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What Is a SSB Transceiver?

By Jennifer O.
Updated May 16, 2024
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A single sideband (SSB) transceiver is a low-power transmission device used in amateur radio. It is one type of QRP transceiver and is noted for using extremely low amounts of electricity, often fewer than five watts. SSB is the predominant mode of transmission used by ham operators worldwide. Its range is such that it allows users to communicate with people as far away as the opposite side of the planet. Ease of operation and construction are among the most important reasons for the popularity of SSB transceivers.

The ability to communicate with such low power is one of the main draws for enthusiasts. An SSB transceiver works by transferring power to a single sideband at the transmitter rather than dividing it between two sidebands and a carrier. It is used to communicate on lower-frequency airwave bands when high-frequency bands are experiencing heavy use that prohibits clear communication. Multiple stations on SSB modulation can also occupy the same frequency without causing annoying interference.

These types of transceivers are favored for their ease of use and construction. The minimum needed for operation is a transceiver unit, an antenna, an antenna tuning unit (ATU) and a ground plane. All of these components have to be installed correctly for the system to work effectively. Many enthusiasts choose to build their own SSB transceivers, an activity commonly referred to as “homebrew.”

Building an SSB transceiver can be accomplished by purchasing a kit or buying all of the materials to build it from scratch. Many people combine parts from a kit with other components purchased separately. Clubs and message boards are good sources of information and resources for buying a new transceiver or building one. They will also have tips about installation.

SSB modulation is similar to amplitude modulation (AM) that is used in AM radio and walkie-talkies, but it is much more efficient. An SSB transceiver produces a low-fidelity signal, but because of the way it concentrates transmission power, its potential range is much higher. It is also similar to a continuous wave (CW) transceiver but has greater bandwidth. On an SSB transceiver, there often is an option to switch between SSB and AM settings.

An SSB transceiver usually is smaller than similar transceivers. It often is portable enough to use for backpacking and other types of trips. Among amateur radio equipment, an SSB transceiver is one of the simplest to operate.

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