Best Portable Radios for Home and Outdoors [2020 Reviews]
Despite the advancements in smartphones bringing music and videos to us in a sleek package, the humble radio still finds its place among the entertainment favourites of all people. The nostalgic component of the radio set and the fun of listening to a radio station cannot be matched by any podcasts, music playlists or app-based shows. The form and style of radios have seen plenty of changes in the last decade but the basic AM/FM radio works on the same principle as they always have.
While portable radio reviews are a good way to get to know the specific model, choosing the best portable model needs a little bit of know-how. Here is everything you need to know about how to choose a portable radio whether it is for your home or outdoor use.
Our Top 10 AM FM Radio for All Occasions
1. C Crane CC Skywave AM, FM, Shortwave, Weather and Airband Portable Travel Radio
This all-purpose radio from C. Crane is excellent for use at home, outdoors and travelling as it combines multiple useful features in a package that’s as small as 4.75 x 1.1 x 3 inches in size making it a worthy buy for anyone. It has the traditional look of an old radio with a powerful 5W speaker that can play high-quality sounds that’s well audible in both a campsite and the garage of a house. An LCD display tells you the channel it on, the strength of the signal, battery life and more so you will have all the information you need at hand and even know when to change the battery.
The radio is also highly efficient and runs for 60-70 hours on 2 AA batteries. You can listen to a wide range of stations on all frequencies and even the NOAA weather broadcast channels and Air Band. Although it doesn’t perform as well as the best portable ham radio does for an amateur ham radio operator, it can be held as an essential receiving equipment in every operator’s garage
- Portable and lightweight while maintaining retro looks
- Perfect for travellers, campers, home, sailors and ham radio operators
- 400 memory presets with auto scan and signal strength meter
- Works both on AA batteries and AC power
- Some may find it to be a bit oversized as a travel radio
2. Panasonic RF-2400D - The best small Radio
The Panasonic RF-2400D is the best small radio for anyone looking for a model with a fully classic look and function that is sure to take them back in time. This AM/FM radio runs on four AA sized batteries for hours when the volume is kept at a moderate level. It’s even better if you have AA-sized rechargeable batteries so you can save big on both money and running costs. The radio also functions on AC power so it’s highly versatile whether you want to keep it on your table or take it out for camping.
Being an AM/FM radio it can tune into all radio stations in the area and still give a great quality of sound thanks to its long Ferrite antenna and 10cm speaker which outputs clear sounds at high volumes without distortion or loss of quality. If you need to listen to your favourite channels more quietly, you can also plug in a pair of headphones into its 3.5mm headphone port. What completes its classic look is the mechanical radio dial which shows the frequency of the channel being played and a thumbwheel volume control that’s found in all traditional radios.
- Classic radio look and functionality
- Good quality build and sound
- Earphone jack
- Runs on battery and AC
- It does not have autotune or preset features for different radio stations
3. DEWALT ToughSystem Radio and Battery Charger
The DEWALT ToughSystem DWST08810 is meant to be used as a charger and a radio at construction sites or other worksites where it can be used to recharge batteries of other DEWALT products. Its radio, on the other hand, is exceptionally built for high sound quality and features two tweeters and a subwoofer with Assisted Bass Resonator for loud high definition sound that doesn’t miss any frequency. It can tune into all FM channels and even connect to your phone via Bluetooth and play all your favourite music. It comes with an auto-scan feature that automatically looks for channels or you can manually tune into the channel you like. The system is also IP54 rated making in both water and dust resistance suitable to be used in any construction environment.
- Quickly charges two DEWALT 12V- 20V batteries
- High-quality radio with Bluetooth connectivity
- Tough build quality suitable for all construction sites
- It lacks a preset feature to save radio channels
4.Bosch Power Box Jobsite PB360C AM/FM Radio
When it comes to versatility and great features, few Jobsite radios come close to matching the Bosch Power Box PB360C. An outstanding music system featuring four-way speakers and a subwoofer output clear, high-quality sound in all directions. What makes it the perfect entertainment centre at a Jobsite though are all its features alongside the radio such as Bluetooth and USB connectivity which expands your range of music options. While it can connect to any FM or AM station, you can also play music using your phone and Bluetooth or have all your favourite music queued up in a USB stick. For even better sound you can control the bass and treble and even choose from a range of equalizer presets.
The build quality is outstanding making it tough while its lightweight aluminium/rubber roll cage protects it from any drops or any falling debris. The system is also weather and water-resistant enabling it to take on dust or water spills without damage to internal components. It also features a 5v/1A charging port to charge all kinds of smartphones and other devices.
- Robustly built with a lightweight roll cage
- High-quality sound with 4-way speakers and subwoofer
- Charging port for Android and iPhones
- Inbuilt digital media storage
- An LCD display with AM/FM station presets
- The media door is a bit on the small size making it unsuitable for most smartphones
5. DEWALT 20V Compact Worksite Radio
Although it doesn’t come as close to the previous model we mentioned, the DEWALT DCR018 is still a great worksite radio for those who use DEWALT’s products exclusively. The cool feature of this radio is its compatibility with the 12V/18V/20V power tool batteries making it blend perfectly with the rest of the system. A storage box protects the digital audio devices from worksite dust, debris and splashes while its protective heavy-duty roll cage protects it from drops, falling items and other workshop mishaps.
While it can run on most DEWALT power tool batteries it can also work on AC power and charge at the same time. It can tune into AM and FM stations with presets so you won’t have to tune the frequency every time. It also features a 3.5mm auxiliary input to connect various devices such as MP3 players, DVD, portable satellite receivers and other digital audio devices.
- Good looking job-site radio which is small and portable
- Made out of durable materials and features a roll cage for extra protection
- LCD screen for radio and music display
- It can connect to a number of digital audio input devices
- Features both AC and DC power input
- The charger is sold separately
- Does not have Bluetooth connectivity
6. PowerBear - Best Portable Shortwave Radio
This one by PowerBear is among the best portable shortwave radio out there suited for travelling and hiking. Its small form fits perfectly in your hand or pockets while being light at only 3.36 ounces.
This AM / FM radio features classic looks with a manual frequency dial and a large speaker that can play music and radio shows with full clarity. It also uses 2 AA batteries like old radios which last for dozens of hours. If you wish to have more battery life you can go for alkaline batteries or the rechargeable ones. The radio features an antenna for long-range reception allowing you to listen to broadcasts from very far distances with full clarity.
If you are travelling and need to listen privately without disturbing others, you can always plug in a headphone to the available 3.5mm headphone port. The radio is built out of strong plastic so you don’t need to worry about stuffing it in your backpack along with other things during your travel.
- Light-weight and compact
- Uses 2 AA batteries
- Features a headphone port
- Doesn’t come with auto-tune or preset for channels
7. Retekess V115 Portable Radio
The Retekess V115 combines the best features of all portable radios into one tiny package that is 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches making it the perfect travelling radio. It combines the classic radio looks along with all modern futures to make a product that’s the perfect blend of old and new. The radio can tune into AM/FM and SW frequencies and listen to all range of stations including emergency and special broadcasts. For an extended range of music, you can also insert a Micro SD TF card and play all your favourite tracks when you feel the need to take a break from the radio. It fits in your pocket or your backpack perfectly and plays clear and loud music during hikes.
What sets this one apart is the MIC recording feature with 3 different recording modes and quality allowing you to record a wide range of things. There are also presets with auto-tune feature for you to save your favourite stations and tune into them instantly or switch without delay. Other useful features include a headphone jack for private listening and adjustable LCD display backlight for bright conditions.
- Compact travel radio that is light and portable
- Multiple useful features including sound recording
- 1000mAh lithium battery gives plenty of playtime
- Can take Micro SD card to play digital audio files
- Does not feature an alarm clock
8. Sony Portable AM/FM Radio
The Sony ICF-P36 weighing only about 4.2 ounces and measuring 5.2 x 1.7 x 2.7 inches definitely earns itself a spot on our list of compact portable radios. Sporting classic radio design, this model features a simple frequency dial and large speaker compartment. Tuning to your favourite radio station is simple and feels exactly like the good old days. Being small and lightweight also makes its a fantastic gift for any old-timers who would appreciate its simple design and operation.
It needs two AA batteries to operate and the radio can run for a long time on it is highly energy efficient. To make it easier, there is also an LED indicator to show the battery status so you can change when it is time. For more personal listening while on travel you can plug in your headphones and enjoy listening to your favourite radio stations everywhere. For a high quality of sound, the radio features a long telescopic antenna to receive better signal and minimize noise.
- Simple, classic radio design
- LED indicator for battery status and frequency tuning
- Lightweight and compact
- Headphone socket for personal listening
- Does not feature auto-tuning or presets for radio channels
- Cannot pick up shortwave frequencies
9. Vondior Digital Am Fm Pocket Radio
The smallest radio on our list, the Vondior pocket radio is a highly compact model which can tune into all AM and FM stations thanks to its telescopic antenna and advanced DSP chip. The radio fits snugly into your pocket and is the perfect companion whether you’re travelling elsewhere or living in a busy city. Being compact means it will have to use smaller sized batteries and hence runs on two AAA sized batteries that only need to be changed after a week of listening. Rechargeable varieties work just fine as well. Operating the radio is as simple as pressing the power button and choosing between AM or FM frequencies and instantly tuning into the channel you need at the press of the reset button.
Other interesting features include a buzzer and radio alarm clock to wake up to your favourite radio station and setting up a sleep timer to turn off the radio once you’ve fallen asleep. The radio also features a Misoperation Lock that prevents accidental changes in the settings while it’s in your pocket. There is a headphone port to connect to your headphones for private listening.
- Highly compact design that fits perfectly inside the pocket
- Big LCD display
- Multiple useful features including sleep timer and alarm
- Presets for saving radio channels
- It is not resistant to mechanical shocks or water
10. Aocome Mini AM FM Radio
Earning its place on our list of the best portable radios is this one by Aocome which is compact, lightweight and loaded with features. Measuring only 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches is smaller than most smartphones but packs a wallop when it comes to the quality of sound and volume. It can easily tune into ant AM or Fm station or switch to playing music from an SD card making it perfect for both travel and home use. You can also connect your laptop or tablet or smartphone with the provided 3.5mm jack for better music experience. It runs on an 800mAh lithium battery and gives 10 hours of operation per charge. It can be recharged with both an AC charger and a battery back. A built-in LED flashlight also comes in handy on hikes, camping or power outages.
- Highly portable radio with multiple features
- Lightweight rechargeable battery
- Supports different digital audio inputs
- Features a headphone port
- The buttons are sensitive and there is no misoperation prevention feature
Things to consider before buying a Portable radio
Going by the number of different models available out there in the market, it can get quite tricky to find a good radio that satisfies all your needs. Here’s what you need to look for when buying the best portable am FM radio:
Radios are available in different sizes suited for home, camping, hiking, travelling or exercising, so depending on the activities you would most need them for, you can choose the best size there is. Size also dictates portability, therefore while a pocket radio works for hiking, it won’t cut it for camping, therefore, you could then go for a model which is a trade-off between the two and features a good sturdy strap or a belt clip to firmly secure it to your waist or your backpack.
Radios have always come with the option to be used with AA, C or D sized batteries which can either be a disposable zinc-carbon type or rechargeable ones. Radios lately also come with inbuilt rechargeable batteries which take away the hassle of changing batteries; however, they also have shorter charge need to be topped up frequently. Therefore if you are going to be around steady power sources, radios with inbuilt batteries can do well. Else it helps to have an old fashioned model and some extra batteries on your hike/camp.
Weatherproofing and Durability
If you are using your radio outdoors it definitely helps to have a model with some water and dust resistance as they will inevitably get exposed to the elements or even dew and mist in the morning hours at your campsite. A worksite radio will have to be both weatherproof and tough if it has to survive the rough handling by workers. It would help to have a protective cage and a body made out of tough plastics such as ABS or PVC. They also need to be able to take sunlight without breaking down over the years.
Control and Presets
Typically all radios have two basic functions, the first one is a tuning dial and the other is volume control besides the power button. If you need a radio that’s easier to operate, it’s good to buy one that comes with presets for different channels so you don’t have to sit and tune for frequencies of different stations. An auto scanner is a more helpful feature which tunes the radio automatically to find channels. An LCD/LED screen is also a highly useful feature which will constantly show you all that’s going on with the radio including the battery level.
The sound quality depends on various factors and while both AM and FM broadcasting has the capacity to transmit great quality sound, it’s up to your radio to do the rest. A telescopic antenna is good for getting a better signal which will, in turn, improve the sound quality and reduce the background static noise. Size of the speaker driver also matters in volume and sound quality. For more precise sound quality choose a radio with dedicated drivers optimised for low and high-frequency sounds. Bass and Treble control are even better so you can enhance the sound quality according to your liking.
Radios with USB ports will broaden your music playlist and save you from times when you’re not interested in listening to any channels. An alarm clock is a great feature that’s helpful both at home and outdoors. A flashlight can be a bonus on camping or hiking.
The best portable radio is the one that serves most of your needs with useful features beyond just playing music from your favourite radio stations. To make the most out of your radio, choose one that is optimally suited for where you intend to use it. An ideal camping site radio, for example, should have features such as telescopic antenna, flashlight, removable batteries, alarm clock, weather resistance and good speaker system while it can forego AC power input or USB charging stations. A tabletop radio for home, on the other hand, will do great with AC input and inbuilt rechargeable batteries and need not be resistant to the elements. Similarly, it’s possible to find a radio model that has features suited for most other uses. Once you have narrowed down where you need them, you can make a decision to purchase the best portable radio you need.