Trying to listen to far-off stations with an inadequate radio can drive you up a wall with frustration. That is why experienced DXers always recommend only the best radio for AM DXing.
Fortunately, the best radios are neither hard to get nor are they even expensive.
As a matter of fact, with modern technology, it is now possible to use a simple and very cheap transistor radio for AM DXing. The number and variety of such cheap radios could be a problem though when you to choose one.
And you can be sure that the design and features of most of these receivers are so appealing it is common to base the decision to choose one unit above so many others on aesthetics. That, though, is the surest route AM DXing hell.
In this guide are 5 radios that would make sure you avoid that hell if you decide to purchase any of them. Each unit has been tried and tested. They come with all the important features the best radio for AM DXing must have.
Criteria Used in Evaluating the Best Radio for AM DXing
Several dozens of radios were evaluated by the team before arriving at just 5 units. The process included several hours of research spread over several weeks.
The units that made the list all had a score of over 95% based on certain features the team considered non-negotiable. To qualify as the ‘best’, the set must tick all the boxes.
The features include the following:
Selectivity – Selectivity is one of the best parameters for deciding how a particular radio would perform when you are trying to catch certain signals.
Most times, effectively tracking distant stations involves trying to separate two signals that are close to each. Even though they are separate frequencies, it can be hard to isolate one from the other.
The ability of the recover to separate the signals is known as selectivity.
All the units that made the grade have several different switch-selectable bandwidths (SSB). To be efficient in signal separation, the SSBs must range between 2 and 10 KHz.
Display – While selectivity is important, it would be pointless if you cannot identify the frequencies you are trying to resolve. The display shows clearly all the frequencies you are on while tuning the receiver.
All the products in this guide have digital frequency readouts with an accuracy of up to 1 kHz or more.
Earphone jack – Tracking AM stations in distant locations is all about listening carefully and patiently. Enthusiasts usually seek a quiet place devoid of electronic noise so they won’t miss even the faintest signals.
For this reason, a good long-distance receiver must come with a jack where earphones or earbuds can be connected. The type of earphones you get would depend on how much money you are prepared to commit.
Basic earphones would be okay as long as the audio is clear and you can cancel out most of the external noise.
Portable – Portability or the ability the carry and move the receiver easily was one of the first factors used in evaluating the products.
Most times, users have to move the set around the get a clear signal. Sometimes this movement is simply about turning the radio to face a different direction or lay it on its back. At other times, you need to move around the apartment or take it outside to get better reception.
A product that is bulky or too heavy would make this tedious.
Frequency coverage – The frequency range describes the range of frequencies available to the radio. Veterans always go for units that are able to pull signals from the full range of frequencies.
Transmitted AM frequencies are found between 535 and 1605 KHz. The radio must be able to tune in to any station found between these two frequencies.
User Reviews – The experience of people who had bought and used the receivers was an invaluable tool in sifting out mediocre sets.
Sets with too many bad reviews or complaints from users were discarded. For this criteria to be effective, a product had to have been reviewed by at least 50 users. A larger number makes it unlikely that the manufacturers paid all the reviewers.
The sets that made the grade had average positive reviews of at least 3 stars out of 5. The sets with the highest ratings from reviewers had a better chance of making the final list.
Battery life – The best sets must come with batteries that are able to provide power for at least 12 hours.
Rechargeable batteries with the option of USB charging are the vogue now. With a USB charging option, charging the radio becomes easier.
Top 5 Best Radio for AM DXing: Review
#1. Sony ICF-SW7600GR World Band SSD Receiver
This Sony world receiver is such a good gadget for AM DXing you’d wonder what long-distance reception was like before it was made. The features and functions are so high-end the relatively high price tag seems justified.
The Synchronous Detection Circuitry integrated into the design helps to reduce RF interference and distortion. This makes it great for hooking on to even weak signals in far off locations.
It also comes with the PLL tuning; an exceptionally accurate way to tuning that brings top-notch stability that reduces drift to the barest minimum.
Other features include up to two days battery life; ability to set alarm for two different wake-up times corresponding to two different stations; 100 station memory presets; auto-scanning of stations; built-in hold button to prevent accidental changes to preset station settings and much more.
- PLL digital tuner receives FM, MW/AM, shortwave and longwave
- MY-memory tuning memorizes and scans up to 100 frequencies
- Four tuning methods: direct, manual, scan and preset
#2. Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital SSB Radio
The Tecsun PL880 is famous among AM DXers for being a simple, very effective gadget to indulge in long-distance radio tracking. With its long battery life, you can take it outdoors for as long as you want if that is your preferred mode of getting better reception.
This Tecsun is notable for being able to make weak signals very audible. And the full range coverage of AM frequencies means you are not likely to be shut out from certain bandwidths.
Powered by a rechargeable battery, it features a PLL digital dual conversion receiver with sensitivity and selectivity rating that is second to none.
Other features include the 24-hour alarm clock; SSB capability with 10Hz tuning step; output power of 40 mW; and 4 and 5 selectable bandwidth filters on AM and SSB respectively.
- Full range coverage including AM/FM, Longwave & Shortwave with Single Side Band
- PLL synthesized digital dual conversion receiver with unparallelled sensitivity & selectivity
- 4 & 5 selectable bandwidth filters on AM and SSB respectively plus single Side Band receiver with 10 Hz tuning step
#3. Grundig/Eton S350 AM/FM Field Radio
The S350 is a high sensitivity gadget that is ruggedly designed with military-style controls making it a very easy set to operate with a guarantee that it would be with you for the long haul. You won’t be buying a replacement anytime soon if you purchase it.
The AM band covers all the frequencies while the analog tuner makes the hunting of hidden stations a delight. The backlit display is there to help you track the frequencies easily.
It features a single speaker that is optimized for clear sound; a headphone jack; sleep and wake timers; frequency lock rotary volume control and RF Gain control to compensate for atmospheric and other conditions that could interfere with reception.
- AM (530-1710 KHz), FM (88-108 MHz) and shortwave - continuous coverage from 3 to 28 MHz.
- Highly sensitive and selective analog tuner circuitry with AM/SW
- Frequency Lock, Rotary volume control and Variable RF Gain control
#4. Retekess V115 Portable AM/FM Radio
The V115 delivers such high-quality audio you might easily forget it is a small compact tuner and not a complete sound system with boombox speakers. With this set, even very faint signals become very audible.
Small enough to fit into a normal breast pocket, it comes with memory presets to store your favorite AM frequencies. This feature allows you to simply punch in the numbers to go directly to the station. Of course, the display shows all the frequencies as you search for elusive stations around the world.
This uber-modern radio comes with the ability to record sound directly into a memory card. This ensures you could also have an audio proof for your QSL certificate.
Other features include a 3.5mm aux input; 3 recording modes; TF card support; earphone jack; and USB charging.
- Portable shortwave radio is only 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.9 in; which is very suitable for shirt pockets; it is amazing to find so much functionality in such a compact radio
- Digital radio bass sound with MIC recording and line in recording ; insert the TF card to record your voice or radio voice; note that the TF card is not in the package
- Digital tuning radio; you can directly enter the frequency through the number keys; in addition, V115 also supports automatic search, manual search and storage of radio stations
#5. Sangean ATS-909X BK World Band Receiver
The Sangean ATS-909X receiver is one of the best radios for AM DXing that allows you to store up to 18 AM frequencies. You can also store over 300 frequencies of short wave, long wave and FM stations in the memory.
This makes it an awesome product for DXers to store as many stations as they want for long-term usage.
With its multiple tuning methods, users are assured of variety and flexibility. For instance, you can set it to auto-scan if you are tired of manually searching for some elusive stations.
Other awesome features include the SSB for fine-tuning; stereo selector switch; built-in battery charger; headphone amplifier; signal and battery strength indicator and 3-mode alarms among others.
- 5 AM & 5 FM memory preset stations
- PLL synthesized tuning system
- Auto seek stations
Check List for Novice and Beginning DXers
If you caught the AM DXing bug and you want to join the train, the steps below are all you need to get in on the program and begin to explore the whole world through your receiver.
- Get a good AM radio – this is obviously the first step. The smart move is to purchase any of the radios in this guide.
- Note the strong stations – Note the frequencies of the stations that are easy to get. These ones tend to be loud and clear.
While doing this, also make note of the empty spaces or gaps between strong frequencies.
- Explore the gaps – after noting the strong frequencies on a piece of paper, it is time to start to dig deeper to discover hidden stations.
Tune in those areas where there are gaps carefully. The best time to do this is at night when the stronger stations usually switch off their transmitters.
You would most likely find several stations from far-off places in those gaps. Rotate the radio or move around the apartment until you get a clear signal.
Sometimes, you might even have to go outside to make those faint signals stronger.
Write down the frequencies – DXers live for QSL cards. The cards are evidence to show to their peers of the distant radio stations they were able to listen to.
The QSL cards are given by the stations once you informed them that you were able to get their signal from your location. That is why you need to write down the frequency of the station once you hook on to it.
You could also write down the name of the station, the station’s call sign, the program you were listening to and the time and date. These are all necessary to prove you really got a clear signal.
AM radio DXing, the art of listening to distant radio stations on medium wave, is a hobby many people love. Being a part of this exclusive group doesn’t require much: all you need is just a few bucks to purchase the very best radio for AM DXing if your desire is to have a worthwhile experience.
The sets featured in this review are simply the best start out with. They come with features that are very important for getting clear signals at any time of the day. No matter the reviewed product you choose to purchase, it is guaranteed to last a long time while delivering the expected results.