CB radios are not only great fun to have on the road but an indispensable tool for drivers as well as boating enthusiasts to have while traveling. The initials ‘CB’ stand for ‘citizens band’ radio. The popularity of Citizens Band radio services had their beginning in the 1960s.
At a time when there was no portable smartphone, no tablets or internet, the only way individuals could keep track of loved ones on the road was with the CB radio.
Taxicab companies were among the first to utilize the CB radio for improving their business, as they could now communicate with fellow cabbies.
In the 70s the CB became a bona fide fad with everyone from families to truckers. So let’s take a look at some of the best CB radios on the market, their features and what sets each one apart from the other.
What is a CB Radio?
CB radio is a transceiver that can be used by anyone for business or personal reasons. Transceiver means that the CB can be used to send and receive messages. Not to be confused with the Amateur Radio Service, or HAM operators, the CB radio is used the world over as a way to communicate by way of utilizing 40 channels within the 27 MHz band.
The CB is similar to the ‘party line’ of years past, in that only one station can transmit at any one time. This means that while they are chatting, you must sit back, listen and wait your turn. For this reason, along with many others, CB users have created their own vocabulary or ‘lingo’ which they use to communicate with on the road.
Why We Have Chose These 3 CB Radios?
Even though the CB radio has been eclipsed by modern day technology, such as tablets, internet and smartphones, they still provide valuable assistance to people on the road, and even in the home.
Whether you enjoy boating, motorcycling, camping, or use the CB for business, they remain an essential tool. We have selected 3 of the top CB radios on the market for your consideration. Each offers something unique to its user.
The Uniden Bearcat 980 SSB CB Radio, Our number one choice for the top CB radio is the Uniden Bearcat 980. This is an excellent choice, and the best choice for many as it is an SSB, or single sideband radio, so you know you’ll get extra range under optimal conditions.
It has a compact size of 3.5 x 15 x 8.5, which makes it perfect for any vehicle, even for home use. It has a complete weather band for individuals such as truckers who need to be informed constantly of road conditions.
The Cobra 29 LX, Our second choice is the Cobra 29 LX. This is a solidly built transceiver that has a large, color customizable display in either blue, amber, green or red. The noise-canceling microphone will make it easier to communicate over distance and the NOAA weather alert feature is a huge plus for people on the road.
It has good size and is easy to install. The automatic scanning feature is a favorite and the clock/timer feature is quite handy when it comes to waking people up who are on a driving schedule.
AnyTone AT-5555N Receiver, Our third choice, the AnyTone AT-5555N is for the HAM radio fans out there. This model is not technically a CB radio, as it is a very large export receiver, which means that in the United States it cannot be legally used as a CB radio, so you can only listen to it, but not transmit.
However, if you live outside of the States, you will have no issue. This model is for HAM radio operators, as it is considered a HAM radio and is best used by those who hold a HAM radio license issued by the FCC, so they may enjoy its full round of features designed which include more power, more features, and more channels.
How to Choose a CB Radio?
When choosing a CB radio, lets get one concept out of the way first: Power. This is important as newbies who have not done their homework, maybe accidentally misled into thinking that the more power a CB radio costs, the more ‘power’ it has, and that is simply not true. Each and every CB radio built, sold and delivered has the same transmission power when you open the box and set them up.
The FCC created a 4 Watt power restriction for all CB radios. This does not mean that after you open the box you can’t fiddle a bit with it to make it more powerful, you can and most people do alter their CB radios to get more reach.
So, now when you shop for your CB radio you can concentrate on nothing but what features would be the best for your lifestyle. Below, we have included some of the more common features you should consider before you make your final decision.
Weather Alerts: One of the most important features of a CB radio, is the ability to keep up with weather developments. If you are on a long road trip, you need to have a way to make plans in case the weather turns. For instance, if you are on a family vacation to a sky lodge, and you get an advanced alert that a blizzard is moving in, you have ample time to look for a roadside motel to wait it out. Cabbies, truckers, and boaters must keep updated on possible inclement weather, so need the best weather features available.
Single-Sideband CB Radios: The Single-Sideband CB radio or SSB is one that can transmit 12 watts of power, by taking all of that power and transferring it to one sideband. If you purchase a CB radio with the SSB feature, you will get the 12 watts but remember, you’ll only be able to communicate with other SSB radios. If you want to chat with those who do not have SSB, you’ll have to switch to the main channel. SSB radio is more expensive than your average CB radio.
Professional Needs: Individuals in certain professions have certain requirements for their CB radio. For truckers, the CB radio is an absolutely necessary tool of the trade. They need it to communicate with other truckers, assist in finding the best truck stops, and pass on information regarding inclement weather.
People that run small businesses may find that the CB Radio comes in handy when have people out making deliveries, or workers in the field that need to be updated. Both truckers and small business owners will benefit from choosing the best CB radios they can afford. These CB radios will be equipped with the SSB feature, strong, sturdy antennas and an expansive display with adjustable backlighting.
Size: The size of your CB radio is an important consideration, as you do not wish to become captivated by a fabulous, large, feature-ridden CB radio, only to bring it home and find out it won’t exactly fit well in your Volkswagen Beetle. If you are an avid camper, ride motorcycles, or enjoy snowmobiling, you’ll need a small, compact CB radio that fits your vehicle. Always remember, you do not want to purchase an expensive transceiver that has features you will never use, or one that will not fit properly in your vehicle.
7 Top Rated CB Radios List
The 7 CB Radio Reviews For Buyer’s
For keeping connected to your good buddies while on the road, you can’t go wrong with the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB CB Radio. This model comes complete with a weatherband, AM/SSB sideband ability, and excellent audio and overall reach.
The Bearcat 980 offers you high quality communication while being perfectly suited for the average car, as it has a nice, compact design, at 3.5 x 15 x 8.5 inches and weighs in at 4 pounds 8 ounces. This means that the Bearcat can fit quite comfortably in a DIN opening, or installed in other places without being so much as a bother to driver or passengers.
One of the best features of the Bearcat 980, is its ability to allow the driver to control and customize the display. The Bearcats color changing LCD display means that no matter what the driving situation, or time of day, the driver can make adjustments so they can see the display better. Here, the backlight is designed to be adjustable in order to control the brightness by way of a dimmer switch, which allows you to change the display intensity from day to night mode.
With a simple glance, the UnidenBearcat’s digital S/RF/CAL/SWR meter keeps you abreast of your levels, showing you the receiver signal strength, RF power, and SWR reading. The front face of the unit has a nicely laid out interface, with controls that are plainly labeled and arranged in a logical manner. You have the usual, the volume and power on/off knob, along with a squelch knob which reduces background noise when there is no incoming signal.
Operational buttons include the talkback, which lets you monitor yourself, the RF gain to adjust the signal sensitivity, the ANL/NB refers to the Automatic Noise Limiter or Noise Blanker features. The ANL cuts down on external noise, while the NB lowers interference from your vehicles ignition system.
The selector knob is a knob which allows you to choose your channels, menu modes, change scan, resume direction, talkback volume, RF gain, Mic gain. The Bearcat 980 comes complete with Bearcat 980 SSB CB 2-way mobile radio, Microphone Mounting Bracket Kit, DC Power Cord, 6-pin to 4-pin microphone adapter, Owner’s Manual, Part 95 Subpart D (FCC Rules)
Summary- Your Bearcat might be compact, but it is loaded with features. These include instant channel 9/19, CB/PA switch, microphone gain 4 position control, 40 channel AM operation, laser etched keys, channel indicator, 6 pins to 4 pin adapter, memory scan, clarifier, volume/squelch control.
Communication is made easier with the Bearcat’s audio system, as the Bearcat 980 comes with both loud speakers as well as a microphone with a a noise canceling feature.
Just one look at the Cobra 29 LX and you’ll realize that this is no ordinary CB radio, as it is very contemporary and forward in design. The front face of the radio has the volume/squelch knob, microphone gain, channel selector and menu control, RF gain, delta tun, and talkback/SWR calibration.
It comes with a convenient 4 color (red, green, blue and amber) expansive digital display so the driver can adjust the colors in order to see the controls for any situation, and also be dimmed if you are driving at night.
The Cobra 29 LX automatically scans all 40 channels as it searches for any incoming signals. As soon as it detects an incoming transmission it automatically stops.
There is a very nice feature, called the Radio Check Diagnostic, which is responsible for giving you a notification on the operating status of your CB, such as your battery voltage, RF power, and antenna condition.
The clock/timer feature can also be used as an alarm clock, which is quite useful for anyone driving on a tight schedule. If you happen to be at a high school football homecoming rally and need to do a shout out to a few friends, then you have the PA feature.
This allows you to use your CB radio as a PA, or Public Address System, complete with a PA speaker. You also get automatic scanning of 10 NOAA channels to warn you of bad weather. Product dimensions: 7.2 x 9.2 x 2.2 inches, and weighs in at 5.6 pounds.
Summary- The Cobra 29 LX is a fantastic, stable and reliable transceiver with an easy to read, customizable display in green, blue, amber or red and a noise canceling microphone.
It has an NOAA weather alert feature, a radio diagnostic feature to check your RF power, vehicle voltage and antenna SWR status. The Cobra 29 LX scans all 40 channels, has a clock/timer which can be used as an alarm clock, and will store up to 10 favorite channels.
The AnyTone AT-5555N is a nicely designed, 28Mhz Export receiver, and is actually a HAM receiver. This model is loaded with some great features, yet easy enough for anyone to learn to operate quickly.
An export receiver is slightly different from a CB radio in that they do not need to meet the FCC standards so will have different and actually more features and more power allotted to it than a standard CB radio.
The Anytone AT-5555N has SSB, AM and FM, with a programmable frequency range of 28.000 to 29.700 Mhz, Frequency Control Phase Locked Loop Synthesizer, and a push to talk microphone with a coiled cord.
Even though it comes with a coiled cord, please check the legality, as export receivers such as this can only be used in the United States as a receiver, you cannot send over them.
The AnyTone AT-5555N comes with a quite large LCD display which aids in seeing the controls in dim light. It has FM, AM, USB, LSB, and PA modes, along with frequency tuning stop 100 Hz, 1KHz, 10KHz, 100KHz, and 1MHz.
You’ll find that the menu function and software is flexible and easy to use. This model also comes with a scan function a programmable RB function and an NB/ANL feature. There is also a Beep voice prompt, along with SWR protection. There is a six group memory channel as well, and a plus or minus 1.5KHz clarifier adjustment.
Summary- The AnyTone-5555N is not a true CB radio, in that it is an export receiver. It has a large LCD display, and FM, AM, USB, LSB, PA modes, the software and menu functions are flexible and easy to use, it also has an ECHO function and a BEEP voice prompt. While it is loaded with features, it is basically a receiver if you live in the States, so check with your FCC regarding this model.
The Cobra 29 LTD is an example of CB radio excellence in engineering and design. This model has been a cornerstone in the history of CB radios for over 50 years. In fact, the Cobra 29 LTD has quite a following of loyal users.
The model you see before you today is based on this original design, with features added to keep up with today’s driver’s needs and technology, such as its use of tactile controls, which mean that you can ‘feel’ where your dial is as you drive.
The Cobra 29 LTD transceiver is easy to install, easy to use, has convenient features, is durable and reliable. This is one of the most advanced AM transceivers with advanced Phase Lock Loop (PLL) circuitry which gives excellent coverage of 40 channels.
The receiver comes with ANL/NB, or noise blanker circuitry and an automatic noise limiter. The receiver is designed to give you protection from cross modulation and adjacent channel signals, and Delta Tune is a nifty feature that is used to clarify any and all incoming signals. The front face of your Cobra 29 LTD is nicely laid out controls.
You have your 4 pin microphone connector, power on/off, Dynamike, RF Gain, Delta-tune, SWR CAL, Channel selector, LED channel display, ANT indicator, RX receive/TX transmit indicator, Channel 9, dimmer switch, CB/PA switch, NB/ANL switch, S/RF SWR Cal switch, signal strength meter, and microphone. The back of your Cobra 29 LTD has your Public Address speaker jack, external speaker jack, antenna connector, and power jack.
Summary- The Cobra 29 LTD is the best in classic CB radio performance and precision. It offers all 40 CB radio channels, has a heavy duty dynamic microphone, 4 full watts of output, SWR calibration, 4 pin front mount microphone connector, Delta tune, switchable Automatic Noise limiter and Noise blander, adjustable Dynamike boost and a nice, long 9 foot microphone cord. This model comes with a 2 year manufacturers limited warranty.
The Midland 1001Z CB radio is a compact, 40 channel transceiver with easy to use, standard features. This model can be considered as an ‘entry level’ CB radio unit. It is durable and reliable, yet affordable so the beginning radio operator can get the hang of operating a CB radio.
The frequency range is 26.965-27.405 MHz, 40 channels, modulation type is AM and antenna impedance is 50 ohms, and loudspeaker 8 ohms microphone 1000 ohms. Let’s take a closer look at the controls on the front face of the Midland 1001Z transceiver.
The first thing you’ll notice is the lock-in microphone connector. Next, are the power on/off channel, as well as buttons which let you change your CB channels. Squelch control is what you use to control the amount of background noise, the channel indicator is an LED display which shows you your current channel number, and The TX LED indicator light alerts you that the unit is transmitting.
Controls located on the front face of your transceiver also include CB/PA switch, CH9/Normal Switch, S/RF display, and Channel Display. There is also a locking microphone socket, channel selector, squelch/RF knob.
On the back of your transceiver, you have the antenna connector, PA jack, external speaker jack, and power cord. The Midland 1001Z comes with a radio mounting bracket, microphone mounting bracket, mounting hardware and has a 3-year manufacturers warranty.
Summary- The Midland 1001Z transceiver has a push to talk microphone with a built-in speaker. This is a 40 channel, 4-watt radio with LED display, locking microphone connector, built-in speaker and push to talk microphone.
The squelch control knob cuts down background noise. It has a digital tuner with channel selector knob, RF gain control knob, LED display, a Public address switch which will let you broadcast to a PA speaker (sold separately).
Whether you are an experienced CB radio user or an entry level hobbyist just testing the waters, the Galaxy DX 959 molds quite nicely to most CB radio user needs. The basic design of the Galaxy is one of convenience. For example, a top feature of the Galaxy is that each knob controls only one task, which means that you don’t have to fumble through display menus to get the right setting.
The Galaxy DX 959 has been around a while, for about 15 years to be exact. Users are attracted to this model due to its features which include AM/SSB/PA modes. The meter is expansive and easy to read for those times you need to check the scales for power output, modulation, SWR and Receive or S-Meter.
The Galaxy has a five digit frequency counter and two digit channel display, all in large, yellow digits to make it easy to see, and if the display is a bit too bright, you can dim it with a dimmer switch.
Other favorite features of the Galaxy include an adjustable talkback circuit which controls the volume of your talk back. Also, a variable power output control which lets you adjust your deadkey power, a ‘Roger Beep’ that makes a ‘beep’ at the end of the transmission.
The GNF or Galaxy Noise Filter works great on weaker signals, the High SWR alert circuit lets you know when you have a high SWR reading, a three position Tone Control Switch helps you to adjust the tone of your audio and finally, the Switchable Noise Blanker feature which works to dull excess noise.
Summary- The classic Galaxy DX 959 has been a favorite of CB radio users for many years. It has a large, expansive meter display, automatic SWR circuit, adjustable talk back circuit, variable power output control. There is a ‘Roger Beep’, a Galaxy Noise Filter for weak signals, and a High SWR alert. There is a five-digit frequency display, a three position tone control switch and a switchable Noise Blanker.
The Bearcat 680 by Uniden is a powerful transceiver with basic, easy to use features. The Bearcat 680 has clear reception and a wide range on all 40 channels, with a display is very large and easy to read. The Bearcat 680 has a six pin ergonomically designed microphone with a pistol grip reduces hand fatigue.
The six pin microphone comes with a long cord, with noise canceling ability which allows those hearing you do so with clarity, static free, and there is also an option to use a wireless microphone as well.
The powerful Bearcat 680 from Uniden will keep you alert to traffic and weather warnings as you drive or boat. The dynamic squelch control, mic gain, and noise blanker give you unprecedented clarity in audio.
This squelch control contributes to the best sound simply by turning the squelch knob to suppress weak radio signals. It also has instant channel 9/19 for any emergency broadcasts, channel 9 is monitored by law enforcement and channel 19 is the channel used by truckers.
The Bearcat 680 has an extra large display which makes adjustments easy, and the seven color backlight display includes the radio channel and radio signal strength, and the backlight allows you to easily see your controls even at night.
If you would like to alter the intensity of your display, simply use the dimmer switch. The Bearcat 680 also has an NOAA weather channel and a CB/PA switch. Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches and weighs in at 4.5 pounds.
Summary- The Uniden Bearcat 680 CB radio is a basic transceiver with standard 40 channel operation, with access to instant channels 9 and 19, a large 7 color digital display, a PA/CB switch, ergonomically molded microphone with pistol grip, and long cord, and is also compatible with wireless microphones, and a large digital S/RF meter. This is a good model if you are looking for a dependable basic transceiver.
What is the Range of a CB Radio?
There is no real answer for this, as it depends on the efficiency of your antenna in radiating power, or your surrounding environment. Your CB radio is not like your cell phone, and only built for short range communications.
According to law, all CB radios are built with 4 watts of power, so range will depend greatly on the CB you purchase, and the features it comes with. For instance, if your antenna is in good condition, longer and higher, chances are you will get better range.
Environmentally, those on an open road will get better range, than those in an area with tall trees and buildings as these can block your signal. The type of CB radio you have plays a role as well, as base stations will have more range, then next comes a mobile unit and finally, a handheld unit.
The best way to get the maximum range out of your CB is to use the best, longest antenna and make certain your SWR is adjusted correctly. So, if the terrain is open, whether good, no sunspot activity, you can probably get up to ten miles.
How Do You Tune a CB Radio?
To tune your CB radio, you first have had to do the obvious, which is to install the radio and antenna and make sure you have all of your equipment nearby.
Below, we have included the basic method of tuning your CB radio. Please remember, that directions may vary from model to model, and while we have provided a very basic intro here, you must place precedence on the instructions that came with your model.
1. Find an open space, free from interference from buildings or trees.
2. Attach the SWR meter.
3. Observe the SWR readings.
You wish to get an SWR reading of less than 2.0 on channel 1 and 40, and to also match your SWR levels on each channel as best as you can.
Where to Buy a CB Radio?
CB radios can be found at any respectable electronics store. While it is possible to purchase one online, and many do, we suggest that you attempt to visit a brick and mortar electronics store in order to actually touch the device and sample the sound and controls. Talk to a knowledgeable salesperson, ask questions up front about its performance.
The Final Thought (Conclusion)
Your CB radio is a valuable companion to take on the road with you, and you don’t have to be a professional trucker or cabbie to benefit from owning one. CB radios assist you in warning you of possible traffic issues, weather alerts, communication with your business, family, and friends, and help you stay awake when taking long road trips.
CB radios are also useful for those who love to ride motorcycles, take camping trips, to have in the home, or install on your boat. Having a CB radio means having access to real-time information on the conditions around you, plus it can be a lot of fun to own, and we hope that our review can assist you in finding the best CB radio for you.