Cobra has long been known as one of the “also-rans” in the radar detector industry. I think the two radar detectors I owned years ago and then gave up on were Cobras. I’m not sure – they were that unmemorable. But not many people know that last year Cobra merged with Escort, who makes some of the most well regarded radar detectors available. The individual brand names were retained, but now Cobra has access to Escort’s superior technology. Cobra’s top of the line detector, the DSP 9200 BT, is the first result of this union.
(Correction: After reading this article, Cobra informed me that the DSP 9200 BT actually came out before the merger with Escort. If anything, I’m even more impressed that Cobra made this without Escort’s help, and can only imagine what they’ll come up with now that they have it.)
Having reviewed the RLS2 and RL360i, the best portable and integrated detector systems that K40 Electronics has to offer, I was interested to see how the latest and greatest Cobra measured up. Cobra was kind enough to loan me a DSP 9200 BT to test. I turned off the RL360i built into in my BRZ for the duration of this test to prevent any cross contamination of electromagnetic fields between the two devices.
Not The Cobra You Remember
The DSP 9200 BT model name describes some of its improvements over past Cobra detectors. This is the first Cobra to use digital signal processing (DSP) rather than simple analog filters to help separate true police radar from other non-threatening sources. What’s the big deal about that? As an amateur radio operator, I’ve been using analog filters for many years to reduce the static and unwanted signals on nearby frequencies to successfully make contact with other stations all over the world. These filters are similar to how analog radar detectors, such as Cobra’s earlier models, zero in on police radar instead of the automatic door opener at the mall. Digital signal processors enable a far greater level of control in filtering, allowing that weak signal from Australia to pop out of the static, and mute that guy in Florida running a kilowatt just barely above the Australian’s frequency – something analog filters simply can’t do. Even better, the exact frequencies used by police radar guns are known, and can be programmed into detectors to monitor like a radio scanner. The DSP 9200 BT is the first time Escort’s DSP technology has trickled down to the Cobra line.
Another major improvement is mentioned at the end of the model name – BT. This detector features Bluetooth connectivity and integration with Cobra’s iRadar system. This is an app for Android and iPhone that talks with the detector and provides crowd sharing capabilities similar to Waze, but focused specifically on police radar, speed camera, and red light camera alerts. This goes far beyond Waze’s tiresome “vehicle stopped on shoulder ahead.” Cobra has had this system for a while, and it integrated with some of their older models such as the iRadar 230, iRadar ATOM, and iRadar S120R, so there’s already a good sized user base out there for this network. More on that later.
Cobra sent me a brand new unit for evaluation. Opening the box revealed a nifty carry case containing the DSP 9200 BT itself and all of its accessories. I thought the RLS2 was lightweight, but the DSP 9200 BT was even lighter, and much smaller. The mounting bracket has just two suction cups instead of three for the RLS2, but this is quite sufficient. Cobra also includes a similar mounting bracket that uses a “Dual Lock” mount, which is the same material used for mounting toll transponders to your windshield. If this detector was mine to keep, I’d use that rather than the suction mount in my primary vehicle, and keep the suction cup mount handy for other cars. Velcro is also provided in case you want to stick it to the top of your dashboard, but I prefer to mount a portable detector high on the windshield for better reception.
Cobra provides just one straight power cord, with a mini-USB connector to plug into the DSP 9200 BT. I ran this above my headliner, down the A-pillar, and plugged it into my BRZ’s power port inside the glove box that must’ve been designed specifically with radar detectors in mind. Unfortunately this means I can’t easily take it with me to another car. This surprises me, since Cobra makes it so easy otherwise with the multiple mounting brackets, while K40 includes two cables but one bracket. But a great feature of the power plug is that it also incorporates a USB port. This way, even if your car only has one power port available, you can still power the detector and charge your phone at the same time. This is particularly handy given that you’ll likely be running the iRadar app while you drive, and running a phone’s GPS drains the battery quickly.