We all hear it multiple times every day on nearly every talkgroup: “[callsign] testing. Can anyone hear me? Just need a quick test.” I’m not writing about stations that are looking for someone to talk to… if you’re doing that then an efficient and accepted thing to say is “Listening on PA statewide, this is [your callsign]”. It’s best to END with your callsign, not start by saying your call. Why? Lots of reasons: the DMR networked repeaters all take a moment to come up when you Push To Talk and if the first thing out of your mouth is your callsign… it may be cut off. Also, many of us have scanning enabled across several channels / talkgroups, and if you don’t say what talkgroup you’re on, other stations that are not looking at their radios and hear only your callsign have no idea what talkgroup you are on… .and don’t know how to reply to you. (And please don’t use “CQ”…. save that for the HF bands and SSB.) But I digress…
What if you really just want a “quick test”? There’s a much better way than asking if any stations are around for a quick radio check. If you really are looking for a contact / QSO…. follow the procedure in the preceding paragraph. But if what you are looking for is a RELIABLE audio report… and not simply a “Yeah, sounds good” reply from another station… use the Parrot.
Wouldn’t you rather hear your own voice played back to you… and only you… a few seconds after you transmit something like “This is [your callsign] testing. 1, 2, 3, 4…. test. [Your callsign] test out.”? The DMR networks and systems have a Contact called “parrot”. Actually, there are multiple parrots… more on that in a moment.
So what does “parrot” do for you?
- Records your voice and sends it to a DMR network server, and then plays the audio back to you… and only you… about five seconds after you unkey your microphone
- Provides not only an indication of whether you are “making the repeater” or hotspot, but also at what degree of audio quality
By now you’re asking, “So how do I use Parrot?” and “What’s this about more than one Parrot?”
Basically, you make a Private call to one of the “parrots” (described below) by either creating one or more “parrots” in your configuration for each repeater or hotspot in your radio’s codeplug (configuration) – OR – go to Contacts on your radio and Manual Dial with your keypad one of the parrot Contact numbers (e.g. 9990). Press PTT (Push to Talk), identify and say testing or whatever, then unkey the mic and wait. You should hear your voice played back to you. On a repeater you may need to key the Parrot more than once before you hear a reply… some parrots are UA (User Activated) and require a key-up.
Here are the most widely used Parrot Contact numbers and a brief description of each –
- 9990 – (aka Parrot 1) This is the most widely accessible Parrot and will cause your voice packets to be transmitted by your repeater / hotspot up through the network to a DMR server and then back down again to your radio during replay
- 9998 – (aka Parrot 2 / Connect Query) This is used by the popular SharkRF openSPOT and some other hotspots to trigger a synthesized voice that will provide status details of the network connection
- 9999 – Echo (aka Audio Test) This is used by the popular SharkRF openSPOT and some other hotspots to produce a local “echo” of audio transmission. It does not transmit anything onto the DMR network.
- 9001 – Not a “parrot” but if sent to a SharkRF openSPOT will cause the openSPOT to speak its IP address… useful if you lose IP network connection from your web browser
TIP: When you configure a Parrot in your codeplug be sure to set the Contact as “Private” and DO NOT enable “Private Call Acknowledge”.
– Mark KZ3MW