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The Best VHF Marine Radios for 2020

Marine radios have been an important part of our lives. This special device is not only for entertainment but also a great means of communication, especially off the shore. Just imagine once your boats and ships are equipped with a decent radio system, you can communicate as well as get weather alerts in emergencies.

best vhf marine radio

If you are looking for a suitable VHF marine radio, you’ve come to the right place. Here we are with a list of several contenders for the best VHF marine radio title. We have provided detailed reviews of those products to give customers a rough picture of what they are like.

Best VHF Marine Radio Reviews

1. Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine VHF Radio

The first product on our recommendation list is a small VHF radio from Uniden. The device is small in size but its power is tremendous. Suppose you are in a mood for smooth and pleasant listening, then choosing this high-quality audio will won’t let you down.

This VHF radio is available in two colors: black and white. These are the basic colors that many people will like. The compact design is another great advantage. This radio would not take up too much space, and it can be carried around easily.

With this product, there are many interesting features to look forward to. For the utmost convenience, this radio is equipped with a triple watch feature. There is also a digital selective calling DSC capability that allows users to send SOS messages. You can also get access to a wide range of marine channels and tunes in your favorite ones anytime.

This VHF radio could be a great companion on the sea, considering how its special features can aid you in emergencies. Apart from normal radio channels, you get full access to emergency channels, including S.A.M.E Weather Alert. You will be informed of the current weather and be given further warnings if there are storms.

Moreover, this product is also equipped with a strobe light and a flashlight to send signals when you need help. Its DSC technology also allows users to make emergency calls of distress signal by just pressing just one button (the red one).

Besides, this product is waterproof, meaning it was designed to block water from getting in. This is an essential feature that any VHF marine radios should have as protecting your device from being broken by rain or splashes of seawater.

Even though you will have a diverse array of radio channels to choose from, this device does not support automatic scanning. It might be inconvenient to do the tuning manually.
Pros
  • Offers in black, white color
  • Small and portable design
  • High-quality audio
  • Waterproof feature
  • Emergency lights to assist in case of accidents or disasters
Cons
  • Doesn’t scan channels automatically
Overall, this is a nice product that provides everything customers want for a VHF radio. With small size and waterproof casing, this device will be a perfect fit for your sea trips. This radio is a great assistance in times of emergency, thanks to the strobe light and flashlight.

2. Standard Horizon Eclipse Gx1300 Marine VHF Radios

The next product you should not miss out is a radio from Standard Horizon. There are many charming points to be listed with this fixed mount VHF radio. The device provides everything you’ve ever needed in VHF marine radios.

One of those amazing features is the Digital Selective Calling technology. This DSC technology greatly improves communication quality, as exemplified by the heightened clarity. Additionally, this product can be a great pair with any Shakespeare antenna types, allowing users to make distress calls in case they need help.

With this device, you can get full access to multiple marine channels from Canada, the USA, and other regions. You can tune in the NOAA stations for weather alert and further information relating to your areas. Indeed, this marine VHF radio with GPS can also identify your location and send a report in case of an emergency.

There are three different scanning modes for users to choose from: dual watch, priority scan, programmable scan. Each mode would be suitable for a specific situation, so you can choose what fits your needs best. These features contribute to quicker channel tuning and they will save you a lot of work.

Another great point about this radio is that this product supports a new menu system that is easy to read and control. There is a large LCD screen to display clear channel information with the backlit keypad to use in the dark. The buttons are soft, highly responsive and well arranged for easy operation.

Also, other parts of this ship to shore radio have great quality too. With the upgraded noise reduction technology, the microphone is able to make clear and stable sounds. There is little to no background noise like the wind sound or the engine noise. Customers can enjoy wonderful audio performance that can hardly be found elsewhere.

It is quite easy to install this device as including a mounting bracket. The rear chassis of this VHF radio has been redesigned for better mounting, especially in a moving vehicle. This radio is also small-sized, making it perfect to be installed in tight spaces.

This device is of course waterproof. It has been tested on IPX8 standards to last for 30 minutes when submerged 1.5 meters under the water.

The only issue with this product is the mounting bracket. It seems to be made of poor-quality plastics, making it look a bit flimsy. You need to know that the device might not stay on very securely.
Pros
  • The Digital Selective Calling technology to send distress signal
  • Can be paired with Shakespeare antenna for better communication
  • Different scanning modes: dual watch, priority, programmable scan
  • A large LCD screen with backlit keypad
  • Excellent noise canceling feature
  • Includes a mounting bracket
  • Waterproof rating IPX8
Cons
  • Poor quality of the mounting bracket
Regardless of the low-quality mounting bracket, this product boasts many strong features. The smart menu system and easy paired to Shakespeare antenna features make this device worth paying for.

3. Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating

Coming up next, the well-known brand Cobra proposes to us a wonderful, multiple exceptional features VHF radio. If you are looking for a high-quality marine radio, this device is the perfect answer.

On top of all, the channel’s coverage of this handheld VHF marine radio is wide. You can get full access to many American, Canadian, and other international radio stations. Hence, many important NOAA weather channels are within reach. You can also use the Tri-Watch feature to monitor three different channels at once.

The channel’s setting is internationally among 1, 3, and 6 watts to facilitate both short and long-range communication. To tune in the desired radio channels, use the scanning feature. Apart from that, you get instant access to Channel 16 in case of an emergency.

With this radio, you can enjoy clear and stable communication with any VHF radio range. The high-quality microphone cancels most background noises that might disturb the conversations (the wind, the engine noise, and so on). I have to compliment the excellent noise reduction technology that this radio provides.

In addition, this radio offers a high waterproof rating of IPX7 / JIS7. You can submerge the device in the water in 30 mins at 1m deep without damages. There is also a Burp feature that can vibrate the water out of the speaker.

In the product package, you will find everything you need to operate this handheld VHF unit properly. There are different chargers to charge this device (a battery charger, an AC charger, a DC charger, and a LiON battery pack). Apart from it, you will be given an external antenna, a belt clip, a wrist strap, and of course, a user manual for further instructions.

However, there is one small problem concerning the speaker volume. Many customers complain that the audio output is quite low, even when they turned the volume up to maximum. This matter might cause some inconveniences that users should take note of.
Pros
  • Maximum coverage to multiple channels
  • Enables stable and clear communication
  • Allows to monitor 3 channels at the same time with the Tri-Watch mode
  • Instant access to emergency radio channels
  • IPX7 / JIS7 waterproof rating
  • Offers clear conversation with Burp feature and noise canceling
  • A ready to use package of full accessories
Cons
  • The speaker volume is a bit small
This radio has great qualities to stand out from the rest, from the wide coverage of communication to its usefulness in emergencies. I don’t see any reason why you miss out on this wonderful product.

4. Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld VHF Marine Radio

Another two-way radio from Uniden that deserves a spot on our list is the Atlantis 155. It is not an exaggeration to say that this could be one of the best VHF marine radios on the market. Considering its strengths and distinctive features, you can expect a lot from this amazing product.

The menu system of this product is smartly designed for practical use. At the front, there is a huge backlighting LCD that displays all the necessary information. There are two modes of backlight: white for daytime and red for night time to increase user visibility under all conditions. Besides, the soft keypad is utilized to control all functions of the device.

The compact size makes this radio a device that can be carried around easily. I’m sure that no one wants to haul a chunky device around. This radio can fit well in tight spaces that other models can’t. This portable marine radio is an essential item on your trip off the shore.

This radio allows access to all the main marine channels, including American, Canadian, and other international stations. You can also quickly tune in NOAA weather stations to get weather alerts.

This product would be of great assistance in case of an emergency. This radio informs you of the current weather and also comes in double as an emergency kit. There are strobe lights and flashlights to issue a SOS distress signal.

The waterproof ability of this radio, which meets the IPX8 / JIS8 standard, is so impressive. Aside from the floating function, you can submerge this radio 4.9 feet deep in the water in 30 minutes, and it still works perfectly well. Moreover, there is a vibrating tone that can clear water from the speaker’s mesh, and you will have a complete stay on the work device.

There’s just one minor problem with this radio: the battery life is relatively short, about 10 hours only. You will have to charge the device frequently to keep it alive. This might be frustrating to many radio users, so I suggest you consider this point before making any purchase.
Pros
  • Large LCD screen with backlight display
  • IPX8 / JIS8 waterproof rating
  • The handy device at a compact size
  • Able to access to all marine channels
  • Equipped with emergency flashlights
  • Rechargeable batteries
Cons
  • The battery dies quickly
Overall, this is a high-quality product to keep the connection and security when you’re off the land. With many desirable qualities, in my opinion, this VHF radio is a worthwhile investment that you should consider.

5. Icom VHF Radio Fixed Mount Black

This fixed mount VHF radio from Icom is another excellent product that you should check out. This device promises to be a great companion of any radio lover, especially when traveling on your boat.

I highly appreciate that this radio comes in a compact size so it can fit well into tight spaces. While traveling, especially on the sea, it’s better to bring lightweight and small-sized VHF radios.

At such a reasonable price, you can get for yourself a full-featured radio. The signal quality is stable to maintain communication without interference. The audio is excellent – you can enjoy a superb quality sound, unlike any other.

Just like other VHF radios, it is equipped with digital selective calling DSC capability and a CH70 dedicated receiver. The available common interface of NMEA allows you to scan and reach the essential marine / weather bands. You can have a tag and make it memories of your favourite channels to get quicker access later on.

You can easily set up this radio by following the step-by-step instructions in the manual. No professional tool is needed and non-pros can do it just fine. To control the device, make use of the keypad, each key will help you control a specific function of the device.

However, there is one problem with this device. The screen is not visible at some angles, and it could be a bit hard to read the information.
Pros
  • Small-sized and compact design
  • Class D DSC approved with a CH70 receiver
  • NMEA interface
  • Essential marine band coverage
  • Easy to install and operate
  • Reasonable price
Cons
  • It is a bit hard to read the LCD screen
For all those strong features, this VHF marine radio deserves one spot on our list. There is a small problem with the display screen but it does not have much influence on users’ experience.

6. Cobra MR F45-D Fixed Mount VHF Marine Radio

This is another decent radio from Cobra that has received lots of compliments from VHF users. This device promises to deliver a one-of-a-kind radio experience.

I’m impressed with the band coverage of this product. You can access a good number of radio channels from Canada, the US, and other international locations. You can set the output power at 1 or 25 watts to suit either short or long-range communication. There is also a memory scan feature so that you call in the channels you want immediately.

Additionally, you can instantly reach ten different NOAA stations and get weather alerts at any time. You will stay safe as the audio and visual alarms can notify the changing or undermining weather coming up close by your location. Moreover, the dual watch enables you to have access to two channels at once, one fixed to channel 16 in case of emergencies.

The user interface of this device is pretty easy to figure out. There is a large illuminated LED screen that displays all the necessary information. In addition, to control different features of this radio, you can use the keypad. The function keys will also be illuminated to be seen clearly in the dark.

You don’t have to worry about the waterproof ability of this product. It has been tested on IPX8 / JIS8 standards. This device is submersible; therefore, your radio will work perfectly fine, even being soaked.

Even though there is a backlight to help in the dark, it might be hard to read the screen in direct sunlight. Customers should take note of this matter before making any purchase.
Pros
  • Different power settings for both long and short communication range
  • 24 hours alert on the weather
  • Operates at wide coverage
  • Reaches to all international channels
  • Dual watch feature keeps you safe all the time
  • Can be submerged in water with IPX8 / JIS8 standard
  • User-friendly interface
Cons
  • Can’t read the screen under direct sunlight
Overall, considering all the amazing features, the device does have nothing serious to complain about. This small but powerful device with instant access to NOAA, 24hrs weather alert, memory scanning will keep you safe and prepare for all conditions, and getting it along with you is a smart choice.

7. Standard Horizon GX1800GB Station Explorer

The next product on the list is brought to you by Standard Horizon. You can totally trust this wonderful marine radio. This device is impressive in many aspects that make it to the list of the most sought-after products.

The first impressions this product gives me are the reception and transmission quality. The background noises are also greatly reduced to ensure the best experience for customers. With this device, you can enjoy stable and clear communication with little to no interference.

The waterproof rating of this device is qualified at IPX8 standard. This product is well-assembled to make sure that the water can not seep into. Do not worry if you accidentally get this radio submerged in the water for a few minutes.

The menu system is easy to control and it won’t take time to get familiarized with. The radio is designed with a large LED screen, displays clear information for quick readings. You will find every information you need to stay safe.

The audio of this marine radio for sale is also worth mentioning. Through the high-quality speakers, the sounds are clear and they stay true to the original. Even though this device cannot be connected to an external speaker, the volume is loud enough.

It is not difficult to install this VHF marine radio, even for amateurs. It doesn’t require mounting, additional kits, nor much effort to do the job. It only takes a couple of minutes and you will have a new radio system.

The only deal-breaker is the price. This product might be a bit expensive above the average for common VHF radios. If you are shopping on a budget, I suggest you go for other options.
Pros
  • Clear transmission and reception quality
  • IPX8 waterproof standard
  • A large LCD screens gives clear readings
  • High-quality, clear and loud audio with noise canceling feature
  • Easy to install and operate
Cons
  • A bit expensive
If this is not a VHF radio for sale, the price is high, but I can say that this radio is a good choice. It’s because it boasts significant features of VHF marine radios that can satisfy even the most demanding customers.

8. Garmin 010-01751-00 VHF Marine Radio

The next highly recommended product is a VHF radio from Garmin. If you’re looking for a stable and long-lived companion on your sea trip, this will not go wrong.

This VHF radio for offshore fishing can work on different frequency bands: from ten NOAA weather channels, important marine channels of the USA, Canada to international-based ones. This wide variety of options will serve different purposes of radio users, either to be informed or for entertainment.

The transmit power for 25W is enough to maintain stable and clear communication. You can enjoy the best signal quality and audio performance.

There are some interesting features that you should not miss out on. This radio supports a digital selective calling DSC functionality that enables radio users to make distress signal or calls. This product is compatible with the GHS 11 handset so that you can upgrade with any handset that you like.

Another convenient feature that this product provides the removable mic. It allows you to relocate away from the radio quickly.

However, the price could be a bit high and not many are willing to pay.
Pros
  • Maximum coverage of frequency bands
  • The power output of 25W
  • Standard DSC function
  • Works well with GHS 11 second-station handset
  • Large LCD screen
  • Detachable mic design
Cons
  • A bit pricey
For just a VHF marine radio, the price of this is a bit expensive. But you can trust its performance since it comes from a famous brand name, which provides the best engineered and technology on marine products.

9. Standard Horizon HX210 Marine Handheld VHF

Another VHF marine radio that encompasses so many charming points, and makes me put it on this list immediately is also from Standard Horizon. Let’s look into details to see what’s great about this wonderful device.

One huge plus point of this product is the compact design. It comes in a small size to be well fitted in the palm. With such a case design, its portability is significantly enhanced – you can carry the device around at ease. I highly recommend this item to frequent travelers who desire for a handy radio.

The menu system of this marine radio is easy to operate. To keep track of activated features, you can simply scan on the huge full dot matrix display screen. All the information regarding the frequency bands or the power output will be shown there. You can use function keys to control the device as you want.

This radio allows access to different stations in the USA, Canada, and other areas. You can select the output power (1W, 2.5W, and 6W) for the best communication quality. The standard reception range for WX and FM channels is between 76MHz and 108MHz.

This product meets the IPX7 waterproof standard. It can maintain its work even being submerged under 3.3 feet for 30 minutes. If you accidentally drop it in the water, it will float. And this ability is brand guaranteed for 3 years.

The device is added with a water activated strobe light for emergencies, even when it is turned off. The strobe light can send SOS signals to others, so it is quite useful to aid you during bad weather conditions or accidents.

Even though its Li-ion battery capacity is substantial at 1850 mAh, the charger quality is a bit off. Some are claiming that the inside package charger is made of poor materials and appears to be flimsy. It would be better if the manufacturers could work on this matter.
Pros
  • Compact and convenient design
  • High-resolution display screen
  • Smart menu system that easy to use
  • Wide coverage channels/ radio bands
  • IPX7 waterproof with floating feature
  • Emergency strobe light activated by water
  • Equips 1850 mAh battery
Cons
  • Poor quality charger
This radio meets my expectations for a general marine radio. With the good capabilities it offers, I can promise that you will not be disappointed.

10. Icom IC-M73 01 Handheld VHF Marine Radio

To complete the list, we cannot miss out on mentioning the IC-M73 model, another high-quality radio from ICOM. The special hourglass design could immediately grab your attention, and there are more interesting things to explore.

What I like the most about this radio is the design, which shapes like the hourglass. It is not merely for aesthetic purposes but to ensure a better grip. Therefore, users of this device can grab it in their hands confidently without slipping.

The durability of this marine radio is quite impressive. The manufacturer has chosen high-quality materials to make it able to withstand harsh conditions, especially when you cope with threatening weather or disasters. Another huge plus point that I can’t help mentioning is its 6W transmit power, which enhances the long-range communication to users.

Additionally, the device has passed the official test to prove its IPX8 waterproof, the second highest standard for blocking water from ICOM. It can be entirely submerged in the water (4.9 feet depth) for half an hour without damage. This feature is useful for marine rescue or while travelling on the sea.

This radio has a user-friendly interface that even amateurs can handle without difficulty. The LED screen has a wide viewing angle so that you can read the information from any angles. The control buttons are labeled carefully as a guide for the users.

There are other interesting features to look forward to. In detail, the Aqua-Quake function can vibrate off all the excess water from the speakers and keep a loud and clear audio output/ receive. Apart from it, the Dual/Tri Watch feature allows you to stream different channels at the same time.

The 700mW audio quality of this radio is quite impressive. There is an added feature called a bridge-tied load amplifier that enables double sound output. As a result, you can enjoy nice and clear sounds with great stability. You might think with such a loud audio output that will eat up the battery, but it’s totally wrong. Its battery can normally operate up to 18 hrs. The power save function is also available.

Just one small issue that many customers complain about the real size of the product. It is bigger in real life. I suggest you consider this factor carefully before buying the radio.
Pros
  • Ergonomic hourglass design for better handling
  • Wide-viewing LCD screen
  • Enables extended communication range
  • IPX8 waterproof protection
  • The Aqua-Quake function to vibrate off the water
  • Dual/Tri Watch feature supports simultaneous streaming
  • Delivers a loud, nice and clear sound
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • The device could be larger than the official specifications
Despite one small downside, this ergonomic device lives up to my expectations, both on design and quality. And from the above detailed marine VHF radio review, I think this radio would be an ideal companion on your trip off the shore.

What to Look for When Buying a VHF Marine Radio

best-vhf-radio

It is important to pick up a good marine radio to accompany on your off the shore trips. You might wonder what makes a perfect radio, or where you can find the best fixed mount VHF marine radio. Apparently, there are many factors to consider when buying a new device.

I understand that each customer has a personal demand and preferences for a perfect marine radio. However, compiling a list of the most important criteria to choose out the best VHF radio is never an easy task. So the easiest way is to rely on our article with a VHF marine radio buying guide and detailed reviews to lessen your burden.

Waterproof Quality – I believe this is the most critical factor when it comes to good marine radio. It is safer to own a product with a high waterproof rating to keep on the job even being dropped in the water. Currently, most VHF radios on the market have been tested and recognized for good blocking water ability. Higher waterproof rating better protection against water, so you should grab a radio with a waterproof standard from IPX7 to IPX9.

Transmission range – This is more related to the antenna and power output of VHF marine radios. Basically, a good VHF device should have access to all the essential marine and emergency channels. It’s for alerting users with the changing weather conditions nearby or being instantly connected to key channels such as channel 16 or channel 9 to get help in case of emergencies. In terms of the transmit power, they support you in having short to long range communication so that everyone can notify you via the radio. This feature is strongly attached to your safety on board, so aim to get a product that got most of this.

Portability – Marine radios are often used on a boat, a ship, or other vehicle types. Under those circumstances, I suggest that you go for something compact and lightweight for a better experience. Just choose the one that is most convenient and you can have instant access, put your safety on top.

Price – Practical advice is that the most expensive product is not necessarily the best product. Therefore, there is no need to splurge on a pricey one that might not fit your needs. You should do careful research and understand what you want before making any purchase.

Other Important Factors to Consider

marine-vhf-radio-review

What is a VHF radio?

VHF radios or high frequency radios are a type of two-way radio transceiver that is intended for extended range communication. VHF radio marine radio is normally used on boats, ships, and etc.

Who is this for?

The target users of this product are pretty wide, but mostly on marine services. It’s because this VHF marine radio is specially designed to use on the sea for maritime safety purposes. If you are planning on a trip off the shore, this companion would not be absent since it supports different features compared to normal radio.

How does it work?

It simply works just like other radios, which is based on the transmission of radio waves. These waves are transmitted in a straight line over a distance. The coverage range is up to a couple of miles. The differences are in the added calling DSC capabilities and ability to resist damage from water. In the case of an emergency, your location will be sent and requested for help via the distress signal of fixed channel 16/9.

What are the different types of VHF radios?

There are many types of VHF radios available on the market. Two models commonly used are fixed and handheld VHF marine radios. The handheld VHF radios are portable and reliable choices that are suitable for anyone. A fixed mount radio can be permanent attached securely inside your cabin or cockpit. You can choose whichever model that suits you best. Apart from it, there are other types of VHF marine radios including commercial radios, long-range radios, Bluetooth VHF marine radios, and so on.

Why do you need a VHF marine radio?

Just as the name suggests, VHF marine radio is made to accompany you on maritime activities, either for fishing or traveling. A VHF marine radio should be able to withstand the harsh weather conditions and function well despite that. It’s hard for a normal radio to do the same thing, such as waterproofing, weather forecasting, selective calling DSC, scanning, priority noise reduction, and many others. Hence, it’s recommended to have distinctive marine radios with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs-by-Hamtronic

What are the most trusted VHF marine radio brands?

There are many well-known brands that provide high-quality products, and it could be difficult to choose the best one. You can trust some well-known names such as Uniden, Standard Horizon, Cobra, Garmin, ICOM, and so on. Our article has provided detailed reviews on their different products – scroll up and check it out.

What is the range of a VHF marine radio?

It depends on the type of VHF marine radio. A normal handheld VHF marine radio can cover three to eight miles, while the range of a mounted radio is more extensive (up to 25 miles). The power output mainly decides the range of a radio device: the higher it is, the wider the coverage range is.

What is the best ship to shore radio?

There are some brands that you can check out for a good marine radio VHF: Standard Horizon, ICOM, Cobra, Uniden, Garmin, etc. These brands provide powerful radio models with advanced technology that will satisfy your needs. You can always visit our article for VHF marine radio reviews to sort out some shopping advice.

How to use?

It is not difficult to operate and control a marine radio. For normal marine radios VHF, you will use the keypad to control its different functions. There will be a screen for you to keep track of what is happening. The user interface is uncomplicated to figure out and anyone can get used to it quickly.

Where to buy?

You can find different models of VHF marine radios in many local stores and online sites. I suggest you come to a local technical store or big retail chains like Walmart, Lowes, or Best Buy for the original product at a reasonable price. If you are more of an online shopping person, you can visit Amazon, eBay or Home Depot for a wide range of options.

How to care and clean?

It is not difficult and time consuming to take care of this device, just have to be extra careful when handling it. Avoid strong force and keep it clean out of the water after the activity. If you own a handheld VHF device, make sure you put it in a dry place and avoid direct sunlight.

Conclusion

We hope that our reviews could be a savior for whoever is searching for the best VHF marine radio. A decent device would significantly improve your radio experience and even ensure your safety in emergencies. Bring this great companion and have endless fun on your journey!

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