The first thing to note
about choosing a CB radio,
is that the FCC regulates power output of CB's, what separates a $200
radio from a $50 radio is not much more than "bells and whistles". An
inexpensive radio and a thoughtfully installed and tuned antenna system
will have much better performance than a $200+ radio and a mediocre
antenna or questionable antenna installation. So, it's the
antenna...not the radio...that makes the difference.
The second thing to
consider, is the number of
channels. Stick to a 40 channel CB radio.
Do not be
duped into pitches like "240 Channels!!!" If you understand how
transmitting radios and antennas work, then you will understand the
dangers of operating a wideband radio with a relatively narrow band
antenna. Suffice to say, it's the folks who don't understand the
consequences of what they are getting into that are buying most of
these radios. They go to buy a CB and are shown a radio with 240
channels. "240 channels is much better than 40 channels!" So they buy a
wideband radio and some no-name, narrow band antenna and end up burning
out the radio because the antenna can't handle all of the frequencies.
Stick with a 40 channel CB.
Useful Radio Features
Every CB radio shares some common features:
- An on/off/volume control
- A dial (or switch) for changing channels
- A squelch control
If the radio has PA capabilities, it will have
a PA/Radio switch
allowing you to switch between those modes There is another feature
that is nice for Jeepers to have...that's "RF gain." RF gain is a
receive only adjustment that allows you to control incoming signal
strength when strong signals are present and over-powering...like when
you are talking to the guy behind you on a trail. Mic gain is also a
nice feature to have.
Nice Radio Features, but not necessary
As you move up in price range, you will find
features such as Automatic
Noise Limiting (ANL), SWR/Power meters, NOAA channels, and lots of
pretty lights. Let's look at each one.
- this feature cuts out lower level noises on the
airwaves...it's basically noise reduction. The thing to keep in mind is
that the radio doesn't know the difference between a hissing/static
sound or your friend saying "Hey man, I'm stuck" from a decent
distance. ANL is okay for short distance communications, but IMHO, it's
better to just use the squelch and allow the radio’s receiver to gather
up all the broadcasts that it can.
- The antenna system should be tuned and tested
with an external meter. The most valuable part of having an internal
SWR meter is having the ability to spot-check the antenna system...but
this should be done periodically with an external meter anyway. See
this article for additional SWR details
NOAA Weather radio
- Here's the problem with this...weather
information is typically broadcast from the major metropolitan areas at
low power....so you don't have to go very far to be out of range. Your
better off getting weather information from an AM/FM radio. If you are
interested in those frequencies, get a mobile scanner. It will pick up
the weather bands and much, much more.
The bottom line...
Radios with the very basic features (Volume,
Squelch, RF Gain) are
generally compact and it is pretty easy to find a location in a Jeep to
mount them. If your intent is functionality, bigger does not mean
better and neither chrome nor lots of lights nor cool looking meters
makes a radio perform better.