People of a certain age swear nothing beats an FM radio when it comes to listening to music. The best portable radio for FM reception was the go-to gadget for music when you are on a road trip, on a cruise or camping in some woods they’d tell you.
Portable FM radios with good reception are still popular for those who love their music. You can play music on them for hours without bothering about running out of battery juice. Besides, using them would give your smartphone a break and you can get very good ones at a decent price.
The modern units are not just great at belting out music though. You can use them as an MP3 player, alarm clock, flashlight, and so much more.
Below is a review of 5 of the very best portable radios for FM reception. Trust us when we say it wasn’t easy coming up with just five because there are hundreds out there and many are really good. But these 5 would appear in most people’s ‘best FM radio’ list.
Buying Guide for Best Portable Radio for FM Reception
Because there are so many FM radios on the market, choosing one to buy could be challenging. No matter how much you fancy the device, it must have certain features to qualify as the best. That is the least you deserve for your money’s worth.
Important features to look out for include:
Size and weight – Portability is important since you are going to have to carry it around frequently. The unit must be light enough that you don’t get easily tired of carrying it and small enough so it doesn’t take up too much space in your bag.
The ultimate in portability are units that can fit comfortably in your pocket.
AUX input – The AUX input gives you a lot more possibilities with your portable FM radio.
While indoors, this feature allows you to connect the unit to external speakers, MP3 player or a home theater. You can then listen to better quality sound output.
With the feature, your small device has now become very versatile with a range of possibilities.
Antenna – The antenna improves reception. Sometimes, without one, especially if you are far away from the nearest station, it could be the difference between almost tearing your hair in frustration and getting great reception.
If you intend to use the FM radio primarily for trips, camping, hiking, etc. that takes you far away from town, a good antenna is indispensable.
Battery life/power – How long the battery last depends on how much it is used. However, some features play a part in battery consumption.
For instance, a model with big speakers would consume more power than a model with small speakers. How high the volume is, also plays a part. Naturally, the brightness of the backlight of the LCD screen would contribute to consumption too.
The best models, though, integrate power-saving features to regulate power consumption. For instance, you can adjust the LCD backlight in some, while others use very few indicator lights.
That said, good models must have at least 2 ways to power the unit: the use of rechargeable batteries and ‘AA’ disposable batteries. If the only source of power is a rechargeable battery, it must have sufficient capacity to run for at least 2 days on a single charge on moderate usage.
Charging options – it is entirely conceivable that while outdoors, access to electricity would be limited. Consider models with a USB charging feature. With this, you can either use your laptop or the cigarette lighter port of your car to recharge the battery when necessary.
Presets – if your choice is a digital model, then it is important to choose one with the preset feature. This feature is now one of the most important in modern digital radios.
The presets allow you to program your favorite stations so that any time you want to listen to it, it is just a matter of pressing a single button which in most instances is a number; just like a speed dial in smartphones.
The most sophisticated models have dozens of presets to program your favorite stations. But it is more common to have between 10 and 20 presets.
Analog models cannot have this feature.
Top 5 Best Portable Radio For FM Reception: Review
1. Sangean PR-D5BK Portable Radio with Digital Tuning and RDS
Get this Sangean radio and you may never have to buy another portable radio again. The several awesome features packed into it coupled with its sturdy durability makes it one of the best FM receivers you would ever come across.
You would love the audio output from dual speakers as well as the excellent reception as a result of the enormous 200mm ferrite antenna. And with the RDS protocol, you are able to get better digital transmissions from radio stations.
The light and powerful device also features 10 memory presets; a relatively large LED screen; an ‘auto seek’ function to find active stations nearby; 3.5mm AUX-in port to connect to external speakers and other devices; battery life indicator; etc.
This model can be powered by either an AC adapter or disposable batteries.
2. DreamSky Mini Portable FM Radio
The cuteness aside, there are so many other things to love about this mini FM radio that comes with so many smart features.
For a mini model, its reception is very impressive making channel search-time a breeze whether it is auto or manual search. That is another way of saying it comes with an auto search feature making it easy to scan for nearby stations.
The lock button added to the device could be quite useful especially when you are engaged in some activity while holding it. It ensures there are no interruptions and prevents accidental changes to your channels.
You also get an ascending alarm sound that automatically turns off after a couple of minutes; a neck strap so you can wear the set around your neck; 5 seconds backlights bright enough to illuminate the wide LCD screen; a retractable earphone that you can retract or extend depending on whether you want to use it or not.
3. Panasonic RF-2400D
If you love your stuff retro, uncomplicated and affordable, the Panasonic RF-2400D would be perfect for you. It has a performance that rivals the best digital radios with the added advantage that this is one very durable device.
It comes with large speakers that effortlessly belt out high-quality audio. Sound clarity is not going to be a problem for you. The manual dialing has a high degree of accuracy when searching for stations; and with the antenna, reception can get better by changing its position.
What many users love about this device is its simplicity and the fact you don’t have to spend too much trying to figure out how to use it.
4. Sony ICF38 Portable Radio
The Sony ICF38 is a very compact retro radio you can carry anywhere with you. It is perfect for severe weather, power outages, around the house and when you are traveling.
Many awesome features are integrated into the unit to ensure you know the money invested on this device was justified. The device is small enough to slip into a decent-sized pocket. And the small speaker produces crystal clear sound you’d love.
It comes with a handle making it easy to carry around; illuminated LED tuner to find the right station easily; a telescopic antenna to improve range and reception; and an earphone jack to listen privately with earphones.
It is a dual powered AC/DC radio. You would need 4 AA batteries that would give you a listening time of up to 60 hours.
5. Rolton W405 Portable Mini Radio
The Rolton W405 is a compact and durable device with an exquisite design suitable for all indoor and outdoor activities such as traveling, camping, and hiking in whatever weather conditions.
The features an MP3 player that supports TF card and USB cable making it possible to listen to your favorite songs stored on the memory card or on your computer respectively.
It comes with an AUX feature to connect to external devices; 3.5mm headphone jack; a large LED screen that is easy to read even at night; and a lock function that makes it safe for children to play with.
Users can directly input their favorites channel using the numbers pad without having to use the tuner. As for the reception, it is as clear as it can get. And if there is a problem with that, the quality antenna is there to improve reception.
The pack includes 1 micro USB cable, Li-ion battery, and user manual.
What To Know About FM Radio Interference
People who use FM radios frequently are all too aware that signals from other broadcasting sources intermittently interfere with their own signal. The result is background noise mangling the quality of the reception. This happens more frequently if you are driving.
In the worst cases, it would be hard to isolate the primary station as several audio signals compete to take over that frequency. In most cases, the solution is simply to fine tune the radio to eliminate the other sounds.
Satellite radio stations and devices such as iPods are mostly implicated as they also have small FM transmitter capable of transmitting over a small range over unused frequencies.
Transmitting over a limited range is not a problem though. But when the transmitting device is defective or is improperly installed, the transmission range becomes wider and would start to interfere with other people’s FM reception.
If you notice that the interference is coming from nearby stations, try using a different radio to listen to the same station. If there is no interference, it means you need a better FM radio with better selectivity.
You can also get a radio with a better antenna to solve the problem.
When it comes to listening to your favorite FM station, there is simply no substitute for quality. That is if you care about getting the best all the time.
The 5 best portable radios for FM reception in this guide would give you that and much more. We deliberately picked models from different manufacturers to give you a wider range of choices to check out before making the decision to purchase one.
Hopefully, you now know more about how to choose the right model based on your needs and budget.