Are you searching for the best ham radio transceiver?
I have reviewed the top models on the market and after reading this article you will know my recommendations.
Check out the quick list below for links to customer reviews and prices for my picks, or read on for the full review:
- Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver
- Icom IC-7100 HF/50/144/440 MHz Amateur Radio Mobile Transceiver
- Yaesu Original FT-450D HF/50MHz Compact Amateur Base Transceiver
- Icom IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver
- Kenwood TM-281A 144MHz FM Transceiver
Whether you are just getting started with ham radio or you are replacing your old gear, you want to make sure you have a quality transceiver.
Selecting the Best Ham Radio Transceiver
The best transceiver for you will be loaded with features that make it easy for you to use and one that won’t be too expensive for you to buy. It’s important that you look for a transceiver that offers clear audio so that you can easily hear the frequencies that you are tuned into, and you also want to make sure that you choose a transceiver that makes it easy to find certain frequencies.
Avoid anything that isn’t going to have enough power to give you the control that you need. Power output can be a major problem for some people who are shopping for a transceiver. You want to make sure that you find one with an output of around 100 watts, although some do go higher.
Benefits of Having a Quality Ham Radio Transceiver
When you are off the grid or there has been a disaster, then you can rely on your ham radio transceiver to help you connect with other people. No matter if you are at your home, at work, or out on the road with your family, being able to connect with people in your area and around the world will provide you with safety information and important updates.
A great transceiver allows you to enjoy all of the benefits of ham radio and makes it easy to quickly access your favorite channels, scan for frequencies, and connect with others. Without a great transceiver, you simply won’t have the power that you need to make the most from your ham radio.
What to Look For
There are a few attributes or features that you need to consider when shopping so that you can make a good decision for you. It’s easy to automatically think that the best option is going to be the newest one, but really paying attention to the features of each transceiver is very important.
I think that you need to look for one with a great transmission range. The frequency transmission range is the most important feature and will play a huge role in how well you can connect with other people. Look for a range that will meet your needs and that you will be able to use.
Additionally, consider the size and quality of the chassis. Compact devices are preferable if you are going to be taking your transceiver with you on the road and they are often a bit more durable than larger options. Make sure that you consider the layout of the transceiver and how easily the buttons and knobs are labeled.
Most likely, you are going to want to have a microphone so that you can respond to people on your radio, but not all transceivers ship with one. If you are replacing an old transceiver, then this won’t be as big of a deal for you, as you can use your old microphone, but if you are setting up new equipment, then you may want to consider looking for one with a microphone.
Finally, you can look for the additional features that make the transceiver fun and easy to use. These include things such as waterfall imaging, digital signal processing, multi modes, and memory channels. While these may not be necessary, they certainly improve usage.
How to Use Your New Transceiver
Setting up your new ham radio transceiver is generally fairly easy, especially if you are simply replacing an old one. While some people are worried that handheld transceivers aren’t as durable as mobile transceivers, both types are generally fairly high quality and used the same.
Make sure that you securely connect your antenna to your new transceiver, if it doesn’t come with an internal antenna, so that you can enjoy the best sound quality. Also, strongly consider how you want to mount your transceiver in your vehicle or at your home for the best results and to keep it secure and from being damaged while on the road.
One thing that I think you need to be certain of when you are using a ham radio transceiver in your vehicle and you are in motion is that you need to use a transceiver with very little output power. Using one with too much output power can actually result in problems with your vehicle, causing you to stall or malfunction.
It’s also important to avoid transmitting when you are near an emergency vehicle. Transmitting near these vehicles can actually interrupt their emergency communications or can interfere with their medical equipment. I like to make sure that I avoid any transmissions during this time and then resume them when the emergency vehicle has passed.
Best Ham Radio Transceivers
Whether you are a beginner to ham radio operation or a seasoned pro, a quality transceiver is well worth the investment in my opinion. When reviewing ham radio transceivers I looked at reception, range, durability, and ease of use.
Yaesu HF, VHF, UHF All-Mode 100W
Even though this transceiver doesn’t have a built-in auto-tuner, this is a great option for more advanced ham radio enthusiasts. It’s highly modifiable and powerful. It features digital filtering, automatic repeater shifts, and it has an incredibly durable and reliable chassis, which means you can take it on the go and not have to worry about it being damaged.
- 100 W output
- Has built-in signal processing
- Features 200 memory presets
- Includes the power cable and microphone
- Has two SO-230 antenna outputs: one for VHF/UHF and one for 0-54 Mhz
- A little complicated for new users to start with
Icom HF/50/144/440 MHz Amateur Radio D-Star Capable Touch Screen
This is a great transceiver for both amateurs and enthusiasts, as it is very user friendly to set up and to use. Thanks to how portable it is, it’s perfect for on the road and can be assembled and disassembled quickly. With playback and voice recording functions, you won’t ever have to worry that you have missed something being said. Additionally, it offers incredible frequency coverage, no matter where you are.
- Built-in SD slot for data cloning and voice storage
- SWR graphic display is easy to read
- 505 memory channels
- Touch screen interface is fast and easy to use
- Slant top controller makes this transceiver highly visible and easy to read
- Stock microphone is not very high quality
Yaesu Original HF Compact 100 Watts
Even though this transceiver is great for more advanced users, the ease of which you can set it up and operate it make it a great choice for beginners, as well. In addition to the built-in tuner, it features 300 and 500 Hz CW filters and ctcss. The fast DSP technology means that you can easily access your desired frequencies without a lot of trouble and the small chassis is designed to be taken on the go.
- Features 100 W of transmit output
- Includes built-in automatic tuner for easy use
- Receives 30 Khz to 54 Mhz
- DSP technology is fast and reliable
- Incredibly sensitive and picks up frequencies easily
- Knobs are used to control multiple settings, making it difficult to adjust
Icom HF All Band 100 Watts
This simple transceiver is very easy to operate and comes with a UT-106 DSP board in place, which means that it can easily be used right out of the box. The multitude of controls makes it easy to adjust the transceiver and to operate it. With an external power supply, you will be sure to have complete control over your equipment.
- AM, USB, CW, LSB, RTTY modes are all built in
- Includes level adjustable noise blanker
- There are many scanning functions
- Easy to select the desired wattage
- Great option for users on a budget
- Doesn’t offer all of the features of more advanced transceivers
Kenwood 144MHz FM Transceiver
Not only does this transceiver offer plenty of power, but it is durable enough to be used at home or on the road. In low power mode it can be used with a cigarette lighter, but high power mode does require a battery connection to have the best sound quality and control.
- Features 200 memory channels
- Rugged construction is great for taking it on the road
- Includes weather alerts
- Alphanumeric LCD is easy to see and read
- Compact size is great for taking on the road
- Can be difficult to program channels
For more guides and tips check out these articles:
- Best CB Radio Antenna
- Best Shortwave Radio
- How to Get a Ham Radio License
- Best Emergency Radio
- Best Ham Radio Base Station
- Best BaoFeng Radio
- Best SWR Meter
- Best Long Range Walkie Talkie
- Best Marine VHF Radio
- Best Handheld CB Radio
Buying a ham radio transceiver that is easy to use, powerful, and can be set up and used right away is important, especially for beginners. That’s why I recommend the Kenwood TM-281A 144MHz FM Transceiver. This transceiver is great for using at your home or for taking on the road when you want to stay connected out and about. It is very durable, offers plenty of power, and is a great option for beginners to use and to develop their skills as they improve. While any of these options are a great choice, I think that this transceiver has wonderful features that serve to set it apart from the rest.
Fred is the Ready Zeal owner and editor. He has been passionately pursuing all things emergency preparation since working alongside his grandfather as a boy growing up in the Midwest. When not working on the family homestead he can be found brewing coffee and reading a good book or backpacking in the wilderness. Contact Fred at [email protected]