Saber I/II/III or MX 1000/2000/3000

General Information

It is possible to go into the Converta-Com and cut the lines that go to the proper pins on the radio, insert a switch with the necessary number of poles, and add a connector for the RIB.

The Converta-Com does act a bit flakey with the data lines interrupted. The lights flash on it, but that's all. It is also necessary when the switch is flipped back to normal mode that the radio has to be removed and re-inserted for the converta-com to reset and communicate with the radio.

Regarding the System Saber's firmware options, here's an easy way to get the specs of various version of CON (Internal Code Plug).

From main RSS menu (Version 03.00.2) go F4 and F2 to select model #. Select a model like H44TUK5170CN and select a CON (2-6), create a default Public Code Plug with F2 - Go back and review the options. For example, a CON-4 has only MDC Signaling, CON-5 & 6 has MDC, QCII, Single Tone ....

There are 4 terminals on the top of the battery, and on the bottom of some Sabers there are 4 matching terminals. The offset terminal (near the rear edge) is the NEGATIVE terminal. Of the three terminals inline, the center is 7.5V+ the one nearest the negative terminal is S+, the opposite is S- (sense pins).

If you have an old MX rapid charger, you can get an adapter, part number NTN5564B, to convert the pocket so it will charge your Saber batteries.

Here's a neat little programming tip. Program a high power VHF Saber (H43 series) as a low power (H33 series) radio and you instantly get the wide 146-174 MHz bandsplit, and the radio is still a six watt radio. Receiver performance should be just fine, and in most cases, you'll get the full six watts over the entire band, not that most people need to be transmitting in the 160-174 MHz range...

Another tip, if you like having the little "beep" at the start of your transmission like the secure radios do, program your radio as secure capable, even if it isn't.

Trying to figure out which frequency split you helical antenna is for? Look at the paint on the connector:

By the way, if you look at your Saber III when you are programming it, and see an ERR 01 D in the display... don't worry, this is normal. Actually, it even mentions it in the programming manual.

Saber Programming Cables:




ASTRO SABER/SABER Si Flash/Service Cable

Service Manuals

Here are a listing of the Service Manual part numbers for this series of radios:

Model Breakdown

H 3 3 QX A 7 1 3 9 A N
Radio Type Transmit Power Bandsplit* Environmental/Security Feature Set Core Channel Spacing Channel Selector Model Variation Model Revision Model Package
H Handheld 4 1 or 6 W (66-88 MHz) 2 68-88 MHz SA Non-Submersible/Clear G 2 Zone No Keypad (Saber IE) 7 Binary CORE (US) 1 Wide Band (25/30 kHz) 0 10 Channel Capable (Itn'l) 9 Model Variation A Original Revision N Model Package
3 1 or 2.5 W (146-174 MHz) 3 136-174 MHz YB Submersible/Clear J 3 Keys x 1 Row Keypad (Saber II) 9 Tone CORE (Itn'l) 5 Narrow Band (12.5 kHz) (Itn'l) 3 12 Channel Capable (US) C Scan Capable
4 2.5 or 6 W (136-174 W) 4 403-512 MHz QX Non-Submersible/Secure Capable K 3 Keys x 5 Rows Keypad (Saber III)
3 1 or 2 W (438-470 W) YX Submersible/Secure Capable N None (Saber I)

*Sub-Bandsplits cannot be determined by model number. Radio must be read with RSS.

Options (as listed in RSS):

H251	60 Sec. TOT
H901	Non-Standard TOT
    	Silent Monitor
H371	Zone and Channel Operation
H560	Talkaround
H256	Two Zone Operation
H396	Channel Only Operation
H346	Zone Display Names
H380	Channel Display Names
H397 	Menu Lock
H345	Radio Lock
H669	Omit Inadvertent Lock
H153	Omit All Tones
H384	Muting Via Keypad
H365	Transmit Inhibit On Busy Channel
H359	Channel Busy LED
H906	Low Battery LED
H375	Selectable PL (Encode Only)
H649	Selectable PL (Encode/Decode)
H958	Unit ID - MDC 600
H961	Unit ID and Emergency - MDC 600
H963	Unit ID w/ Audible Emergency - MDC 600
H923	Unit ID w/ Emergency Revert - MDC 600
H959	Unit ID - MDC 1200
H962	Unit ID and Emergency - MDC 1200
H967	Unit ID w/ Audible Emergency - MDC 1200
H946	Unit ID w/ Emergency Revert - MDC 1200
H368	Autodial
H297	Manual Telephone Interconnect
H444	Delete Proper Code Detect
H245	Delete Clear Mode Alert Tone On TX
H244	Delete Clear/Coded Transmission Switch
H400	Secure Voice Slaved To A Mode
H401	Clear Voice Slaved To A Mode
H432	VP Capable-Only
H273	Operator Selectable Scan
H344	Mode Slaved Scan
H852	6D Master Option
H549	8D Master Option (Advanced STATALERT)

Saber Error Codes

If you have a Saber with a display, you may want to review the Saber Error Codes explanation.

What are the MX 1000/2000/3000?

The MX 1000/2000/3000 are the export version of the Saber I/II/III respectively.

The accessories, programming cable, and accessory connector pinout of the MX versions are identicle to those of the Saber.

The only difference that we know of is the RSS. The MX 1000/2000/3000 can only be programmed with the RSS designed for them, it is not cross compatible with the RSS for the Saber.

Notes on programming Sabers out of band.

Motorola RSS writes a dictionary file RPFDATA.DCT that contains the model and option numbers, and an eight character filename for the actual programming file. I haven't figured out the whole format of this file, but programming out of band frequencies is easy. This has been tried with UHF and VHF Sabers, don't know how far it will go but the format seems the same for both bands.

1. Program all the channel data, alphanumerics, scan, etc. using a place-holder frequency near the band edge you want to go beyond.

2. Store this as a personality file, note in RPFDATA.DCT which file it is.

3. Open the file in an editor (doesn't need to be hex, it's all ASCII upper-case letters and numbers, but you do need to be able to display a full 80 character line) and look for the lines that begin with S2. A typical line would be


if you separate it out into the components I've identified so far

S2 01 01 081B3200 081B3200

(a) (b) (c) (d) (e)

(a) means it's a channel entry

(b) means channel {01..0C} up to 12 channels

(c) means zone {01..0A} up to 10 zones

(d) is receive frequency, in Hz, converted to ASCII representation of hex (081B3200 = 136000000 Hz)

(e) is transmit frequency

4. So you can enter the new transmit and receive frequencies yourself, by converting the frequency in Hz to ASCII hex (146.94 MHz = 08C22060). Plug them in instead of the place-holder frequency you entered in the RSS.

5. Save the file and read it into the RSS. Program the radio *without looking at the file in the RSS* (although you can print it without the RSS complaining, don't try to look at it in the channel data window or it will be reset to discard the out-of- band frequencies).

6. If you don't want to calculate the frequencies in hex, just set up a different RPF using the band split your frequencies are in, read off the numbers from that file, and plug them into the file for your radio.

Note that these radios don't really like to go all that far out of their rated bandsplit. +/- 5MHz is typical.

Henry Crun 97

What are the COPE and CORE?

If you've messed with Saber's, you have seen references to COPE and CORE. These are as follows:

COPE: Control Of Peripheral Electronics
CORE: Control Of Radio Electronics

The CORE is the main radio system itself. The COPE is the subsystem which is the front shield assembly on Saber II's and III's. It consists of extended memory, display electronics, keypad functionality, and the DTMF generator, essentially.

A Saber I does not have a COPE processor.

Saber Upgrading

CORE version is mask programmed in the CPU so while Saber upgrades are possible (they can be done in order to have QC II in older Saber2s), they are neither cheap nor easy as the new processor is around 100 bucks dealer cost and requires a degree of skill in SMT board repair to swap out.

On the other hand there are a number of other features which can be enabled via RSS without any hacking at all and some Saber bandsplits are quite wide indeed! (when I get info on what, I'll let you know)

This should probably be tried only on those Saber II's with an 8k logic board. These are often only crippled Saber III's and by converting them, you may be able to get all kinds of features likes scan, extra channels, etc.

To determine if you have the 8k logic board, you need to observe the following:

Take apart the radio and look at the display circuit board. If there are five chips, it's an 8K board. If there are only four chips, it's a 2K board. And no, the fifth chip (a DTMF generator) can not be placed on the 2K board, and an 8K chip can't replace the 2K chip on that board because there aren't solder pads for the DTMF chip, and the 2K board lacks the address line necessary to make an 8K chip work.

Also, an 8K board/shield will have a different speaker/microphone flex circuit which includes a 3 pin connector that connects to the display board (to provide a way to get the DTMF tones from the chip to the radio's circuits.

If you are sure you have an 8k board and want to proceed, read on... this next one isn't for the faint of heart...

WARNING!!! This modification could do permanant damage to the code plug, so use it at your own risk!

Thats it!

WARNING!!! This modification could do permanant damage to the code plug, so use it at your own risk!

Converting a Secure-Capable Saber into a Secure Saber

First, your radio must be secure capable to begin with. A secure capable radio is about 3/4" longer than a regular Saber. When you open it up, it should have a dummy (bypass) module installed in place of a secure module.

In order to convert your Saber into a secure model, you need to replace the bypass-module with the a real encryption module, disable Option H432 (VP capable only), and enable either Option H245, H244, H400 or H401.

Sometimes you may also have to install a Secure/Clear switch.

Then you must load an key into the module by using an KVL.

Converting a Saber I into a Saber IE

A Saber IE is a Saber that is capable of 24 channels. It accomplishes this by using the Secure/Clear mode switch into a Zone switch to change between 2 zones of 12 channels.

You can set the radio up as either a 2 zone radio with 12 modes (channels) in each zone for 24 modes (channels), or a 1 zone radio of 12 modes (channels) with zone 1 repeat(R) and zone 2 direct(D). Alternatively, you can setup a combination of both by configuring as 2 zones and setting some modes in zone 2 as direct for the corresponding mode in zone 1 as repeat and some modes as another frequency all together.

In order make this conversion work, your radio must have the Secure/Clear switch, which usually means that is has to be a Secure Capable Saber I.

You also need the front shield assembly for a Saber IE. It includes a small memory board and connecting cable, like a display board for a Saber II or III. The part number for the front assembly should be NTN5686A. The radio's onboard memory is insufficient to accommodate 24 channels and needs the extra board.

A true Saber IE is can be built on a secure capable or conventional chassis. Of course, if you build it on a conventional chassis, that would mean no secure possibility.

You need to create a Saber IE codeplug in RSS for your radio (sixth digit of the model number needs to be a "G"), and enable the appropriate options.

Dump the codeplug to your radio, and you should be in business.

Saber Motor Vehicle Adapter (MVA), aka Saber Vehicular Adapter (SVA)

The question has come up many times, "What's the difference between an Astro Saber SVA and a normal SVA?".

Answer, not much. There's that Astro label on the front panel, and the cutout on the top rim of the housing that allows you to get a better grip on the radio top controls. The only other difference is that the connector body assembly is different and the connector is fully populated with 12 contacts, while on a standard SVA there are only 7 installed contacts. The main circuit board is apparently the exact same item in both models.

The part number for the Astro SVA is NTN7227BSP01. Other revisions exist, in which case the B in that part number is replaced with a C or a D which is the most current version.

The part number for a standard SVA is NTN5487A.

There is a decal on top of the Astro SVA that gives the following useful data:

"CAUTION: Inserting the wrong radio may Damage the Adapter. This Adapter works with ASTRO Digital SABER, SABER and Systems SABER radios manufactured on or after September 1, 1994. These radios can be identified by their serial numbers: The 5th character (year) must be "U" or later (V, W, X, Y, or Z). If 5th character is U, the 6th character (month) must be "S" or later (T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z). Use Adapter ONLY with approved radio models. For radios manufactured prior to this date please contact: Motorola at 1-800-523-4007 (ext. 112) for upgrade details."

So, later Saber (non-Astro) radios apparently can be used with an Astro SVA...hmm. I would not be surprised to find out that the modification is merely a new housing for Sabers and Systems Sabers that reshuffle the connector assignment. It's the way I'd do it. That suggests that Astro speaker-mics might work on newer Sabers.

So there it Astro SVA is a regular SVA with a new connector body, an Astro decal, and a notch filed in the top of the housing...!

Saber Accessory Connector Pinout

The pinout can be found here.

Adding DTMF/Keypad to a Saber II (Converting to a Saber III)

If it's an 8K memory Saber II, then it's a Saber III with a different program. Add the III housing, reprogram the radio as a Saber III (SAK or QXK series) and it's done.

If the radio has only 2K limited memory, it won't take the keypad or generate DTMF tones.

If you don't know which memory type you have, here are the limitations of a 2K radio:

If you have ANY other menu options, or more channels than above, it's an 8K radio and can be programmed as a Saber III. Just make sure you get the revision right (A,B, or C model) and the right master option, if any. The software will prompt you.

Another option is to open the radio and look at the display board. If you have 4 chips on the board, you have a 2k board. If you have 5 chips, you have an 8k board, with the extra chip being the DTMF encoder. And no, there is no way to add the DTMF encoder chip to the 2k display board.

If you are stuck with a 2k radio, all is not lost. You will need the following parts to convert the radio into a Saber III:
Part Number Revision Description
0105950T07 Spkr Mic Harness Saber III
0105953T53 rev7.0 BD Ckt Ctrl 128k Saber III

Note that the display board is listed as 128k, this is the new substitute for the 8k board which is no longer available.

The reason why you need to change the speaker/mic flex is because the one for the 8K board has connections to take the DTMF output from the board and rout it into the mic input of the radio. If you don't install that flex, DTMF tones won't go into the transmitter!

You will also of course need the proper housing and may need the keypad membrane if your radio does not have it already.

You can refer to the exploded diagram of the radio to determine the parts you need. You should really have a service manual though.

Put all the parts together, assemble the radio, turn it on, and program it as a Saber III.

You won't be able to upgrade your old codeplug. You'll have to get one from another radio and modify it, or create a new one. The model number must match!

If you are creating a new codeplug from scratch, make sure that the radio's model revision (AN, BN, CN) stay the same. If your radio was an H43SAN7139AN, it has to stay an AN version, so the upgraded radio would be an H43SAK7139AN. Keep that A,B, or C the same. Just create a new model file for a Saber III (SAK or QXK) of the appropriate band and load it into the radio.

When you first turn on the radio after assembling it but before programming it, the radio will have an interesting test and clone menu in it. I have never found out how to clone a radio with that, though, but I guess it's possible.