One question that often arises among enthusiasts and professionals in citizen band (CB radio) communication is “Should I use a CB radio amplifier?” As you probably already know, a CB amplifier is a transistor device that can boost your CB radio’s power by increasing your signal’s amplitude and gain.
There are pros and cons of using a CB radio amplifier including times when an amplifier doesn’t do much for your setup and situations where an amplifier could enhance your CB radio experience. Whether you’re a novice CBer or an experienced operator, this comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision about whether to use an amplifier.
How does an amplifier work in CB radio communications?
A CB linear amplifier enhances the range of radio communication. It works by taking the signal produced by the CB radio and increasing its power, allowing it to transmit over longer distances, which can be especially useful in remote locations or during emergencies.
The power amplifier achieves this by first receiving the low-power output signal from the CB radio. This signal lacks the strength to broadcast over extended distances, so the amp’s role is to increase this signal’s power, a process known as amplification. The enhanced signal is transmitted through the antenna, reaching a more comprehensive range than the original, unamplified signal.
The signal’s size or amplitude is increased without altering its content or quality during amplification, allowing the same signal to travel farther without losing information or clarity. Keep in mind that a low-quality signal will be amplified, not improved.
What is the FCC rule on maximum wattage and using power amplifiers?
It’s important to note that while amplifiers can significantly extend the range of a CB radio, they also need to be used responsibly. Over-amplification can interfere with other communication channels and violate regulations set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
According to FCC CB Rule 10, a CB base station’s power output must not exceed four watts of carrier power. A higher-end AM/FM/SSB CB with Single Sideband (SSB CB) can transmit 12 watts of peak envelope power (PEP). Using a transmitter with carrier or peak envelope power above these wattages is prohibited.
FCC CB Rule 11 states that CB users may not attach power amplifiers to a certificated CB transmitter in any way, including CB linear amplifiers or any other devices capable of amplifying the signal. This rule has no exceptions, and using a power amplifier “voids your authority to operate the station.”
Using an amplifier with your CB radio transceiver could lead to legal issues with the FCC, however, the enforcement of these regulations is through self-reporting and citizen reporting. The reason for the regulations is to create an environment where everyone can enjoy the radio waves. If your amplifier causes your transmissions to bleed into other channels and drowns out other communications, you’re much more likely to be reported. Anything beyond a 100-watt amplifier is likely to be more of an issue. It’s essential to be considerate of others and avoid causing interference for neighbors.
Check your Current System Before Investing in an Amplifier
It’s tempting to view adding wattage through amps as the easy solution to increasing CB performance. But if you’re considering an amplifier, you should optimize your current setup first. Answering the following questions will help you figure out if there are other steps to take before adding an amplifier to your setup.
How is the quality of your current antenna?
There’s no sense spending money on an amplifier if you’re using a cheap antenna. Investing in a high-quality CB radio antenna often yields better performance than an amplifier. For example, the Stryker SR A-10 is a stainless steel whip antenna with 100% silver-plated, 6-gauge copper wire that gets great reviews. A top-notch CB antenna like the SR-A10 will improve your signal – but an amplifier just makes a bad signal worse. So look at the length of your antenna, its materials, and power handling capacity, and figure out if you need an upgrade.
Is the antenna mounted properly?
Even if you’ve had your CB awhile, double-check the basics to be sure it’s mounted in the best spot – and be sure your coax and connectors are good quality. Remember that you can lose a lot of signal with a lousy coax and cheap connectors.
Take the time to understand all the factors that are involved in a high-performing setup. For more detailed instructions, read our guide explaining how to mount an antenna.
Is the antenna properly tuned for a low SWR?
A lot of people assume they’ve maxed out their CB radio’s capabilities when in fact tuning could improve performance. Use an SWR meter to properly tune your CB radio. A clean signal from a well-tuned antenna is better than a strong, distorted signal from an amplifier.
The message is clear: Before you rush to add an amplifier, get your current system dialed in correctly. Radio performance problems are often traced back to an SWR mismatch, loose antenna connections, or grounding issues – even when all the parts are in proper working order. If you’ve optimized your setup but still want more range, then it’s time to explore adding an amp or alternatives.
What is the best way to boost a CB radio signal?
We talked about methods for boosting a CB radio signal using an amplifier, improving the antenna, and verifying the reliability of the coax and connections. However, the best signal boost might be achieved with a different radio – a 10-meter radio. CB/SSB radios have a legal power limit of 12 watts, whereas mobile 10-meter radios typically operate with a maximum power output of roughly 100-200 watts.
Perhaps the greatest difference you will notice between a low-power CB radio and a high-power 10-meter radio is the ability to talk over much longer distances. A CB radio typically reaches distances between 1-7 miles. Compare that with a mobile, 10-meter radio that can reliably communicate 50 miles – and even farther under the right conditions.
If you’re a trucker or your day-to-day life finds you on the road frequently, you might find that a CB radio doesn’t cut it anymore. While CBs are one of the most popular types of mobile two-way radio, they lack communication range due to their low power threshold. Cell phones might seem like an obvious choice for most drivers, but there are still plenty of areas where cell service is non-existent or limited.
A mobile ham radio, on the other hand, gives licensed operators the ability to communicate long distances with ease. The FCC also allows licensed ham radio operators the freedom to make modifications to their amateur radios that would not be permitted with CB radio equipment. Amateur radios like Stryker’s 10-meter radios can communicate across the state, country, and world in the right conditions.
Where can you find high-powered radio equipment?
Stryker Radios, crafted here in the USA, are built with the end user’s goals in mind. We take pride in our reputation for blending cutting-edge technology with user-friendly features, resulting in impressive power output, advanced frequency tuning capabilities, and rock-solid construction.
Quality is our primary goal throughout the manufacturing process, ensuring enduring products that stand the test of time so that you can have the best setup – whether for your CB or Ham radio. Our lineup of products includes:
Stryker Radios has you covered!