Many folks, especially the young, think handheld radios are outdated and have no place in today’s fast-paced, tech-centric society. They should think again.
There are many instances you might want to use the best handheld AM FM radio. During emergencies, for instance, when all utilities and communication network are down. It could be the only thing connecting you to the wider world.
Emergencies aside, it is an indispensable item for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, etc. And people living in the country or some cabin in the woods know how vital this small appliance can be for listening to music and getting information around the world.
As dated as they may seem, these electronic appliances are unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon.
How to determine which units from so many are the best is the point of this guide. For good measure, we have painstakingly taken the time to select and review 5 products you might want to try out. They are all guaranteed to deliver on everything you desire from a handheld AM FM radio and much more.
Features to Consider when Buying the Best Handheld AM FM Radio
Size – Handheld means something you can hold. Here, it means something you can comfortably carry around for long periods without getting tired.
The smart move is to check out the size of your hands before choosing. This is because some of the devices might be too large for you even if they are okay for others.
Power sources – How you intend to use the radio would determine the best power option for you.
For instance, if the radio is for indoor use only, you could use the electricity from the mains to power the radio at all times. Some radios come with the AC/DC wall adapter for this purpose.
Another power option is rechargeable batteries. As the name implies, you’d need to recharge them after using them for a while.
You might consider this option if you are sure of getting to a power source before the battery drains out. If not, then the third option of disposable AA batteries is the best.
AA batteries are cheap and easy to get. In some models, they can power the device for over 4 days before you would need to replace them.
Battery life – This is one of the most important features to consider when buying a handheld AM FM radio.
Imagine commuting to work on the subway while listening to your radio and suddenly the battery dies out on you; right in the middle of your favorite program.
The same issue could be replicated in many other scenarios like when talking a walk in the countryside, the woods or while camping.
The best handheld AM FM radios can use power efficiently. And because most of them are very basic, the batteries should be able to last several days before you’d need to recharge or replace them.
The least you should expect from your radio’s battery is three days of non-stop use for disposable AA batteries.
Note that the relationship between the battery life and the number of features in the radio is inverse. Essentially, radios with more features tend to drain the battery faster and vice versa.
Antenna – If you live close to your favorite FM station and don’t care for AM stations, the antenna wouldn’t be a serious factor in your choice.
However, for those living far from the nearest stations (think rural areas, a cabin in the woods, etc), the quality of the antenna plays a huge role in their ability to receive radio signals.
For FM stations, a long, external telescopic antenna is the preferred option. While a good ferrite antenna is what you should be aiming for if you love listening to AM stations around the world.
Speaker/audio output – Without excellent sound quality, you’d never get the best from your portable radio. What you hear is a function of the speakers and the type of audio circuitry integrated into the radio.
Large speakers don’t necessarily translate to better audio. This is something you would find out if you do a careful test of different models.
The products in this radio all have crystal clear audio quality. This is the result of a perfect balance between speaker size and the audio codecs.
LCD – Having an LCD on radio makes it easier to tune to your desired station. For radios with LCD, it is best if they also come with a backlight so you can read the display at night or in a dark environment.
Since such displays consume the battery’s juice, it is best if the backlight automatically switches off after some seconds to extend the battery’s life.
The Sangean and Vondior radios in this review both come with LCD with backlights.
Earphone jack – The earphones jack are mandatory for private listening. When you are not alone and don’t want to disturb others, the earphone jack provides you with a means to continue listening. This’ right thing to do in any environment with many people around.
In places such as a stadium, you would need earphones if you want to drown out the noise to listen to your favorite station.
It is also important to choose a radio with a common earphone jack. This makes it easy to get compatible headsets or earbuds. The 3.5mm jack is the most common.
Top 5 Best Handheld AM FM Radios: Review
#1. Sony ICFP26 Portable AM FM Radio
This Sony radio like the two others below would remind you of the transistor radios from way back. It is simple to operate without any frills and bells.
It is just the perfect device if you are looking for something small you could take anywhere with you. It is very battery-efficient with the 2 AA batteries lasting up to two weeks with moderate use.
Though the roller knob for tuning might take a bit of getting used to, it won’t take long to get the hang of it. The ridges on the knob make it easy to make fine adjustments while tuning.
Other features you would love include the 3.5mm earphone jack, battery indicator that dims when the batteries are low, a dedicated on/off switch, a separate volume switch, and hinged battery compartment cover ensuring it doesn’t get missing easily.
#2. Jameson Electronics VE-101 AM/FM Portable Radio
The VE-101 from Jameson Electronics is the perfect unit for you if you are looking for a handheld radio you could even comfortably put into your pocket.
It is so light it won’t produce any bulge in your pocket. You would be amazed by the sound output even if you are listening through headphones connected via the 3.5mm jack. And chances are, you would be doing that a lot if you prefer it in your pocket.
The radio is so easy to use you won’t need the user manual. The reception for both AM and FM signals is extraordinary for such a small gadget.
It can be powered using a 3V DC input or 2 AA batteries that give several days of battery life.
Other features include the LED tuning indicator, hand strap, and telescopic antenna.
#3. PowerBear AM FM Portable Radio
Experience the perfect accessory for far off outdoor activities with this PowerBear portable radio.
The timeless retro design is compact, sturdy and built to last a long time. This is a quintessential handheld radio with the easy-to-access dials and switches ensuring you can control the radio with just one hand.
It is powered that 2 AA batteries that can go on for several days non-stop with moderate use. Though tiny, the built-in speakers are powerful delivering amazing sound quality. And if you want to listen privately, you could also get stereo-quality sound with earphones attached through the 3.5mm jack.
The black radio also comes with an antenna designed for long-range reception. This would easily keep you connected to your local radio stations no matter how far away you are.
#4. Vondior Digital AM FM Portable Radio
This appliance combines the easy simplicity of the analog era with the efficiency of digital technology. The pocket-sized device is very easy to use and delivers amazing sound quality with exceptional reception on the AM and FM bands.
With the 2 AAA batteries, you are assured of constant use for several weeks.
It comes with an LCD to make tuning easier and faster; LCD backlight so you can operate it in the dark; ‘Misoperation lock’ for locking in your settings to prevent accidental changes; sleep timer to automatically turn it off if you fall asleep while listening to it; and radio alarm to wake you up to your favorite station.
It has great signal reception for both AM and FM bands with little interference, a 3.5mm jack so you can listen privately with earphones and memory settings to store the frequencies of your preferred stations.
#5. Sangean DT-200X AM/FM Digital Tuning Pocket Radio
The DT-200X from Sangean is proof size doesn’t matter when it comes to the number of features and functions that can be packed into a small digital radio. And it doesn’t have to cost the world too!
The radio is powered by 2 AA batteries and comes with a low battery indicator to let you know when the battery is about to juice-out. That would be after several days of use though. It is also equipped with a 90-minute auto shut-off feature to save the battery in case you fall asleep.
There are 19 memory presets you can customize to match your favorite stations and an auto-scan feature to make searching for stations a breeze. And with the Phase Loop Digital Tuning, clear reception of both FM and AM stations at all times is guaranteed.
Other features it comes with are large LCD with backlight; Dynamic Bass Boost for amazing boombox-quality sound output; 3.5mm earphones jack; lock switch to lock your settings; and real-time clock.
You would also get the following accessories if you purchase it: belt clip and stereo earbuds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should I get a handheld radio when my smartphone has a radio app?
Radio apps on a smartphone, no matter how sophisticated, cannot trump handheld radios in terms of reception. Also, you are more likely to get better sound output.
Again, you’d want to watch the drain on your smartphone battery especially if you are using data to listen to AM stations.
Do AM FM radios support two-way communication?
These devices are all receivers. That means communication is one – way from the station to your radio.
What am I having poor reception issues?
There are several reasons for this: from poor quality radio to distance from the radio station among others.
If you are still faced with the same problem after getting an excellent device, you might want to check your location and how far it is from the nearest station.
You could try to move the radio away from appliances such as power tools, wiring, computers, and refrigerators as they known are to interfere with reception if you are listening indoors.
Also, trees and buildings affect reception negatively. Ensure the antenna is fully raised and facing the direction of the station you want.
Hopefully, you now know how to choose the best handheld AM FM radio when you decide to purchase one. You would have noticed that you don’t have to shell out that much money to get value for money.
That said, to avoid the stress of searching through hundreds of products for your ideal unit, you can settle on any of the products in this review. Each one has all the qualities and features to deliver exceptional service for a long time.
Here is a thought, anyone of them would make a wonderful gift for a friend or family member.