Drive in movie theatres are a truly nostalgic form of entertainment. Being able to visit the movies and relax in the comfort in your own car is often overlooked. Many people often wonder how the outdoor environment facilitates anyone actually being able to hear the movie.
It’s actually quite simple, the drive-in movie theatre will transmit the audio for a movie at a certain FM frequency and everyone will tune their FM radios to this particular frequency in order to get the sound in the car.
The sound is often transmitted at full-quality, but picking it up on a smaller radio will ruin the audio quality and thus your experience at the movies. It’s important to have a good fm receiving radio with good sound quality to fully enjoy the experience.
You might consider using your vehicle’s sound system, this is a bad idea. Even if you have an awesome quality, expensive sound system installed. Sitting with your vehicle in a stationary position and simply running the sound system is a great way to drain your battery.
You could also opt to turn the car on, but the bustling of the engine will annoy you and you’ll end up wasting gas!
It’s much easier to opt for a portable sound system instead.
The following guide will break down our 5 top picks for FM radios to be used at drive-in movie theatres & also what to look for when selecting your own.
Features To Look Out For
Whether you’re shopping on the local high st or browsing various websites looking for the ideal FM radio for your visit to the drive-in theaters, the sheer volume of models (and the ridiculous difference in prices between each model) may be pretty intimidating.
There are some key features you should consider before you opt to splash out on an FM radio, ask yourself the following questions when shopping around:
What Kind Of Power Output Does The Device Have? – As is the case with many devices dealing with audio – the wattage of the device is a huge factor in determining audio quality, loudness, etc.
You should not settle for a product that operates on anything less than 4 watts. Anything lower than 4 watts is a great way to guarantee poor audio quality/poor volume.
What Does The Power Consumption Look Like?
Obviously a greater power output will lead to a greater power consumption, but how does the device handle this? Does it come with a rechargeable battery pack? Can it handle both rechargeable and disposable batteries?
Opting for a hybrid of the two is advisable so that you can always keep spare batteries around in the off chance your device runs out of battery mid-movie.
How Big Are The Speakers? – Whilst the size of the speakers doesn’t always necessarily correlate with audio quality, they can help. But that being said, large speakers aren’t vital for loud sounds and good audio quality, so don’t think you’ll need to splash out on some sort of boombox-esque radio when a more compact, nicer design will suffice.
Bass-boost is a key feature to look out for, it can greatly enhance how enjoyable of an experience listening on any device is.
Sturdiness – Realistically you’re always going to want a product that’s a little bit sturdy. It’s perfectly natural to encounter a few scrapes or drops throughout the lifetime of a product.
However, you’re unlikely to require something that can survive being dropped off a 90 story building or still work after being submerged in mud – so don’t splash out ridiculous wads of cash on a device because of how tough it is. Get something that will be able to withstand responsible, casual usage and you’ll save a small fortune.
All of the radios in this guide can take a bit of a thrashing, so you shouldn’t be too concerned with survivability.
Antenna Length/Reception Strength – The antenna is obviously a key feature of any FM radio. If you’re looking to use your device for other purposes, splashing out on a better antenna can be worth it. But if you’re just planning on going to a drive-in movie theatre, you won’t need anything too fancy.
After all, you have to be within viewing distance for the whole ordeal to work, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter errors with range or quality when you’re at this close of a distance to the transmission point.
You may be buying this device and considering using it for more than one purpose. This is totally reasonable so looking out for nice additional features is a good idea. Bluetooth compatibility and smartphone connectivity is ideal. What’s the point in having a nice sound system if you can’t use it to hijack the choice of music at parties?
5 Best FM Radio Picks For Drive-in Theatres
1 – Pyle Street Blaster X Portable Boombox PBMSPG200
This crazy, futuristic looking sound system is packed full of modern features and functionality that make it ideal for both the purpose of movie theatre use and just generally across the board use as a sound system.
The speakers have a digital equalizer/amplifier that can be used to set bass, echo and treble to their preferred levels. It can also record audio from bluetooth and FM radio transmissions to a USB flash drive. (We don’t recommend doing this in the cinema, we’re pretty sure that constitutes piracy)
It’s built to last, it’s sturdy and has an outstanding lithium-ion battery that can hold a charge for nearly 6 hours of continuous use. You can even recharge it from your own vehicles battery with the DC charging port.
It also has wireless streaming capabilities for audio, an aux input and even LED strobe lights that will synchronize to the audio output of the speakers – this is perfect for parties as well as theatres.
2 – Jensen CD-490 Portable FM Radio
This radio lends itself more so to those of you who are on a budget. It’s cheap, but despite this, it’s still well made, a decent size and has a great level of sound quality.
It doubles as a CD player and has headphone and aux slots meaning it’s fully digitally accessible.
If you’re just looking for an FM radio to get the job done and don’t have much use for it outside of the drive-in, then this is the perfect budget radio for you.
3 – Lonpoo Portable Boombox FM Radio & CD player
This sound system is incredible for how small it is. It has two speakers facing either side of the device. Despite being much more compact – they have incredible audio quality. It has a headphone jack too which also delivers a superb, interference free experience.
It’s powered by C batteries, 4 of them to be exact. It also has the option of being powered by a mains, so you can keep it on the mains until it’s time to take it to the movie theatre.
This gives you an added level of versatility, which, combined with the compact nature of the device makes it really ideal for making plans and executing them quickly.
The blue backlighting on the LCD screen looks great too.
It’s one of the more straightforward budget systems to use – it’s not jam packed with crazy extra features like strobe lights, but it’s simple and it gets the job done, what more can you ask for?
The above model is no longer available, however there is an updated version. This looks way more modern right?
4 – Sony CFDS70BLK Stereo CD/Cassette/Radio Boombox
Sony are a fairly reliable brand as far as audio engineering goes. This sound system has every possible feature you could possibly need, and then some more.
It’s retro-ish, almost 80’s style design is something i’m a personal fan of. Analogue electronics often just don’t look the same any more.
It works with both FM and AM radio and has a wide array of preset stations (30+) to choose from. You can save any frequency to a preset, including that of the drive-in theatre.
The boombox can run for nearly an entire 24h day continuously on one battery supply. It also utilises C batteries – 6 of them to be exact.
5- Pyle Portable FM Radio Boombox
The pyle portable boombox is a pretty nifty piece of hardware. Despite being a relatively small device, it has high quality speakers with surround-sound emulation technology. Absolutely ideal if you’re using it for movie audio!
It can be synced up with bluetooth and has all the other standard interfaces you’d come to expect: USB In, Aux in etc.
It has a built in battery that’s totally rechargeable and lasts for hours at a time, meaning you don’t need to worry about it dying on you during an action sequence.
The controls are located to the side and they give you some freedom to toy around with the digital amplifier and volume controls.
Tips For Operating Your FM radio:
- Make sure you read the instruction manual first.
- Keep well removed from strong magnets and other sources of electromagnetic interference.
- Keep well removed from bodies of water both indoors and outdoors.
- Don’t expose to the elements unless absolutely necessary – even if your device is weatherproof.
- Don’t crank up the speakers 24/7, keeping the speakers on high volume increases the speed at which they deteriorate.
- Regularly clean your radio, especially the grills of the speaker as dust can accumulate here and eventually cause issues.
Tips For Visiting The Drive In Movie Theatre:
- Be mindful of pedestrians, especially children, when it’s dark.
- Make sure your headlights are off, this could totally ruin the movie going experience for other visitors.
- If you happen to arrive late and need your headlights to find a space, make sure you dim them and turn them off the second you’re parked.
- Stay well wrapped up in terms of clothing – you don’t want to have to turn your cars heating on and drain the battery unnecessarily just because you forgot to wear a jacket.
- Be considerate in terms of vehicle size, larger vehicles with more ground elevation should park further back.
- Try to buy snacks when you’re there instead of bringing your own, many of these drive-in theatres can only afford to stay open from profit generated from their snack bars. Ticket sales alone very rarely support the cost of running a cinema.
- If you brought your kids with you, make sure they stay nearby and don’t wander off – an environment with this many powerful, gas-powered machines is not an ideal environment to lose a kid in.
In summary, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for a reliable sound system with FM capabilities that you can bring to a drive in movie theater.
Hopefully this information was not overburdening and could be used to help you make a more informed purchase. The 5 radios we have specifically selected all vary in quality and price but they are all absolutely ideal for the purposes of visiting a drive-in movie theatre.
We provided you with a selection of pre-made radios on the off chance you didn’t feel like going through the effort to source your own, picking one of these radios also has the added benefit of not having to second guess your own decision making.
If you have a bit of a budget to play with, we’d recommend getting one with expanded features & functionality, such as #1 on this list. Being able to take it to parties or even out camping with you to greatly enhance the experience is an awesome added benefit of buying a more robust sound system.
If your budget is tight however, you should always opt for a radio such as #2, which will provide you with the same base functionality of many radio systems but at a fraction of the price.
Budget radios are often cheaper to repair too if you’re technically-minded. It’s often easier, cheaper and quicker to source parts (or in some cases just buy a replacement) than if you were to use a fancier radio with lots of modern components.