Table of Contents
- Best FM Transmitters For Churches – Comparison Table
- 6 Best FM Transmitters for Churches in 2020
- 1. Best Overall – BaseWish CZE-7C FM Transmitter
- 2. Best FM Transmitter with RCA Inputs – F-S Electronics CZH-05B
- 3. Retekess TR-508
- 4. Best Under $150 – Signstek ST-7C FM
- 5. Best Portable FM Transmitter for Churches – Retekess FT11
- 6. Signstek ST-5B
Looking for a way to temporarily transform your church into a drive-in religious object? Buying an FM transmitter is probably the easiest and the most budget-friendly way of doing that. Our article on 6 best FM transmitters for churches in 2020 is here to help you with your search.
Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, many institutions, including churches, had to change their routine and adopt some new rules. In an attempt to stay in contact with their congregations, many churches adopted some new (or rather old) technologies.
FM transmitters have become highly popular devices because they provided the means to hold the service for the congregation without having the congregation inside the church. Instead, each church member can park his/her car in front of the church, tune in to frequency used for broadcasting, and attend the service without even stepping out of the car. The main reasons why FM transmitters are so popular are their affordable pricing and their ease of use.
Now, you may think that buying an FM transmitter is an easy task, but it’s actually much more difficult than you think. Not because there are many poor FM transmitters with a bad range and signal output, but because the legal regulations regarding the use of FM transmitters are very strict.
Many of the available FM transmitters sold on Amazon, e-Bay, and other e-commerce platforms are not compliant with the FCC regulations. In other words, it’s illegal to use them in the US (but, for some reason, it’s not illegal to sell them). Our article on 6 best FM transmitters for churches in 2020 is here to inform you about the legal regulations regarding the use of FM transmitters, give you some guidelines on what to look for when buying an FM transmitter, and to present to you our favorite models.
The only legal way to broadcast your service or any other audio content without an FCC license is that you use an FM transmitter that doesn’t generate the field stronger than 250 microvolts/meter at 3 meters. These FM transmitters usually have a very short range (up to 200ft) and they still have to be approved by the FCC. So, in this case, you don’t have to apply for a broadcasting license, but the device itself has to be approved.
According to Title 47 Part 15 of the CFR, broadcasting on FM is illegal unless you have a license provided by the FCC. Even FM broadcasting at low power (aka LPFM) is considered illegal if you don’t have the license. If you get caught, the fines can be astronomical. The P.I.R.A.T.E. Act, signed in January 2020, raised the fines for unlicensed FM broadcasting to $100,000 per day while the max fine is $2 million.
So, what should you do? Well, you can try finding an FM transmitter that is FCC-approved and broadcast on a vacant frequency without an FCC license but with a very limited range (of up to 200ft) or you can file for LPFM license which would allow you to broadcast legally and get a significantly longer range (up to 3.5 miles).
Technically speaking, if you are using a low-power transmitter that’s not compliant with the Part 15 regulations and if you are broadcasting on a vacant (‘’empty’’) frequency without causing any interference to the existing (licensed) FM stations, the chances of getting fined are very slim but it’s up to you to decide whether you want to take that risk or not.
Best FM Transmitters For Churches – Comparison Table
|FM Transmitters for Churches||Rating||Price||Review|
|BaseWish CZE-7C||4.5||Check Amazon|
|F-S Electronics CZH-05B||4.3||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Retekess TR-508||4.8||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Signstek ST-7C FM||4.0||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Retekess FT11||4.2||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Signstek ST-5B||3.0||Check Amazon||Read Review|
After long research, we’ve managed to find a few FCC-approved FM transmitters that can be used without a license and a few that are pretty good but aren’t approved by the FCC. Even though some of the following products have FCC ID (which means that they are tested and approved by the FCC), we still recommend you to contact the FCC and ask if you are allowed to use a certain transmitter for your setup. It’s probably smart to do so before buying the transmitter. Here’s our selection of 6 best FM transmitters for churches in 2020.
6 Best FM Transmitters for Churches in 2020
1. Best Overall – BaseWish CZE-7C FM Transmitter
BaseWish is a generic Chinese brand, but the transmitter is well-built and it delivers a very good performance. On top of that, the transmitter is APPROVED BY THE FCC, so it’s perfectly legal.
Things we like
The transmitter comes with a 12V DC power adapter and a detachable antenna.
CZE-7C is a well-built device with a strong aluminum alloy chassis. At first glance, without the antenna, it looks like a car amplifier. The housing is very rugged and feels quite durable.
On the front side, you have all the controls, audio inputs, and an LCD display. You have two inputs – a standard AUX input and mic input, paired with two volume dials (one for each input). There is also the power button (which is also used to switch between the power modes) and two tuning buttons for selecting the broadcast frequency.
On the back, you have a large fan, 12V/2A DC input, and a TNC antenna connector.
The initial setup is a breeze. You have to connect the antenna, then connect the source, connect the power cable, and turn the unit on. After that, you can select a vacant frequency and start broadcasting.
The speaker has two power modes – 1W and 7W. In 1W mode, the range extends well over 200ft (which makes us wonder how is this thing approved by the FCC). In 7W mode, the transmitter can reach 2-3 miles (with a proper elevation and clear path). In real-life conditions, the range easily reaches 1 mile (in 7W mode).
The transmitter has a built-in PLL modulation system and low-pass filters. They ensure stable radio signal transmission. Three power amps are responsible for clear audio output. The speaker doesn’t get hot over time thanks to a good and efficient heat dissipation system.
The overall performance is better than expected. The transmission is stable and the audio signal is clear and articulate.
Things we don’t like
The microphone is not included in the package.
The included 12V DC power cable produces some quiet hum. Replacing it with a grounded cable solves the issue and eliminates the hum.
The fan is really loud.
2. Best FM Transmitter with RCA Inputs – F-S Electronics CZH-05B
F-S Electronics is another generic brand. Their CZH-05B FM transmitter is advertised as a low-power transmitter with a long range. The transmitter does offer very good performance and range but it’s not FCC approved. You can easily limit the range and lower the risk of causing interference by using one 10dB or 20dB attenuator but that won’t make it compliant with the FCC regulations.
Things we like
The transmitter looks and feels very solid and durable. It’s a boxy device with an aluminum chassis; On the front side, you will see a large LCD display. Below the screen, there are two inputs (AUX and mic input) paired with two volume dials (one for each input). The transmitter also has a dedicated power button and two buttons for tuning.
On the rear panel, there are 12V DC power input, RCA inputs, and a TNC connector for the external antenna. The antenna is included in the package.
The setup process is pretty straightforward. You have to connect the antenna and all the sources, plug the unit in, and turn it on. After that, you have to find a vacant frequency and you can start broadcasting.
The performance is pretty great. The range can easily reach 500ft. However, as you already know, those legal license-free FM transmitters can only reach 150ft (maybe 200ft under ideal conditions). Adding an attenuator to the antenna would limit the range and prevent the interference with other stations.
The sound is pretty clear. There’s a barely noticeable hum on lower frequencies but it’s not too alarming.
Things we don’t like
CZH-05B is NOT FCC approved (not compliant with the Part 15 regulations).
3. Retekess TR-508
Retekess is also a Chinese brand, just like the previous two. TR-508 is a great-performing transmitter with a range that can reach 900ft (outdoors and without obstacles). According to the user manual and product description on the manufacturer’s website, Retekess TR-508 is FCC approved but we haven’t been able to find the FCC ID.
Things we like
TR-508 comes with a detachable FM antenna, power adapter, AUX cable, and a one-year warranty.
The device is solidly built. It has a strong metal housing with a nice black finish. A large portion of the front panel is occupied by a nice-looking backlit display. Below the display, you will see all the inputs and control buttons. The transmitter houses two audio inputs – AUX and mic input. There’s a dedicated volume knob for each audio input. Right in the middle, you have three buttons – one power button and two tuning buttons. On the back, there’s a 12V DC input and an FM antenna input.
The initial setup is pretty simple. Connect the antenna (included), connect the audio source (via AUX or mic input), plug the unit in, and press the power button. Then, you just have to find a vacant frequency and you can start broadcasting.
The range extends over 900ft under ideal conditions (outdoors and without obstacles). In real-life conditions, it exceeds 500ft. We’ve had no issues with reception and signal clarity. Everything worked just fine.
Things we don’t like
The transmitter has a mic input but it doesn’t come with a mic. You have to buy it separately.
4. Best Under $150 – Signstek ST-7C FM
Signstek ST-7C is basically the same thing as the first transmitter on our list of 6 best FM transmitters for churches. It also has two power modes (1W and 7W), a very long range, it delivers pretty clear output, and it has a noisy fan. Oh, and it’s FCC APPROVED and compliant with the Part 15 regulations.
Things we like
The transmitter comes with a detachable antenna, power adapter, AUX cable, and user manual.
ST-7C is boxy and compact. The housing is entirely made of aluminum and it’s quite solid and durable.
On the front side, you have a small LCD display, two inputs (AUX and mic input), two volume dials (one for each input), power button, and two tuning buttons. On the back, there’s a 12V DC input, a large fan, and a TNC antenna connector.
The setup procedure is fairly simple and, even if you’re not a techy person, you should be ready to broadcast in 5 minutes. Just connect the antenna first, then connect the audio source (phone, tablet, PC, laptop, and/or mic), and plug in the unit. After that, turn the unit on and find a vacant frequency. Instead of searching for an open frequency, you can find a list of available frequencies for broadcasting for the given city/area on many websites. Radio-Locator is one of our favorite tools for finding vacant frequencies.
Once you set everything up and start broadcasting, you will be amazed by the range and clarity of the audio signal. The range can easily reach a mile in the open space (without obstacles). If the transmitter is located indoors, the range will be shorter.
Things we don’t like
One of the common complaints is related to fan noise. The fan is noisy and that can be annoying but it doesn’t affect the performance.
Some customers noticed that the power cable introduces a quiet hum. Using higher-quality power cable eliminates this issue.
The transmitter has a mic input but doesn’t come with a mic.
5. Best Portable FM Transmitter for Churches – Retekess FT11
Retekess FT11 is a tiny and portable FM transmitter, perfect for mobile use. This is a great choice for church translation purposes. The transmitter can reach 600ft so it’s not too powerful. According to the user manual, FT11 IS APPROVED BY the FCC and compliant with the Part 15 regulations.
Things we like
Retekess FT11 comes with a detachable antenna, micro USB charging cable, a small wired boom mic, a hand strap, and a warranty.
This is a tiny transmitter – it’s practically pocketable. Without the antenna, FT11 looks like a small digital audio player.
The top half of the front panel is occupied by a small LCD display. On the bottom half, there are five control buttons. You can use them to select the input, tune in the frequency you want to use for transmission, etc.
On the top, you have the antenna connector and 5 preset buttons – you can memorize up to five frequencies you usually use for broadcasting. On the bottom, there’s a mic input, AUX input, and a micro USB charging port. On the right panel, there’s a power switch and, on the left side, there’s a micro SD card slot. The max supported micro SD card size is 32Gb.
The transmitter also has a built-in mic (located on the bottom) that you can use if you lose the included wired mic.
FT11 has a built-in Li-ion battery. The capacity is 1,000mAh and the maximum playtime is 8 hours. That’s more than enough for any kind of sermon.
The transmitter offers quite a satisfying performance with an impressive range. At 200ft, the signal is perfectly clear. It gets a bit muffled if the distance is longer but it’s still pretty clear. The maximum unobstructed range is approx. 500ft.
Things we don’t like
The built-in mic is not as good as the included wired mic. It muffles your voice and doesn’t offer the same kind of clarity. It’s usable but it’s not great.
6. Signstek ST-5B
Signstek ST-5B looks exactly the same as Retekess TR508 and it delivers similar performance. The range extends over 1,000ft and the signal is perfectly clear within that range.
Things we like
ST-5B is a boxy and compact device. It has a strong metal chassis with an efficient heatsink cooling system.
In the top half of the front panel, you have the Signstek logo and a small display that shows the frequency. Below, you have two inputs (mic and AUX input), two volume knobs (AUX volume and mic volume). the power button, and two tuning buttons. On the rear panel, there’s a 12V DC input and a TNC connector for the external antenna.
The initial setup is fairly simple and takes no more than 5mins. Connect the included detachable antenna, connect the audio source (and/or mic), plug the unit in, and turn it on. After that, you just have to select the broadcast frequency and you’re ready to go. The good news is that you don’t have to search for an empty frequency on your own – you can use one of the numerous online tools (like radio-locator) to get a list of vacant frequencies for your city/area.
The performance is more than satisfying. Under ideal conditions, the range extends over 1,000ft. Also, the output is perfectly clear. These two things make ST-5B suitable for drive-in churches and other drive-in services.
Things we don’t like
ST-5B has a mic input but doesn’t come with a mic – you have to buy it separately. Also, the transmitter will only work with electret mics. It’s not compatible with condenser and dynamic mics.
This was our list of 6 best FM transmitters for churches in 2020. Hopefully, it helped you understand the legal regulations related to FM broadcast and made it easier for you to know what to look for when buying an FM transmitter. If you have any additional questions, we advise you to go through our FAQs section. If you want to share your experience with FM transmitters or have more questions, leave us a comment.
Q: What is the best FM transmitter for churches?
A: As always, our advice is to stick to reputable and trusted brands like C. Crane and Decade. Some US-based companies like Progressive Concept, TAW Global are viable options, too. If you are looking for something more affordable, you can try some of the Chinese brands (Retekes, SignStek, BaseWish) but be aware that most of these Chinese FM transmitters are not compliant with the FCC’s Part 15 regulations. You can find some pretty affordable and well-performing transmitters on our list of 6 best FM transmitters for Churches in 2020.
Q: How do I set up an FM transmitter for my church?
A: The transmitters are usually fairly easy to install and use. You just have to attach the antenna (if there is an external antenna), connect your mic or audio source (laptop, phone, etc.), plug the transmitter in, turn it on, and find the vacant frequency for broadcasting.
Now, finding the right frequency for broadcasting (the one that’s not being used) may be the trickiest thing but you don’t really have to go through the whole FM spectrum and look for empty channels. Instead, you can visit a website (like Radio-Locator), type in your zip code, and the website will give you the list of vacant frequencies for that specific area.
Q: Do FM transmitters have good sound?
A: If you are within the advertised range and if there is no interference (there shouldn’t be any interference if you’re using vacant frequency), then yes. It sounds just as good as any other FM station. So, it’s not exactly hi-fi sound but it’s clear and articulate.
Q: Are FM transmitters illegal?
A: FM broadcasting is very strictly regulated. Title 47 Part 15 of the CFR covers most of the topics related to FM and AM broadcasting. In short, broadcasting on FM requires an FCC-certified transmitter and a license. Even for low-power FM broadcasting. The only type of FM broadcast that doesn’t require any FCC license is when extremely low-power transmitters with low field strength (less than 250 µV/m at 3m or 9.8ft). However, even in this case the transmitter has to be compliant with the FCC regulations (Part 15 device) and has to be approved by the FCC. The FCC-certified device will have an FCC ID and you can check if this ID is valid with the FCC’s ID Search Tool.
Q: What does an FM transmitter do?
A: FM transmitter is a device that broadcasts any audio signal that comes in (through mic input or AUX/RCA input) via FM frequency to a standard FM radio. FM transmitters are often used in churches and drive-in theaters.
Q: How far can you transmit FM legally?
A: If you don’t have a broadcasting license, the only legal way to transmit is to use an FCC-certified FM transmitter (compliant with part 15). In this case, the broadcasting distance can hardly reach 200ft (usually up to 150ft). If you want a longer range, you will have to apply for a license. The best option is to file for LPFM (low-power FM) license which will allow you to use more powerful FM transmitters (up to 100W) and to broadcast at greater distances (up to 3.5miles).
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.