Q: Does your expertise in things electronic extend to radar detectors? I've been thinking about getting one, but there are a lot of choices in a lot of price ranges.
A: I do have experience with this topic, but before I share it, I must include a disclaimer: Some drivers use radar detectors to try to get around the law and speed dangerously, and answering your question doesn't mean I condone this. I have not been stopped for speeding in over 20 years — but not because of radar detectors. Police have many types of radar and many ways to measure speed, from laser (which is pretty much impossible to beat with any detector) to aircraft. If you think a radar detector will make you ticket-proof, you are in for a rude awakening.
That said, if you are being watched by someone, I think it's completely fair to know that. If you would like advance warning to remind you to check your speed, or have ever received a ticket you felt was unfair, a radar detector might bring some peace of mind.
The best detectors provide better rejection of false alerts and superior detection at long ranges and around curves. When you're on the highway, false alerts can be created by blind spot warning systems and roadside traffic flow sensors, while in the city they come from garage door openers and security systems.
Two of my favorites are the $549 Redline from Escort (escortradar.com) and the $399 Valentine One from Valentine Research (valentine1.com). I do not have space to go into detail about them here, but both are top performers, and their manufacturers offer excellent support.
Last year's surprise hits were Uniden's (uniden.com) LRD850 and LRD950, now called the DFR6 and DFR7. These full-featured units are identical except for GPS memory in the $299 DFR7, which can remember 100 stationary false alert locations and mute them. Both have traffic sensor filters, and their detection capabilities are competitive with the Escort and Valentine detectors, as is their rejection of false alarms. The $199 DFR6 is possibly the industry's best buy, given its high performance without the high price. Up next is Uniden's $79 DFR3, formerly called the LRD450. Many users consider it the best detector available for under $100. Overall performance is outstanding, though not in same class as the DFR6/DFR7, and it lacks a traffic sensor filter.
Whistler's XTR-145 (whistlergroup.com) is a very basic detector. Under $35 on Amazon, reviewers there give it 4.1 stars and mostly positive reviews. It works, but don't expect cutting-edge performance and features.
Please note that radar detectors are illegal in some states, while others — including Minnesota — have laws prohibiting windshield mounting. If you're planning to take a cross-country road trip, you'd be well advised to research the laws in the states you'll be visiting. Enthusiast websites vortexradar.com and rdforum.org have many detector reviews, tips on proper usage and real-world experience reports.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.