The Best AM/FM Handheld Radio
You would be forgiven for looking at a handheld radio as a relic of the past. Transistor radios were revolutionary in the 1980’s – experiencing a massive surge of popularity. But as the years have progressed and music formats shift and change (going from cassette, to CD to digital over the course of 10 years.) it’s become less and less common to see someone using one.
Why should you bother to get an AM/FM radio if there’s so many other ways to experience music? It’s not an entirely unreasonable question to ask, but the answer is fairly simple.
Am/Fm radios are somewhat invaluable to have, and every household should probably have at least one. As an alternative to the most common channels of data transmission (the internet, for example) it’s great to have as a backup.
They can be used to receive signals during emergencies when other methods of communication have shut down. A handheld AM/FM radio doesn’t take up a lot of space. But it’s practicality in the modern era is massive.
These radios are also incredibly useful for those of you who enjoy the outdoors. If you’re planning a camping trip, a fishing expedition or just going for a hike they guarantee you access to music and information from external sources.
These radios may seem like they came straight out of a time capsule from the 1980’s – but in reality they’re still in active use by millions of people every day.
But enough preaching – if you’re reading this guide you’ve probably already realised that buying a handheld radio set is advantageous – otherwise you wouldn’t be looking for the best possible one to settle on.
This guide will provide a comprehensive breakdown of some of your options while you’re shopping around for an AM/FM radio.
How to determine which units from so many are the best is the point of this guide. For good measure, we have painstakingly taken the time to select and review 5 products you might want to try out. They are all guaranteed to deliver on everything you desire from a handheld AM FM radio and much more.
Things To Consider When Shopping Around For An AM/FM Handheld Radio
How Is It Powered?
Where and how you’re planning on using this radio should be a major factor when considering the power supply. If you have no intention of travelling with the radio you can opt for one that simply plugs into the mains in your house and is powered by a wall adapter.
If you’re planning on using it both indoors and outdoors, rechargeable batteries may be your best bet. It’ll give you the option of being able to plug-and-play with the radio at home but also give you the option of bringing the radio with you whilst travelling.
Regular AA batteries are also an option, as you can stock up on them and simply replace them during longer periods of use. Power consumption on many handheld radios is fairly low, so you can get multiple days of usage out of a single pair of AA batteries.
Battery life is also an important factor to consider, in fact it’s probably one of the most important factors.
You really don’t want to burn through batteries too quickly (this is a waste of money) and you also don’t want to experience your device dying on you in the middle of receiving an important transmission (or during your favourite song).
Good handheld AM/FM radios have great power efficiency, the absolute minimum your device should be able to perform is about 3 days of continuous use on AA batteries. Many devices can hit 4 days or more.
This means you can buy a multipack of AA batteries and forget about power consumption needs when you’re out and about. Simply replace the batteries when you need to and you’re good to go. This is one of the reasons handheld radios are so ideal for camping.
Non-ideal battery life doesn’t mean a radio is bad, however. In fact, if a radio has a huge feature list it’s quite normal to see it pulling more power in the meantime.
How Big Is It?
This is a fairly important factor too. You don’t want something that’s so large that it’s an inconvenience. Opting for something too small can see you having to compromise in terms of audio quality and the diversity of the feature list.
You want something you’d be comfortable carrying around with you for extended periods of time. If carrying your radio is actually causing you to experience fatigue, then it’s too big for you.
How Good Is The Antenna?
Luckily, it’s fairly easy to switch and swap antenna with many handheld radios. However, this isn’t always the case (if the antenna is not modular you might need a bit more technical skill to get it sorted.)
If you live outwidth the suburbs and relatively far from transmissions stations, a good antenna will be important for listening to AM radio stations.
Just looking for FM radio stations? Opt for a nice, long telescope antenna. Opt for a ferrite antenna if you’re most interested in listening to various AM stations from all over the globe.
What About The Speakers?
The speakers are of course, absolutely vital in picking a good radio. You obviously want to opt for speakers with good, solid audio quality. Larger speakers aren’t necessarily better, audio quality boils down to quite a lot of things, one of which being the actual circuitry of the speakers themselves.
The products listed below all have outstanding audio quality to ensure easy-listening. There’s no point in splashing out for a handheld radio set and discovering that all music sounds like it’s emanating from a tiny tin can.
Another thing you should be keeping an eye out for is if the device has an audio jack. Most modern AM/FM radios do, but it doesn’t hurt to double check. You can select a device with amazing audio quality and range and then discover it’s impractical to bring it on your morning commute as you have to constantly blast the speakers everywhere you go.
What About The Display?
Whilst it’s not critical, having a display can increase the ease-of-use aspect of your radio greatly. Being able to easily see what frequency you’re dialed in to is useful. (instead of guessing by looking at an analog bar display)
Radios with backlit LCDs are overall more convenient to have as they can be operated in the dark independent of another light source. This may drain more battery life, but the trade off is worth it. (and many are configured in such a way that the backlight switches off when the device is not in use).
Top 5 Best Handheld Radios
1 – The PowerBear AM FM Portable Radio
The powerbear AM FM radio is a handheld, sleek device. It utilises an old school analog bar for checking what frequency the radio is set to. It has a sweet black design that’s built to withstand a bit of roughhousing.
It’s sturdiness is complimented well with it’s relative simplicity. It has a headphone jack but it’s honestly optional as the speakers are of an outstanding quality.
It doesn’t really do much else apart from what it says on the tin, but it does it well. It has a fairly lengthy antenna to allow you to pick up signals across greater distances.
2 – Jameson Electronics VE-101 AM/FM Portable Radio
This is another design with a sleek analogue display for checking frequencies. It’s relatively retro instrumentation is contrasted heavily by its flashy, modern design.
It’s lightweight and incredibly small, practically pocket-sized. It has an LED light which is used as a tuning indicator and a compact antenna too!
Despite this design being fairly efficient when it comes to the space it occupies, the quality doesn’t suffer. It’s speakers are still of a crystal-clear quality and the headphone output hasn’t suffered as a result of the space-saving efforts of Jameson Electronics.
3 – Sony ICFP26 Portable AM FM Radio
The Sony ICFP26 is the last device in our favourite that lacks an LCD display. Normally we would prefer an LCD display because of the accuracy it affords you with tuning, but this portable radio is so powerful in its own right we feel it doesn’t even need a display.
It’s compact size, masterful engineering & insane battery life are enough for us.
2 AA batteries can last you literal weeks of moderate use! Not only will you save a fortune on batteries, but you don’t need to worry about it dying on you anytime soon if you choose to take it camping.
This device was built around reliability – which is why it also comes with a battery indicator. Of all the handheld radios with analogue frequency displays – this is by far our favourite.
4 – Vondior Digital AM FM Portable Radio
The Vondior digital is an excellent handheld radio. It’s a bit more modernised with it’s backlit, LCD display screen – meaning you can use it in the dark without worrying about looking for a light source.
It’s easy to use, and the sound quality is honestly ridiculous for how small the device is. It takes AAA batteries instead of AA. The tradeoff being that these will allow you to use the device continuously for multiple weeks. This device isn’t dying on you anytime soon, which is particularly impressive because it’s LCD backlighting only serves to increase its power consumption.
5 – Sangean DT-200X AM/FM Digital Tuning Pocket Radio
The Sangean DT-200X is another radio with a digital display that we’re in love with. It’s a fairly modern radio, some of the features really set it apart from the rest of the crowd.
It has an auto-shut off power saving mode that will turn the device off after 90 minutes of inactivity in order to preserve power on the off chance you fall asleep!
It has memory too, a feature more common in advanced radio devices capable of transmitting. You can store up to 19 channels.
It also comes with bass-boosting features, a belt clip, earbuds, a nice amber-backlit LCD screen and advanced digital tuning. Crisp audio quality is effectively guaranteed at all times.
It’s powered by AA batteries and has a low battery indicator – which will be useful as you’re likely to get some serious use out of this device, it’s simply too good to just leave at home.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between AM & FM radio?
AM and FM are both different methods of modulating a signal in order to transfer it via radiowaves. AM standards of amplitude modulation – it’s achieved by modulating the amplitude of the signal. FM stands for frequency modulation, and follows the same logic.
There are some key differences between the two methods: FM has a better signal-to-noise ratio. FM however has the massive downside of having a much wider bandwidth, this can cause issues.
Is AM Radio Still A Thing?
Whilst many people opt to utilise FM radio due to the general lack of interference and noise, there are still great wealth of AM radio stations. Unfortunately this number is shrinking every year – with the rise of digital/internet radio it’s hard to justify keeping an AM radio up and running. Despite this there are still thousands of AM radio transmission stations across the globe, so you’re still likely to find some interesting stuff out there!
In summary, there isn’t really a great deal of factors to consider when deciding upon a handheld radio to pick. As long as you keep in mind some of the vital things such as battery life, LCD functionality etc the purchasing decision should be fairly easy.
If you want to avoid the hassle of memorising this information and applying it to your own searches, you can settle on any single one of the products mentioned in this review. We’ve done the research so that you don’t have to!