What is SSB Radio? Some Facts and Safe Tips You Must Know

Sailing on the huge ocean is interesting, but it is also risky since you are separated from other people. Thus, you need a device that can help you keep up with weather forecasts and contact emergency channels as well.

This is why every sailor needs an SSB radio. It has a long history, which starts from a communication service after the second World War to a necessary transmission gadget nowadays.

We have written this post to explain “what is SSB Radio?” and how it works. Some product reviews and safety tips are also included.

Everything You Should Know About SSB Radio

An SSB radio stands for single side band radio, which helps boats in a wide distance range (can be up to 4,000 miles) communicate, receive weather information, emails, and play music as well.

The SSB radio is also called marine single side band radio, which is an advanced version of the AM radio system.

From the beginning, the information transmitted by AM radio systems was easily obtained by other channels or frequencies, which caused serious problems and chaos. Hence, the SSB radio was made to become an effective solution to this problem.

If you are looking for a way to install a single sideband radio, you should know about these components.

1. Radio head unit

It is the display unit with a screen, a control keypad, big rotary switches, and a standard microphone.

2. SSB Transceiver

This is the most important part of the marine single sideband radio; it includes all the main electronics. It is also in charge of reception and transmission on all marine channels.

3. Antenna Tuner

For this component, you can choose between an automatic and manual antenna tuning unit. However, it’s better to get the automatic one since it is easier to work on. It connects the antenna with the SSB radio’s output.

The most popular way to establish an antenna is using a backstay. The minimum length of the antenna should be 7.5 meters.

4. Grounding

Although you might have your antenna and the radio head unit setup all done, the signal transfer will still be weak if you forget about the ground plane. It works as a springboard to boost your signal from the antenna.

The best choice for the grounding is using sintered bronze plates, also known as the dynaplate outside of your hull. A steel hull is also commonly used, but it often causes electrolysis issues, so, be careful. A solid grounding can strongly affect your transmission.

How to Use a Single Side Band Marine Radio?

How does it work?

Marine radios contain VHF (short for Very High Frequency) and SW (Short Wave) Frequency. The limits of the VHF are around 25 nautical miles (about 46.3 km), while the Short Wave can cover a wider range.

The marine single side band radio’s frequency range covers 3MHz to 30 MHz. The signals from the SSB radio reflect off the Earth’s ionosphere, then go back to the ground thousands of miles away. The skywave reflection depends on your radio type.

How to listen to your SSB radio?

You can follow our steps:

  • Step 1: Set the head unit to receive the signals
  • Step 2: Select the SSB filter (the wildest range filter)
  • Step 3: Slowly tune the rotary switch until you can hear a natural and clear voice.

For better guidance, you can watch another guide here: https://youtu.be/H2NbqxU9Kks

SSB Radio Recommendations

1. Uniden BEARCAT 980 40

This marine single side band radio has an LCD screen that is easy to read in any light condition. It also operates a noise-filter microphone. Users who do not require many features can take a look at this one.


  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to read in low light condition
  • Included emergency channel


  • Does not last for too long

2. Icom M802 Marine SSB Radio

Compared to the above radio, this one has a larger display unit and more functions, such as email receiving, remote speaker, and more than 1300 channels. It will be a helpful device for any boat.

In addition, it is also easy to use by following the instructions. Plus, the radio enclosure and head unit are separated.


  • Easy to use
  • Large memory for emails
  • Optional handheld microphone and speaker
  • Backlit keypad


  • Not able to work on FM mode
  • Antenna Tuner is not included

Safety tips you must note!

When you are sailing, it is very crucial to ensure your safety. Thus, please note down the International Marine Emergency frequencies, which are 2182, 4125, 6215 and 8291 kHz.


This article has shown you details about the SSB radio, the way it operates, several product reviews, and helpful safety advice.

As we mentioned above, a single side band radio is a must-have device to connect you to other people and ensure your safety as well. Next time, if someone asks you “what is SSB Radio?” we believe you know how to answer it.

If you have something to add, please do not hesitate to share it in the comment box below. We also appreciate you sharing this article with other people who may find it helpful.

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