A Guide to Portable 2-Way Radio Accessory Slang

If you’re in an industry that uses 2-way radio communication equipment, you may have heard some of the lingo in passing—but you might not be sure what it all means. Here, we will demystify some of the most common slang terms used when talking about 2-way radios.

1. PTT (Push-to-Talk) refers to a switch or button on an earpiece (or other audio accessory) for cell phones and/or 2-way radios. Engaging the switch activates the microphone and allows for instant communication with other users.

2. 1-Wire refers to the style or configuration of an earpiece cable, commonly used on portable 2-way radios. 1-wire earpieces can either be with PTT (push-to-talk) or listen only, which has no microphone and is used only for monitoring or listening in on radio communications. In the case of a 1-wire equipped with PTT, the cable comes out of the radio connector, up to the push-to-talk switch and microphone, then out of the PTT and up to the earpiece.

With a 1-wire listen only, there is no PTT and the cable goes directly from the radio connector all the way up to the earpiece. 1-wire earpieces are commonly used by hotel and hospitality staff, school and educational applications, as well as event staff and commercial applications.

The diagram below outlines some of the various wire configurations available. From left to right: 1-Wire with PTT, 2-Wire, Listen only to the radio, and Listen only to the speaker microphone.

3. 2-Wire is another style or configuration of an earpiece cable, commonly used on portable 2-way radios. A 2-wire earpiece has one cable that goes from the radio connector up to the earpiece, while the second cable also comes from the radio connector and goes to a PTT/microphone.

The 2-wire configuration gives the user the option of wearing the PTT/microphone on their shirt collar or running it down their sleeve and holding it in the palm of their hand. They are commonly used by police officers and security personnel.

4. 3-Wire also refers to the style or configuration of an earpiece cable. 3-wire earpieces have 3 cables, all coming from the radio connector. The first cable is for the earpiece, the second cable is for the microphone that typically clips or pins to the users’ shirt collar or lapel, and the third wire is a handheld PTT switch. 3-wire earpieces are most often used in police departments for undercover or surveillance applications.

5. Listen Only encompasses two types of earpieces: the first is to listen to the radio, while the second is to listen to a speaker microphone. The functionality is the same, with the main difference being cable length.

A ‘listen only to the radio’ earpiece typically has a longer cable ranging from 25-35 inches in length as radios are commonly worn on the users belt and may or may not include a coil for greater flexibility.

‘Speaker mic listen only’ cables are shorter as they are only meant to connect to the speaker microphone, which is commonly worn on the user’s shoulder or shirt collar. A ‘speaker microphone listen only’ allows the user to keep radio communications private.

6. Lapel Microphone commonly refers to an earpiece, usually a 1-wire earpiece with PTT (push-to-talk switch) with a microphone that clips to one’s shirt collar, lapel, or chest pocket. See 1-Wire above for more detail.

7. Palm Microphone can describe two types of audio accessories for 2-way radios. In some cases, this term describes what is also known as a speaker microphone. Speaker microphones are the most commonly used audio accessories for portable 2-way radios across most industries and applications. They tend to clip to the user’s chest or shoulder epaulette.

The second type of accessory it can refer to is a 2-wire earpiece (see 2-Wire above). The microphone and PTT (push-to-talk) switch is run down the user’s sleeve and held in the palm of the hand. 2-wire earpieces are more covert and unobtrusive than 1-wire earpieces, and are commonly used by police, security, and personal protection applications.

8. Shoulder Microphone is an alternative way to describe a speaker microphone or palm microphone (see Palm Microphone above for more details).

9. Covert Kit or Surveillance Kit are other terms used for earpieces, most commonly 2-wire earpieces as they tend to be more covert and unobtrusive compared to a 1-wire earpiece with PTT or other audio accessories like headsets and speaker microphones.

10. Quick Disconnect is a broad term used to describe many different points of connection. Quick disconnect commonly refers to a male/female connection that can be quickly and easily disconnected and reconnected.

Quick disconnect can refer to the following connections:

  • Between the audio accessory cable and the radio connection point or adapter on a radio connection point.
  • Between the earpiece cable and the actual earpiece. Some earpieces disconnect from the cable to allow for different style earpieces for different user applications.
  • The most common earpiece style is a clear coiled acoustic tube and in some cases, clear coiled acoustic tubes can quick disconnect from the transducer (speaker).

11. Transducer typically refers to the speaker in an earpiece. They can be made of different materials including brass, metal alloys, and plastic. Brass provides higher audio quality, followed by other metals and plastics. Transducers can be various different shapes and sizes, but typically are circular and approximately the size of a dime or nickel.

12. Mushroom Tips & Ear Buds are terms used to describe the . Typically, they are available in different sizes and colours and even shapes to improve comfort for long periods of use. Ear tips are commonly made of medical grade silica gel. Always be sure to check with the manufacturer, as some lower quality ear tips can be made from Latex or Silicone.

13. Gang Charger & Bank Charger both refer to chargers for portable 2-way radios—specifically, chargers that can accommodate and charge more than one radio battery at a time.

Impact offers 3 types of gang or bank chargers:

  • AC/DC-6 – charge 6 radio batteries on or off the radio at
  • AC/DC-6-LC – the same as the above, but with plastic casing instead of aluminum casing.
  • AC/DC-3 – charges 3 different radio batteries on or off the radio at once.

These are some of the more common terms you may have heard in reference to radio communications equipment. Now that you have a basic understanding of the industry lingo, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right accessories for your needs.

IMPACT™ is a world leader in the design and manufacture of unique communication products including surveillance earpieces for a range of industries and applications including public safety, security, hospitality, and others. Contact us today to learn more about our products!

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Category: Earpieces, Education, Learning Centre


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