Cobra 146 GTL AM/SSB CB Radio Review

As an avid CB’er I am always looking to try new products and have to have the newest and greatest available to play with in my shack.

I’ve gone through a lot of radios and for the last 5 years I’ve been involved in the export radio craze buying every new one that came available to test out and try (as long as they had SSB), but my big finding after all my purchases were that very few export radios are stable on SSB. The most stable of the exports are the 2510/2600/Lincoln radios from President and compared to those the rest of the exports act like dogs when it comes to staying on frequency.

Now that’s not to say that every export will be a problem and often the amount of drift I’m talking about is barely noticeable especially when talking skip or mobile to mobile, but nonetheless it’s a problem with a lot of export radios.

This year I went a different route. I’ve gone old school.

I picked up a Cobra 146 GTL (I had owned one about 5 years ago and remembered it performing very well) for a song and dance and threw it in the mobile.

The first thing I noticed is how well the old Cobra’s reduce engine noise and static with the NB/ANL switch. On AM I actually had to switch the NB/ANL off at one point to make sure my receive was working, it was that quiet. Now maybe they don’t have as sensitive receiver as some of the exports, but if you get so much static that you can’t hear the signal anyway what’s the point of having a great receiver?

I’ll talk more about the features of the Cobra 146 GTL but for now let me tell you the key reason to own one. SSB performance.

This radio is smack dab on frequency. It receives and transmits right on the dot and there is zero drift, none, nada. On transmit I’m seeing a true 20 watts peak and everyone says the radio sounds great. In the mobile paired with a Wilson 5000 magnetic mount mobile I talk 40 miles everyday to a friend who lives two towns away.

40 miles everyday with a stock radio on SSB. That’s just excellent performance.

No I don’t have all the channels or features of an Export radio, but in the last 2 months I haven’t touched the clarifier once and that is a big deal! With my S9 and my SS-158EDX which were the most recent export radios I owned I was adjusting the clarifier at least once every time I turned the radio on.

Compared to the 35-40 watt output of most SSB exports the 20 watts isn’t bad at all.

Now for the details on the radio – this radio is very basic which happens to be another of the reasons why it’s so user friendly. Volume, Squelch, RF gain, Mode Switch, Clarifier, ANL/NB switch, and PA switch. That’s it.

A couple of small tweaks inside and it’s doing full power – no clipping needed and no swing mods necessary. The radio has an AM pot adjustment inside so you can easily lower the deadkey – I set mine at 1 watt swinging 12 watts. You can turn the ALC up just a bit for a little more SSB output. The modulation has to be adjusted inside as there is no mic gain on this radio (perhaps my only complaint).

This radio is small. Much smaller than the Cobra 148, but that’s because it has less features. Performance wise though I would rank this radio higher than a 148. After tuning it seems to have cleaner audio than most 148’s and takes less tweaking to get to the same output numbers.

All in all I’m really feeling that going back to the straight CB market could be a good thing. I love the exports and all the features, but in the end the only real benefits over time of owning the export was the extra channels and the extra power. Since I rarely go out of the regular 40 the extra channels aren’t a big deal to me. And if I can talk 40 miles on 20 watts I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on any wattage.

Yes – I’m going old school. I picked up a President AX144 (same radio guts as the 146) and also a Philippines made Grant XL the other day.