D-STAR and DR Mode

Modified on Mon, Aug 7, 2023 at 6:51 PM

Did you know that modern D-STAR radios have all of the commands necessary for interacting with reflectors built in to them straight from the factory? Did you know that there is a robust list of D-STAR repeaters from all around the world already inside of your radio? Did you know that RT Systems lets you view this list and, more importantly, modify it to your heart's content? Read on you intrepid Digital Voice enthusiast, we've got some tips and tricks for you.  

If you have a D-STAR radio from within the past couple of generations- think "the touch screen generations"- then chances are good that it has a feature called DR Mode. This technically stands for "Digital Repeater" mode but you can just think of it as D-STAR mode to make it easy. Take a look at the bottom of the programmer window in your RT Systems software. Do you see a "DR Memories" tab down there? If you do then congratulations, your radio probably has DR Mode.

During the early days of D-STAR if a user wanted to send reflector linking/unlinking commands to their local repeater or personal hotspot they had to program those commands in to their radio on regular memory channels. This method still works! In fact, your RT Systems programmer has a feature built in- the lovely D-STAR Calculator-  specifically designed to make doing this kind of programming very easy. That's a different article though, we're here to talk about DR Mode. 

Let's start with the basics. DR Mode consists of two individual fields. TO and FROM

The TO field is where you'll spend most of your time since it is where those link/unlink commands live. More on that later. 

The FROM field is where you'll enter your local repeater or personal hotspot frequency- you won't usually need to change anything in the FROM field unless you're moving to talk on another physical machine. 

The FROM field is where the factory programmed repeater list lives. Chances are quite high that you'll find your local D-STAR repeater already programmed in to this list unless it was put on the air fairly recently. The problem is that it's not just YOUR local repeater programmed in there, it's got EVERYONE'S local repeater. The list is huge- the whole wide world type of huge. That's where RT Systems comes to the rescue. You can freely modify the DR Memory list with our programmers just as easily as you can program analog memories. 

Did Icom program your local repeater way down deep in the list such that it's hard to find quickly? Well, you can't really blame them since there are a LOT of D-STAR repeaters out there. Instead, just use your RT Systems programmer to modify the listing. Don't need access to the D-STAR repeaters in Africa or Asia? Just delete them using the programmer. That'll free up some prime memory bank real estate that you can use to move your preferred repeater- or even your personal hotspot- to the tippy top of the list. 

You read that right. You can program your personal hotspot in to your radio's DR Memories. You'll be able to see the DR Memory banks on your radio when you select the FROM field. There will be an option called "Repeater List" right at the top. This is that large worldwide list we discussed above- it's the list of repeaters that you see on the DR Memories tab of your RT Systems programmer. 

So, if you use your RT Systems programmer to move your local repeater or personal hotspot to Bank #1 then, hey presto, you'll see those frequencies at the top of the heap when you select the "Repeater List" option inside the FROM field. You can even rename the DR Memory banks to whatever you want. By default they come named after the global regions that the repeaters live in. 

With the FROM field explained we can move on to discuss the TO field. You can't modify anything in this field but its still vital to understand how it works for interacting with DR Mode. 

The TO field is where your reflector commands, as programmed by Icom, are accessed. This is, to the best of my understanding, why this is called the TO field- we use it for linking TO things. Maybe that isn't technically correct, but it's how I like to think about it.

When you select the TO field you'll  see a long list of options. Fret not though! We only really need concern ourselves with a couple of them. Namely the "Your Call Sign" and/or "Reflector" options. They do basically the same thing and are the whole reason we're here. Which one you use will boil down to personal preference. 

The "Your Call Sign" field is a LONG list of most of the standard "REF" reflectors. Select any option under this category and then rotate the VFO knob (and/or the MULTI knob depending on your radio) and you'll see the list start scrolling. The very top option should be "Use Repeater CQCQCQ." This is the option that you need to have selected and displaying in the TO field when you want your traffic passed over the internet to the reflector. As you continue scroll down you'll pass the various options for "Unlink Repeater," "Repeater Status" and "Echo Test" followed by a VERY long list of "Link To..." commands for most common reflectors. 

The "Reflector" option does basically the same thing as the Your Call Sign field, just in a different way. Instead of that long list of every reflector you have a fairly short list of options. The most important is "Use Reflector" since this is the option that you'll need to have in the TO field in order to pass over the gateway and out over the internet just the same as the "Use Repeater" option discussed above- two versions of the same thing here, more or less. 

The "Link To Reflector" option will ask you to direct input the reflector that you want to link to. This is a more flexible way to link up since you can select reflector types other than "REF" reflectors such as XRF, DCS and XLX reflectors. It does require more menu selections per command though rather than just turning the knob. That said, the radio will helpfully remember the last several reflectors that you linked to and display them under the "Direct Input" selection in this menu for easy return access in the future. 

Regardless of how you choose to link/unlink using DR Mode the most important thing to remember is that you must have either "Use Repeater CQCQCQ" or "Use Reflector CQCQCQ" in the TO field when you go to transmit. There is an option called Local CQ which, when selected, will display ONLY "CQCQCQ" in the TO field. This WILL NOT allow you to talk over the gateway. This is the option that you select when you want the repeater to keep your traffic local and NOT send it over the internet. Be warned! This is a common mistake and it will vex you to no end if you have it set wrong. It's easy to fix though- just select the correct option and key up as normal. One of the correct two options should almost always be displayed in your TO field unless you are actively linking or unlinking a repeater. 

Hopefully this has been helpful for some of you. Whether you're a long time D-STAR enjoyer or a new Ham looking to get started talking to the world, DR Mode is a great tool for interacting with D-STAR. Perhaps the coolest part is that once you understand it in one radio, you'll understand it in the rest of them. It works very similarly in any radio that features it. You'll always see the TO and FROM fields even if some of the options might be in a slightly different order here and there. 

As always, you can feel free to reach out to RT Systems technical support with questions or comments. We're here to help and happy to assist either via email or over the phone. 

For more information about the awesome D-STAR calculator mentioned in this article check out our YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rSfWdDfxI4&t=276s


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