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How do I Choose the Best CB SSB Radio?

Mal Baxter
Mal Baxter

A Citizens Band single sideband radio, or CB SSB radio, is a vital piece of transceiving equipment with extensive range, typically employed in marine and cruising contexts. With amplitude modulation (AM) radio, these devices serve frequencies along the AM range, as well as upper sideband (USB) frequencies typically used for weather and marine transmissions, and lower sideband (LSB)used for ham radios. Numerous products are capable of reaching multiple frequency ranges, including frequency modulation (FM) and shortwave (SW) radio; the technology permits robust communications despite variable locations and atmospheric conditions. Selecting the best single sideband radio for your needs involves evaluating desired frequencies, coverage, antenna, feature, and size requirements.

AM transmissions produce a carrier frequency with two sidebands, each carrying the operator's voice. On the electromagnetic (EM) band, these resemble two bell curves shouldering the carrier signal frequency channel. Filtering the carrier and one sideband leaves you with a single sideband unit; suppressing the redundant waves saves power. A CB SSB radio functions by using only one of the sidebands, which can interfere with other AM signals on the same channel.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Portable CB SSB radio units can be conveniently transported by hand, but are not as powerful as tabletop sets. Radios fitted into boats may have space limitations. Reception can be affected by buildings and structures, which may require the use of external antenna jacks. Additional bands like shortwave ham bands fall between 2,300 and 26,100 kilohertz (kHz), while typical AM/FM/SW radios fall between 5,730 and 21,850 kHz. Digital frequency tuners afford greater precision when homing in on signals than their manual counterparts; these can tune in channels without need for altering antenna configurations.

Many enthusiasts prefer to install their CB SSB radio themselves; not too difficult, this procedure does require certain additional components. These include an automatic antenna tuner and antenna system consisting of an antenna element and a ground plane. The use of a remote head permits installation of the radio chassis elsewhere with handy access to the transmitter face from a nav station. Bear in mind that voice transmissions can carry a 25 to 30 amp power drain, so it's a good idea to mount the radio as close to its battery source as possible, using heavy gauge wire specified by the manufacturer.

Additional components for your CB SSB radio may include antenna backstay insulators, copper strapping, a ground shoe, and mounting bracket. Selecting the best CB radio equipment for your needs may require anticipating the worst-case scenario for your typical range of use. These radios can extend the range of receiving and transmission from 75 miles (120.7 km) to 3,000 miles (4,828 km). They add a vital safety component for traveling or cruising remote geographic locations; the multitude of populated channels affords weather faxes, voice weather broadcasts, email, news, and passing the time chatting with others hundreds of miles away.

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