Whether you realize it or not, you’re surrounded by an invisible force at nearly all times. No, we’re not talking about something out 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 is what allows a compass to work. And modern technologies ranging from the electrical current powering your appliances to microwave ovens to phones all generate some kind of electromagnetic radiation.
What To Consider Before Buying a Radio Frequency Detector
When shopping for a radio frequency detector, it’s important to first familiarize yourself with the kinds of signals you might encounter. EMF and RF signals are referred to together, but they’re typically distinguished by the strength of frequency. EMFs occur at a lower level — these will be found in electrical wiring carrying AC currents, such as the wiring in your walls and the cords powering your appliances. Any devices that are used for transmitting data, such as radio receivers, TV antennas, WiFi routers and cell phones will use radio waves.
Both kinds of frequencies can be detected with a handheld detector. RF detectors can be used in countersurveillance. If a room has been bugged with surveillance equipment such as recorders or cameras, an RF detector can help find them. This may sound like a farfetched issue, but there have been numerous privacy concerns raised related to private vacation rentals, where hosts spy on tenants.
Some RF detectors can detect lower-level EMFs, which can be useful if you work in electrical engineering. You can help pinpoint issues related to faulty wiring, for example.
How We Chose the Best Radio Frequency Detectors
Since there are multiple kinds of signals you can encounter, we selected some detectors that are capable of identifying both RF and lower level EMF signals. We focused on intuitive options that the average person can use, and our picks are small enough to pack into a bag and travel with.
1. TriField Electric Field Radio Frequency Meter
This handy tool can help detect multiple kinds of electromagnetic signals. Adjustable dials allow you to track AC magnetic, AC electric, as well as radio frequencies and microwave frequencies. A conveniently marked knob on the device allows you to scan for the kinds 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 allow you to find hotspots. This option uses an alkaline battery, rather than the rechargeable ones used by the GQ, ERICKHILL and other detectors on this list.
Pros: Allows you to detect various kinds of EMFs. The indicator bar on the intuitive digital display makes it easy to locate hotspots.
Cons: Not as accurate for RF as for other EMFs. Bulkier than some other options on this list.
TriField Electric Field Radio Frequency Meter
2. GQ RF Meter
This meter from GQ is designed to measure three different kinds of frequencies, including electromagnetic fields (EMF), extremely low-frequency fields (ELF) and radio frequencies (RF). The convenient backlit display shows all three frequencies on the same screen, allowing you to get a quick readout. The screen has an automatic-rotation feature, similar to a cellphone display, which turns the screen when the device is rotated. The device is highly compact, and the lanyard makes it easy to take on the go.
Pros: Detects ELF, EMF and RF signals and displays them on a convenient three-way digital display that automatically rotates depending on the device’s position. Highly compact design.
Cons: This device is not as effective at picking up weaker signals, and works best close to strong signals.
GQ RF Meter
3. ERICKHILL EMF Meter
If you’re specifically looking to detect lower-level signals, then this EMF meter from Erickhill is an affordable option worth considering. Unlike the GQ and Trifield options, this detector does not scan for radio frequencies, but it does scan for electric and magnetic fields. Like the GQ RF meter, this meter uses a rechargeable battery.
Pros: Convenient rechargeable battery. Economical option. Intuitive design.
Cons: While it does scan for EMF signals, it doesn’t do RF.
ERICKHILL EMF Meter
4. Poniie (RF) Digital Multi-Fields EMF Meter
This economical option from Poniie scans 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 a reading at a glance.
Pros: Detects RF and EMF signals. Convenient rechargeable battery. Economical option.
Cons: Some premium options may be more reliable.
Poniie (RF) Digital Multi-Fields EMF Meter
5. KORKUAN RF Detector
If you’re specifically worried 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 find signals that can come from a variety of sources. The attached probe makes it easier to pinpoint the location of signals, and a light-up display on the unit indicates the strength of signals. The infrared window is designed to help you locate any hidden cameras as well.
Pros: Handy device for finding invasive devices. RF detector allows you to find listening devices, and IR window helps you find night vision cameras.
Cons: Not intended to detect lower-level EMF signals.