A comprehensive Guide to the Best Two-Way Radios

A modern communication device suitable for both children who want to have fun and adults at work or during certain events, the two-way radio is a reliable system through which you can stay in touch with another person over a certain range. Whether you’re going backcountry camping and hiking in the Pacific Northwest or talking to your coworkers, this is the right tool for you!

Naturally, you should take the time to educate yourself about them especially since there are numerous types that differ in terms of features and, subsequently, purpose. In other words, the radio that’s perfect for nature is definitely not the right choice for a construction site.

In this article, you will find a detailed description of every important functionality that should be included in these gadgets, in addition to other beneficial attributes. That’s not all, you will also get the chance to check out a list curated by Two-Way Signal and containing the best models of 2019.


Definition of a Two-Way Radio

In basic terms, a two-way radio allows you to send and receive audio messages over a specified distance. This means that you can contact another person even if you can’t do so via a mobile phone. It may not have the same applications as a phone though but it contains other helpful features. Imagine a walkie talkie set but for adults, that’s a two-way radio!


Different Types

As previously mentioned, there are a lot of variations and you can categorize them in several ways starting with the usage method:

Base Models

These are the radios which you install in your home, you can’t keep moving them around because they’re mainly built to stay in one place. You plug them into a power socket and add an antenna if necessary.

Mobile Models

You can mount these devices inside your vehicle and, logically, power them from the car’s battery. It’s also advised not to move from one place to another very much.

Handheld Models

As the name suggests, these are the ones you hold in your hand. They are small enough to fit inside your palm so that you can carry them around and you them anywhere you want. They derive their power from changeable batteries.

Another way to classify two-way radios is by configurations:

Family Radio Service

Commonly known as FRS radios, they are popular because they don’t require a license. However, they have low power (and range) and usually no more than 14 channels.

General Mobile Radio Service

GMRS radios require a license so you could operate them but that doesn’t mean they’re not favoured by the public. They have more power than the previous type and include more channels as well (22 to be exact!).


How Does a Two-Way Radio Operate?

To simplify the whole process, two-way radios transform electrical signals into radio waves (or vice versa) and send them to (or receive them from) another device. This means that obstacles such as trees or buildings can affect these waves which is why, if you’re not in an open field, the range will be reduced.


How Much Does it Cost?

You should expect to pay around $60 for a two-way radio containing all the necessary features in addition to some advanced functionalities. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t find other models that cost around $20. However, just like any other product, high-end picks might have a pricetag exceeding $300.


Important Features in a Two-Way Radio

As you know by now, these gadgets are packed with features but some are more essential than others.


Channels and Privacy Codes

A lot of people use two-way radios, right? So why doesn't every user hear what everyone else is saying? The answer is different channels and even more privacy codes. As you’ve probably noticed, radios with different configurations have a different number of channels. The FRS devices include 14 channels half of which are FRS-specific and the other half can also be found in GMRS radios. When it comes to the latter however, you can benefit from 22 channels in total.

Now, surely thousands of users are not limited by this relatively low number of channels, well they are but each channel have 121 privacy codes. These codes substantially reduce the chance of an interference but don’t eliminate it completely. There are 2 kinds of privacy codes, the Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System (CDCSS) and the Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS).

It’s important to note that all modern devices are designed to be compatible with almost every radio. This means that regardless of brand and model, you will be able to talk to anyone with a two-way radio by accessing the same channel and privacy code.

Finally, yes there are numerous combinations but it shouldn’t be a surprise if someone tapped in to your conversation by mistake or you found yourself listening to strangers, especially in populated areas. There’s also the case in which you want to purposely contact several individuals, just log into the same channel and privacy code but make sure you don’t try to talk at the same time.


The main thing you need to know here is the fact that the power is directly proportional to the range. In other words, a more powerful radio will transmit farther! GMRS models operate at a higher wattage than their FRS counterparts which is why they require a license to use. High power can be really useful but it drains your batteries faster. With that said, if you’ll be operating the radios in a small area then switch to FRS to reduce power and save energy.

Range and Antennas

Not all models offer the same range and you will notice that most packages have the words “up to” written before the range. That’s because the number you see there is the range that you might receive in optimum conditions which means in an open field.

As you probably know by now, buildings, trees, and any other obstruction will reduce the range and you’ll be able to have a clear conversation over 3 KMs in most cases. Moreover, long-range two-way radios offer exactly what their name indicates so it all depends on your needs.

Don’t forget about the antennas though, they help extend the range of your radio. A bigger antenna means more range but not all radios are compatible with just any model. At the same time, a long antenna can be a hassle to work with since it takes up space, especially if you’re using a handheld or mobile device. In addition, you should learn how to tune the antenna once you install it because if you do that in a wrong way you might negatively affect your range instead of improving it.

Charging and Batteries

Just like any other gadget that runs on batteries, AA and AAA options are the ones to go for. However, there are 2 types of batteries here: regular and rechargeable, each with its pros and cons.

The regular ones may last longer but once you’re going to have to purchase other ones once they’re depleted. The rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective but tend to run out pretty quickly. In addition, if you go with the latter pick, you’re going to have to buy a rechargeable battery charger.

The smartest thing you can do here is purchase a radio compatible with both options, that way you’ll get to switch between them any way you see fit.


Additional Features

Now that you’ve learned about the necessary features, it’s time to check out other functionalities that can make your life much easier but are not exactly essential.


Noise Reduction

Some models include a noise reduction feature that eliminates background interference to make sure you have a clear communication.

Weather Channels and Alerts

You can access NOAA weather channels to stay updated on the latest changes. Your radio might also notify you of bad weather conditions that are heading to your area.


It’s important to familiarize yourself with the IPX rating system that dictates if a device is waterproof or simply water resistant (Yes there’s a difference!). Make sure you check out what’s written on the box especially if you plan on taking the radio with you into the wilderness and near a body of water.

Headset and VOX

You can buy a specialized headset that allows you to use your radio through voice commands. This is particularly ideal for jobs that require both hands constantly. VOX is the voice command feature, instead of pressing a button, you can activate the radio using your own words.

Keypad Lock

As the name suggests, you can lock your settings so that they don’t change while you (or someone else) use the device.


Everybody knows what GPS is and it would be very helpful if a radio contains this feature because it can help you find your way around in the forest, for example. That’s not all, some radios even give you the opportunity to share your location with other users. This is really important in case of an emergency or if someone is lost.

Military Specifications

If you notice the “MIL-SPEC” or “MIL-STD” markings on your radio then you should know that this device contains military-grade equipment that boost its durability. Naturally, such items cost a bit more than others.


Two-Way Signal Reviews the Best Two-Way Radios

Now it’s time to check out the best products on the market.


Midland LXT600VP3 Two-Way Radio

Midland is a common name in the radio world, and the LXT600VP3 more specifically is really popular due to its relatively low price and numerous features.

Pros of the Midland LXT600VP3

  • More Channels: this device is equipped with more channels than usual, instead of the 22-channel limit, you’ll have 36 in addition to 121 privacy codes.
  • Cost-effective: as previously mentioned, this radio is relatively cheap when compared to other models with the same features.
  • Adequate Range: the box mentions up to 30 mile range but effectively it’s way less than that. However, its range is still really good for most users.
  • Weather Channels and Alerts: you will be able to tap in to NOAA channels and receive alerts notifying you of bad weather conditions heading your way.
  • All-Battery Power: you can choose between regular or rechargeable batteries.
  • VOX: you have access to several levels of the voice command feature.
  • Headset Compatible: there’s a long list of Midland headsets which can be linked with this radio.

Cons of the Midland LXT600VP3

Some units offer a much lower range than expected in addition to other defective features that might lead to total failure of the product.


Midland GXT1000VP4 Two-Way Radio

Another product from Midland. The GXT1000VP4 includes even more channels than the previous model with additional codes ensuring total privacy.

Pros of the Midland GXT1000VP4

  • Even More Channels: with 50 GMRS channels and 142 privacy codes, you’ll have up to 3,124 channels in total.
  • Even More Range: instead of the 30 mile range offered by the previous item, you’ll have up to 36 miles here.
  • Channel Scan: don’t just scroll through the channels to find an activity, the radio will do it quickly for you.
  • NOAA Scan and Alerts: there are 10 available weather bands and the device will lock onto the strongest signal to give you all the latest updates.
  • eVOX: Easy Voice and Sound Activation Transmission with 9 sensitivity levels for total hands-free operation.
  • JIS4 Waterproof: this will protect the radio from splashing water. In other words, it’s not totally waterproof but splash resistant.

Cons of the Midland GXT1000VP4

If you scroll through some online reviews, you will notice that a short battery life is the most recurrent issue with this radio.


Motorola Talkabout T400 Two-Way Radio

Motorola is a huge name in the radio industry, with incomparable products that fit beginners and experienced users alike. The T400 is really user-friendly and versatile which means that anyone can use it almost anywhere.

Pros of the Motorola T400

  • Channels and Codes: this radio offers the regular 22 GMRS channels with the usual 121 privacy codes.
  • Highly Compatible: you can talk with almost any device and not just other Motorola models.
  • Power Saver: most of the time, this radio will be running on less than a single Watt which makes the battery lasts much longer.
  • IP54 Weatherproof: it’s dust and water resistant and it can also withstand certain water splashes.
  • Keypad Lock: set your settings and lock them to ensure that you won’t mistakenly change them.
  • LED light: there’s a built-in flashlight that can be very useful during power outages.
  • Customizable Tones: you can set different tones so you could instantly know who is trying to contact you.

Cons of the Motorola T400

It may not have the best audio quality out there but that’s not a surprise, especially since it’s not a high-end device.


Motorola T605 Talkabout Two-Way Radio

The T605 is, in some sense, an improved version of the previous product on this list. It costs a bit more, of course, but that’s because it’s fitted with better features.

Pros of the Motorola T605

  • Channels and Codes: this radio offers the regular 22 GMRS channels with the usual 121 privacy codes.
  • Highly Compatible: you can talk with almost any device and not just other Motorola models.
  • Great Range: in perfect conditions, you might get up to 35 miles in range.
  • Real-time Weather Updates: 11 NOAA weather channels with alerts that will notify you if there’s a sudden change in weather in your area.
  • Built-in Flashlight: you can choose between the white and the red light that can be very useful during emergencies.
  • IP67 Waterproof: this device is completely waterproof and can survive being submerged 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.

Cons of the Motorola T605

It’s been reported that some units have stopped working completely in just a few months. Make sure you contact the company if that happens to you.


Motorola MT350R FRS Two-Way Radio Pack

Another Motorola device and the most expensive one on this list. The MT350R is great in so many ways since it offers amazing range and can be used in any weather condition.

Pros of the Motorola MT350R

  • Channels and Codes: this radio offers the regular 22 GMRS channels with the usual 121 privacy codes.
  • Great Range: if you’re in an open field, you should expect to have a 35-mile range but no more than a couple of miles when you’re in the city.
  • Weather Channels and Alerts: you’ll have access to multiple NOAA channels that will notify you if there’s a sudden change in the weather in your area.
  • IP54 Weatherproofing: this radio is not completely waterproof but it can work properly after being splashed with water and it can also withstand dust and rain.
  • Built-in Amplifier: the speaker emits a powerful and clear sound.
  • All-inclusive Pack: once you purchase this product, you will receive 2 belt clips, a user guide, emergency checklist, 2 rechargeable battery packs, and more.

Cons of the Motorola MT350R

There’s nothing bad to say about this item however, some MT350Rs have been flawed and don’t work properly. This recurrences are limited and you can contact the company for support.


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