In terms of electronic entertainment devices, the world now is very different than it was 30 years ago. We have huge yet affordable flat screen TVs, gaming consoles, PCs, and smartphones. Yet despite all these options, plenty of people still find the need to get the best portable AM FM radio they can find.
The good news is that even the best AM FM radio today is still affordable, and they’re packed with lots of nifty technological advances.
There is no bad news, unless you happen to get a lemon. But we aim to avoid that with this guide.
Best Portable AM FM Radio Reviews
With so many radios still available these days, it can be quite a task trying to sift through the muck to find the best options. We’ve done the work for you, and chosen 10 of the best options you can buy for your money.
1. Panasonic RF-2400D AM/FM Radio
Panasonic is an old name in the portable AM/FM radio industry, and it’s a brand you can rely on. It’s certainly portable, since it’s about 9 inches long and less than 5 inches tall, and it’s thin at about 3 inches. It also weighs only a pound.
This is also extremely affordable, since you get only the basics such as an analog frequency display. It does give you a nice sound, since the single speaker takes up half the space in front. There’s also an earphone jack as well, if you don’t want to bother other people around you.
This comes with a power cord, but you can also use 4 AA batteries.
- Compact and lightweight
- Simple to use
- Very affordable
- Gets great reception for AM and FM
- Good sound
2. Retekess V115 Portable AM FM Radio
Now this comes with an LCD screen, but it’s still very affordable. IN fact, it offers several modern features including a keypad. This supports a TF card, along with a 3.5mm AUX input jack for other mobile music players. You can even record from the radio to a micro memory card.
The LCD screen can display the frequency as well as the time, and it’s backlit too. The screen light lasts for 5 seconds, so you don’t waste battery power. Speaking of which, it has a 1000mAh rechargeable lithium battery and your purchase includes the USB cable.
This is very compact at only 5 inches long and about 4 inches high. It also weighs only 7 ounces. Yet there’s a sleep timer as well.
- Great connectivity
- Rechargeable battery
- Extremely compact
- Very affordable
- LCD screen with keypad
3. C Crane CC Skywave AM, FM, Shortwave, Weather
Now if you’re hiking to remote areas, you may want to consider taking this radio along. It’s extremely compact, as it is less than 5 inches long, 3 inches tall, and it’s an inch thick. It even comes with a carry case. Once you use it, you can then just fold out the back stand.
This also has an LCD screen showing the radio frequency and it can also show the time. But this is more than just a radio for AM and FM stations. This lets you get alerts from the NOAA weather radio. If you’re near the airport, your radio can find the radio frequencies of air traffic controllers, so you can be updated with airline schedule changes.
This can be powered by an optional AC adapter, but you can also use just 2 AA batteries. Those will last for about 60 hours at moderate volume. The sound is good enough, but it also comes with ear buds.
- Can get shortwave, weather reports from NOAA, and chatter from air traffic controllers
- Very compact
- LCD screen with keypad
- Minimal signal interference
- Uses only 2 AA batteries that can last 2 whole days.
4. Sangean PR-D5BK AM/FM Portable Radio
Sangean has been making a lot of waves in the industry lately, with their compact radios packed with lots of modern features. This one is certainly great for AM/FM listening. The FM antenna works with the PLL synthesized tuning system for clear reception. The 200mm ferrite antenna works great for AM stations.
This is powered by a 100-240V AC adapter, but you can also use this with 6 C batteries. You can carry this around easily, as it is only 10 inches long and 5 inches high. That’s also enough space for a pair of 2.5-inch speakers. It weighs less than 2 pounds too.
This has 5 memory slots to offer (5 each for AM and FM stations). It has an auto-seek function so you don’t have to find the stations yourself. The LCD screen shows the frequency clearly with its backlighting, and it also shows how much battery you have left.
This comes with a sleep timer, to keep you from wasting that battery power. It can also wake you up with its humane alarm system. That means you can wake up gently to your regular FM station music or AM station news.
- Very compact
- Clear screen
- 10 memory slots
- Clear station reception
- Sleep function
- Humane alarm system
5. VMEI Emergency Weather Solar Hand Crank Portable Weather Radio with AM/FM
It’s quite disconcerting not knowing anything about possible weather changes when you’re hiking, especially when you can’t get Internet on your smartphone. The good news is that this radio is especially made for such circumstances. This is the radio you want for emergencies no matter where you are.
First off, you get emergency weather broadcasts concerning tornadoes and storms, from radio stations including NOAA weather radio. That should give you the heads up you need.
This was also designed to be powered in various ways, considering that electricity may be out if there’s a storm or a hurricane. This comes with a 2300mAh rechargeable battery, and you have a micro USB slot for recharging. You can use 3 AA batteries. You even have a solar panel so you can use sunlight. Finally, there’s a hand crank too to recharge your battery.
This also works as a flashlight as well. It can also emit an SOS alarm in case you need to be found by emergency first responders.
- 4 different ways to power this
- Gets you emergency weather alerts
- Very compact (fits in your hand)
- Has a headphone jack
- Lets you listen to AM and FM stations
6. Retekess TR604 AM FM Radio Portable Transistor Analog Radio
If you just want a simple and affordable radio that you can use easily, this is it. It’s very inexpensive, but you get all the basic features you actually need.
The antenna is 2 feet long (it telescopes), and this gets you AM and FM reception. You can also rotate the antenna to get the best reception possible.
The sound comes from a rather large speaker, which takes up most of the front of the radio. You get clear reception with loud volume, and these should be enough for most. There’s an earphone jack as well, if you’re the only one listening.
The handle is quite comfy to hold, and the radio is compact and lightweight. It’s less than 9 inches long and less than 6 inches high, and it weighs about 1 and a half pounds. It comes with a detachable electrical plug, but you can power it with 3 D batteries.
- Extremely affordable
- Very portable
- Nice sound
- Clear AM and FM reception
- Very easy to use
7. Panasonic RF-2400D Portable AM/FM Radio Player
Yep, it’s another Panasonic. This one is also very affordable, with a design that most people in the 1950s will find very familiar. It comes with a modern red tuning indicator light. This means the red light comes on when you’ve tuned to a station perfectly.
People in the old days will also marvel at the sound quality coming from the large speaker. It measures around 4 inches, and you get crystal clear sound that’s great for news and music. It’s durable too, and quite a few people have no trouble bringing it in to the bathroom while they shower. that should keep you from using your smartphone for shower music.
This comes with a detachable electrical cord, but you can power it with AA batteries. Your purchase even comes with a dozen Panasonic AA batteries, which is surprising. In the electronics industry, the general rule is often “batteries not included”.
- Comes with detachable power cord that measures 5 feet
- Powered by AA batteries (which come with the purchase)
- Clear sound
- Easy to use, with indicator light for station tuning
- Extremely compact
8. Sangean PR-D7 BK AM/FM Digital Rechargeable Portable Radio
This is another extremely compact radio, as it measures only 8 inches long and weighs a little over a pound. The well-balanced tone gives you nice audio for both music and talk radio.
The designers apparently took more effort to plan the design of this radio, as the controls are all nicely located. The LCD screen can show you both the time and the frequency. This radio has an excellent capability of getting clear signals even from distant stations. There’s an auto-seek function as well, so it can find the radio stations for you. You can then save your favorite stations in the 10 memory slots.
- Easy to use
- Has sleep function
- Wakes you up with humane alarm system
- 10 preset memory radio slots
- Can be powered by 6 AA batteries
9. PRUNUS J-01 AM FM SW Portable Transistor Radio
This is incredibly cheap, yet it comes with a powerful DSP chip. This chip boosts the sensitivity of your radio, to make sure you get clear reception from radio stations. It works very well for both AM and FM.
Despite the retro looks, this also comes with a modern rechargeable battery. A full charge gives you 20 hours of continuous use. It’s extremely compact and lightweight, and it comes with a detachable strap as well. Just hang this anywhere when you’re at your hiking camp.
This can even support a Micro-SD/TF card, so you can play your own MP3 music. It has an earphone jack as well.
- Clear AM and FM reception
- Works as an MP3 player
- Has built-in rechargeable battery
- Very compact
- Amazingly affordable
10. Eton Field Radio with Bluetooth & Fine Digital Tuning
The Prunus above is the most affordable on this list, and this Eton radio is the most expensive on the list. The price is still very reasonable, but it comes with top features that cheaper radios don’t have.
Among these features is its Bluetooth function, so you can easily stream the music from your mobile MP3 player. You can use this for shortwave as well. When you listen to FM radio, you also enjoy the Radio Data System. The RDS lets you get the digital data transmitted by FM stations.
- Extremely compact
- 50 memory slots
- Has Bluetooth
- Can use external antenna
- Can be powered by batteries
Best Portable AM FM Radio Buying Guide
What if you want to pick your own radio outside our list? That’s always your prerogative. But you need to pick the right radio according to the most important factors. In fact, these factors can also determine which radio on our list is best for you.
Obviously, you need a radio that you can fit within your budget. You should try to get maximum value for your money, which includes not paying top dollar for features you don’t really need.
You also want to take your usage into account. You get full value for your money if you’re going to use the radio every day. You may want to settle for a more affordable radio if you’re only going to use it a few times a year.
A portable radio is a radio you can easily carry around. This is crucial for hitchhiking trips. It’s also convenient for home use—who wants to lug around a huge radio from room to room?
You need to take the size into account, because you don’t want it to be too bulky. The design of the radio should be made for easy carrying. The weight is also important, so it better be lightweight.
This is the main problem with some portable radios that can play CDs (or even cassette tapes). They’re often bigger, and they’re not as easy to carry around especially on hiking trips.
Most portable radios come with a handle, and these are often foldable. Try to get a radio with an ergonomic handle, so you don’t hurt your hand carrying the radio for extender periods.
A truly portable radio should have a compartment for batteries. That makes it really portable, since you’re not limited to using it near an electrical socket. This is crucial if you intend to use this radio for hiking trips, or even when you’re listening to the radio in your backyard.
Check how long the battery will last. Obviously, the long the better. For hiking trips, you may want to get extra batteries to be on the safe side. It’s also better for your wallet if you don’t need too many expensive batteries for your radio.
This is the main problem with radios powered by built-in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. They’re like your smartphones—they’re great while the power lasts, but you have a problem when the power is gone.
if you’re mainly going to use your radio at home and you have an electrical socket in every room (even outside the house), then stick to just plugging the radio in. This saves you the trouble and expense of buying batteries for your radio.
Many radios offer both an electrical cord as well as a compartment for batteries. You may want an electrical cord that you can detach from the radio, when you’re using it for outdoor use. Sometimes it’s annoying to deal with long electrical cords when you’re running the radio on batteries.
It’s great if your radio can reliably get the signals from FM and AM radio stations, even if these stations are farther away than usual. This is a mandatory feature if you’re an avid AM DXer, as a great antenna can help you get signals from really obscure AM stations from so far away. It’s best if you don’t have to fiddle around too much with the antenna when you’re listening to music, especially if you’re mainly a fan of FM stations. Leave the antenna-fiddling to the AM station fans.
For hikers, you may want to get a radio that can get emergency broadcasts and weather reports such as from NOAA. This capability can help you prepare if the weather will turn for the worse when you’re all alone and far from the nearest town. You may also want to consider getting a radio with short wave capability as well, just in case.
What you don’t want is a radio that will stop working for no reason you can think of. This is the main problem with radios made by obscure brands—quality control seems like an alien concept for them. What you want is a reliable radio that will work all day, every day.
Keep in mind that using a radio for the outdoors can be a challenge. It’s easy enough to bump your radio against trees and rocks, and you may even drop it. It’s best if your radio is tough enough that it keeps working even after these types of accidents.
There are even some radios designed for hiking with water-resistant features. This is great when you wish to use the radio outdoors. Still, even if the radio is advertised as “rain-resistant, you may want to seriously consider taking the radio out of the rain.
It’s a fact that in most cases, these speakers in portable radios sound better than what you get with your smartphone. But some radios sound better than others. Find one that gives you a nice bass, especially if you’re mainly using the radio for music. Some radios have controls for bass and treble, and a few even have some rudimentary equalizers.
You may want to go with larger and more powerful speakers, though this comes at the expense of portability (not to mention the higher price too). The cheaper radios only have one speaker, though it can be rather large. Others have 2 speakers to offer, and you can also get stereo sound.
You need to balance the sound quality with your need for portability. You can go for a bigger radio if you’re using the radio mostly at home, but you need a smaller one for hiking trips.
Ease of Use
This is a catch-all phrase that can include a lot of different features and functions. Let’s try to take a look at the features that can make your life easier when you’re using the radio.
- LCD screen. This can give you the precise radio station you’re listening to. This makes it easier for you to find again a new station you’ve just discovered. You need a screen that’s you can read easily at a glance. The best digital AM FM radio will have a backlit screen, so you can see it at night.
- Fine-tuning. In the old days, you had 2 tuning dials to play with in the more advanced portable radios. You had the main tuning dial to quickly find the station frequency, and then you had the fine-tuning dial to really get the frequency right. Today, some radios have keypads that let you enter the precise station frequency. The radio may even have controls that let you change frequencies by very small increments. Other radios may also offer an auto-scan feature, which finds frequencies automatically for you.
- Preset memory slots. Do you have a handful of stations you mainly listen to? If that’s the case, you may want a radio with preset memory slots so you can quickly find these stations when you’re listening to your radio. Some radios even have a hundred memory slots or more.
Extra Music Playing Features
Let’s face it, sometimes you want to use the radio for your own music collection. If that’s the case, then you need to look for a USB slot in the radio so you can plug in a flash drive containing your favorite tunes.
Some am fm radios can have a CD player or even a cassette player too. This means you can take out your old CDs and cassettes from the attic, but these functions can make your radio a lot bigger.
You may even find radios with pulsating lights blinking to the beat of the music. This is great if you tend to use the radio for backyard parties—they add to the festive vibe even while you’re BBQing your hotdogs and burgers.
Sleep and Alarm
Many great radios offer these functions, though the screen should be able to display the time as well. In sleep mode, you can set the timer to turn off the radio after a set amount of time. This saves you battery (or electric) power if you want to fall asleep to music.
You can also set the alarm with the radio, so that you wake up to your favorite station. Some radios even offer a “humane” alarm system, starting with lower volume that gets progressively louder. That should keep you from being startled awake in the morning.
How AM/FM Radio Works
From a practical standpoint, how a portable radio works is simple. You just turn it on after making sure you have the batteries for it or it is plugged into an electrical socket. Pick whether you want to listen to AM or FM stations. Fiddle with the dial (or alternative controls) to get the station you want. Then lie back and enjoy, or just do what you were doing.
From a scientific point of view, explaining how radio works is a bit more complicated. There have been entire books written on the subject, if you’re really that interested. However, the basic gist is also quite simple. Radio stations emit radio signals, which your radio receives through its antenna. That’s basically it.
Use of Portable AM/FM Radio
So how exactly does it help you to get a portable AM/FM radio? Here are some of the most common reasons why peoples till buy these things:
This is the traditional reason why people get these things. You just pick a station (usually FM), and then just do what you were doing. You pick an oldies station or get one that plays modern music so you’re up to date on current hits.
You can, of course, use your smartphone for music too. But often to get FM stations you need to plug in your earbuds, so only a single person enjoys the music. By using a radio, you get better quality speakers than the tinny one in your smartphone.
Besides, the radio certainly works better than your smartphone if you’re having a party at your yard, while barbecuing meats.
Most people today get their news from cable TV or from the Internet, but news on the radio doesn’t keep you from doing other things while listening. You may also want to get the news when you’re hiking and you’re far from urban areas. It makes you feel connected to the world.
This is crucial for hikers who may need to be updated if ever the weather turns bad. What you don’t want is to be unprepared if the weather gets worse and you’re all along in the outdoors. With the best AM FM weather radio, you can get emergency reports if you’re hiking out in the woods.
What if you’re a sports fan and you’re far from town? Rabid fans want to know what’s happening with their spots team, and the radio can keep them updated on what’s happening. This is how the ancient folks kept track on ball games back in the Babe Ruth days.
For this you probably need to get an AM station. Talk shows can be about anything. Mostly it’s about politics, but many areas have talk shows about sports. The topics often include local sports teams too, especially high school football teams. Some even offer advice about family and romantic matters as well.
This is a hobby, in which you try to get to listen to AM stations from far away. There’s a casual competition among AM DXers about who can get to listen to the most obscure and distant AM stations. You better be able to prove it if you claim that you were able to listen to an AM station in Mongolia or Albania.
You may want to get the best AM FM portable radio if you can’t get too many AM signals at home. Sometimes you need to drive around (maybe to the top of a hill) to get really good AM signal reception.
I can do the same things with my smartphone, so why get a portable radio?
Four reasons. One, you save up on your smartphone battery power. If you’re outdoors, you need to save that smartphone battery power for emergency calls should you need to make or get them.
Two, you often need to use your hands constantly on the smartphone. In contrast, you can set the radio down and do things.
Three, the radio sounds better than what you get with smartphone speakers. The speakers are larger, and you can get better bass sounds than your tinny smartphone speakers. You can play the radio louder too, so more people get to enjoy your music. If you like using your smartphone for music, you may want to find a radio to which you can connect your smartphone.
Four, you may be in an area, such as in the woods, where Internet signals may be impossible to get. Your radio antenna may be better at getting signals from the radio stations.
Do I still need a portable radio if I have a fantastic audio system at home?
That depends. The thing about large audio systems is that you’re forced to listen to it in the same room. You may have to blast the volume up if you’re outside the room to listen to it. That can annoy the other people in the house, and maybe your neighbors too.
The thing about the portable radio is that you can easily carry it from room to room. That means you can enjoy your music or the baseball broadcast even while you’re tinkering around in your garage or workroom.
Save your smartphone battery power and use a radio instead. The best portable AM FM radio gives you music, news, and weather reports even when you’re out in the woods or just in your garage. A small portable radio may seem old-fashioned, but they still have their place in today’s modern world.