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What Should I Consider When Buying a Home CB Radio?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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The CB radio, also called a Citizen’s Band radio, is a concept that began in the United States in 1945, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set aside a radio band for use by unlicensed operators for private and business communication. Originally set at 460–470 MHz, it was later moved to the 27 MHz range; 40 channels are available, but there is a limit of 4 watts of transmission power. The CB radio spread to other countries, and the range, the number of channels, and the power limitations, are often different. In spite of these differences, however, the concept of a base station CB radio — also called a home CB radio — is widespread, being found, for example, in Australia, Canada, and the UK, so the considerations when purchasing one is similar.

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The home CB radio base station is distinguished from two other models of CB radio: the mobile CB radio, made for a vehicle, and the handheld or portable CB radio, made for walking and hiking, both of which are designed to used in ever-changing locations. The home CB radio, by contrast, is set up in one place and stays there. It is also distinguished by the type of antenna it uses, typically the largest possible aerial mounted in the highest available — and legal — location, often on the roof of the building it is housed in or on a tower. Because of the power restriction on CB radios, and the height and size advantage in its antenna, a home CB radio will typically have a superior range to a mobile or portable CB radio, so considering the antenna and its location are an important aspect of purchasing a CB base station.

The features available for a home CB radio are another important consideration, and one thing to think about is the power sources that can be used. If the radio will be operated in the dark, illumination — often referred to as “nightwatch” or “backlighting” is important. Check for an added emergency and weather broadcast, if this is important to you, as well as other frequency ranges. For example, in the United States, since the “All Hazards” broadcast put out by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio (also called NWR) is in a different frequency range than CB radios, it has to be built in to the radio and is not available in all models, and some may also have Am or other frequency ranges. Additional features to consider include instant access to popular channels, various noise controls, PA (public address) functions, Roger beep, automatic SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) and high SWR indicator, and microphone type can controls.

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Soulfox
Post 2

@Vincenzo -- Good advice, and a lot of that depends on what part of the United States (or world) you happen to live in. There are some parts of the country with large, active CB radio communities while there are others where those things are about as popular as eight track tapes.

Ironically, the best way to find active CB radio communities may be to do some Internet research. That's the very definition of irony as a computer and broadband connection has all but replaced CB radio packages in a lot of parts of the country.

Vincenzo
Post 1

Quite often, a home CB radio receiver might be the only way you can carry on a lot of conversations with people. While CB radios were hugely popular in the 1970s and 1980s, you just don't have as many people using them these days.

Still, there are some people who use them for communications and in case of emergencies, but the popularity of them is clearly in decline. If you don't have a good, home unit with a tall antenna and one of the most powerful CB radio amplifiers you can purchase legally, then you might find it hard to find a lot of people to talk to. That formerly huge CD radio community is shrinking and you need as much range and power as you can get to still communicate with it.

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