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Audio

Best Walkie Talkie

Two-way radios, or walkie-talkies if you prefer, are one of the least expensive ways to communicate between parties. You can rely on them when cell phone service is spotty, they can keep families in touch with one another, and they're a crucial tool for staying safe in the wilderness or even on the water. There are two-way radios for every budget, with some of the cheaper models running a mere $20 for basic call capabilities; while the more expensive versions come with a whole list of additional features like weather radio channels, privacy codes to prevent unwanted outside interference on your signal and even GPS receivers.

The best two-ways offer greater talk range, and while most manufacturers claim such range abilities in the 20 mile range, or further even, these potential communication distances are only realistic on open water or flatlands with little to no obstacles to the signal. In more common surroundings, be it urban or rural, everything from trees to concrete will hinder your signal's true power and thus talk range is lessened greatly. The average range in this case is about two to four miles, and if your two-way is making clear, static-free transmissions at this distance, then you've got a good product.

Rino 655t 2-Way Radio with GPS and TOPO 100K Maps

The Rino 655t is the best combination radio/GPS unit available at the moment for the simple fact that it's jam-packed with features. The folks at Garmin have thrown in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink here and while it's expensive, with a retail cost of around $600, you probably won't need to buy another one of its kind for some time. On the two-way radio side, the 655t offers up a full 22 channels on both GMRS and FRS frequencies. You have your choice of channels that access both or just one or the other exclusively. Up to five watts of power five off a strong signal, with a range of 2 miles in FRS and a potential 20 miles of communication range on GMRS. There are 38 squelch codes to keep your conversation unhindered by outside interference and a positioning beam lets other Rino users locate and contact you. This unit even lets you send text messages to other Rino units. The GPS receiver comes preloaded with TOPO 24K maps to give you complete mapping of all 50 states and the integrated microSD slot lets you load more mapping packages and BlueChart cards for mapping water navigation routes. BaseCamp software will help you plan trips and routes with map data in 2D and 3D. There's a whole list of other additional features here as well; a five megapixel camera, a built-in NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio for up to the minute alerts and notifications, and altimeter and compass functions. The 655t is also waterproof if you end up in wet weather.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 6580 2-Way Radio

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 6580 2-Way Radio

These two-ways work a little differently than your typical 22 channel GMRS or FRS frequency radios. The MOTOTRBO XPR line is built for first responders, law enforcement, and security details who need their communications to be free and clear of outside interference. Using 800 or 900 MHz frequencies, these two-ways can be used by large groups of people who need to be in constant contact. They're built for high capacity use and are equipped with GPS receivers to track the locations of vehicles or valuable assets who need to be protected or located in minimal amount of time. A full 12 button keypad with programmable buttons, emergency button alert to supervisor and dispatch units as well as emergency signalling to alert other personnel that you're in trouble are all available here as well. Plus, these radios can not only communicate digitally with mobile cell phones, but landline telephones too, and an interrupt feature lets you break into other units' conversations to convey urgent information to all parties on the same frequency. There are loads of third party applications available here to make your radios fully customizable, for everything from producing and tracking work orders to email gateways and more. The 6580 units are also submersible under one meter of water for up to 30 minutes without damage.

Nautilus LifeLine Marine Rescue Radio

If you're going to be out on the water for long periods of time, then you'll want something that is easy to use and can put you in touch with another living human being in the event of an emergency. That's why the aptly named Lifeline radio makes our list. Take it out on the boat with you and three color-coded buttons will let you perform a variety of communication functions; call your boat or any other boat with just the touch of a button. Changing channels, activating the strobe light or diagnosing the unit takes two to three pushes. There's a special red button that sets off a distress signal that will send authorities out to look for you. GPS features let you plan travel routes and give off your location to other parties (search or otherwise) and even social media. Nautilus built the Lifeline for use in the water, making it safe to submerge up to 425 feet and it will even float if you drop it in the drink by mistake.

Midland LXT500VP3 22-Channel Two-Way Radio

Priced under $40, Midland delivers the best overall performance and features in a two-way radio that offers consistent functionality at a low price. The company claims a 24 mile talk range, but unless you're on the water or a wide-open prairie you'll likely never know if that's accurate or not. But under realistic conditions and obstacles to the signal, these work very well over a four mile radius with little to no static. There are 22 channel frequencies for communicating between units, which is standard, and a channel scan function automatically scrolls through your channels to find a clear frequency to use. There's a wealth of other additional functions such as power conservation settings, call alert and roger beep to alert you of the start and end of a transmission, a silent mode to keep all radio functions quiet, and the units are water-resistant. They can also run on rechargeable battery power or when you run out of juice, stick 4 AAA's in the unit and they'll work just as well. To make sure you're happy with your purchase, Midland offers a three year warranty to keep everything working as expected.

Uniden 16-Mile 22 Channel Battery FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio

The GMR-1636-2C has a potential 16-mile communication range, but they do work well in and around the neighborhood or the grocery store. Also equipped with 22 channels, these units have a channel scanner and a channel monitor feature, the difference between them is that the former searches an open channel to communicate through, while the latter lets you listen in on a channel. You'll notice there are both GMRS and FRS frequenices on these radios, 15 and 7 respectively, and the difference between them involves the amount of bandwidth and power wattage used, and the FCC license is required by law for using GMRS. Other functions like call and roger beep, as well as a headset option are available here. These radios have a tendency to drain the batteries pretty quick, so the included battery life indicator is a big help to know when you're about to run out of power. They run on six AAA rechargeables, but you can easily replace them with your own.

Motorola MG160A 16-Mile Range 22-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio

Motorola's low-cost radios keep things very simple. Equipped with 22 channels along both GMRS and FRS frequencies, these have a maximum possible range of 16 miles, but they're much clearer in nearby distances like the beach or the mall. There aren't many other functions beyond a channel scan and a battery life alert indicator to let you know when they're running low, but for the money these are reliable and useful for the whole family. They even come in two colors, light blue and pink and they're compact enough to stick in your back pocket.

Cobra Electronics CXT145 Two-Way Radio

For the most part, the CXT145 radios are quite similar to the other picks here. They have the standard 22 channel choices, with a potential for 16 miles of talk range. Sound quality is actually pretty good for an average of three miles or so with static-free reception. They're great for use by hikers who want to stay in touch with one another. But call clarity isn't the only reason for taking these with you to the Great Outdoors; Cobra has added an NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio mode, giving you access to 10 of their channels so you can stay updated with the latest weather alerts and other notification warnings. Call alert and roger beep are available on these radios, along with a headset option and a USB cable for use with wall and car sockets or any PC for charging the units' included rechargeable batteries.

Motorola Talkabout MJ270R 22-Channel Two-Way Radio

Much like the previous Cobra units, these Motorolas are going to be very useful for outdoor environments. They're perfect for campers who want to stay in touch with one another in and around the site. These offer a potential maximum range of 27 miles, so the powerful signal works well through wooded obstacles of a camping trail or even your local neighborhood, providing good reception and call clarity over two to three miles. All of the standard operating features are here, with some added functionality for extra convenience without breaking the bank. You get 22 channels of communication and 121 privacy codes to prevent any unwanted outside interference from disturbing your transmission. That equals over 2,600 channels to choose from. There's a weather receiver to access seven NOAA channels and just in case you find yourself in perilous emergency conditions these radios come with a flashlight and, best of all, an emergency alert feature. This function can send out a distress signal to other radios followed by your spoken message or incidental background noise. It's a great way to let others know something is wrong and to send assistance if necessary.

Motorola Talkabout MH230R Two-Way Radio

Although Motorola boasts that the MH230R has a broadcast range of up to 23 miles, they also advise that their claims are based upon "optimum conditions with an unobstructed line of sight". But while a 23 mile range is probably unlikely, the signal on these radios will ensure you can communicate clearly over large distances. Trees, rock, and even the concrete sprawl of an urban cityscape are no match for the powerful transmission signal on these radios. Even if you're in the middle of nowhere, you can connect between radios along twenty-two frequencies (with 121 privacy codes for over 2,600 possible channels) and monitor seven NOAA channels (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for up to the minute weather alerts. Don't worry about the batteries running out either, you can charge the devices from your laptop, wall outlet, or car adapter. The radios have NiMH rechargeable battery packs that last for hours on a single charge. Of course, if you do run out of juice, they'll also run on three AAA batteries. There's also a hands-free option on the MH230R, with use of the iVox feature you can communicate without even touching the unit as you would any traditional speakerphone.

Midland X-TRA Talk GMRS 2-Way Radio

The Midland GXT1000VP4 radios boast a 36 mile range with 50 possible frequency choices, the most options of all five picks we've got here. So finding a static-free, crystal clear channel should be a piece of cake even in remote areas, and with up to 284 privacy codes you're looking at a grand total of 5,560 interference-free channel options. The privacy codes are not intended to keep your conversation private, but instead to shield your transmission from outside interference and noise. These rugged radios meet the JIS4 standard, which means that they're splash-resistant in rainy conditions or if used near running water. Just don't drop them into the river or they will not survive. But if you happen to find yourself in inclement weather, NOAA weather reports are available through weather scan along all NOAA channels, which will also give you urgent warnings such as Amber alerts, biohazard warnings, and fire warning. These radios are also very versatile and come with a host of useful features such as hands-free operation with eVOX technology that can be adjusted for sensitivity, activating a transmission with just the sound of your voice. Whisper mode allows you to whisper into the device and still be heard clearly, and an SOS feature sends out a distress sound in emergencies. You can even set the radios for vibrate, in case you're out hunting and don't want to spook the wildlife. Rechargeable batteries are included but four AA batteries can be used instead if the rechargeables run out of power.

Uniden 16-Mile 22 Channel Battery FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio

The GMR-1636-2C has a potential 16-mile communication range, but they do work well in and around the neighborhood or the grocery store. Also equipped with 22 channels, these units have a channel scanner and a channel monitor feature, the difference between them is that the former searches an open channel to communicate through, while the latter lets you listen in on a channel. You'll notice there are both GMRS and FRS frequenices on these radios, 15 and 7 respectively, and the difference between them involves the amount of bandwidth and power wattage used, and the FCC license is required by law for using GMRS. Other functions like call and roger beep, as well as a headset option are available here. These radios have a tendency to drain the batteries pretty quick, so the included battery life indicator is a big help to know when you're about to run out of power. They run on six AAA rechargeables, but you can easily replace them with your own.

Cobra CXT235 MicroTalk 20 Mile Radio

As we've learned from various tests of these radios, the companies' various claims of 20 or more miles of talk range is tough to prove, but these Cobras work great at up to around three miles apart from one another. Though the signal fades considerably in heavily wooded areas or near uneven terrain of considerable height. Much like the other devices on our list, these CXT235 radios offer 22 frequencies of communication with 121 privacy codes for a grand total of about 2,600 channel combinations. Incoming calls can be programmed with five distinct tones that can be assigned to specific callers, so you know who's trying to reach you just by the ringtone. Battery power comes from the internal NiMH cells or you can use AAA's if you run low on a charge. Despite these radios being small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, you may not always be able to reach them; in such cases, the CXT235's have Vox voice-activated technology so you don't need to grab the device to use it. Just start talking and the radio automatically starts to transmit. These also have an NOAA receiver for getting weather alerts and other emergency notifications.

Motorola Talkabout FV300 Two-Way Radio

Extremely affordable at about $25, these Motorola radios aren't intended for use over long distances. The signal isn't as powerful as some of the previous picks on our list and with an advertised range of ten miles, you'd do better trying to broadcast from to the other in closer proximity. Kids will have a lot of fun with them around the house and the backyard, or take them along with you when you go to the park or beach to stay in touch. There are twenty-two channels to choose from with a channel scanner and call tones you can assign to different callers. There's a connection for a headset or other hands-free device so you don't need to use the radio itself to transmit to another unit. They run on three AAA batteries and the life of the cells will depend greatly on the amount of use the radios receive.

Marc Gottlieb
I'm a rabid sports-aholic who's been to Super Bowl XXI, the Indy 500 and witnessed Doug Flutie's hail mary pass to Gerard Phelan live in Miami. Sundays are sacred in my household and I'm a two-time back to back champion of my fantasy football league. I played a lot of sports in high school; football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and I was on the school ski team. I even tried my hand at racquetball in college. I've jumped out of two perfectly good airplanes and bungee jumped off a construction crane. Since then I've worked for one of the top product placement companies in Hollywood, coordinating with most of the major sports apparel labels to get their products featured in films and TV. But it's a life-long obsession with music and film that has given me years of experience with the latest technologies and innovations in electronics. If they've built it, I've tried it and likely bought it. Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray players; I own multiple units that cater to all of these formats and more. A misspent youth immersing myself in pop culture meant I craved the hottest devices through which to enjoy it all, and at the highest possible quality. What I learned over time though, is that the most expensive items aren't always the best.
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