The Redline and Magnum are essentially the same radar detector, but the Redline is the one you’ll hear talked about all the time yet the Magnum can do the same thing at a lower price. Which one should you get?
Other than the little differences like the fact that they have different names, there’s basically 8 main differences between the Escort Redline and the Beltronics Magnum. Escort and Beltronics are the same company and they have produced two versions of the same radar detector under two different names. Other than the different names and the same features being called different things, let’s go over what the main differences are.
1. Performance and LNA’s
Redlines and Magnums share the exact same M3-based radar detector platform. They use the same antenna (horn), the same circuitry, and have the same features. They even now have the same expert firmware with BS/RDR now available for maximum performance.
There is one small difference though in hardware. Newer Magnums (made after May ’09) have a different low noise amplifier that sits behind the K/Ka horn. This LNA boosts all signals when it arrives to the detector which increases your detector’s sensitivity and thus range. Rather than soldering the LNA directly onto the circuit board (wire-bonded LNA), the LNA in the newer Magnums is placed in a special package and the package is attached to the circuit board (packaged LNA). This technique is easier to do and is cheaper. You can read more about the details here or watch the following video.
The downside to doing this is that performance drops a little bit. Now that doesn’t mean that performance drops into the toilet or that all packaged LNA M3’s will be inferior to wire-bonded LNA M3’s. See, there’s a bunch of different components inside a detector and they’re all subject to slight manufacturing tolerances. Thus a really good packaged LNA M3 can outperform a not so good wire-bonded LNA M3. In general all of the M3’s perform very well, but when it comes to splitting hairs and looking for the maximum performance possible, this is an area where enthusiasts will look for a difference.
In short, all other things being equal, a wire-bonded LNA M3 will perform better than a packaged LNA M3. However, because things aren’t always created equally, there is still a little bit of variation across the board, but the overall deal is that all of the M3’s will perform very well and give you tons and tons of range, no matter if you have a packaged or wire-bonded LNA.
2. Case Materials
The Magnums feature Magnesium shells which feel very sturdy and solid. The Redlines used to have Magnesium, then they switched to rubberized plastic. The plastic is nice because it doesn’t get as hot in the summertime and transfer that heat to the internal components. You can read a little more about that here. I’ve never heard of the heat ever causing an issue or affecting performance before, but that is a difference in case designs.
Newer Redlines now have a smoother, shinier, more slippery plastic case. It’s a bit of a cost saving measure for Escort that doesn’t affect performance or anything, but it can make the detector a bit tougher to hold onto if your hands are sweaty. Otherwise it shouldn’t be too big a deal in the grand scheme of things. You can see sample images of the latest Redline case here.
3. Case Design
The Redline has a bit of a Jay Leno chin where its buttons sit. There’s a bottom lip that juts out underneath the display. You can see that in the profile shots below. The Magnum is on top, the Redline is on the bottom.
What this means is that if you have your detector mounted up really high, it may be a bit tougher to see the display of the Redline while the Magnum’s display is readily visible from more angles.
Is this a big deal? Not really. I haven’t heard many people complain about it. It’s just something to be aware of depending on where you mount your detector.
Here’s a quick comparison showing you both detectors mounted up high (plus me making sure the camera can show a little big of difference between the two).
You can see a little bit of the Redline’s display lopped off on the bottom. All depends on the exact angle of course, but shouldn’t be too big of a deal.
4. Upside-down mode
Magnums have the ability to invert the display which is handy if you want to mount the detector upside down. I consider this more of a party trick than anything, especially considering you’ll need some custom mount like a sunvisor holder or something since suction cup mounts won’t work, but if you want an upside down mount, the Magnum is better suited to that.
5. Displaying Multiple Signals
There’s different metering modes available on the detectors. I usually use the one that displays frequency information since that’s the most useful to me. However, there’s also one that can display information about each different band. On the Bel it’s called Threat Display. On the Escort it’s called Expert Meter.
The Beltronics Threat Display can only show you 3 signals at once, one for Ka, one for K, and one for X. It tells you the signal strength of each on a range from 1-9.
The Escort Expert Meter tells you not the signal strength, but how many of each signal you get, up to 2 for Ka, 2 for K, and 4 for X, for a grand total of 8. It can show the signal strength of each with a bar graph.
Thank you Nick Kaumans for pointing this out! 🙂
6. Updating your Detector to BS/RDR
If you have an older Redline or Magnum that doesn’t yet have the updated expert firmware with BS/RDR, your update options are different with the two detectors. With the Magnum you have to send it back to Beltronics for the update. Magnum update info here. If you have a Redline, you can send it back to Escort for the update or you can update it through your phone via Escort Live. Redline update info here.
If you buy a new detector, both the Redline and the Magnum should already come with BS/RDR already preloaded so you shouldn’t have to worry about sending it back for the update. This applies to current owners of either detector.
Thank you to Benji Nguyen for bring this up! 🙂
7. Escort vs. Beltronics Sounds
The Escort and Beltronics sounds are a bit different too. Escort detectors have a female voice and Beltronics detectors have a male voice. The Bels and Escorts also have different tones for Ka band, K, X, and laser. You can hear a back-to-back comparison between the different sounds here:
Which one you prefer comes down to personal preference more than anything. I prefer the Beltronics sounds personally, but the Escorts are more attention grabbing, especially if you have music playing.
For whatever reason, Redlines tend to have a higher price than Magnums, so if you’re looking for a Redline and want an affordable price, you should take a look at the Magnum as well. Here’s the current pricing for both:
So both are great choices. Both will perform very well, offer you high end performance, immunity from radar detector detectors, and are compatible with Escort Live.
There’s some cosmetic differences like the case design and materials, the lip under the Redline, the sounds, and so on, but these are really pretty small differences. Both are great choices. At the end of the day, either one would serve you well. Pick the one you prefer, even if you simply prefer the cheaper one. 😉
Once you buy your detector of choice, make sure you program it for maximum performance and minimal false alerts. I have videos available to help you with both.