Welcome to our big radio test 2021. Here we present all the radios we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.
We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best radio for you.
You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a radio.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 Radio: Our Selection
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a radio set
- 4.1 What features does your radio need?
- 4.2 What does a radio cost?
- 4.3 Who repairs radios?
- 4.4 What do I have to consider?
- 4.5 Which modulation type should I use to transmit my signal? AM, FM, SSB, FHSS, DSSS or another?
- 4.6 What about the use of radio equipment abroad?
- 4.7 Is the installation of radio equipment in motor vehicles permitted?
- 4.8 What do I need the radio for?
- 4.9 Useful alternatives to radios?
- 5 Decision: What types of wireless networks are there and which one is right for you?
- 6 Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate two-way radios based on these factors
- 7 Trivia: Interesting facts about radio and radios
- Radios allow you to stay in touch wirelessly with work colleagues, friends or family. Basically, radios differ in the way they establish wireless connections.
- Analogue radio networks such as PMR, LPD and Freenet are particularly suitable for hobby radio operators, as these radio networks have licence-free and free radio channels.
- Digital radio networks are more suitable for professional radio, as digital radio networks offer far better possibilities to protect the conversation from unauthorised persons by means of encryption procedures.
Radio: Our Selection
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a radio set
What features does your radio need?
Here is a list of the functions:
- Pilot tone procedure
- Scan function
- VOX function
- Radio with integrated GPS
- Radio with Bluetooth
- Radio with "dead man's switch
Pilot tone method
Pilot tone method, squelch or selective call - these are all synonyms for the same function.
With this function, a pilot tone is added to the actual signal. This pilot tone makes it possible that only those interlocutors who have set the same pilot tone (assuming the same radio channel) on their device can receive the signal.
This is equivalent to a selective call. But beware: The pilot tones are standardised. This means that anyone who makes the same settings can listen in.
This method is also useful if there is a lot of interference in your radio system, i.e. if you can hear a lot of noise. If you then switch on this mode, the noise is attenuated.
This function is possible in all radio networks, but may have a slightly different name. In PMR, the function is called CTCSS ("Continuous Tone Coded Subaudio Squelch") or DCS ("Digital Coded Squelch").
Then there are other names like DTMF and 5-tone selective calling. These have a slightly more complicated structure, but the principle is the same.
Radios with ATIS function ("Automatic Terminal Information Service") are mainly used in aeronautical radio.
In order to relieve radio stations at the airfield, the ATIS transmits information on weather conditions and other information relevant for departure and approach in an endless loop.
Radios with AIS function ("Automatic Identification System") are mainly used in maritime radio. This radio system improves the safety and guidance of ship traffic by exchanging navigational and other ship data.
It is used for collision prevention between ships, monitoring of ships and their cargo and as an aid for shore-based monitoring and guidance of traffic.
Radios with DSC ("Digital Selective Calling") function are mainly used in maritime radio.
DSC is a calling method that is used as an alternative to voice radio. It is used to inform other radio stations on which radio channel or frequency the caller wishes to establish a connection.
You can also define yourself which radio stations are to be reached. You can either inform all reachable radio stations or all radio stations in a geographical area or even only one specific radio station.
Many radios have this function. It is used to automatically search for radio activity.
But there are also special radios, so-called radio scanners, which have a broader search spectrum, allowing them to find radio activity on almost any frequency imaginable.
There are also radios that have a so-called dualwatch mode. With this, two separate channels can be monitored.
Radio scanners are only designed for listening and therefore cannot transmit. You do not normally need a licence for such radio scanners, but if you listen in on police frequencies, it is illegal.
Radios with VOX ("Voice Operated X-change") function are a must for many radio activities. In contrast to the PTT ("Push-To-Talk") application used on conventional radios, the VOX function allows you to send the signal simply by speaking.
The volume is evaluated at the microphone and as soon as a certain level is reached, the signal is sent.
This function allows the radio operator to keep both hands free for another activity such as riding a motorbike or flying a paraglider. It should be noted, however, that the airstream often already reaches the volume level and is therefore constantly transmitted.
The VOX function is also useful for monitoring your offspring. An LPD radio with VOX function is a good choice for this, because it also keeps electrosmog within limits.
Radio with integrated GPS
Radios with integrated GPS have many uses: hiking, skiing, driving, motorcycling, boating or even flying.
If a radio has built-in GPS, it can be used to communicate your current position to others, which can be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Radio with Bluetooth
Radios with Bluetooth connectivity are very practical. You don't always want to have a cable running from the headset to the walkie-talkie.
Especially when riding a motorbike, a cable is rather annoying, but also for other sports, the wireless connection via Bluetooth is much more convenient.
Radio with "dead man's switch
The dead man's switch checks whether the user is still in his or her right mind or not, based on certain characteristics such as immobility, lack of reaction or position of the body.
Often, a mechanism is activated first that indicates that a button must be pressed. If this button is not pressed within a certain time, the warning signal goes off.
- For fire brigade breathing apparatus
- In the guard service of the German Armed Forces
- When working with hand-guided, dangerous machines
- When working with hazardous gases
- For individual workplaces with hazards
What does a radio cost?
|Amateur radios||Station radios||approx. 500-12,500 €|
|Mobile radios||approx. 250-1,200 €|
|Handheld radios||approx. 35-700 €|
|Hobby radios||Mobile radios||approx. 40-300 €|
|Handheld radios||approx. 10-170 €|
Who repairs radios?
If you don't have an amateur radio licence, it's better to leave the repair to an expert. If the repair is done incorrectly, it could affect the functions of the radio in such a way that you are no longer authorised to own the radio without a licence.
What do I have to consider?
For the TETRA radio network (part of trunked radio) you always need a licence. You must also be part of a company. Applications for frequency allocation must be sent to the address of the Federal Network Agency.
If you want to participate in a company network, we advise you to contact the Federal Network Agency. They can then give you expert advice before you make a bad investment.
Which modulation type should I use to transmit my signal? AM, FM, SSB, FHSS, DSSS or another?
This applies, for example, to BOS radio used by authorities, aeronautical radio or maritime radio. Only authorised persons have access to them.
Since speech or music are very low-frequency, they cannot simply be transmitted by radio. They must first be transmitted in a higher frequency range. To do this, there are modulation methods.
What about the use of radio equipment abroad?
Conversely, the same applies to devices purchased abroad (on holiday, on the internet), some of which are not approved and may not be operated in Germany because they use other frequencies.
Is the installation of radio equipment in motor vehicles permitted?
Using the radio while driving is permitted, as it is not affected by the mobile phone ban. Nevertheless, the police can impose a warning fine if you show conspicuousness while driving and using the radio.
As an alternative to installing a mobile phone, you can also simply take a handheld radio into the car. We would recommend PMR, Freenet or CB handheld radios.
What do I need the radio for?
So if you are clear about what you are looking for and you also know the most important functions for it, it should be easy for you to find a suitable radio.
Useful alternatives to radios?
The internet is another alternative. You can access this via computer/tablet/smartphone and text with other participants in public "chat rooms". There are also certain programmes, such as "Skype", with which you can make calls via the Internet.
Mobile phone app "Voxer" / "Zello
Among mobile phones there are the so-called "smartphones" on which you can download applications (in short: "apps").
Two rather famous apps that imitate radio operation are "Voxer" and "Zello". The well-known app "Whats-App" also offers a push-to-talk function with which voice messages can be sent.
So if you are not sure whether you really need a radio, but you already own a smartphone, we advise you to find out about these apps in the Playstore or try them out on your smartphone right away.
Decision: What types of wireless networks are there and which one is right for you?
A radio network is used for wireless telecommunication by means of electromagnetic waves. There are different types of radio networks.
There are digital radio networks and analogue radio networks, but there are also radio networks that cannot be easily divided into these two categories, such as Freenet (part of the former mobile radio B-network).
Here is a list of the radio systems we present to you:
- Analogue radio networks (CB radio, PMR radio, LPD radio, SRD radio)
- Digital radio networks (DMR radio, dPMR radio, TETRA radio)
- Freenet radio network
Since no radio system has access to all radio networks, you have to choose one or two radio networks. There are radios that can participate in more than two radio networks, but this is the exception. To make this decision easier for you, we will present the radio systems and their advantages and disadvantages.
What analogue radio networks are there and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
All radio networks have a carrier signal. The signal to be transmitted is stored on this carrier by means of modulation, which is then made audible or visible again by means of demodulation.
Analogue radio networks can transmit signals such as speech, sounds (Morse telegraphy) and even pictures. Since each radio network transmits the carrier signal with a different frequency, there are different analogue radio networks that are not compatible with each other.
CB radio ("Citizens' Band") is a hobby radio application with 40 radio channels, which is permitted in almost all countries of the world. In Germany, in addition to these 40 radio channels, another 40, i.e. a total of 80 CB radio channels, are available for citizens' band radio (except in border areas with neighbouring countries).
CB radio is free of charge and public, which allows all users to follow any conversations on the network. It is intended - similar to a public chat on the internet - for personal exchange of information and opinions.
Walkie-talkies, larger mobile radios (for trucks or cars) and radio stations are produced for the CB radio network.
Since CB radio transmits at a relatively low carrier frequency (around 27 MHz), the range is quite high. Ranges of 20 to 80 km are possible with stationary radios and good equipment, if not even higher (using directional antennas).
Handheld radios or walkie-talkies, on the other hand, have a range of 500 m to a maximum of 5 km.
In this radio system, a relatively high transmission power of maximum 4W ERP is permitted. So if you want to meet new people, take part in larger discussions and don't care if anyone is listening, this is the radio network for you.
PMR radio ("Private Mobile Radio") is a hobby radio application with 16 radio channels, which is licence-free and free of charge in most European countries.
PMR radio is an everyman radio application in the dm waveband from 446.0 MHz to 446.2 MHz, which is why this radio application is also called PMR446. As the carrier frequency is rather high and the allowed transmitting power is 500 mW, the range of this radio is rather short and amounts to just under 1 km in residential areas and up to 5 km in open terrain (depending on the processing of the radio, also slightly longer ranges are possible).
Walkie talkies are usually manufactured for the PMR radio network. They are therefore rather small, light, cheap and even available in larger supermarket chains. These walkie-talkies are good for organising smaller events or communicating between two walking groups.
In addition, more expensive analogue PMR walkie talkies can have the option of additionally participating in one of the two digital radio networks dPMR446 or DMR446 (see Digital radio networks), as these are in the same FM frequency range.
This radio system is particularly suitable for hobby radio operators, private individuals and for children.
So if you always want to be in contact with the "tail light" on a group outing, this is the radio network for you.
The LPD radio
LPD radio ("Low Power Devices") is an amateur radio and hobby radio application with 69 channels, which is permitted in a few countries in Europe. Since amateur and hobby radio operators share this radio network, collisions and disputes can occur.
The LPD radio has been introduced to reduce the high usage of the PMR446 network. The LPD433 is a licence-free and free radio network in the frequency band from 433.050 MHz to 434.790 MHz. In some EU countries, the use of LPD433 is prohibited.
For the LPD radio network, mainly walkie talkies were manufactured, because, as the name suggests, only radios with low transmitting power (10 mW) are allowed in the LPD radio network, which means that manufacturing larger radio systems would not make sense.
The range of these handheld radios is 500 m to a maximum of 2 km. Due to the low transmitting power, the battery life of these radios is relatively long.
As other devices such as garage door openers, headphones, wireless speakers, etc., also emit in the same VHF frequency band, radio interference is to be expected. This radio network is suitable for hobby radio operators and private individuals. Due to the low transmission power, the radiation exposure is very low, which makes such a radio also suitable as a baby monitor.
Radios allow you to stay in touch wirelessly with work colleagues, friends or family.
The SRD radio
The SRD radio ("Short Range Devices") is a hobby radio application with 24 radio channels, which is still very little in use at the moment. The use of this radio system is not permitted in Germany.
SRD radio is licence-free and free of charge in parts of Europe. It is also called SRD860 because it is in the frequency band from 863 MHz to 870 MHz. As the name "Short Range Device" suggests, radios equipped with this radio system do not have a long range.
So these walkie talkies are often used for radio communication with eye contact and are therefore suitable for communication between two hiking groups or coordination on a small construction site.
If you live outside Germany and are looking for a radio with a relatively short range and low radio interference, the SRD radio might be just right for you.
But first find out whether it is allowed in your country.
What digital radio networks are there and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
Digital radio networks are used for the digital transmission of information. This means that the signal is first digitised and then transmitted by radio, which has the advantage that all types of data transmission (text, sound, image or other data transmission) can be carried out with the same frequency.
Since different methods are used for transmission, there are also different digital radio networks that are not compatible with each other.
Advantages of the digital radio network:
- Both voice, text and data transmission possible
- The quality of voice messages is higher (thanks to digital error correction)
DMR radio ("Digital Mobile Radio") is a professional, amateur and hobby radio application. In this radio system, eight radio channels are authorised for everyman radio.
The DMR radio network is basically a non-public radio network used by amateur radio operators or for professional radio (taxis, ambulance, police, fire brigade and similar).
The DMR radio network is divided into three parts ("tier"). The DMR Tier I, or also called DMR446, is used for everyman radio (licence-free and free of charge).
Walkie talkies are mostly manufactured for the DMR radio network. They are therefore rather small and light. However, because they have a digital demodulation mode, DMR radios are much more expensive than radios that only transmit analogue.
Since the radios transmit and receive in the radio range from 446.1 to 446.2 MHz, just like the radios of the PMR446 radio, there is the possibility to benefit from both the analogue PMR446 radio and the digital DMR radio network with the same device.
Radios with this radio standard are suitable both for companies, which then use them primarily in professional radio (DMR Tier II), and for hobby radio operators and private individuals who want to benefit from the advantages of a digital radio network.
The dPMR radio
The dPMR radio ("digital Private Mobile Radio") is a professional and hobby radio application. In this radio system, a total of 16 radio channels are available for everyman radio.
Most of the dPMR radio network is reserved for private mobile radio, i.e. it is subject to charges and licences. Since dPMR is based on narrowband (6.25 kHz) FDMA technology, twice as many channels are possible in the same VHF frequency band compared to the digital DMR radio network.
In the frequency range from 446.1 to 446.2 MHz, dPMR is licence-free and free of charge. This application is also called dPMR446. Most radios that receive and transmit dPMR446 are also equipped for analogue radio traffic in PMR446 radio.
The TETRA radio network
The TETRA radio network (Trans European Trunked Radio / Terrestrial Trunked Radio) is a pure operational radio network. It is subject to licensing and charges. The TETRA radio network is used exclusively for professional radio. Unlike the other two digital radio networks DMR and dPMR, the use of the entire network is subject to costs and licensing.
This radio network offers many mechanisms for transmitting data securely (end-to-end encryption, encryption on the air interface, etc.), which makes it ideal for so-called BOS radio (BOS stands for "authorities and organisations with security tasks").
Since the TETRA radio network is well developed - about 97% of the area of the Federal Republic of Germany is covered by radio - this radio network has a high range. More than 500,000 users are already registered in this radio network.
What is the Freenet radio network and what is the advantage/disadvantage of participating in this radio network?
The Freenet is a hobby radio application that was started by the Motorola company. It was set up in a sub-area of the former mobile radio B-network.
In this radio system, there have been six analogue radio channels with a 12.5 kHz grid since 2016. Digital radio is permitted in the same frequency band with twelve radio channels and a 6.25 kHz grid, but no devices are manufactured for it yet.
Freenet is a radio network that is free of charges and registration. It is transmitted in the frequency range of 149 MHz and is hardly permitted anywhere else besides Germany.
Walkie talkies are mostly manufactured for the Freenet radio network. The radios are therefore rather small and light.
Since the carrier frequency is relatively small, one can assume that the range is somewhat greater compared to PMR radios. It is about 1 km in bad conditions and up to 6 km in good conditions (depending on the processing, longer ranges are possible).
Since wireless headphones were manufactured using the same frequency, radio interference can occur. However, this should be very rare, as such wireless headphones are no longer manufactured.
This radio network is particularly suitable for companies (alternative to company radio) as well as hobby radio operators.
Buying criteria: You can compare and evaluate two-way radios based on these factors
In the following section, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate radios. This will make it much easier for you to decide whether a particular radio is suitable for you or not.
In summary, these are:
- Intercom function
- Water protection
- Automatic squelch
- Battery life
- Power supply
You can read about the individual purchase criteria in the following paragraphs.
Size is an important factor in deciding whether to buy a mobile phone or a handheld radio. For radio stations, on the other hand, it does not play such a big role.
Since mobile radios are usually installed somewhere, size is very important because you need to know in advance whether or not you can store the radio in a certain place.
For handheld radios, size is also important because you will be carrying the device around all the time. Therefore, it should not be too big. The disadvantage of small handheld radios is that they usually have fewer functions and less transmitting power.
Radio stations are often operated on a table. And since almost all radio stations fit well on an office desk, size is not so important when buying a radio station.
Under type we have summarised the characteristic that describes for which user the radio was designed.
These include, among others:
- Amateur radios, designed for amateur radio operators
- Hobby radios, designed for hobby radio operators (everyone)
- Company radios, designed for radio operation within companies/security organisations
- Marine radios, designed for seafarers
- Aircraft radios, designed for pilots/air traffic controllers
- Radio scanners, designed for people who want to listen to the radio but do not want to actively transmit
Depending on the type of user you are, you should be more interested in one type of radio than the others. And accordingly, it is important that you pay attention to each radio.
Basically, radios differ in the way they establish wireless connections with each other, or in the radio networks they can participate in.
Under communication technology we have summarised the feature of how you can communicate with your conversation partner by radio. Can you send and receive or only receive? And if you can send and receive, is it possible to send at the same time as you receive?
Here is a list of communication techniques and their properties:
- Full duplex: With this radio you can transmit and receive at the same time.
- Semi-/half-duplex: With this radio you cannot transmit and receive at the same time, i.e. while you are transmitting you cannot hear what your radio partner is saying.
- No communication technology: Typical for radio scanners, with these radios you can only receive
A baby monitor, for example, the radio must have the communication mode full duplex if you want to soothe the baby via radio.
If this were not the case, the baby would be transmitting all the time (because it is crying and the VOX function is switched on) and the baby monitor near it would not be able to receive what the parents are sending back at the same time.
It is also advantageous to have a radio with full duplex when riding a motorbike, because the wind and the VOX function are constantly transmitting.
However, there is the alternative of attaching an external PTT button to the handlebars, which means that the VOX function is no longer necessary and the wind only affects the radio quality. Half-duplex operation is standard for radios. Radios with full duplex operation are rather rare and therefore associated with higher purchase costs.
If the radio is to be the number one leisure companion, water protection is a must. There are two different standards here, but they have a very similar scale. In the following table, we present the standards and their meanings.
|IP (International Protection)||JIS (Japan Industrial Standards)||Description|
|IPX0||JIS-0||No protection against water|
|IPX1||JIS-1||Protection against vertically falling water (dripping water)|
|IPX2||JIS-2||Protection against water falling at an angle (dripping water)|
|IPX3||JIS-3||Protection against water spray, up to 60° from normal operating position|
|IPX4||JIS-4||Protection against water spray from all directions|
|IPX5||JIS-5||Protection against water jets from all directions|
|IPX6||JIS-6||Protection against strong water jets and/or temporary flooding|
|IPX7||JIS-7||Protection against temporary immersion in water|
|IPX8||JIS-8||Protection against permanent submersion (waterproof)|
|IPX9 K||Protection against ingress of water under pressure (pressurised waterproof)|
International Protection usually has two numbers after it (e.g. IP41). The first number describes the protection against ingress of solids and the second number describes the protection against ingress of liquids. Since dust protection is not relevant for most radios, the first number is replaced by an "X".
The dust protection scale goes from 1-6, where IP6X means that the radio is dustproof. The water protection scale goes from 1-9, where IPX9 means that the unit is waterproof.
Consequently, IP41 means that the device would be protected from foreign particles larger than 1 mm in diameter and from splashing water from all sides. An implausible combination, but the principle should now be clear to you.
The range is one of the most important and at the same time one of the most difficult criteria for buying a radio. It depends on many factors that are difficult to assess before you buy. For example, the location where you want to communicate with the radio, the antenna with which you transmit and receive, the carrier frequency and the transmission power.
Depending on the location, the range can change drastically. For example, if you are in a city, the range is usually much lower than the specified value.
Roughly speaking, this would mean that a radio with a stated maximum range of 5 km would reach a maximum of 1 km in a city (i.e. a decrease of 75 %). If, on the other hand, you are on the highest point of a hill, the range can exceed the specified maximum range by up to two times.
Here are a few rules of thumb:
- The smaller the carrier frequency (the longer the wavelength of the signal), the greater the range
- The greater the transmitting power, the greater the range
- The higher you are, the greater the range
- The fewer objects between transmitter and receiver (as the crow flies) the higher the range
Automatic Squelch Control
The President brand has launched the Automatic Squelch Control (ASC) feature. This is an "intelligent squelch control" that assesses both field strength and sound quality and can work more selectively than simple squelch controls.
In addition to the automatic squelch, most radios also have a squelch control with which you can filter out the noise yourself at your own discretion. This has the advantage that you can also make signals audible that are filtered out by the automatic squelch.
If you are out and about, a device should be able to function for certain hours without having to plug it in somewhere.
This is about finding the best compromise for you, because often long range radios have a short battery life and low power radios can easily be used for 15 hours at a time without recharging.
The type of power supply is an important purchase criterion for both mobile and handheld radios. In order to be able to use a mobile radio or handheld radio optimally, you should inform yourself about this beforehand.
If it is possible to connect the mobile radio to a cigarette lighter, then the radio is particularly suitable for use in a car.
If the handheld radio is only operated with rechargeable batteries, which cannot be replaced by batteries, you should perhaps also order a replacement battery.
Or if you can also operate a handheld radio by means of a crank, then this is particularly suitable for an activity where you do not have any sockets available for a longer period of time.
Trivia: Interesting facts about radio and radios
Who invented the radio?
Guglielmo Marconi achieved the first practical implementation and the first transatlantic radio transmission. The physicist Ferdinand Braun achieved something similar at about the same time.
They are both considered to be the inventors of the radio and were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909 for their practical work in the field of radiotelegraphy.
Until the 1940s, there were only radios that were stationary. You could put them in ships or planes, for example, but they needed constant power and lots of accessories. It was only after the Second World War that it was possible to use mobile radios.
How does the radio work?
The radio transmits signals by means of electromagnetic waves.
First, the radio picks up the wanted signal (speech, music or other) via a microphone. Then the useful signal is treated with a modulation process. This modulated signal is emitted via an antenna and received on the receiver side by another antenna.
After reception, the signal is converted back into the original wanted signal by demodulation and made audible.
Why does the voice sound distorted by the radio? And why does the radio make noise?
The causes of distorted voices and noise are usually the same. It is not so easy to find out exactly what they are, as there are usually many different causes.
It could be the microphone of the transmitter, which does not pick up the speech very well. The loudspeakers of the receiver could also be the cause of a distorted voice or noise. Then there are always small radio interferences during radio, which can cause voice distortions and noise, especially in analogue radio.
Digital radio is less affected by distortion and noise because the radio interference affects the signal and is removed by the system when it is converted into binary code (i.e. zeros and ones).
Can I convert a radio into a radio?
In principle, yes, you can. But this is only allowed for amateur radio operators.
Amateur radio operators are taught in their training how to build transmitters and receivers, and since a radio has all the necessary parts to receive radio, a radio receiver should be easy to make from the radio. To use the radio to transmit voice, I think you need a few extra parts.
What makes an amateur radio operator? What distinguishes him from a hobby radio operator?
An amateur radio operator (or radio amateur) also operates as a hobby, but is entitled to participate in amateur radio thanks to having passed an amateur radio examination.
An amateur radio operator, on the other hand, is only authorised to operate amateur radio.
Image source: unsplash.com / Leo Wieling