Last Updated on November 3, 2020

Although less spoken of, digital mobile radios (DMR) are still one of the most used devices for communicating in fields such as construction, restaurants, or hospitals. The DMR is an international standard that allows devices from different producers to work together on one network. That said, although some may say the era of analog technology is still not over, digital technology seems to take over the world at a fast rate.

The digital mobile radios function by the use of binary numbers (0 and 1) – once a signal is sent, these radios encode the message, transmit it, and decode the human voice. A reason why DMRs grew popular is their advanced features over the analog two-way radios, such as improved audio quality, better battery life, and enhanced clarity throughout the coverage range.

No matter if you are new to this, or already a user of DMR radio, we hope that you’ll find this article helpful in the pursuit of a new device. We did the research and found the best 6 DMR radios available at the moment. In further reading, you’ll also find information about:

  • Best DMR radio
  • How to choose your DMR radio? An in-depth guide for beginners.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you are a beginner in this field, we recommend reading the in-depth guide first. So, if you’re interested in this, let’s dive in.

    Quick Summary: 6 Best DMR Radio

    Our editors go through and research, test and qualify our recommended products. We receive commissions on purchases from certain links.

    1. Best Overall 1. Radioddity GD-77 DMR Digital/Analog Two Way Radio
      The most cost-efficient DMR radios on the market.
    2. Runner-Up: 2. TYT MD-380 – DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
      One of the “Best DMR radios.”
    3. Best Battery: 3. BTECH DMR-6X2 Dual Band Two-Way Radio
      Powerful dual-band handheld DMR built upon the famous Anytone D878.
    4. Best Power Output:  4. Ailunce HD1 DMR Dual Band Radio
      One of the best DMR radios when it comes to battery and audio.
    5. Best Display:  5. Alinco DJ-MD5TGP Dual Band DMR
      The best DMR radio when it comes to display, features, and design.
    6. Best Design:  6. AnyTone AT-D878 Dual Band DMR/Analog Radio
      A superb design, great battery life, and a well thought out the user experience.

    Dimensions: 5.51 x 2.23 x 1.14 inches
    Weight: 1.64 pounds
    Battery: 2200mAh
    DMR/Analog
    Waterproof

    Our Pick

    A digital handheld dual-band radio among the most cost-efficient DMR radios on the market: Radioddity GD-77!

    Highlights

    Many tech-lovers choose this gadget due to its dual timeslot and capability to act both as a digital radio or analog radio. If you go for the DMR mode, you’ll get a cool feature that allows SMS and kind of turns your radio into a cell phone.

    The Radioddity GD-77’s software allows the user to monitor both digital and analog signals at the same time, and its promiscuous mode gives the option of hearing all talk groups! It also has a repeater function that allows you to use the separate time slots in group calls, and it works excellent in conjunction with a hotspot. Because of this, our opinion that Radioddity did a great job with this device only continues to strengthen! The software of this DMR radio is updatable, and you can program the features with a supply cable. Depending on your understanding of DMRs, you can choose to work in the basic model or the complex one.

    Radioditty GD-77 has a couple more updates added: firmware, the contact ID is now expanded to a maximum of 1000, the scan list to 64, and the channel list got expanded up to 31 channels. This is a dual-band radio that can operate both on VHF UHF: 136 -174 MHz and UHF 400-470 MHz.

    Moving on to the battery: the 2200 mAh can last up to 18 hours of working time. Leave it on standby, and you’ll get a functioning device for the next 48 hours. Since this is 30% longer than other DMRs, this may be one of the best DMR radios when it comes to battery life. It’s also worthwhile to mention that the Radioddity GD-77 has a 5-watt output. So, if you need a device with outstanding battery power, this one might be the right one for you.

    In terms of design, the Radioddity GD-77 makes a pretty good impression: it is a robust device with diverse display options, a compact keyboard, and a USB port. It weighs 1.64 pounds. Last but not least, we must not forget to mention the other available functions: emergency button, busy lock, TOT, VOX, clear audio, and password lock.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • Works well with Hotspot/Repeater
    • It has an exceptional audio quality
    • Updatable software and Firmware support
    • Emergency button

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • Not good for travel or emergency.

    Dimensions: 7.9 x 6.6 x 3.4 inches
    Weight: 1.55 pounds
    Battery: 2000mAh
    Analog/Digital
    Wireless


    Runner Up

    Next on the list of “Best DMR radios” is the TYT MD-380 – a digital handheld two-way radio that operates in analog and digital modes.

    Highlights

    Very similar to the previous DMR, the software of TYT MD-380 allows you to hear all talk groups – and that is not the only call feature. When not in the DMR mode, this radio acts like an FM radio.

    This radio has the option of Private Call, Group Call, and All Call. Most of the reviews state that the audio is crystal clear, which is understandable since audio power is 1 watt; the audio response is 1dB-3dB; there’s an improved noise reduction. All in all, this means excellent audio, clear sound, and great frequency response.

    This dual-band DMR radio covers a great frequency range and operates on VHF 136 -174 MHz and UHF 400 – 480MHz. Besides this, it supports both narrowband and broadband FM. By purchasing this DMR radio, you get two VHF antennas: antenna 6 3/4″ that does a great job on the long haul, and antenna 3 3/4″ that’s good for local coverage. As mentioned above, this DMR radio can operate both in analog and digital mode, but the digital programming software is a little different than other devices and requires more in-depth knowledge.

    For programming the device, you will need a programming cable. You can scan the 1000 available channels by using the programmable keys on the device. By using the keypad, you can also add or delete channels depending on what you need.

    TYT MD-380’s battery does a good job and can last up to 24 hours. Here we are talking about a 2000 mAh rechargeable. A little disadvantage is the slower charging since it can take up to 9 or 10 hours to recharge. Anyway, you can solve the total drainage of it by putting your DMR in battery saver mode. All in all, the TYT MD-380 is a great DMR radio for the price, and maybe the best DMR radio for value.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • It has a USB cable
    • It has USB Programming Cable and software
    • English Manual

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • It’s not great for basic ham

    Dimensions: 2 x 1.5 x 5 inches
    Weight: 1.8 pounds
    Battery: 2100 mAh
    DMR/Analog
    GPS and Recording

    Best Battery

    It is a powerful dual-band handheld DMR built upon the famous Anytone D878, with exclusive new features.

    Highlights

    If you search for a DMR radio online, you’ll probably ask yourself: Why does the dual-band BTECH DMR 6×2 always stand on top of the lists of best DMR radio? There are a couple of reasons for this.

    Multiple scan groups: you can enter numerous scan lists per channel.

    Digital simplex repeater: this gives your DMR the option to record transmission and then store it in memory. Thus, it can find its use as a relay point in sports events. 

    Priority scan: with the update, you can put two channels as a priority.

    Display color options: you can choose between white letters on a black background or black letters on a blue background.

    Display hold: a signal will remain on your screen until another appears.

    Analog squelch level adjustment: you can adjust it by using the programmable keys.

    Here, we’re talking about a two way DMR radio with a frequency range of both VHF 136 – 174 MHz and UHF 400 – 480 MHz. Besides the DMR mode, this radio supports analog FM, both broadband and narrowband. There are four different power output levels available: low (1 watt), med/low (2.5 watts), med/high (5 watts), and high (6 watts UHF and 7 watts VHF). The audio does an excellent job on all frequencies. The five-level microphone gain perimeter allows you to modify a sound that’s most soothing to you.

    The software also received some updates – besides entering data conventionally, now you can import data and export it in CVS files. For programming, you’ll need your programming cable and Windows PC. Firmware upgrades can also be done on a Windows PC.

    Now, let’s talk some numbers: The BTECH DMR 6×2 has 4,000 channels (the 4,000 channels can be divided into 250 channels in a zone), 10000 talk groups (it’s easier to dial talk groups due to the manual dialer), and enough space for 200000 contacts! The 3100 mAh battery can last up to 35 hours, so it’s an ideal fit if you plan on leaving home for longer. All you’ll need for a full recharge is one night. With the purchase of this mobile radio, you’ll get another 2100 mAh battery that lasts up to 18.5 hours. You may expect that additional features such as GPS function, recorder, and DMR digital storage would drain the battery fast, but it copes pretty well with all of this.

    So, if you are one of those users looking for a highly portable powerful DMR radio, with a long-life battery, significant overall quality, and excellent capacity of channels (don’t forget: there are 4,000 channels available!) this will fulfill your expectations. Hands down, this is one of the top DMRs you can find on the market, and the best dual band DMR radio for battery rating.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • DMR Tier 1 & 2 compatible
    • It allows for front panel programmable channels
    • Exclusive BTECH firmware
    • K1 accessory jack

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • It’s not good for ham radio

    Dimensions: 9.28 x 7.31 x 4.56 inches
    Weight:  13.1 ounces
    Battery: 3200mAh
    Dual Band
    Waterproof

    Best Power Output

    A dual-band DMR manufactured by Ailunce with added FM function – the two-way radio, Ailunce HD1, can act both as an analog radio or digital radio by switching the mode on the keyboard.

     Highlights

    This dual-band DMR radio is compatible with Tier I (license-free use) and Tier II (license use). The transmitter allows the radio’s frequency range of UHF 400-480 MHz and VHF 136-174 MHz, along with the possibility to switch on the cross band to receive and transmit.

    The official information for the output level is 10 watts, which is a pretty high output for the best handheld ham radio. There’s only one downside to this, and it has to do with the fact that the higher the power output, the faster the drainage of the battery. But don’t be worried yet: the battery of the Ailunce HD1 is a real powerhouse – with a single charge of the 3200 mAh Li-ion battery, you’ll get a couple of days of active work (plus, the battery saver option, if enabled will extend the active time ).

    Even if you have thousands of contacts in need of saving, this DMR radio will fulfill your needs – with this mobile radio you can save up to 200000 contacts, and you can also add or delete priority contacts. Additionally, there is the option for import and export address books. There are 32 radio IDs available.

    Communicating through this DMR radio is secure. There’s improved frequency utilization, and you can entirely avoid signal interference. The audio is crystal clear since the receiver sensitivity does a terrific job. The design is no less of a gem: a big vibrant LCD visible at night or day with a screen 1.1″ x 1.4″, IP67 waterproof, robust, and compact. Other notable features of this DMR include Front Panel Programming, VOX, TOT, Squelch, Promiscuous function, Emergency alarm, GPS function, etc.

    Ailunce HD1 is one of the best DMR radios when it comes to battery and audio, so check it out if you’re one of those people who stay outside for a longer period of time.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • FM LCD Recording
    • SMS
    • 3000 Channels
    • 200000 Contacts

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • The guts are not so good

    Dimensions: 1.77 inch TFT
    Weight: 1.45 pounds
    Battery: 1700mAh
    DMR Tier I and Tier II
    GPS

    Best Display

    If you work in a noisy environment, such as construction sites or parks, this crystal audio DMR radio is the right choice for you.

    Highlights

    The Alinco DJ-MD5TGP is a dual-band DMR radio. As with all devices mentioned above, this DMR is compatible with both Tier I and Tier II, meaning it gives you the option to use it as an analog radio or a digital radio. If you choose the analog mode, you can expect four tone-burst tones, programmable auto repeater shift, and CTCSS/DCS/DTMF/2-TONE/5-TONE encode and decode. If you enter the digital, the following features are available: 10,000 talk groups, 160,000 contact lists, 32 preset encryption codes, selective calls (individual, group, or all), digital monitor functions, and caller ID and name appearing on the screen.

    The frequency range of this DMR radio is VHF 136-174 MHz and UHF 400-480 MHz, with a frequency stability of ±2.5 ppm. There are 4000 available channels with the option of grouping 250 channels per zone. The radio is powered by an output of 5 watts, although there are four selectable output options: 5 watts, 2.5 watts, 1 watt, and 0.2 watts. It is no accident we started with the audio on this device: the receiver’s sensitivity is satisfactory, and DVSI’s AMBE+2 vocoder puts this device on the top in terms of audio clarity.

    The powerful 1000 mW audio output and audio distortion of less than 5% give this DMR radio a loud and crisp, crystal clear sound. An additional feature is the digital voice recorder, which you can use for 14 hours of recording. The sound of the records is satisfactory.

    In terms of design, Alinco did a pronounced job with this dual band DMR. With a weight of 1.45 pounds and a sturdy body, this one is easy to carry around. One of the highlights, as reviewed by users, is its vibrant full color 1.77″ display. The display features a menu interface and a keypad for easy navigation. Its body is dustproof and splashproof, which makes this radio the right choice if you work in dusty environments. As with all other technological gadgets, the user experience is one of the most crucial aspects.

    This DMR solves that perfectly since the user experience got enhanced with clear and detailed radio activity in both bands simultaneously. Another highlight of Alinco DJ – MD5TGP is the GPS position reporting which can be really useful. Therefore, this radio is the best DMR radio when it comes to display, features, and design.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • Vibrant 1.77in Color LCD display
    • It has higher channel
    • GPS position reporting
    • SMS (Digital mode)

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • No support

    Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 6 inches
    Weight: 1.65 pounds
    Battery: 3100mAh
    DMR/Analog
    GPS with Built-in Bluetooth

    Best Design

    To all the outdoors people out there who are thrilled by harsh environments, we’ve got the perfect fit for you – the AnyTone AT D878UV is a dual-band DMR radio made of high-quality materials and built to last.

    Highlights

    The sturdy body and waterproof design make this DMR radio the ideal companion for your hikes, snow adventures, or your working environment. Plus, you won’t have to worry if you accidentally drop it. This is one of the best DMR radios to take as your companion on your next trip.

    With state-of-the-art performances, this may be the best dual band DMR radio in many ways. It keeps up to both Tier I and Tier II requirements and acts both as analog radio and digital radio at once. The frequency range of this device is VHF 136-174 MHz and UHF 400-480 MHz.

    The three different power outputs available will fulfill your needs at a given time; you choose between 6 watts (for a higher range), 2.5 watts, or 0.5 watts (for a low range). There are some similarities with the previous DMRs in terms of the number of channels and group talks: there are 4000 channels available, a maximum of 200000 contacts, and 10000 talk groups. The difference with the AnyTone AT D878UV is in the added features such as built-in Bluetooth, roaming function, GPS for APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) for both analog and digital mode, and talker alias function (the ability of the radio to receive contact information about the transmitter).

    The standard battery for this dual band DMR radio is a 2100 mAh polymer battery, but if you need a longer-lasting one, you can use the optional 3,300 mAh Li-ion battery. Besides all the other features, the battery also powers the 1.77″ color TFT screen. There’s a dual-channel display, but you can always choose to view a single one. To make effective use of this and other features, you need to program your DMR on a Windows PC, which is easy since you’ll get the user-manual. Anyway, like all others, this DMR has its disadvantage – the price. It’s a bit more expensive than the others, but if you are willing to spend & invest more, it doesn’t have to be a problem.

    All in all, AnyTone AT D878UV is a radio with a superb design, great battery life, and a well thought out the user experience.

    WHAT WE LIKED

    • The self-scanning ability of the best shortwave radio
    • Provision of displaying world clock
    • Pre-installed stations for instant usage
    • Extended battery life

    WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

    • The display screen is relatively small
    • Expensive

    Our Pick Again

    A digital handheld dual-band radio among the most cost-efficient DMR radios on the market: Radioddity GD-77!

    An in-depth guide: What is a DMR radio and how to choose one?

    We all remember analog radios – they’ve been on the market for nearly hundred of years, and almost everyone’s come across one in their lifetime. Since the technology was simple, they were easy to manufacture and sell. The base of their functioning was a continuous oscillation of waves, therefore transmitting the natural voice. With digital mobile radios, things get more compelling but also more complicated.

    The base of the DMR is binary numbers, used to encode the message of the sender and decode the voice on the receiving end. What made the DMR famous was their ability to differentiate between an actual human voice and background noise and then eliminate the noise for a better sound. Since then, technology advanced to such an extent that DMR radios got phone-like features: GPS, Bluetooth, text messages, and so on. Now, let’s get to the specifics.

    The digital mobile radio was created by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and divided into three tiers. (1)

    • Tier I – 16 license-free channels between 446 MHz and 446.2 MHz. Communication can be interfered.
    • Tier II – usable with licensed equipment only; operates on a frequency range of VHF 136 – 174 MHz and UHF 403 – 527 MHz.
    • Tier III – similar to Tier II, only there’s an automatic reallocation to frequencies, rather than having a fixed one.

    Different DMR radios have unique features, but there are some basics everyone should know. Let’s start with the programming software. Many manufacturers offer the programming software free of charge. However, after a couple of years, you should make a small payment for an upgrade. Note that software piracy is illegal! Depending on the model of a mobile radio you own, you’ll need a particular USB cable to do the programming. After you deal with the programming software, you should get familiar with channels and talk groups.

    DMR is a TDMA mode, which allows the share of a frequency by several users – this is made possible by dividing one signal into more time slots. Some DMR radios have a minimum of 16 channels, while others have up to 4000 channels, and this depends on the model. You will need a channel for each frequency you plan to monitor, so think about your needs before buying a DMR. Talk groups are more numerous. A talk group is simply a group of radio IDs into one digital contact or a method of sorting radio traffic desired by users. (2)

    Since the DMR radio will be mostly used for communication, try to invest in a radio with good audio quality. Some of the radios we mentioned above have outstanding audio quality. Next, a quick mention of the battery – the batteries for DMRs vary from 1500mAh, up to 3200mAh. In most cases, more features mean faster drainage. So, if you are not able to recharge your battery often, maybe invest in a DMR radio with a more powerful battery.

    The exterior design of the DMR radio is of equal importance as the software. Nearly all models today have a built-in display because of the many features they possess. Depending on the complexity of the device and the user experience they aim to achieve, they can be smaller or larger, monochrome or in color, single-channel, or dual-channel. If you estimate that you don’t need a display, you can always go with a channel selector knob option.

    Another thing to look for is if the DMR is dustproof, waterproof, and splashproof. It is especially important to look for a DMR radio built by these standards if your hobbies or work happen in harsh environments. Last but not least, depending on your needs, you may or may not need an external antenna. People use antennas to reach their signal further, so if you’re concerned that your DMR radio works poorly in this regard, you can always examine the option of buying one (if it doesn’t come with the package). To connect the external antenna, you will need an external antenna adapter. Before you buy one, thoroughly research which adapter will put the least stress on your radio connector because improper adapters can cause expensive damage to your DMR. Here are some other things you need to considerate:

    • GPS – one of the most significant features safety-wise. The GPS especially comes in handy if you’re in the outdoors and unfamiliar terrain. Still, do not confuse GPS with APRS – Automatic Packet Reporting System. The APRS acts in realtime and shows data such as coordinates, queries, weather station telemetry, and much more. Not all DMR radios support APRS, so look out for that if you find it significant. (3)
    • Bluetooth – this feature will allow you to communicate through a wireless headset. Note: enabled Bluetooth causes the battery to drain faster.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What can you do with DMR radio?

    Because of its modern digital features, a DMR radio can find various uses in daily life. The first one is obvious: you can use a DMR radio for communication through texts or calls. For example, the International Space Station uses a DMR to communicate with the earth! Another use of a DMR radio can be the emergency call – because of the wide range, it is much better to use a DMRradio than a cell phone. The other areas of use depend on your DMR’s features.

    What is the range of a DMR radio?

    The usual answer to this question is VHF (136 – 174MHz) and UHF (400 – 470MHz). Anyway, the range of a DMR radio depends on the equipment you’re using and the infrastructure installed around you. For example, DMR repeaters can extend the signal further.

    Do I need a license to use a DMR radio?

    This depends on what Tier you will be using. The DMR Tier I radios are license-free to use, but it has a shorter range and the communication can be interrupted by other users. On the other hand, DMR Tier II radios require licensing. It is a complex process dealt with differently in every country, so we advise you to find the local licensing body and get information.

    What does a "dual-band DMR radio" mean?

    A dual-band DMR radio, or a two-way radio is a device that works on two frequencies. Therefore, you’re allowed to communicate on the VHF (the very high frequencies of the electromagnet spectrum) and UHF (the ultra-high frequencies of the electromagnet spectrum). The VHF radios are ideal for communication at long distances and outdoor activities, while the UHF radios are great for use inside the city since they penetrate buildings or concrete. With a two-way radio/dual-band radio, you get both.

     Conclusion

    There is no such thing as best DMR radio – there is only a DMR radio what will best fit your needs. It all comes down to priorities: be its battery life, audio quality, user experience, robust design, easy programming, or additional features. What’s indisputable, is that a DMR radio can really make your communications easier and come in handy in emergency situations. We hope that we helped you find the best DMR radio for you and we made your DMR journey a bit easier.

    You may also check our learning guides here. We hope these articles will help you in the future.

    References

    (1) ETSI – https://www.etsi.org/about
    (2) TDMA -https://www.tutorialspoint.com/cdma/tdma_technology.htm
    (3) APRS – https://web.stanford.edu/class/ee179/labs/Lab7.html

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