Pros: Portable, fully functional 40 channel CB
Cons: Poor range without an external antenna, several design flaws, expensive accessories.
I grew up in the era of the CB. I remember both of my parents having them in their vehicles and even having a "base" with an amp that distorted the picture on the television... ah the glory days of the citizens band!
Fast forward 20 years, my good friend bought a hunting truck and promptly put in a CB. I thought to myself, "He's more redneck than I thought". I didn't think much more about it until we got stuck in traffic in Chattanooga TN. That CB put us in touch with a wealth of information that got us out of a mess very quickly. I decided it wasn't as redneck as I thought.
Since I didn't want to permanently mount a CB I decided on a handheld unit. I looked at several models and brands that included Uniden, Midland, and other models from Cobra. In the end I got the HH-37ST because it was the cheapest of the lot!
The HH-37ST looks like a walkie talkie from 1984. It's long and slender, mainly because it has the capacity for nine AA batteries. The controls are limited to what is absolutely necessary for a CB. Volume, Squelch, channel up/down, transmit, and a couple of "feature" buttons: Soundtracker and Power Save. The display is a green two digit LED that indicates what channel you are on and indicators for Soundtracker, Transmit, and charging.
This CB is ready to operate right out of the box. Just plug in the included 12V power adapter and screw on the antenna, turn it on and tune it to your favorite channel... or 19 if you don't have a favorite as that's where most truckers share information. If you are within range you'll be greeted with language you'll recognize immediately from Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard! If you are inclined to jump into the conversation you just press the transmit button and start talking. Most people on the air are friendly and will talk to just about anyone and on any topic.
Range - One of the pros AND cons of a handheld CB is that it is an all in one unit and as such has a very small antenna which severely limits its effective range. Couple that with the shielding provided by being inside a vehicle and the HH-37STs range is cut down to around a mile... if you are lucky. Reception may be a little better, but you'll be hard pressed to get any response from anyone outside your line of sight. Fortunately, all you need is a BNC to SO239 converter to connect the HH-37 to a standard CB antenna. With a decent antenna, both transmit and receive range is increased substantially, I was able to hear conversations at least 4 miles away. If you'll be using this CB from your car for anything other than emergencies you should invest in some sort of external antenna.
Reception/Sound - The small speaker in the HH-37ST means that it isn't capable of great sound quality, couple that with the poor sound quality of the AM band and you will find yourself trying to decipher what people are saying often. I have no trouble understanding MOST people when road noise is low but it's easy to overdrive the speaker with the volume too loud and everything sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. At moderate volumes the speaker is at least useable.
Soundtracker is touted by Cobra as a system that will improve CB communications by cutting noise on incoming signals and strengthening outgoing signals. The only proof I have is that the static does decrease noticeably when I turn on Soundtracker but I haven't been able to determine that it does anything for transmission.
Power Consumption - The HH-37ST is capable of 4 watts of transmit power (the max legally allowed by the FCC) but it will only reach that level if it receive 13.8 volts of DC power. Most automobile electrical systems have no problem making 13+ volts.
You can go wireless by installing 9 yes I said 9 AA batteries. The CB seems to work just fine on batteries but I haven't had any occasion to use it that way for an extended period so I can't comment on how long they will last. I can say the it weighs as much as a brick with batteries installed!
What's my problem?
I've got a couple of complaints about the HH-3ST. Obviously is was designed to be a portable and used in a wireless manner... I've got no problem with that. I do have some issues with the design when it's time to use it inside a vehicle. 1) The ONLY antenna connector is on the top which is fine if I'm using the supplied 8" antenna but sucks if you attach an external antenna. 2) The power connector is on the side which would be ok if the antenna wire were there too, but as it is you have wires protruding out of two sides of the radio, it's just annoying. Both connections are fully functional.
If you just want a CB to throw in the dash for emergencies or to find out why the traffic is stopped on the way to work then the HH-37ST is a steal. It offers limited access to all 40 Citizens Band channels and a convenient hassle free way to get it. If you think you'll be using it every day there are better yet more expensive options that will give you better range and a much more comfortable system. I got what I was looking for, a cheap CB so I could listen to traffic. Once the novelty wears off I'm sure it will be relegated to the glove compartment and only see the light of day when I need to know what's going on or I'm just bored. With the CB and a magnet mount antenna I've got about $30 invested. It's worth that not to have to wonder why I've been sitting in the same spot for 20 minutes on the interstate!