Are these toy walkie-talkies truly useless?
November 9, 2011 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Can the performance of toy walkie-talkies be improved?

I recently bought my kids these battery-operated walkie-talkies and, while I didn't expect the range to be very big, I was surprised that it's almost impossible to make out what the person on the other end is saying even when well within range.

It's a long shot, but can anything be done to enhance their performance?
posted by Dragonness to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apart from taking out the innards and stuffing them with FRS walkie-talkies, not really. It's hard to guess what the problem is from your description, but it could be cheap speaker, cheap microphone, cheap RF circuitry, sub-par antennas, or most likely a combination of all of those. If it's an antenna problem you might be able to improve the range by extending the antenna (i.e. attach a length of wire to the end of the existing antenna) but without knowing the frequency the radios use there's no way to guess how long it should be.
If you had a spectrum analyzer handy... and an electrical engineer who specializes in RF... and a whole lot of spare time you could maybe make them a little better. If you were going to that level of effort and expense, though, there are plenty of manufacturers making ready-to-use boards for the ISM band...
Anyway, short answer, No. Try fresh batteries, maybe?
posted by leapfrog at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2011

I'd probably just spring for a pair of used FRS walkie-talkies.
posted by speedgraphic at 2:36 PM on November 9, 2011

Arg. I really meant to say, FRS walkie-talkies. around $20.
posted by leapfrog at 2:40 PM on November 9, 2011

I now throw away walkie talkies that my kids get as gifts almost right away. They all suck. Especially the Natl Geo branded ones.
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:55 PM on November 9, 2011

One thing we did when we were kids was to hack the 'talkies to wire up two 9V batteries in series (instead of the single 9V) to double the voltage. This increased the range significantly. It's quite likely that this would cause your devices to die prematurely -- I don't remember what happened to ours, but they were used on several occasions.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:37 PM on November 9, 2011

As a former walkie talkie loving kid, I also vote for real FRS walkie talkies. They are so incredibly cheap now.
posted by reeddavid at 6:03 PM on November 9, 2011

Wow, I had no idea the real thing was that affordable. Thanks for that tip, definitely getting those.
posted by Dragonness at 8:01 PM on November 9, 2011

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