The Best CB Radio
Looking for the best CB radio?
Choosing the best CB radio is a lot about the buyer’s personal use, available space in the cab, and of course, the quality of the communication.
Smaller units or handheld CB radios are rather useful for cars or occasional users. Many car owners don’t have enough space in the dash to make room for a full-sized CB radio. On the other hand, most truckers would prefer a full-sized radio they can easily reach and quickly glance at.
Yet, the usability of small-sized CB radios isn’t lost on truckers either. Besides, it often comes down to the conventional features on offer and how well the radios handle voice quality. These aspects include functions like RF gain, squelch control, and the ability to handle (or filter) background noise.
The CB radio can’t be all about features – ergonomic and comfortable use is as important. How the radio (or microphone) feels in your hands and how quickly you can manage the controls forms a big part of this decision.
The FCC limits the output power of CB radios to 4W and most radios hit this level rather easily. Some people do get their CB radios (illegally) modified for higher power output, but you won’t find radios being sold under this premise.
In A Glimpse
- Uniden CMX760 Bearcat – Best CB Radio
- Uniden Bearcat 980 – Best Premium CB Radio
- Midland 1001LWX – Best CB Radio
- President Randy FCC – Best Handheld CB Radio
- Cobra HHRT50
5 Best CB Radios Worthy Of Your Consideration
1. Uniden CMX760 Bearcat Off Road Series Compact Mobile CB Radio – Editor’s Choice
- Very compact mobile CB radio.
- Rugged design to handle off-road environments.
- On-mic controls give more freedom for unit placement.
- Backlight for mic and buttons.
- Color-customizable 7-color LCD on the mic.
- Below-average heat dissipation and management.
- Needs to hook up to an external speaker for better voice quality.
- No option to adjust RF.
Uniden CMX760 Bearcat is the best cb radio overall. It’s a compact mobile CB radio with a rugged design. It is suitable for most vehicles, including trucks, cars, and even boats. At dimensions of only 4x4x1 inches, this compact radio offers easy installation. It skips controls on the main body and transfers them to the mic.
As the controls move to the mic, they open the path to creativity in deciding where to place the radio. It’s possible to install the radio under the car seat, behind the glovebox, on the dashboard, or wherever your creativity and requirements want it. This is very useful for vehicles with limited cabin space.
The setup and functions of Uniden CMX760 Bearcat often work better than its competitors like the Midland 75-822 CB radio. While the CMX760 remains attached to the vehicle, the Midland radio goes more into the territory of handheld CB radios. Even so, the Midland radio works best when connected to a 12V power outlet on the vehicle.
Due to this setup, Midland 75-822 feels much heavier in the hand and the buttons are tiny. Arguably, it has a better quality speaker, but Uniden CMX760 does way better on controls and management.
Since the mic is all-important for Uniden Bearcat CMX760, it’s worth a closer look. A small backlit screen on the mic displays important information like channel and frequency. The same backlight also illuminates the buttons placed under the screen. The radio works with seven backlight colors customizable to user preferences.
The buttons on the mic offer conventional features including squelch control, NOAA weather channels with alerts, channel scanning, and one-touch access to channel 9/19. It doesn’t have an RF gain setting but it supports local and DX modes for better signal reception.
A built-in speaker is available on the mic. It does its job but isn’t the best at it. Uniden recommends using an external speaker like the BC15 speaker, though any compatible speaker will do.
I suspect this is partly because there’s so much going on in the mic that they sacrificed speaker quality.
Uniden CMX760 Bearcat mobile CB radio is compact, easy to install, and rugged enough to take a beating from off-roading. It’s a good pick for most users, but if you want more conventional controls, RF gain adjustment, and a better speaker, you might want to skip this one.
2. Uniden Bearcat 980 40-Channel SSB CB Radio – Best Premium Mobile CB Radio
- Modern design and clean interface.
- Easy to use with quick function buttons.
- Easy to mount with included mounting bracket.
- Multiple LCD/backlight colors with customizable intensity.
- Excellent frequency stability on SSB.
- The factory mic is flimsy and lowers transmit voice quality.
- The radio lets out a loud beep with any change or function, though this can be turned off.
Uniden Bearcat 980 is one of the company’s most-liked CB radios. It has been around for a decade and could very well boast to be a workhorse with a proven milieu. Originally, it came up as a replacement for the beloved Uniden Grant line of CB radios.
Refreshing the design of the Grant, the Bearcat 980 uses a larger display and buttons take the place of knobs and switches.
Compared to its competitors Cobra 29 LX and LX MAX, the Bearcat 980 puts more function buttons on the radio. While their features are similar, the Bearcat 980 relies on buttons, while the aforementioned Cobra radios prefer knobs and dials with fewer buttons on the radio.
As the screen and buttons take center stage on the Bearcat 980, the backlight becomes important. No one wants an overly bright and distracting light in the cab. To that end, users can choose from seven colors for the backlight and customize its intensity.
Buttons flank the display towards its bottom and right. Each button has an associated indicator light that comes on at the press of the button. This is a good way to know what functions are active on the CB radio.
Volume and squelch control are combined in the knob on the top left side of the radio in a dual function (two rings) setup. Right below this knob is the six-pin connector for the microphone. Users who prefer a four-pin mic can use the included converter cable to attach a microphone.
And you will very likely want to use a different microphone. Uniden’s included mic is flimsy and doesn’t offer good voice transmission. The company claims that the mic has noise-canceling technology, turns out, that’s just a baffle that dampens all sounds.
Uniden Bearcat 980 is amongst the company’s most reliable offerings. Unlike most CB radios, the 980 has frequency stability on SSB without any drift. It has excellent voice reception and transmission, but the factory mic is rather flimsy and downgrades the performance of this radio.
3. Midland 1001LWX 40 Channel Mobile CB Radio – Best Budget CB Radio
- Budget pick that offers remarkable value for money.
- Very compact and doesn’t take up much cabin space.
- Simple to use and manage.
- Large backlit display with clearly visible information.
- No-frills device with a very basic feature set.
- Included features like RF gain, squelch control, and ANL struggle with usability.
For a compact and mobile CB radio, Midland 1001LWX has a surprisingly large display. This makes it possible to get all relevant information with a glance at the screen.
In part, it helps that since the budget radio has limited functions, not much is going on at the display! It’s simple and shows the active channel, signal strength, and any active function or features.
Key features include PA, NOAA weather, RF gain, and squelch. A large knob to the right allows switching channels. Simple as these features are, some of them lack usability.
The squelch and RF gain are temperamental and don’t evoke much confidence in their use. The same goes for the automatic noise limiter, which though present, doesn’t seem to understand its purpose.
Midland’s factory microphone is a simple run-of-the-mill device you would expect from a budget device like this. It does its job and that’s about all you can expect. An oversized switch on the side of the mic helps in making it convenient to use and comfortable to hold.
When the radio is in weather channel mode, hitting the button on the microphone will switch the station or channel.
As we see, the additional features on this radio are lacking – and that’s putting it mildly. But let’s not take our eye off the price here. This is an excellent, compact, and budget CB radio. Measuring 4.5×1.75×1.75 inches, it is convenient to mount and doesn’t take up much cabin space.
In a sense, the features and setup for Midland 1001LWX 40 are very similar to its competition, like Uniden PRO520XL. The features and appearance of both radios are remarkably similar, though with some changes.
The display on Uniden PRO520XL is smaller and is an old-fashioned LED display. This makes it troublesome to read the display during the day if there’s bright light. The Uniden radio also looks cheap. Well, both of these are low-cost radios, but Uniden seems to want to make it clear!
Where Uniden PRO520XL does better than Midland 1001LWX 40 is the handling of static and switching channels. It’s not a major change, but a noticeable one anyway.
To sum it all up, Midland 1001LWX is a cost-effective, compact, and basic CB radio. It has NOAA weather alerts and PA, plus an acceptable voice clarity on transmission and reception. Those who want more functions on their radio should consider another pick.
4. President Randy FCC – Best Handheld CB Radio
- Handheld radio can work as a standalone unit.
- Good design and ergonomic grip.
- Fairly easy to use and manage.
- Works on a rechargeable Li-ion battery or 12V DC.
- Jack for an external speaker.
- Finding a replacement battery can be troublesome.
- Lower transmit/receive distance due to the small antenna, though it can connect to an external antenna.
President Randy FCC is amongst the best (if not the best) handheld CB radios available. For the most part, CB radios have largely stayed fixed to vehicles and avoided a full-featured handheld CB radio. Randy FCC fills that gap.
Well, there are other handheld CB radios out there. Cobra HHRT50 is another good choice, though it goes more on the simplistic side in terms of design. The Cobra CB radio looks like a mobile phone from the ’90s; Randy has a modern appearance. Also, the Cobra handheld CB radio has limited features, whereas Randy FCC could give fixed-mount CB radios a run for their money.
In some ways, Randy FCC takes design cues from modern walkie-talkies or even handheld ham radios. Yet, it remains a distinctly useful CB radio with all the features necessary.
The fairly large display is the first to grab eyeballs on the Randy FCC. The LCD shows information on the channel, signal strength, battery level, and functions or features in use. It is backlit, as are the buttons, and there’s the option to customize the backlight color and intensity. A total of seven color options are available for the backlight.
Most buttons for control functions find their place below the display. Since this radio aims to be a full-function CB radio, it includes most of the conventional features. It offers NOAA weather scan, a dedicated button for emergency channel, roger beep, automatic squelch controls, and noise gate.
Given all these features, the fact that it is a handheld isn’t lost on President Randy FCC. It includes options for a key lock, VOX, flashlight, and hi/low transmit power. At low power, the radio transmits at 1 Watt. Switched to high power, it transmits at 3 to 4 watts, depending on the battery backup.
The handheld CB radio runs on a Lithium-ion battery, though it can connect directly to a 12V power source as well. Included in the box are an AC adapter, short antenna, belt clip, wrist wrap, and lighter plug.
President Randy FCC is a reliable handheld CB radio with an impressive design and good features. It doesn’t quite offer the range and ease of use of a fixed-mount radio, but it does a good job where handheld portability is important.
- Works with AA battery, NiMH battery, or 12V DC.
- Includes a magnetic mount antenna with 9 feet cable.
- Simple, easy to use functions.
- Decent sound quality.
- The design feels rather dated and old.
- Can struggle with output power when on battery.
As handheld CB radios go, Cobra HHRT50 Road Trip CB Radio is a remarkable gadget. While my preference in this niche would go to President Randy FCC, Cobra HHRT50 is by no means a slacker. It has good range and excellent voice clarity.
Cobra has done a disservice to this radio with its design. It looks dated, to say the least. Compare its appearance to the Randy FCC and you’ll see what I’m talking about. While the Cobra is nominally cheaper than Randy’s offering, that gap reduces once you consider the cost of getting the power cable and the cost of AA batteries.
For the power source, this radio needs nine AA batteries. It’s possible to use a rechargeable NiMH battery as well, but a pack of nine cells can be difficult to come by. Alternatively, you can buy the power cable and connect this radio to the vehicle’s 12V supply.
In many cases, it is preferable to connect Cobra HHRT50 Road Trip CB Radio to a 12V supply. It tends to struggle with output signal power when running on batteries. The magnet mount antenna and the included cable help with the range.
Performance gets better once the radio connects to the vehicle’s supply. In this setup, it can work with the full 4W power and the range improves considerably. Its adaptability to power supply is a feather in the cap of the Cobra HHRT50.
Many of the power limitations of this radio are understandable. It isn’t targeted at the commercial trucker or the CB enthusiast. This one’s more about a group of friends going on a Road Trip and wanting to stay in touch with different vehicles.
The use of an omnidirectional microphone underlines this approach. It attempts to pick up voices from all sides of a vehicle and transmits them. If you want a more conventional approach, it’s possible to connect a speaker/microphone through the available jack.
Putting the approach aside, let’s not forget that this is still a CB radio. So, it has some useful features to fit its role. Cobra HHRT50 has access to 10 NOAA channels and audible emergency weather alerts.
When on battery power, the Hi/Lo button switches between 1W transmit power and higher. The display is small, but it shows relevant information like channel, battery level, signal strength, keypad lock, and a few others.
Those who need a CB radio occasionally will find the Cobra HHRT50 the right fit. It works with a variety of power sources, has a good battery backup, and decent sound quality. Those who want more from their CB radio might find this one a bit under-powered.