John's Musings

Yeah, Me Neither

TYT MD-380 vs. Radioddity GD-77

So, you are new to DRM Ham Radio as I am. You've got your unique DMR ID number and you're ready to talk to Hams worldwide on the Brandmeister, or D-Marc networks depending on how you connect. But you aren't sure what radio to get and furthermore you don't even know if you'll like this DMR thing.

The first thing I recommend doing is going to the Brandmeister Hose and just listening to the various talk groups. That's right, you can access just about any talk group from the internet and listen. Doesn't cost a thing and gives you a feel for DMR radio.

So now you've decided you want to play along ............. You need a radio but you don't want to break the bank. There are a lot of choices out there and I'm only going to cover 2 of them because they are both sub $100 radios. To me, those are the entry-level, get your feet wet, DRM Radios.

The two entry level radios (in my opinion) are the TYT MD-380 and the Radioddity GD-77

They both come with free software and a free programming cable. That's a big plus. Both are Chinese made (that used to be a bad thing, not so much anymore) and again, both are less than $100.

The MD-380 has a much nicer color screen than the GD-77 if that matters to you. The MD-380 also shows more information. One of the first things I noticed after programming both with a similar cqodeplug (the software that sets your channels) that the MD-380 used channel names whereas the GD-77 displayed them in frequency. When you set up DMR most people are going to set up simplex channels and use the same frequency on every channel to transmit and receive between the radio and the repeater or hotspot. My point is that I programmed 12 talk groups (or channels) into the GD-77 and they all showed up as 435.25000. Extremely confusing. However there is a setting in the CPS software (configuration software) to set this to Channel Name so shame on me (you) if we didn't check all the programming possibilities.

So when you hear Hams talk one of the things they LOVE about the MD-380 is that when a DMR ID is broadcast on the screen it can display your name, FCC Callsign, and location. On the GD-77 it shows only the DMR ID. For example on an MD-380 if you are talking to me on your screen it will show

John Hagensieker

New Bern, NC


On the GD-77 is will show:


However LET ME BE CLEAR. THE MD-380 DOESN'T DO THIS EITHER UNLESS YOU LOAD AN OPEN SOURCE FIRMWARE INTO IT CALLED MD-380TOOLS. Loading this firmware voids your warranty. (chuckle).

So again to be clear the MD-380 with stock firmware behaves the same as the GD-77 but the MD-380 has been reverse engineered and Open Source Firmware developed for it. That open source firmware gets better and better all the time. And boy is it great to see that persons name on the other end. You probably think I'm hard selling the MD-380 here and maybe I am but if you use your DMR radio in the car you don't really have any business looking at the screen anyway. And if you are sitting at home comfortably talking on DMR radio you can open your hotspot configuration page or the Brandmeister Hose and see all that information on a much larger screen on your computer anyway. Also you CAN add about 10,000 contacts to the GD-77 which will let you show aliases but there are about 90,000 registered users world wide so you won't get them all.

So for me, while it is nice, it is much a do about nothing.

Here's the BIGGEE. The MD-380 is single band UHF. The GD-77 is dual band VHF/UHF. That's right. A DRM radio that costs less than $100 with dual band.

Now lets talk about what no one having a technical discussion about radios hardly ever talks about. Sound.

The Radioddity GD-77 SOUNDS BETTER. Clear, crisp audio. Hey, this is a radio. You listen to it. That matters.

Here's an interesting thing I noticed as well when comparing the two. The GD-77 doesn't stand up as well as the MD-380 and by that I mean it has the propensity to fall over much easier when placed upright. In fact in the 3D printing world people have made little stands for it so it doesn't fall over. Hey, whatever works.

I don't think you can go wrong by buying either radio however the tipping point for me is the ability to install MD380tools Open Source Firmware into the radio. The ability to show the talker alias, have promiscuous mode (lets you hear all talk groups even those not programmed in), and showing the last person heard displayed on the screen are super helpful, super cool features.

My take:

- If you are a super geek and want new and cool features get the MD-380.

- If you need VHF your only choice here is the GD-77. You may only have a VHF repeater near you.

- If you need tutoring WAY more people own the MD-380 and therefore there are way more web pages and YouTube videos about it out there.

- If you walk around the house or yard and want to see who you are talking to get the MD-380 and MD-380tools

- If you are an old guy with horrible eyesight and can't see either screen get the GD-77

- If you want a radio for the car or truck or boat to use while in motion get the GD-77

- If you want technical support and fast answers to your problems get the GD-77. They are much more responsive and helpful.

Okay that moment where I say which one is best. They both are great. I'm torn between the geekiness of the Open Source Firmware on one and the Dual Band capability on the other.

Get 'em both!

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