Spotlight on CB Radios

Thursday, 7 April 2016 15:16:04 Europe/London

CB Radios

Ever wanted a no nonsense solution to help you communicate with your fellow drivers while on the road? At Cobra Electronics, we’re pretty knowledgeable when it comes to this type of thing, and we’re here to give you the low down on our CB radios.

CB radios explained

CB, otherwise known as Citizens band, is a two-way communication system that helps drivers communicate with other people who have a CB radio in a car, truck, motorhome, home or business premises.

This product takes form as a type of transceiver and functions both as a radio transmitter and receiver. Since its launch by Cobra in 1958, the communication platform has totalled over 40 channels, with number 19 unofficially regarded as a general-purpose channel.

Channel 9 is reserved for communication in an emergency.

Do I require a licence?

Upon its creation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), drivers operating CB radios used to require a licence, but this has long since been discontinued.

How far is the reach?

At Cobra Electronics, all of our CB radios are transmitted using the maximum FCC-friendly power output of four watts. However, there are two main factors that will affect the range of your transmissions:


Although the radio transmits with 4 watts of power, the performance will be affected by how efficiently the antenna radiates this power. Contributing factors include:

  • The condition and location of the antenna (higher is better)
  • The physical length of the antenna (longer is better)
  • The proper matching of the standing wave ratio or SWR. 


The range of CB radios can also be limited by tall buildings, trees, hills and interference from other radios. In addition, certain atmospheric conditions - like sunspot activity - can also impact the range. 

A correctly set up base station could communicate between 10 to 15 miles, a mobile unit 5 to 7 miles, and a hand-held unit approximately 2 miles with the only variable being the type of antenna used. These optimum conditions rarely exist, however, and the range of your unit will typically be less depending on the conditions under which you are operating. 

The easiest way to optimise your range is to use the longest antenna possible and make sure that the SWR is properly adjusted.

What is SWR?

We thought you’d never ask. SWR stands for Standing Wave Ratio and is a measure of how well the antenna is tuned into the CB band. An SWR check will reveal any problems with the antenna, antenna cable or the antenna mount. However, it is worth noting that the SWR is a measure of antenna performance, poor SWR is not caused by the radio.

Overall, the SWR should be below three, any higher and there could be problems. For example, the transmitter in the radio could overheat, increasing your chances of a failure.

Want to know more?

Over the last three decades, CB has seen a bit of a renaissance in the UK and is now perceived as a fun and easy method of drivers keeping in contact while on the road - and it’s not just professional drivers who use them. These days, it is not uncommon for regular drivers to keep in touch with their friends with a CB radio while they are on their way to a festival.

Tempted? Take a look at our range of CB radios here


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Cobra Electronics