3 Best Vintage CB Radios
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Vintage CB radios aren’t just old tech; they’re a fascinating look into how we used to communicate. These classic radios show off the smarts and style of their time.
They’re not just for show – they work well too! If you’re curious about how these old-school gadgets compare to today’s tech, or if you’re thinking about starting a collection, this article is a must-read.
We’ll dive into what makes these vintage CB radios cool and why they’re still talked about today. Get ready to explore a piece of history that’s still alive and kicking in the world of communication!
3. Browning LTD
Browning LTD is a 23-channel CB radio that showed up in 1977. The radio arrived shortly before the change in CB radio channels to 40. The availability of more channels and options affected its popularity a bit, but the LTD remains one of the best-made CB radios of the era.
In its description, Browning made it clear that this was a high-tech piece. It used only the “most modern silicon transistors.” All that might seem trivial now, but it was quite a leap back then.
This device employed 1 FET, 2 ICs, 61 diodes, and 39 transistors for general operation. An additional five transistors would be called upon for advanced duties intended for regulation and compression.
That description might not seem remotely impressive in today’s world, but it was quite a feat back then. And the manufacturers made use of this technology to the fullest.
Browning LTD had a double superheterodyne receiver with noise blanking circuitry. The careful use of circuitry gave it quite impressive transmit and receive capabilities with great audio quality.
Browning LTD was a 23-channel CB radio with SSB capabilities, which gave it a total of 69 usable channels. There are 23 AM channels, 23 on the upper side band, and another 23 on the lower side band. Thanks to the double superheterodyne receiver and good construction quality, the audio quality remained good on all channels.
It worked on the older Class “D” of the citizen radio service, which falls on the 11 meter band.
Just like today, that would require an FCC license to operate. For reference, modern CB radios in the 10m band don’t require an FCC license.
Managing all these features came down to the few knobs placed at the face of the radio. A large knob on the right side of the device turned through channels, while three smaller knobs handled volume, modulation (AM, USB, LSB), and delta. All of these had a gold-plated color trim. Why?
Because it was the ’70s!
The appearance and style of this CB radio is quintessentially retro. The shiny gold-trim knobs and dials, the wood-accent panels, and the casing, all give it that classic ’70s look.
You won’t find the microphone connector at the front of this radio. Instead, it goes at the side, quite close to the faceplate. There are two tiny buttons at the front of the radio, one to activate the Noise Blanking circuitry, while the other switches between the CB radio and PA system.
A nice meter with lighting completes the look and style of the Browning LTD CB radio.
Overall, Browning LTD was a very capable and well-made CB radio with remarkable features and quality construction. While the Browning Golden Eagle series is the most talked-about from its heyday, classics like the LTD still manage to carve a niche for themselves.
2. Cobra 148
Cobra 148 CB radios enjoy an almost legendary status, sometimes to the extent of being
named the best CB radio ever. Though there are several variants of this model, the Cobra 148 GTL AM and SSB CB radio represents the best it has to offer.
The appearance and design of this radio is a classic. You will still see modern CB radios inspired by that cool retro look. There is something of this radio’s look in the current lineup of Cobra, Uniden, Galaxy, and others.
This design has stood the test of time. While Cobra stopped producing the Cobra 148GTL some years ago, the interface has been around for almost 40 years now, starting with the Cobra 148 radios of the early ’80s.
In some part, that’s likely inspired by the intuitiveness of this design. The controls remain easily accessible and can be worked without staring at the CB radio. Simply put, you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to work this radio.
A CB radio that was on the market for so long obviously received some updates. However, all variants managed to keep intact the intuitiveness of the controls and the performance of the transceiver.
This was a full 40 channel CB radio with full SSB (USB and LSB). There was barely any
struggle with drift, and the transceiver worked wonderfully with great audio. The presence of a noise limiter circuit (ANL) worked well in keeping the quality of transmitted audio.
The front of the radio shows controls that most of us would be very familiar with. A small digital display to the right shows the channel number, while an S-meter with lights takes its place to the top left corner. Between these two displays, there’s room for a few buttons like NB/ANL, Tone, PA/CB, SSB, and calibration. The exact type of switches could change between model variants, but the combination was (and remains) largely similar.
The bottom row had a microphone connector and a variety of knobs. Amongst these, the largest was the channel selector placed right below the channel number display. Others managed functions like volume and squelch, brightness of the display and dynamike.
Overall, the Cobra 148 series, and especially the Cobra 148GTL represent iconic CB radios with amazing features and quality performance. The interface and design of this influential line of CB radios remains popular to this day. The Cobra 148 radios were popular for several years and their influence can be seen clearly in modern CB radios like the Cobra 25LTD and Cobra 29LTD.
1. President Washington CB Radio Base Station
Launched in the early ’80s, President Washington was a solid state CB radio base station.
Nowadays, all devices are expected to be solid state, but it was relatively new back then, with transceivers switching from tubes to silicone-based transceivers.
The base station does that eighties look very nicely. One of the things I like about these iconic vintage radios is that they’re very much reminiscent and great examples of their design era and decades. The change shows not just in technology, but also in aesthetics, which is quite fascinating.
It has a solid and dependable casing that looks like it can handle some rough use. The muted shades of the paint that shy away from being glossy are a nice touch.
The face of the base station shows a very neat arrangement of controls and functions. There’s a loud and big speaker to the top left, while a large channel control knob takes the top right.
However, at the center stage is the display section, which has three parts.
The first is an illuminated S-meter in a circular design. It’s fairly bright and adds some color to the otherwise monotone look of the CB radio base station. Right beside this is a digital display that shows the channel number. And below this display are three LEDs that light up with the corresponding mode of operation of the radio (AM, USB, LSB).
All these form the top row of the base station’s front. The bottom row holds connectors, buttons, and knobs for various functions. It starts with the microphone connector, then there’s the headphone connector, and knobs for volume, squelch, and RF gain. A couple of buttons also show up to switch between PA/CB modes or turn the NB on/off.
President Washington CB radio base station offers 40 channels on the citizens band and full SSB. The audio quality is decent, and the performance is remarkable.
Overall, President Washington Base Station CB radio is an excellent retro-modern transceiver. I do like the design quite a lot. It’s clean, unencumbered, and gives something of an elegant and stylish touch to the device.
It does well on performance as well, with AM and SSB availability, with good Tx and Rx
performance. Since this is a base station from the heyday of CB radios, its range could be quite remarkable and there would be plenty to listen to. People who used this base station at its height often have fond memories of its range and performance.
In conclusion, the enduring charm of vintage CB radios extends far beyond mere nostalgia. These devices represent a significant chapter in the history of communication, blending technological innovation with unique design elements.
As we’ve explored, their continued relevance and appeal lie not just in their role as collectibles but in their functionality and the glimpse they offer into a different era of connectivity.
Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of vintage electronics, the world of vintage CB radios is a rich and fascinating field, full of stories, technology, and a timeless appeal that continues to captivate and inspire.