Many people swear by FM radio when it comes to listening to music. The wide array of channels available is great, and actively having a disc jockey present means you can be exposed to new types of music & bands that your personalized Spotify playlists probably wouldn’t lead you to.
FM Radio is still very much the default choice of music for many people, especially people who travel often. They’re reliable, sturdy, and can normally hold a charge for a few days. Meaning you can listen to music to your heart’s content without worrying about draining that precious phone battery.
Because of the popularity of smartphones, the radio industry has had to restructure itself slightly to keep up with the competition.
It’s now possible to get amazing quality FM radios for a fraction of the price they used to cost. Advancements in speaker and audio technology have also led to some great sound quality.
Furthermore, many modern FM radios have seamless integration with smart phones. Often doubling up in functionality as bluetooth/aux speakers. Some FM radios even have built in flashlights and other features you’d commonly find in smartphones.
Featured below is a list of 5 of our favorite portable radios. They’re all ideal for receiving FM signals – it wasn’t easy to single out just 5 either. A lot of time and consideration was put into isolating the best possible models available on the market.
Buying Guide for Best Portable Radio for FM Reception
There are a lot of FM radios out there. All of them vary wildly in both price & quality, making it very difficult to pick out just one. We’ve listed a couple of features below to look out for if you’re interested in picking out the best possible radio for your own purposes.
Some of the more important things to consider are:
Portability – How easy is it to get your device around? The lighter and more compact it is, the easier it will be to transport. Ideally you want something that fits in a backpack. You don’t want to go too small though and potentially lose out on quality. Heavier units will cause fatigue when carrying them for extended periods of time too.
Extremely good units in this regard are ones that manage to fit in your pocket, without compromising audio quality or reception.
Smartphone Compatibility – Smartphone compatibility is a big selling point for modern FM radios. Bluetooth sync is an awesome feature – but even just having an aux input is enough to consider your FM radio as a backup set of speakers for your smartphone. Aux input will also allow you to connect to other devices that have a 3.5mm jack available.
Antenna – What kind of antenna does the device have? Antennas exist to boost the distance at which you can receive signals. If you’re far away from a transmitter, you’ll need a reasonably sized antenna for you to have any chance of bagging a decent signal.
People who intend to take their radio out into the wilderness should look for a decent antenna.
Power Capacity – How much power does your device draw? How long will the batteries last? These are important questions you must ask yourself when you’re attempting to source a reasonable quality FM radio.
Higher power speakers will produce louder sounds and have a greater audio quality, but they will also drain the battery quicker.
Ideally you want to opt for a device with the option of both rechargeable and battery power options.
The best possible devices available have integrated features that help conserve power. Cut off timers for the device during periods of inactivity, toggle features on the LCD backlighting etc are all key features to look out for. They’re all great indicators of a quality device.
Digital or Analogue? – Is your device model digital or analogue? Both devices have strengths and benefits. But if you opt for a digital device, you should definitely get one with the option of channel presets.
These allow you to save your favourite channel/frequency to a particular preset, meaning you can go back to access it any time you physically want. It’s comparable to saving a friends phone number instead of having to type it out manually every single time you want to contact them.
Top 5 Best Portable Radio For FM Reception: Review
1 – DreamSky Mini Portable FM Radio
One of the first things you’ll notice about the DreamSky Mini is that it is incredibly small. It’s incredibly convenient, smartphone sized pocket radio that you’ll grow to love.
Despite its compact size, this little device is packed full of cool little features.
It’s reception is surprisingly good, with the time it takes to find decent channels being pretty quick in both manual search and auto-scan.
The device has a giant padlock button to disable the button input from other buttons. This is great if you’re exercising or simply walking around with the device in your pocket.
You can use the device as an alarm, with an alarm that ascends in volume for a few minutes before eventually shutting off. The device even comes with a strap to fasten it around your neck so you can wear it whilst out running.
The backlight is energy conservation friendly – only illuminating for 5 seconds after each button press.
2 – Rolton W405 Portable Mini Radio
The Rolton W405 is an awesome little device. It’s reasonable sized, so won’t take up too much room in a backpack. It’s also fairly durable and can survive a few bumps and scrapes.
It has support for MP3 codecs, meaning it can play MP3’s via a TransFlash card or a USB cable connected to a relevant memory device. The device also comes with a micro USB cable alongside its lithium ion battery and the user manual.
The device maintains it’s multipurpose theme by also including an AUX input so the speakers can be used by other devices. It also features a headphone jack and of course an LED screen to ensure the device can be operated properly in the dark.
You can directly input your desired frequency via the numeric keypad in order to bypass your need for the tuner. The reception is great too, thanks in part to the large telescopic antenna.
3 – Sony ICF38 Portable Radio
This retro-looking radio is fairly small in size with a reasonable amount of mobility. It’s AC/DC powered & great to have as a backup in case of any kind of loss of electricity. It’s also awesome to take traveling with you on road trips.
The speaker, despite being small in size, has fairly decent audio quality. If you’d prefer to listen with headphones that’s also an option as the device has a headphone jack.
The speaker also has a handle to make it easier to slug around. The tuner is lit up with LED lights to make station switching much easier. The antenna is a decently sized telescopic antenna.
It has an incredibly long battery life. Up to 60 hours of continuous use – it requires 4 AA batteries for this.
4 – Sangean PR-D5BK Portable Radio with Digital Tuning and RDS
This radio is an incredibly durable piece of tech that’s packed with enough features to classify it as future proof. It’s probably one of the best FM radios on the market today and will be for quite some time.
Not only do both of the speakers have an impeccable build quality & sound output, they’re complemented by the gigantic antenna. At 200mm and made from ferrite, you’re unlikely to encounter any kind of signal reception issues.
Utilising the Radio Data System Protocols, you are also able to receive digital transmissions with great quality.
Considering how great this device is, it’s a marvel it’s not a lot larger.
A decently sized LED, Auto-scan, Aux input/Aux output and battery life indicators are just some of the many features this device has.
You can plug the device in via an AC power adapter and run it normally, or opt to run on batteries – making this device portable.
5 – Panasonic RF-2400D
If you’re a major fan of retro looking electronics, this is right up your street. Despite it’s old style appearance, it can outperform some of the newest and flashiest digital radios.
It has a major edge on the digital radios too (apart from looking way cooler) – it’s far more durable than they could be.
The huge speakers can consistently put out high-quality audio as long as there’s a semblance of charge left in the batteries. The sound is always clear and concise and you can manually tune frequencies to a very fine point.
The great audio quality is once again amplified by the antenna, ensuring hiss free reception regardless of your location.
The device is easy to use – you won’t need to spend hours pouring through a user manual.
It also has a headphone jack, dual AC/DC power which can be powered by 4 AA batteries and also by an AC mains adapter.
FM Radio Interference – Causes & General Info
Any regular user of radios will have experienced interference at some point. This occurs whenever signals in the same ballpark of the frequencies you’re attempting to intercept are present.
Severe cases of interference can make it impossible to isolate the source of the station you’re actually trying to transmit to. In less severe cases it can be possible to sift through the noise and get a lock on the station you’re looking for, but it can prove challenging.
Other devices with small fm transmitters can cause reception issues, severe weather can even cause interference. Many small devices such as phones actually do have small FM transmitters inside.
Smaller faults with transmission devices can cause them to transmit over frequencies not initially intended – thus causing unnecessary interference on these frequencies.
Try using a different FM radio if you’re encountering issues with interference – if the issue clears up then the problem is the radio you’re using receiving over too much bandwidth, rather than interference.
Bigger antennas can also help reduce interference.
There are a wide variety of factors to consider when shopping around for a reliable FM radio with a decent reception. You don’t want to cheap out and get a radio that’s prone to interference. Even the smaller sets of radios can have minimal difficulties with interference or poor reception provided they’re well made.
We hope our instructions on what to look out for helping you source a great quality radio. If you weren’t confident enough to apply this information to your own shopping, then we hope our compilation of 5 of our favourite FM radios for reception made your purchasing decision much easier.