See the latest laser jammer test.
Heard about photo lidar? We didn't think so. But it's been in service for over nearly 15 years, exported around the world by Laser Technology, Inc. and Kustom Signals, two major U.S. players in the speed-enforcement equipment business.
Instead of radar, a fixed laser is linked to a digital camera, in turn linked
via the Internet to a central station. Run a red light or blow past at extra-legal
speed and the violation is recorded and a ticket dispatched to your mailbox--at
nearly the speed of light.
Now it's appearing here. Most of the lidar-based photo enforcement systems are installed in East Coast. These include the LaserCraft and Nestor Traffic Systems units. The LaserCraft red light camera uses a pair of Kustom Signals ProLaser IIIs while Nestor employs an industrial barcode laser that rapidly scans multiple lanes, measuring the speed of every vehicle. Nestor uses the same laser in their mobile speed vans.
And let's don't forget about the hand-held police laser, an estimated
68,000 to 80,000 of which are to be found on city streets and state highways
across the U.S. and 20 times that many worldwide.
This begs the question: Exactly what's available to even up the odds
against police lasers? In other words, what's the best laser jammer? We last tested laser jammers in early 2003 but product technology does evolve, for jammers and lasers alike.
So we figured it was time to take another look at laser jamming which, unlike
radar jamming, is still legal in all but a handful of states. (In Europe, laws
on the subject vary widely and many countries ban jammers.)
The contenders included active laser jammers, one so-called
passive laser jammer from Rocky Mountain Radar, and Laser Veil, a liquid coating
said to reduce laser range. (See the Laser Veil Test story for the full report.)
Then we spent 120 man-hours testing them against not only every U.S.-made police
laser but the two most widely used European laser guns as well, the Jenoptic
Laveg and the Austrian Riegl LR235/90P.
Here's what our testing found, the results listed alphabetically.
BEL LaserPro 905
($499.99 including installation)
BEL's laser jammer, the LaserPro 905, and its electronic twin, the Escort ZR3, dates from 2001 and is the elder statesman in this test with only the K40 DeFuser as an older design.
In our earlier test the BEL's forebear, the LaserPro 904, turned
in highly creditable scores. On this go-round, faced with some updated speed-enforcement
hardware and a different testing regimen, its performance was far short of bulletproof. It did reasonably well against some lasers but had little or no effect on several others, making it a risky choice for protection.
Bottom line: Scores points for its very sophisticated
packaging, easy installation, extremely user-friendly controls and operation.
Fair overall protection but with increasing gaps in its performance envelope as it ages.
Blinder M-20 Xtreme
In appearance the Blinder is a near twin of the BEL and Escort.
The European-made product is a dual-transceiver design, with both units intended
to be mounted in the front of the vehicle. Although few laser attacks occur
from the rear, the supplied interface box supports up to two more transceivers,
available at additional cost. For extra-large vehicles the $599 M40 model provides
four as standard.
The Blinder's metal transceiver housings are rectangular and similar in dimensions and shape to
those of the Escort and BEL.
The power control and alert system
are more rudimentary than the BEL's and Escort's, better than the
Lidatek's and far superior to that of the K40 Defuser. The ear-splitting audio
alert could use a volume control; our target-car driver complained of near deafness
after a few hours of being subjected to the din.
In our last test an earlier Blinder model turned in disappointing scores. But
from what we saw on this go-round, they've apparently devoted some
time to improving their product.
The Blinder M20 Xtreme comes with a Speeding Ticket rebate, free for the first
year of ownership and renewable at extra cost ($49 for Year 2, $69 for Year
3) up to a total of three years. There are some minor caveats--professional
installation is a requirement, though occasionally waived--but it's
a straightforward and comprehensive offer to reimburse any owner who receives
a laser speeding ticket.
Bottom line: Not even close to Escort- and BEL-level packaging
sophistication, but good jamming performance
Escort's official policy is to call a jammer a "shifter".
Same with BEL. Regardless, we found it to be a tie with the BEL LaserPro 905 in each area of comparison, not surprising since the two are identical save for nameplates.
The Escort ZR3 laser shifter can be linked to the Escort Passport 8500 X50, Escort's high-end dash-mount
detector, by using one thin cord with telephone-style
connectors at each end.
One irritation with both the Escort and BEL jammer transceivers is their use of wires long enough to fit a Greyhound bus and large-diameter, tapered grommets to protect them as they pass through the firewall and rear bodywork. Install these units in a mid-sized car and you'll have enough extra yards of wire left over to make several bucks' profit at a metal recycling yard.
And unless you're a professional installer I'd recommend against cutting these wires. Do that and you'll have to find scarce RJ-8 telephone connectors. And no, they're not the common ones easily found at any Radio Shack. These are the smaller size, used only on the phone's handset, and they're tough to find. Plus, you'll need a special crimping tool and the hair-thin wires are very difficult to strip without breaking, much less get them threaded into the RJ-8 connectors. I resorted to stripping them using my teeth--and then found that there were no RJ-8s available within 20 miles.
Not keen on drilling two 1/2-inch holes in the firewall and a third near the rear license plate, I resorted to cutting off the big grommets, cutting the wires to length and using butt connectors to get everything linked together again. It took forever. A better solution: install a weatherproof DIN connector along the wires on the exterior side, forget the mondo-size grommets and let the installer thread them through existing openings alongside the car's wiring loom.
Bottom line: The Escort ZR3 turned in nearly identical scores
to the BEL LaserPro 905, hardly a shock, earning it an equivalent ranking. But Escort had better get busy; the ZR3 is showing its age and the competition is continually updating and improving its products.
K40 Model LD5500 Plus
(Laser DefuserPlus, $299.95)
The K40 is unique by having its transceiver module mounted
in the top of an extra-thick license plate frame. But since many cars have contoured
front bumpers and not every vehicle is required to have a front license plate,
the frame proved to be more of a liability than a feature, especially when we
tried attaching it to one of our test cars, a 2006 Corvette. Fortunately, it
can be removed from the license plate cover. So for the test we separated the
two and mounted it in the location the front plate would normally occupy.
Audio/visual alerts are provided by a piezo speaker and red LED. But there's
no status light, so you'll never know whether the unit is working or not.
A power switch is not provided, leaving no means of shutting it off. And the
wiring, connectors and installation kit look like the product of a junior high
school shop project.
The DefuserPlus can be integrated with K40's remote detectors, using their
power-on and audio/visual warnings, and this obviously was the design goal for
this jammer. Used as a stand-alone model it's sadly lacking in features.
This model was the oldest design tested, circa 1994, and its age showed. It failed entirely to
jam any of the lasers save for an occasional momentary jam while the jammer
was receiving a direct hit, but even then only for an instant and at very close
range. We'd go on to describe the particulars of the K40's jamming
performance but it died midway through the test.
The single instance where the K40 managed to reduce target range on the Corvette
was after we'd also applied a coating of Laser Veil to all of its lights.
With the added protection, target range dropped to an average of 715 feet, a reduction of over 50 percent. But without Laser Veil, we might as well have saved ourselves
the trouble of installing the jammer.
The K40's early demise prevented a full comparison with the other units,
but based on results from several previous tests we're confident that the DefuserPlus
would be as inept at jamming lasers today as it was then.
Bottom line: Almost useless against today's lasers
Rating: no stars
This Asian import appears to be a low-rent knockoff of the
Blinder M-20. We venture that opinion because some of the lasers reacted to
its signal by giving the same jamming code. And it was most effective against
virtually the same lasers as was the Blinder M-20, and generally under exactly
the same circumstances.
And we've since learned that not one but two imitations of this imitation (the Koreans are masters of the art of reverse-engineering and copying products)
are on the market. The only difference is the label.
It performed well against the Kustom Signals ProLaser III and the LTI Ultralyte
LR200, giving virtually the same performance as the Blinder. But unlike the
latter, it proved almost totally ineffective against the Stalker and struggled
to affect the Laser Atlanta Speed Laser when the laser was operated in Stealth
Regardless, we'd hesitate to recommend this unit. The connectors and
mounting brackets are insubstantial and the transceiver wiring is far too flimsy
to survive for long amid the sharp edges, moving parts and brutal heat of an
engine compartment. The audio/visual alert system is rudimentary at best. Worse,
it false-alarmed frequently in reaction to sunlight and failed entirely to issue
a laser-detection alert when confronted by the Laser Atlanta gun. Those negatives,
coupled with some major gaps in its performance envelope, lead us to conclude
that this player isn't yet ready for prime time.
Lidatek Laser Echo LE-30
Lidatek was the first to offer an effective laser jammer
and the LE-30, like its forebear, the LE-20, employs a gallium arsenide laser,
far more powerful than the array of high-powered LEDs used by its competitors.
The transceiver is a quality piece of extruded aluminum, powder-coated and
linked by a cable with waterproof DIN connectors to an interface module that
can support up to three transceivers. Unlike the earlier LE-20 model, the Lidatek
LE-30's various wires now have proper connectors and simply plug-in to
the interface module.
The LE-30 scores a big advantage over the competition by virtue of its small
size. The tiny transceiver, when laid on end, is smaller in cross section than
a three-quarter-inch-tall stack of business cards.
The controls for the Lidatek LE-30 are basic: a power switch, a multi-colored
status/alert LED and a piezo speaker. Units intended for professional installation
can be configured with a user-selectable LED color to more closely match the
customer car's interior illumination and the power-on LED can be dimmed
for more restful nighttime driving. There's also an auxiliary alarm output
and a pulsed output to allow interfacing with the customer's sound/entertainment
system and additional audible alert devices.
Lidatek takes a unique approach to jamming: once it spots a laser beam it transmits
for five seconds and then shuts off for 30 seconds before arming again. The
company's feeling is that five seconds is plenty of time to get down to
legal speed and by shutting off automatically, you won't be raising the suspicions
of the police officer by continuing to prevent him from getting a speed reading.
We agree with this philosophy.
That said, this isn't a product for brain-dead drivers. Our tests verified
that it indeed transmits for about five seconds but after that, you're
on your own. Fail to scrub off any excess speed and you're toast. Not
that we have an objection to that. In our opinion, those who're paying
so little attention that they fail to react are deserving of every bad thing
that will probably happen.
The Lidatek LE-30 jammer did well against all the lasers save for the Stalker laser--and
that only at very close range—as well as the Laser Atlanta when the latter
was operating in Stealth Mode. That user-selectable option is intended to defeat
laser jammers and does a pretty good job against some.
One competitive weak point of the Lidatek LE-30 is cost. We've tested a single-transceiver
version of its forebear, the LE-20, and found that it struggled to protect the Chevrolet Silverado pickup used as the target
vehicle. (The massive reflective surfaces of a big vehicle like this severely hamper a jammer's effectiveness and we suspect it would have fared better with two transceivers.)
That in mind, we used two units for this test (extra transponders are $200 each), raising the tab to nearly $600.
The fact that it was trounced by the $349 Blinder M-20 Xtreme could make some
take a close look at the price of admission. On the other hand, if you want the
ultimate in downsized packaging and discrete operation, this may be the hot
Bottom line: Good performance in a bite-sized package
Editor's note: Since this test was conducted Lidatek's assets have been sold and the company dissolved.
Rocky Mountain Radar RMR-C450
Rocky Mountain Radar receives credit for inventing the bogus
radar jammer, an event we were the first to inform the world about well over
a decade ago. (Automobile magazine, "The Little Jammer That Couldn't",
June 1993). Then they introduced the bogus laser jammer, which we amply documented
in stories for Automobile, the BMW Roundel, Car Audio and Electronics,
AUTOTronics and a host of other magazines, both here and abroad.
More recently, Rocky Mountain Radar hooked up with a Korean manufacturer of
cheap radar detectors and bingo, here's the RMR-C450, a radar detector
that RMR claims can also magically jam all radar and lasers. When introduced,
it was known as the RMR-D450. Rocky Mountain Radar has a long history of immediately
renaming their products as soon as word spreads in the media that they're
ineffective. (Within weeks of my 1993 Automobile magazine story hitting the newsstands,
they'd already relabeled both of their jammers.) This strategy also gives
RMR what appears to be a broad product lineup, despite the fact that all of
their working models (the jammer-only models are complete hoaxes) are based
on only three platforms, meaning that six to eight models can be identical inside,
differing only in appearance.
The jamming ability of the Rocky Mountain Radar RMR-C450 (or RMR-D450, take your pick; it's the same box) was nonexistent,
failing entirely to jam any of the guns. (If you're truly curious, open
its case; you won't find anything inside that's remotely capable
of jamming anything.)
We did find, however, that by removing the Rocky Mountain Radar RMR-C450 from
the dash and substituting its cardboard box, a slight reduction in maximum laser
target range was achieved.
If you're looking for a less expensive alternative, Rocky Mountain Radar
offers the Phazer II ($179.95), priced lower because it's not a detector
and claims only to be a jammer. But having tested the Phazer, both the original
and the Phazer II (look for a Phazer III not long after this story comes out),
we can say with complete assurance that it jams absolutely nothing.
Bottom line: Save money: put an empty cardboard box
on your dash instead.
Rating: no stars