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The Best SWR Meters for Your Ham & CB Radios

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

best swr meter

A Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) meter measures signal power transmission from the radio transceiver. With proper use, it is a handy device that optimizes signals to make the most of your radio.

By letting you know your radio’s SWR radio, the meter helps determine the necessary adjustments, such as with the antenna. In turn, you can enjoy better reception for clearer radio communication.

One thing that most people do not realize is that not all SWR meters are the same. Different types are available with various features. As you narrow down your choices for the best SWR meter, below are some crucial considerations.

  • Compatibility: Do you have a CB, ham, or GMRS radio? Pick a meter that will work with the type of radio that you have. Frequency range and impedance ratings are some of the most important specs to determine a good fit for your radio.
  • Accuracy: A high-quality SWR meter will deliver accurate readings. Otherwise, it will be useless, and you cannot optimize the performance of the radio and antenna. Read reviews and learn what other people say about a specific product’s accuracy.
  • Ease of Use: It is frustrating to have an SWR meter that is complicated to operate, especially if you are a first-time user. Choose one with a user-friendly interface. The display should also be easy to read, whether it is manual or digital.

Are you looking for an SWR meter for CB or ham radio? Read on and we’ll list down some of the top products that should be on your radar.

Top 8 SWR Meter Reviews

1. Astatic ‎302-01637 SWR Meter

The failure to tune your antenna properly can cause significant problems to the radio. That is one thing that you can avoid with the use of this SWR meter.

Looking at its features, one thing that I love the most is the compact design. With its small body, it is great in terms of portability. This way, I can easily bring it anywhere there are CB radio antennas that I need to tune. More so, I like this meter for its simplicity, which makes it a snap to operate, even for beginners.

The versatility of this SWR meter is one more reason to include it on your list. Aside from measuring SWR, it also tests field strength, which is useful for calculating RF radiation that a transmitter circuit generates. It measures RF power as well. The latter is crucial as it is a useful indicator that provides an idea of signal reliability while measuring the signal-to-noise ratio.

In terms of its technical specs, it operates between 26 to 30 Mhz. Meanwhile, I can calibrate the unit to have a resistance of up to 50 ohms. It handles almost all standard loads and will provide accurate measurements.

The best thing is its price. This is great for buyers on a budget. Even if it is economical, it does not mean the performance is compromised. It has features that are comparable to its higher-end competitors.

 Heads-up:  However, one of the drawbacks often mentioned in other SWR meter reviews is that it does not come with a jumper cable. You will need to purchase one separately as it is necessary for connecting the meter to the radio. To add, there are times that the meter’s needle is finicky, which can compromise the accuracy of the readings.

 What We Liked: 
  • Has a compact design that makes it portable
  • Measures three different functions for versatility
  • Delivers accurate measurements
  • Great for people on a budget
  • Simple operation even for a novice amateur radio operator
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Does not include a jumper cable
  • The needle on the meter is finicky
 Bottom Line:  From the compact design that makes it portable to reading three measurements for multifunctionality, this is a top SWR meter you should not miss.

2. Workman SWR2T SWR Meter

Made by one of the oldest and most trusted brands in the market for testing equipment, this SWR meter is another option that should be on your radar.

The price of this SWR meter is one thing that sets it apart from the competition. It is affordable while having features that are comparable to the more expensive products. Your purchase is also inclusive of a three-foot coaxial cable, which is what will connect the meter to the radio.

Another good thing about this product is the high visibility LCD display, allowing users to see the SWR readings intuitively. Because of its dual-frequency capability, the display will show two frequencies.

While it is a cheap SWR meter, the manufacturer ensures it will withstand the test of time. It feels very solid. The metal frame feels sturdy, so I am confident that it will remain functional even after years of use. Even the input and output connectors look robust.

With its solid construction, you might think that it is heavy. Surprisingly, it is lightweight. As such, it is also excellent in terms of portability. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for an SWR meter to transfer from one place to another.

 Heads-up:  If there is one problem, however, it would be that the Workman SWR meter instructions are vague. First-time users might have a hard time operating the unit. Not to mention, customer support can be improved.

 What We Liked: 
  • Affordable without compromising performance
  • Includes a 3-foot coaxial cable
  • Comes with a highly visible display
  • Solid construction for long-lasting functionality
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Poor instruction and customer support
 Bottom Line:  Overall, this SWR meter is an exceptional choice because of its affordability, durability, and visibility.

3. SURECOM SW33 SWR Meter

If you are looking for a digital SWR meter, this is one product that should be on your list. It is easy to read compared to those with a traditional needle so that you can enjoy better accuracy in the interpretation of the meter’s measurements. The exact number is shown on the screen, so there is less chance that you will misread it.

Looking at the performance, I am impressed with this SWR meter. The maximum measurement that this dual-band meter can take is 100 watts. Plus, it offers an impedance of 50 ohms, which is more than enough for most applications.

Aside from the wattage, the frequency range of this SWR meter is also commendable, which is 125 to 525 MHz. This is one of the best ranges that you will find in the product category, making the meter versatile.

This is perhaps one of the lightest products mentioned in this review. Additionally, it is also one of the most compact. Hence, I suggest that you choose this if portability is your main concern. Despite being small, it has forward power direct digital readout for ease of monitoring.

Your purchase of this dual-band SWR meter is inclusive of various functional accessories, so you can expect the best bang for the buck. It includes a dummy load for testing, male and female adaptors, a USB AC adapter, and a USB charging cable. It also includes a manual that provides detailed instructions on its use.

 Heads-up:  Nonetheless, if there is one issue with this SWR meter, it would be the battery. Over time, it can be prone to swelling, which can be dangerous. Not to mention, it can also compromise the durability of the unit.

 What We Liked: 
  • Accurate and easy-to-read digital frequency readout
  • Measures up to 100 watts
  • Excellent frequency range
  • Lightweight construction for portability
  • Offers froward power direct digital readout
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • The battery can be prone to swelling
 Bottom Line:  A lightweight and compact digital meter, this product has a frequency range of 125 to 525 MHz and can handle up to 100 watts.

4. Astatic 302-PDC2 SWR Meter

Compact but reliable, this SWR meter from Astatic is another product that deserves your attention.

Among others, one of the best things about this product is that it has three functions, making it versatile. Aside from using it as an SWR meter, it can also measure field strength and relative RF power. These are important measurements for optimizing the radio performance, regardless of the external conditions.

Another thing that makes it a versatile SWR meter is the ability to test any 50-ohm antenna. This will make it more functional for different tasks. Nonetheless, take note that the meter is only for testing antennas of CB radios.

It is an affordable SWR meter for CB, but that does not mean that it compromises the quality. It has an all-metal construction, which can guarantee longevity. It feels very solid, unlike other cheap meters that look like they will be easy to knock down.

This Astatic compact SWR meter is also notable because of its price. SWR meters have very little use once you are done tuning. Good thing, this product is affordable, so you don’t have to think twice about purchasing it even if it is one thing you won’t be using daily.

The SWR meter is ready to be used right out of the box. It is already inclusive of the mounting hardware that you will need, including a bracket. Plus, it comes with a manual, providing detailed instructions on how to use the unit.

 Heads-up:  One of the most common complaints about this product is the design of the switch. It is flimsy, which can compromise its durability.

 What We Liked: 
  • One product delivers three functions
  • Will test any antenna at 50 ohms
  • All-metal construction for durability
  • Includes mounting bracket and hardware
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Flimsy switches can quickly become problematic
 Bottom Line:  To conclude, this is an excellent SWR meter because of its multiple functions and durable construction that will guarantee long-term use.

5. Workman 104 SWR Meter

Are you looking for a high-quality meter for VHF/UHF? If yes, then this product from Workman is an option that should be on your radar.

Looking at its features, it stands out because of its compact design. This means that it is lightweight and portable, so I can bring it anywhere I need to do a test. Despite being small, the screen size is decent, so I can easily view the readings.

This SWR power meter is also notable because it offers multiple mounting options, which is one of the reasons for its versatility. I can mount it on my vehicle’s dashboard, panel, or bulkhead. This will make SWR testing quick, easy, and convenient.

The technical specs are also impressive. It has a frequency rate of 120 to 500 MHz. Meanwhile, the input impedance ranges from 50 to 52 ohms. More so, it has a maximum input power of 150 watts. These numbers are indicative of its reliability.

Another thing worth noting about this product is its metal construction. I expect the metal to be heavy. But since this meter is small, the weight is not an issue. Because of the choice of material, it feels very solid.

Best of all, it is user-friendly. The simplicity of this product makes it an ideal choice for beginners. If you have not used a similar tool in the past, you will love how it offers straightforward installation.

 Heads-up:  One thing that I noticed in this SWR meter is that there are instances when the needle goes below zero. This can compromise the accuracy of the readings.

 What We Liked: 
  • Compact design for portability
  • Designed for versatile mounting
  • Impressive technical specifications
  • High-quality metal construction
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • A needle can go below zero
 Bottom Line:  From its solid metal construction to different mounting options, this compact SWR meter from Workman is a product that you should not miss.

6. Mcbazel 4336324474 SWR Meter

Do you need to measure the SWR of both VHF and UHF radios? If yes, then this meter is an excellent investment for a ham radio enthusiast.

It stands out because of its digital display. This is better than most obsolete models with the traditional needle. This way, I can easily see the read-out. It also helps in making the display accurate since the actual measurement shows on the screen.

More so, the digital display of this ham radio SWR meter comes with a backlight. It is easily readable, even when I am in a dark environment. The backlight has an automatic off feature, which I can adjust from one to five minutes. This is good for saving power.

Speaking of power, the unit comes with a 3.7-volt rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It has decent power, so it is not easily drained. The battery is built-in on the unit, which I prefer over those with removable or disposable batteries.

Another thing that I love is the memory function, which allows me to save previous readings. To save information in ham radios, press the blue button, followed by the red button. Next, select a function from 1 to 6 then press the blue button to remove a reading or the red button to add to the memory. Hold the red button for two seconds and press the blue button to save.

This GMRS SWR meter is ready to use right out of the box. No calibration is necessary! It is perfect for first-time users. Once ready, I can use a wide array of functions, such as the frequency counter and SWR meter. Not to mention, it measures a maximum measurable power range of 120 watts.

 Heads-up:  While it is a good ham radio SWR meter, it is not perfect. One of its shortcomings is the lack of a ground plate, which is important for measuring the efficiency of an antenna. It is also important to note that it is not for a digital radio.

 What We Liked: 
  • Digital display for easy and accurate reading
  • Has a backlight for visibility
  • Comes with a memory function
  • Packs a lot of features without a need for calibration
  • High maximum measurable power range up to 120 watts
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Does not include a ground plane plate
  • Not compatible with a digital radio
 Bottom Line:  Wrapping up, this good SWR meter for ham radio has a digital read-out, backlit display, and memory function, which all contribute to being user-friendly.

7. Generic MFJ-874 SWR Meter

Known as the Cadillac of ham radios, this is an option for top SWR meters that you won’t regret. It is a high-end product with advanced features that will satisfy discerning users.

Looking at its features, one that stands out is the highly visible black and red meter scale. The background is bright white, making it easy to view the readings. Even if it is not digital, I have no problem reading the information it shows. It has a wide angle and comes with an optional illumination, but it requires 110 VAC or 13.8 VDC.

The versatility of this SWR meter for ham radio is commendable. While I use it as an SWR meter, it has other functions. For instance, it has forward and reflected power readings and peak and average readings.

Another stand-out feature of this MFJ Enterprises RF power and SWR meter is the all-metal cabinet, which protects the internal components from premature wear. It has black paint for added protection. I am also a fan of its rubber feet, which will keep it stable on a flat surface.

When I received this ham radio SWR meter, I did not need to do anything before its initial use. It was calibrated in the factory, which ensures accurate measurements. This will eliminate the need to program the unit before operating it for the first time.

 Heads-up:  However, the price of this antenna analyzer can discourage many users. While it is a suitable SWR meter for users with discerning preferences, it is expensive. However, with its features and performance, I believe it is worth every dollar.

 What We Liked: 
  • Visible scale on a bright background
  • Reads multiple frequency bands
  • Exceptional construction with all-metal cabinet
  • Factory-calibrated for precise readings
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Not for people on a budget
 Bottom Line:  In sum, MFH SWR meters, including this model, are known for their factory calibration, all-metal housing, and visible display.

8. Mcbazel msc-939 SWR Meter

Wrapping up our list is one product that I highly recommend for people on a budget. It is cheap, but it gets the job done.

Despite being economical, it has an array of impressive features. One that I love the most is the three-function analog meter, which makes it multifunctional. It can deliver power testing and assess the condition of the 50-ohm antenna in a CB radio. It also features forward and reverse switches. It has a switch for either 10 or 100 watts as well.

At its price, I was expecting the meter to be made of cheap plastic. I was wrong! It has a tough metal case, which protects the components from dust and other external factors that will speed up wear. It feels very solid, and I am confident that it will last a long time.

Are you a first-time passionate CB radio operator looking for an SWR meter? Do not be intimidated! In my experience, it is effortless to operate. The controls are straightforward, and the display is visible. Plus, it has a detailed manual with everything you need to know.

It is a compact meter, so I can bring and use it anywhere. More so, it is compact enough to fit even in the glove box. This is perfect for people who want to set up radios and antennas outside of the home and make sure they enjoy the best possible performance.

 Heads-up:  Before buying this product, note that it is designed only for CB radio antennas. If you need a ham SWR meter, then you should explore other alternatives.

 What We Liked: 
  • Budget-friendly without compromising features
  • Has a three-function meter for versatility
  • Comes with a sturdy metal case
  • Easy to use even for novices
 What We Didn’t Like: 
  • Works only for CB two-way radios
 Bottom Line:  This SWR power meter is budget-friendly but delivers decent performance and has amazing features, including the metal body and multiple functionalities to deliver different readings.

What to Look for When Buying SWR Meter

swr-meter-for-ham-radio

With too many choices for SWR meters, do not choose solely based on price. To help you narrow down your choices, below are some important considerations.

  • Compatibility

The most critical thing is to pick an SWR meter compatible with the type of radio you are using. Not all SWR meters are compatible with all radios. For instance, you will find some designed specifically for CB radios. Meanwhile, others will work both for ham radios only. Some will also work with GMRS radio.

To determine compatibility, one of the first things to look at is the frequency range, which should match that of CB and ham radios. The impedance rating is equally important. Using the wrong meter can cause significant damage to the radio. The readings can also end up being unreliable.

  • Accuracy

Ham and CB radio SWR meters are useless if you cannot get accurate readings. This will result in faulty tuning and low-quality radio communication. To determine the accuracy, I recommend choosing only those from reputable brands. From those mentioned above, Astatic, Workman, and Mcbazel are some of the best brands with accurate readings. While not reviewed, a Daiwa SWR meter is also accurate.

  • Ease of Use

Especially if you are a first-timer, operating an SWR meter can be confusing. Pick one with an intuitive design, making it a snap to get the readings. It should come with a detailed manual. The buttons should be in strategic positions, so they are easily accessible. Plus, the display should be easy to read.

  • Durability

Stay away from those made of flimsy plastic. Most of the top options have a metal housing, which will protect the internal components from wear. Even the switches should have solid construction.

  • Display

You will find two types of display. Older and cheaper models often come with a manual or needle-type display. Meanwhile, newer models have digital displays. I prefer the latter because it is easier to read and often more accurate. The display should also be highly visible so you can read the information the device shows.

  • Portability

Lightweight and compact SWR meters are the best. Look for one that is portable enough to move around easily. Otherwise, the meter can be cumbersome to use, especially if you need to use radios outside your home.

  • Reviews

As you decide what to buy, read reviews online and learn from the real-life experiences of other people. Take note of what they are saying about the performance of the meter, such as how easy it is to use and how accurate the readings are.

  • Warranty

Over the years, the SWR meter will inevitably experience several problems. With a comprehensive warranty, the manufacturer got your back. They can offer free repair when necessary, which can provide you with peace of mind.

  • Price

A lot of people will decide based on price. You won’t be using the meter daily, so many are not interested in splurge. You can find a lot of affordable models. Nonetheless, if you are a serious radio user, you should not mind the price, especially if it means enjoying top-notch quality and performance.

What is an SWR Meter?

SWR stands for Standing Wave Ratio. In a nutshell, an SWR meter is a device that measures a radio’s transmission signal. This is important for improving the antenna and having the best signal possible. This way, you can prevent damage to radios while also making sure of the best possible quality.

Can I Use a CB SWR Meter for Ham Radios?

swr-meter-for-cb

No, you cannot use an SWR meter for CB radios for tuning ham radios. In the same way, you cannot use it as a 2M SWR meter or 70 MHz SWR meter, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. Radios have different frequency ranges, and hence, you must choose SWR meters with specific capabilities to handle the requirements of the radio you are tuning.

How to Know The Frequency Range of SWR Meter

The SWR meter frequency range will be stated by the manufacturer. It is one of the most important technical specifications to consider as it will determine how far the meter can measure. If the ham or CN frequency range does not match that of the SWR power meter, it can result in irreversible damage and inaccurate readings.

Does My SWR Meter Require a Battery?

This will depend on the type of SWR meter that you are using. For instance, if you have a passive SWR meter, then there is no power button and the readings are displayed continuously. In this case, a battery is unnecessary. Meanwhile, others will have a digital display, which is when you will need a battery.

How Long Will My SWR Last?

There is no easy way to answer this question. Inferior SWR meters can last only several weeks or months and will not deliver accurate readings. However, if you choose one from a reliable manufacturer, then you can expect it to last a long time.

Conclusion

To the uninitiated, the best SWR meter may seem like a useless device. Nonetheless, it is useful for optimizing your radio experience. From installing an antenna to tuning the radio, an SWR meter is useful in measuring signal strength.

While SWR meters are beneficial in many ways, they are not all the same. Avoid frustration by choosing the products mentioned above. They are not perfect, but they have top-notch features that make them stand out.

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