Communication is one of the basic human desires. You’ll want to keep in touch with friends and loved ones as well as receive important information regularly. As such, man has invented different communication devices throughout history some of which have become obsolete. One device that has remained popular for over half a century is the CB radio. Even with the introduction of smartphones, the internet and satellite phones, people from different demographics are still searching for the best CB radio.
There are countless CB radio brands and models to choose from. Choosing the right one goes beyond taking price as your main consideration. And that’s why I’ve created this CB radio buying guide. It will allow you to look at all the important considerations you should make before buying a CB radio and eventually find the unit that best meets your needs.
Why Choose a CB Radio
Even with high tech communication devices like smartphones with built in GPS and internet connectivity, CB radios still play a significant role in people’s lives. Here are some of the reasons why people choose to invest in the top rated CB radios.
- A CB radio allows you to communicate in remote areas where there is no mobile phone network coverage. The Citizen Band radio operates within the 11meter band. CB radio coverage is typically available in areas where mobile networks aren’t available.
- Operating a CB radio doesn’t require a license or additional costs. Newer communication media like smartphones will require you constantly pay carrier fees.
- Finally, CB radios are easy to operate and maintain. Most CB radios come fitted with simple controls which makes them easy to operate. In addition, they usually don’t need complex maintenance tasks such as software updates which are common in many new communication technologies.
Who Needs a CB Radio
Typically, anyone who wants to communicate needs a CB radio. However, certain demographics such as boat owners, truckers, security personnel, vehicle owners and cabin owners need these devices. Simply put, if you constantly work or have fun in areas where mobile network coverage is poor or nonexistent, investing in a CB radio is recommended.
Buying Factors of a CB Radio
The CB radio is designed to enable two way communication. That is, you’re either listening or talking through your CB on a particular channel. Such communication usually requires a device with a small built in speaker and mic. But what about instances where you want to amplify your voice like when talking to a crowd or rescue situations where you are either calling for help or trying to locate someone in need of help. Such instances call for built in PA capability.
Built in SWR Meter
Tuning you CB radio is one of the important tasks you’ll do before you have a chance to use it. Improper tuning can result in a weak broadcasting signal or even worse, damage to your CB. The tuning process can be time consuming and requires an SWR meter. Some CB models will require that you invest in a separate SWR meter. This additional cost can be foregone by investing in a CB with built in SWR meter. In addition to cost saving, a built in SWR meter greatly cuts down on set up time. With an external meter, you’ll need to connect it to the CB and antenna which could take some time. A built in meter also allows you to get your SWR readings any time the CB is operational.
Clarity and Ease of use
One of the challenges that plagued CB radios for many years was the production of static. This greatly reduced the clarity with which sound signals were received. New CB models have been able to tackle this problem by the introduction of several features. Two features which affect clarity are squelch control and RF gain.
Ease of use is yet another consideration to make when choosing the best CB radio. At this point, you should look at features like the controls and their placement within the unit, its size and ability to connect with external accessories like PA systems.
Background noise can make communicating using a CB radio difficult if not impossible. However, modern CBs are including built in noise reduction features that block out background noise. One such feature is the Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL). This filters out background noise such as traffic and engine noise allowing you to hear or be heard clearly. The RF gain and squelch control also help to reduce noises such as static and low sound output caused by poor signal reception.
A typical CB radio offers 40 different channels that include emergency and weather channels. These are usually enough for the hobbyist CB user. However, professionals often need additional channels which allow them to communicate within small groups. This is where a multichannel CB comes in handy. It will offer the normal 40 CB channels plus additional programmable channels. The programmable channels make it easy to communicate as a small group without interference from unwanted users. Still, you can also use your CB to transmit over the other 40 channels designated for the 11 meter band.
Size, Weight and Appearance
Modern CB radios are designed to be either handheld or installed on a vehicle. The size of the CB is therefore one of the important considerations to make before buying one. Generally, smaller CB radios are better compared to bulky units which take up a lot of space and are often difficult to install. The same also counts for weight where lighter units are more portable and easy to install.
The CB radio design is also something worth considering before making your purchase. I recommend that you consider features such as a large backlit display, easily accessible controls and buttons as well as strategically placed jacks and ports before buying. The CB radio design isn’t so much about aesthetics but rather about making the unit easy to use.
A citizens band radio is one of the cool communications devices you can invest in today. Compared to modern devices like smartphones, the CB is affordable, cheaper to operate and maintain and, works great in areas with little or no mobile network coverage. Buying a new CB isn’t a straightforward process as you have to consider factors beyond price.
In this CB radio buying guide, I’ve covered six of the most important factors to consider before buying a new CB. Now that you know what exactly to look at when investing in a new CB radio, I suggest that you head over to our CB radio reviews section. Here, you’ll find the best units on the market today and the best deals you can find.