By: Jeremy Neisser
I am going to talk about which one is best for you - a CB radios vs walkie talkie in this article. I know that both radios could be used in the same way, but they have different uses and broadcasting distances.
CB Radios vs Walkie Talkie: What's the main differences?
The biggest differences between a CB radios and a walkie talkie are their range and the channels they use. Walkie-talkies are usually smaller, easier to carry around, have shorter ranges, and can be used with other devices (including cell phones) without causing interference. CB radios tend to be found in cars or homes have a larger range. Both are two-way radios.
Let's dig in a little more..
CB radios and walkie talkies serve both people who prefer convenience over quality. If you want something simple that just works every time, either one will do for you.
However, if you take some time to learn about all of the technical aspects of these devices, you can choose one that will help you when it matters most.
For example, if your two way radios are going to be used in multiple places by people who aren't physically close together (like a hunting party), then getting something with good range is important.
However, if they're only going to be used around your home or property, then you don't necessarily need them.
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How do CB radios work?
CB radios (citizens band radio) are radio transceivers that operate in the range of 27 Megahertz (MHz) to 28.3 MHz.
The CB band is free for anyone to use and can be very useful when disaster strikes, especially when it comes to emergency situations and times of need.
Because they operate on a band that is shared by many other users, you will typically have better luck receiving broadcasts than making them, but with some practice you should be able to broadcast clear messages without problems.
You don't need a license or permit to purchase a CB radio (citizens band radio) anymore (they used to require one before), so it's very easy for anyone to get their hands on one.
-You might like: Citizens Band Radios: Learn How to Use them the Right Way
How does a walkie talkie work?
Walkie talkies work in the VHF (Very High Frequency) range between 136 to 174 MHz. This is in between CB radio and your AM/FM radio, so it's not as high or as low frequency as either of those two things.
It used to be that you had to have a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to transmit on these frequencies, but now they are available for anyone who wants them.
Since walkie talkies work in such a different part of the spectrum than CB radios do, they can be very useful when transmitting signals from one short distance away instead of sending long-range signals like a typical CB would.
A walkie talkie or a some people call it a two way radio is very similar to a ham radio where it is specifically for conversations and communication between individuals.
Is a Walkie talkie a two way radio?
A two way radio and a walkie talkie are the same thing, just the term is used interchangeably, Both can operate two ways as they have the ability to both transmit and receive a radio signal, as opposed to a radio that can only receive.
A two way radio can either operate in a half-duplex or full duplex mode.
Half-duplex means that the radio can transmit or receive in turn but not both simultaneously. Full-duplex means that the radio can transmit and receive at the same time.
A two way radio is also commonly called a transceiver, because it can both transmit and receive radio communications simultaneously.
In either case, the radio operates two ways; it can send and it can receive.
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How do I use my walkie talkie?
Just like other forms of communication, getting used to talking on a walkie talkie / two way radio is something that you have to learn as you go.
Because the range of these things is so much shorter than typical radio communication, almost everyone who has ever used one knew someone personally before they learned how to use them properly.
Do I need a license or permit to operate my CB radio?
No, not anymore (at least in most places). Getting a license for your CB radio was nothing more than an extra step between you and buying it years ago, but now that those days are gone, there's no reason not to buy one and start using it right away.
Do keep in mind that different states require different age groups to hold their own licenses though. The FCC has a bunch of other specs as it relates to the parts of a CB radio if you are interested in some light reading.
For example, some states may restrict minors from using them legally, while others let anyone use them at their own risk.
What distance can I expect to travel with my CB radio?
The range of a CB radio is determined by the power output rating given on it (more watts = longer range).
Since most radios are limited to at least 4 watts, you'll rarely get more than 18 to 20 miles out of your broadcast before it starts getting picked up by other stations that are in between you and the person you're trying to reach.
What distance can I expect to travel with my walkie?
The range of walkie-talkies will vary depending on the kind that you get.
The rule of thumb is to divide the frequency they are operating in by 3 to get a rough estimate of how far away you can go before your signal starts getting weak.
So if your walkie-talkie /two way radio is operating at the 136 - 174 MHz frequency, then you should be able to reach around 40 miles between each other before needing to communicate with someone else again (if they are within range).
What are privacy codes?
In order to stop other people from interfering with your walkie talkies, some models of handheld devices have privacy codes.
This works much like the encryption feature on a cell phone, and it's often set up through the channels you prefer to use most.
If there are others near you who also have their CB radios or two way radios on one of these channels, then you'll be able to switch over and talk without them being able to listen in.
This may not seem like a lot of help if you and the others are too close to each other, but it can make all the difference in situations where one person is traveling or out of range.
What channels should I use?
It's very important to stay on the legal channels for communications such as CB radio and walkie talkies since occupying other frequencies could cause interference with other forms of communication.
You may have noticed that computers get slower sometimes when there are too many people using Wi-Fi near it; this is because they're all on the same frequency.
The same goes for CB radios and walkie talkies as well. This is why it's so important to make sure that you stay within the confines of the legal channels.
Why choose a CB radio over a walkie talkie?
If you want to be able to reach someone farther away and still maintain quality communication, then a CB radio with higher power is the way to go.
However, if all you need is something simple that will let you stay in touch with your hunting party or anyone who's close by, there's no reason not to pick up a walkie talkie instead of whatever other device you may have been thinking about getting for yourself or your family.
There are even special channels for hunters so they can communicate without raising any red flags with those who don't share their interests (to make sure they aren't killed accidentally).
Other Differences between 2-Way Radios and Walkie Talkies
It's quite common to misunderstand the distinction between 2-way radios and walkie-talkies.
Not only are they incorrectly used interchangeably, but many people associate "walkie-talkie" with children's toys so think that a walkie-talkie must be less sophisticated than you'd find in a 2-way radio. However, it should be noted that essentially all portable two way radios can also qualify as a type of 'walkie talkie'.
Initially used in WWII, walkie-talkies have since become popular as children's toys and unfortunately gained a negative reputation. However, it doesn't have to be low quality - many walkie-talkies can effortlessly transmit signals over long distances. It is important to note that not all two-way radios are considered walkie-talkies; those with an attached "base" at either end of the radio do not qualify as such.
So while squares or rectangles may represent 2 way radios, they don't fall into the category of hand held, portable devices known as 'walkie talkies.'
The main difference between a two-way radio and a walkie-talkie is the size and portability. Two-way radios are typically bulkier, more powerful, and have greater transmission range than most walkie-talkies.
They require an external antenna to boost their signal strength, which makes them less portable than the latter. Walkie-talkies are small and compact devices that often come with built in antennas for better portability. While they may not be able to reach as far as their 2-way radio counterparts, they often provide clear signals over short distances of 1 - 3 miles.
Two-Way Radio Terminology
Learning two-way radios can be a lengthy process, ask anyone who has obtained their HAM license. There is much to cover - operating practices, FCC rules and more. But even if your intent is simply to buy one for emergency use, there are still some fundamental terms which should not go overlooked.
How much power a two-way radio uses is determined by its wattage, and the higher it is, the farther your messages will travel—even through difficult terrain like forests or mountains. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost since increased wattage will quickly deplete batteries. Thankfully, in these cases you can simply opt for radios with adjustable settings that let you control how much wattage to use so that you can conserve energy when needed!
In addition to wattage, two-way radios also have varying bandwidths. This determines the range of frequencies that a radio will be able to send and receive messages on, so it is important to choose one with an appropriate bandwidth for your needs.
As with any form of communication, there are going to be background noises like static or interference from other sources. That's why noise cancellation is a crucial feature in two-way radios—it filters out these distracting sounds so you can hear each message loud and clear!
The range of a two-way radio refers to how far it can transmit. Many report that radios advertised with 25 miles of range actually only reach 3 miles in reality.
Keep in mind, however, that the given range is for optimal conditions - obstacles such as trees, hills, tall buildings or inclement weather may all limit its capabilities due to the 150-900MHz frequency of these types of waves which travel exclusively on straight lines.
Want to extend the range of your two-way radio? It's easy!
With antennas, repeaters (which amplify signals) and better batteries, you can transmit a signal for hundreds of miles like those used by military personnel.
Two-way radios employ either VHF (Very High Frequency) or UHF (Ultra High Frequency). Of the two, UHF generally has a more powerful signal and is able to traverse through blockages. It's critical to understand that VHF and UHF are not compatible with one another. Therefore if you already have a VHF radio system then it will be unproductive attempting to pair it with an Ultra High Frequency device.
Channels refer to a specific frequency that you use for communication. You can establish separate channels for each of your groups or teams; For example, the security team and lighting crew at a concert venue could have their own dedicated channel.
Most two-way radios come with approximately 22 channels cover different topics such as weather alerts (of which there are usually 10). Depending on the model, more than 22 channels may be available but not all of them will necessarily provide successful communication.
As there are only a few communication channels, it's possible that someone else could intercept your transmissions - particularly if you're in an area with many people utilizing radios within the range. You may also hear other conversations which can be quite disruptive.
To reduce all this chaos and gain privacy on your radio, you have access to something called "privacy codes". These employ a filtering system where any messages not set to the same code as yours will be blocked from reaching you!
What should I look for when buying my first CB radio?
Most people know that a CB radio is most useful when there are multiple people in one spot (like hunters) or for those who need to communicate with someone far away (like truck drivers).
However, not everyone knows that some models are better than others.
There are a few things you should look for when purchasing a new walkie talkie or CB radio from a reliable source:
- What's the best frequency range?
If the range of your CB radio is 30 watts but most of the channels on it only allow 25 watts to be used, then you're going to fall under enemy fire before anyone else even knows what happened. - Is it legal?
Your state may have laws in place that restrict certain frequencies based on age requirements (this is especially true for children).
- What's the battery life?
If you're going to be using this in an area with no cell phone coverage, then having a CB radio with good battery life is essential.
- Does it have good reception?
You don't want to use a walkie talkie or CB device if you're not going to be able to hear what someone on the other end without static interference (which usually occurs when there are multiple people talking at once).
Why choose a walkie talkie over a CB radio?
If you're looking for something with the lowest possible price tag that will help you stay in touch with someone who is close or over a longer distance, then walkie talkies are perfect for your needs.
While CB radios and walkie talkies also cost roughly the same amount of money depending on the model and features included, one thing to keep in mind is that you can only reach so far with a CB radio before you need to use another station's frequency (since they all overlap each other).
Walkie talkies are limited by range but not by spectrum interference; this makes it easy to get through to anyone without worrying about whether or not there will be any issues caused by other users.
What should I look for when buying my first walkie talkies?
Just like our previous list of things that matter most when choosing between a CB radio and a walkie talkie, there are also some features that will make your choice easier when purchasing a walkie talkies for the first time.
Here's a list:
- What channels does it have?
Some people assume they can use whatever channel they want since there's usually no one else around them to interfere, but if that happens then you're going to cause interference with other walkie talkies nearby and make someone else's conversation difficult or impossible to hear.
- How many watts does it have?
If your device has 30 watts of power and most of the channels you use are 25 watts, then you won't be able to reach far distances.
On the other hand, if everyone else picks up CB radios that are only capable of 25 watts when they're using those same channels, then you'll have an advantage over them (at least until they can get upgraded).
- Can it be upgraded?
Just like cell phones can be locked down and blocked from other networks, many of the cheaper walkie talkies out on today's market have limited channels or wattage due to various laws and restrictions.
- Is there a warranty?
If your walkie talkie breaks within the first few months of purchase, you don't want to have to pay more money in order to replace it; that's why it pays for you to choose something that comes with at least a 30-day guarantee (or better yet, a year or more).
How much should I spend?
For many consumers, this is usually the last thing they think about before starting their search for the right product.
While it may seem like there's no reason to pay more for a higher-priced item when a cheaper model would work just as well, it's important to consider the investment you'll make in terms of both time and money.
When looking at different walkie talkies and features to decide between, make sure you compare the range just as much as you consider their different specifications.
If your walkie talkies can't go very far, then it may not be worth spending a lot of money on something that won't work for your needs.
CB Radios vs Walkie Talkie - Conclusion:
I hope this article has been helpful to explain the differences between the two. Depending on the use, one may be better than the other.
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Hi & Welcome!
My name is Jeremy and I have been an avid car nut for many year. My first car was an 1987 Honda CRX. I put in my first Kenwood stereo, amp, 2 10" JLs and a CB Radio in it and have been an avid user of CBs and car radios for years. I'll do my best to share my tips, information and thoughts to help you with whatever question you might have, ABOUT ME