HF Ham Radio Receivers

Selecting Portable Handheld HF Amateur Radio Receivers

For enthusiasts of amateur radio, also called ham radio, handheld radio receivers are a great way to be able to communicate on the go or when youre away from your primary radio station. Keep in touch with other ham operators without smartphones or the internet. HF portable receivers allow you to enjoy social interaction, help with emergency communications, and more.

What types of handheld ham radio receivers are available?

Theres an assortment of portable handheld radios from well-known brands like Drake, Grundig, Icom, and Sony available in AM, FM, CW (continuous wave), and SSB (single-sideband modulation) modes. Also available are accessories and peripherals like adapters, battery kits, headphones, cables, splitters, and more. You may want to use an antenna to broaden your range of communication.

Do you need a license to use an amateur radio?

A license is required. Before you can transmit in the United States, you must acquire a license by taking a test and demonstrating knowledge of the rules outlined by the Federal Communications Commission. Licenses last for 10 years and can be held by anyone who is not a foreign government representative.

How do you obtain a ham radio license?

All operators in the United States apply for licenses from the FCC by passing a test and paying a small licensing fee. You need to find a nearby location where the test is being offered, usually by other operators as volunteers who will submit it to the FCC. Once your application has been processed, you will receive your license in the mail.

Studying for the test is important and there are many ways to prepare. A local club in your area may offer basic skills classes and can normally answer any questions you have. The American Radio Relay League publishes a study guide that will review what you may encounter on the test along with explaining why each item is important and how it applies to usage. You may also choose self-study as there is a wealth of information available on the internet about becoming an operator.

What can you do with a handheld ham radio?

Once youve acquired a radio and the proper license to use it, there are many things you can do:

  • Communication: You can talk to other enthusiasts in your area. With HF devices, you have a bigger reach. You will need to choose bands for using your handheld device. Common bands for low-power and portable operation during the day are 14, 17, and 21 MHz. For evening operation, 7 MHz and 10 MHz are recommended. You might want to pick one for day and one for night.
  • Shortwave listening: You can pick up shortwave transmissions from many places around the world at 9 MHz to 12 MHz, or possibly a lower bandwidth at night.
  • Competition: Enjoy testing your operating skills against those of others in single competitions or as part of a team or club.
  • Provision of emergency services: When traditional communications fail, ham operators can use their handheld devices to provide emergency communication services in their community.
  • QRP (reduced power): A challenge many enthusiasts enjoy is to communicate using very low power, usually on HF bands.
  • Telephone-linked services: You can call out over the amateur bands for 911, the police, roadside assistance, and other emergency services.