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Interview with Tony Crooke from GME

Words Robyn Pitman-Williams Pics Supplied

When travelling, CB radios can be handy — even lifesaving! But how do you choose one, and what features are the most important? We sat down for a chat with Tony Crooke of GME about all things radio.

Q. What wattage would you recommend for those considering travelling in remote areas of Australia? Is the signal strength-wattage trade-off worth it when travelling remotely?

The maximum transmission power of a UHF CB radio in Australia is limited to 5 watt by law, and the majority of reputable brands offer radios with 5W output power. GME UHF radios have very low current draw even when transmitting — so we always recommend buying a radio with the highest output power possible.

Q. Many UHFs now have extra features (e.g., ability to store points of interest, location services, and linkability to iPhones for a personal locator beacon). Do these features affect battery life, and do you think they are worth it?

It really depends on your use-case. As with any electronic device the more the radio is doing, the more power it’s going to use, but compared to the majority of other 12V electronic devices, a UHF radio uses minimal power. The most important features of a UHF radio are quality of the receiver and audio output. We suggest you focus on these aspects first, and then decide on the ‘nice-to-have’ features to suit your specific requirements.

Q. If planning to traverse hilly terrain, would a higher wattage radio be a better option?

Transmission power has little to do with radio performance in hilly terrain. Rather, different antennas will offer differing levels of performance depending on the environment. We recommend using a shorter, lower gain antenna if you are planning on travelling through hilly terrain, as these antennas offer a better radiation pattern for overcoming obstructions over a longer antenna with higher gain.

Q. Is there a reliable distance per watt guideline? 

Not really! Many manufacturers claim specific transmission distances on their products, but GME makes a point of not doing this, as there are simply too many variables that can affect performance. As a general rule, a 5W radio with a high quality 6.6dBi antenna should have no issue transmitting up to 20km, assuming no obstructions. This range can be greatly extended through the use of Duplex mode and UHF repeater stations.

Q. Does greater wattage mean UHFs will have better range at altitude?

No, but greater height does! The most important thing to remember is that UHF CB is line-of-sight communication, so it is likely you will get greater range from your radio if you are on top of a mountain, because the signal can travel further without obstruction. The same logic applies when choosing a location to mount a UHF CB antenna on your vehicle — the higher up the antenna is, the better its performance will be. 

Q. If you are in a remote area, what is the best way to optimise your reach?

Make sure your antenna is up as high as possible, with minimal obstructions such as mountains and thick bush.

Q. What are the most important features to look for when selecting a radio?

We always recommend people buy the best radio their budget allows. The average lifespan of a GME UHF CB radio is over 15 years, so investing a little more in a high quality radio will ensure years of reliable performance! As for specific features, the most important factor is audio output, a UHF CB radio is useless if you can’t hear what the other person is saying. The other very important factor people often overlook is purchasing a high quality antenna. You can have the best radio in the world, but if you have a low quality antenna the radio will not perform to its full potential.

Q. What is one tip you would give to radio users overall?

UHF CB radio is there for everyone to use, so keep it clean, keep the general conversations to a minimum, and treat everyone with respect! 


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