1 Step Forward, 10 Steps Back: Cordless Phones

I just want a cordless phone that works. That’s all I want. Well ok, that’s not entirely true. I want a cordless phone that has:

  • 2 cordless handsets
  • good sound quality
  • a call-answering/voicemail waiting indicator
  • a reasonably simple interface
  • caller ID

What I’ve found is a quagmire.

First off, our house is filled with crummy cordless phones. There is the one behind the bar that rings well enough but makes your callers sound like they are in a deep pit (it rubs the lotion on it’s skin). Upstairs, there is the analog 900 MHz phone. It sounds like shit too and it has crappy range. Then there is the Olympia OL-2410 we’ve been using; it sounds… not like “total crap” but just “poor” and the display recently went south.

What phone do I use? It’s the kind of phone that you can pummel an assailant with. It’s a corded Southwestern Bell Freedom Phone. It’s unapologeticly heavy, sounds great and feels good in your hand.

So, last week, the Olympia 2 handset phone system broke after 1 1/2 years of service. I called Staples and used the extended service plan I got to get an $80 credit. While I was waiting for the credit to arrive, I plugged in my old Uniden 900 MHz digital spread spectrum phone. This is a great phone. Great range, sounds like a corded phone, long battery life, enough heft in the handset to leave a welt on an assailant (especially since you can throw it across the room at him), a well designed answering machine… da da da…

The credit arrives so I go to Staples and pick up a Vtech 2.4 GHz phone. It was great except for it’s horrid range: less than 50 feet. Admittedly, compounding factors include that the range problem was between the 1st and second floors and we have 2 Wifi networks in the house. But shouldn’t these devices SHOULD be able to coexist in the same band?

I returned the phone.

I went back to Staples looking for a phone. After looking at all 30+ different phone models they had (think I’m exaggerating? Take a peek at Staples.com) I concluded that, unless I wanted to spend $220 on a phone, I wouldn’t get what I wanted. $220?!?!? $220?!?!?!? Two Trimline phones would cost $40 and work flawlessly for at least the next 20 years. And think how cordless phones have been around for 20 years now. Are you starting to smell a rat? I am.

So I forged my way over to Radio Shack. I was bedazzled by their selection as well. So many flavors of….. vanilla. With the help of a self-avowed over-achieving salesman, I picked out a $70 5.8 GHz phone. To be specific, it is a Maxus 5.8 Gigahertz Dual Handset, Radio Shack # 43-3585. I got it home and plugged one of the phones in. I didn’t dare take everything out of the box until I knew it worked because, I swear Radio Shack must employ master jigsaw puzzlers to pack their products. The corners of my mouth started to curl up as the dual-frequency hum of the dial-tone remained steady in my ear while I walked from room to room. Satisfied, I ripped the rest of the packaging open.

After everything was all set up, I opened the manual to figure out the intricacies of the Memories and such. It was there on page 13 that my heart died.

Conveniently, your cordless phone allows you to transfer outside calls from handset to handset simply by pressing DELETE/TRANS. Conversations will not be interrupted; only one handset at a time can talk with an outside caller. The second handset cannot go off hook to listen to conversations or make an outgoing call while the other handset is in use.


You have got to be fucking kidding me.

Only one handset can be used at a time?! So why the frig did I buy a two handset phone? Is it a freaking backup for when the first explodes unexpectedly?

I threw everything in the box. The ecstatic guy at Radio Shack can repack it himself.

Tomorow I will go shopping for telephone system number 3.

Read my new entry on the subject


  1. Dave says:

    I love mine…I got two friend to buy it too. I think it’s this one, but I love it: Panasonic KX-TG2344B

    It’s one of the few that I found where the base station mounts on the wall. I know it’s a Panasonic phone, I’ve had it >3 years and it works like a charm.

  2. Lee says:

    I’m off to Radio Shack right now to return the old phone… I’ll see if anyone has the phone you recommend or a similar. If not, it’s off to mail-order again. (and I had so much faith in the big box store before this week’s snafus!)


  3. Patrick says:

    Well I may have come here following a link that apparently didn’t go where it was meant to, but I do happen to have some advice on this if your still looking…

    I wouldn’t buy anything except a Panasonic phone at this point in time… They are one of the few companies also that let you use both handsets at once. Oh side note 1 here: Screw 5.8 Ghz a good phone frankly doesn’t need 5.8 Ghz right now it’s a complete marketing ploy used by crappy phone making companies because they don’t want to invest money in using a quality signal. That’s what things like DSS and FHSS are all about (both allow them to coexist with other devices in a 2.4 Ghz/5.8 Ghz band), it’s also a fairly well known secret within the industry that cheap phones often advertise being 5.8 Ghz, but in fact they are unidirectional 5.8Ghz phones (base uses a 5.8 Ghz freq and handset uses 2.4 to save power).

    Personnally I’m going to suggest this one: http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Panasonic-Cordless-Phone-KXTG2422W-/sem/rpsm/oid/118559/rpem/ccd/productDetail.do

    It doesn’t matter where you go to get it, the CC link is just because I know they carry it… Oh and the last letter on the model number is the color… CC only carries it in white…

    Btw I remember the now venerable KX-TG2344’s, couple generations back though…

  4. Lee says:

    > I remember the now venerable KX-TG2344’s, couple generations back though
    Generations back? Bah! The basics of telephony have been the same for the last 130 years. Good sound quality. The last 4 phones I’ve bought had sucky sound quality… they might have been very stylish but they were no good as a communications device. If the KX-TG2344 sounds good, then keep it forever!

    I didn’t see your recommendation til after shopping, sorry Patrick! I got a Radio Shack 2.4 GHz Digital Cordless Telephone ET-3570, Radio Shack #43-3570. What I needed was: 2 handsets, call answering message indicator, caller ID, excellent sound quality even with a wifi network present. It fits the bill, though I noticed some sound problems when standing within 5 feet of my router (hopefully if I switch channels on the router, I can make that problem go away… tomorow’s project)

    Turns out, the phone has a lot of nice bells and whistles. My family will never use them but I might in my own home. Expandable to 4 handsets, you can use them as walkie-talkies even without the base, each phone has a bright message indicator light, speakerphone, one-touch to dial call answering system, good interface, 8 hrs talk time, you can even use it as a baby monitor!

  5. Mary Anne says:

    So sorry Lee. I’m searching the internet for places to vent about my ET-3570. I bought it purely for the speakerphone which, well, doesn’t work. It cuts in and out, so if you’re on hold with customer service, you may or may not hear when the finally do come on the line. Of course this is a couple months after I bought it so I have no packaging or receipt.
    I any case, I share your frustration with phones. :(

  6. Lee says:

    :-( Radio Shack is really good about returns. Call the store you bought it from, they might go by the credit card records and allow a return. The couple times I used the speakerphone (I don’t live in the house the phone is in any more) it worked fine. Amex will double your manufacturer’s warranttee. Maybe call them.

  7. Michelle says:

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who is looking for a GOOD PHONE system. I thought after the invention of crystal clear Internet telephone communication; I would be able to replace my ancient cordless 900MHZ Uniden. I too purchased the Maxus 5.8 Gigahertz Dual Handset, Radio Shack (form EBAY – so now I am stuck with it) with high hopes. I too was disappointed – no pissed off – that 1)The sound quality was not so great and 2) I can’t use both handsets. If any of you find a GREAT (I would even settle for GOOD) phone please post…

  8. Skip says:

    Hello, Lee.

    I came across your site trying to locate the manufacturer of the Maxus 5.8 ghz dual handset, purchased from Radio Shack.

    My experience is that with very minimal use, the second handset quickly shot craps.

    The main handset unit is seldom more than six feet away from the cradle. I do not have a wireless elsewhere in the home. However, the volume both of what is said and what is listened to started off far fainter than a corded phone, and has gone progressively downhill since. A plug in headset improved volume for listening, but not for speaking.

    Most recently, often when I make a call the phone will not hang up when I hit the “end” button. On a number of calls I had to pull the cord from the phone jack for a moment to cut off the call, as when I’m calling into Verizon for my messages. Otherwise, I might pick up the phone after five minutes and turn it on, and my messages are still being replayed.

    Seems hard to imagine a bigger dud that the Maxus.



  9. Chris says:

    Man, am I feeling your pain. My 84 year old Mom just purchased the Maxus. I have a feeling it was a leftover store display that they brought out from the backroom and my Mom didn’t check everything out. When I arrived a few weeks later from out of state for a visit, I tried to set it up for her. Here’s the note I just sent to Radio Shack, which tells the rest of my story:
    My mother bought a Maxus 5.8 Ghz Dual Handset cordless phone (cat # 43-3585) from the Radio Shack in White March Mall, Perry Hall, MD. It was missing one of the two AC Adapter power supplies, part # AD-539. I made 2 trips to the store without success in locating the missing part. In fact, they said it had been back-ordered for 4 months. Debbie was the sales person who sold the package to my mother. My primary question is in locating an adpater and I’ve had no success in Radio Shack and other internet searches. My deeper question that you may not care to answer is – what’s going on with this product (Maxus) that no longer appears in Radio Shack sites, even though we just purchased it a month ago? Thanks for any help.

  10. Danielle says:

    I need a handset. If anyone is getting rid of theirs please consider sending it to me, I will pay all shipping.

  11. G. Long says:

    While doing an online search, I ran across Chris’ comment of 4/18/2007 @ 6:29 p.m. concerning the Maxus cordless phone.

    Was there ever a reply to Chris’ question concerning what happened to the Maxis cordless telephone?

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