Best VHF Analog Handheld Radio


I am curious as to “The Best” analog handheld radio.

Here are the criteria:

  1. VHF only

  2. Can do digital as well, but “best” analog is the determining factor

  3. In order, I would rank:

a) Sensitivity; full quieting; ability to pull in a distant signal with ease
b) Battery life/ability to take high capacity li-ion batteries
c) Durability
d) Ease of programming/interacting with the radio

For the following brands—Kenwood, Motorola, Icom, and Yaesu—what would you rank as their “best” radio for a winning combination of all four criteria enumerated above?

Cost is not an object.

I am interested in the frequency range of around 130Mhz to 180Mhz.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


Here is the list for the top picks by brand as suggested by others:





Not sure about the advice you have been getting from others. The VHF amateur band is only 144 - 148 MHz.

Motorola doesn’t make handheld analog ham radios, and Kenwood currently only makes base station ham radios. I suppose one can buy used radios and reprogram them to the amateur bands, but programming software usually costs extra. Sometimes, there is an open source program called Chirp that might write amateur bands to an older handheld analog radio, but you would still need a cable.

Yaesu is probably the best known handheld ham radio. They have dozens of models, and it would be hard to rank them.

Trouble is, you’ve not set any criteria to use for the judgement. Your choices listed suggest you actually have set them but not told us.

I have access to large amounts of kit for ham, air, marine, business, leisure so as mentioned above, lots can be programmed to work on many different bands. If I looked at the perhaps fifty or so radios from current to 30+ years old that are in the office, if I was going to a ham event where people might be on any frequency then I’d take a 30 year old Icom. Easy tuning via a knob, easy storing in a memory, all day battery from a huge size pack. Clear display for my old eyes, and loud speaker.

I reject the Yaesu because of the smaller size, less battery life and fiddly multi function controls. I reject the really nice kenwoods because I’d have to predict in advance and program them.

All the other rejected ones are for pretty silly reasons, they’d all do the job, just not so conveniently.

Certain things would not even be considered. None are poor sensitivity. None are unreliable.

Choices are really down to features and benefits. This, I’ve found always allows sensible choice. Performance in portables is marginally different, as are antennas. The days of putting two radios on a window sill and one working and one not are are quite rare. Operation and construction are the key features. Some are stupidly complex and horrible to use. Others are just too prone to damage. Fragile cases, sma type connectors that have ridiculously long antennas fitted that sort of thing.

Note that commercial radios, especially those used by the emergency services rarely have ultra performance. Picking a weak signal out of the hiss just isnt part of the deal.

Ham operators are also nosey devils, so they might only be able to transmit, in the UK between 144 and 146, but not even that if they follow the band plan but they want to receive other services. Airband seems popular at the moment. Some either do this badly, or not at all.

Makes are irrelevant other than for personal preference. It’s like Ford or General Motors, people seem to keep with a brand.

You just can’t have anything definitive as an answer to this one. I have loads of DMR radios on the shelves, through choice I use an ancient icom because it’s best for me.

“The Best” analog handheld radio hasn’t been built yet.

Welcome, and you are not wrong! Some forums have naughty word filters. On radio forums perhaps ‘best’ is a word to get rid of?