Best VHFs for 2017, Part 2

Whether you have a fixed-mount or handheld VHF transceiver on board, the result is an impressive tool that goes way beyond simply providing a communications link. Options vary from radio to radio but now include safety features like DSC---Digital Selective Calling, GPS and AIS---Automatic Identification System. For many mariners their VHF doubles as their primary safety and survival device.

The following six VHFs are part of an exercise we do every year at MEJ that we call the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics. Last week we rolled out the first six fixed-mount transceivers. This time we finish up fixed mounts and stir in the top three handheld VHFs.

The  Best & Brightest Boating Electronics lineup works this way—we ask manufacturers to name the one model in their product line of, say, fishfinders, MFDs or radars, that they consider to be their best. 

We’re not looking for the most expensive or even the most technologically advanced piece of equipment. In some cases, manufacturers name a rock-solid product that has earned the title of Best & Brightest by simply performing as advertised year after year. In other cases, the products harness innovations that are on the cutting edge of marine technology.

There are 18 categories of electronics in this year’s Best & Brightest roundup. In subsequent weeks we'll roll out the best vessel monitoring equipment, AIS, personal survival gear and a whole lot more.



Fixed mount


Lowrance Link 6

The versatile Link 6 Class D DSC VHF radio is ideal for a variety of boats from small bass boats to larger pontoons. The Link 6 features a white dot matrix LCD screen with inverted light mode, four backlit mic buttons and an easier front-mount installation with snap-on edge bezels. The Link 6 has a new startup wizard for easier radio set up, improved scanning features, a Favorites shortcut for customizing users settings and a My Channels list, which enables users to only scan desired channels. The layout of Link 6 controls are designed for left-hand operation, allowing for right-hand control of the helm.



The new SI-TEX MDA-4 VHF-FM/DSC/GMDSS marine radiotelephone provides mariners with professional communications features, military-grade rugged construction and the added safety and convenience of a built-in Class B AIS receiver. Built to MIL-STD-810F specifications and ITU standards with an IPX-7 waterproof rating, the MDA-4 is ready for serious sea duty on both recreational and commercial vessels.  Designed for easy integration with other onboard systems via NMEA 2000 or NMEA 0183, the MDA-4 is an integral component for any modern helm.  The robust design includes a large dot-matrix LCD display, large front-mounted speaker, handheld microphone, easy-to-use rotary menu control and built-in 25 watt loud hailer/foghorn for added safety in emergency situations.  The MDA-4 can have two optional remote control stations added via the rear control microphone connection.



In addition to complying with the newest ITU493-13 GMDSS requirements, SAILOR 6222 VHF DSC Class A is one of the most advanced, high-quality and powerful VHF radios available for a wide range of users. Features include an advanced 3.2 inch QVA display, ensuring a clear view. Text can be displayed as white on black or black on white, for optimal daylight viewing, while the red backlight protects night vision. It also features the pioneering SAILOR Replay function, which records the latest incoming messages, making them available for easy playback. Built to professional SAILOR quality standards, it can be relied upon in the most extreme conditions and because it is waterproof without modification, it can be used on open workboats or outside deck areas.

For a description of Class A and Class B AIS, click HERE.




Icom M93D

Built for the serious boater, the Icom M93D floating VHF transceiver has advanced marine radios to the next level. The M93D is a slender, two-toned radio with a user-friendly, flat sheet keypad. Its large LCD screen, large font and identifiable icons make for easy navigation and readability, even in direct sunlight. This stylish and easy-to-use radio will keep you safe with advance features like integrated GPS, providing location, bearing and speed. Equivalent to a “Mayday button,” the built-in Class D Digital Selective Calling button provides a quick, direct link to the Coast Guard Channel 70. The M93D also contains Icom favorites including Float’n Flash, AquaQuake and Active Noise Cancelling.


Standard Horizon HX870S

Standard Horizon introduces a whole new level in safety and performance in a floating handheld VHF/GPS. The HX870S floating Class D DSC VHF handheld features a 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver, allowing the radio to transmit a DSC distress call with your vessel’s position or navigate to a waypoint. The new oversized full dot matrix LCD and easy-to-operate menu system makes the HX870S very intuitive. DSC calling, position sharing, waypoint and route navigation, and navigation to DSC distress call can all be performed with just a few simple steps. The HX870 is supplied with a high-capacity1800 mAh Li-Ion Battery, 110VAC and 12VDC three-hour quick chargers, and an alkaline battery tray (AAAx5).



ONWA’s KV-28 is a compact VHF portable marine transceiver that has a large display with easy-to-read digits that are visible day or night and comes with 70 programmable channels. The KV-28 is dustproof and waterproof to IP67 (1 meter depth for 30 minutes). It also floats and flashes (an LED sends out intermittent light even when the transceiver is turned off) for easy retrieval of the unit if dropped in fresh or salt water. The unit has a vibration draining function that helps drain water away from the speaker housing if immersed. The KV-28 also features Dualwatch and Triwatch, which allows you to monitor Channel 16 even when operating on a different channel.




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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 2 ( 9 comments)

Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
Laurie Seibert:(2/16/2017 2:00:20 AM) "Thanks EV Collier for sharing this informative blog. It is important to know the causes of EMI filters. We use these parts in our daily life in the electronic products so we should know that what are the causes are cures of EMI Filters.

Great job and keep updating!

Laurie Seibert"
Yes:(2/10/2017 7:22:40 AM) "EMI/RFI filter causes and cure. There are very few people who share such information with everyone. I was looking to read such informative blog!

Great job!

Lisa Wilson
hugo:(1/30/2016 2:00:32 AM) "Why is no integrated ais transceiver available? Only recivers.


Each AIS system consists of one VHF transmitter, two VHF TDMA receivers, one VHF DSC receiver, and standard marine electronic communications links (IEC 61162/NMEA 0183) to shipboard display and sensor systems (AIS Schematic). Position and timing information is normally derived from an integral or external global navigation satellite system (e.g. GPS) receiver, including a medium frequency differential GNSS receiver for precise position in coastal and inland waters. Other information broadcast by the AIS, if available, is electronically obtained from shipboard equipment through standard marine data connections. Heading information and course and speed over ground would normally be provided by all AIS-equipped ships. Other information, such as rate of turn, angle of heel, pitch and roll, and destination and ETA could also be provided. Check out:"
Islander Sailboat Info:(12/4/2015 9:49:32 AM) "Great post!! This is the missing introduction I've been looking for. Thank you for taking a complicated subject and making it very easy to understand."
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