Top model of BEL (Beltronics) STiR Plus comes with twin front, single rear laser jammers. Thus equipped, the radar/laser antenna can be concealed behind the front bumper cover, which we did on this BMW 335i.
Those who consider the Escort Passport 9500ci to be the best custom-installed remote radar detector are in for a surprise: the BEL (Beltronics) STiR-Plus is its equal— in one respect possibly even better. This begs the question: How was it possible to one-up the acknowledged segment leader? The short answer: This fight was fixed.
But before Escort Passport 9500ci loyalists rush to dash off angry e-mails, allow me to offer an explanation. First, remember that BEL is an Escort company and the two share technology. More important, keep in mind that the BEL STiR Plus uses the same platform as the Escort 9500ci. The two also are identical in appearance and performance.
Unlike the Escort 9500ci, the BEL remote is available in two versions. The STiR Plus ($1,599) is GPS-enabled and competes directly with the Escort 9500ci. This version comes complete with laser shifters (jammers) to counter police laser guns. Those who feel invulnerable to the nation's 45,000-odd lasers can opt for the BEL STiR Plus without laser shifters, with a modest reduction in price.
Although the Escort and BEL siblings have the same radar-detection performance and have nearly identical features, the BEL STiR Plus trumps the Escort 9500ci by offering a unique feature: Ka-band segmentation.
This ability to deactivate portions of the Ka-band frequency spectrum is a huge aid to reducing false alarms. Much of this real estate is devoid of police radar: the only signals in these nether regions are being generated by non-police microwave signals, many from nearby Cobra and Whistler radar detectors. By intelligently deactivating all but a few of the 10 Ka-band frequency segments, the BEL STi R Plus will ignore all but real Ka-band police radar signals.
This may sound merely theoretical, but the net reduction in false alarms is substantial, particularly when driving in unfamiliar areas where the BEL STi R Plus' automatic signal lockout feature, AutoLock—called Auto Learn by Escort—hasn't yet had a chance to lock them out. Reducing the bandwidth being scanned also sharpens response time and increases detection range.
One note of caution: don't tinker with this feature unless you're knowledgeable about what types of Ka-band radar are used in your driving area. We've kept a national database of this information for 20 years and know what's out there, so let us program it instead. The service is free to our customers.
The BEL STiR Plus has a unique ability that allows programming of Ka band to reduce false alarms.
Thumb-size BEL STiR Plus control unit is backlit for easy operation at night.
Even a cheap detector can sometimes protect under ideal conditions. On many occasions only a high-performance detector will deliver, often spotting radar from miles away.
On the road, this is a huge advantage. Now instead of panic-braking in reaction to every Ka-band alert or trying to decipher a numeric frequency before reacting, the BEL STi R Plus simplifies the task: Get an alert on Ka band and it's time to stand on the brakes.
There is an alternative, however. We know which radar frequencies are in use in every state and most major cities; at the customer's request we'll reprogram the Ka segments to exclude all but those currently in service, making for a dramatic decrease in Ka-band false alarms.
The BEL STi R is operated by a small surface-mounted control unit. It's backlit, making the important buttons easy to find and use at night. A second module with a small red LED text display shows operating mode and other vital information. Those who want an even lower-profile installation can opt for a multi-color LED, usually mounted in the instrument cluster, that replaces the display. There's a downside to the LED, however: minimal information about band ID and none at all about its digital frequency. The serious driver BEL is targeting will probably elect to use the LED text display with its greater information-delivery capacity.
The BEL STi R Plus comes with a powered auxiliary speaker that's loud enough to be heard in a top-down Corvette convertible at 85 mph. This makes it a good candidate for unusually noisy cockpits.
Both versions of the BEL STi R are invisible to the Spectre (Stalcar) radar detector detector used by police to ferret out illegal radar detectors. Drivers in Virginia, in the Canadian provinces where detectors are illegal and those who drive with a Commercial Driver License (CDL) will find this immunity helpful.
Negligible performance differences further illustrate the sibling status of the BEL and Escort remote models.
The effectiveness of a GPS-enabled radar detector in protecting from red light and speed cameras is wholly dependent upon the quality of its location database. So we were gratified to find that the BEL's Defender database (shared with the Escort 9500ci) led the pack in a recent 18-month-long comparison test of these databases, with a remarkable 95 percent accuracy rate.
That's a big deal for many, particularly our friends in neighboring California, where the base fine for a red light violation is $365. After adding so-called diversion fees, court costs and related surcharges, $500 fines aren't unusual. Plus license points. Get a couple of tickets and better anticipate shelling out another grand or more annually for insurance as well.
In radar-detection performance the BEL STiR Plus turned in the best scores we've ever recorded, almost identical to those of the Escort Passport 9500ci and better even than the red-hot Escort RedLine, the world's best windshield-mount radar detector. In our recent test of the Escort RedLine it spotted all of our radars from 14.17 miles away, a record.
Why is this important, particularly in light of the fact that most encounters with radar take place at 1,000 feet or less? Simple: that 14-mile warning was accomplished in the pancake-flat Sonoran desert, perfect conditions for both radar and radar detection. In other testing in a more typical enviromnment—with hills, curves and terrain to block much of the radar signal—that distance shrank to as little as 0.7 mile.
Bargain-priced detectors that work fine under perfect conditions falter badly when these range-limiting factors are
introduced. And that's why I always recommend a high-performance radar detector to anyone who can afford it. Two tickets, with the attendant fines, court costs and years of insurance surcharges, will easily cost more than the most expensive radar detector on the planet. (To learn more about the importance of long-range radar detection, check out the video.)
In a separate test of the latest laser jammers we also verified that the BEL's ZR4 laser jammer system was equally effective, jamming some of the guns down to point-blank range and doing almost as well against most of the others.
On the road, it's almost supernaturally quiet. On daily commutes it rarely goes off and is nearly as quiet on highway trips. In all, a remarkable performance from what we christen the expert driver's tool of choice for combatting radar, lasers and red light cameras.
BEL STiR Plus components (jammers not shown)
Limited OfferBEL STiR Plus
Exclusive: Free custom programming Optimizes performance for your driving area, virtually
eliminates Ka-band false alarms
Free Driver's Guide to Police Radar We wrote the book on how to avoid speeding tickets. Now it's yours, for free.