Shortwave radio has been around for several years, and once could be seen in practically every household. Its popularity may have waned, but its use certainly has not. There are still plenty of reasons to own a shortwave radio. The best shortwave radios available, have evolved to better serve modern sensibilities. Let’s have a look.
8 Best Shortwave Radios To Consider
- Sangean ATS-909X BK AM/FM/LW/SW World Band Receiver
- Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave Radio
- Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power
- Sony Shortwave Radio ICF-SW7600GR
- C Crane CC Skywave
- Retekess V115 Portable Radio with MP3 Player
- TECSUN PL-380 DSP FM Stereo
- Midland – WR300
Factors That Decide Your Purchase (A Buying Guide)
Why Do You Need A Shortwave Radio?
This question can decide what type of shortwave radio you buy. If it’s just for listening to AM/FM radio, or if you want one for emergencies. In case you want a radio with a transceiver, make sure you have a ham radio license.
Where Do You Intend To Use The Radio?
A radio specifically for home and a radio that you can take along for camping and hiking have different characteristics. The one you choose for your home (or office) can be bigger, have direct electrical power, and be bulkier. A desktop radio could be an all-in-one radio with better sound.
A portable radio, on the other hand, should be lightweight and easy to carry around. Many of these have more power options (batteries, solar panels, hand crank, etc.). They may suffer slightly in terms of sound quality compared to their desktop brethren, but their goal is to be lightweight and portable.
Features For Shortwave Radios
This defines the range of frequency that conventional shortwave radio can pick up. Generally, this lies in the range of 1.7 MHz and 30 MHz. Although, many radios also offer 0.54 MHz to 30 MHz. A wider range is better since it gives you more options. Apart from commercial AM/FM frequencies, you may also want to tune into weather alerts and forecasts.
Shortwave radios traditionally tune into AM mode stations. You may want something that has more modes, like SSB mode for additional options.
Aftermarket Antennas And Accessories
Getting the right antenna is often a sticking point for most radios. Put greater premium on a radio that allows changing its antenna with an aftermarket antenna. This allows flexibility and can smooth over any faults in stock antennae.
Other accessories may be available for better sound, recording, or adding to functions of your radio. Should you consider enhancing the features of your radio, how it plays with accessories is important.
Weight And The Best Portable Shortwave Radio
Most modern radios are feature-rich. You’ll find there is little to worry about in terms of options. However, weight is still an important factor. There are many radios designed to keep you company on the outdoors. Every pound and every ounce you carry matters while on a hike. So a radio that puts lower weight as its focus is certainly a desirable one.
10 Shortwave Radio Reviews
1. Sangean ATS-909X BK AM/FM/LW/SW World Band Receiver
The battery-powered Sangean ATS-909X BK is a compact, well-built radio with good looks. Plenty can be done with this radio. It has 406 memory preset stations for easy access, including AM/FM stations.
A fine-tuning function can help better receive weaker signals and reduce noise. To reduce noise issues further, the radio includes a “squelch” function. Useful tuning and search options make operating the radio easier.
AM and FM reception is pretty good. FM especially tends to be crystal clear, though occasionally, the antenna will feel inadequate. Sangean ATS-909X BK also serves the SSB band with a 40Hz step. It’s passable, but again, could have been better. A large backlit LCD display shows information on the channel and the frequency.
Additional features include the ability to set three alarms, convenient charging, and a headphone jack with a pair of earbuds included. Even with all those features, I still wonder if it is worth its price tag.
- Good looks
- Feature-rich includes additional accessories as well
- Good signal reception and sound quality
- Includes built-in battery, but can run on AA batteries as well
- The antenna could have been better
2. Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave Radio
Tecsun PL880 portable radio has an interesting design. If it weren’t for all those digital options and buttons, I’d probably call it retro. It has very convenient options for digital scan as well as analog-style dials to reach and fine-tune the frequency of your choice. Audio quality is clear and pleasing. As a feature-packed digital radio, this one holds up pretty well.
The radio works with AM/FM/SW/SSB frequencies. Its sideband receiver with a 10Hz step makes it convenient to work through various frequencies and zero-in on better reception in case of a weak signal.
Other features for the Tecsun PL880 include a 24-hour alarm clock, 18650 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery, headphone jack, and a backlit LCD display. Charging is done through a micro USB port.
- Excellent sound quality
- Powerful antenna works with several frequencies
- Easy to use
- Good filter options to drown out signal noise
- Sync detector performs below average
3. Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power Radio
Kaito KA500 has so many ways to draw power, I often wonder if it is overdoing it. Its description points out 5-Way power options, but there are actually six. These are:
- 3 AA batteries
- 5V micro USB
- 5V DC wall adapter
- Built-in NiMH rechargeable battery pack
- Included solar panel
If that isn’t enough and you need more power, a hand crank can come in handy for some emergency power. The radio also includes a USB power out port to charge devices like mobile phones.
I think the variety of charging and power options alone make it an excellent companion for hiking and camping. KA500 can receive AM, FM, and SW stations. For USA and Canada, it can access NOAA weather channels and PEAS (Public Emergency Alert System). The reception is average, and the tuning knob/dial leaves much to be desired. The volume is excellent.
Other features on the radio include a flashlight, LED reading lamp, and red SOS beacon light. Good quality construction and a robust body provide good finishing touches.
- Good value for money
- Convenient powering options
- Several features for emergency situations
- No digital display
- Tuning knob could be better
4. Sony Shortwave Radio ICF-SW7600GR
Sony shortwave radio is simple and compact. Its digital tuner can access FM, MW/AM frequencies, while its memory bank can be used to store 100 frequencies. Tuning is simple and ergonomic, while the synchronous detector on the ICF-SW7600GR makes it easier to access and enjoy stations with weak signals.
This is a long-running model from Sony, and it has been updated continuously. Sony Shortwave Radio ICF-SW7600GR is compact, lightweight, and with easy controls. Sound quality is clear, the LCD display is crisp, and the battery backup is impressive. The radio includes a timer and dual-function world clock.
- Compact and lightweight
- Good battery life
- Excellent and easy to use controls
- Rugged and robust construction
- Battery level indicator can be ridiculously off the mark
- A learning curve to understand all functions and features
5. C Crane CC Skywave
Simple, bareboned looks of the C Crane CC Skywave would make it too easy to ignore. Thankfully, its features don’t fail to draw attention. For a radio priced in the $100 range, it certainly does stand out with its features.
It is light, portable, and has good reception for AM/FM/Shortwave/Weather/Airband. The sound quality leaves something to be desired, but given the price and accessible frequency bands, it can be forgiven. The backlit LCD is small and only shows relevant information. You can set the display to default to the frequency or the current time.
Other features include an alarm, headphone jack, sleep timer, carry case, earbuds, and a rotary volume knob. The C Crane CC Skywave runs off two AA batteries or an AC adapter.
- Lightweight and well-built
- Excellent battery life
- Convenient tuning
- 400 memory presets
- Only a few weather channels available
6. Retekess V115 Portable Radio with MP3 Player
Retekess V115 is a small, portable radio that offers excellent value for money. It works with FM, AM, and SW frequencies. There is storage for 10 frequencies on the radio, each corresponding to a button. The small, backlit LCD display shows the current station frequency in use.
Apart from these frequencies, this radio can also work through an AUX cable or memory card, You also have the option to record whatever is playing on the radio to the memory card. Retekess V115 also works as an mp3 player and can play music off the memory card. Sound quality is average, and it could do better with reception.
- Excellent value for money
- Can record and play audio/music off a microSD card
- Good battery life
- Average sound quality
- Below average antenna performance
7. TECSUN PL-380 DSP FM Stereo
TECSUN PL-380 is the low-spec sibling of the TECSUN PL880 we saw further up on this list. This is a small and compact budget radio with fairly good features. It can access AM, FM, MW, SW, and LW frequencies. The frequency range in use is fairly wide, and the antenna powerful enough to capture many stations.
A small LCD display includes the battery level indicator, temperature, and the current frequency in use. The default view can be changed to other parameters, like clock, alarm time, and signal strength.
Other features include 550 preset memories, rechargeable NiMH battery, 5V USB jack, and earphone jack.
- Compact and convenient
- Good value for money
- Average sound quality
8. Midland – WR300
Midland – WR300 is an excellent radio and emergency alert system. If you live in a region where NOAA and weather alerts are important, this is one of the best shortwave tabletop radios to consider. The radio directly tunes into NOAA channels and will give you audible and visual warnings for emergency scenarios including tornadoes, thunderstorm, civil danger, and more.
It uses the S.A.M.E. system to lock onto NOAA frequencies, without requiring user intervention or programming. Information is delivered through a 90dB alarm, visual flash on the LCD screen, or a voice alert. An event expiration indicator is included and makes the alarms more useful.
Weather alerts are its core strength, but it can also receive conventional radio frequencies. You may set up six memory channels. Other features include a built-in clock, alarms, backlit display, and calendar.
- Easy to setup
- Alarms and alerts for weather alerts
- Good audio quality
- Overly bright backlit display
- Average radio functions and frequency use
Quick Shortwave Radio FAQs
What is a shortwave radio good for?
Shortwave systems can be used to transmit information or entertainment programs to cover a wide range. A shortwave radio can pick up these programs, and be used for entertainment, or for receiving important information.
Is a ham radio the same as a shortwave radio?
Not necessarily. A ham radio involves two-way communication. And while hams often use shortwave frequencies, they can use other frequencies as well. A conventional shortwave station is meant for broadcast only. Similarly, conventional shortwave radios will only receive, and not broadcast.
What is the range of a shortwave radio?
Range of shortwave band frequencies for international broadcasting generally lies in the range of 2.3MHz to 26.1MHz. In terms of distance, shortwave radio can cover a very wide range and conveniently go beyond the visible horizon.
What is the difference between shortwave and longwave radio?
Longwave radio usually works in the frequency range of 30 kHz to 279 kHz. These waves follow the curvature of the earth and do not go beyond the visible horizon. Shortwave includes specific bands in the 2.3MHz to 26.1MHz range, and can go beyond the horizon.
How do I get into shortwave radio?
It’s simple. Buy a radio at a convenient price range. You’ll have access to channels with entertainment, information, and weather alerts. If you want to expand your hobby, you can also consider getting a ham radio license.
Do you need a license for shortwave radio?
No license is necessary to receive shortwaves. However, if you intend to transmit over shortwave radio, a license is necessary, even if it is ham radio.
What’s Your Choice Of A Shortwave Radio?
There are several options available, and finding the best shortwave radio can be rather difficult. The list here has been presented with features and options in the hopes that it will make it easy to select a radio that fits your preferences and budget.