In case the name doesn’t give it away, a transceiver is a device that lets you both transmit and receive signals.
Needless to say, a ham radio transceiver will allow you to do that with radio signals. But I bet you don’t just want any transceiver. You want the best ham radio transceiver (base station) for the money!
Well, fear not, because after you’re done reading our reviews, you’ll know exactly what you need. I’ll give you ham radio base station reviews to make the decision-making process easier for you.
Our Top Picks
Yaesu Original FT-450D
Icom IC-718 HF
Best Ham Radio Transceiver Reviews
1. Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver – HF, VHF, UHF All-Mode
The Yaesu FT-857D is the first transceiver on this list, and it offers access to radio frequencies in the high (HF), very high (VF) and ultra-high (UHF) frequency ranges. This unit offers the same quality of performance as a base station, but it’s portable! Just hook it up to an external battery and this unit is small enough to take with you, in your vehicle, in a backpack—it’s your choice.
It has the same 100W input that is required for most radio transceiver devices. No unpleasant surprises there!
Due to the very versatile range of frequencies, you can be sure that this unit will easily receive all shortwave frequencies and most conventional radio channels. That makes it one of the best hf ham radio transceivers.
The FT-857-D lets you store 200 channels in memory so you can go to your favorites quickly and easily. And 200 channels is a massive selection.
It even includes a microphone that you connected to the transceiver with a short cable and a power supply so you can get it up and running, standalone. It needs an antenna to pick up the signals so you can use it as a base station.
The controls offer options that will keep the most experienced ham radio operators happy.
At 6.1” x 2” x 9.2”, this is a small unit
- The included microphone lets you start talking to other ham operators around the world.
- Power supply is built into the device so external power isn’t necessary.
- 200 different memory channels.
- In addition to the standard ham radio bands, this unit receives public safety broadcasts, weather broadcasts, AM and FM broadcasts, and aviation communications.
- It gives you access to a wide range of frequencies. It transmits on HF, 50 MHz, 144 MHz, and 430 MHz amateur radio bands, and receives the 100 kHz to 56 MHz, 76 to 108 MHz, 118-164 MHz, and 420-470 MHz bands.
- The big tuning dial makes it easy to find and tune in the channels.
- The range of controls makes this best suited to experienced ham operators.
2. Yaesu Original FT-450D HF/50MHz Compact Amateur Base Transceiver
With a power rating of 100 watts, this transceiver comes in at a rather small form factor(9”W x 3.3”H x 8.5”D) that’s ideal for cramped spaces and won’t take much desk space if you want to keep it someplace like the attic or the garage. Since it’s powered by a 13.8 VDC 22 amp external power source, you can take it with you or use it indoors.
This unit handles the HF and 6M frequencies (160 through 6 meters). It features a handy, built-in automatic antenna tuner! So you do not have to spend more money on getting an antenna or tuners. Also, it has a 10 Khz roofing filter that protects the IF and DSP stages.
The LCD frequency display offers larger-than-usual characters so it’s easy to read. And even better, it has backlit key buttons! So if you’re working in low light conditions, you can find the right controls and use them easily.
- Very compact size makes for easy storage and transportation.
- Has a built-in, automatic antenna, making it easier to use the transceiver and saving you the cost of buying an antenna.
- Backlit keys are really handy
- The filter helps to get better signal quality
- Supports digital and analog signals.
- Complicated dials and controls.
3. Icom IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver 100 Watts
Coming in at a moderately size of 9.4 x 3.7 x 9.4 inches, the Icom IC-718 has different modes to access radio-related features. These features also allow the transceiver to access different radio types such as AM radio by pressing the appropriate buttons.
The device has a stated frequency range between 500 KHz and 30 MHz and while it does not include the higher frequencies, it should be enough to fulfill the communication needs of a new operator or an average user.
The unit lets you store 101 radio channels in memory, saving you from having to tune every single channel each time you want to go to change to a different channel. That’s handy!
The speaker is mounted on the front of the transceiver, making it easier to hear the radio.
The receiver, unfortunately, has given several users problems with too much background noise and unusable for certain modes such as SSB.
- Full of different features that enhance the user experience.
- Large range of frequency coverage; being between 500KHz and 30MHz.
- 101 channel memory.
- Offers USB, LSB, CW, RTTY(FSK) and AM modes.
- Quite a hefty upper limit on the volume of the radio speaker
- Helpful auto tuning feature.
- Lack of proper squelch leads to a lot of background noise.
4. ICOM 7300 02 Direct Sampling Shortwave Radio Black
Coming in at a slightly more robust form factor, this transceiver from ICOM definitely isn’t a cheap ham radio transceiver but it is packed with features and additions that will make the price worthwhile. At 9.26 pounds it’s a little heavier than some other units, and it only requires a 13.8V DC (±15%) power source.
It receives the 0.030–74.800 wavelengths, (not all wavelengths are guaranteed, though), and transmits on 1.800–1.999, 3.500–3.999, 5.255–5.405, 7.000–7.300, 10.100–10.150, 14.000–14.350, 18.068–18.168, 21.000–21.450, 24.890–24.990, 28.000–29.700, 50.000–54.000 wavelengths, making it one of the best ham radio base stations.
The 7300 uses direct sampling, a feature that means that the radio uses fewer analog parts and still maintains the usability of the system.
It is also a better design in terms of less noise interfering with the transmission and has fewer sources of signal leakage due to fewer parts.
It includes a variety of operating modes: SSB, CW, RTTY, AM and FM frequencies that are easy to choose by touching a few buttons. Given that radios channel scan operate over such a wide array of frequencies, this transceiver is quite versatile!
- Reduced noise, better sound quality.
- A variety of radio modes accessed with buttons.
- Wide frequency range support: 30 KHz to 75 MHz.
- Colorful display with several HUDs for frequency and volume control
- Auto-tuning function.
- Requires purchase of a suitable DC power supply.
5. Kenwood TS-480HX HF/50 MHz Amateur Base Transceiver 200 Watts
Coming in at a rather small size but packing a lot of punch, this transceiver from Kenwood offers a 200W power output rating with a DC 13.8V power supply.
The reception capabilities of this device support high-frequency ranges, with this particular model being rated as having support for 0.5 – 30MHz, 50 – 54MHz and the VFO: a continuous 30kHz – 60MHz. Also, it offers a built-in antenna tuner.
The transmitter, on the other hand, can output frequencies of 160, 80, 60*, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, 6m bands (*USA only).
There is a pretty big LCD display on the front panel that shows you the current frequency settings and tuning settings. This unit offers backlit keys and LCD display, so it’s easy to use in low light or night conditions.
It also comes included with a remote installation kit so that you can get assistance regarding the installation of the device.
The components in this heavy-duty transceiver are designed to withstand the heat that can build up inside the case; it has a die-cast aluminum chassis and two fans for enhanced cooling ability.
However, the set does not come included with an antenna or power supply, so you’ll need to get them separately.
- Support over a wide range of frequencies in the HF range.
- Orange/yellow LCD is bright, great for night use.
- Remote installation kit makes setting up a lot easier!
- Built in speakers that have a decent amount of volume.
- Has an auto tuner and is compatible with non-auto antenna
- The standalone control panel can be positioned up to 4 meters (12 feet) away from the main unit.
- Antenna and power adapter need to be purchased separately.
- A bit complex and needs some learning to use this transceiver to its full potential.
6. Galaxy DX-2517 Base Station 10 Meter Radio
The Galaxy DX-2517 is also one of the least power consuming devices, as it uses 25W maximum output power for SSB, and 10W maximum output power for AM.
It has support for a range of radio channels using AM, FM, CW, PA and SSB radio. For a rather weak device in terms of power and features, this is actually quite a commendable thing to have.
This unit comes included with some useful features, including. a noise filter is built into the circuitry, two large, easy-to-read meters; meter scales for signal, power output, SWR and modulation (AM only); red/green Transmit/Receive LED lights and a variable dimmer control.
A small LCD panel in the front lets you see the settings but the large host of analog controls in front is what will most likely catch your eye.
Sadly, due to the lack of power, it has very poor range of frequency support and allows broadcasting and reception in only one band and that might limit your ability, in particular, to receive radio signals effectively.
- Very power efficient and uses low power in general.
- Has a built-in noise filter to cut background buzzing and other noises, making the signals clearer.
- Small but useful LCD display.
- Customization of both reception and transmission gain.
- Low range of frequencies supported.
- Limited to one band.
7. Icom IC-7200 HF/50 Amateur Base Transceiver 100W USA Version
Slightly better than the starter ham radio systems, this unit from Icom has a power input rating of 100W and is packed with features that add to the user experience of this transceiver.
The IC-7200’s features a “rear bumper design” that lets you stand the radio on its end. This protects the buttons and knobs on the front panel protect against water getting inside the case.
A noise filter is built into this transceiver and it allows you to filter out background noises that make it hard to hear. The digital noise reduction reduces background noise and improves the signal-to-noise ratio. The filter has 16 adjustment steps. This improves the readability of both voice and data signals.
This unit needs 12v DC power, so this crafty piece of engineering is going to work just fine in vehicles. It might be the best portable ham radio transceiver if you want to use it in your vehicle.
Also, you can program the IC-7200 using a PC via the USB port. Just use the CI-V data format.
Unfortunately, the lack of several components mean that you have to spend a bit more money to get all those accessories to get the full functionality. This is only when you want to be able to transmit and as a base station. Probably not the best ham radio base station in this regard!
- Waterproof controls are handy for using this unit outside..
- Noise filter to cut out background sounds.
- Very small size is good for using in vehicles, taking with you in a backpack, or using in small spaces.
- 201 memory channels so you can program in and easily find your favorites.
- Lacks an antenna, power brick and power chord.
- Lacks auto tuning and manual isn’t that efficient.
8. Yaesu Original FT-991A HF/50/140/430 MHz All Mode”Field Gear” Transceiver
The 8th transceiver on this list, with support for the MF/HF/VHF/UHF bands, and 100 watts of power in the HF/50mhz range, and 50 watts in the VHF/UHF bands, the Yaesu Original FT-991Ais slightly bigger than many counterparts. It’s 8.8″ x 3″ x 9.9″ and weighs in at 9.7 pounds. This is one of the best hf transceivers.
With a rather colorful TFT panel in front, flanked by a whole host of different buttons and dials and jacks, you have a lot of versatility with this device and what you can do with it. The best part about the display is that it supports touch functionality too!
It has two connectors on the body for antennas so you can use two different antennas with different frequency support ranges. This should make it slightly better in terms of transmitting and detecting signals.
This is a great choice for experienced ham radio operators, but it might be too complicated for new users. Of these ham radio transceiver reviews, this is definitely the most powerful and feature-rich one on this list.
- Touch controls on the display
- Full of dials and buttons for additional usability and control.
- High grade auto tuner is built in.
- Includes100 channel memory.
- Support for all frequency ranges up to ultra-high.
- High grade noise filter deafens background buzzing.
- The wide range of options included on this model may be too much for new users.
9. Alinco DX-SR8T 100W HF All Mode Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver SSB CW
With a power rating of 100W and a voltage requirement of 14volts DC, the Alinco DX-SR8T covers the 160 to 10 meter SSB, CW, AM and FM bands. Power-wise, it offers 100 watts in the SSB, CW and FM bands, and 40 watts on the AM band. Also, it offers a staggering 600 memory capability.
This particular ham radio transceiver has a stated range from 30 KHz to 35 MHz, a decent enough range to fulfill all your transmitting and receiving needs.
It includes a built-in speaker that has reasonable clarity.
The device does have quite some nifty controls, such as the buttons to access the many different radio channels stored in the memory and a dial to manually tune the radio band. Usability is something that users should definitely also factor in.
The build quality is not the greatest and many users have had reservations about the buttons and dials. A lot of them would prefer to have the dials connected tighter than they were. Also, this is a little bigger than many comparable units at 9.45” x 3.95” x 11.54” inches, but it only weighs 9 pounds.
- Offers a whopping 600 memory capability, so you can store every channel you’ll ever want to find again.
- Speakers are built-in.
- Power rating of 100W provides more juice to broadcast stronger signals.
- Build quality is lacking and it may not be too sturdy.
- Keys are not backlit.
10. Yaesu FT-DX1200 HF/50 MHz Amateur Radio Base Transceiver
This is one of the best ham radio base stations. It offers up to 100 watts on the SSB, CW and FM bands, and 25 watts on AM band. The Yaesu FT-DX1200 measures 4.4″ x 4.5″ x 12.3″ and weighs 20.9 pounds, making it best suited for use as a base station.
A colorful TFT display, a spectrum scope, and a high speed automatic antenna tuner are included. And to keep your transceiver working well for long periods of time, the cooling fan is mechanically isolated from the chassis. This reduces vibration and noise, helping the transceiver work better.
This unit supports a range of frequencies in the high-frequency range from 1.8MHz to 54 MHz. This will be able to accommodate transmission at a pretty decent range of radio wave frequencies.
The great DSP algorithm programmed into this device strengthens even weak signals enough so that they can be heard properly.
However, with these dimensions and its heavy weight, this is really not a portable system.
- The large, 4.3” color display makes it easy to see settings and configure the transceiver.
- A host of different controls for greater usability and functionality
- Solid gain on weak digital signals.
- Support for frequencies in the HF range up to 54 MHz.
- You can connect this transceiver to a PC using a USB cable and the optional SCU-17 unit.
- Limited to just the one band, in the HF range.
- Definitely a base station, too big and heavy to be portable.
Overview of The Best Ham Radio Base Station
By now, you’re probably finished reading about all the products. In case you’re still confused, itt will most certainly help you out to know what a base station is, and why you should use one, and how to operate one, in general. Now, operations are likely to vary but all the products come with a user manual, and some aspects are the same in every model.
Why You Need A Ham Radio Base Station
- Access to Emergency Broadcasts: A lot of emergency broadcasts are done over the radio, particularly storm warnings and weather alerts. They are broadcasted through other means too, but having access to the ham radio channels gives you one extra mode of communication to make sure you receive these important messages.
- Independent Communication Tool: Sometimes, not having access to a cell phone network or access to the internet can render an individual or household without the ability to communicate with the outside world. Ham radio base stations can be used to broadcast and receive messages when phone lines, cell phones and the internet are not working.
- Community: The ham radio user community is very helpful and you can learn a lot about using the system through it. It’s an avenue to meet new people and find useful information. And it’s fun to talk to people in far-away places!
- Remote communications: Certain remote areas, such as high up in mountains, often do not get proper cellular coverage. Having a ham radio can help to overcome communication obstacles in those locations.
Best Ham Radio Base Station Buying Guide
Transmission Range: You need a license to talk on ham radio, so you need a base station that offers the frequencies you are licensed to use. Different licenses authorize you to use different frequencies, so knowing the frequency ranges that your particular transceiver supports is important.
Output Power: This is not as much of a concern, because most starter radio transceivers tend to have output in the range of 100-200 watts, and that’s plenty. If you want something that is much cheaper and much less powerful than the standard transceivers that most ham radio users will use, you are probably going to get a device that has about 25watts of output.
LCD Display: Again, this another factor that is likely to be preceded by a lot more other factors that directly affect the usefulness and user experience, it is still something you might give a thought or two about just to get that added bit of convenience from using your radio transceiver. Some LCD displays are single color, others offer multiple colors, which may make it easier for you to use the transceiver.
Scan functions: Scan settings are likely to be in one of three possible settings. The automatic scan looks through frequencies to see if there is any transmission in a particular one, and the radio will display that one in particular. Manual scanning, usually done through a dial, lets you manually tune to a frequency. Search scanning looks for transmissions between a set of frequencies and is used to find out if there is any broadcasting at a particular frequency in that immediate moment.
Programmability: This is probably not for the amateurs who are looking to just get into ham radio, but if you have some experience with them, you might want to explore what degree of programmability your radio transceiver offers. Transceivers let you do a lot of tinkering around and with them to create channels and select bands and a host of other things. Being able to customize the transceiver for the way you want to use it will really enhance your enjoyment of ham radio,
Squelch: You know that buzzing noise that you get when you try to tune your granddad’s 1950s radio? Well, this is where the squelch feature comes in. You’ll want your radio to have squelch to make sure that any time a channel does not actually have any transmission in a particular frequency, you’re not left listening to a continuous buzz indefinitely until you change it to something with some actual transmission.
Broadcast Type: If the title seems a bit confusing, this is basically talking about the different types of standards that are used in both analog and digital radio formats. Yes, I must clarify that even analog and digital are technically two different types of broadcasts. You should be quite familiar with the analog standards, AM and FM. There are a bunch of digital standards too! Find out which one you need.
CTCSS/DCS-Encoder/Decoder: CTCSS and DCS are basically two different types of squelch mechanisms. They are built in so that if several users are using a channel simultaneously, you can reduce the noise coming from inactive users. The problem here is that if two users are using different mechanisms, their transmissions might also be negated.
Design and Quality: If you’re the performance-centric type, this isn’t going to worry you too much, but if you want this new addition to your household to blend in well, you’ll want it to look nice at least! And quality matters if you plan to use the transceiver for long periods of time (you don’t want heat build-up in the case to kill your transceiver).
Number of Memory Channels: This is basically the number of different radio frequencies that your radio can automatically save into its memory. This way, you can quickly access a lot of different radio frequencies with the touch of a button. A bit like how TVs work, really!
Antenna and Antenna Tuner: Some ham transceivers come with built-in antennas and built in tuners. The built-in antennas usually aren’t that great, but having an antenna as a beginner saves you from delving into the world of antennas, another world full of complex tech! A tuner may not be necessary for the antenna, depending on the auto tuning capabilities of your ham base station.
Brand: Depending on your preference, you might want to stick to the known, premium brands if you are unsure about the quality. Yaesu, a brand that makes great transceivers, might be a safer bet for beginners whereas seasoned veterans may be more feature and price sensitive and disregard the name tag altogether.
Ham Radio Base Station Setup Guide
So, now that you’ve bought the best HF ham radio transceiver, you have to set it up. Let’s get to it, then!
1st step: First of all, your transceiver will need a number of things before it works and unless they were provided with the device, you’ll have to buy them separately. These devices include a power supply, a microphone, a speaker, an antenna, a coaxial cable, a cable and software for connecting to a PC, and maybe even a tuner. Find out how many of these components your radio transceiver of choice has and which ones it lacks.
2nd step: Components not included inside the base station will usually not be that difficult to connect. However, before you get one, you need to check all the connectors and make sure that your device has the right connectors for a particular antenna’s connector. The power source should also have a suitable power rating, especially when you’re using DC power. Make sure your power source is charged!
3rd step: Attach all the components to the radio device, using the right connectors. Turn on the power and let the base station auto tune and identify broadcasting frequencies.
4th step: Assign channels to the frequencies you intend to listen to or the bands that you will communicate over for ease of access to them.
5th step: Test your microphone to make sure it’s transmitting properly. If so, you’re ready! Now go use your new toy!
This is the end of our best ham radio transceiver/base station reviews. So now you have a guideline regarding everything that you need to know regarding ham radios. It is mostly basic stuff, and if you refer the topic to serious hams, they can definitely go into great details regarding things you should be getting. But just get started with this for now and go up later.