Whistler CR97 Review: The CR97 Does Something No Other Detector Can

Whistler CR-97 Review

The Whistler CR97 does something cool that you won’t find with any other radar detector.

Whistler CR97

Whistler CR97 Review

By: Veil Guy, Updated: 09-22-2018

Introduction to the Whistler CR97

We have been anticipating the new Whistler CR97 for some time and after driving with this new radar detector for more than 12,000 miles–more than any other detector prior to its public release–it was certainly worth that wait.

For those that have followed me over the last 14 years, you know that I hold Whistler in high regard for consistently producing radar detectors that offer very good performance for a great value. I am pleased to report that the new Whistler CR97 provides an incremental improvement that is greater than any model introduction that has preceded it.

Sensitivity to Police Radar

With the new Whistler CR97, Whistler has really stepped up their game. For openers, the Whistler CR97 has significantly increased sensitivity to police radar.

Sensitivity to X-band has been reduced on some of the Whistler models over the past 10 years or so. Historically, detector manufacturers have sacrificed X-band sensitivity to achieve greater performance on K and Ka band and Whistler was no exception.

For drivers who never drive in the states of New Jersey or Ohio, this hasn’t been an issue and would have gone unnoticed because in other than these states, X-band detection is typically disabled altogether. For those that do, however, the new Whistler CR97 appears to have made some big gains in sensitivity on X-band. This is something that I did indeed notice and appreciated because I do from time to time drive in both New Jersey and Ohio. So when I observed improved performance, I was thrilled.

Sensitivity to K-band has also shown improvement. However, increased sensitivity to K-band is a double-edged sword given the plethora of K-band collision avoidance systems out there that utilize K-band. While being able to detector police K-band radar from a farther distance, the increased falsing from these automotive would increase too unless methods to balance performance and drivability were employed. Fortunately, the Whistler CR97 does provide improved filtering and signal rejection algorithms (more on this later).

Below is a video of one of the toughest types of encounters you will ever face, which is instant-on low powered radar targeting the rear of passing vehicles from a hidden position (in this instance from the on-ramp to the right side of the highway). In this specific instance, the cars that were targeted prior to myself were nearly a half a mile ahead of me, which didn’t allow many opportunities to detect the radar (since with I/O radar, if the officer is not transmitting, there is no possibility of detection). What was even more lethal about this encounter was the fact that the officer was located after a “hill,” making it even more difficult to detect. Even so, the Whistler CR97 provided superb detection.

Many years ago, I got a ticket late at night, while driving with a V1, in Pennsylvania with the same type of encounter. Having even an extremely sensitive radar detector may not save you in this type of encounter. Fortunately, the Whistler CR97 was sensitive enough and the cars were close enough that I did get a warning before becoming the target.

 

Whistler CR97 vs Low Powered Instant-On K-band from Hidden Position Rear Targeting

But some of the most noticeable improvement I noted is on the all-to-important Ka-band. Whistler has indicated improvements in Ka band of up to 6db, which equates to nearly double the detection range relative to the previous GPS model, the Whistler CR93. This would put the Whistler CR97’s performance on Ka-band in the neighborhood of some detectors which cost twice as much. I recently had a six plus mile detection to an officer running instant-on 34.7 Ka-band. Granted the geography was favorable to longer detections, but I believe a six mile plus detection was very impressive indeed (see video below):

CR97 vs 34.7 Ka, Six Plus Mile Detection

 

CR97 vs 33.8 Instant-on Ka Multiple Passes

 

CR97 vs 34.7 Ka Facing Away, One Mile Detection

CR97 vs Off-Axis 35.5 Ka & Kustom Pro Laser 4 (PL4) at ~2900 feet

 

Sensitivity to Police Laser

Sensitivity to police laser is very good and the CR97 is even able to detect the Dragon Eye Compact and other variable pulse rate (VPR) guns. It’s a great capability, to be sure, but most won’t experience the benefit, because while the Dragon Eye’s are the darling of the enthusiast forums, their penetration in the marketplace is about only 1% and in that’s in a limited number of specific regions.

You’ll be much more likely to encounter LTI, Stalker or Kustom Signals police lasers which have the lion’s share of the marketplace, which the CR97 also has no problem in detecting.  To those ends, we’ve also confirmed that it can also detect the latest Stalker RLR which also is a VPR gun with the latest anti-jamming algorithms, which makes this detector great to pair with the anti-laser and anti-infrared Veil Stealth Coating.

Laser has always been a strong point for Whistler as many of their detectors are destined to the overseas market where difficult to detect lasers are widely used.

FMCW Radar Detection & Identification

As if the impressive increases in sensitivity weren’t enough, the real star of the show, in my opinion, is Whistler’s signal processing and handling of unconventional sources of radar (but will be appearing more frequently in time).

We discovered this when driving with other detectors, first in Maryland and later in Brooklyn, New York. In certain towns in Maryland, there are stationery or fixed low-powered K-band photo radar systems which utilize frequency modulation. At first glance, they look like trash cans by the sidewalk and are very easy to miss.

The problem with these systems is that when other detectors utilize K-band filters to reduce alerting to the modulation of radar emanating from vehicles’ collision avoidance systems, they also filter out these photo radar systems, which means that your detector won’t alert to them at all, even if it detects them.

We also came across another system sourced from Jenoptik (a European company whose difficult to detect radars are beginning to appear in North America). In Brooklyn, you will encounter these systems which utilize technology very similar to the much feared MRCD/MRCT photo radar systems.

These systems utilize frequency modulated low power K-band radar to issue “speed on green” photo radar tickets. American Traffic Systems (ATS) is utilizing these systems at traffic intersections. Since ATS has a presence throughout the states, so these sorts of systems are likely already being used elsewhere.

If the location of these systems do not appear in the geocoded database of your GPS-enabled radar detector (which we found was often the case), you will be at risk for a ticket. Knowing this, Whistler has taken a unique step (patent pending) in giving its owner the ability to specifically identify frequency modulated radar in addition to the Band ID when it alerts. No other radar detector to my knowledge offers this capability. To every other detector owner, the only thing reported is the band or frequency.

If you ever find yourself approaching an intersection and the CR97 alerts by GPS to a traffic camera and you also receive a changing K-band #### alert as well, you can be confident that you are approaching a “speed on green” photo enforced intersection. You would be prudent in checking your speed before crossing into the intersection on a green light.

CR97 vs TraffiStar SR391 MRCD/MRCT Type System vs DFR8, R3, V1

 

Filtering & Signal Rejection

I have experienced that the nature of modulating radar can appear on several radar detector models not only as K-band, but also incorrectly identified as Ka band and even in some rare cases, X-band (if the band detection is enabled on the detector). This phenomenon is the result of the superheterodyne receiver to convert X, K, and Ka bands to one or two common intermediate frequencies within the radar detector itself for further processing.

What is concerning is that while many detectors are getting better at identifying and rejecting them (filtering them out) making the detector not alert (a good thing), they also can become deaf to legitimate police radar during the same time.

I once got a speeding ticket in Georgia by an officer running instant-on K-band while my detector was alerting to a K-band collision avoidance system as the detector couldn’t differentiate between the continuous waveform (CW) of the K-band radar gun and the frequency modulated continuous waveform (also known as FMCW) of the vehicle collision avoidance system of the vehicle I was close to.

Whistler now gives you the ability to potentially indicate not only the FMCW source, but also any standard CW police radar that you may encounter at the same time. This is a novel capability that I believe will become more important as more and more ticket generating FMCW systems appear in North America. We’ve used the configuration mode and it works quite nicely and has proven its worth on several occasions during my travels.

To enable this feature, you will need to scroll the menu to its FDSR (field disturbance sensor rejection) setting. Once there you can toggle from FDSR OFF to FDSR ###. This will cause the detector to alert with a double beep followed by signal display of changing four-digit numbers from 0000 through 9999. Maybe in the future Whistler will be able to identify specific systems based on the data and lock them out or provide a unique alert depending on the threat assessment.

An alternate feature can be accessed by pressing both the Quiet and Dark button together when at the FDSR ### menu selection, which toggles the detector to FDSr ###. With FDSr ###, when an FMCW system is identified, the unit will provide a double beep, then automatically engage the Quiet feature to silence the audio during the remainder of the alert. You can toggle the detector back to FDSR ### by pressing the two-button combination again when at the FDSr ### menu selection.

Using this configuration mode, I was able to locate in identify modulated K-band door openers that I didn’t even know existed. Yes, FMCW K-band radar based door openers are among us.

If you prefer to not use this feature, you can simply select FDSR OFF, which will cause the detector to act more like a conventional detector which can then be combined with several levels of XK filter and Ka filters at your disposal that can be used independently or in conjunction with TFSR feature to make the CR97 as quiet as you like. The nice thing is that Whistler is giving you the choice to set up the detector the way that works best for you.

CR97 FDsr ### Mode vs Multiple K-band Collision Avoidance Systems

 

Cool Alert Muting Feature

Whistler also offers another unique and very useful capability. I call it extended muting of FMCW sources. If you find yourself behind a vehicle that causes your detector to alert to K-band, when you press the mute button on the detector, it will mute the audio of the alert while displaying the FMCW information. If for a brief period of time after the alert has stopped (20 seconds), you come across another vehicle with a CAS system (having passed the initial vehicle), the detector will remain muted during the entire time. This is a godsend, because with other detectors it is not uncommon to have to continue to press the mute button each time a “new” source is detected. In the case of this Whistler, you mute the detector once and you’re all set.

Configurable Reactivity & Ability to Detect Pulsed Radar Emissions

Whistler has the ability to detect and alert to very brief durations of pulsed radar and this is by using another unique feature. Whistler is giving its owner the ability extended the user-configurable responsiveness to brief detections of radar.

When a detector is quick, it has the ability to alert to brief appearances of radar either from instant-on radar or brief glimpses of weak constant-on radar at the fringes of detection. The downside to this quickness is the potential to false alerting.

Prior models allowed up to three levels of additional “delays” in reaction time, the CR97 gives you up to five and I am pushing for up to nine, if you couple these “filters” with the TFSR filter you have the ability to have an extremely quick responding detector for use in rural or on roadways where traffic is sparse (the time you most need it) or a slower one which would make it quieter when you are driving around the city or on a busy highway where falsing is likely to be higher.

In our experimentations, we found the using XK filter 4 knocks out a good number of systems including some Acura, Honda, Fiat, and Chevrolet systems. If you enable both TFSR and an extended XK filter, you can make the detector act like one of the best-selling radar detectors of all-time, the Escort Passport 9500ix (a slow reacting but exceptionally quiet and sensitive radar detector).

Have you ever passed a speed sign with your detector that hasn’t gone off? You may do so, with greater frequency, by the way. In those circumstances, like many others, you may think your detector is malfunctioning since it didn’t alert as expected and you may even have it sent back to the manufacturer for servicing, which would be the logical thing to do.

But you would also be wasting your time (and potentially your money), because by using the CR97, we discovered why these things happen and here is what is likely happening if it happens to you: you might be encountering a “radar pulsing” speed sign.

We have several by my office. What they are doing is conserving power. These signs are often solar powered and for the sake of power savings, when traffic is very light, they pulse very infrequently and when they detect heavier traffic, they pulse more frequently on an as-needed basis. They also pulse very quickly. We believe we’ve determined, at least these particular speed signs, to be operating at fewer than 200ms pulses. This can be quicker than quick-triggered police radar, quick enough that most detectors may not alert to them, even though your speed is being displayed.

By changing the configuration of the CR97’s reactivity with such high degree, we were able to learn more about how these little suckers operate. Only a detector like the CR97 with several user selectable filters and timing adjustments would allow us to actually “estimate” the specific operating nature of these systems.

So what Whistler is doing with the CR97 is giving its owner the choice on how the CR97 behaves given the environment it is in. It reminds me of driving a vehicle that provides me with the ability to change the handling characteristics from Touring, Sport, or Track mode. I think that’s pretty cool stuff and I don’t believe any other detector is so configurable.

OLED Display

Whistler has chosen to stay away from using multi-colored bright OLED displays, because of the higher rate of failure of these displays. Those brighter colorful displays may look pretty, but their longevity is ultimately compromised. Whistler is intent on giving you a display which lasts for the duration of ownership (and beyond). I found it very readable in all lighting conditions.
Like preceding Whistlers, the signal strength display is crazy fast and rapidly changes to accurately reflect the strength of the radar detected. This really comes in handy when you are approaching an officer running I/O (instant-on) police radar.

Configuration Menu

I believe Whistler may have the most configuration of any detector out there making it one of the most configurable detectors you can buy. A subtle but nice touch they provide is remembering the last menu option you have selected. So instead of having to scroll through an entire menu to get back to a specific feature you are customizing, you will be immediately be taken to your last customization. This really comes in handy when you are modifying a specific feature, like the XK filter as you tweak the detector.

GPS Photo Enforcement Database

We found the CR97 did an outstanding job of alerting to stationery red-light and speed camera locations throughout a good number of states. (Database Updates are posted monthly on www.whistlergroup.com)

GPS Speed Based Auto Muting and Filtering

While the Whistler doesn’t display your speed (due to respecting another manufacturer’s patent), it does bring some nice capabilities with it nonetheless.

The first is called Auto Quiet Speed (AQSPD) where you can select a speed (such as 40 mph). When traveling below your set speed, the detector will automatically reduce the volume to level 1, which is great when you are driving around town where you would otherwise encounter a lot of K-band falses. When driving above the set speed, alerts are provided as the user selected volume.

The second is called Auto Filter Speed (AFSPD) where the detector will automatically apply the highest filtering when you are driving below this set speed. When driving above the set speed, the filters selected by the user are applied. In both instances, you get a quieter detector around town. That’s what makes a GPS enabled detector such a pleasure with which to drive.

Conclusion

The CR97 is Whistler’s most sensitive radar detector to date. It is clear that Whistler has delivered on their design targets. This detector, in many instances, appears to perform in the real-world as well detectors costing nearly twice as much. Unlike previous Whistler models, the CR97 offers more consistent detections to a broader array of police radar frequencies.

The new CR97 is priced at just $249 but just because it’s inexpensive, doesn’t mean it’s not a solid detector, quite the contrary, the CR97 I believe is one of the best values going.

For those not wanting to spend a small fortune, I found this detector more than capable in all of the multi-state miles I have traveled. I pulled no punches during the 12,000 miles I have driven with this detector and there were times I was driving at speeds that most drivers don’t dare approach and felt comfortable doing so.

I expect more great things from Whistler in the future, but for now, Whistler is offering an exceptional value-priced radar detector with practical features not found anywhere else.

For those interested you can purchase this new detector from RadarBusters who is accepting orders now. Expected release date is mid-September of 2018.

Veil Guy