Getting the best ham radio base stations is where the fun is. The convenience and use of handheld ham radios is appreciated, but the features of base stations are tough to beat. These can be feature-rich, complex devices, which is why prospective users often end up stumped. Here are our top choices and a buying guide that should help you make that decision.
Top 8 Ham Radio Base Stations
- Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver
- ICOM 7300 02 Direct Sampling Shortwave Radio
- Yaesu Original FT-450D
- Kenwood TS-480HX HF/50 MHz Amateur Base Transceiver
- Galaxy DX-2517 Base Station
- Icom IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver
- Yaesu Ft-8900R Quad Band Hi Power FM Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver
- BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 50 Watt Dual Band Base
Ham Radio Base Station Buying Guide
Longevity Of The Base Station
A ham radio base station isn’t a cheap product. And this is a setup where going for a cheap hf transceiver or knockoffs can prove counterproductive. Therefore, longevity is an important concern. Your amateur radio base station isn’t another gadget you buy, it is an investment.
I’d suggest putting more stock into the longevity and quality of the base station. Easy and convenient repairs/service is another thing to consider.
Greater the output power, more is the range for your base station. You will want a base station that can handle this requirement. Convenient communication is a necessary part of a ham radio transceiver.
The frequencies you transmit on will obviously depend on your license. Frequencies below 1GHz are generally preferable for base stations. This becomes more prominent if you are in an urban area, or a similar location with obstacles. Waves that can pass through walls and buildings without attenuation will make your communication more prominent.
Programmability And User Manual
Most amateur radios are programmable. It is the ease and convenience of programming that is important. Most companies selling amateur radio base stations also freely offer their programs/software for convenience. You may also use open-source software Chirp for programming the base station.
Many users prefer manual programming, which is usually good enough for smaller tasks. Programming with software, however, is both quicker and easier.
A detailed manual is the hallmark of the best ham radio transceiver base station. Users will find themselves often relying on the manual, not just for programming, but also for managing transmission and settings. A well-written, well-detailed manual shows that the manufacturer has taken care and precautions to favor user interests. Poorly detailed manuals will often leave users abandoned at random problems.
You will need a license to transmit using base stations. Lack of a license or transmitting on unauthorized frequencies can incur heavy fines from the FCC.
Best Ham Radio Base Station 2019 Reviews
1. Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver
Yaesu FT-857D comes in at a good price range and is rather impressive with its features and operation. Let’s get the specs out of the way first. FT-857D can receive frequencies in the range of 0.1-56Mhz, 76-108Mhz, 118-164Mhz and 420-470MHz. For transmission, this Yaesu ham radio goes from 160 to 2m waves, with the addition of 70cm UHF.
Power output is an impressive 100W for 6-160M, 50W for VHF, 20W for UHF, and 25W for AM HF. It includes built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and a memory for 200 channels.
With all that effort put into technology, the transmission and reception from this transceiver are clear and the setup is pretty easy. Once you’ve got a good antenna setup, you can expect to transmit far and wide to communicate with people.
Yaesu FT-857D does not include an auto-tuner. If your use requires such a function, you will have to purchase it separately. This might also depend on your choice of the antenna, for example, a good screwdriver antenna doesn’t necessarily need a separate auto-tuner.
For those intending a mobile/car use, keep in mind that this does not have a battery. It is still amongst the best mobile ham radio setups available.
- Excellent value for money
- Clear transmission and crisp reception
- Good manual and comfortable to program
- A small learning curve to the radio
- No auto-tuner
2. ICOM 7300 02 Direct Sampling Shortwave Radio
Having a bigger budget and deeper pockets will come in handy when you buy the ICOM 7300 02 Direct Sampling Shortwave Radio. It is priced well over a thousand bucks. But if you need the features on offer, the ICOM 7300 02 is worth every penny. It’s also worth pointing out that the company also markets this as the ICOM 7300 ham radio transceiver.
It helps that this base radio looks pretty good, and its controls are well setup. In the midst of the various buttons and controls on the radio, you’ll find a 4.3-inch touchscreen display. The screen, working with spectrum scope makes it convenient to find a weak signal and adjust resolution bandwidth. All at the touch of your finger! Other noticeable features include a built-in auto-tuner, use of Single Side Band (SSB), and a memory for 101 channels.
The power output is rated at 100W, and goes down to 25W for AM. The receive frequencies are in the range of 0.030-74.800 MHz. Icom 7300 02 is an HF/50MHz transceiver with RF digital sampling, which ensures clear audio.
Interestingly, it also has a feature for radioteletype (RTTY), which makes it possible to connect electromechanical teleprinters at different locations. This ham radio is convenient to use for anyone, but I’ll recommend it to the more polished users. You will need a 13.8V DC power supply. Pair the ICOM 7300 02 with the best ham radio base station antenna you can find. It’s worth it!
- Excellent construction; compact and feature-rich
- Spectrum scope is very useful
- Transmit and receive audio are crystal clear
- Touchscreen works fantastically
- Struggles with rejecting QRM
3. Yaesu Original FT-450D
Great value and great features are the driving force for the Yaesu Original FT-450D. The base station is compact, durable, and offers several functions that hams love. It receives frequencies ranging from 0.030-54MHz, including all shortwave and AM broadcasts. Its Continuous Wave (CW) features work in the range of 300 and 500 Hz. Transmit power used by the transceiver is 100W for 6-160M, while the AM mode is limited to 25W.
The controls are well set up, and the display is full of information. I do like that the buttons on the unit have backlights, making it convenient to operate in the dark. The base station also features a built-in antenna with auto-tuning and 400MHz IF DSP.
This device is feature-rich and includes several functions you’ll find in higher-priced models. In fact, some of these features aren’t as easily available in higher-priced models either. As is the way of cost and benefit, many of these features are limited or lacking. It may not fit the requirements of serious users, but it is the best ham radio base station for beginners wanting to sample features.
Of course, that’s not to say serious users shy away from the Yaesu Original FT-450D. It’s more about being aware of the features you need and buy.
- Easy for beginners to learn and operate
- Good features at a reasonable price
- Excellent audio receive and transmit
- Built-in auto-tuner is limited in scope
4. Kenwood TS-480HX HF/50 MHz Amateur Base Transceiver
Kenwood TS-480HX is a compact unit that packs a lot of power. This amateur base transceiver is a solid mobile ham radio setup that can be configured to work with automobiles. The box includes a desk stand and a mobile mount, making it convenient for your intended use.
The front of the device features and excellent extendable/separate LCD display and control panel. There’s also a good built-in speaker. This construction allows it to be easily customized for mobile use.
Kenwood TS-480HX has an impressive 200W output power (100W for 50 MHz) that is one of the highest offered in this class. It receives frequencies ranging from 500KHz to 60MHz and can transmit in the range of 1.8-50MHz. A variable frequency oscillator (VFO) at 30KHz further helps with the reception of the device. It includes a 16-bit AF DSP system. If you want power, this is the best hf transceiver.
You will need a 13.8V DC power supply for this device. It has a built-in auto-tuner, but if you do purchase an aftermarket accessory, make sure it works with the 200W output.
- Compact and rugged unit that can be customized to mobile or desk use
- Excellent transmit power
- Built-in antenna-tuner
- Clear audio reception and transmission
- Has a learning curve
- Can be a bit difficult for initial set up
5. Galaxy DX-2517 Base Station
Galaxy DX-2517 is one of the cheaper ham radio base stations, with a greater focus on value. In terms of appearance, this looks like one of those “classic” base stations, equipped with all dials and meters.
The meters can be configured to show signal, power output, SWR, and modulation (Amplitude modulation only). Apart from the meters, the display includes a frequency counter. There is a dedicated circuit for improved SNR and an automatic noise limiter. Its output power is 25W for SSB and 10W for AM.
While its low price might attract beginners, this is not a base station for beginners to use. It’s a complex machine with a learning curve. It is best suited for serious users who know exactly what they want from their base station.
- Well priced
- Fairly usable CB band radio
- Steep learning curve
- Not suitable for beginners
6. Icom IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver
Icom IC-718 could be considered the best hf transceiver for the money. It is a good mix of performance and value and does very well on transmission and reception. It can receive transmissions in the frequency range of 0.03-29.99MHz, though the lower end is more suited at 0.5Mhz. Output power is 100W, though it is reduced for AM.
It has some great features to show for its entry-level pricing. And do keep in mind, that though these features are amazing in their own right, most of them (or equivalents) are included as a given in practically all mid- and high-end base stations.
ICOM IC-718 HF All Band Amateur Base Transceiver has a wide dynamic range and a high C/N ratio which makes it great for signal reception and clarity. An interesting feature is the volume auto-adjustment, which makes sure the transmission does not get too loud suddenly.
The speaker is mounted on the front panel, and the unit is designed to be compact and rugged. It is convenient for use as a mobile or desk-top unit.
- Good value
- Relatively easy to set up and use
- Compact and rugged
- Good audio transmission and reception
- Receiver works in the fast mode, which is troublesome for SSB
- Some transmissions can end up distorted
7. Yaesu Ft-8900R Quad Band Hi Power FM Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver
Yaesu Ft-8900R is a low-priced, entry-level ham radio base station, although it is geared more towards mobile use. And that becomes abundantly clear when you operate the knobs/ rotary switches and buttons that are smaller than conventional base stations.
It receives frequencies in the range of 28-29.7, 50-54, 108-180, 320-480 and 700-985 MHz. For transmission, the power output is at 50W for 28-29.70Mhz, 50-54Mhz, and 144-148Mhz. Power is at 35W for the 430-450Mhz band. Options to lower power output can be selected.
Yaesu Ft-8900R features a backlit keypad mic, 800 memory channels, and a cross-band repeater mode.
- Excellent value for money
- 800 memory channels
- Easy to setup and use
- No CB or SSB
- Many control buttons are on the mic, but are too small for convenient use
8. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 50 Watt Dual Band Base
BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 is a budget base station with good features. Like the Yaesu Ft-8900R, this one too is geared more towards mobile use. For reception, it works in the FM frequency range of 65-108 MHz. Transmission and reception can be made in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz (VHF) and 400-520 MHz (UHF). Power output can be selected between 50W/10W as convenient.
Controls on the unit are fairly easy to use and manage. The microphone features big, easy to access buttons, so managing this base station is relatively easy. Signal reception is great, and the audio quality is clear. However, it does struggle a bit during transmission, though that’s not exactly a dealbreaker.
The unit has room for 200 programmable memory channels for easier access. Programming via a computer is also easy, so the overall setup is fairly convenient.
- Easy to use and setup
- Good value for money
- Can use the main channel while watching three other channels
- Transmission can include some noise
- The display is tiny
Ham Radio Base Station FAQs
What is ham radio base station?
A ham radio base station is a device that lets you transmit and receive on Amateur Radio or Ham Radio frequencies. A base station is generally more powerful than other options like a handheld ham radio, and thus offers more range, features, and options to the user.
What is the range of a ham radio handheld?
The range is dependent on several features, including output power, frequency, obstacles, local environment, and even the weather. Presence of repeater stations can boost the range of handheld ham radios. Users on HF could even reach someone on a different continent. However, considering only two handheld ham radios in an average situation, the range could be somewhere near 2 miles.
What is a dual band ham radio?
Dual-band ham radios can transmit or receive over two frequency bands. For example, you could transmit on 2 meter (144-148 MHz) band and the 70 cm (420-450 MHz) band. Higher-end radios can let you simultaneously listen to one (or more) bands, and transmit over another.
Is ham radio AM or FM?
Ham radio can use both, FM and AM.
Is ham radio a VHF?
VHF is one of the frequency bands ham radios can use. Ham radios are not limited to VHF use only and can access frequencies throughout the RF spectrum, depending on license and local laws.
Can I take the ham radio license test online?
People taking the exam must appear in person at the exam center. The FCC does not allow the ham radio license test to be administered online.
Ham Radio Transceiver Of Choice
Getting the best ham radio base station can increase the range of your transmission and reception. These are feature-rich high-quality devices that considerably improve the experience and use. The list here covers a variety of excellent transceivers, ranging from useful budget options to more sophisticated base stations. Take a look, and you will likely find a highly-rated base station that fits your needs.