You may not need a DSC radio with internal GPS if you’re just working around the marina or using it for communication on smaller inland waterways. You can save a buck opting for the more basic radios, but we’d have a hard time giving up our favorite feature: floating submersibility. Well, that’s our favorite after stellar communications.
Cobra MR HH500 BT
It’s waterproof and features Bluetooth connectivity to your phone, but we weren’t sure we were crazy about it until after we used it. You can actually take and place calls on it, and the sound-canceling mic for the phone provided clear transmission. VHF transmission did not include sound canceling, though, and its clarity suffered.
Features Number of GPS Channels: Not applicable Screen Size: 1½” x 1” Weight: 0.59 pounds Dimensions: 4.74” x 2.66” x 2” Low to High Watts: 1, 3, 6 watts Li-Ion Power: Yes Alkaline Power: 2 AA Channel Scan: Tri-channel + 2 faves Charger Base: Yes 12-Volt Charger: Yes Tactile Controls: On/off, volume
Icom specializes in radio communications in the aviation, marine and land mobile arenas, so its grip on quality communications is strong. The waterproof IC-M73 has a noise-canceling mic and does an excellent job of eliminating background noise from boats and motors. A low-frequency “buzz” that Icom called Aqua Quake purges water from the radio speaker face on command. Last-call recording means you can play back rather than ask for a callback — until you can understand the transmission.
Features Number of GPS Channels: Not applicable Screen Size: 1⅛” x ⅞” Weight: 11.3 ounces Dimensions: 2.07” x 4.94” x 1.18” Low to High Watts: 1, 3, 6 watts Li-Ion Power: Yes Alkaline Power: No Channel Scan: Dual or tri-channel Charger Base: Compact USB cord charging 12-Volt Charger: Yes Tactile Controls: On/off, volume
Standard Horizon HX 300
A water-activated LED light makes it easy to find the radio should it be floating in the dark. It is a powerful and clear radio that received and transmitted with an extremely minor but detectable hiss with strong volume. We liked the feature allowing us to set up to 10 channels for automatic scanning. Its large LCD display let us see what was on the screen without those pesky readers.
Features Number of GPS Channels: Not applicable Screen Size: Not available Weight: 8.4 ounces Dimensions: 2.32” x 5.04” x 1.3” Low to High Watts: 5 watts Li-Ion Power: Yes Alkaline Power: Optional 3 AAA Channel Scan: Dual or tri-channel Charger Base: Yes 12-volt Charger: Yes Tactile Controls: On/off, channel up/down
West Marine VHF 160
Rumor has it Uniden makes West Marine radios, and this one was a dandy. It was one of the clearest radios we tested and was submersible too. An LED strobe/flashlight adds utility for emergency use, and activation when wet eases relocating the radio in the dark. It also has a luminous shell gasket, making it easy to spot in the dark. It’s equipped with a remote microphone jack, should you prefer to operate it with an optional mic.
Features Number of GPS Channels: Not applicable Screen Size: 1½” x 1” Weight: Not tested Dimensions: 6.29” x 2.44” x 1.61” Low to High Watts: 1, 2.5, 6 watts Li-Ion Power: Yes Alkaline Power: 4 AAA Channel Scan: Custom dual and 6/9/weather tri-channel Charger Base: Yes 12-Volt Charger: Yes Tactile Controls: On/off, channel up/down