A surveillance kit has to be quiet; a speaker mic has to be loud.
That’s the only fundamental difference between these essential two-way radio accessories. Everything else is a matter of subtle differences in features and capabilities. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
It’s true that spies, secret service agents and police officers on stakeout all use surveillance kits, which are optimized to allow wireless communications that are so discreet they go pretty much unnoticed.
But these kits are about a lot more than helping Jason Bourne outwit movie villains. Anybody whose job requires quiet conversation — museum staff, librarians, audio engineers, hunting guides — might need a surveillance kit for their two-way radio.
Essential components of a surveillance kit:
- Earpiece — This holds the speaker and often come in different sizes to suit the dimensions of the user’s ear. Though these kits specialize in covert conversations, earpieces are available in extra-loud versions for people who have to conduct surveillance in noisy environments like mines, factories and battlefields.
- Push-to-talk mic — Secret Service agents talking into their sleeves are using push-to-talk mics. They also can clip to lapels or other pieces of clothing; make sure they have quality attachment clips.
- Cabling and plugs — Cables can be heavy-duty and reinforced with extra-strong materials like Kevlar. Plugs may have one to two jacks, depending on the manufacturer.
Factory or aftermarket? Motorola Solutions sells a wide variety of surveillance kits for its radios, but a few other aftermarket companies like Impact and Pryme also make kits for highly specialized jobs.
One thing to bear in mind with surveillance kits: the earpieces usually insert directly into the ear canal and are prone to collecting earwax, but some designs cope with this challenge better than others. People using their kits day after day need to account for earwax buildup.
A speaker mic allows hands-free operation of a two-way radio. It’s essential in jobs where the user has to spend a lot of time talking on the radio and does not want to be constantly unlatching the radio from its holster or clip.
Police officers and other public safety professionals are the most obvious users, but speaker mics also can be extremely handy for retail staff, outdoor events coordinators and construction site managers, to name a few.
A speaker mic simply moves the push-to-talk function of a two-way radio closer to the user’s mouth and ears. Any durability features built into the user’s radio — water, dust and shock resistance, for example — need to be built into its external mic.
Loud environments require a speaker mic that has extra-loud volume. People who work outside in rainy environments need a higher degree of water resistance than those working in drier climates.
A handy way to match radios and accessories
Speaker mics and surveillance kits come in a wide variety of configurations, so you have to take extra care to make sure they are compatible with your radios.
BearCom developed a convenient web tool to find the accessories available for a specific radio model. You start with a category of wireless product, then click on the brand and the individual model, and click “Go.” That takes you to a product page for the radio model that includes links to all of its available accessories.
The reverse lookup operates the other way around: If you know the name of the accessory, it shows all the radios that are compatible with it.
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