25 years have now passed since CB was legalised in the UK. One could argue that many things have changed and the sparkle and magic has been lost when it comes to receiving far away signals through the ether. Nevertheless CB radio is still with us although the number of users has declined significantly. This has had the effect of reducing the amount of new equipment available on the market.
Thanks to the legalisation of multi-standard CB radios that can be adjusted to suit all European counties at the flick of a switch, we are now starting to see new models being introduced by the big manufacturers. One of them is President and whilst they have been quietly supplying our European friends with AM/FM and SSB radios for the past few years the UK has lacked their range of products officially. All these years later President has finally returned to the United Kingdom and introduced two legal multi-standard radios, the President Walker and President Johnson II both of which see us celebrating the 25th Anniversary of CB in the UK!
The President Walker doesn’t look like a particularly new model, if anything it looks a little retro as though it was created in the 80s but maybe a little more polished in its presentation. Looks are where the similarities stop because underneath the cover lies a modern PCB using surface mount technology. The board design for the new President was created by Uniden and the quality is excellent, this goes so far to explain the higher than usual asking price of £105 in the UK. The radio feels well built, the knobs and switches are of good quality and don’t feel loose like on some cheaper radios and the casing fits together perfectly. It gives the impression of being extremely robust and the finish of the plastics used is very good too. The box that the President Walker comes supplied in is the same design used for a number of years with the famous White, Black and green colour scheme.
One of the first things you notice about the Walker is that there are no fancy controls or buttons, no scanning, memories or other special settings – just the basics that you need for operating on CB. Personally I think this is an advantage on a mobile unit since a lot of radios are far too complex to use whilst driving and can be more of a distraction than a help. Thankfully President did include an up and down channel change microphone and this is a good driving safety feature meaning you do not have to take your eyes off the road ahead.
The main set of control knobs available to the user are volume, squelch, RF and Microphone Gain and that’s about it with the exception of the channel changer! On the little silver metal switch side of things there is a channel 19 and 9 three position selector and in the centre position this function is disabled. It provides a rather handy quick shortcut back to the mobile calling channel whilst leaving your chosen chat channel alone. Next up we have an AM/FM selection switch but when in UK mode this acts as a band selector to toggle between UK and EU (CEPT) channels. The channels are numbered correctly in banks of 40 channels. When in a country with a permitted AM standard then this does what is says on the tin!
A CB/PA selection switch is also provided for those who want to connect an extension speaker and shout random insults at passers by or maybe use it on their next political campaign! On the remaining switches a Noise Blanker and ANL is provided and also a function switch. This is only used in the event of changing European band configuration and is well documented in the multi language instruction book. The instruction manual provided by President is written in good English and gives some other handy tips on installing a CB in car plus the old “10 codes” and some CB jargon for those who want to relive the 70s and 80s!
At power on the Walker displays the country letter that the radio is currently assigned to. For example in the UK it displays a “U” on the large and bright red LED display. (Yes, that is correct, President have used a traditional LED display instead of LCD. This has the added advantage of being able to be seen even in bright sunlight). If the radio is set to the EU band then “EU” is displayed. All European standards are catered for meaning that if you are a long distance trucker or driver then this radio can legally be used in the whole of Europe by simply switching off, setting the switches in the right order then turning back on again making you 100% legal. Apparently this radio can cover 400 channels between 25 and 30 MHz but modification would make it illegal to use and you would also loose the UK frequencies. Please don’t email asking for the mod because I have not opened this test radio and have no desire to make it do the 400 channels.
Another welcome change on this radio is an analogue type signal meter. Just like traditional radios you can get a nice s-meter reading rather than just a series of dots meaning you can accurately give a signal report for a change. This is a high visibility backlit green and red meter marked with the dB level scale and power output. This is the same meter that has been in production for many years and appeared on so many CB radios. I guess you could say it’s tried and tested. Two LED indicators are provided on the Walker. These show when the radio is transmitting and receiving and the other shows when the radio is operating in the FM mode. Obviously on the UK setting this light is lit all the time as AM is not permitted.
The other import thing I forgot to mention is the microphone socket. This is a front mounted one making a very welcome change for most car drivers. If you have a spare DIN sized stereo slot in your car, van or truck you can buy a DIN mount kit and install the radio straight into the dash. The only extra thing you would need is an extension speaker to plug into the back of the radio as the built in speaker of the Walker is facing downwards and most of the output will be lost in the void known as your dashboard. On the back of the Walker there are just three connections – Power; with a proper 3 pin uniden type power connection – it’s not a hardwired unlike some cheaper radios which means you can replace the power lead at any point if it gets lost, broken, chopped or whatever! The other two sockets provide an output for the external speaker and the other for your PA speaker.
Field Testing the Walker
I decided to take the Walker out for its anniversary celebrations on the hill tops! It was the 2nd November 2006 at about 7.30 pm when I decided to brave the near zero degrees conditions and set off to a local high point. It was a very dark night but clear and I could see the lights of Hull over 22 miles away from my QTH. The antenna used to test the radio was my usual (and extremely long) Sirio Megawatt 4000. This antenna was chosen simply because it works well, has good bandwidth and a very low SWR so we have a near perfect set up.
One thing has been driving me crackers about the Walker – it’s got an incredibly loud channel change bleep! Every time you rotate the channel change dial it bleeps at high volume. Likewise any change on the microphone initiates the same response! I can appreciate a subtle bleep so you can control the radio without looking at the display whilst mobile but come on! This radio would hardly be suitable for late night chats in the home as you would probably wake everyone else up changing channel. I believe that President have taken this comment on board and future revisions of the radio should have the bleep dulled down a little! Let’s hope so anyway. My radio is of the first production run so I guess I will have to live with it unless anyone can come up with a modification for this.
One thing feature of note on this radio is the ASC. This is a special type of Squelch control that allows you to switch on a circuit in the radio that monitors the background noise level and automatically adjusts the squelch to a suitable level. Simply rotate the squelch knob anti-clockwise until a click is heard to activate ASC. This is handy if you are mobile and passing through various areas of QRM. It simply means that you don’t have to keep resetting the squelch level as conditions worsen and improve. As for homebase use this feature might not be so useful as it tends to obscure distant signals meaning you may miss out on listening to some weaker stations. Thankfully it can be turned off by turning the squelch clockwise until a click is heard, then the control acts as a normal squelch level control. The ASC was developed by President and is now in its third generation. Opinion is divided about how useful it is, but nevertheless it’s a good additional feature.
Anyway, going back to my hill top DX, I began to tune around trying to find some breakers for a radio check. Naturally I tried Channel 25 since this was the agreed channel for the 25th anniversary of CB in the UK but no-one appeared to be on channel and the rest of the band was very flat. In fact it was so flat that I had to check that the antenna was still connected. I thought I would try the 19 breaking channel as there was bound to me someone on there. Again there were no local users but I did manage to hear some very distant (back of the box) stations over towards West Yorkshire. I was impressed with the receive quality of the Walker, I released the squelch fully to hear the distant stations and I could hear someone in Leeds! That’s well over 60 miles from this location and the terrain is difficult. I did try getting back to some of the stations but none could hear me. I guess that local low power stations in their area and QRM would have blanked out any borderline and weak signals. I think I was also asking a bit much just on 4 watts output.
Finally on channel 14 I made some contacts with a three local stations! As a rule nobody is usually on the CB in my town on a regular basis. However these users had heard about the 25th anniversary celebrations and thought they would have a tune around. I think they were as surprised as I was to hear someone on the air. Anyway we chatted for almost 2 hours and I was able to get a good idea of the quality of the President Walker. All stations involved said that the radio sounded excellent, the transmit audio on the Walker appears to have a compression and limiting circuit as it was impossible to over-deviate on FM and the microphone picked up extremely well even holding it at arms length. The tone quality was reported to be excellent too.
On the receive side of things the Walker appears to be extremely sensitive pulling in weak signals. The built in speaker sounds excellent for tone quality and no distortion was present even when turned up higher the average. On a scale of ten I would rate the audio output from the Walker as 10 and basically as good as it gets on 27 MHz and the average CB radio.
Apart from my comments about the very large channel change confirmation beep I would say that this is about the most perfect basic radio you could wish for on the CB bands. It may not be cheap at just over £100 but you do seem to get a better class of radio for the money if you can live without a fancy microprocessor controller, LCD digits, memories and scanning. The Walker firmly goes back to basics and reinforces Presidents reputation with the CB communities. I’m sure given time this radio will go down as another classic set and they will still be around serving the CB user 25 years from now assuming we still have access to the CB frequencies. Let’s hope so since it would be a shame to let the band die through lack of use like it is currently doing in some parts of the UK and beyond. The abolition of the CB licence in the UK is on the cards imminently and it is rumoured to be set for the 1st December 2006 thanks to some radical licensing changes for CB, Marine and Ham operators. We will of course keep you updated on Transmission1 as and when this happens. Hopefully it will be enough to entice more CB users back onto the bands and maybe even introduce a few new ones.
The President Walker is available from most good CB stockists in the UK. I got mine from Doug at Knights in Lincolnshire. He’s doing his best to keep CB alive and is one of the few dealers in the UK that specialises in CB equipment. Take a look at his site if you need something like a radio, coax or accessories – http://www.kcb.co.uk/