A quick and unscientific spectral analysis of two Baofeng radios.

The November 2015 issue of QST contains an article by Larry D. Wolfgang, WR1B, entitled “ARRL Laboratory Handheld Transceiver Testing,” which contains information about some of the Chinese radio manufacturers and whether their products actually comply with Part 97 rules.  I own two of these radios, so I became curious – are my Baofengs  legal to use on the ham bands? So, with the help (and equipment) of a friend, I did a quick and unscientific test using a spectrum analyzer.

Note that there is no Part 97 certification like there is for Parts 90 or 95, but there are still regulations on spurious emissions – and unlike other radio services, in amateur radio, it is up to each operator to ensure their equipment meets these regulations.

The relevant portion is in 97.307, paragraph (e):

(e) The mean power of any spurious emission from a station transmitter or external RF power amplifier transmitting on a frequency between 30–225 MHz must be at least 60 dB below the mean power of the fundamental. For a transmitter having a mean power of 25 W or less, the mean power of any spurious emission supplied to the antenna transmission line must not exceed 25 µW and must be at least 40 dB below the mean power of the fundamental emission, but need not be reduced below the power of 10 µW. A transmitter built before April 15, 1977, or first marketed before January 1, 1978, is exempt from this requirement.

The QST article – which I highly recommend you read – does all the math, but the result is this: a 5 watt handheld on the 2 meter band needs at least 53dB of suppression.  4 watts needs 52dB and 3 watts needs just under 51dB.

So let’s get to the good part.  For testing, I used two Baofeng models, a UV-5RA and a BF-F8+.  I connected the radios to an Agilent E4402B spectrum analyzer through a 20dB attenuator. I’ve included photos of each radio below (you can click on the photos for more detail):

UV-5RA FrontUV-5RA BackBF-F8+ FrontBF-F8+ Back

First, I tested on UHF with a transmit frequency of 449.625 – I use UHF much more than 2 meters.  Let’s take a look at the UV-5RA on UHF:


You can clearly see a spur around 1.3GHz and it’s just over 40dB down from the fundamental frequency.

The BF-F8+ on UHF looks roughly the same (note that the bottom frequency has been moved down from 200MHz to 100MHz for this shot – remember, this is a quick and dirty test):


Again, we have a spur around 1.3GHz and it’s maybe 35dB down from the fundamental.

Now we move to VHF.  To get better detail (and make it easier to see), we expanded the Y-axis and shrunk the X-axis for the VHF readings.  Here’s the UV-5RA:


This transmitter is all over the place.  Tons of spurious emissions, some as little as 30dB down from the fundamental.  This transmitter is definitely misbehaving or not properly filtered.

And the BF-F8+ on VHF – same settings on the spectrum analyzer:


This transmitter is also pretty bad, but it’s not as bad. The worst spurious emission is just under 35dB down, but the others are much farther down.

And finally, for reference, we tested a 25 year old Motorola commercial HT in the 2 meter ham band:

Motorola VHF

Zero spurious emissions – this is because higher-end radios have filters that prevent these emissions from making it out of the transmitter.  This is what a transmitter should look like, and you can find one of these radios used on eBay for not much more than a Baofeng.

Final Thoughts

I will no longer transmit from my Baofengs because they do not meet Part 97 specifications.  Additionally, I will no longer recommend Baofengs to new hams. Even though the ARRL found that only about half of them fail to meet the emissions standards, I don’t want new hams to have to play that lottery.  I will likely recommend radios like the Yaesu FT60.  More expensive? Sure.  But they’re legal.

I have read some comments that the knockoffs are the ones failing these emissions standards and the real ones do not.  But how can you know if you’ve gotten a knockoff? I bought mine from sellers on Amazon: “ETEKCITY CORPORATION” and “Foscam Digital Technologies LLC.”  Seems legit to me, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

Look, I get it: They’re cheap, available, and they work. But are you willing to violate FCC regulations just to save a few bucks?

3.2/5 - (12 votes)

Related posts


  • Paul Jellison

    I concur with the findings. I found spurious response on Some models in tolerance others out but the 30 db down he got here. The scary thing is are these are proliferating in the commercial bands. Paul K8IO

  • Jack Fecalman

    Most of us don’t have a spectrum analyzer. We have to trust the manufacturer to provide a product suited for legal use on the bands it is designed to operate on. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

  • The question becomes: is this typical of the brand? Have you discussed this with Baofung?

    • Good questions. No, I haven’t discussed this with Baofeng. And yes, according to the ARRL’s testing, this is fairly typical with this brand.

  • im lost

    I use cheap handheld chineese radios guts as exciters for older gen xtal rigs, works a treat

  • Red Laser

    pay an extra 200-300 or so dollars and get an extra 5-7 db harmonic/spurious suppression??..there is something for manufacturers to do and that is to reduce price without compromising spectral purity…the buyers aren’t all after 100% promises …maybe a 40 db filter added to the antenna port would soothe consciences on Bao handhelds??

    • That’s exactly what a lot of companies do. If they did that and raised the price a few bucks, I’d be all for it.

  • I’d love to see this test done on the Baofeng UV82 (wot I bought for $40)… If they’re as bad (and the UV5x range are crap) it might become a cheap doorstop.

  • BARNers will want this banned 🙂 bwahaha!

    • Jack Fecalman

      No. This is a topic of interest to many of us. I can’t add anything beyond saying it is only reasonable that any new radio, right out of the box, should be able to transmit a clean, legal signal, on any frequency it is built to operate on. Modifications we do, or have done, is a whole new topic. I have some Bao Feng UV5-Rs. Not modified in anyway. Why shouldn’t I expect it to be suitable for it’s intended job?

  • gwats1957

    I’ve always bit the bullet, and paid top dollar for my gear from reputable sellers, and other hams… I feel justified in having done this…. There are no free lunches, and ‘shortcuts’ can get expensive…. NO non-compliant radios in this Ham’s shack….. Part 97 compliant here…….

    • Ty Mixon

      You know, just b/c you buy the good radios doesn’t mean you part 97 compliant. I mean, many are modded for MARS/CAP and if you spin the dial wrong . . . oops. Or maybe the mod didn’t go well & it’s got spurs now.

      If you’re checking your radios w/ a spec-an now & again, then you’re likely on safe ground.

      • greggwon

        Primary frequency transmitting is your responsibility, not the manufacturers, because they can’t keep you or anyone else from changing the radio to transmit on a different primary frequency. This whole issue is about spurious emissions on harmonics or otherwise non-primary frequencies due to poor/non-compliant construction.

        In the beginning when radios were all analog, radios supported “bands” and you had to keep from tuning outside of the allowed spectrum when transmitting. Because different parts of the world have different regulations on some of the HF spectrum, it’s nice to be able to tune around and listen. Even shortwave broadcast radio on 40m is completely accessible on most HF radios for receiving. Only digital tuners have the ability to create band edges for transmitter control.

        The problem is harmonics and spurious emissions. It’s your responsibility to not key your transmitter on the wrong primary frequency.

      • gwats1957

        Buying unmodified radios is really not that hard, and it sounds like you’re looking for excuse to buy radios of dubious quality…..

        • Ty Mixon

          Not at all. I bought my IC 735 from a great guy. But it can tx out of amateur bands. No idea off the top of my head if it was made that way, or it was modd’ed. Was great when I was thinking of going MARS, but I changed my mind on that.

          However, I have no idea if it has spurious emissions or not b/c I don’t have the test equipment.

          My point is, unless you are regularly testing, you can’t say ‘b/c I only buy X I’m good’. After all, the manufacturers aren’t required to submit much, if any, testing to the FCC.

          Good clean TX is on US, the operators.

          • Jack Fecalman

            You, and many, maybe most, of us don’t have spectrum analysis equipment. We should be able to count on new equipment to be legal for any, and all frequencies it can be used on.

            • Ty Mixon

              Except that will never happen. Go back to my ic-735. It can be used on LOTS of freq’s on in amateur (cb for one). But it will not be legal for use there unless the rules change. And that’s no fault of the manufacturer.

              But I get your basic point – a legally purchased new radio should at least be ‘clean’ even if can’t comply with dual sets of rules for bureaucratic, rather than technical reasons.

          • gwats1957

            A radio transmitting ‘out of band’ is not a part 97 issue… you should just stop talking now….

            • Ty Mixon

              You kinda fail at logic.

              If you’re tx’ing out of band, that is a part 97 issue IF you have an amateur license. You can be suspended for that.

              The point of yours ” paid top dollar for my gear from . . . other hams . . .” and “NO non-compliant radios in this Ham’s shack” combined with the fact that many many many hams DO modify their radios, (legally, I might add) to TX in MARS/CAP bands, means that you could, very easily, being TX’ing spurious emissions and not even know. Unless you are running tests on a regular basis.

              So – are you running tests on a regular basis? Or are you just assuming that radios from the Big 3 (and the older stuff) never break?

              Either way, that’s a fallacy.

              • gwats1957

                Ty, I’ve been a nice guy up to this point but now, but I’m getting sick of your trolling, and you need to shut the f**k up now….

                • Jack Fecalman

                  You should be ashamed of yourself for posting a comment like that. Bad attitude is one thing. Your choice of words is another.

                • w0nder5

                  Seems you’re missing the point entirely Gwats. They fanciest, “top dollar” radio in the world could still be in violation of Part 97. And unless you’ve actually tested it, you’re not necessarily any more secure than the cheapest knock-off radio on the air.

                • Ty Mixon

                  I’m not trolling, and I’m sorry you fail to see how buying a certain brand radio, or buying from only a certain group of people =/= automagic compliance.

                  ANY radio can have spurious emissions due to failure of some type or another. And, unless you’re checking your gear on a regular basis, you really don’t know.

                • Let’s keep it civil – family friendly website – I don’t want to delete comments.

                  • gwats1957

                    Then tell this gent to stop trolling me….

                    • burritolikethesun

                      All you have to do is stop responding.

                    • gwats1957

                      Childish? You may want to check with your momma before you post again, you little bitch……???????

    • Krasnaja Zvezda

      Always top dollar?

      So if you have two of the same model radio, but one is priced higher, you buy the higher priced one?

  • Krasnaja Zvezda

    Another Bao basher.

    Keep sucking the big 3’s genitals!

    • gwats1957

      If the radio is not compliant, and you KNOW it, then HOW is that ‘bashing’? You get what you pay for, and these radios are cheap for a very good reason, and now we know what it is……..

    • I’m really not trying to all-out bash Baofeng. I really like what they’ve done. They’ve made it possible for new people to get involved in ham radio who may not have otherwise been able to.

      And I’m also trying to not make huge blanket statements. I now know that the two units I have do not behave correctly, so to stay in compliance with 97.307, I will no longer use them.

      • Jack Fecalman

        But, YOU should not be out the money you paid. If you test it, or have it tested, and it is not compliant you should be able to return it for one that is, or get a refund. Why should you lose?

      • gwats1957

        I get your point… I’m sticking with my Yaesus, my Icoms, my Kenwoods, my Alincos…. You just saved me some cash…. thank you…. Some folks just never learn…don’t take them personally… we must be tolerant of them……

    • Can you please remove the second sentence of your comment? You’re free to express your opinion, but this site is family-friendly and I will delete the post if you don’t.

    • Krasnaja Zvezda

      Why don’t you test some of Kenwood’s UHF trunked repeaters?

      Those things put all kinds of noise even onto VHF from a mile away.

      • Bob Blueline

        A good friend of mine is a Kenwood Dealer. Which model repeater are you speaking of? I can most likely get one and run the same tests on it.

      • @krasnajazvezda:disqus I don’t have one to test, but if I got one and it was faulty, I would certainly RMA it.