Best boating VHFs for 2021, part 2

These days VHFs offer a lot more than just communications. As we mentioned last week in part 1 of the Best boating VHFs for 2021, fixed-mount units and some handhelds are equipped with DSC-Digital Selective Calling-which allows you to instantly send a distress alert to the Coast Guard or other rescue authority anywhere in the world.  DSC also allows you to make or receive distress calls to other DSC-equipped vessel or shore station. AIS is another very useful feature. Short for Automatic Identification System, AIS assists in navigation while boosting your situational awareness by displaying the appearance of any AIS-equipped vessels in your vicinity along with their name, course, speed and other information. Many VHFs have built-in GPS and man-overboard alerts, and some offer an option for multiple handsets. Below are some of the best on the market.

The lineup is part of an exercise Marine Electronics Journal does every year as part of our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask the top manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category (17 in all) that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.

Vesper Marine Cortex V1

Cortex V1 is a revolution in marine VHF radio with touchscreen handsets, integrated AIS transponder and remote vessel monitoring. It will change the VHF experience forever. Upon being alerted by Cortex of a collision risk, boaters can easily initiate calls (DSC) with other vessels by simply tapping the vessel on the touchscreen handset to quickly hail it when every second counts. IPX8 rated and ergonomically designed for one-handed operation with a unique click-wheel, the touchscreen works well with gloves or wet hands and in bright sunlight. Locate a tethered handset wherever power is convenient and add a portable handset for roaming around the boat—all connect wirelessly to the Cortex Hub. Receive alerts such as AnchorWatch on and off the boat via smartphone app.

B&G V60-B

B&G's V60-B VHF radios are Class B AIS transceivers that not only receive AIS targets but also transmit your position to nearby AIS-equipped vessels. This helps other mariners to spot your boat through any conditions, day or night. AIS information can be viewed on the radio’s built-in screen, or overlaid on your chart or radar screen through a compatible chartplotter. The V60-B’s removable fist mic can be connected to the front or rear of the radio, and optional extension cables allow the mic and radio to be mounted separately. This offers a simple and cost-effective solution for any mounting location, with no cable clutter.

Lowrance Link-9

Delivering complete communication anywhere on the water, the Link-9 fixed-mount VHF radio provides reliable performance and critical safety features including built-in GPS, internal dual-channel AIS receiver with AIS plot functionality, NMEA 2000/0183 connectivity, PA/Hailer/Horn output with listen-back feature, Track Your Buddy technology and a dedicated MOB button. AIS information can be viewed on the Link-9’s built-in screen or overlaid on your chart or radar screen through a compatible multifunction display. The Link-9’s removable fist mic can be connected to the front or rear of the radio; optional extension cable allows the radio and mic to be mounted separately. This offers a simple and cost-effective solution for any mounting location, with no cable clutter.

Standard Horizon GX2400

Power, performance and reliability, the Standard Horizon Matrix GX2400 has it all. The 25-watt fixed-mount VHF has a built-in 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver and Class A and Class B AIS receiver, and is NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 compatible. Additional features include a 30-watt PA with preprogrammed fog signals. Control all the features of the radio with the wired RAM4 or wireless RAM4X second station microphones. Other notable features include: integrated voices, noise cancelling functions, full DSC capabilities (including position sharing, and group mode), waypoint navigation, E2O (easy to operate menu system), MOB (Man Overboard) function, and selectable day and night mode operation. The GX2400 is backed by Standard Horizon’s three-year waterproof warranty.


Icom M94D

Icom’s M94D floating handheld highlights an industry first, AIS in a portable VHF radio. Feature rich with built-in Class H DSC, channel 70 is constantly monitored for distress calls, and you can feel safe with its integrated GPS and AIS providing location, bearing and speed. The interface is large, user-friendly and easy to read. A flat sheet keypad provides a positive click-feeling, while slimming the radio’s profile. Increased audio output power to 1500 mW pushes any message through in maritime environments. The M94D also has Icom’s own Float’n Flash, AquaQuake, Active Noise Cancelling and a MOB feature. The M94D is built for the serious boater.

Standard Horizon HX890

Standard Horizon’s HX890 high-end floating DSC VHF/GPS is now available in two color options, black or navy blue. Features include two built-in scrambler systems: a four-code CVS2500A and a 32-code FVP-42 ensure secure communications on the water. Relax with music on the FM radio broadcast bands built into the radio. Other features include: switchable daytime or nighttime mode, waypoint and route navigation, and a group monitor function utilizing DSC group position call. The HX890 has been redesigned with a new ergonomic case and has been rigorously tested to the Military Standard (MIL-STD-810F). The feature-packed HX890 comes packaged with a rechargeable Li-ion battery, alkaline battery tray, 110-volt wall charger, 220-volt adapter, charging cradle, 12-volt charger, PC programming cable and belt clip with lanyard. It has a three-year waterproof warranty.

Onwa KV-38

The Onwa KV-38 is a floating handheld VHF/DSC marine transceiver that has ATIS, 70 programmable user channels, Dual/Tri-Watch and Favorite Channel functions and receives the Weather Channel. The KV-38 also has Active Noise Cancelling, along with built-in GPS, DSC and MOB functions. It meets the IPX7 waterproof standard (submersed to 1 meter depth for 30 minutes), flashes and sounds an alarm when dropped in water. A vibration water draining function removes water from the speaker housing. The KV-38 comes with Lithium-ion battery, desktop charger, AC adaptor, cigarette lighter cable, and belt and hand strap.

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