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## A Beginners Guide to CB Radio – Don’t Sabotage Your Experience Before It Begins

Citizen band radio or more commonly known as “cb radio” offers many types of radio experiences for a small number of legal channeled radio frequencies. For example, you want a cb in your car or in your house. Maybe you have a professional reason, maybe you are interested in starting a new hobby, whatever it is.

This article is written for cb radio beginners or people who may be considering getting a radio. I’ll cover what type of radios are best to get when starting out and why and if you decide to give the hobby a try, which happens to most newcomers. Don’t worry, it only hurts your wallet.

Almost all CB radios have a channel selector on the front and some sort of indicator light showing a number, usually 1-40 or 1-23. 23 channel radios are older and unless you get one for really cheap or free I wouldn’t buy one of these units. There are many older units out there, but for reasons I’ll explain later, you should get a newer configuration. If that doesn’t make sense, keep reading, everything will become very clear to you.

Mobile Vs. Base Units

CBs, for the most part, come in two types, basic or mobile. Mobile units are smaller but can have all the features of a basic radio, equal power output, however there is a downside to the reduced size and that is the size of the control buttons on the front . Generally speaking, base radios have larger and in most cases more buttons than the mobile unit. What does all this mean? If you have big, plump beer-drinking fingers, fiddling with little knobs in heavy traffic can turn out to be a complete pain in the ass. This choice will be yours.

Almost 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.

Some basic cb radios will have a built in speaker, these sound better than the mobile, but again a quality external speaker should also be considered.

Most base station radios also have an internal power supply. This is something to consider when buying a setup. Mobiles are designed to run off a car battery and therefore usually do not have a 110 volt outlet. Base units, on the other hand, have built-in power supplies and it’s easy to hook them up. 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.

The range distances on the mobiles are also much less than on the base station due to the size of the antenna. The minimum length for a mobile setup to start working properly is 40 inches. Anything less is a waste, so the cell lookalike might look cool, but it won’t have very good range, maybe a mile or so.

Basically, the larger and taller your antenna is physically, the greater the range your radio will be assuming everything is working properly.

CB radios as a traveling companion

A cb radio in your car can be a very valuable tool. You can get tons of real-time traffic information from truckers, you don’t even really have to speak. Just listening will tell a lot about upcoming road conditions, you’ll hear about accidents or traffic jams long before a broadcast group gets the information. The best part is almost all the time you can hear where the speed cameras are. The downside to all this wonderful information is what you need to hear between reports. It’s not something you want your kids to hear in general. If you don’t care and it’s just you and your wife or girlfriend, turn up the volume and join us. It can make a long car ride seem short when you’re sputtering all the time. You might even be able to report back if you see something first. The question I hear most often from truckers is about the status of road scales. You can talk all the mess you want on the radio, but be careful when going over ladders on the other side of the road you’re driving on. For example, if you are traveling north on a highway, look for ladders on the south side. Check if they are open or closed and relay that information as you drive down the road to the truckers and continue your rhetoric.

CB radios as a base station

And yet another side of the CB radio is the base station. You will find that there is usually a “local channel” in almost every city. You’ll find regular people, tweakers, and everything in between, and like truckers, you probably don’t want your kids to hear what’s coming from people’s mouths.

Having 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 go 10 or 20 miles. If you live in or near a major city, it will be very busy at what seems like every hour. The CB never closes.

CB starts to overtake your life

So you run your base and go. It instantly becomes addictive. Friday nights you’ll be spending more in the garage drinking beer and talking on the radio. You will hear a lot on the radio and get advice from many people. One of the first things almost every CB wants is modifications to the radio. Generally, being louder and having big signals at receiving stations are the 2 most common modifications, with being louder probably being number one.

To be stronger? What does that mean?

This 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 a receiving end, but the real question as far as the human psyche is concerned is How? ‘Or’ What it means.

You can liken modifications on a CB radio to a car and by changing some parts or modifying the engine, wheels, tires etc. it will improve its performance and make your experience of driving the car more enjoyable. It becomes even more validated when a friendly street race is won. This is absolutely no different from modifications to a CB radio where other CBs notice that your voice in their speaker is louder than the others. Often referred to as “Tree Top Tall or Walkin the Dog and Kickin’ the Cat”. You had the idea.

This is where you will have to answer your first questions. I am of the opinion that having a good microphone is important first. It won’t take you long to hear about the infamous Astatic D104 basic microphone. (be aware there is a mobile version which is loud but its tone sucks) The base version is an impressive piece and has a reputation for being a “loud” microphone which means all you have to is to plug it in and instantly your volume will change, and it certainly will with the original microphone.

I think the D104 is a good microphone and loud, however, its tone is not acceptable due to its preamp (the electronics contained in the base of the unit). When I use the word tone, I am referring to the quality of amplification in terms of sound quality, not necessarily volume. Of course, there are many more variables than just the microphone preamp, but if the microphone lacks the ability to capture and reproduce natural, pleasing sound or your shot at above average sound is lost . At this point, you can also drive a screw into a wall with a wrench. The mods you put on the radio won’t make much difference if the microphone can’t keep up.

The radios I think are great starter units

I must say that there are many excellent radios out there. I created this list based on

1. Cost vs performance
2. Parts Availability
3. Popularity
4. Ease of finding stores that work on the models
5. Lots of information available and easily accessible
6. Good resale value

Cobra

25/29 Classic, LTD

148 GTL

Cobra 2000 GTL – Base unit

Cobra 142 GTL – Base unit

Uniden

CP 66/76

Uniden XL

President Washington – Base Unit (There are two versions) one with one counter or two counters. The unit with one meter is almost a cobra 148/2000 – There are some slight technical differences but the version with two meters looks nothing like any of the radios listed here despite having the same name. If you end up with an obscure radio, the time a technician will need to review the schematic and come up with some mods may or may not be possible or just too expensive to justify.

Example 1: You purchase an obscure radio for \$40 in working, stock condition. Then you get a D104 and I’ll just say it’s \$60. You bring the radio to the technician, he has little experience with this model. If the technician does not have the schematic, you will have to provide one or wait and it will cost you more, say \$15. Now wait for the technician to find a modification. Or maybe he/she just gives it a “tune up” (which is up to anyone to interpret as to what it really is) and charges you 40. So after \$155 you have a D104 and a radio that really did nothing about it. When people ask you about your radio setup (and they will), you’ll find yourself making excuses for why you have that radio like in “I got it cheap”.

Example 2: You buy a Cobra 25 or 29 for \$40 + D104 for \$60. The tech has made several of these radios, probably has all the parts on hand, and can make good mods in just a few hours. It may cost \$75, but look at the math. That’s a total of 175 but you get your radio back in a very short time, the modifications will have made a huge difference and your love life. When people ask you about your setup, you’re proud of it, and instead of apologizing, you talk about leveling up, advancing in the CB world. It can make or break your CB radio experience. Trust me on that one.

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