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Realistic Navaho TRC-480 AM/SSB CB Radio Review

I love picking up a radio that I've seen in the past but never had the chance to own. The TRC-480 is one of those radios. When you see it for the first time you think "The knobs look normal, but all those buttons just look weird!" and believe me, I thought the same thing.

The radio has most of the standard features -

  • Volume

  • Squelch control

  • RF gain

  • Clarifier control

  • Dimmer Knob

  • NB/ANL button

  • PA button

  • Monitor button

  • AM / LSB / USB buttons

  • Channel up / down buttons

  • CH9 button

  • Search buttons B & C = (Busy Search Mode / Clear Search Mode)

It also features a 5 pin din side microphone connector

This radio is the mobile equivalent of the TRC-459 and used a similar board and components.

Picture from Spew Radio Inc.

While the version I picked up had a standard Radio Shack replacement microphone, the original microphone for this radio had up/down channel selector buttons on it which would allow you to change channels with the microphone.

The radio itself also has up/down channel buttons on it to select the channel. There is no knob control to change the channels, so on the model I received that did not have the original microphone you would need to use the buttons on the radio.

An interesting feature of this radio is its ability to scan through the channels. It has two different forms of scanning. The busy search mode goes through the channels looking for channels that are busy with transmissions while the clear search mode looks for a clear channel that has no transmissions on it.

I checked out both of these features and they actually worked quite well. Although the outside of the radio looks like something from the early computer days or 2001 A Space Odyssey, the radio and all of the functions worked as well as the day it was made. I was able to use the busy scan feature and it scanned through the channels until it located two truckers having a conversation.

The radio I purchased was lacking the original power plug and someone had hard wired the power cords but it worked fine. The radio has external speaker and PA jacks on the back and was originally manufactured in Japan.


The meter display on this radio is similar to the TRC-458 I owned, in that when you key the microphone the meter light changes from white to red to indicate the radio is in TX mode.

Performance on this radio wasn't anything above or beyond normal in terms of output or audio. I tested out a power desk mic as well as the stock microphone and while I got a moderate boost in audio it didn't create a whole lot more swing than the stock mic.

The power output on AM will be around 3-4 watt deadkey with 10-12 watts of swing. On SSB you should see 12-15 watts swing. I'm sure the radio could be tuned for higher numbers but seeing as this radio was a bit older I decided to let it run as is.

When I bought the radio it was sold as "untested," so when I turned it on I figured it might be off frequency, but after a short test with a local I was told the radio was smack dab on frequency and sounded very good and clear. It always surprises me how well some of these older SSB CB's were built in regards to frequency stability. While they have inferior filtering in most cases compared to new units, I'm always impressed by the fact that when you turn these units on there is no warm up time or frequency drift like you find in many of the newer models. I've run across radios that had been sitting in damp sheds for 20 years and are covered in rust, but they turn on and work like new.

This radio performed very well on SSB in my local tests and the receive was actually quite clear. While adjacent channel rejection wasn't great (as mentioned in another review I read online) local signals were clear and easily understood. I also used this radio as the receiving radio for another audio test I did.

One last thing I'll mention about this radio is a funny noise you might hear inside. When you key a TRC-480 you'll hear a very distinct clicking noise. Many people think this means something is wrong, but actually it means your radio is working correctly. Inside this radio is a small clear box often referred to as an "ice cube relay".  I remember my TRC-458 also has this same type of system. The relay parts will move when you key the microphone and if you look inside the radio when keying you can see the physical movement of the parts, which is pretty cool.

For more info on the radio see the following video which shows tuning points and a close up of the relay in action -







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