Folks who know a lot about these things contend that the best ham radio for beginners is a misnomer. After all, the term ‘hammies’ refer to amateur radio enthusiasts who simply love receiving and transmitters radio signals.
But a solid case could be made for differentiating between the kits used by newbie hammies and those who have been around for some time. For instance, it makes sense that as a newbie, it is not smart to invest in expensive equipment. The learning curve for such gadgets could kill any budding enthusiasm.
Then again, most people who want to join the ham radio bandwagon don’t have the budget for all the elaborate gadgets the veterans use. For this reason, experts advice new hammies to invest their money on portable or mobile ham radios.
These and so many other reasons make a guide for the best ham radio for beginners a great idea.
In this guide are five mobile ham radios any beginner would find useful. Instantly, the hassle of choosing a gadget from several hundred is eliminated. At least, with this guide and as a beginner, your biggest problem would not include whether you have the best gadget or not.
Top 5 Best Ham Radios for Beginners: Review
#1. Icom 2300H 05 Amateur Radio
The Icom 2300H is a compact, rugged device with lots of interesting features. The mobile ham radio is designed with ease-of-use in mind and offers high wattage and secure CTCSS and DTCS encryption.
Weighing about 2.4 lbs, the durable gadget features multiple scan function, DTMF auto dial, squelch functions, weather alerts, and loud audio.
You also get 207 alphanumeric memory channels to store your frequencies along with a power output of 65 watts ensuring you can transmit or receive radio signals over long distances.
Other features you would find very useful as a beginning ham radio user include the repeater lockout, automatic power off, wide and narrow channel settings, and much more.
- 144Mhz amateur Radio
- Stable 65W of output
- Similar user interface retained from the ic-2200h
#2. Yaesu FT-8900R Quad Band Ham Radio Transceiver
If you desire a gadget that brushes the edge of the high-end spectrum of transceivers to kick-start your ham radio operations, the Yaesu FT-8900R is the perfect device for you.
It is a solidly-built, quad band FM transceiver with a power output of up to 50 watts on the 144 MHz band and 30 watts on the 430 MHz band.
The radio’s superior performance is enhanced with features such as the dual receive, cross-band repeat, and VHF-UHF full duplex capability.
It is easy to set up and use and you’d have over 800 memory channels at your disposal. The front panel is designed to make it easy to automatically send the required DTMF access code when you start any transmission.
The FT-8900R is compact and includes a backlit dual display and CTCSS/DCS encryption.
- Transmits 50 watts on 10, 6 and 2M, & 35 watts on 440 MHz, With Selectable Lower Output Settings..
- Receives (less cellular) 28-29.7, 50-54, 108-180, 320-480 and 700-985 MHz, Transmits 28-29.70Mhz, 50-54Mhx, 144-148Mhz, 430-450Mhz.
- Backlit Keypad mic, 800 mem Channels, Live Dual Displays, ctcss/dcs (PL & DPL).
#3. Kenwood Original TM-V71A Dual Band Mobile Transceiver
Like the Yaesu 8900R above, this Kenwood Original is also a mid-range device that would be perfect as a starter set if your interest in becoming a hammie is not a temporary fad.
The TM-V71A is a carefully-designed and rugged mobile dual-band ham radio that delivers top-notch performance on the 2 meters and 440 MHz bands. And to make things interesting, you get three power options of 5,10 and 50 watts on both bands.
The UHF/VHF device features 1000 alpha memories, backlit dual display, 104 DCS codes, auto simplex checker, dual receive on the same band, and PL encode and decode.
It is easy to set up and use with controls featuring separate volume/squelch buttons for each band. And you also get to change the orientation of the display if you wish.
Like all the best gadgets, it comes with a hand mic and hanger, DC power cable, mounting bracket, and an instruction manual.
- High RF Power Output (50W)
- 1,000 Multifunction Memory Channels
- Dual Receive on Same Band (VxV, UxU)
#4. President Lincoln II Plus (V3) Ham Radio
The President Lincoln II version 3 transceiver is a dual-band, all-mode HF transceiver that would be awesome for a newbie hammie just learning the ropes.
The din-sized device is rugged and designed with an eye for durability and functionality. You would love the tri-color display that you can switch to any of amber, blue or green color to fit your mood.
The radio is not just about aesthetics though. It is fully featured with a power output of 50 watts; programmable emergency channels 1 and 2; manual and auto squelch; dual watch; public address system; VOX; 6 memories and 142 CTCSS/DCS codes and much more.
Weighing about 5 lbs, the pack comes with a microphone and mounting bracket for easy installation.
- Same as LINCOLN II but 12 meter band added, key "CH19/9" replaced by "Emergency Channel 1 and 2" programmable by user; HF output power 35W PEP SSB instead of 31W PEP SSB, 35W FM instead of 28W; AM is same 12W RMS 48WPEP.
- Rotary switch and Up/down channel selector; Volume adjustment and ON/OFF; Manual squelch and ASC; RF Power; MENU function key; Dim; Mode switch AM/FM/LSB/USB/CW.
- VFO Mode w/ continuous scanning; Multi-functions LCD display; Frequencies display; S-meter; Channels and memories scan; 6 Memories; CTCSS (38 tones); DCS (104 codes).
#5. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 Dual Band Base Ham Radio
This BTECH transceiver packs several interesting features that makes it an awesome ham radio for beginners as well as veterans looking for a decent, cost-effective mobile transceiver.
It comes with a multicolor LCD display you can customize to your favorite color. You also get to customize your channels with alphanumeric tags or just the frequency settings.
The transceiver can function as multiple radios with its ability to use the 430 or 144 MHz bands as the transceiver and at the same time, you can monitor 3 other channels. You can also set it for simultaneous UHF-UHF or VHF-UHF operations.
With an FM capability, it also features a 2W speaker; variable scan resume modes; variable frequency scanning; auto power-off; channel mode editing; etc.
Apart from the radio, you get a speaker mic, DC cable, mic brackets, mounting brackets and user guide in the pack.
- What Makes the UV-50X2 Unique: Dual Synchronize Display Mode, Mic Audio Gain Settings, In depth user's guide, Auto Power Off Function, Channel Mode Editing Settings, Auto Scan, Scanning Resume, and Variable Frequency Scanning, Quad Watch Delay Time, Randomization Privacy Mode - Builds upon previous generation UV-5001
- High / Low Power Settings (50W/10W); Frequency Range: VHF: 144-148 MHz(Rx/Tx). UHF: 420-450 MHz(Rx/Tx); Broad (Wide) / Narrowband (Narrow) Selectable
- Recommended Accessories: Pair UV-50X2 with the Nagoya UT-72 Magnetic Mount Antenna for easy installation. The PC04 FTDI Cable is recommended for easy computer programming
Best Ham Radio For Beginners: Expert’s Buying Guide
In most cases, your budget is the most decisive factor in the type of ham radio you chose to buy as a beginner. But, budget aside, there are certain features you need to consider or you would end up throwing good money down the drain.
No matter the amount of money you are able to and willing to commit to purchasing the device, the following features are the most important things to consider:
Frequencies/Band – The most common ham radios operate on the UHF and VHF bands. They are dual-band radios used for FM voice and data transmission on 144-148 MHz (2 meters) and 420-450 MHz bands.
The type of radio you purchase should also be also linked to the RF activity in your area. For instance, in densely populated areas, a radio capable of monitoring the 1.2GHz band should be a priority. A 50 and 222 MHz radio would be suitable if you are interested in monitoring emergency transmissions in your locality.
Power output/input – The transmitting power of your device is one of the factors, along with your choice of antenna, that is very crucial in ham radio communication.
If you decide to purchase a handheld device, it should have a transmitting output power of between 3 and 5 watts for consistent coverage.
Aim for a power output of between 10-50 watts for mobile but portable devices if you are looking for value for your money.
However, you should understand that the more power output the radio has, the more battery power you would need.
Battery – The battery is an important consideration for most handheld devices since the bigger gadgets are attached to bigger external batteries (your car’s battery for instance) to power them.
That said, it is wise to purchase a spare battery pack and rotate the packs regularly. The use of alkaline AA or AAA alkaline batteries is one of the advantages handheld ham radios have over the bigger devices.
With spare batteries, you should never run out of power no matter how far away you are from electricity mains; you’d never have to stop your operations if you plan wisely.
Squelch function – The squelch function is important as it prevents users from having to listen to unwanted signals or noise during operations.
The radio’s manual should explain how to use the squelch control. This also means that the best ham radio for beginners must come with a well-illustrated and detailed manual.
Memories – Generally, the best amateur transceivers should come with adequate memory to store several complete radio configurations. This makes it easier to access a favorite channel/frequency or repeater.
With many memories, you can arrange your frequencies and channels any way you think is best for you. For instance, you could even group channels into those for special events, sports, travel, etc.
Programming/software – The method used in programming the transceiver must also be taken into consideration. The aim is to ensure that it is not difficult to program the frequencies.
The best devices have a quick-program function so you can store the frequency easily. They also come with the alphanumeric features to help you easily arrange your channels.
The alphanumeric tagging feature makes recollection and recognizing channels considerably stress-free.
Also important to programming frequencies is the availability of programming software to assist beginners. Along with the software, a programming cable must be included.
If there is no software or programming cable, the least you should expect is information on where to download the software and purchase the cable.
Fortunately, most manufacturers offer the software free to download on their websites.
Important Accessories For New Ham Radio Operators
The choice of antenna is one of the biggest favors in determining the effectiveness of your communication when using a transceiver.
Handheld gadgets usually come with their own antennas. Generally, these stock antennas are not that good. Fortunately, they can be detached and replaced with better ones.
Whip radio antennas with the compatible connectors or adaptors are available for all radios whether handheld or bigger ones. Consider purchasing these.
2. Battery chargers
If your gadget doesn’t come with a smart charger, then you must get one if you don’t want to wait hours for the normal charger to ‘re-juice’ your battery. This is even more important if you opted for a device with a large external battery pack.
3. Smart mics
Smart mics usually pack enough keys and buttons to make your radio ham operation a worthwhile experience.
However, it must be made clear that as a beginner, you might not need some of the functions found on a smart mic.
In conjunction with the smart mic, the quality of your audio transmission would be improved immeasurably if you purchase a headset that is a combination mic and earphones.
Quality headphones help you hear faint stations more clearly above the background noise and static. The very best ones have noise-canceling features to eliminate the noise in your immediate environment.
5. SWR/RF power meter
Wouldn’t it be nice to have equipment that tells you if your antenna is operating optimally?
This accessory would assist you to gauge the amount of power flowing through the antenna; if you are using the wrong antenna; or the antenna is improperly attached.
The meter you purchase must be designed for the frequency you would be using though.
There are lots of factors to take into consideration if you want to get the best ham radio for beginners. First, though, you’d have to determine what your needs are before getting a transceiver that fits that profile.
In addition to that, the power output, power source, storable memory channels, and programming features among others must be considered.
The five products in this guide are a product of several days of research with the sole target of pointing you to the very best transceivers you would need as a beginner. Choosing any of the five products here to purchase is a worthwhile investment as you begin the journey as a new hammie.