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Best AM FM Portable Radios of 2024

No matter how many music-streaming devices flood the market, AM/FM Radios have a special place in many of our lives.

People like us love small habits like listening to the FM/AM radio every day or once in a while. If you are one of them, then check out the list of the best AM FM portable radios that will give you the best value for your money.

To help you pick the best AM/FM radio we reviewed over 27 AM/FM portable radios for more than 8 weeks. Here are our recommendations for you to buy the perfect portable AM FM radio with great sound quality.

Best AM FM Portable Radios

The Sangean HDR 16 is probably the best portable AM/FM radio out there. It comes with a dual-band antenna, dual stereo speakers, and a great digital display. Having features is one thing, but having them work flawlessly is what makes the Sangean HDR 16 my personal favorite compared to all other portable radios.

Anyway, there is no one size that fits all so I have also hand-picked the 13 other best AM/FM portable radios worth buying.

Without further Ado, let’s look in-depth in to the best rated AM/FM Portable radios to buy.

1. Sangean HDR-16 Portable Radio – The Overall Winner

Sangean HDR 16 AM FM Portable Radio
Radio NameSangean HDR-16
Power SourceDC 7.5V/0.8A (adapter included),
4 x 1.5v (C batteries)
Supported Radio BandsAM, FM, HD Radio, RDS/RBDS
Speakers2 x 8 ohms speakers with 2W total o/p power
Frequency RangeAM: 520-1710 kHz
FM: 64-108 MHz

Sangean HDR-16 Portable AM FM Radio Review

With over 40 years of existence, Sangean needs no introduction to the radio industry. Offering the right balance between affordability and functionality factors, the Sangean HDR-16 is solid proof of Sangean’s craftsmanship. 

Sangean HDR-16 is one of the classic AM/FM portable radios we have tested. Surprisingly, it is also the most affordable portable radio to enter my favorites list.

Sangean HDR-16’s built quality, the AM/FM signal reception, the sound quality and reliability of the Sangean brand and the price point of the radios makes this my best AM/FM portable radio pick.

  • Alarm Clock
  • Headphone output
  • Decent reception quality
  • Portability
  • Affordable AM FM Portable Radio
  • Auxiliary Audio Input
  • Program Associated Data (PAD) Service
  • Glossy finish attracts fingerprints.

Overall Rating – 4.85/5

  • Reliability – 4.9/5
  • Reception – 4.85/5
  • Connectivity – 4.8/5
  • Audio Quality – 4.8/5
  • Value For Money – 5/5

Sangean HDR-16 Unboxing, Package Contents & Overview

The device came inside a nice and clean white-colored carton with its image and branding printed on top. Different functions and features the device offers are printed toward the back of the box. Moving further, we have a 7.5 volts power adapter, a warranty card, a user manual, and the actual radio itself.

Speaking of the initial impressions, the high gloss finish on the front caught my eye. However, my excitement didn’t last long as the surface was a fingerprint magnet, and all I could see were my fingerprints. It has a bland design with a backlit 16-character, 2-line display in the center accompanied by a horde of buttons to navigate through the device. Like most other portable radios, the Sangean HDR-16 has two stereo speakers on either side of the screen.

A sturdy, foldable handle is on top to help you carry the device easily. The left face of the device hosts an AUX in, REC Out is used to record the live radio, an earphone jack, and a DC socket to power the device.

Sangean HDR-16 Functions, Specifications, and Ease of Use

Setting up the device, and getting it running for the first time, is pretty simple. You can choose to power the device using the included power adapter or 4 x 1.5 volts C-type batteries. I had mixed expectations about the battery backup on this device. However, surprisingly, the batteries lasted much longer than I expected.

Though the 2-line display initially sounded like a poor addition, I started cherishing it as I’m used to the radio. It is very intuitive and does its job by showing everything happening on it.

You can connect this radio as an external speaker to your computer or laptop and make the best of its stereo sound, thanks to the inclusion of AUX IN port. Surprisingly, the device lets you record the live radio using the REC Out port. Not to mention the inclusion of a headphone jack if you are into connecting external headphones to your device and listening to live radio on the go.

Sangean HDR-16 Radio Reception, Performance, and Sound Quality

Like every portable FM radio tested on this blog, the Sangean HDR-16 did pretty well in both FM and AM (mediumwave) reception. However, we couldn’t properly test the HD reception performance as there were no local HD stations in my area. Nevertheless, I came across some positive reviews about the HD performance of the Sangean HDR-16 on major eCommerce platforms.

Radio Data System (RDS) feature seems to be working fine for me, while some reviews on the internet complained about a slight delay in displaying RDS information.

Sangean HDR-16 Verdict

If you are looking for the best AM FM portable radio, the Sangean HDR-16 can be your go-to option. Thanks to the fair pricing that gives us the big bang to our bucks, large display, excellent audio and signal reception makes this radio our favourite suggestion and #1 pick. It also doubles up as an alarm clock radio.


2. Kaito KA500 – Best Budget Portable AM/FM Radio

 Kaito KA500 portable radio for indoors

Kaito-KA500 Technical Specifications

Product NameKaito KA500
Power SourceCorded-Electric, Solar, Battery
Radio Bands Supported2-Band
SpeakerDual Stereo
AM Range530 – 1710 KHz
FM88 – 108 MHz

Kaito KA500 Portable Radio Review

Kaito KA500 is one of the finest AM FM portable radios in the market today. Sturdy, weather-resistant, and funky-looking, the Kaito KA500 appears to be a piece of a gadget designed for some superhero flick.

With Multiple Power Sources, Kaito KA500 Is Good for Both Indoor and Outdoor Use. Kaito KA500 is our top pick and probably one of the best AM FM portable radio.

Kaito KA500 not only handles AM, FM, and shortwave frequencies but also comes with preprogrammed NOAA channels to alert you of bad weather conditions. It is built to last. With weatherproofing, this sturdy radio can be a great companion for your outdoor adventures.

In case you are wondering about the options you get to power up the radio, there are multiple that you can select from. The best part is the hand crank generator that you can spin to fire up the radio. This particular feature makes it a perfect outdoor companion.

Additionally, it also comes with the options of using AA batteries, mini USB input, and a built-in battery pack that you can recharge. It also has solar panels, and you can use the regular wall outlet to power this thing up. However, do keep in mind that you will have to purchase the AC adapter separately if you want to hook up the radio to a wall outlet.

Performance-wise, the Kaito KA500 is not going to give you deafening sound (if that is what you are looking for), but its sound production is excellent even at its maximum volume capacity.

As for the features, Kaito packs in a lot of them. For instance, you will get a LED flashlight, LED light, and even a beacon light. It has a telescopic antenna, and you can use it to charge your mobile phone or your GPS device when you are stranded somewhere.

  • Weather-resistant and sturdy build.
  • 7 preprogrammed weather channels.
  • Doubles up as a phone or GPS device chargers.
  • Has six different power source options.
  • The hand crank generator makes it perfect for outdoor usage.
  • It includes a beacon light.
  • Great sound quality.
  • Design

3. Sangean PR-D7 – AM/FM Digital Rechargeable Radio

Kaito-KA500 Technical Specifications

Product NameSangean PR-D7
Power SourceBattery & DC
Radio Bands Supported2-Band
Weight575 Grams
AM BandYes
FM BandYes

Sangean PR-D7 Portable Radio Review

Yet another beauty from Sangean, the PR-D7, has some interesting technology stuffed in it. It comes with PLL synthesized tuning system, which will prevent the radio signal from fading away. What does that mean? It means that the signal always remains clear.

It comes with 5 presets for AM and another 5 for FM. If you are looking for NOAA reception, that’s not happening. The radio comes with a cleverly arranged button and a big volume dial that allows for easy operation.

It also packs is what Sangean calls the Humane Wake System. If you are using the radio as an alarm (which you can), it will not start blaring at its peak volume, making you feel like smashing it into microscopic pieces.

It also has a nice backlit screen that shines orange and gives a clear view of what’s on the screen. The sound that this radio produces is not stellar, but yes, it is quite nice for its size.

You will need 6 AA batteries to operate this thing, but if you don’t want to buy batteries, you can always use the included AC adapter to hook it up the wall outlet. Yes, yes, you get the AC adapter with the radio. That’s quite unnatural, but true in this case.

  • It has a sleek design.
  • It comes with PLL synthesized tuning system.
  • It has a Humane Wake System.
  • It includes a universal voltage AC adapter.
  • It produces a clear sound.
  • It is perfect for indoor usage.
  • It doesn’t include batteries.
  • It doesn’t have the rugged build quality necessary for rough outdoor usage.
  • It is not very loud.

4. Sangean LB-100 – Exceptional Sound Quality

Sangean LB-100 best portable fm Radio

Sangean LB-100 Radio Technical Specifications

Radio NameSangean LB-100
Power SourceCorded-Electric, Solar, Battery
Bands Supported2-Band
SpeakerDual Stereo
AM Range520 – 1710 (10k), 522 – 1629 (9k) Khz
FM87.5 – 108 MHz

Sangean LB-100 AM/FM Portable Radio Review

If you are ready for a compromise on the easy-portability side in favor of big sound, the Sangean LB-100 is a great option for you. The radio has been designed for noisy job sites, but it is a perfect option even for indoors, poolside parties, or a picnic somewhere far from home.

The best part of the Sangean LB-100 portable radio is that it comes with a protective roll cage that keeps the radio safe from unexpected shocks. With a large LCD display, easy-to-use buttons, the Sangean LB-100 is designed for sound. The big 5” speaker produces clear sound. However, if you crank up the volume to maximum, there will be distortions and crackling.

Of course, since the radio is meant for job sites, it is a bit heavy, weighing 6.9 lbs. It can play both AM and FM bands. The 9’ cable that comes attached with the radio will allow you to power up the unit using a wall outlet.

If you are using the radio outdoor, make sure that you have four C-type batteries. No other battery will work with radio. Since it is a job site radio, it is rain and dust-proof, making it a great companion for outdoor use.

The big, bold dial is what you need to use for selecting a radio channel. It comes complete with the telescopic antenna to improve the reception. There are only two ways to power up this thing. You can use a wall outlet, or you can stuff in four AA batteries.

  • It is very sturdy with rain- and dust-resistance features.
  • It comes with a protective roll cage.
  • The easy-carry handle allows easy portability despite its weight.
  • It can run on a wall outlet.
  • It is Bluetooth-enabled that will allow you to stream your favorite music from your phone or MP3 player.
  • It doesn’t support NOAA channels.
  • The antenna is a bit short.
  • You need to buy the batteries separately.
  • There might be sound distortion at the highest volume setting.

5. Panasonic RF-2400D – Analog Design & best for Indoors

Panasonic RF-2400D – Good Old Analog portable radio

Panasonic RF-2400D AM & FM Radio Review

If a retro design steals your heart, Panasonic knows how to press the right nerve! The company ditched the modern design and decided to go for a good old-fashioned design with a manual flip-switch to jump between AM and FM.

It is designed for indoor usage, so you should not be expecting it to come with weatherproofing. To complete its ancient design, Panasonic threw in a nice carry handle that you can use for carrying around your radio at home.

The speakers are tiny and great for bedside or on-desk usage. Don’t even think of using it as a boombox at some pool party or a picnic gathering. It is for personal use. So, keep it that way.

  • A simple old-school design.
  • It has an analog function that reminds of the good old days.
  • It is highly portable.
  • It has two power options.
  • It is perfect for indoor usage in silent surroundings.
  • It doesn’t include the batteries.
  • It doesn’t have NOAA weather channels.

6. Running Snail MD-088s – Great for Outdoors

Running Snail MD-088s Technical Specifications

Radio NameRunning Snail MD-088s
Power SourceCorded-Electric, Solar, Battery, Hand Crank
Bands Supported7-Band

Running Snail MD-088s AM FM Portable Radio Review

If you are not taken aback by a silly-looking radio, the Running Snail MD-088s is a great option that you can settle for. This radio comes with solar charging capabilities in addition to a hand crank generator and rechargeable batteries.

Yes, there are three power options only! If you want it to work with a wall outlet, you will be disappointed. That’s not happening! However, I being a big advocate of hand crank generators, that feature, I believe, makes it the most important feature when you are looking for a portable radio for outdoor usage.

The MD-088s is built for outdoors, and it is capable of handling rough weather conditions pretty nicely. Besides offering the regular AM and FM radio bands, the radio also offers NOAA weather stations to tell you of any upcoming bad weather. This is especially helpful when you are venturing out.

The radio also doubles up as a charger for your phone and your GPS device. The manual hand crank generator particularly helpful if you are in a place where you don’t have access to a power source and light. The generator can help you keep the large LED light on.

  • It has three power sources.
  • It is rugged and built for rough weather conditions.
  • It covers NOAA weather stations.
  • It comes with a big LED light.
  • There is no option for using it with a wall outlet.
  • It has a silly design.

7. Sony ICFP26 – Best Compact AM/FM Radio

Sony ICFP26 – Compact AM/FM Radio

Sony ICFP26 AM/FM Pocket Radio Review

If you are a die-hard radio fan and prefer carrying your radio everywhere you go, the Sony ICFP26 has just the perfect gadget you need. A blend of the modern and the old, the Sony ICFP26 is a super lightweight radio.

In case you are thinking that this flimsy-looking radio will not deliver good sound quality, you are plain wrong! It definitely doesn’t produce a sound like a boombox, but with Sony’s sound tech working behind, the ICFP26 can generate crystal clear sound.

Just in case you do not like the idea of making using the speaker while using the subway or any other public transport, you can hook up your earphones to the radio and enjoy your favorite radio channels.

If poor reception is bugging you, you can go the old way of pulling out the telescopic antenna to improve the reception. There are LED indicators for AM and FM signal strengths, and even for the battery level.

The unit will run only on batteries. Well, that makes sense, because it is a pocket radio. So, do keep some spares handy!

Did I say that it is not meant for rough outdoor usage? It has a flimsy build quality. So, make sure that you are not taking it out for a hiking expedition. It is not even weatherproof. So, keep it away from the elements of nature! Don’t drop it either.

  • You can carry it in your pocket.
  • It has a very clear sound quality.
  • It comes with a headphone jack.
  • There is a carrying strap.
  • It includes a telescopic antenna for improving the reception.
  • Its build quality is not good.
  • It runs exclusively on batteries.
  • It doesn’t include the batteries in the package.

8. Sangean PR-D18BK – Excellent Design

Sangean PR-D18BK – It Is Neat!

Sangean PR-D18BK Portable FM AM Radio Review

If you are more of an outdoor guy with love for radios but hatred for bulky designs, the Sangean PR-D18BK is the perfect option you can have.

It is neat – design-wise! With a classic Sangean-style design, the PR-D18BK comes with a protective rubber bumper to protect the radio from accidental falls.

Complete with a nifty little backlit LCD screen, clearly arranged buttons, a telescopic antenna, Sangean PR-D18BK is a simple and straightforward radio. You don’t have to pick up the manual to operate it.

This little guy has 5 AM presets and 5 FM presets, and if you have used any AM/FM radio previously, you can set preset stations before your neighbor can even blink.

You can run this radio using both AA batteries or a wall outlet. However, if you want to hook it up to a wall outlet, you need to get an AC adapter separately. The adapter is not included in the package.

The sound quality is not astounding, but you can expect a clear sound.

  • It is a very portable radio designed for outdoor use.
  • It comes with a protective bumper.
  • It comes with a dual alarm setting that will allow you to use the radio as an alarm and a clock.
  • There are five different colors to choose from.
  • It can auto seek stations.
  • It doesn’t include an AC adapter.

9. Tecsun H501 AM/FM Shortwave Radio – Most Advanced

Product NameTecsun H501
Power SourceAC & Battery (3.7V / 2,600 mAh 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery)
Supported Radio BandsAM, FM, Longwave, Shortwave, SSB
SpeakersStereo 6 ohms/3 watt speakers with built-in class AB amplifier
Frequency RangeAM: 520-1710 kHz
FM: 64-108 MHz
Shortwave: 1711-29999 kHzLongwave: 100-519 kHz

Tecsun H501 Portable AM FM Radio Review

The Tecsun H501 is the best AM/FM portable radio money can buy today. It has everything, if not beyond what you would typically expect from a radio set today, while still not compromising on the portability factor.

The Tecsun H501 is my favorite, despite being costly. It is because the Tecsun H501 has shortwave, Bluetooth, and MicroSD features. This radio has all the features that you would need in a radio. On top of that, the Tecsun radios are reliable. I would highly recommend this radio to my family and friends.

  • Design and build quality
  • Sound quality
  • Decent signal reception
  • Ease of operation
  • Carrying Case
  • Bluetooth functionality
  • Can be used as an external speaker for PC
  • Dual battery mechanism
  • Alarm Clock
  • Standalone music playback using SD Card
  • Expensive
  • Large

Overall Rating – 4.9/10

  • Reliability – 4.9/5
  • AM/FM Reception – 4.9/5
  • Connectivity Features – 5/5
  • Audio Quality – 4.9/5
  • Value For Money – 4.8/5

Tecsun H501 Unboxing, Package Contents & Overview

The Tecsun H501 came neatly packed inside a black-themed cardboard box with a large picture of the device and its features printed on the top. I can’t appreciate the leather case that came along with the radio is nice and sturdy on the outside while being soft and protective on the inside.

Furthermore, I also loved the quick start guide that came along. It is vast and comes in multiple folds. There is a large amateur radio world map printed on the back of the quick start guide that I found very helpful.

You will also get the operational manual and other warranty-related documents in the box. Besides, there are two 3.7-volt lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, a pair of headsets, an AUX cable, and a USB charging cable.

Speaking of the actual device, the Tecsun H501 certainly feels like an improvement over their renowned PL-990 and PL-330 models. The device still has that old-school look with many buttons and an LCD at the center sandwiched by two speaker grills on either side. Just like its predecessors, the body of the H501 is also built with rigid plastic.

There are knobs each for volume, treble, bass, tuning, and fine-tuning. The quality of these knobs is also decent. I loved their ingenious one-click battery-swapping mechanism. You can store a spare battery inside the device and switch between them by sliding a switch at the back.

Functions, Specifications, and Ease of Use

Operating the Tecsun H501 is effortless and fun, thanks to the large LCD. The large screen is an advantage for older people with poor eyesight. The display shows more important information than just the large-frequency numbers. For example, it shows the mode of operation and the signal strength. If you are into external antennas like me, the Tecsun H501 is a no-brainer as it supports using external antennas on all its bands.

You can connect the device to a PC to use the Tecsun H501 AM/FM Portable Radio as an external speaker on your computer. Besides this, you can also use this device as a standalone music player by inserting a microSD card into the provision. Or, thanks to Bluetooth support, you can choose to play music from an outside source without wires.

The party didn’t end there. It can also be used as a 24-hour clock. You also have an alarm clock and snooze/sleep functionality.

Radio Reception, Performance, and Sound Quality

When we tested the Tecsun H501 in AM reception, the results were similar to its predecessors, and there wasn’t much improvement in signal reception quality. However, we did notice that the H501 is slightly more sensitive compared to the PL-990. Besides this, the Tecsun H501 portable radio has the edge over its previous models in active gain control (AGC).

The Tecsun H501 is unparalleled when it comes to shortwave reception. It is bliss to use this radio over most others, including the s-2000, Sangean ATS-909X2, and the Eton Elite 750 for shortwave reception. The Tecsun H501 did well in the cases of SSB, synchronous detection, and FM reception.

Speaking of the sound quality, most of you would love to listen to your favorite music on the H501 for its balanced sound profile. It has good bass for a portable music system. Furthermore, you also get dedicated controls for bass and treble.

Tecsun H501 Verdict

The Tecsun H501 is by far the best AM FM portable radio on the market, with everything that you might typically look for in a modern-day radio. It has an impressive sound quality with a lot of connectivity options. Thanks to the larger display, you can also use it as a 24-hour clock and set the alarm to wake up to your favorite music station. All these make the Tecsun H501 the best gift choice, especially if you have older people at home.

10. ION Block Rocker Plus – Rugged Build & Made to Move

ION Block Rocker Plus - budget portable Radio

If you are looking for a radio that doesn’t shy away from adding a lot of weight and is road-ready, the ION should be your next best friend. I really don’t know where to start. Let me give it a try.

At 21 pounds, you may think it is very heavy and immobile. You are wrong. It has a telescopic handle that you can use for pulling it around, that’s to the tiny wheels at the bottom. Reminding you to luggage bags? I had the same feeling!

It is indeed a radio, but it adds a whopping 100 watts of power amplifier! That makes it too loud! Yes, it is road-ready, but make sure you are not taking it out to the beach or in the rain. Keep it away from water.

It has Bluetooth to stream your favorite music from your Bluetooth-enabled devices. It even has an AUX-in port, and there is a freaking mic. You can literally use this thing as a karaoke machine. The mic has its own volume control option as well!

Yes, yes, it is a radio. It has both AM and FM support. ION threw in a nice LED screen, a USB port for charging your mobile devices, a master volume, and a bass boost feature. The build quality is quite rugged with a hard plastic enclosure.

It comes with a rechargeable battery with 50 hours of playback time, depending on how you are using the unit.

  • A rugged build quality.
  • Big sound with many options.
  • Bluetooth-enabled for streaming music.
  • Telescopic handle for easy carrying.
  • Comes with a mic.
  • Includes a USB port for charging devices.
  • It has very long battery life.
  • It is not waterproof.
  • It is very heavy.
  • It is not really a perfect portable radio.
  • It doesn’t support NOAA weather channels.

11. DreamSky – FM/AM Pocket Radio

DreamSky –  AM FM Radio

If you are not looking for a big boy like ION, you can look for a pocket-sized radio that works equally great indoors and outdoors.

The DreamSky fits the requirement very well. With zero technical complications, this radio is perfect for rookies or elderly people who are not very tech-savvy.

DreamSky throws in an old-fashioned dial for tuning and includes a telescopic antenna that can extend up to 14 inches. You can always use the loudspeaker, but if you want to block yourself out of the external distractions, you can use the headphone jack to get some isolation.

There is a separate volume control if you want to crank up the volume. You can also switch between AM and FM. It is a no-fuss, no-frills radio.

It is a battery-only radio, which means you cannot hook it up with a wall socket. If you are taking it outdoor, make sure you are carrying some extra batteries. It needs two AA batteries to operate.

Pros of DreamSky Pocket Radio
  • It has a simple and effective design.
  • It includes a telescopic antenna.
  • It is perfect for elderly people.
  • It includes a headphone jack.
Cons of DreamSky Pocket Radio
  • It is not very loud.
  • It is too basic for a tech-savvy user.
  • It is a battery-only radio.

12. Retekess PR11 – AM FM Pocket Radio

Retekess PR11 Portable Radio

Retekess PR11 is yet another pocket or portable radio that comes without much complication. However, it does come with TF Card and U Disk playback support. That’s something you won’t find in other pocket radios.

This unit delivers quite a loud sound. Coupled with a 45mm high fidelity speaker, its high-end decoder IC generates powerful bass and high clear notes. However, never expect it to be of stellar quality.

The radio doesn’t come with AM and FM presets, but it can automatically scan stations. It runs on a rechargeable Li-ion battery.

The Pros of Retekess PR11

  • Given its size, it has a clear and loud sound.
  • It supports U Disk playback and also supports TF Cards.
  • It has a headphone jack and AUX input.
  • It includes a flashlight.

The Cons of Retekess PR11

  • It runs only on battery.
  • It is not weather-resistant. So, be careful while using outdoor.

13. Midland – ER310 – Ultrasonic Dog Whistle

Midland – ER310 Radio

A perfect radio for outdoors and emergency situations, the Midland ER310 is a perfect choice for a rugged radio with sustainable power sources.

The ER310 comes with three sustainable power sources – a solar panel, a hand crank, and an internal rechargeable battery that can last up to 32 hours. You can also use 6 AA batteries if you want.

There is a flashlight beacon that you can use during emergencies. The company also throws in an ultrasonic dog whistle that can be very handy for search and rescue operations.

The Midland ER310 offers all 7 NOAA weather stations so that you stay alert about the weather conditions. You can also tune into AM and FM bands using straightforward buttons.

Design-wise, it is not so pleasing, but if the functionality is on the top of your mind, the Midland ER310 should be your perfect companion. Did I mention that you can use the radio to charge your devices?

Pros of Midland – ER310

  • It has a long battery life.
  • It can charge other devices.
  • It comes with an ultrasonic dog whistle.
  • It includes a telescopic antenna for better reception.
  • It has NOAA weather alerts.
  • It integrates multiple power sources.

Cons of Midland – ER310

  • It is not water-resistant.
  • Design-wise, it is not pleasing.

That concludes my list of 11 best portable radio (AM and FM) for home and outdoors. Now, it is time to tell you how AM and FM radios actually work.

Topics Covered:

  • Things to consider before buying a portable FM/AM radio.
  • Top 11 best portable Radios.
  • Further reading on how AM/FM radios work.

Here’s overall review once again.

  • Overall Winner and a Complete Package: Kaito KA500
  • Runner Up and Great for Outdoor Use: Running Snail MD-088s
  • Great Sound Quality: Sangean LB-100
  • Best Retro Design: Panasonic RF-2400D
  • Lightest Pocket Radio: Sony ICFP26

AM/FM Portable Radio Buying Guide

Best AM FM Portable Radios
Best Portable Radios Reviewed by Expert

When you go shopping for portable radios, you will be greeted with too many choices. When the options increase, choosing becomes difficult. This is true even for radios. You need to understand that different radios have different price tags. The price differences should give a clear indication that there will be differences in features.

However, you might not need all those features, and hence, buying an expensive portable radio doesn’t really make sense always. Settling for what you need will help you to get the best option that fits your needs.

So, you should consider a few things before making a purchase. Here is a quick list of things that you should keep in mind:


Are you willing to settle for a very heavy radio? A heavy radio usually gains its weight because of its overall size, speaker size, battery size, etc. If you are looking for a radio with stellar sound quality, you will most likely have to settle for a radio that is bulky by design.

Heavy radios will have mobility issues. You cannot carry them around so easily. Yes, many heavy radios have easy-carry handles, but picking up such radio and moving around quickly will always be a challenge. So, if you are an adventure seeker who loves hiking or similar activities, you should avoid getting a heavy radio.

Power Sources

The number of power sources available should be an important factor. There should be at least two power sources if you intend to use a radio at home. They are:

This is necessary because, in the case of power outages, you can switch to battery. If you are an outdoor person, having more power sources is important. Look for radios with solar panels or hand-crank generators. Those are especially helpful when you are far from power sources.

Emergency Flashlights

Again, you should settle for radios that have emergency flashlights. Such flashlights are especially helpful in SHTF situations. Powergrid failure during hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. is quite normal. Having a radio that can give you some light during blackouts is always a desirable trait.

Device Charging Ability

This is an essential feature if you spend frequently go hiking or engage in other outdoor activities. Your phone or GPS battery will not last for long. If a radio can charge them up, why not? It will only help you in staying connected to your loved ones.

Battery Life

Again, for outdoor use, battery life is an important thing to consider. Remember that the battery will drain faster if you have more modern features like backlit LCD, Bluetooth, etc.

Sound Quality and Speakers

The audio quality of your radio is important. You will not get a boombox quality sound if you are settling for light and portable radios. However, you should always settle for those that produce crystal clear sound.

You may not be an audiophile, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot figure out the difference between very poor audio and good audio. Of course, the bigger the radio, the bigger the speaker, and the better the sound! But that’s not always true. The speaker’s quality also matters a lot.

Also, if you are settling for a bigger portable radio, look for the ability to adjust EQ. Not all radios will have this feature, but those with the option are always a better choice.


The signal reception is dependent on the antenna. The bigger the antenna, the better it is. For portable radios, you should look for units that offer telescopic antenna that can be easily extended.

The length of the antenna, when fully extended, is an important factor. Look for radios which will offer an antenna length of 12 inches or more, which fully extended.

Headphone Feature

If you don’t like using the integrated speaker of a radio, you should settle for a unit that will give you the ability to attach a headphone. This feature is particularly helpful for those people who love to listen to radio channels while commuting (especially using public transport).

You can settle for a speaker-only radio if you are traveling with your family or friends. That will never be a choice if you are using public transport. People will get disturbed if you pull out your radio and let its speaker blast sound into others’ears!


Some portable radios will not have any presets. If you don’t like setting things up on your own, you should go ahead and settle for a radio that will give your presets. There are three different preset – AM, FM, and Weather.

Which presets you will have will depend on what radio you have. You can get these options:

  • AM-only radio with no NOAA support.
  • AM-only radio with NOAA support.
  • FM-only radio with no NOAA support.
  • FM-only radio with NOAA support.
  • AM/FM radio with no NOAA support.
  • AM/FM radio with NOAA support.

Which one you will select will depend on your need. If you are more into outdoor activities, you should always settle for radio with NOAA support. If you intend to use your radio at home, a unit with no NOAA support is fine. read more about the best NOAA weather radios.

However, my opinion is that you should always settle for radio with NOAA support irrespective of whether you are using it outdoor or at home.


If you intend to use your radio outdoor, you should look for a unit that has a rugged build quality. It is better if it at least has a protective bumper. If the radio you choose has a protective roll cage, that’s even better.

However, remember that if you are going after a gadget with a protective roll cage, the unit will become heavy.

Also, the overall build quality is important. The material used for the body should be strong. Your radio should preferably have a body made of ABS plastic.


For rough outdoor use, your radio unit should have weatherproofing. Radios with dust- and waterproofing are always desirable. However, you can settle only for waterproofing. For indoor use, such weatherproofing is not necessary.

Streaming Options

In case you want a radio that will allow you to play your favorite playlist, you should look for one with Bluetooth streaming ability. Do not forget that Bluetooth is not the only method of playing your favorite playlist on your radio.

If you don’t want Bluetooth and still want to play your personal collection of music, you should look for an option that has an AUX-in port. Or, you can also look for an option that will allow you to connect a memory card.

Additional Features (If You Need Them)

If you need them, look for radio units with the following features:

  • Alarm clock.
  • Backlit displays.
  • Auto-scan (available only on digital radios).
  • Belt clip or carry strap.


Finally, you should know your budget. If you have a low budget and are still looking for a radio with many features, that’s simply not happening! The more sugar you add, the sweeter the tea becomes! You need to shell out a lot of money if you are looking for a high-end radio with a multitude of modern features.

How do AM/FM Radios work?

Did you know that AM/FM radios have been around for several decades now? They are not new. However, AM and FM came into use at different points in time. The AM came into use somewhere in the latter 19th century.

The FM, on the other hand, came into use in 1933. The US and Europe started broadcasting in FM in the late 1930s and after WWII, respectively.

What does the AM and the FM actually stand for? AM refers to amplitude modulation, while FM refers to frequency modulation.

The AM stations will emit signals at a frequency that remains constant. They will change the signal strength, which, in turn, will change the signal amplitude. This is called amplitude modulation. The audio data that is sent is reflected by the amplitude changes.

The antenna that will receive the signal must be tuned to the frequency at which the AM stations emit the signals. Only then can an antenna catch those signals and play the sound (music or speech).

The age of AM is not over. It still remains in use. One great example where AM is used is the aviation industry because AM allows hearing multiple signals on the same frequency, and also because AM signals can be picked up even at very low signal strengths. AM can also be used for sending video signals.

FM, on the other hand, uses constant amplitude. What fluctuates is the carrier frequency. The sound quality of FM is far better than AM because most of the FM channels that you come across are stereo, that is, they have a distinct right and a distinct left channel.

Read more about AM Vs FM.

The AM channels, on the other hand, are mono. This is why they don’t have great sound quality. But, FM cannot receive multiple signals on a single frequency, but at the same time, FM has less interference than AM.

AM is strictly analog, whereas FM is capable of transmitting digital data by altering the carrier frequency within a narrow range of values. The technique used by FM is called frequency-shift keying.

External Resources for further research:

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