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Everyone carries smartphones these days, however, there’s one communications system that hasn’t caved to the popularity of cell phones and smart devices: the CB radio. CB radios, or citizens band radios, are still used in a number of professions and by many people. These old-school devices allow for short-distance, person-to-person voice communication via two-way radios. Popular among law enforcement, transportation, and even medical care professionals, CB radios have a ton of uses. They can even be used for vehicle-based hobbies like off-roading or ATV riding. They’re handy for emergency situations, can work when cell phone communications systems are down, and very easy to use. If you’re looking for a CB radio that’ll give you convenient communication and an easy way to talk to a friend or partner, check out our list of the best CB radios right here.
The Best CB Radio
Featuring an instant channel 9 function, you can set this radio up very quickly in an emergency. You can also hook it up with external public address systems to provide amplified announcements, and it has an external speaker jack. The screen is large and easy to read, allowing you to check the strength of incoming transmissions.
There are all sorts of features that make this radio such a high-quality product, including mountain hardware, volume control, and a 40-channel operation.
Features instant channel 9 emergency function
Includes 40-channel operation
Large, easy to read screen
External speaker jack for better sound
- Weight2 pounds
Whether you are driving during the day or at night, you can easily read the screen, which can be displayed in four different colors depending on your preference. Plus, you can also adjust the brightness. It also gives you access to NOAA weather channels, allowing you to keep up with changing conditions.
If you need to make an appointment, simply set an alarm on the screen to make sure that tardiness isn’t an issue. There is also a setting to automatically run diagnostics and antenna matching to ensure that the signal remains at its strongest.
4-color LCD display
Automatic tuning to hear all weather alerts
Clock and alarm included
- Model29 LX
- Weight8.64 pounds
Sound quality is one of the most important features of this CB radio, and it has a couple of features to enhance this including an ANL (automatic noise limiter) and squelch control, which is designed to reduce background noise and improve reception.
You have different power options, including AA batteries or the cigarette lighter. 40 CB channels are available, as well as access to NOAA radio, and the emergency channel 9. The backlit LED screen is easy to read, day or night.
40 different communication channels
Access to emergency channel 9 and informational channel 19
Power with AA batteries or via the cigarette lighter
Easy to view and use
- Weight6.4 ounces
Some of the features of this truck CB radio include access to channels 9 and 19 and a dynamic squelch control. The device is made to offer clear reception, strong transmissions, and a wide CB radio range. While you may be used to static on your CB radios, this one does everything that it can to eliminate this problem. The noise-canceling feature helps to eliminate background noise.
As for the control panel, you can use it easily in different light conditions. You can adjust the backlight display to seven different colors.
Clear reception, strong transmission, and long range
Large, easy-to-read display suitable for all light conditions
Wireless mic compatible
Instant channel 9/19, NOAA Weather channels, radio diagnostics
- Weight4.31 pounds
Next on our list is this stylish portable CB radio. The display is clear, while the controls have their own individual functions, so you don’t have to scroll through separate menus to work out what you are doing. It is designed for experienced operators and newbies alike. The noise filter helps to improve the clarity of your communications. Galaxy CB radios are well known in the field, and they are built to stand the test of time.
Clearly labeled controls
Large and easy-to-read display
Proprietary Galaxy Noise Filter (GNF)
Variable dimmer control
- Weight4.4 pounds
This simple and affordable Midland CB radio comes with an automatic noise limiter that improves the reception if the signal is weak. There is a built-in weather scanning system that finds a local weather channel, so you can keep track of the current conditions and adjust your route accordingly. The large backlit LCD screen is easy-to-read no matter whether it is used during the day or at night.
Clear speaker sound
Automatic noise limiter improves reception
Weather scanning system
Small and lightweight
- Weight1 pounds
When you install this Cobra CB radio, you will have access to the 40 radio channels available. Using the SWR calibration system, you can check that the antenna system continues functioning at its highest available level.
If your system is not operating properly, the antenna warning indicator will automatically illuminate. The four-watt output is the maximum power permitted by law, so you can rest assured that you have the most complete range of communication.
40 channel access
Antenna warning indicator
Instant channel 9 access
- Model29 LTD
- Weight6 pounds
Other features include automatic gain control, a bright LED display, and a high/low power switch. It weighs 8.8 ounces, and while it’s fairly basic when it comes to functions, it’s a good deal for what you get.
Complete 40-channel reach
40 CB channels and max 4-watt output power
Power with batteries or cigarette lighter adapter
Automatic noise limiter and squelch control
- Weight8.8 ounces
Best CB Radio Buying Guide & FAQ
If you’re not an expert in CB radios, trying to determine which CB radios are the best in quality and performance can be tricky. Each unique radio comes with its own features and functionality, and you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each. From the type to the technical features, we’re here to help you find the right CB radio for your needs. Follow our buying guide to learn more about what to look for as you compare different CB radios to find the best options.
Features to Look for in the Most Powerful CB Radio
Feel like you need some more information on the different features of CB radios? Let’s look closer at some of the main ones to help you choose between the different makes and models.
- Technical Features
The size of your CB radio has an impact on the features that you expect from it. Bigger models tend to have higher-quality receivers and transmitters, as well as features like a public address (PA) system. Of course, before you make your decision, you should check each individual make and model for their list of features. External speakers are a useful addition to a CB radio as this gives you clearer audio at a lower volume. Also, look for an LCD screen as this allows you to easily see useful data. What you can see depends on which CB radio you select.
- Sound Quality
A CB radio is all about sound, so it makes sense that you look for one which offers a high-quality system. Static has long been a problem that has plagued CB radios. Check out the filter options, which help to block out static and engine noises, also decreasing interference from the signal. Also, look out for a Squelch Control, which controls speaker activation only when a transmission is received. This saves you from hearing irritating background noise. RG Gain is another feature that can improve sound quality, filtering signals based on strength. This brings increased clarity to the stronger signals. The location and type of antenna also play a role in sound quality. You can always purchase a separate one if it is not included. The position where you mount the antenna also has an impact on sound quality.
- Ease of Use
If the CB radio is easy to use, this makes your life a whole lot easier. Look closer at features like the external controls and their placement. Its size is another issue as this will determine how easily it will fit inside your vehicle. Also, look at its connectivity with external accessories such as PA systems, etc.
- Multi-Channel Communication
Most CB radios offer access to 40 different channels including emergency and weather. Generally, this is enough for your average user, but professionals may need extra channels that allow communication with specific groups. A multichannel CB radio will offer additional programmable channels, making it easy to communicate with small groups without interference.
- Size, Weight and Appearance
CB radios tend to come in a couple of different formats. You can either get one that is handheld or one which can be installed on a vehicle. The size is a key consideration to make before purchase. In general, the smaller ones are more adaptable and easier to install than their bulkier counterparts. Lighter radios are also more portable, allowing you to take them around from place to place as needed. Think about the design features as well. For example, a large backlit display and a set of accessible controls are two features that can improve the ease of use. While aesthetics are nice, you mainly need to make sure that the unit does everything that you want of it.
- Built-in SWR Meter
Before you start using your CB radio, you need to make sure that it is properly tuned in. At best, not tuning your radio will result in a poor broadcasting signal. At worst, it can cause damage to the radio. Remember, this can be a time-consuming process, needing an SWR meter. Some models require you to get this item of technology separately. Alternatively, you can get one with a meter already built-in. If you have to buy an external meter, you will have to hook it up separately to the CB and antenna, which is likely to be time-consuming. The other advantage of a built-in meter is that it allows you to obtain SWR readings whenever the radio is in operation.
- Other Features
It is also worth knowing more about the extra features that you can expect from a CB radio. Many have weather channels, which give you updates on the conditions around you. Some have a Channel 9 switch which allows you instant access to emergency channels. Channel Scanning is a nice feature that ensures that you don’t have to flip through the stations manually to find an active one. PA capability is another feature that some people are looking for. If you need to communicate with a crowd in an emergency situation, this allows you to amplify your transmission.
Benefits of High-Performance CB Radios
While you may think that CB radios are an old-fashioned item of technology, they still offer a range of benefits that you can’t get elsewhere. Here are just a few of the main advantages which you can expect.
- Cost Savings
There are plenty of communication options available to install in your vehicle, but they are often expensive. Remember that most two-way radios apart from CB radios require you to own a license and are always pricier. While many people rely on their cell phones for some of the same functions these days, you still have to pay a monthly subscription to continue using their services. When you have a CB radio and installed in your vehicle, there is nothing more to pay.
- Stay Connected While Traveling
While cell phone coverage is always improving, the coverage is poor in some places and non-existent in others. However, if you use a CB radio instead, there are no restrictions to where you can communicate. There is even a dedicated channel 9 emergency channel, which is fully monitored by volunteers and emergency services, ensuring that help is often on hand.
Many professionals still use CB radios in their vehicles because of the real-time updates they can get, providing a host of information such as weather, traffic, and travel updates. This helps you to make your plans and potentially change them if you need to. Many have access to National Weather Radio's frequencies, broadcasting weather updates, and emergency alerts. For example, you may find out about a major accident and decide to take an alternative route. Perhaps you discover that a storm is on the way and it is time to take shelter soon.
- Operational at Low Frequencies
One of the features which people appreciate most about these types of radios is that they allow you to listen to voice messages and chat with others in a narrow band frequency. This is something that is not possible with other types of radios, which makes CB radios stand out from the crowd.
- Emergency Situations
Sometimes, you find yourself in an emergency situation and need a means of communication. There is no need to apply for a license to operate one. You can use it to communicate with other users during disasters and crises. This is what makes them so popular for emergency services professionals such as law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters.
- A Fun Hobby
CB radios aren’t only used by professionals and for emergencies; they can also prove to be a popular hobby too. You can transmit your own radio show or simply chat with other road users. These are relatively inexpensive devices, which makes them accessible to many people. And since the data transmission is encrypted, you don’t have to worry about people overhearing your conversations who you don’t want to.
If you are an off-roader, CB radios allow you to keep in touch with your friends and other enthusiasts. Remember, you need to agree on a set of frequencies for the day before heading out on your adventure. You can share advice and give warnings along the way. You can also navigate as a group, ensuring you can appeal for help if anyone gets lost during your journey.
- Useful for Certain Professions
Some jobs still rely on CB radios, the most common being truckers. The best CB radios for truckers allow them to share useful information about the area including any adverse weather conditions, slowdowns or delays, information about police activity, and general information about the area. While cell phones are steadily becoming more and more popular, truck CB radios still have their place in a professional capacity.
- Easy to Operate and Maintain
Usually, CB radios come with some simple controls which allow for easy operation. On top of this, you are unlikely to need to perform any complex maintenance tasks to keep them in good working order. There are no software updates that are so typical with modern communication technologies.
Different Types of CB Radios
There are four main types of CB radio available. Choosing between these is one of your most important decisions when you are looking for one of these devices. Let’s take an overview of all of them to help you in your decision-making.
- Handheld CB Radio
First up, we have the handheld CB radios, which resemble walkie-talkies. These run on some sort of batteries, some of which are rechargeable, so you can continue using them while you are on the road. You can use them in most vehicles as they come with cigarette cords and jacks for adapters and CB antennas.
- Base Station CB Radio
A good option for indoor use, they come with a built-in power supply. As for the power, it comes directly from a wall outlet, so these are not the best option for use in a vehicle. To get the best performance level, you will need to mount it high up.
- Mobile CB Radio
The most common type of CB radio to use in vehicles, mobile devices come in a range of different sizes but usually resemble a small box with controls on the front and a microphone attached to it. As for the features you can expect, it depends on the individual model and brand, so check these carefully before choosing.
- All-In-One CB Radio
Finally, we have the all-in-one CB radio, which is made to resemble a handset. Generally, these are compact and easy to operate. Often, people with smaller vehicles choose this type of radio as it would otherwise prove tough to mount a full-size radio.
Best CB Radio FAQ:
Q: What is a CB radio and how does it work?
A: A CB or citizens band radio is a personal radio device which is designed for communication between individuals, but it is often used in a professional capacity as well. There is no need to own a license to operate one. However, you will need certification from the FCC if you want to operate one where radio communications are regulated. There are 40 authorized channels in AM or SSB modes. The former is standard, while the latter is only found in higher-end devices.
Q: How much power can a CB radio work on?
A: The power output of CB radios is limited by law. Often, your radio will come already adjusted to the maximum power output. Amplitude Modulation (AM) is the most standard form of CB radio communication, and it is limited to just four watts of output power, which is measured by the antenna connector on the radio. The other option is single-sideband (SSB) transmissions. These offer a lower audio quality than AM, but they allow you to communicate over longer distances. The FCC limits the output to 12 watts of envelope power, measured at the antenna connector.
Remember, these power limits are imposed by law, meaning that it is illegal to use an external amplifier to boost the output. Also, you cannot modify the radio to exceed these power limits. If you violate these power output limitations, this can lead to fines, equipment confiscation, and even imprisonment.
Q: Is an antenna needed for a CB radio?
A: While an antenna is not strictly needed for a CB radio, it can be used to enhance signal strength and reception. The FCC does place restrictions on antenna height, but these are not as strict as power limits. If you raise your antenna higher up, this will help to improve reception. The highest point cannot be more than 20 feet above the mounted structure or more than 60 feet off the ground. Another option is to use a directional antenna, which is commonly known as a Yagi antenna. This will offer significant improvements in reception and outgoing signal strength. Of course, you need to bear in mind that this comes with higher costs and complexity levels.
Q: Do I need a license for a CB radio?
A: As we have already mentioned, you don’t need a license to operate a CB radio. However, some areas are regulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and you will need to obtain certification from them if you want to operate a CB transmitter in these areas.
Our Top Pick
The Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio is our top pick on our list. This CB radio is easy to use, easy to understand, and helpful whether you’re on the road or in an emergency situation. It offers 40 channels of operation, and it can be set up in no time at all. You can connect it to an external speaker or use the radio independently. This CB radio has an instant channel 9 function and a large, easy-to-read screen allows you to check both the signal and the RF power, so you know whether incoming transmissions are strong or weak. Made with high-quality components, you’ll be able to operate this CB radio for a long time to come. And you’re sure to be pleased with its performance.