It may be the year 2020, but for many of us the drive-in movie theater still offers a special kind of fun. Sure, today people can enjoy 3D movie theaters with Surround Sound. They can also just stream films and TV shows. But there’s something about the communal feeling you get in the outdoors watching films like you’re in a concert.
There’s just one thing: you need the best drive-in movie radio to get the audio transmissions of the movie.
Best Drive-In Movie Radio Reviews
Obviously, there are plenty of radios to choose from, so you may not find it easy to pick the right one for your movie drive-in needs. To help you out, we’ve picked the 10 best options you can choose from.
1. Sony Stereo CD/Cassette Boombox Home Audio Radio
It’s not surprising that Sony is on this list, since it’s one of the most iconic brands in the electronics industry. In fact, Sony’s first ever product was actually a transistor radio, and they’ve never abandoned this particular field. Sony continues to design and manufacture fine radios, and this is one good example. It’s even surprisingly affordable.
It’s not expensive because it’s a basic radio, but with that Sony reliability the brand is known for. This comes with the AM/FM tuner you’ll need for the drive-in movie theater, and you have an LCD screen displaying the frequency or the time. This gives you 30 presets, so you can save your favorite stations.
This also comes with a CD player with shuffle, along with a tape deck for your cassette tapes. There’s also an auxiliary input for your digital music players, along with a headphone jack. This sounds great, with the Mega Bass function to boost the bass along with 2 sizable speakers.
This isn’t bulky at all, and it is lightweight as well. It also comes with a folding handle. It’s powered with an included AC power cord, but you can also buy 6 C batteries for outdoor use. The batteries should last an entire day at the drive-in, as they will give you 19 hours of power.
- Nicely portable
- Great sound
- Easy to use
- Clear FM reception
2. Panasonic RX-D55GC-K Boombox High Power MP3 CD AM/ FM Radio
Panasonic is another iconic brand that makes our list. This one costs more than twice as much as the Sony listed here, but then it comes with more modern features.
This is a 280W radio with a speaker rating of 10W for each channel. It sounds great, with features like the MP3 Remaster and Sound Virtualizer. There’s also a USB port for a flash drive containing your digital music files. This port can also be used to connect your smartphone to the radio speakers.
- Can play CDs
- Can also play cassette tapes
- It sounds terrific, even when playing cassettes
- Comes with an equalizer
- Uses batteries
- Comes with a remote
3. JENSEN CD-490 Portable Stereo CD Player with AM/FM Radio
This is extremely affordable, but it doesn’t look like it’s cheap. It doesn’t work like it’s cheap either. This is an AM/FM radio that can also play CDs. The CD player is top-loading, which is quite convenient.
It features a bright LED display to indicate current functions. There’s a headphone jack, as well as a jack for auxiliary input to connect your smartphone or MP3 player to the speakers. This is powered by 8 C-cell batteries, but you can also plug in a 120V AC adapter as well.
It’s easy enough to carry this around, as the size is manageable and it’s not heavy at all. The sound is great, and it’s simple enough to use.
- Extremely affordable
- Comes with folding handle and telescoping antenna
- Great sound
- Plays CDs
- Can be used with your smartphone
4. Magnavox MD6972 CD Boombox with Digital AM FM Radio
Here’s another affordable model, but its features are topnotch. The blue LED screen shows you the radio frequency you’re listening to, so you can easily tune in to the movie audio. There’s also a remote that comes with the purchase.
This has an auxiliary port to connect any mobile digital device like your smartphone. But it’s probably easier to just use the Bluetooth. It also has a built-in CD player. The front of the radio even sports colorful lights that change with the music you’re playing.
This also comes with an electrical cord for home use. However, you can use this indoors with 8 C batteries.
- Telescoping antenna for AM/FM
- Very portable, with a large folding handle
- Party lights can be turned off for the drive-in
- Flawless Bluetooth function
- Crisp sound
5. Pyle Bluetooth Boombox Portable Wireless 300-Watt Power FM Radio
Now this looks different, as it sports the modern cylindrical design. This design is eminently portable, as it’s not too long with a length of 23 inches. The radius is just a bit under 11 inches. It also comes with a detachable carry belt for portability.
The sound is great, as the design actually enhances the bass. It features a couple of 2.5-inch speakers, along with a 6.5-inch subwoofer.
It offers Bluetooth connectivity along with a USB slot, 3.5mm auxiliary input, and 2¼ input jacks for a microphone or a guitar. This plays your modern music from a flash drive or your smartphone with no trouble, and you can use it for your guitar as well. This has a digital screen, but you can also use the remote controller.
You won’t have to keep buying batteries for this, either. It comes with a rechargeable 2000mAh battery.
- Durable design
- Fantastic sound
- Has USB and auxiliary input
- Easy to carry around
- Gets FM radio
6. Sony Portable Bluetooth Digital Turner AM/FM CD Player
Yes, it’s another Sony. This is a bit more expensive than the first Sony on this list, and that’s because it does offer more features.
Among those new features is the Bluetooth connectivity. This lets you connect your smartphone and play the music saved there. This also has NFC, so you get a stable connection with your smartphone.
This comes with a CD player, but for modern users it’s more important that it has a USB drive. This means you can play the music in your flash drive. You can even save the music from the CD into the flash drive, so you won’t have to keep bring CDs to the beach or park when you’re having an outdoor party.
- Plays FM/AM radio, with presets for favorite stations
- 26 hours of battery life
- Portable, with folding handle
- Sounds great with Mega Bass sound enhancement
- Comes with Bluetooth and USB port
- Plays CDs
7. Jensen CD-555 CD Bluetooth Boombox Portable FM Radio
This comes with a cube design along with a very affordable price. But it has more going for it than its looks and low cost.
For drive-in moviegoers, it’s great because it’s easy to carry around as it is extremely compact. The sound is fine, and not all that tinny at all. It gets FM reception nicely, too.
This has Bluetooth connectivity and it works great with smartphones. It also plays CDs as well, and you just need to load it at the top.
- Simple controls that even kids can figure out
- Gets FM signals
- Plays CDs
- Compact design
- Very affordable
8. Sylvania SRCD243 Portable CD Player with AM/FM Radio
This is even more affordable than all the earlier radios listed, but it sure doesn’t look cheap. It’s powered by an AC power adapter, but you can use 8 C batteries for the drive-in.
It has the basic boombox configuration, with 2 speakers in front and the CD player at the top. A large handle can unfold when you need to carry it. When you’re playing your CDs, the smalls screen displays the track number.
This gets AM and FM reception, and the sound is great. With the batteries, you have all that you need for the drive-in.
- Extremely affordable
- Gets AM/FM stations
- Plays CDs
- Has auxiliary input for music players
- Easy to carry around
9. GPX, Inc. Portable Top-Loading CD Boombox with AM/FM Radio
This is the most affordable radio on this list, and again you won’t think it’s cheap at all. The speakers are at the sides, while on top you can put in your CDs to play. The controls are all around the small screen, where you find the CD track number.
This also gets AM/FM reception, which is crucial for the drive-in. The telescoping antenna works fine. You also have a 3.5mm audio input so you can connect your smartphone or MP3 player.
- Can play CDs, even CD-R/RW disks
- AM/FM reception
- Easy to use
- Very affordable
- Can be powered by 6 C batteries
10. Pyle Street Blaster X High Powered Portable BoomBox Stereo Speaker
Here once again, you have the modern cylindrical design. This is among the most expensive on this list, but that’s because you have lots of modern tech installed.
With this you get NFC and Bluetooth, so that you can use the speakers while the radio is wirelessly connected to your smartphone. There’s an AUX jack in case you want a wired connection instead. You can put in your flash drive in the radio’s USB port, so you can play your favorite saved tunes. There’s even an input jack for a microphone or a guitar.
The sound is fantastic, as you’d expect from a 1000W radio. This lets you adjust the treble and bass, along with the echo.
It’s also powered by a built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. Once you get a full charge, you get 55 hours of use. That’s great for an entire weekend at the drive-in movie theater!
- Long battery life
- Fantastic sound
- Bluetooth and NFC
- Has a USB port
- Comes with pulsing lights for parties
Best Drive-In Movie Radio Buying Guide
If you’re a responsible consumer (and you ought to be), you will obviously need to factor in the price of the radio. That’s just sensible. However, you can’t just go with the price to help you make your decision as to which radio to buy.
Some people just go with the cheapest option, but often they realize later on that this wasn’t the best decision they ever made. Often, the cheapest radios offer the lowest quality. They may not even last long. That means it can actually cost you more money in the long run when you go with these cheap radios, since you may have to buy replacements too often.
At the same time, it doesn’t mean that the most expensive options are the best choices for you. You may find more affordable radios that are about as good (or even better).
To make sure you’re not wasting your money, pick the radio you’ll use for the drive-in theater with these factors in mind:
This is one factor that immediately rules out the most expensive audio systems. That’s because those systems are generally too large and bulky, so it’s not practical for you to bring them along to the drive-in.
It’s best that you get something that’s not too big and heavy so you can carry it easily. A handle would be nice as well. It doesn’t have to be pocket-sized, but it should be small enough to at least fit into your car while you carry it with one hand.
In case you haven’t realized it yet, you can’t go with a plug-in unit with no other power option available. Where are you going to plug it in the drive-in? There aren’t any convenient power outlets there.
What you need is a battery-powered radio. The batteries can be rechargeable or disposable, but they should provide enough power to last a whole day. Sometimes these drive-ins offer double features or even all-day movie festivals, so you need to be ready. Sure, you can (and probably should) bring backup batteries, but it’s best if you don’t need them.
Sound Volume and Quality
The best FM radio for drive-in movie theaters should offer great sound. That means clear treble and midrange, with a nice booming bass. It’s not enough that the sound is clear enough to let you understand what the movie characters are saying. Movies these days tend to have lots of special effects and explosions, and your speakers should be able to give you clear audio without any issues such as vibrations or hisses.
The speakers should also be loud enough. It should be able to give you the audio you need at half-volume.
Lots of cheap radios can stop working after a while, sometimes for no apparent reason. That’s why it’s best to go with a reputable brand, so you know they care about build quality. You want something reliable.
Don’t forget that you’ll be using the radio outdoors, and that involves carrying the radio along the way. It can be bumped or you may even drop it. It’s best of your radio can be tough enough to withstand these accidents.
Read the drive-in movie radio reviews written by customers, so you get a fair idea of how durable the radio is.
Ease of Use
What you want is a radio that doesn’t need a Ph.D. for you to use. It has to be simple, with a nice LCD screen that gives you the info you need. The control layout has to be intuitive, with comfy dials and lighted controls.
Some radios come with free accessories, such as earbuds and cables. Those are always nice. It’s also great if it comes with a power adapter, so that you don’t have to deal with a permanently attached electrical cord when you’re using the radio outdoors.
Other Factors to Consider
You may also want to check out other factors that may not be all that related to movie-watching. That’s because you want a versatile radio; you certainly will appreciate a radio you can use for other occasions. Buying a radio just for the drive-in doesn’t seem practical.
So, here are other factors you also need to keep in mind:
There’s really no need for an exceptional antenna for the drive in. After all, the drive-in transmitter is right there. Even a substandard antenna will do the job nicely.
You can always use your radio to listen to music on FM stations though, and you’ll need a good antenna for that. The same goes for AM stations too, especially if you’re in the mood to hunt for AM stations you normally can’t get in the daytime.
If it has Bluetooth, then it’s easy to pair this with your mobile device. You can then use the radio speakers to play your smartphone music.
Auxiliary Audio Input
With this, you can connect your mobile digital devices (such as your old MP3 players) and use the speakers on your radio.
You can then just put in a flash drive so you can play the music you like. It’s simple and easy.
Now you don’t have to let your CD collection go to waste. Dust them all off and play them once again.
You may still have some music cassette tapes from the 1970s and 80s. Take them out of the attic and play them once more. After all, the music of your youth does seem to sound better than today’s “music” (if you can call it that).
It’s great to use the radio for some festive music when you’re having a yard party or a get-together with friends. Some radios even have party lights that blink in time with the music, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Drive-In Movie Radio Care and Maintenance
Here are some tips to make sure radio stays at peak condition:
- The first thing you have to keep in mind is to treat the radio with care. Try not to drop it, okay?
- If you bought a radio from a reputable brand, it will come with a manual. Read it.
- Keep it away from the elements. That means don’t let it get wet, and keep it away from direct sunlight for too long.
- Be aware of anyone (such as kids) playing around with magnets for some reason. Also make sure there aren’t any strong magnetic sources near you. Magnets can cause havoc with speakers.
- When you play the radio, don’t take the volume to full blast. That will just damage the speakers, and maybe your eardrums too. You also annoy the other people out in public, and there may be some unpleasant confrontations as a result.
- Clean the speakers every now and then with compressed air.
- As for the rest of the radio, just use a somewhat damp cloth to get rid of the dust.
Why can’t I just use my car radio?
You’ll just drain the batteries if you do. Once the movie is over, you may find it hard to start the car again.
Can I connect the radio via the lighter port?
Sure, you can. But then again, you’ll have the same problem with your battery.
Why can’t I just use my trusty hitchhiking AM/FM radio?
That’s because those radios tend to give you a rather tinny sound. If you’re watching a movie like Star Wars, you want Darth Vader to speak with that terrifying bass-y voice of doom. You don’t want him to sound like a cartoon character.
I want to buy a particular radio because it has this cool retro design. Should I get it?
Only if it has the other features that you need for a drive-in movie radio. Function comes first before fashion in this case. Besides, no one will be looking at your radio anyway. Everyone’s watching the movies.
Don’t underestimate the power of sound to give you an exhilarating movie experience. With the best drive-in movie radio, you won’t have problems. You can understand what the characters are saying, while the explosions and other sound effects are satisfyingly crisp. Invest in one of these radios, and you will enjoy the drive-in movie experience even more.