Have you ever seen cops or truckers hollering over small, hand-held gadgets and wished you could own and use one? Yes. That small device over which your favorite heroes communicated is something called CB radios. And their use is not limited to just inside movies and to hobbyists but they are actual, very handy devices that you can use for communication. CB is the acronym for Citizen Band and Citizen Band radios are a system used for communication via short-distance radio transmission, over around 40 channels.
These devices became popular around the 1970s and they have survived through the rise of the internet, Wi-Fi, and advanced telecommunication systems, due to their indispensable real-life applications. If you are a cross-country traveler or going on hiking or trekking to a remote area where telecommunication system and other modern communication systems are unreliable, you can use this system to know about weather news, landslides, blockades, accidents, traffic conditions etc. from other users of the same channel. Its uses are versatile, starting from something as small as chatting up with other users to keep you company on a long journey to even giving you information on natural disasters that could even save your life.
They are exceptionally handy on road-based journeys because if you were using internet on your phone to check the weather or road conditions, you have to stop and not drive while you were doing the checking and focus on the screen. The CB radios can be used just using voice and you don’t need to look at them for communication. Not only do they shine in the above-mentioned settings but they can also be useful communication tools at big construction sites, farms, factories, etc. where the users can pass instructions and information over these devices.Depending on which country you are in, the rules and regulations regarding CB radios can vary but once you have gone through all the formalities for using one, the next big step for you is to choose a CB radio that works best for you. There are many different kinds of CB radios out there in the market and this article is going to give you the information you need about buying the best CB radios that are available and also discuss the key things to consider before buying one.
Our Best Pick
This product made it our best pick because of its well-roundedness. It efficiently executes all the things a CB radio is supposed to do and comes with a compact and durable design. Regardless of what you are going to use it for, whether you are someone who is using it daily or you are an enthusiast who will use it only occasionally, we think this is the best that the market has to offer.
Our Budget Pick
What we love about this product is that it offers very useful features, while being within your budget range. In addition to delivering a crisp, high-quality sound, it allows you to connect an external speaker or a PA speaker to it so you can amplify the sound. Other features like backlit screen and compact design make it a user-friendly product.
Quick Comparison Between The Best CB Radios
1. Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio
There are many things that we love about this radio. First, this radio maximizes your scope of communication over the radio by offering you 40 separate channels, combined with a 4 watt power output.
You don’t have to manually go through all the channels because it can automatically run through all the active channels and stop for 5 seconds on every active channel. What's more convenient is that you can save 5 of your favorite channels for instant access, which makes it faster to choose which channel you want to listen to.
When using CB radios, the presence of background noise can compromise the sound quality. As a solution to this problem, this product offers you squelch-control, which removes the background noise and also an Automatic Noise Limiter which enhances the reception for signals that are not strong.
There are specific channels that are important when it comes to using a CB radio. The first of them is channel 9. It is a channel that has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) and it specializes in emergency communications while being scanned by the police so if you need to call for help in an emergency, you can use this channel. Another channel is channel 19 which is an unofficial channel for truckers to which you can listen to, to check up on weather or road conditions and it can literally save your life.
The other one is NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which gives general information on weather conditions. The good news is that this radio can give you immediate access to NOAA, channel 9 and channel 19, which means the most important channels are within your reach. Also, its Dual-Watch feature lets you keep an eye on channel 9 and another channel of your choice simultaneously.
A high user-friendliness is offered by its backlit, easy-to-read display, which is crucial for you to operate the radio in dim-light conditions. To avoid accidental changing of settings, it has a ‘lock on’ feature that will lock the settings on the radio.
Are you worried about the power supply for a radio that can do so much? Do not be, this radio can be powered by six AAA batteries but also can be powered by a cigarette lighter adapter. You can also choose between 4 watts and 1 watt power output to maximize battery life. It is designed to be compact and portable and once you have this device, you are sure to feel more confident and safe while on a long road journey.
2. Uniden 40-Channel CB Radio (PRO505XL)
Apart from many other great things that this radio can offer you, it allows you to use it as a speaker, so you can easily call-out for help or make announcements. This radio can be connected to an external speaker so that you can listen to it with a louder sound and also a PA speaker jack which is a great feature for a radio to have.
Sometimes it is useful to be able to see the strength of incoming transmission that you are trying to receive on your radio, and this radio makes it easy to do so by a signal/RF power indicator.
It also allows you to surf through 40 different channels and an instant access to channel 9, which is the channel for emergencies. To ensure high quality of sound, it has a squelch-control knob that you can adjust according to your needs to suppress weak signals and therefore enhancing the sound quality.The screen is backlit with an orange light that will prevent glares during daytime and also be clearly visible in the dark.
3. Uniden BEARCAT CB Radio With Sideband And WeatherBand (980SSB)
When it comes to communication over the radio, it is best to stay on the same frequency as the person you are talking to. Usually, on a CB radio, the mode is set to AM, which means you can just pick up the radio and start talking without having to go through extensive tuning.
But what if you wanted a clearer sound and a more efficient transmission with the person at the other end? That is when you would prefer to change your radio mode to Single Sidebands (USB/ LSB). This radio gives you the option to choose from multiple transmission modes.
AM or Single Sidebands and this gives you flexibility in using the radio. If you are looking for a product that gives you higher-end performance and requires a little know-how with radios, this is a product definitely worth looking into.
Besides the sidebands, this radio comes with several other highly desirable and advanced features. First of all, the screen of this radio is big compared to many other radios. It is a great plus point for someone who needs to give focus to driving but at the same time have to check on the radio screen. A big screen means you can receive all information at a glance. The screen also has seven different backlight colors that you can choose from, combined with the option to control the brightness of the screen.This product has an SWR meter that can tell you about the degree of mismatch of frequencies between you and the person you're communicating with, allowing a higher quality of transmission. Moreover, instead of using squelch, which reduces noise by reducing reception power, it minimizes noise by RF gain, which does so without reducing your radio’s reception power.
4. Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio
Are you looking for a well-rounded, efficient CB radio with useful features? If you are, then this will be a great product for you. When it comes to features, this radio is a treasure trove. First, it performs automatic scanning of all 40 channels while letting you save up to ten of your favorite channels for quick access. It also has automatic scanning system for ten NOAA weather channels which means you will be notified about any weather conditions that might pose a threat to you.
What is especially great about this feature is that it will notify you with an alert even if your radio is turned off, which just might save a user’s life. The radio also gives instant access to channel 9 and channel 19, which are important channels for CB radio users. The AM RF output is 4 watts, which is the highest legal power output and it means you can have the maximum amount of transmission.
The backlight color of the screen can be chosen from four aesthetically pleasing colors, not only that, you can control the brightness of the screen to assist you to focus better on driving by dimming the light if necessary. If you are a professional driver and you install this radio in your car, you don’t have to worry about counting the hours you have spent driving, since this radio will do it for you!
There is also a clock and an alarm that can come handy in different situations. Have you ever wanted to use the radio’s microphone and frowned at how short the cord is? However, with this radio, that won’t happen, thanks to its nine-feet-long microphone cord. To give you high clarity of sound, it has Delta Tunes and RF gain controls. Plus, you can also use this radio to call out in a loud sound by connecting a PA speaker to it.Lastly, the most unique and advanced feature of this radio: Radio diagnostics. This feature will save you from having to worry and to test radio RF power, antenna power, battery voltage, etc. because it diagnoses itself and tells you the results. How hassle-free!
5. Cobra HH 38 WX ST 4-Watt 40-Channel CB Radio
Are you looking for a simple yet efficient CB radio with only the essential features? If you are, then this is a reliable product from Cobra that you might want to consider buying. It has all the necessary features that make a good CB radio, no more no less.
It allows you to scan all 40 channels, plus ten national weather channels so that you can know about weather conditions. Moreover, it has Dual-Watch feature which will let you check on two selected channels at the same time.The design and size of the radio make it very portable and suitable for tough environments. It has cigarette lighter adapter, Illuminated display to enhance night-time visibility and also has a system to reduce noise by 90%.
6. Uniden PRO401HH 40 Channel Handheld CB Radio
This could possibly be one of the simplest and easy-to-use CB radio out on the market. If you don't require a lot of features but just the ability to listen to and communicate over a hand-held, portable radio, then this is suitable for you. It allows scanning of 40 channels, with a very minimalistic display.
It does have one very useful feature, which is that you can set it to high power output or low power output which helps you save battery life.
7. Cobra HH ROAD TRIP Hand Held 40 Channel CB Radio
What we love about this radio is that it comes with a magnetic mobile antenna. With CB radios, it is more common to buy a separate antenna to let you transmit over longer distances. But with this product, you will have it from the beginning, negating the need to buy it separately.This radio, although being small, portable and in a compact design, is packed with essential features like noise reduction up to 90%, ability to scan all 40 channels, Dual-Watch, illuminated display, etc.
8. Cobra 75WXST 40-Channel CB Radio
The great thing about this radio from Cobra is its compactness. It fits perfectly in your hand and comes with a Remote Mount design, which makes it suitable for installation in any small space.
Its small size does not compromise its performance. It lets you scan 40 channels, with immediate access to channel 9 and 19, Dual-Watch feature and has memory space for saving four of your favorite channels.You can reduce noise up to 90% and also access Weather channels using this radio.
9. Midland 1001Z 40-Channel CB Radio
When it comes to CB radios, it is hard to find a product that can combine compactness and multiple features together, which this radio from Midland does perfectly. Its microphone is small and will easily fit in your hand, while the mounting part has all the necessary knobs plus the screen that shows the important information.
The mounting part of the radio houses knobs that can be used to adjust squelch, volume, channel and RF gain, while the display shows the channel number and S/RF ranges. There are switches for CB/PA and channel 9.
This well-rounded yet compact radio also allows you to use it as a speaker by connecting it to a PA speaker. It ensures high-quality sound because it has both RF gain control and squelch-control, whereas most other radios have only either one of them.Whether you are a beginner-level user who does not want to have complicated features but a radio that is easy to use, or an experienced user who wants an efficient radio, this is a product that you can rely on.
10. Galaxy DX-959B Mobile CB Radio
If you are looking for a radio with multiple handy features that with a sleeker look rather than a rugged one, then this is the radio you are looking for. It comes in a superb backlighting of the faceplate which makes it look a lot more than a CB radio and will surely add to the interior of your vehicle.
The frequency counter and the channel numbers are in bigger blue LED lights that gives good visibility both during the day and the night. For the backlight, you can choose from red and blue, according to your liking and their intensity can be dimmed to help you focus better on driving.
This product is driving-friendly because of the fact that it offers multiple knobs and buttons for quick and easy operation instead of having to look at a screen and scroll through a menu.Apart from the design, this radio offers almost every feature that you could look for in a CB radio.PA/external speaker jack, SSB and AM, a signal strength indicator, power output control, automatic noise reduction, and many other features can be found on this radio that makes it an excellent choice for any CB radio user.
Now that you have come to know about our top selections of CB radios from the current market, you can move on to the next section where we quickly give you an idea of the important aspects of buying a CB radio that you should think about before you finally fix your mind on one product.
Things To Consider Before Buying a CB Radio
Size of the radio and mounting location:
According to size, CB radios can be largely divided into small and big. The small ones are the ones that have the display and the microphone on a single part and can generally be handheld with higher portability than the mounted ones. But you also have to remember that a smaller size can mean fewer features compared to the mounted ones. Before making your decision, consider the location in your vehicle where you would one to mount the radio and if there is enough space.
Choice of frequencies:
Usually, CB radios use AM frequencies but it is good to have other options because when you are communicating over a radio system, you would want to be on the same frequency that the person on the other end is at. Sidebands are another radio frequency that CB radios use and some radios will let you choose between AM and Sidebands.
A display on a CB radio can be big or small. It can also be backlit or in LED. The type of information that is shown the screen will also vary from one radio to the other. List down the information that you would want to see on the display and look for the radio that fulfills the list. If you are someone who would be using the radio in different light conditions, look for a display that can light up for uses in the dark and for dimness control, which helps you focus better on driving by lowering the light intensity.
Different radios use different mechanisms to provide better sound qualities. Check if the radio has features like RF gain, squelch control, automatic noise limiter (ANL), etc. so that you can receive and transmit at a high sound quality.
Now that you know about the top products out on the market, their good and the not-so-great sides all you have to do is try to compare it to your needs when it comes to a CB radio. Think about what kind of user you are, how simple or detailed you want it to be, where you are going to use the radio, etc. and you are on the right track to getting the best CB radio for yourself.