If the name isn’t a giveaway, 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 and use it as a mechanism to communicate with the outside world as well as listen into public broadcasts such as radio and announcements.
But I bet you don’t just want any transceiver. You want the best ham radio transceiver (base station) for the money! Or maybe, just the one that’s best at your budget and your use case will do too!
Well, fear not because after you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly what you need as I give you the ham radio base station reviews to make the decision making easier for you.
Best Ham Radio Transceiver (Base Station) Reviews
1. 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, ideal for cramped up spaces and won’t be much of a burden on your desk space if you want to keep it in someplace like the attic or the garage.
It is very easy to stow away and carry to places.
The range of frequencies supported on this device ranges from 30KHz to 54MHz, making it ideal to detect and transmit waves of longer wavelengths.
This particular device comes packaged with a built-in antenna tuner and it is automatic too! So you do not have to spend more money on getting auto tuned antennas or antennas with tuners even for that matter.
This particular device also comes packed with a few useful features that make it easier to use the device or do some things with it that are slightly unorthodox.
The size came at a disadvantage though, with the same few dials and controls having to adjust a number of things and it was a bit difficult for new users to get the hang of.
- Very compact size makes for easy storage and transportation.
- A long range of supported frequencies up to HF ranges.
- Has a built in antenna, saving you an extra purchase.
- Body has a built in tuner so manual tuning is not necessary
- Supports digital signals as well as analogue ones.
- Complicated dials and controls.
2. Icom IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver 100 Watts
Coming in at a moderately sized form factor, 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 with the press of buttons.
The device has a stated frequency range between 500 KHz and 30 MHz and while it does not include the much higher up frequencies, it should be enough to fulfill the communication needs of your average user.
It has inbuilt memory that allows users to access from automatically tuned channels by the transceiver. As per specifications, it is going to be able to support 101 different radio channels, saving you from having to tune every single time you want to go to a different channel. Pretty neat, huh?!
The speakers have a decent vocal amplitude, letting you hear sounds loudly enough and with a fair amount of clarity. Given that radios are analog signals, you can only get so much clarity
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 user experience.
- Large range of frequency coverage; being between 500KHz and 30MHz.
- 101 different memory channels to directly access.
- Quite a hefty upper limit on the volume of the radio speaker
- Lets you access AM radio channels in the press of a button.
- Lack of proper Squelch leads to a lot of background noise
3. 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 in DC, the Alinco DX-SR8T is definitely on the smaller side and is definitely going to be a good pick for people with little space to mount this contraption or people who need to carry around their transceiver.
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 speaker system built in and with decent enough clarity so you don’t have to spend more money on getting a new one.
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 a user had reservations about the buttons and dials. A lot of them would prefer to have the dials on tighter than they were for starters.
- Compact size allows for ease of storage and transportation.
- Another good range of frequency support, transmitting and receiving between 30 KHz and 35 MHz
- Very good dials and simple, easy to use controls in general.
- Speakers are included built-in.
- Power rating of 100W provides more juice to broadcast stronger signals.
- Build quality is lacking and it may not be too sturdy.
4. Yaesu FT-DX1200 HF/50 MHz Amateur Radio Base Transceiver
Another compactly designed transceiver for ham radios with a low power rating of only 100 watts, the Yaesu FT-DX1200 is a good choice if you like to use your radio while you’re on the move or want it to occupy very little desk space. It’s definitely a very good mobile ham radio transceiver.
A colorful TFT display beside the UI panel with the rotating dial and a host of buttons that serve different purposes. You can tell that this device quite feature-heavy!
Some of the features include buttons to switch to different radio modes and band tuning functionalities.
It supports a range of frequencies in the high-frequency range stated to be 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 lets even weak signals be strengthened sufficiently so that it can be heard properly by users.
This does, however, a limited number of bands so it falls a bit short of the higher frequency bands. Not too much of a drawback by any means!
- Good size for small space storage and transportation.
- Colorful display to see settings and configuration easier.
- 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.
- Limited to just the one band, in the HF range.
5. 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.
It has a power rating of 100W, the standard power output for most radio transceivers at this range.
Uses a direct sampling radio frequency channel, a feature that means that the radio can have fewer analog parts and still maintaining 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.
With radio modes,you can listen in to radios using SSB, CW, RTTY, AM and FM frequencies with the touch of a few buttons. Given that radios channel scan operate over such a wide array of frequencies, this transceiver is quite versatile
It does not come along with a dedicated power supply so you’ll have to spend some dosh on one. It won’t be that expensive but it’s still a bit of bother.
- Reduced noise and better parts due to using digital components more.
- A variety of radio modes accessed with buttons.
- Wide frequency range support: 30 KHz to 75 MHz is a lot!
- Colorful display with several HUDs for frequency and volume control
- Auto-tuning functionalities.
- Requires purchase of a suitable power supply.
6. 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 has a 100W input and 200W power output rating, something most of your power outlets are going to be able to accommodate.
The reception capabilities of this device support high-frequency ranges, with this particular model being rated as having support between 500 KHz and 60 MHz, a commendable range of frequencies.
The transmitter, on the other hand, can output frequencies in the range between 1.8MHz and 50 MHz, a good enough range for most users.
There is a pretty big LCD display in the front interface to show you current frequency settings and tuning settings, which you can adjust with different dials and buttons that accompany it in different places under the display.
It also comes included with a remote installation kit so that you can get assistance regarding the installation of the device.
However, the set does not come included with an antenna and power supply so you are going to have to get them separately.
- Support over a wide range of frequencies in the HF range.
- Orange/yellow LCD is bright, informative and responsive.
- Remote installation kit makes setting up a lot easier!
- Built in speakers that have a decent volume on them.
- Has an auto tuner and is compatible with non-auto antenna
- Antenna and power adapter with cord needs to be purchased separately.
- A bit complex and needs some learning to use at full potential.
7. Galaxy DX-2517 Base Station 10 Meter Radio
A device that is cheaper than the others on the list so far, the Galax DX-2517 is also one of the least power consuming devices. 25W for output and a meager 10W for input power is quite low!
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.
Comes included with some useful features. E.g. a noise filter is built into the circuitry that cuts down on the noise levels at the frequency ranges it supports.
A small LCD panel in the front lets you see settings but a pretty large host of analog controls in front is what will most likely catch your eye.
The manufacturer provided two years of limited warranty so that you can get repairs on this device in case something stops working.
Sadly, due to the lack of firepower, 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.
- Small but useful LCD in color.
- Two years of warranty support.
- Customization in reception and transmission gain.
- Low range of frequency support.
- Limited to one band.
8. Icom IC-7200 HF/50 Amateur Base Transceiver 100W USA Version
Slightly better than the starter ham radio systems, this contraption from Icom has a power input rating of 100W and is feature packed to add to the user experience of this transceiver.
It has waterproofing applied to the buttons and dials so water touching the front element of the device should not cause any undesirable damage to anything.
A noise filter is built into this transceiver and it allows you to change different dimensions of the filter to allow you to filter out noises that you deem undesirable.
The rating of 12v dc current means that this crafty piece of engineering is going to work just fine in the radio sockets of vehicles. It might be the best portable ham radio transceiver if you want to use it in your vehicle and the specs fit your vehicle.
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 is good for camping out near water bodies.
- Noise filter to cut out background sounds.
- Very small size good for storage and transportation.
- Size that fits into radio cut out in vehicles.
- Notch filter cuts out interring tones.
- Lacks antenna, power brick and power chord.
- Lacks auto tuning and manual isn’t that efficient.
9. Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver – HF, VHF, UHF All-Mode
The Yaesu FT-857D is the first transceiver on this list that actually has support for radio frequencies in the high, very high and ultra-high frequency ranges.
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 it is going to easily receive all shortwave frequencies and most conventional radio channels.
Let’s you assign 200 different memory channels, which lets you get into any channel out of two hundred of your choosing and quickly access these channels to get whatever feed you want out of a massive selection.
It even comes included with a microphone that is connected to the device with a short cable and a power supply so you can get it up and running, standalone. It will still need an antenna to use as a base station. It’s still a very good handheld ham radio transceiver.
The controls are not that user-friendly and it isn’t something most amateurs will be at home with. Definitely not the best ham radio transceiver for beginners!
- Supports HF, VHF and UHF. 100 KHz to 470 MHz is a huge frequency range!
- Dual band support, quite a rare feat in such a small package.
- Added microphone is good and somewhat mobile due to the cord.
- Power supply is built into the device so external power isn’t necessary.
- 200 different memory channels.
- Complex controls.
- Control panel small in size.
10. Yaesu Original FT-991A HF/50/140/430 MHz All Mode”Field Gear” Transceiver
The last transceiver on this list with support for up to the really high-frequency ranges, the Yaesu Original FT-991Ais slightly bigger one than many counterparts and certainly not a cheap ham radio base station!
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 support touch functionality too!
It has two connectors on the body for antennas so you can fit in two different antennas with different frequency support ranges. This should make it slightly better in terms of transmitting and detecting signals.
Sadly, the whole host of controls also means that this is one really complicated machine to get the hang of. Of these ham radio transceiver reviews, this is definitely the most powerful and feature-rich one on this list but probably not the one I’d recommend if you are a beginner.
- Touch controls on the display
- Full of dials and buttons for additional usability and control.
- High grade auto tuner is built in.
- Includes power brick and antenna.
- Support for all frequency ranges up to ultra-high.
- High grade noise filter deafens background buzzing.
- Quite a bit more expensive than counterparts.
Overview of Ham Radio Base Station
By now, you’re probably done reading about all the products and in case you’re still in some confusion, it will most certainly help you out a bit more to know what a base station is and why you should use and how to operate one in general. Now, operations are likely to vary but they all have user manuals and some aspects of it are the same all around.
Why You Need A Ham Radio Base Station
- Access To Emergency Broadcasts: A lot of emergency broadcasts are done over the radio, particularly tsunami warnings and weather alerts. They are broadcasted through other means too but it is one extra mode of communication to make sure you receive messages.
- Independent Communication Tool: Sometimes, not having cellular network or access to internet can render an individual or household without the ability to communicate with the outside world. Radio waves do not rely on anything and can be used to broadcast and receive messages regardless.
- 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.
- Remote communications: Certain remote areas, such as high up in hills, often do not get proper cellular coverage and sometimes, having a radio with UHF support can help overcome communication obstacles to those locations.
Features To Look For During Purchase
Transmission Range: Knowing the frequency ranges that your particular transceiver supports are an important part of getting the right device for your radio system. As a general rule, high-frequency radio waves should have adequate frequency and enough distance to get to most of your intended destinations and intercept communications that may be of any interest to you.
Output Power: While not as much of a concern, because most starter radio transceivers tend to have outputted in the range of 100-200W and in most cases, 200W directly. If you go for something that is much cheaper and much less powerful than the standard transceivers that most ham radio users will use, you are more or less going to get a device that is about 25W output.
LCD Display: Again, 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. Different LCD displays come with colors, such as the TFT LCD panels and the premium ones even have support for touch functionalities if that’s what you would rather have!
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 to check for any transmission in that particular 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.
Squelch: You know that buzzing noise that you get when you try to tune your granddad’s 1950s radio? Well, this is where squelch 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 and load 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 with more subsections. 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, transmission might also be negated in this regard.
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!
Number of Memory Channels: This is basically the number of different radio frequencies that are transmitting 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 included with antennas and built in tuners. They 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 though.
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 safer bet for beginners whereas seasoned veterans may be more feature and price sensitive and disregard the nametag altogether.
Price: Perhaps the most important component, the price is usually the variable that decides what you purchase the most. The good thing is that base stations come in such a variety of price that there is usually one with a price that suits someone or the other. However, the lowest price isn’t that cheap either!
Ham Radio Base Station Setup Guide
So, now that you’ve gotten the best HF ham radio transceiver, you have to set it up, eh? Let’s get to it then!
1st step: First of all, your transceiver will need a number of things before it works and unless if any of them was provided with the device, you’ll have to buy it separately. These devices include a power supply, a microphone, a speaker set, an antenna, a coaxial cable 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 particularly make sure that your device has the right connectors for a particular antenna’s connector. The power brick should also have a suitable power rating.
3rd step: Attach all the components to the radio device, in 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 use 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 golden! Now go use your new toy!
So you have a guideline now 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!