  Beltronics and Escort models (especially the remote mounted detectors) tend to false quite frequently to these sources.

In summary, an effective combination  of filtering and muting directly leads to a superior driving experience and at the moment, at least, the Valentine is at the head of the class on this front.  The excessively hyped marketing of the new Max and Max2 promised superior levels of advanced signal processing, but at this point in its evolution, the technology appears to be more "pie-in-the-sky." Maybe in time, that will change, but in the meantime, the Valentine remains the very best at staying quiet when it needs to while providing the driver maximum levels of alerting performance in this ever increasingly difficult landscape of "signal pollution."

Previous: Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART V
Next: Deep Dive Review: Valentine One with V1connection, PART VII, Conclusion