If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.
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. 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 the best radio frequency detector, it’s important to first familiarize yourself with the kinds of signals you might encounter. EMF and RF signals are often 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. The best 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 of the best RF detectors can detect lower-level EMFs, which can be useful if you work in electrical engineering. For example, an RF detector may help you pinpoint issues related to faulty wiring.
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, making them ideal for travel to vacation homes or when helping a friend with a DIY project in their home.
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.
2. Poniie (RF) Digital Multi-Fields EMF Meter
FEATURES RECHARGEABLE BATTERY
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.
3. ERICKHILL EMF Meter
BEST BUDGET BUY
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.
4. KORKUAN RF Detector
BEST FOR SECURITY
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.
5. Ebarsenc Anti Spy Detector
For the best RF detector that looks more like a pen, we like the discrete design of the Ebarsenc Anti Spy Detector. The small, compact unit has a lithium battery that can power the unit for 25 hours of continuous use or up to seven days on standby. The Ebarsenc can detect hidden cameras in a 10 square meter zone. Users can set the Ebarsenc to a vibrate mode and it has a rotary signal sensitivity switch. For added convenience, the bottom of the unit, which is shorter than a smartphone, has a flashlight.
6. GQ EMF-390 Multi-Field Electromagnetic Radiation 3-in-1 Reader
BEST SAFETY FEATURES
The GQ has several sensitivity settings that make it simple for users to identify and test a variety of radio waves, including microwaves, power lines, smartphones, and more. The GQ, which detects a 5G network signal and RF up to 10Ghz, can alert users if the waves around them are emitting an unsafe level of power and a built-in RF spectrum analyzer provides RF monitoring in real-time. The GQ’s screen includes room for the date and time, battery level, graphs, peak readings, main readings, data type, and suggestions of the possible power source.
GQ EMF-390 Multi-Field Electromagnetic Radiation 3-in-1 Reader
7. EMFields Acoustimeter
For an EMF reader that is extra sensitive to frequencies, the EMFields Acoustimeter is worth the splurge. The compact handheld detector has a range of 200 MHz to 8 GHz, one of the widest available for personal use. Readings are displayed on the units’ LCD screen, which provides the most accurate information, and its LED lights, which will light up quickly to give users a broad range of waves present. The Acoustimeter can measure electromagnetic radiation from all the usual suspects, including TV towers, microwaves, WiFi and more. A speaker and a headphone jack are also included, as well as a carrying case.