Thinking about planning your next adventure or are you always on the move but still have that desire to take music everywhere?
Portable radios have been around for a long time (several decades) but they have stood the test of time and even grown with the times. Sporting plenty of features and impressive components; fantastic sound quality, ability to be powered by two aa batteries, an easy to read LCD screen some even come with an alarm clock.
What makes the best portable radio? The audio system? Streaming services? Power options? With the right features, these devices can be pocket-sized but still mighty powerful when it comes to AM/FM radios.
Below is a list of the best portable radios available today, from simple radios to feature packs ones, we’ve got it all.
The Best Portable Radios of 2021
1. Sony ICF-P36 Portable Radio
When you ask somebody to think about audio, a brand that often comes to mind is Sony. Well known and with good reason, they make things of high quality!
For the portable radio class, Sony has released the P36, a nice pocket-sized device with plenty of features. The radio itself is a good size if you are wanting to carry it around in your pockets.
With this portable radio, you get a loudspeaker and an aux port for the times when you want to listen through your headphones.
You’re sure to find the antenna good for picking up AM/FM radio stations and you should find the signal strength to be good.
Sony, being Sony, have not let themselves down with this portable radio. It has fantastic sound quality, really adding to the listening experience and that has to be one of its major selling points.
A handy little feature is that there are LED lights to show the battery life remaining and also the tuning status. On the subject of tuning, it’s very easy to use, and finding AM/FM radio channels should pose no issue.
- Great portable size
- Sound quality is excellent
- No option to save presets
2. Studebaker Retro Portable Radio
The most notable thing about this portable radio is its design, stylishly retro. If you’re wanting to take a step back in time and appreciate how things used to be, this may be the radio for you.
A real head-turner but it’s not all about looks, this radio has plenty of features that make it worthy to be considered as one of the best portable radios around.
It has a good battery life and should see you through your day, which is what people want. Taking this radio around with you should be easy. It comes with a nice handle that makes it all the more possible to do so.
A feature that may appeal is that you can connect your MP3 player to this radio and play music stored on there through the speakers.
It may not have every feature but it does offer the key features for a portable AM FM radio and with its design, it adds that extra something to a room.
- Great retro design
- Aux-in for MP3 connectivity
- Good battery life
- No Bluetooth
3. RunningSnail Radio
RunningSnail has relaunched their MD-88s model and with that, it has a smaller design – it feels really good in the hand.
It comes with a 1,000 mAh power bank providing great flexibility and knowing you can charge your smartphone or another device is a nice little feature.
The speaker on the right-hand side produces enough sound for you to be able to hear critical weather alerts at a time when you’ll need it or give you enough music to make an impact.
RunningSnail has built-in 3 ways for this radio to be charged so this means that you should be able to get it recharged whatever situation you find yourself in. There is a manual hand crank. a solar panel and the standard micro USB way.
If you are intending on using this emergency radio when you are out camping or hiking, it should see you through no problem. There is an LED flashlight built-in which will illuminate your surrounding area and will hold up against a lot of things, though not heavy rainfall.
A radio wouldn’t be a radio without access to AM/FM stations, which fortunately this one does have! You also get NOAA weather frequencies so you’ll know what is coming your way.
The MD-88s has some water resistance but it is not waterproof. This is something to keep in mind if you intend to be in places which may make this a problem. The radio can stand up to rainfall but I wouldn’t recommend heavy rain.
Overall a great value for money portable radio that will be by your side (in most situations) when you need it most. Some handy extras like the power bank make it a super portable radio.
- Portable size
- Great battery life
- 1,000 mAh power bank
- Not fully waterproof
4. PRUNUS J-125 Portable Radio
This portable radio is going to take you back to the days of the Walkman. Happy memories for many, I’m sure.
A real selling point of this pocket radio is that it is extremely lightweight and very easy to carry around, even slipping it into your pocket shouldn’t present an issue.
There are a lot of features packed into this pocket-sized radio. For added portability included in the box, you get a neck or hand strap so if pockets aren’t your things, this radio won’t be taking up all of your vital hand space.
Marketing the J-125 at those who are considering an AM/FM radio for exercise as a good option, Prunus has kitted it out with a lock button. This puts an end to skipping through channels by accident when you’re on the move.
Dark evenings won’t stop this radio from being there for you, with a back-lit screen, you’ll still be able to see the time no matter the time of day.
As with a lot of portable radios, there is a built-in speaker and a headphone jack.
- Lock function
- Preset memory
- Timer function
- Not as many features as others
5. DreamSky Portable Radio
A nice, easy to use portable AM/FM radio from DreamSky. It is incredibly simple to fine-tune and can be done so in just a few seconds so you’ll never miss your favorite chat show or music.
DreamSky has really done a great job when it comes to sound quality. It is loud and clear, with superb reception. Even if you live in a remote area, you should be able to pick up AM/FM signals. This is due to the long-range FM telescopic antenna and the AM ferrite rod antenna which is built-in.
In keeping with true portability, this radio can be powered by four AA batteries so you can listen to the radio wherever you are.
A great carry handle is fitted to the DreamSky radio, this makes taking it places an east job. When you want those quiet times, simply plug in headphones via the headphone jack and you’ll be able to tune into the radio in peace.
Let’s look at the design, it is hard not to notice how stylish this radio is. The color of the unit is striking, really stands out but for all the right reasons. A funky design yet still looks highly functional and fit for purpose – which it totally is.
- Can be powered by aa batteries
- Strong antenna
- Simple controls
- Quite large
6. Sangean LB-100 Compact Radio
This attractive little rugged radio is marketed at those who have jobs outdoors or have busy lives and are on the move a lot.
Sangean is showing the world that portable radios can be snazzy. With a large choice of colors, including green, blue, yellow, black, and red, this gives plenty of reason to have this model on your portable radio shortlist. Whichever color you end up selecting, it will have a roll cage to protect the radio from falls. The LB-100 is shock-resistant, dust, and rainproof.
The Sangean portable radio produces a great quality sound from both AM and FM radio. Making things easy to read, there is an LCD display that will display your chosen frequency and the time.
- Memorize 12 stations
- Extremely durable
- Really good sized speaker
- Quite heavy
7. Panasonic RF-2400D AM FM Portable Radio
Earlier we said that portable radios have been around for decades and they have. This is the best portable radio to take you back to the traditional times of analog radio.
In some ways, radios don’t get simpler than this to use. Despite its simplistic appearance, it produces a superb sound and is incredibly easy to use. The dials are large and will help make locating your favorite stations easy – which let’s be honest, is what we all want.
Planning on hanging your radio up by the handle to save countertop space? Panasonic has thought of that and made it even easier with this model, You will find a little ridge at the top of the handle so that the radio can be hung from different places, making more space for you!
The Panasonic RF-2400D comes with a mono speaker so for those after a stereo approach, this may not be the model for you. However, the sound output is very good. This is even when the antenna is down as this portable radio can still receive AM and FM stations despite this.
We touched upon how easy the dial is to use earlier, this is due to the size and how visible it is. For individuals who may struggle with a smaller design found on a lot of other devices, this will suit them. The non-complex nature is such that a turn of the dial switches the portable radio on and you can tune in.
People who like the traditional side of life should find this to be the best portable AM/FM radio and a dream to use and look at. Panasonic keeps things simple with no-nonsense technology and no thrills.
- Portable size
- Decent sound
- Incredibly easy to operate
- No thrills
8. Byron Statics Portable AM/FM Radio
Another retro-styled radio to consider as the best portable radio. A unique design that has a great vintage vibe about it.
Though not digital, it does provide great sound output and the signal strength means that lots of channels can be found. The tuning dial is quite large, not only does this give it some character, but it also makes it simple to use.
You aren’t going to be mind-boggled when it comes to using this device as there are only two buttons after the tuning dial. The Byron comes with volume control and a switch to go from AM/FM.
To make sure it does qualify as a portable radio, the Byron can be charged through an AC adapter as well as popping in some aa batteries.
When it comes to portable radios, this one is a good contender for simplicity but does so in a very stylish manner. Some of its best traits are just how portable the unit is, with a simple handle and lightweight, it’s hard to see it not been taken everywhere.
- 1950s retro look
- Simple design
- Stations are quite close together on the dial
9. Eton Elite Traveler
For travelers, this could be the best portable radio for you.
Eton has made it possible (and easy) to listen in to AM/FM, or short/longwave stations, wherever you are in the world. Tuning can be done with absolute precision, meaning you can get to your channel with ease.
Giving you the best options to travel light, the Elite Traveler product comes equipped with an alarm clock and a clock, so no additional product needed.
Unable to sleep in your hotel room? Well plug in some headphones and you’ll be able to listen to your favorite AM/FM stations without disturbing other guests.
For absolute style, Elite radios come with a leather carry case, which really adds some class.
- World clock settings
- Tune into international stations
- No Bluetooth
10. Sangean HDR-14 Pocket Radio
Sangean really does know their audio tech and we love them for it.
Up there as one of the best, if not the best, the HDR-14 delivers. Absolutely ideal for your next off the grid camping trip, your next hiking adventure, or wherever you find yourself, this portable radio has your back.
A real easy to use portable radio, you ought to have no difficulty in finding the stations you’re after. With the option to save up to 40 of your favorite stations, you shouldn’t miss a beat (or a word). Speaking of not missing a beat, Sangean has even thought about emergency alerts and fitted the HDR-14 with them.
This portable radio comes with not only analog AM/FM radio but also digital so this really does up the number of stations you’ll be able to receive in one location.
The Sangean can be either battery operated as it features a rechargeable battery or through an AC adapter.
Little added radio features; a sleep timer with that all-important (and arguably essential) snooze button and real digital time and date.
This portable radio may not have the most features, but it is likely to provide the majority of people with something that is more than sufficient. Sangean does things well and the HDR-14 is no exception.
- 40 Channel presets
- Very portable
- Simple LCD display
- Emergency Alerts
- The life of the battery could be better
Buyers Guide: Things to consider when buying a Portable Radio
Digital or Analog
Digital usually gives the best options for the majority of people. It offers a more clear signal and will fend off background noise as well as better coverage, meaning access to a greater choice of stations.
Another bonus for digital is that a lot of digital radios will still give you access to AM/FM analog stations so you could think of it as a two in one.
When choosing a portable radio, by design, you most likely intend to be taking it places so considering the size and weight of it is quite an important factor.
Think about whether you want it to be small enough to fit into your pocket or can you afford it to be slightly larger as you’ll be carrying it in your bag? For those planning on taking your radio out and about quite often, ensure you don’t choose a heavy model as this will take away some of the portability factors.
With some radios, they come with a handle so they can be carried by this. A few also come with a strap so you can carry the radio from your wrist. This will obviously free up your hand for other things and this may be important to you. Obviously, it means you can be listening to your radio while you’re on the move – something which might be important.
Nobody wants to get halfway through their day and find their tunes have to stop due to poor battery life. Nor is it possible to always have access to an AC adapter recharge.
If you’re planning on being on the move a lot, look at portable radios offering the option of 10 hours battery life.
As with everything, people want the best and it’s not unreasonable to want the best sound quality from a portable radio.
When listening to AM/FM radio, a mono speaker will sometimes be all that you need in terms of quality. There is the option to look at stereo speakers, however, this will incur extra size and reduce portability.
Some of the best portable radios come with a wealth of additional options. Some useful, some not so much. It is for you to decide how important each feature is.
These include things such as;
- NOAA Weather radio
- USB Ports
- Telescopic antenna
- Different power options
- Alarm clock
How does radio AM/FM work?
Let’s start with what AM and FM stand for:
AM: Amplitude Modulation
FM: Frequency Modulation
Radio stations send out their shows and music and they go via a radio tower. Anybody listening will have a receiver.
Both AM and FM are sent to receivers via radio waves. Radio waves are made up of electromagnetic waves. These waves are at different frequencies and are all around us.
What is the difference between FM and AM radio?
More often than not, AM radio can transmit further than FM. The reason for this is that AM signal strength is stronger, the downside is that it tends to pick up more noise and interference. FM is hindered by barriers such as the terrain and buildings and this can have an impact on what frequencies you will be able to pick up depending on your location.
How can I improve the reception of my radio?
One tip to improve the reception if you are in your house is to switch off as many household items that generate noise as these can add up to interfering with your radio reception.
We are talking things like;
- Video games systems (PS5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, etc)
- Cable TV Boxes
But that list can go on! If switching these items off isn’t something that is possible, you can try placing your radio as far away from them as possible.
Where you put your radio can have a big impact on the reception it will receive. Place it in the middle of a building, the poorer the signal is likely to be. Try to locate your radio as close to a window as possible as this will remove as many obstacles as you can.
If you are still struggling to get better reception, consider changing the antenna. A lot of radios come with the option to fit an external antenna on. These can be picked up fairly cheaply and still be of good quality.