The Best Transmitter for a Portable Radio

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The Best Transmitter for a Portable Radio

Ham radio operators, also known as hams or amateurs, populate the airwaves with many intentions. While some simply enjoy listening to national broadcasts or international propaganda; others spend their time communicating with other hams, and still others keep one handy for emergency purposes. Ham radios are available in large base units capable of transmitting signals around the world, and with the miniaturisation of electronics, operators have many portable options available to them. A "portable rig" can be as small as a hand-held unit or as large as a van.

Regardless of what kind of unit a ham uses, they need a transmitter to broadcast signals. While there are still stand-alone transmitters available, for portability purposes, a transceiver,, a transmitter and receiver combo is ideal. New hams should be in contact with other local operators, and find an Elmer, a veteran operator, to consult with before settling on a transmitter. In order to buy the best transmitter for a portable radio, amateurs should brush up on basic terminology to find a device that operates on their licenced band.

Ham Radio Terminology

Amateurs should familiarise themselves with the basic lingo and equipment before reading any reviews. Many Elmers recommend playing on a variety of models before settling on specific equipment, and all agree novice ham can only informed purchases if they know the terminology. The chart below offers a brief description of common parts of a ham radio and frequently used measurements.




Intercepts and broadcasts radio signals


A particular range of frequencies reserved for ham use: HF, UHF, VHF


Power source for mobile units


Federal Communications Commission regulates the air waves; ham operators typically must obtain licence to broadcast on most bands


Small, portable rig

Hertz (Hz)

Official unit of measurement for frequency; one Hz is one complete cycle per second


Official unit of measurement for resistance


A device that receive radio signals


An amateur's operating unit


A device that transmits or broadcasts signals; users generally need an FCC license to transmit radio waves


A transmitter and receiver in a single device


High Frequency band ranging from 3 to 30 MHz


Very High Frequency band ranging from 30 to 300 MHz


Ultra High Frequency band ranging from 300 to 3000 MHz

At the very least, an amateur rig needs an antenna, battery, transmitter, and receiver. Once amateurs have a handle on how the radio works, they can then get acquainted with the particular types of equipment. Hams in the market for portable rig are limited to certain types of antennas, batteries, and so on. Additionally, portable radio are built for easy transportation, a transceiver takes the place of the transmitter and receiver.

About Portable Transmitters

From handheld to mobile rigs set up in vehicles, the term portable transmitter covers a vast amount of rigs. The smallest portable rig is a handheld transceiver,, although there are several applications for smartphones and tablets that are smaller. On the opposite side of the spectrum a mobile rig also refers to a unit set up in a vehicle, oftentimes a van; they can be as sophisticated as a base unit and decked out with powerful transmitters and large antennas. When choosing a portable transmitter, hams must know the size and type of rig they want to build.

FCC Licensing

Before transmitting any signals, ham operators must receive an FCC licence to operate. While many new operators get their Technician's License first, this license only lets them use FM bands and a few HF and VHF frequencies. While FM transmissions are fun to play with, the truth is that there is only so much that can be done with them. Therefore, when considering a portable transmitter, a FM only handheld is inexpensive, but like most electronics, consumers gets what they pay for. New hams should consider moving past the FM bands and get into other frequencies. There are a handful of manufacturers such as Yaesu that makes decent dual band handhelds.

Choosing a Portable Transmitter by Frequencies

Frequency bands of 30 MHz are commonly used by UHF and VHF licensed hams for local and regional contact. 30 MHz and less are typically reserved for long range communications using Sb voice and Morse code. Many ham operators with portable rigs prefer a dual band radio, which is one that can broadcast on 2 metre, 144-148 MHz, and 70 cm, 420-450 MHz, bands. Top quality transmitters and transceivers have the ability to listen in to multiple bands at once and broadcast on another. Ham operators can only operate on FCC licensed bands; however, if hams want to operate on other bands, they should consult an Elmer for help upgrading their license. But before asking an Elmer, neophyte hams must be familiar with the differences and various advantages of each band.


The UHF range is between 300 and 3000 MHz, which are shorter wavelengths when compared to VHF. One advantage of UHF is the wide range of frequencies. If using a transmitter in a densely populated area, UHF users are less likely to encounter interference. UHF broadcasts have a reputation for not traveling as far as VHF transmissions. However, they do excel in travelling through objects, such as walls, trees, and other rugged terrain.

Furthermore, even if UHF bands can better transmit through barriers, the signal is weakened, thus shortening the broadcast range. UHF bands have become increasingly populated with users transmitting regionally. Hams that want to boost the signal for their UHF transmitter should consider pairing their transceiver with a whip or other comparable antenna.


VHF frequencies range between 30 and 300 MHz. The longer wavelength allows it to travel farther, but barriers like building, mountains, and other structures can weaken signal strength. If completely uninhibited, a VHF broadcast could travel twice as much as a UHF signal. Because VHF transmitters outperforms UHFs when travelling long distances, hams using portable rigs outdoors should consider purchasing a transmitter that operates on VHF. One downside to VHF frequencies is the limited amount of space. Users are much more likely to encounter interference on VHF than UHF.

Unlicensed hams can get their feet wet on one of the Multi-Use Radio Service, or simply MURS, stations. MURS can be found at 150 MHz, and anyone with the proper equipment can use them, regardless of licensing status. Receivers and transceivers in Canada and the US can pick up MURS, but most users need an antenna to boost its weak signal.

Computer, Smartphone and Tablet Transmitters

With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, several app developers have created virtual ham radios that require no additional equipment. While it seems convenient to have everything a ham needs to operate, the apps do not compare to a portable transceiver. The subscription fee is but a fraction of the price of an actual rig, but ham hobbyists are not impressed with such cheap tricks. Whereas true ham rigs require an FCC license, smartphone apps require no such certification. Moreover, many users complain of crowded airwaves and limited capabilities.

The software available for computers is more complex than the apps; however, many operators still believe software users are slighting themselves. While some handhelds work in conjunction with software, the general consensus is there simply is no substitute for a rig. The true hobbyists should shy away from simulated rigs and instead learn the ins and outs of transceiver units.

How to Buy Transmitters for Portable Radios on eBay

Finding the right portable transmitter on eBay requires users to know what features they are looking for. For example, depending on their license, operators must choose between UHF or VHF bands, or if properly licenced, a dual band would be more fitting. Shoppers can use various keywords,, such as the frequency band or even a favoured brand name to find the best portable transmitter. Shoppers can also use keywords to distinguish between a transmitter and a transceiver depending on their needs.

After settling on a portable transmitter, buyers should take this opportunity to get to know the seller.. Read the entire listing to familiarise yourself with the return policy and preferred payment methods. Additionally, check out the approval rating and feedback comments, and only buy from sellers with high approval and positive comments. Many sellers have filled out an About Me page. Take the time to read this page before purchasing a transmitter.


Ham hobbyists may all come to the airwaves for a variety of reasons, but all the Elmers out there know that a good rig is the only way to go; a good rig implies having a reliable transmitter or transceiver to broadcast or communicate. Hams in the market for a portable must know first what size transmitter they want. While most hams agree that rigs, whether fixed or portable, are the only way to go, there are few smartphone and tablet apps and computer software designed to convert the device into a ham radio. For some, the touch screen eliminates the need for tinkering and modifications, a task many hams come to enjoy.

Whether buyers choose the new technology or the tried and true rig, a handheld device or other portable unit, experienced hams know there is no overall winner for best portable transmitter. Rather, there are many models that can accommodate an operator based on licensing and intended use.

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