Some may think that Citizens Band or CB radios are a thing of the past. That’s not the case and their existence is very much justified by their reliability in times of emergencies or dire needs to communicate.
If you believe that a CB radio is a must-have to be able to carry on with your daily tasks and are currently on the lookout for the best CB radio on the market, you might want to take a look at our best five. These recommendations are based on solid research and product evaluation.
Quick Summary of Products Reviewed
We summarized our findings in a competitive analysis table so you can quickly see important features and how the products compare.
|Uniden Bearcat 980||Cobra 29 LX||Uniden Pro505 XL||Midland 1001LWX||Midland 75-822|
|Reported Range (miles)||2-30||2-30||2-30||2-25||2-20|
|Built-in SWR Calibration||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Dimensions (inches)||3.5 x 8.5 x 15||2.25 x 7.25 x 9.25||3 x 5.8 x 12||2.5 x 9.2 x 9.8||2.6 x 6.7 x 9.4|
TOP PICK – UNIDEN BEARCAT 980
Its brand, price, features, and quality are hard to beat. This is why the Uniden Bearcat 980 is an impressive all-in-one unit that is preferred by a lot of road users. Mid- to long-range communication is made possible because this is one of the new SSB-enabled CBs that allow an extended output of 12 watts. Communicating within 2-14 miles gives clear and crisp sound quality. Other users have reported using without any problems across a 30-mile range.
Not only does this unit give users access to 40 channels but it also has instant access to Channel 9, the frequency used for emergencies. It is equipped with a noise-cancelling microphone that makes it suitable for use on the road. For users looking for more mobility, this product is also wireless mic compatible.
Another helpful technology incorporated into the Bearcat is the large display that has seven backlight colors to choose from – most useful when travelling with low light. The weather alert, a feature popular with most radios nowadays, is also available in Uniden Bearcat 980. As a Uniden product, you know that this product will deliver in terms of sound quality. In fact, it also has an automatic noise limiter and a noise blanker feature, which we think, most truckers will appreciate. With a mid-range price and all those features, we highly recommend Uniden Bearcat 980 for those looking for a good long-range CB radio.
- SSB feature is enabled
- NOAA weather alert feature
- Noise-cancelling microphone
- Built-in SWR calibration
- only communicates with SSB-enabled devices
- the display is sometimes hard to read – especially in daylight
Most of the comments are on how the product is so easy to use and how it works great when installed in pick-up trucks. Installation and scanning, in particular, are two of the easiest to configure. The weather alert is another feature that users like. Some attest that they were able to use the Bearcat 980 CB radio on a 14-15-mile range with no problem with quality or audio transmission. The most common complaint is to do with the display which is hard to read in the daylight. Additionally, some users have reported sensitivity of the display to heat or even failure of the LCD display.
Runner-Up – Cobra 29 LX Professional CB Radio
If you’re a trucker, then you know Cobra has long been a respected name in terms of communication devices and you understand why Cobra 29 LX is our runner-up. This radio unit is just one of the products from the Cobra 29 series and is an upgrade from the older 29 LTD. Like other CB radios, it complies with the 4-watt output standard as required by law. However, its impressive feature set is what makes it another recommended unit.
It can operate on 40 channels including Channel 9 which is the line allotted for emergencies. As a Cobra product, durability and quality should be out of the question. Added features such as a noise blanker that lessens interference and an RF gain control help make sure that drivers communicate with ease even while on the road.
This CB radio also differentiates itself from others on the market with sweet features like built-in Bluetooth which means that you can use your smartphone to answer, place and terminate phone calls at the touch of a button while staying focused on the road.
It also has a “Rewind-Say-Again” feature. With this you can replay the last 10 seconds of a missed message that is automatically recorded with a digital voice recorder. As a result you never have to miss valuable information. The Cobra also has the additional ability to record a 10 second memo to replay at anytime.
The Cobra 29 LX also uses a dynamic microphone technology that contributes to better sound quality. In terms of range, this product is not SSB enabled but allows communication across a 6-8-mile range. Some users swear that they were able to use this device to communicate across a distance of 15-30 miles.
- Includes Bluetooth
- Has noise blanker
- Built-in SWR calibration
- Mid-range pricing
- Has instant Emergency Channel 9
- No weather alert feature
Reviews state that Cobra 29 LX is a great product for its price. Truck drivers who bought and have tried it say that it works great and is easy to install and tune. Others comment that sound quality is impressive and that being a Cobra product alone is enough guarantee that it is a dependable unit.
Budget Pick – Uniden Pro505 XL
Uniden’s Pro505 XL is a heavy-duty CB radio that comes from Uniden’s Professional series. With a minimum communication range of 2 miles and a maximum reaching as far as 25 miles, this CB radio is FCC-compliant and has access to 40 channels and has a 4-watt output. A nice feature of this product is the long-coiled microphone with allows for more mobility and convenience when used.
Since it is a CB radio for both road users and off-roaders, its ANL or automatic noise limiter makes sound quality more crisp and communication better. Users who may need to use an external speaker with this radio should have no problem as it is equipped with an external speaker jack. Being more compact than other CB radios but still built with an easy-to-read LED display, it is a great companion for different types of vehicles. So for affordability and reliability, we’re recommending Uniden’s Pro505 XL.
- Automatic noise limiting
- No scan feature
The Uniden Pro505 XL is easy to install and use is what most of the comments are about. Customers say that it’s a small CB radio but works perfectly fine in their vehicles. Some customers even say they own several of this Uniden product and highly recommend it. It’s a good product for a very affordable price and a considerably compact size. Users say that, with the right antenna, this CB radio can become a dependable communication equipment, even when used in the woods or mountainous areas.
Best Value – MIDLAND 1001LWX
Another trusted brand in CB radios is Midland. And despite being in the business for years, it continues to manufacture budget-friendly devices without compromising quality. In fact, the 1001LWX is a CB radio with beefy functionality and a 2-20-mile communication range for a very affordable price. Apart from the 40-channel accessibility and excellent range, one feature that users will love about this product is the built-in automatic weather scan that can be used to tune in to local weather channels and check for updates.
There is also an RF Gain control that can be adjusted to optimize sensitivity and have better transmission quality. For users struggling with weak signal and noisy environments, 1001LWX has a built-in ANL or automatic noise limiter – particularly useful when communicating with other radio operators. Some of these features are more than what truck operators or drivers need but they sure make the product worthier of the price. So, if you’re looking for a CB radio that will give you your money’s worth, or more, go for Midland’s 1001LWX.
- Automatic noise limiter
- Automatic weather scan feature
- No NOAA alerts
A lot of users are in agreement saying that Midland’s 1001LWX is a great unit for the price. It’s a fairly small unit but it has excellent features. There are several reviews on how the weather scan feature works really well and how easy this unit is to install. Some users shared their experience of successfully using the unit when 4×4 wheeling or while they were in the mountains. All in all, most reviews show satisfied users who are happy with the product’s price and are impressed with its reliability.
“I had a friend who needed this for a cross country move. He had a small caravan that needed to keep in contact he had 2 and asked to borrow mine. It worked so good he never gave it back. Now I have to buy another.” – Amazon reviewer
Best Handheld – MIDLAND 75-822
CB radios are supposed to make users’ lives more convenient, and not limit their mobility. That is why, for our picks, we included this awesome piece of handheld device. Midland’s 75-822 is a CB radio that can be used with a docking base or as a standalone device. Of course, attaching it to its docking base allows a longer communication range, with 15-20 miles as the farthest reach possible, and 2 miles as the least. because of the attached antenna, but, detaching it allows users to be more mobile.
This is not the only cool feature of Midland 75-822. Similar to other CB radios, it has a 40-channel access and also has instant access to Channel 9 and 19, the emergency channel and information channel respectively, and 10 NOAA weather channels. As with Midland devices, this product is also equipped with the ANL technology or automatic noise limiter that makes sure voices are crisp and communication is efficient. To remove the device from the docking base, simply slide it out. A smaller antenna can be attached in order to use this as a handheld device. Midland 75-822 is recommended for those who are involved in activities outside their vehicles, such as give instructions to another vehicle operator.
- Can be handheld
- Automatic access to channel 9 and 19
- Requires batteries
Users love the Midland 75-822 because of its versatility and portability. There were users who mentioned that it was easy to find a spot for the radio because it is compact. In terms of quality, the sound is crisp, especially when paired with a good matching antenna. Some users installed this in their cars.
How We Picked the Best Products for This Article
When recommending products to users who need something for rugged use, I would make sure it is highly durable and built with excellent quality. So, for this article, we made sure we picked CB radio units that either come from a reputable product line and with tested durability.
Understanding a unit’s communication range is important when purchasing CB radios. Users want a product that will give them optimum quality and range, so we considered radio units that are capable of normal to long-range transmission. The standard output power for CB radios is 4 watts which usually gives a communication range of 4-20 miles. However, those who need more power may opt for CB radios with an SSB-enabled feature. An SSB, or single side band, increases a CB radio’s power to 12 watts, thereby increasing the range.
The products’ features are what really set them apart. Features is one of the deciding factors since, in terms of range and build quality, most products are almost at par with each other. So, for this criterion, we took a look at which ones had useful features such as direct frequency access, weather scanning, weather alerts, noise limiters, backlight functions, etc. These features help decide which products are most convenient to use for different types of users’ needs.
As CB radios are, again, pretty much standard, another “tie-breaker” in this game are the microphones. Some CB radios have microphones with longer coils. But a more important feature is any noise-cancelling capability. CB radio users know very well how difficult it is to communicate if you’re competing with background noises and radio frequency RF interference. So, a noise limiter is one function we want in a CB radio.
For this review, we did some research and “took it from the experts”. In other words, we checked reviews of actual CB radio users. These users range from truck drivers to hobbyists, or even wives who gifted their husbands with CB radios. It is important to consider these people’s experiences to verify a product’s functions and build quality. Because these are actual users, some of who know a lot about CB radios, then we can trust their evaluation of the product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can two-way radios communicate with CB Radio?
This depends on the frequency both devices are operating on. There are frequencies that are accessible to both types of radios; hence, communication is possible. Other than these frequencies, CB radios would not be able to transmit messages to other two-way radios.
Which is better – CB Radio or GMRS?
Both types of radios have different uses, ranges, and power. CB radios operate on a shorter range, with only a maximum of 4 watts. On the other hand, GMRS radios are allowed to transmit up to 50 watts. So if you’re looking to transmit across a longer range, GMRS radios are better. However, note that most GMRS radios require a license to be operated.
Do police use CB Radios?
Police radios have their own reserved frequencies. So, technically, police do not use CB radios for their operations. The only time they might use a CB radio is to monitor civilian activities or communication.
How many miles can a CB Radio transmit?
Most CB radios have a communication range of 3 to 20 miles. This can be extended to 30 miles if the SSB feature is enabled.
What is the frequency of CB radio?
CB Radio operates on 40 channels in the range of 27 MHz.
What is SSB?
SSB or Single Sideband is a modulation scheme that is used to transmit audio or voice signals. It is used in CB radio and other systems. The main benefit of SSB is that, as the name suggests, it only uses a single sideband and not both that are generated in conventional AM systems. As it only utilizes half the bandwidth, SSB transmissions are more energy efficient and provide longer-range transmission for the same power output.
The tradeoff is that the receiver and transmitter are both more complex and therefore more expensive.
What is SWR?
SWR or Standing Wave Ratio is a measure of how well your antenna is matched to your Radio. A better match provides more efficient transfer of signals and that means better range. On the other hand a really bad match can damage your CB Radio. The Uniden Bearcat 980 and the Cobra 29 LX both have built-in SWR meters. For all the other CB radios in this review you will need to buy a separate SWR meter.
Is a longer CB antenna better?
Not all the time. The length of a CB antenna does not always determine its performance. Although longer or higher antennas sometimes translate to greater range, there are other considerations such as durability and overall quality, and how it matches the frequency the CB radio is operating on.
How do I increase the range on my CB radio?
There are several ways to improve the range of your CB radio. One is mounting it higher or choosing a larger antenna. Generally, a larger antenna means longer range. Another is trying an antenna that’s specifically manufactured for certain CB brands.
Which is the most powerful CB Radio?
In terms of range, one of the most competitively powerful is Uniden Bearcat 980. It has a range of up to 30 miles when operated using SSB. With the wide range of products on the market, it can be difficult to narrow down one’s search for the best. So, for long-range CB radios, we tried to be as objective as possible and we considered all possible parameters worth considering. Now, it’s time to get the long-range CB radio that stands out and suits your needs.
CB vs Ham Radio – which one is better?
CB and Ham radio are designed and intended for different applications. It’s less about which one is better and more about which one is best suited to your requirements.
CB radios are a very useful tool for person-to-person communication. Even with the advent of mobile phones and the internet, CB radio remains popular for vehicular use. In this post we have reviewed the top long range CB radios. As a recap here are our picks: