Whether you realize it or not, you are surrounded by an unseen force at almost all times. No, we’re not talking about anything outside of Star Wars. Rather, we’re talking about electromagnetic and radio fields, or EMF and RF for short. The Earth itself generates an electromagnetic field, which allows a compass to work. And modern technologies, from electric current powering your household appliances to microwave ovens to telephones, all generate some sort of electromagnetic radiation.
What to consider before buying a radio frequency detector
When shopping for a radio frequency detector, it is important to familiarize yourself first with the types of signals you might encounter. EMF and RF signals are called together, but they are usually distinguished by the strength of the frequency. EMFs occur at a lower level – they are found in electrical wiring carrying alternating currents, such as the wiring in your walls and the cords feeding your devices. All devices used to transmit data, such as radio receivers, TV antennas, WiFi routers, and cell phones, will use radio waves.
Both types of frequencies can be detected with a handheld detector. RF detectors can be used for counter surveillance. If a room has been bugged by surveillance equipment such as recorders or cameras, an RF detector can help find them. It might sound like a wacky issue, but there have been a lot of privacy concerns raised about private vacation rentals, where hosts spy on tenants.
Some RF detectors can detect lower level electromagnetic fields, which can be useful if you work in electrical engineering. You can help identify problems with faulty wiring, for example.
How we choose the best radio frequency detectors
Since there are several types of signals that you may encounter, we have selected detectors that can identify both RF signals and lower level EMF signals. We’ve focused on intuitive options that the average person can use, and our choices are small enough to pack up and travel with.
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1. TriField Electric Field Radio Frequency Meter
This handy tool can help detect several types of electromagnetic signals. Adjustable dials allow you to track AC magnetic, AC electrical frequencies, as well as radio and microwave frequencies. A conveniently marked button on the device lets you search for the types of signals you’re looking for, without unwanted background information. The digital display is designed to be easy to read and it changes automatically to let you find hot spots. This option uses an alkaline battery, rather than the rechargeable batteries used by the GQ, ERICKHILL and other detectors on this list.
Advantages: Allows you to detect different types of electromagnetic fields. The intuitive digital display indicator bar makes it easy to locate hot spots.
The inconvenients: Not as accurate for RF as for other electromagnetic fields. Bigger than some of the other options on this list.
Buy: TriField Electric Field Radio Frequency Meter
2. RF GQ counter
This GQ meter is designed to measure three different types of frequencies, including electromagnetic fields (EMF), very low frequency fields (ELF) and radio frequencies (RF). The convenient backlit display shows all three frequencies on the same screen, so you can get a quick reading. The screen has an auto-rotate feature, similar to a cell phone screen, which rotates the screen when the device is rotated. The device is very compact and the cord makes it easy to take on the go.
Advantages: Detects ELF, EMF and RF signals and displays them on a convenient three-way digital display that automatically rotates according to the position of the device. Very compact design.
The inconvenients: This device is not as good at picking up weaker signals and works best around strong signals.
Buy: GQ RF Meter
3. EMF ERICKHILL counter
If you are specifically looking to detect lower level signals, then this Erickhill EMF meter is an affordable option to consider. Unlike the GQ and Trifield options, this detector does not search for radio frequencies, but searches for electric and magnetic fields. Like the GQ RF meter, this meter uses a rechargeable battery.
Advantages: Convenient rechargeable battery. Economical option. Intuitive design.
The inconvenients: Although it searches for EMF signals, it does not do RF.
Buy: ERICKHILL EMF Meter
4. Poniie digital multi-field EMF meter (RF)
This economical option from Poniie scans both RF and EMF signals, making it a versatile tool for a variety of applications. Like the Erickhill and GQ detectors, this option relies on a convenient rechargeable battery. The large backlit display makes it easy to get at-a-glance reading.
Advantages: Detects RF and EMF signals. Convenient rechargeable battery. Economical option.
The inconvenients: Some premium options may be more reliable.
Buy: Poniie digital multi-field EMF meter (RF)
5. KORKUAN RF detector
If you are particularly concerned about personal privacy and security, then this detector from Lonove has several features to detect hidden cameras, bugs and other invasive devices. It has an RF detector to detect signals that can come from various sources. The attached probe makes it easier to pinpoint the location of signals, and an illuminated display on the unit indicates signal strength. The infrared window is also designed to help you locate hidden cameras.
Advantages: Convenient device for finding invasive devices. The RF detector helps you find listening devices and the IR window helps you find night vision cameras.
The inconvenients: Not intended to detect lower level EMF signals.
Buy: KORKUAN RF detector
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