One of the scariest things is having an emergency and not being able to reach anyone. We’ve all seen thriller movies where an actor/actress really needs to make a call to get help but cannot make a call because there’s no cell network coverage. There are alternatives that can help in such situations. A CB radio is one such alternative.
The citizen’s band radio popularly known as CB radio is a simple means of radio communication allowed by the FCC for individuals and small businesses. It does not require licensing and has 40 available channels with 9 reserved for emergency services like the police and fire departments. When choosing a CB radio, there are some basic things you need to know.
The first thing to know is that power output isn’t a factor on any CB radio. By law, the maximum power output allowed for CB radios is 4 watts. This is a standard for CB radios so it should not be a consideration. The only exception to this is CB radios that transmit on a single-sideband (SSB) which transmits up to 12 watts. CB radios transmit 4 watts maximum power to 3 channels simultaneously - one main channel and two side channels. When transmitting on a single-sideband, you transmit its entire 12watts to one channel. However, when transmitting on this mode, only other users on that same mode can receive your transmission. For everyone to receive your transmission, you have to transmit on the regular mode at 4watts. If you are concerned about the transmission range, you can always improve this with a CB radio antenna
There are other features that should be considered. These include: kind of display for day and night visibility, easy access to weather alerts and stations, channel scanning mode - manual or auto, Bluetooth for increased connectivity, SWR meter for proper antenna adjustment, SSB (Single-Sideband) mode, public address system for broadcasting your voice outside your vehicle and size for mounting suitability. Depending on your needs, these will help you choose what will be the best CB radio for you.
It is important that if you are mounting the CB radio in your vehicle, you look at where and how you want to mount it. Look at where the radio’s speaker is located so you don’t mount it in such a way as to block the sound. You could choose to connect the audio to an external speaker or even your car speaker
If you are new to CB radios, understand that they are not cell phones
and don’t have their capacity or range. They are however very useful for disseminating real-time, localized information. This is why truckers use them a lot. They are also great for areas with little or no network coverage.
As with most products, a CB radio with a lot of features will cost more than one with fewer features. Some features affecting the price of a CB radio unit include: quality of build, quality of microphone, in-built SWR meter, quality and size of display, compatibility with other kinds of microphones, connectivity to external speakers, and additional features like Bluetooth.
From our research, we found that with between $70 and $300, you can get a very good CB radio. In fact, you may actually end up getting some of the products we have listed at cheaper rates. The important thing is that you will always be getting value for the money. Bear in mind best value is not always cheapest, and we have not included products which fail to provide adequate quality for users.
There are certain features that will differentiate one CB radio from another. Knowing the features that are important to you will help you choose easily. Features to look out for include:
- Size – it goes without saying that the radio you pick needs to fit in your vehicle properly
- Type of display – for day and night visibility
- Channel scanning mode – automatic or manual
- SWR meter – for properly setting the antenna
- Weather alerts – easy access to weather stations
- Bluetooth – for connectivity options
- Public address system – for amplifying your voice outside the vehicle
- Single-sideband mode – for 12 watt output transmission
- Position of speaker – for best mounting position
Construction and Design
You need a CB radio that is built solidly. Aside from this, you also need to consider where you want to mount it as this will determine the ideal size. A lot of these radios are designed with speakers underneath them. You will need to be sure to either choose one that has its speaker where it won’t be blocked when you mount it or you mount it in such a way as not to block the speaker. If you have to block the speaker, then you may be looking at getting an external speaker so you can hear clearly.
Performance and Ease of Use
There are a few things that can improve the ease of use of your CB radio. A screen that you can easily read from day or night is very important. For those who are affected by the light from the screen especially while driving at night, you will want to get one with lights that dim. Additionally, manually scanning channels may not always be comfortable. If this will be a major issue for you, you should go for one that scans automatically.
If you will be using your unit in a noisy environment, getting one with a noise-cancellation microphone will certainly be very helpful. If you also have certain frequencies you use very often, having a unit that stores emergency channels and frequently used channels will be great so you don’t have to scan every time you want to tune to those channels.
These are few general features that can make choosing and using your CB radio easier.
It’s never really been easy to pick a “best” radio per se, because different people have different tastes. It all comes down to what you really want and what your options are but since you’ve gone through our buying guide that should be a lot easier for you. Furthermore, while picking these CB radio brands, we did our best to cover a wide range of tastes. Let’s have a look at our product picks and see what fits your current needs best.
We hope we helped you decide on the best radio for you. Note that the CB radios here are just samples from these brands that we think you’ll love. They have other models. So, make your selection and get talking – over!