CB radios were created back in the mid-1940s as a reliable and cost-effective means of communication. Even in that technological era, CB radios (meaning “citizens band radio”), managed to maintain their popularity with radio enthusiasts up to the present. “Handheld” CB radios are the most compact and the best portable choice of these radios They are battery-operated units, with a one or two-foot long antenna. Due to the fact that handheld CB radios can be used even if cell phone towers and lines are disabled, this device may be considered to be an inseparable part of a complete emergency survival kit for disasters. Consequently, it can become an ideal companion while traveling, hiking or driving. When choosing a handheld CB radio, buyers should carefully consider a number of features, in order to be able to choose the unit that best meets their needs and expectations.
In the following table, we are offering some useful information about the features that you should contemplate, in order to pick the best handheld CB radio.
Squelch control is a standard feature that every CB radio incorporates. It is used to manage the sensitivity of the receiver and to set the level of the incoming radio signals by means of suppressing its audio output, in case there is no desired input signal available. This feature is often applied in two-way radios to turn off the annoying sound of channel noise, when no transmission is present. In case the squelch is turned higher than necessary, the receive range can be reduced.
RF radio is a senility filter which enables the user to choose the different types of transmissions taking into account the strength of received radio signals. By using RF gain, one can reduce or eliminate the amount of noise that comes from environmental surroundings or overlapping channels, meanwhile maintaining reception power in the way a CB radio does. Usually, RF Gain is set at maximum sensitivity and range. In case the other person is too close and the received signal is strong, RF Gain can be turned down in order to provide a quieter reception.
Many CB radios have PA (public address) capacity. This feature allows one to use a CB radio and microphone as a transmitter for a public-address system, by means of connecting a speaker or horn to it (note that PA horn is not usually included with the unit). As soon as the PA mode is on, the radio transmissions will broadcast over the PA horn. This feature is quite helpful when there is a need to address groups of people.
ANL, (automatic noise limiting), filters out and reduces the volume of noise coming from engines, cellular phones, power lines, the earth’s atmosphere, etc., thus clarifying the incoming voice signals that you receive from other users. It should be mentioned, that this feature only reduces background noise without wholly eliminating it. In case the user lives in an area where background noise is a problem or an automobile engine makes a lot of noise, special attention should be paid to the relevance of this feature when purchasing a CB radio.
For many CB radio users, the need to get information about weather updates is of utmost importance, that’s why the features that allow the users to receive real-time information are quite popular. Such features function by the means of giving access to the local NOAA radio stations.
This feature allows the users to quickly access one of the popular emergency channels (such as Channel 19 for truckers or Channel 9 for emergencies). This feature may noticeably increase one’s safety.
Channel scanning allows users to automatically scan through all available channels; as soon as a conversation is found, the device takes a break and gives the user a chance to listen it, so you can be sure that you are aware of anything happening on the airwaves. Some CB radio models also have the feature to scan a smaller number of channels that are stored in memory.
Simple as it may seem, during the daytime, a backlit display feature may be invaluable if you are going to use the radio in low light conditions or at night. The backlit display shows important information such as the selected channel, volume, signal strength, etc.
A SSB, or single sideband operation, can be found on the more expensive models and offers another way of transmitting CB frequencies. The use of this feature has some benefits: unlike the regular transmit mode which allows only 4 watts of transmit power, you can legally transmit at 12 watts of transmit output power when the mode is enabled, due to which a greater distance may be achieved. It should be noted that SSB signals are available only for other SSB users (nevertheless, SSB radios support standard AM-mode operations luckily allow communications with non-SSB users). Besides, this feature provides an access to 80 extra channels (40 channels on upper standard mode and 40 channels on lower sideband modes).
SWR stands for “standing wave ratio”. In case your CB radio has this built-in feature, you can measure it effectively by your antenna performance. Despite the fact that a built-in SWR meter is less accurate than stand-alone meters, they are still quite useful for identifying antenna problems. Being very handy, this feature is quite popular among truck drivers and those users who change vehicles often.
Delta tune is another feature for reducing statics and is also known as a “clarifier control”. This feature can be very helpful in case your interlocutor’s CB is slightly off-frequency. In this case, by adjusting the delta tune, you can notice that the pitch of the interlocutor changes noticeably. Delta tune only has influence on the received signal, the transmit signal undergoes no changes. Usually, delta tune is set at 12:00 position.
These days a wide variety of models of CB radios can be found on the market with numerous functions. Still, you should notice that there is a limitation of power for all types of radio communication. The maximum power allowed for CB radios is 4 watts. The only exception, as we have already mentioned, can be in the case of SSB equipped radios, for which transmit limitation is 12 watts. So, when you purchase the best CB radio, you do not need to concentrate on the power of the unit.
The majority of CB radios have a limit of a maximum transmission range of about 10 miles; still, any obstacle in the way, may interfere with transmission and reception. Besides, several other factors may also determine the distance of transmission and reception. These include: the type and length of antenna (longer and a center-load option tend to have a longer range), the quality of installation, surrounding terrain, etc. The considerations mentioned should not be ignored when looking to purchase a CB radio. Because, even if the investment isn’t substantial, you still want to obtain the best handheld CD radio with all the features you want, combined with all the functions you may need.
We find it important to cite an important piece of information about the way CB radios operate, so that you have a clear and complete understanding of its application. CB radios operate using radio waves and from this point of view, their operation is similar to that of VHB radios, AM/FM radios, or cell phones. A CB radio is a “transceiver”, which means that it is both a transmitter and a receiver. Besides, CB radios are equipped with antennas that capture the signals, transform them into audio and make conversation possible.
The actual process of information exchange happens as follows: when a speaker transmits a voice into the microphone, the voice is converted into an electrical signal and it is send out from the antenna. The signals travel through the air on radio waves, picked by other CB radio users, which become the receivers of the sent signal. As a result, the person on the other end with a receiver, is receiving the transmission. As long as both radios are on the same frequency, the radios can communicate.
Now that you have gained important insight into all the nuances of a handheld CB radio, you will feel better equipped to make the right choice!
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