In this age of smart screens, some people still prefer listening to shows, events, and news on a radio.
If you are one of those people who sometimes take a break from the busy world and spends a simpler life in the wilderness for a few days or weeks, then you might want to replace your smartphone with the best portable radio.
Whereas, some still prefer using a radio device to keep the inner nostalgic emotions alive—no matter wherever they are.
Regardless of the reason, here are the seven portable radio recommendations that do more than just picking up radio signals.
How Does a Portable Radio Work?
Radios are of two types; AM – Amplitude Modulation and FM – Frequency Modulation. AM radio was first introduced in the late 19th century while the FM radio started its broadcasting in the late 1930s. They work differently than each other.
An AM radio station transmits a signal at a constant frequency. Later on, the amplitude of the signal is altered by changing the signal’s strength. That’s why people address it as amplitude modulation – AM radio. When the amplitude changes, it reflects the audio data that is being sent from the radio station.
You need to tune the radio antenna to the airwaves frequency to be able to catch the signal and hear events, news, and shows that the radio station is broadcasting.
Many radio stations, radio amateurs, and aviation still prefer using AM signals because the receiver’s radio can receive and hear multiple signals on the same frequency, and it can be picked even when the strength is pretty low.
On the flip side, FM radios transmit signals and sound using constant amplitude and fluctuations to the carrier’s frequency. It’s a more advanced way of transmitting radio waves that we catch in our radio sets and listen to the radio shows.
Most FM radio channels are stereo, whereas AM channels are mono, which is the reason why FM sounds a lot better than AM. FM radios can’t pick multiple signals on the same frequency. However, there is quite less interference than AM radios.
AM radios are still run by strictly following the analog technology. Whereas, FM uses a more advanced technology that transmits digital data while altering the carrier’s frequency within a limited range of values. Analog TVs used FM signals to transmit the sound as well.
Best Portable Radio AM FM
In this section, I have reviewed 2 portable radios that cost way less while offering great features for the money. If you are looking for a pocket-size portable radio to use while on the move, you may pick one that suits your needs.
1. Vondior AM FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio
This portable radio can be your ideal companion if you are planning for a camping trip or long hike, where you want less distraction from your smartphone. Due to its portable and compact size, it can easily fit your pocket or a small compartment in your backpack without taking much space.
To be able to enjoy seamless broadcasting, all you need is 2 AA batteries to turn the radio on. You don’t have to worry about its battery life, unlike your smartphone and tablet. The batteries will last you about more than a week, so it sounds just perfect for taking it to a one week trip without taking additional batteries.
No lazy scrolling and no annoying notifications when you have this one with you. If you prefer taking a break from the world and isolate yourself for a few days to refresh your mind, you will find that this radio makes you feel nostalgic and takes you back to the vintage era where everything was far less complicated.
The sound of this radio is quite loud. It comes with a large built-in speaker that is loud enough to reach each corner of a room. You, along with your buddies, can listen to your favorite shows and baseball game without any interruption.
You can tune standard FM band from 88-108 MHz, and for AM radio channels, it’s 520-1710 kHz. The FM radio will tune to the local radio channels, whereas, its AM receiving signal can tune to international radio channels that broadcast in AM amplitude.
The radio comes in two colors; black and silver. You can pick one according to your taste. Its tuning dial makes it easy and convenient to tune between radio channels. With the antenna, you can pick both FM and AM radio signals with great strength. Of course, you can plug your headphone to this sleek looking radio as well.
- Picks up both FM and AM radio signals
- Pocket size
- Loud built-in speaker
- Headphone jack
- Two AA batteries last for weeks
- Questionable build quality
- Loses signals while moving with it
2. PowerBear Portable Radio AM/FM
Make your radio listening habit hassle-free and more convenient with this portable radio from PowerBear. Although it’s compact, the radio comes with features that are enough for you to enjoy seamless broadcasting.
No unnecessary scrolling, notifications, and interruptions while listening to your favorite radio show or baseball game.
You can tune both AM and FM radio channels on the go. With its long-range reception power, the radio can get you access to the local FM channels between 80-108 MHz, as well as, international AM channels between 530-1600 kHz.
There is an AM/FM switch that allows you to quickly turn between different modes. In addition to that, with the easy tuning dial, you can tune your desired radio frequency with precision.
It also features a long-range antenna that will connect you to the local stations even while you are moving. You will never miss a second of sports coverage.
Even though it’s a portable radio, that doesn’t mean you have to compromise with the sound quality. There is a built-in high-quality speaker that creates 34 dB of sound that makes you easily listen to what is on the radio in a large room.
Apart from the speaker, you can plug-in your headphone in its headphone port and quietly listen to the radio without bothering others around you.
Powered by 2 AA batteries, this radio device will not run out of power within a few days. Insert 2 batteries and forget about getting another pair for the next few weeks.
The radio feels quite sturdy in hand compared to the conventional ones. All the materials are of good quality that assures you about its durability as well.
- Headphone port
- High power speaker
- Wide reception range
- Lightweight, compact, and sturdy design
- Difficult to read channel indicator bar
- Loses power while moving
Best Portable VHF Radio
Mariners use very high-frequency radio to be able to receive and transmit radio signals. If you are looking for a radio device of this kind, this list got one for you.
3. Uniden MHS75 Waterproof Handheld 2-Way VHF Marine Radio
Typical radio devices struggle to receive clear signals even when the antenna is at its peak. This handheld marine radio is perfect for those who spend days or weeks in the sea and want to stay connected with international radio stations and marine channels.
The radio got a rugged build that boasts toughness. As it’s made for marine use, you have no worry about getting it wet; it can take waves, splash, gusty spray, and whatever the sea throws at it. The full submersible waterproof construction allows it to submerge underwater at five feet up to 30 minutes.
With this device, you are allowed to do land-based (GMRS) and marine-based (VHF) two-way communication between individuals with great clarity. With these features and the signal strength, this is also the best portable VHF radio with great convenience.
For effective communication and catching radio signals, you can switch between watts while saving battery life. For most situations, its 1-watt transmission power will suffice your needs. If you need to tune stations from far away, consider using 2.5 or 5-watt transmission to boost receiving signals.
When it’s about communicating between mariners of multiple ships or boats, you can boost transmission power to send and receive a better response. This feature makes it the best portable marine radio within this price range.
You can tune all USA, Canada, and international channels without much struggle. There is a squelch knob that can decrease channel noise. The LCD display comes very handily to control radio and communicating settings. There is a loudspeaker along with a microphone for receiving and sending signals.
The antenna is powerful enough to grab radio frequency, and it’s more capable of doing things compared to the antenna you see in conventional radios. It comes with a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, clip-on DC car charger, and other accessories for convenience.
- Very strong at sending and receiving signals
- Submersible construction
- High transmission power
- Two-way communicator
- Long battery life
- Made of plastic
- Flimsy clip
- You need to get a separate wall charger
Best Portable HAM Radio
Ham radio is a great device that allows people to listen to radio channels and communicate with each other. It doesn’t require any internet or cellular connection. If you are interested in getting one of those, there is one recommendation for you.
4. Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radio 136-174/400-480 MHz Dual-Band Transceiver
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This radio transceiver device allows you to communicate between individuals within a specific range, and you can also use it to broadcast your messages and receive broadcasted ones by others. In addition to that, its FM radio band allows you to listen to radio channels for convenience.
The design of this radio is pretty compact and feels great on hand. Although it’s a bit bulky, pretty much all Ham radios come in such shape. You will find it sturdy enough to withstand any abuse.
When all communication goes down, this Ham radio can still get you emergency broadcasted updates across the states and borders, which makes it the best portable radio for emergencies. You can also listen to the astronauts in the space station as well.
Its 440 MHz frequency effectively covers up to 2 meters of distance for you to communicate between people having a radio receiver in their hands.
The radio features both a frequency and channel mode. Its VHF frequency range is between 136 to 174 MHz, and the UHF frequency is about 400 to 520 MHz. You can also listen to FM radio channels between 65 to 108 MHz of frequency.
When it comes to the number of channels that it supports, you can tune to 128 channels. Likewise, most advanced radios, this one supports both up to CTCSS and CDCSS functions, which you can enable and disable as per the situations require.
The voice-operated transmission feature of this device makes it easier to use. Also, the LCD display got different LED lights for receiving and transmitting convenience. You can toggle the radio between broadband and narrowband as well.
Its battery saving mode allows you to extend its battery backup. You can conveniently select the frequency steps from high to low to be able to precisely and quickly tune different frequencies. The RF power can be set at high or low watts.
- Dual-band frequency
- Frequency and channel switching mode
- FM radio
- High signal sending and receiving transmitter
- Battery saver, keypad lock, and dual-LED display
- Charger isn’t of good quality
- Cheap external mic
Best Portable Camping Radio
Taking a radio on camping might not sound appealing unless you know about special radios that are built for camping purposes only. Other than just playing radio shows, such a specialized radio can enhance your outdoor experiences.
5. Kaito KA340 5-Way Powered Rechargeable LED Camping Lanterns and Radio
Packed with features that make the radio very useful at campsites, you will find this radio to be very useful for different outdoor situations.
If you, along with your buddies, want a pause to regular urban life and go camping, a few things that you will need are a flashlight, power bank, and weather alert radio, etc. The radio comes with all these to keep your backpacking simpler.
There are 8 super bright LED lights that pretty much make it a lantern to use at the campsite. In addition to that, it features a 5-LED flashlight that will come very useful in dark and low lighting conditions while camping. You guys can sit around this lantern and stay awake all night talking or discussing many things.
The radio will easily tune to local FM radio stations without much struggle. More so, you can also listen to AM channels that are farthest away from your current location. It also allows you to get access to shortwave stations around the globe.
To keep you updated with the weather report, this radio features a high sensitivity NOAA weather band that allows you to listen to all 7 NOAA national weather channels with great convenience.
It automatically activates the weather alert during emergencies such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, and other warnings. The weather radio functions make it the best portable NOAA weather alert radio that you can buy without spending much.
This radio packs a 2300mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery that lasts about up to 20 hours if you play radio, 16 hours if you use it for lighting. It can fully charge your smartphone with the standard 5V USB output. You can also insert your microSD memory card and use it as a Bluetooth wireless speaker for convenience.
- NOAA weather channels with alert function
- FM, AM, SW channels
- Super bright lantern and flashlight
- MicroSD card reader
- Wireless Bluetooth speaker
- USB power bank
- Long-lasting battery
- Hard to tune shortwave stations
- No headphone jack
Best Portable Emergency Radio
Portable radios come with a handful of features other than just tuning to radio channels. If you are interested in buying one, be sure to check these two models.
6. Midland – ER310 Emergency Crank Weather AM/FM Radio
This sturdy portable radio comes with features that can provide you some essential supports during emergencies. It will keep you updated with weather conditions and alert you about civil emergencies based on the information broadcasted from the National Weather Service.
Power outages are one of the common scenarios during emergencies. To handle such situations, this crank radio comes with an LED flashlight with SOS lighting signals to make you easily navigate in low lighting conditions. You can also use the bright Cree LED 130 Lumens light to signal for help.
There are three ways to recharge the battery of this radio; the solar panel that allows you to recharge it with sunlight, hand crank when the power source isn’t accessible, and 6 AA batteries that are widely available no matter wherever you go.
You can conveniently recharge its 2600 mAh battery using its USB charging port. Once the battery is fully charged, it will last up to 32 hours, depending on the usage.
The radio will automatically scan weather channels and lock onto the one with the strongest signal to provide you weather updates. You will also get an alarm for severe weather alerts in your area, which makes it the best portable emergency radio.
Along with regular AM and FM functionality, you can use it as a portable power bank to recharge your smartphone. It also features an ultrasonic dog whistle button that helps the rescue team to locate individuals. There is a headphone jack and comfortable to hold handle for convenience.
- Weather station scanner with alarm
- Sturdy housing
- 3 convenient power sources
- Bright flashlight with multiple functions
- USB input and output port
- Dog whistle to aid rescue
- Battery life indicator
- Very slow solar charging
- Low AM reception
- Cannot save radio channels
7. OMEW Emergency Weather Portable Radio with AM/FM
You would expect the best portable radio for emergencies to be water-resistant and have durable housing to withstand severe drops with ease, along with a strong receptor to scan and tune-up weather broadcasting channels.
Thankfully, this portable radio from OMEW checks all aspects of being such a device that you can count on.
Apart from regular AM and FM channels, this radio is capable of tuning to 7 NOAA weather channels and gives you automatic weather alerts about nearby hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc. The alert will help you to prepare for the bad weather as soon as possible.
It features an SOS alarm that makes the infrared rays to glow. This can also lock a position for the rescue team to easily find individuals.
There are four different ways to charge this radio during power outages. You can use its in-built solar panel, hand crank, AAA batteries, and USB cable to charge it. Its hand-cranking feature comes handy when no option is available; several minutes of cranking can allow you to use the radio conveniently.
The radio is itself a 2000 mAh power bank that you can use to charge your smartphone and other devices. However, don’t consider it as a typical power bank to charge your device fully. Only use the charging feature to provide the least amount of charge, which will be enough during emergencies.
It features 2 flashlights and an LED lamp that provides enough brightness for you to navigate in dark and low-lights. The LED lights behind the solar panel can be used as a reading light inside a tent. There is a mini waterproof flashlight that you can remove from the radio and use it outdoors.
- Durable, water-resistant construction
- Can receive NOAA weather channels
- Weather alert
- 2 flashlights and one LED reading lamp
- 4 ways to recharge the battery
- USB input and output charging ports
- Not the loudest radio for the price
What to Look for in a Portable Radio?
After going through the best portable radio reviews, you need to predetermine some key features that you want to have in your portable radio unit. As portable radios come with a handful of features, it’s possible that you pick the one with lots of features, but lacks one or two essential features.
This review guide will help you to prioritize the specs and features that will meet your needs.
There are radios of different sizes that are designed for different purposes. For example, the pocket radios are for one who is going for hiking so that the radio can fit into their pocket easily. On the other hand, for home use and camping purposes, people prefer a bit bigger radio that provides good sound quality.
Having the best portable radio player allows you to take it to pretty much everywhere you want. You can easily keep the radio inside your pocket, backpack’s small compartment, and plug in a headphone to enjoy favorite radio shows, events, sports coverage, etc. Smaller radios are the most cheaper ones.
If you are looking for the best portable radio for camping, the size would be slightly bigger than the pocket-sized ones. In that case, make sure the radio comes with a carrying handle so that you can carry it around without much trouble.
Bigger radios come with more features and bigger speakers so that more people can hear what’s playing on the radio. Thus, these models cost higher than others.
Power Source and Battery
Portable radios have different power sources. You need to wisely pick one that goes with your requirements well and makes it easier to power the radio under different circumstances. Most portable radios are powered by batteries.
Smaller and portable radios are run by a couple of batteries that are enough to last for about a week or two. This is ideal if you are going on a backpacking trip. You can carry some extra batteries so that you don’t run out of them and not be able to turn on the radio.
There are other models that come with a power cord as well. You don’t have to solely rely on batteries if you get one of these models. When the batteries run out, you can plug in the radio to a nearby power source to be able to listen to it again.
Some of the best portable radio on the market come with multiple power source options so that you can turn on the radio wherever you want regardless of the situation.
Having rechargeable batteries will save your money from spending on batteries, while you have to depend on a power source to recharge it. I have reviewed a couple of radios that come with 3 to 4 power sources that allow you to charge the battery using a solar panel, hand crank, power outlet, or even use additional AAA batteries.
No matter how expensive the radio is, if the sound quality isn’t good, you will not be able to enjoy shows, news, or other broadcasts. Therefore, make sure the radio you are about to get has a good quality speaker that sounds well.
Smaller radios mostly feature a mono speaker that has only one speaker channel. Stereo speakers come with two channels that deliver better quality sound.
If the radio is for camping purposes, make sure it has a big speaker that can create a louder sound so that all your camping-mates can hear it. If you mostly prefer listening to radio shows using your headphones, speakers will not influence your buying decision that much.
Ease of Use
If you like the simplicity of radios, go for one that is easier to use. Radios with fewer features have fewer buttons, thus, making it easier for the user to control. There will be a power ON-OFF button, AM/FM switch, tuning scroll or dial, vol up and down, etc. to keep it simple and straightforward.
Many radios feature an LCD screen that shows various information such as the clock, battery indicator, frequency, volume level, etc. Keep in mind that an LCD display will consume a considerable amount of power from the batteries.
Feature dense radios come with lots of buttons that make it a bit complicated to use the radio. VHF and Ham radios come with lots of features and buttons. These radios are for advanced users.
If you are interested in learning how to program complicated radios, want to listen to some specific stations, and want to communicate with others and broadcast your message, then getting more advanced radio will be a good choice.
Portable radios generally receive more punishment than regular home use radios. This is because you take a portable radio pretty much everywhere you go, whether it’s for hiking, camping, and other activities.
Therefore, the overall build quality of the radio should be sturdy enough to withstand abuses.
Durable radios come with heavier and bigger housing that increases the weight and takes up more space in the backpack. So, do consider this factor as well. Rugged radios have shockproof and water-resistant construction. If you regularly have to go to places such as construction sites, campsite, consider getting a durable one.
Weather or Emergency Radio
There are some specialized radio devices that can tune-up to all 7 NOAA weather broadcasting channels. These radios are very useful during emergencies. You will get an alarm sound whenever there is an emergency alert imposed in your area.
Whether you buy a pocket-size or bigger radio, it’s always good to have a headphone jack on the radio so that you can listen to it while not bothering others around you. Most portable ones come with a headphone jack, while not all the larger models have this feature.
Consider the fact that, if you listen to your pocket size radio through headphones outdoors, wind can affect the sound waves. Therefore, having a portable radio with a decent speaker makes it a lot easier to listen to the radio during windy days.
Having the preset feature allows you to save your favorite radio stations so that you don’t have to tune all the way up to a specific frequency every time you want to listen to that channel. You can easily listen to your desired channel by pressing buttons a few times.
But if it has 20 different stations as preset, it will be time-consuming to switch to the right one, especially if the radio has too many buttons. So, to keep it simpler, go for a radio that offers a low number of presets so that you can access to your favorite station with one or two button presses.
Note that if you use the radio for hiking or you are constantly moving, then all the presets will be useless to you because tuning-up to the same frequency will not get you clear signals in different locations.
A stronger antenna will get a wide range of signals and pick clear stations that will have good sound as well. You don’t have to always extend the antenna to its full size; the best portable radio player will pick strong signals under all circumstances.
If you are up to the best portable radio for reception, it would be nice to have a radio with a telescopic antenna. Its extra edge will get you pretty stable radio coverage and provide better sound quality.
The best portable AM FM radio will bring some additional features that will enhance your radio using experience.
- USB Port
Some portable radios can recharge your smartphone from its own rechargeable battery. It comes handy during emergencies when your smartphone runs out of battery, and you need a power bank to charge it to a minimum level to be able to make phone calls and texts.
The best portable emergency radio will come with a bright LED flashlight that you can use to navigate in dark and low lighting conditions. Some models even offer SOS and strobe lighting that come very useful in emergencies.
- LCD Display
Bigger radios come with an LCD display that shows different information. You can precisely tune to a radio station seeing the frequency. Also, you can set the alarm on such radios for convenience.
- Auto Station Scanning
This feature allows your radio to scan and tune into frequencies that are currently available and more clear than other stations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are radio waves dangerous?
Ans: Radio waves have a pretty low electromagnetic spectrum and emit non-ionizing radiation that doesn’t interact with human bodies. So, these waves don’t affect our DNA or trigger any mutations.
Q: Why do I need a radio whereas I have a smartphone FM radio or car radio?
Ans: Your smartphone requires an internet connection to be able to tune radio stations. But, a radio device doesn’t need an internet connection at all. Also, the clarity is better in radios. Car radios, on the other hand, lacks portability, and you can only listen to it when you are in the car.
Q: How long do batteries last in a portable radio?
Ans: Typical batteries will provide you about 14 to 16 hours of playback.
Q: How can I get better radio reception in my house?
Ans: You can try an outdoor antenna and connect it through FM splitter to be able to get better radio reception.
Q: Is FM better than DAB?
Ans: FM sounds a lot clearer if there is good reception from where you are tuning. However, DAB radio can get more reliable signals, more stations under different circumstances.
Getting the best portable radio is one of the ways that you can ditch your smartphone and get less distraction. If you are planning for an outdoor tour, the radio will add more to your overall touring experience while giving you a nostalgic feeling.