Best CB Radio for Beginners

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Best CB Radio – Bam! Just like that all of the nation’s cell towers have gone out and you can’t call for help on any of your devices.

You’ll be able to stay in touch with the outside world even when the apocalypse hits as long as you have a quality radio sitting in your cab.

It isn’t tough finding the best CB radio for your home or vehicle.

If you want to cut to the chase and discover 5 of the Best CB Radios, simply check out this shortlist:

If on the other hand, you want to learn what makes a good CB radio and what to look out for then read on.

How to Choose the Best CB Radio for Your Needs

CB Radio in Use

CB radios, or rigs as enthusiasts call them, come in three main form factors. The most common is the mobile radio, which is designed to fit inside of a big rig truck cab.

They also fit great inside of regular passenger automobiles. Depending on your needs, you could use a mobile at home or in a place of business as well. You’d simply need to get a power adapter to get it to work.

Base radios are those that are designed to work exclusively inside of a building, but they’ve become rare in recent years because there are so many great mobile options that people could just get an adapter for.

Handie-talkies, or HTs, are usually carried in your hand or on your belt. Regardless of which of these styles you pick, make sure that you get a radio that has all 40 CB channels.

Some budget radios only have a handful of channels, and you won’t be able to talk to many people on these.

The full CB band is 440KHz wide and each channel has a certain center frequency that your radio has to understand in order to get it to talk to other radios.

As long as your radio tunes to the 40 channels and was made for American users, you won’t have to think about this.

Some CB radios can also receive NOAA weather broadcasts. If you’re prepping for an emergency, then this is a great feature to have.

You may also want to look into some other special features.

Specialty Options for CB Radios

RF and microphone gain are probably the two special features you want to look out for the most. These add some extra power to your voice when you speak into the microphone. Which can help to provide some additional punch to help you be heard above the static.

Both of them operate with little knobs or dials on the front of a radio panel. Unfortunately, there are plenty of manufacturers out there that use some pretty shoddy parts that can make you sound like a duck when you enable RF and mic gain! Make sure you find a reliable radio that has good ones.

Dynamic microphones work the best when it comes to being heard, which is why they’re actually the kind of mics that rock bands use on stage. If you get a radio that doesn’t have a dynamic microphone, then you could always change it out later.

Noise blankers or cancelers are also nice to have. These help you to attenuate the amount of sound around you so that you don’t sound all scratchy when you speak.

Keep in mind that there’s both electrical noise in a car or truck as well as the sound of the wind going by when you have the windows rolled down, so this feature is useful in a wide variety of situations.

What Kind of License is Needed for a CB Radio?

CB Radio Car Mounted - Best CB Radio

Technically, CBers are already licensed and they been so for a long time, you actually did have to request a certification from the FCC and get a call sign. Those days are decades in the past, however, and you can now operate a CB radio without any special documentation as long as the feds haven’t given you a cease-and-desist order.

You’ll usually only ever get this kind of ticket if you’ve been screwing around with out of spec radio equipment or using foul language. Otherwise, everybody in the USA holds a CB license whether they know it or not! Federal representatives call this being licensed by rule.

That being said, your radio still requires a license separate from you. Make sure you get something from a well-known manufacturer like Cobra, Midland, Uniden, or another major brand.

These are likely to have gone through the process of type acceptance and equipment authorization.
Every CB radio has to go through this process to make sure that it’s safe to operate and it doesn’t pose any kind of weird hazards.

In recent years, some people have been buying off-shore CBs and shipping them through online eCommerce sites. These are sketchy and they pose a potential safety hazard.

As long as you get a rig from a well-known manufacturer, you shouldn’t have any licensing or safety issues.

Is AM or SSB Better on the CB Bands?

There are two different ways that CB rigs can put out a signal. One is amplitude modulation, and it works much the same way that the AM broadcast dial does on a car stereo. That being said, the frequencies of AM broadcast stations are nowhere near the 27 MHz bands that CB radios operate at.

Single sideband, or SSB, is sort of like a pared-down version of AM radio that puts more of your transmission into a single area of the spectrum.

That means each CB transmission you make sends out less information than it would with a traditional AM signal. While it might not sound as good, you can talk over a larger distance with SSB than you could with traditional AM.

There are two problems with this, however. Not every CB rig supports SSB, so you might end up not finding many people to talk to. The other issue is that tuning becomes much more sensitive, though the fact that CB radio transmissions are always channelized helps to deal with this somewhat.

You might want to invest in SSB equipment if you have buddies who use it, however. These are widely used with marine radios, which are generally VHF as opposed to HF like traditional CBs are.

What Kind of Bricker or Kicker is Best?

CB Radio Linear Amplifier

It might surprise you to hear this, but no brick or kicker designed to work with CB radio is a good buy! These devices supposedly amplify CB signals so you can transmit over a large amount of land, but they’re largely illegal.

On top of this, most of the ones that you’ll find online are not made very well. They’re generally assembled by individuals from kits, so they are not usually tested or carry the UL certification that lets you know something isn’t going to just start smoking the first time you turn it on.

While you might hear other CBers tell you that you need to invest in some kind of amplifier to be heard, a much better way to do is to improve your antenna system and swap out the cheap coax that came with your radio. Other techniques could get you in trouble or might even end up burning out your radio!

5 Best CB Radios on the Market

Depending on whether you drive a big rig or just need something to stay in touch with your family, your needs might change a little bit. Keep in mind that the best CB hardware isn’t always what would work best in your situation as we go over these models.

1. Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB Radio – Best CB Radio

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB Radio - Best CB Radio

If you’re looking for a solid HT that still has onboard features like the ability to change channels with the touch of a button, then you’ll want to look into Midland’s offering.

It’s a handheld rig that covers all 40 channels and features a BNC connector that makes it easy to attach an external antenna if you need to get some better coverage but still want an affordable rig you can carry.

Many CBers will buy an extra one of these so they can have something on their belt while they’re out in the field.

Pros

  • Standard antenna jack
  • Automatically limits noise
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Strong backlight

Cons

  • It lacks some of the features of a base or mobile radio
  • Also needs charging relatively often

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2. Cobra 29LX Professional – Next Best CB Radio

Cobra 29LX Professional CB - Best CB Radio

Those who are looking for a CB to use in an emergency that includes support for 12V power connectors and even comes with a clock will appreciate the Cobra 29LX.

It’s got an automatic diagnostic routine that greatly simplifies the process of finding why you can’t get out a signal.

Users can monitor more than one frequency at the same time and can even drop in a noise blanker to cut down on annoyances caused by motor vehicle electrical systems.

It’s also got an instant emergency calling feature that’s quite popular with truckers.

Pros

  • Includes NOAA weather channels
  • Automatic multiple channel scan
  • Handles radio checks for you
  • Emergency alerts built-in

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • 4-color LCD screen takes some getting used to
  • Sometimes gives unnecessary error codes

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3. Galaxy-DX-959 AM/SSB Radio

Galaxy-DX-959 AM SSB Radio - Best CB Radio

If you’re looking for a CB that’s equally at home as a base and a mobile rig, then make sure to check out the Galaxy-DX-959.

It includes SSB and AM modules, which makes it an ideal solution for those who want to use CB radio as a hobby as well as a way to stay in touch in an emergency.

The dials on the front of the radio give you the freedom to tune your antenna without needing to invest in a bunch of complicated external meters.

While it’s pricier than some other options, you’re getting plenty of features in the process.

Pros

  • Comes with a frequency counter
  • Includes SSB support
  • Built-in SWR meter
  • Proprietary noise filter

Cons

  • Some quality control issues
  • LED lights may go out

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4. Uniden BEARCAT 980 Mobile

Galaxy-DX-959 AM SSB Radio - Best CB Radio

Motorists who want a hands-free wireless microphone and the option to switch over to SSB when necessary will love Uniden’s BEARCAT.

While you might recognize the name, you don’t want to mistake this for any of the various models that have carried that branding over the years.

Uniden’s design team completely revamped it with features like a personalized color display and instant channel switching to bring their famous line of CB radios into the 21st century.

Pros

  • Noise-canceling system
  • Compatible with wireless microphones
  • Reasonably priced
  • Only weighs around 4 lbs.

Cons

  • May pick up interference
  • Drops power at times

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5. Midland 1001LWX 40 Channel Mobile

Midland 1001LWX 40 Channel Mobile - Best CB Radio

This super traditional CB might very well be the best if you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive mobile radio that shoves a lot of features into a small package.

It features a weather scan button, big easy to use controls, and a microphone that feels pretty solid in your hand.

While it probably won’t win some tech industry design award, the 1001LWX is a solid radio that would work great at home or shoved in the cab of a big rig truck.

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Fairly sturdy considering its size
  • Simple controls

Cons

  • Lacks features provided by larger models
  • Jacks may loosen over time

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Finding the Best CB Radio for You

Since the 29LX from Cobra comes with complete coverage for all 40 CB channels plus receive support for NOAA weather frequencies, it’s already got a leg up on much of the competition.

When you add its special features like the RF and mic gain controls to the mix, you have yourself a high-quality radio that’s perfect in an emergency.

Since it provides instant access to Channel 9, you won’t ever be without a way to switch over to emergency airwaves even if you can only touch your radio for a second.

Best of all, it has a noise blanker and a dynamic microphone that actually works, so you won’t often find yourself dealing with annoying amounts of static.

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