A Beginner’s Guide to CB Radio: Don’t Sabotage Your Experience Before It Begins

Website design By BotEap.comCitizens Band Radio or more commonly called “CB Radio” offers many types of radio experiences, such as a small number of channelized radio frequencies that are legal to use. As an example, the man wants a cb in his car or in his house. Maybe you have a business reason, you are interested in starting a new hobby, whatever it is.

Website design By BotEap.comThis article is written for cb radio beginners or people who may be thinking of buying a radio. I’ll cover what types of radios are the best to get when starting out and why, and if you do decide to give the hobby a try, what will happen to most newcomers. Don’t worry, it just hurt your pocket.

Website design By BotEap.comAlmost all CB radios have a channel selector on the front and some kind of indicator light that shows a number, usually 1-40 or 1-23. Radios with 23 channels are older and unless you get a really cheap or free one I wouldn’t buy one of these units. There are plenty of great old units out there, but for reasons I’ll explain later, you need to get a newer setup. If it doesn’t make sense, keep reading and everything will be very clear to you.

Website design By BotEap.comMobile type units vs. base

Website design By BotEap.comCBs, for the most part, come in two flavors, basic or mobile types. Mobile units are smaller but can have all the features of a base radio, equal power output, however there is a downside to the reduced size and that is the size of the control knobs on the front. Generally speaking, base radios have larger knobs and in most cases more compared to the mobile unit. What does this all mean? If you have fat, chubby fingers for drinking beer, fiddling with small knobs in heavy traffic can be a complete pain in the butt. That choice will be up to you.

Website design By BotEap.comAlmost all mobile CB radios have an internal speaker, usually at the bottom of the radio. These speakers are garbage. They are overrated, cheap and sound bad. Consider an external speaker when space is available.

Website design By BotEap.comSome base cb radios will have a built in speaker, they sound better than mobile, but a quality external speaker should also be considered.

Website design By BotEap.comMost base station radios also have an internal power supply. It’s something to consider when buying a setup. Cell phones are designed to run off a car battery, so they usually don’t have a 110-volt plug. The base units, on the other hand, have integrated power supplies and it’s easy to just plug them in. If you decide to use a mobile as a base station remember that you will need to get a 12 volt power supply or have a spare car battery on hand.

Website design By BotEap.comRange distances on mobiles are also much shorter compared to base station due to the size of the antenna. The minimum length for a mobile setup to start working decently is 40 inches. Anything less is a waste, so the look of a cell phone might look great, but it won’t have a very good range, maybe a mile or so.

Website design By BotEap.comBasically, it boils down to the physically larger and taller your antenna is, the longer your radio’s range will be, assuming everything is working properly.

Website design By BotEap.comCB radios as road trip companions

Website design By BotEap.comA cb radio in your car can be a very valuable tool. You can get tons of real-time road information from truckers, you don’t even have to speak. Simply listening will throw up a lot about road conditions ahead, you’ll hear about accidents or traffic jams long before any broadcast band gets the information. The best part is that almost all the time you can hear where the speed traps might be. The downside of all this wonderful information is what you have to listen to between reports. It’s not something you want your kids to hear in general. If you don’t mind and it’s just you and your wife or girlfriend, turn up the volume and join in. It can make a long trip seem short when you’re yapping all the time. You can even make a report if you see something first. The question I hear most from truckers is about the condition of the road scales. You can talk all the fuss you want on the radio, but pay attention when you pass the scales on the other side of the road you’re driving on. For example, if you are traveling north on a highway, look for layovers on the south side. Check to see if they are open or closed and relay that information to truckers as you drive down the road and continue your rhetoric.

Website design By BotEap.comCB radios as a base station

Website design By BotEap.comAnd yet another side of the CB radio is the base station. You will find that there is usually a “local channel” in almost any city. You’ll find regular people there, tweakers and everything else, and like truckers, you most likely don’t want your kids to hear what people are saying.

Website design By BotEap.comHaving a base station usually means a larger antenna, which equates to considerably longer communications in terms of distance. Even with a 4 watt radio (the FCC legal limit) it’s not uncommon to get 10 or 20 miles. If you live in or near a big city, there will be a lot of people at all hours. The CB never closes.

Website design By BotEap.comCB begins to get ahead of his life

Website design By BotEap.comSo get your base going and get out there. He becomes instantly addictive. Friday nights will be spent more in the garage drinking beer and talking on the radio. You will hear many things about radio and get advice from many people. One of the first things almost every CB’er wants is radio modifications. In general, being stronger and having great signals at receiving stations are the 2 most common mods, with stronger possibly being number one.

Website design By BotEap.comTo be stronger? What does that mean?

Website design By BotEap.comThis is where the line is drawn between what is technically correct and what people want. It is true that a “stock” radio will be able to be heard at one receiving end, but the real question regarding the human psyche is as listening

Website design By BotEap.comYou can compare modifications to a CB radio to owning a car and by changing certain parts or modifying the engine, wheels, tires, etc., you will improve its performance and make your driving experience more enjoyable. It is further validated when a friendly street race is won. This is not unlike mods to a CB radio where fellow CBs notice that your voice on your speaker is louder than others. It is often referred to as “Tree Top Tall or Walkin’ the Dog and Kickin’ the Cat”. You get the idea.

Website design By BotEap.comThis is where your first questions will need to be answered. I am of the opinion that having a great microphone is important first. It won’t be long before you hear about the infamous Astatic D104 stand mic. (Note there is a mobile version that is loud but its tonality sucks) The base version is an impressive piece of kit and has a reputation for being a “loud” mic, meaning all you have to do is plug it in and instantly its the volume will change, and it will surely change from the original microphone.

Website design By BotEap.comI think the D104 is a good microphone and it is loud, however its tonality is not acceptable due to its preamp (the electronics contained in the base of the unit). When I use the word tonality, I mean how well it is amplified in terms of sound quality, not necessarily volume. Of course, there are a lot more variables than just the mic preamp, but if the mic doesn’t have the ability to capture and reproduce a natural, tonally pleasing sound, or your chance at better-than-average audio, it’s gone. At this point you can also hammer a screw into a wall with a wrench. It won’t make much difference what modifications you make to the radio if the mic can’t keep up.

Website design By BotEap.comSpokes that I think are great starter units

Website design By BotEap.comI have to say there are a lot of great radios out there. I have created this list based on

  1. Cost versus Performance
  2. parts availability
  3. Popularity
  4. Ease of finding stores that work on the models.
  5. Abundant information available and easily accessible
  6. good resale value
Website design By BotEap.comCobra
25/29 Classic, LTD
148 GTL
Cobra 2000 GTL – Base Unit
Cobra 142 GTL – Base Unit

Website design By BotEap.comUniden
pc 66/76
Uniden XL

Website design By BotEap.comPresident Washington – Base Unit (There are two versions) one with one meter or two meters. The unit with a meter is almost a cobra 148/2000. Technically, there are some slight differences, but the two gauge version looks nothing like any of the radios listed here despite its same name. If you end up with a dark radio, the time it will take for a technician to go through the schematic and bring in some modifications may or may not be possible or simply too expensive to justify.

Website design By BotEap.comExample One: You buy a little-known radio for $40 in working and stock condition. Then you get a D104 and I’ll just say it’s $60. You take the radio to the technician’s place, he has little experience with this model. If the technician doesn’t have the schematic, he will have to provide one or wait and it will cost more money, say $15. Now wait longer until the technician discovers a modification. Or maybe he just gives it a “tune up” (that’s left up to anyone to interpret for what it really is) and charges you $40. So after $155 you have a D104 and a radio that really hasn’t got a roof on it. When people ask you about your radio setup (and they will), you’ll find excuses as to why you have that radio like in “I bought it cheap”.

Website design By BotEap.comExample Two: You buy a Cobra 25 or 29 for $40 + D104 for $60. The tech has done a lot of these radios, probably has all the parts on hand, and can do some good mods in just a few hours. It may cost $75, but look at the math. Add a total of 175, but you get your radius back in no time, the mods will have made a big difference and your love life. When people ask you about your build, you’re proud of it and instead of making excuses, you talk about taking it to the next level, moving up in the CB world. It can make or break your CB radio experience. Trust me on that.

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