Best Ham Radio Base Station Reviews 2020: 11 HF Transceivers Worth Every Penny

Ever thought why all those skillful ham radio users always look for the best ham radio base stations in the market?

The reason being its fairly superior performance compared to the handheld and mobile devices. 

You might ask me how!

The reasons are: 

  • They provide features and functions that are rarely seen in other radios.
  • Best for complex operations
  • These are known for high-frequency operations

However, the complexity in operations makes it a bit hard for the newbies to buy the right amateur base transceiver. 

But, don’t worry! We have done the job for you.

Here are our top amateur radio base stations.

Best HF Transceiver base Stations 2020: Quick Glance

  • ICOM 7300 
  • Yaesu Original FT-450D
  • ICOM 2300H
  • Kenwood TM-281A
  • ICOM IC-718
  • Kenwood TM-V71A
  • Yaesu Original FT-991A
  • ICOM ID-5100A
  • BTECH Mobile UV-50X2
  • President Lincoln II Plus
  • President Ronald

If you are someone who wants to save some time, the below comparison will help you. We have compared some of the top ham base station choices here.

Product Highlight
ICOM 7300 – Best Ham Base Station

 

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  • Intuitive and accessible interface
  • Wonderful hand microphone
  • Robust and well-built
  • Worth every penny!
Yaesu Original FT-450D

 

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  • Excellent digital communication modes
  • Easy to learn
  • Reasonably-priced with outstanding value
  • Solid knob connections
ICOM 2300H – Sturdy and Robust

 

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  • Superb sound quality
  • Amazing build
  • High power device with no noise
  • Easy to program
Kenwood TM-281A

 

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  • Compact, rugged construction
  • Paired with a vertical antenna, you can hit 100+ miles
  • Plenty of power
  • Exceptional sound and clarity

ICOM IC-718 – Outstanding Value for Money

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  • Straightforward operation
  • Surprisingly good value for money
  • Low cost, entry-level base station
  • Compact and semi-portable

Why Should You get a Ham Radio Base Station?

I know some of you might probably wondering why ham radio base stations make a lot of buzz in the industry.

I have already given a few hints earlier in the article. Let’s find out more: 

      • If you are part of a dispatch team, you may want to consider the stationed radio to connect with workers out in the field. It aids communication by giving you a stronger signal and simultaneously removing interference and noise.
      • Base station transceivers do not come cheap. For this reason, the manufacturers ensure that the customer gets a long-lasting product. The durable and rugged construction proves that it is an excellent one-time investment.
      • Portable radios are likely to get lost. However, having a fixed or ‘stationed’ one saves you from that!
      • They incorporate both base stations and handheld transceivers by providing UHF and VHF operation.
      • This form of communication tool is best for emergency relief workers, ambulance services, and construction workers. The base station can work as a central command where each employee reports to using their HT.
      • As with any other ham, you can use this to communicate during emergencies when other network systems fail. All you need is a good-quality ham antenna, and that’s it!
      • It covers more extensive distance than most other devices thanks to its higher power output. That also means reliable communication and clearer reception!

11 Best Ham Radio Base Stations: Reviews

1. ICOM 7300 – Top Ham Base Station Transceiver

ICOM 7300

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If you’re looking for the most refined transceivers on the market, look no further than ICOM 7300. When it comes to transmission clarity, you won’t be left wanting thanks to its built-in auto tuner!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Offers tons of features
  • Easy-to-use for newbies
  • Excellent audio reports
  • Outstanding functionality

 

  • Needs more buttons and a second RX antenna jack

 

  • 100-watt output power
  • 0.030-74.800 frequencies (RX)
  • 4.3″ color touchscreen LCD
  • 101 channels

ICOM 7300 is the ultimate ham base radio in the market today.

Apart from its super powerful output, the device is known for its touchscreen LCD and built-in auto tuner. You will not have to spend extra money on purchasing a tuner separately. This feature also justifies the higher cost.

Here are five reasons to consider this top-of-the-line transceiver:

      • 101 Channels
      • SSB, CW, RTTY, AM, and FM modes
      • Spectrum scope
      • eight voice-memories
      • 030-74.800 RX frequencies

The fast spectrum scope, combined with the waterfall, makes hunting weak signals a breeze! Besides, it also removes interference and noise to deliver crystal clear audio.

If you talk about a perfect field day radio, there’s none better than ICOM 7300. Even if you are just starting out, this is THE radio to have for the HF frequencies.

Along with an incredible RX, two built-in preamps, and cooling one, this device couldn’t get any better, that too, at a price under $1500!

Most notably, the 7300 model is solidly built to last you a lifetime. That is why most users consider it worth every penny spent!

2. Yaesu Original FT-450D – Beginner-friendly Base Station

Yaesu Original FT-450D

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If you’re going to kick start venturing into the ham radios, why not start with the Yaesu FT-450D? It is sleek, robust, and easy to master!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Fairly easy to modify
  • Offers good value with many features
  • Perfect entry-level radio
  • Excellent audio

 

  • Compact size means some knobs perform multiple functions

 

  • 100-watts of output
  • Built-in auto antenna tuner
  • Boasts digital signal processing technology
  • Illuminated key buttons

If you’re on a fixed budget and require an amateur base station less costly than the ICOM 7300, take a look at this Yaesu transceiver. It is one of the best HF ham radio transceivers in the market. Moreover, the reputable brand produces ham devices like none other!

It boasts FM, USB, LSB, AM, and CW modes. This highly powerful and capable radio outputs at 100-watts and receives 30 kHz to 54 MHz continuously.

Like the previous model, this one also includes an auto antenna tuner to save you the cost of an external one. Moreover, the Digital Signal Processing technology is something to look out for!

If you end up buying the Yaesu FT-450D, you will be pleasantly surprised by the sound quality and audio reports. Moreover, the tunable notch filter and variable bandwidth make working a digital band quite easy.

Keep in mind; you will require an external 12-volt power source. This beginner-friendly device is convenient to modify for the MARS operation.

If we go by customer reviews, the FT-450D ham radio base station is worth more than the price you pay.

3. ICOM 2300H – Sturdy and Robust Amateur Base Station

ICOM 2300H

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If you like the ICOM brand, but do not wish to spend a fortune on ICOM 7300, 2300H might be for you. This affordably-priced device is proven to be durable, in addition to its excellent audio output.

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Good sound quality
  • Excellent 2-meter radio
  • Lovable colored display
  • Durable unit

 

  • Needs a better user manual

 

  • Stable 65W of output
  • 207 memory channels
  • 3 inch LCD
  • 144Mhz

If you thought ICOM 7300 is the only famous transceiver by the brand, you’re mistaken. IC-2300H is an equally capable ham radio base station.

It offers highly advanced features and premium quality at a mid-range budget. Here are some of its noteworthy and remarkable features:

      • The IC-2300H is a well-constructed rig with sturdy knobs and buttons.
      • With the right antenna and SWR, you can cover a distance of 50 km, depending on the terrain.
      • It offers four different power levels with minimal noise and interference.
      • The device has exceptional quality in terms of both fit and finish.
      • It delivers loud and crystal clear audio.
      • The programming on this base station is pretty easy and straightforward.

The device may pose particular challenges for newbies with little to no background knowledge of the tech aspect. The brand offers no hard copy of the user manual and only provides a CD, which may not be an ideal solution for most.

All in all, it is a fantastic purchase, given its superb features and economical price.

4. Kenwood TM-281A – Customer’s Choice

Kenwood TM-281A

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Let’s cut to the chase: Kenwood TM-281A is an excellent purchase if you’re shopping for a reasonably-priced device.

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Easy to program
  • Long-lasting
  • Tough construction
  • Delivers loud and clear audio

 

  • Heat buildup on high power

 

  • 65-watts
  • Alphanumeric LCD
  • 200 memory channels
  • 144MHz FM Transceiver

The Kenwood TM-281A is a perfect example of performance and affordability. Along with a power output of 65-watts, the transceiver offers weather alerts, RX, and CTCSS/DTCS encoder.

If you’re looking to use the amateur base station during the dark hours, its backlit LCD and illuminated keys come in handy. Additionally, the audio clarity and powerful performance are one of a kind, thanks to its make.

The TM-281A helps you hit repeaters a hundred miles away! Another of its remarkable features is the case and construction, which makes it a product built to last. Instead of spending your money on a cheap, China transceiver, you must opt for the Kenwood TM-281A.

This Kenwood radio has made its way to the top of the list owing to its ease of programming, speaker quality, and rugged design. Thanks to all this, even beginners can cash on the fantastic specs at an economical price.

5. ICOM IC-718 – Outstanding Value for Money

ICOM IC-718

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If you’re all about the ICOM transceivers but cannot stretch financially, then the IC-718 makes an excellent cheap alternative. It is a balance of power and price, along with functionality!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Simple to operate
  • Excellent receive and transmit
  • Easy modifications
  • Exceptional quality of sound

 

  • Does not come with auto-tuner

 

  • 101 memory channels
  • 100-watts output power
  • Digital signal processing
  • Adjustable noise blanker

If you don’t mind paying a higher price for a device with advanced features, IC-718 is a fantastic purchase. It receives 0.03-29.999999 MHz and covers a guaranteed range of 0.5-29.999999 MHz.

      • IC-718 ham radio base station is capable of storing 101 memory channels and includes the DPS technology.
      • It also offers a level adjustable noise blanker.
      • The transceiver is compact enough to be used in the car.
      • The straightforward operation makes it a top choice for beginners.

Be sure that you will require an external antenna tuner as this unit does not offer it. A standard tuner will add up to your cost by $150 or more. You will also need a 12-volt power supply, as with any other amateur base transceiver.

As an entry-level base station, you couldn’t get a better deal than the one IC-718 offers. It is reliable and easy to set up the rig.

If you are looking for the best HF transceiver for the money, then IC-718 is the one you should get. You can check out our ICOM 718 review for more details. 

6. Kenwood TM-V71A – Best for Ease of Programming

Kenwood TM-V71A

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If you don’t wish to pay full whack in regards to price, you can check out this beginner-friendly model by Kenwood. It has quickly become a customer-favorite owing to the ease it offers of programming.

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Solid construction
  • Easy to use and program
  • Excellent dual-band analog device
  • Pleasant display and sound

 

  • Remote control feature discontinued

 

  • 50-watts output
  • 1000 memory channels
  • EchoLink Sysop Mode
  • Dual receive on the same band

With so many options on the block, how does one find a transceiver that meets all their requirements? Well, out of the bunch reviewed here, here’s Kenwood TM-V71A, offering the best value for money.

From its stylish and sleek design to impressive specs, this base station ham radio has it all! Next, it has a well-written and useful manual providing all the details you need to master it. Kenwood knows precisely what the users need, and delivers just that!

If you’re a beginner, you will be pleased to know that programming is super convenient on this device. Moreover, the straightforward interface and knobs make operation a breeze!

You may want to note that the model does not offer a touchscreen, something not many users will like. Additionally, you will also need to buy the remote-mount bracket separately, which can be costly.

TM-V71A has become a household favorite for all the right reasons. We couldn’t ask for a better transceiver at such a price.

7. Yaesu Original FT-991A – Best Long-Range Transceiver

Yaesu Original FT-991A

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If you prioritize value for money over everything else, you might as well consider the Yaesu FT-991A! Its stunning display, combined with the power output makes it perfect for all hobbyists!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Very reasonable cost
  • Fantastic signal reports
  • Easy to operate
  • The 3-year warranty is an added bonus

 

  • Steep learning curve

 

  • Multi-color waterfall display
  • 160 meters through 70 centimeters
  • 100 watts
  • 3.5 inch TFT color touch panel

There are far too few transceivers that come close to Yaesu FT-991A in terms of appearance and features. This modern transceiver offers what many others fail to!

Here are some reasons why the FT-991A is so popular among ham users:

      • Dynamic real-time spectrum scope
      • SSB/CW/FM/C4FM Digital/AM
      • Solid output power performance
      • Superior Operability and Visibility
      • Guarantees reliable and flawless communication

Users cannot stop raving its C4FM features, which allows them to use a 4-level frequency model constantly on high-frequency bands like 50, 140, 430 MHz.

Thanks to the new and advanced spectrum scope, you can also view the location of signals while listening to the receiver. Additionally, it takes care of interfering signals with its 3 kHz roofing filter. The improved sound quality, along with the top-notch features, has made Yaesu FT-991A a widely admired stationed transceiver!

Be wary, so many technical features can also result in a steep learning curve for newbies! However, by watching online tutorials and following instructions, you will be able to get the hang of it in no time.

8. ICOM ID-5100A – Feature-rich Ham Radio Base Station

ICOM ID-5100A

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The ICOM ID-5100A is a step-up in terms of features, performance, and design! It does everything you would want your base station transceiver to do.

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Top features
  • Easy to use with touch screen feature
  • Large and clear display
  • Powerful audio

 

  • No mounting brackets

 

  • Internal GPS
  • 50W output power
  • Weather channel with alerts
  • 144/440MHz

Due to its unique design, this ICOM transceiver has made its way into the list of top-rated ham radio devices. The ID-5100A receives 118-174 MHz and 375-550 MHz with a dual-receiver capability. This feature enables you to receive two bands simultaneously.

Besides that, it also features an in-built GPS. You transmit and receive ‘position data’ from the GPS receiver. It displays position, course, speed, and altitude.

It handles 50 watts of power on both VHF and UHF bands. It also provides weather channels and alerts for the users’ safety.

Due to its semi-portability, many users install it in the vehicles. Thanks to its touchscreen, operating the radio becomes smoother. Most importantly, the large display and dual-band display aids in visibility and operation!

ICOM never fails to impress with its unique features and outstanding quality. The ID-5100A is another proof of that!

9. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 – Best All-round Choice

BTECH Mobile UV-50X2

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The UV-50X2 goes a step ahead by offering you some of the premium features. This BTECH transceiver supports calling methods, provides ease of scanning, and boasts a dual simultaneous display.

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Stunning multi-color display
  • Easy channel scanning
  • Hassle-free programming using cable
  • Outstanding value for price

 

  • Speaker quality may not be the best

 

  • High/low power settings
  • Mic audio gain settings
  • Dual simultaneous display
  • DTMF tones

Be aware! If you purchase one of these, you’ll end up buying a few more. That’s how amazing the BTECH base station transceivers are. Here are some of its unique and exceptional features:

      • Dual Synchronize Display Mode
      • 136-174mhz (VHF)
      • 400-520mhz (UHF)
      • Mic Audio Gain
      • Expanded Frequency Range
      • Quad Watch Delay Time
      • High/low power settings

It is equipped with a high-quality speaker, offering crystal clear audio at all times. In addition to this, it also includes new channel scanning modes. It saves your scanning preferences even during a power interruption!

Apart from this, it also supports group tones and several calling methods.

The BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 also allows you to edit additional squelch information. You can also add or remove channels from your scanning list anytime.

10. President Lincoln II Plus – Best reasonably priced

President Lincoln II Plus

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No one does affordable amateur base stations than President. The Lincoln II Plus boasts decent specs, sleek design, and quality – all in one!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Quiet receiver
  • Efficient noise blanker
  • Audio reports are crisp and clean
  • Sturdy construction

 

  • A little challenging to navigate through the menu

 

  • Dual watch
  • ANL filter
  • AM/FM/LSB/USB/CW
  • 10 and 12 meters

This President Ham base station shows how you can get the best features without spending a fortune! It boasts full operation ability with killer specs at a relatively low price. Its compact size comes with a combination of 35-watt output power on the HF band.

President Lincoln II Plus is a suitable and practical tool you should consider purchasing. You get a multi-function LCD, frequency display, an S-meter, and more!

Our most favorite aspect of this radio transceiver is how quietly it functions. Moreover, the receive on President Lincon II Plus is sensitive, and its high-cut filter works fantastically!

Customers cannot stop raving about the RF gain control, which eliminates noise. It is the perfect choice for novices looking to save some bucks.

11. President Ronald – Most affordable Ham Radio Base Station

President Ronald

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President Ronald is a ridiculously cheap amateur base station that is also very capable. It’s the best budget hf transceiver out there. And, that seven-color display is a bonus!

Pros Cons Key specs

 

  • Great receive
  • Includes 2-year warranty
  • Compact size
  • Modulation is crisp

 

  • Some customers received faulty products

 

  • 50+ watts
  • 7-color display
  • Mic gain
  • 10 and 12 meters

Is it possible to get all the fantastic features that most standard base stations have but at a lower price? With President Ronald, you sure can! It incorporates all the splendid features like 50-watt power output and excellent receive.

What’s more?

      • Two emergency channels
      • PEP, AM, FM, DW
      • Mic gain and RF gain
      • Automatic Squelch Control
      • ANL

It is robust, value rig packed with outstanding features at an unbelievable price! Moreover, the compact size makes it a portable unit.

Most users believe that there exists a trade-off between price and quality. However, this President Ronald model busts such myths! If you’re still doubtful, take a look at the brand’s 2-year warranty!

It is a long-lasting, quality transceiver, offering six times the value of other standard devices available in the market!

For its price and performance, we can guarantee that you will not be disappointed!

How to Buy Quality Ham base Stations

hf transceiver buying guide

As we said before, ham base stations are complex radios. Fiding the best ham radio transceiver will be a huge challenge to newbies.

This is why we recommend handheld ham radios to people who are in entry-level in ham radios.

There are many people who take mobile ham radios as the base stations one. You don’t want to be one like that. 

This guide will help you with all these. Narrowing your options to one that is never easy, especially when you have so many fantastic choices. But, here’s how to look at different features before sealing the deal!

As we said before, ham radio transceivers are very complex. Newbies will find it hard to 

Power

Higher wattage means greater capacity to transmit signals. If you want to transmit across the state, consider the power output. In a nutshell, for an extensive range, you need a device that lives up to this demand.

Display

A typical amateur base station comes with the alphanumeric LCD or illuminated keypad. Both work exceptionally well, but it comes down to your preference. They provide different performance under different light settings.

You may want to use an illuminated keypad in the dark hours to see clearly at all times. Alternatively, the alphanumeric LCD works just as well during the day!

Frequency

The frequency that you need is dependent on your location, terrain, and nearby obstacles. On free land, frequencies propagate quite easily. On the other hand, in densely populated areas, you may struggle with getting the best signals.

When it comes to ham radio base station, search for lower frequency like that below 1 GHz. The short wavelength makes it easier to cross obstacles like walls, tall buildings, and towers.

For this reason, choose the allocation of frequency according to your surroundings.

Appearance and Quality

When spending so much on a transceiver, it makes sense to pay extra attention to its design. If you’re paying a hefty price, you certainly want to use it for a more extended time. Thus, search for a model with durable construction and sturdy knobs.

You would not want to deal with broken knobs on top of an emptied wallet! Do your homework and find a base station that is worth the price you pay for. Also, check how long it will last before you need to replace it.

Along with longevity, you cannot compromise on the device design and appearance. Measure the space in your shack to see if the product will fit comfortably. Purchasing a product and then struggling with space can be a bummer!

Another feature to look for is a touch screen for smoother operation.

Programming

If you’re new to the hobby, you would want to look at the programming aspect of your transceiver. It allows you to add and modify frequency channels. You can program your device through the PC or go the manual way.

If you’re no expert, we suggest using the computer over manual programming as it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Having a programming cable can not only save you time but also your money!

For this reason, it is worth going for a model that offers ease of programming for both beginners and experts.

User manual

Don’t forget; you will also require a well-written and detailed user-manual! It is not only necessary for programming, but you will also find many users relying on guides for details regarding settings. It is a sign of how well the manufacturer takes care of the customers’ needs and interests.

Without a user manual, you may end up spending money on a technician for basic settings you could be doing on your own!

Range

Before settling down on any model, you may want to check its transmission range first. Different brand models offer different ranges. For the convenience of communication, choose a transceiver offering the transmission range you require.

Tech features

Along with the essential attributes like range and power, you must also consider features each model is known to be unique for. These include a touch screen, multi-mode, as well as digital signal processing.

It can make or break your purchase!

FAQs

What is a Ham Radio base station?

For ages, ham radio has been named the ticket to wireless communication locally, nationally, internationally, and even globally! A base station is one type of device that relays signals when all else fails.

They can be a bit more challenging to use than a handheld transceiver, which are lighter and smaller. Moreover, the technology and features used in the two also differ significantly.

In simple words, amateur base stations have more to offer than any ordinary HT. They are known to have higher power output and range coverage, as well.

They’re the ideal choice for users who work from a fixed location to connect with people elsewhere.

Do I need a ham radio base station?

There are numerous benefits of a two-way radio base station. It makes your work more efficient and can primarily benefit your business communications.

Having a ‘stationed’ radio is a convenient option for users working from their desk. If you work in a fixed location, you can use it to connect with other employees elsewhere in the field.

You can also use an amateur base station to connect with people of all ages at any time. However, you must obtain a ham radio license or follow FCC rules while broadcasting!

What is the difference between base station and handheld?

Range: In terms of range coverage, an HT ham radio might only cover a few miles. A base station can bounce off the atmosphere and connect you around the globe!

Power: Legally, the base stations can be up to 1,500 watts. On the other hand, a standard handheld transceiver is 5-8 watts.

Features: The technology and range of features of a stationed radio are quite different from that of any other ham radio type. That justifies their higher price, as well!

Size: HTs or handie-talkies are quite compact and portable for that reason. Amateur base station radios are immobile owing to their larger transceiver and antenna size. They are also relatively hefty when you compare to other ham devices.

It is also why this ham radio type requires a bigger space for installation.

Do I need an antenna for base station ham radio?

As with any ham radio device, the antenna is the backbone of the entire system. It expands your range over miles, connecting you to other hobbyists.

Before making a final call on the antenna, you need to identify your purpose. Whether you plan on talking locally or want to use the HF privileges can impact your antenna choice.

Another factor determining your choice of whip includes terrain, nearby obstacles, and selection of VHF/UHF.

You can also build a 2-meter antenna, which can easily outperform many commercial ones available in the market!

How much does it cost to set up a ham radio base station system?

The first step to setting up your base transceiver is to obtain a technician license. The license test costs $15 only. However, you will need a study-material, which can cost a little under $50.

You can find study material only on the ARRL website, and find decent books on Amazon, as well.

With the license out of the way, you would now want to gain some expertise in the field. One way to gain knowledge is by joining a local ham club. It can connect you to many local users in your area that can teach you what many magazines and books fail to! The membership can cost around $20 a year.

Moving on, you will need a high-power and functional radio transceiver to go on air. Base station radios are bigger and boast advanced tech features, which makes them slightly expensive. You can find ICOM 7300 priced under $1200 or President Ronald transceiver at under $150! It comes down to what you want your transceiver to do. Oh, and don’t forget the accessories!

You may also want to note that base radio systems require an external power supply, which can cost $100 to $150.

So that brings the total cost to:

  • Testing material: $50
  • License test: $15
  • Ham radio club: $20
  • Transceiver (President Ronald): $150
  • Accessories: $100
  • Power Supply: $150

Easily, $485!

Concluding Remarks

If you’re a serious ham hobbyist and are looking for a long-term investment, you can never go wrong with an amateur base station. Over the years, it has acquired a special place in the market for its advanced features, power, and range coverage.

If you follow our buying guide, you will not face any trouble choosing the best model. Nevertheless, I believe our reviews of the best ham radio base stations of 2020 will save a lot of time for you.

Let us know your feedback after using the products. 

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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