I got the Sony ICF-F10 following the recommendation of a friend after I informed him I needed a simple portable radio for my camping trip in the country. I needed something with FM and AM bands to listen to music and track stations around the world.
Okay, yeah, call me old-fashioned, but I love AM DXing a lot. It’s fun knowing what people in some little known corner of the world are up to. Although one drawback with AM DXing is the many foreign language stations coming through.
Back to the Sony radio. I think my friend really went hard on the ‘basic and simple’ part. One look at the radio I got transported to the last century when the ‘cold war’ was a thing and smartphones were just ideas only crazy people thought of.
That said, one thing that shines through in this Sony ICF-F10 review is how impressed I was with it.
Sony ICF-F10 Review: The FM/AM Portable Radio You can’t stop Loving
Appearance – Everything about the radio feels and looks retro right down to the silver and black color combination. The control dials, and there are just two of them, are on the front.
The smaller volume dial is located below the bigger tuning dial. They are both black in color and turn easily when you want to change stations or adjust the volume.
On the left-hand side of the front panel is the 4” front-facing speaker. And nestling just between the control knobs and the speaker is the tuning panel that straddles the silver and black-colored parts of the radio.
The on/off switch is located on the right side of the radio. This sliding switch also serves as the AM-FM band selector. After using the radio for a while, I’d say this isn’t the perfect design for the switch because of a couple of problems.
For instance, to get to the FM band from the ‘off’ position, you have to get through the AM band first. This is a bit irritating and you get the feeling the slighter stiff switch would one day fall apart with the constant movement.
And if you work in an office full with computers and other sensitive electronics, don’t be surprised to get a 1-second earful of electronic noise as the switch passes the AM band on the way to the FM band.
It would have been nice if Sony had gone fully retro by adding or combining the on/off feature to the volume knob making it far easier to switch it on.
Below the band selector switch is a 3.5 mm earphone jack. This is a mono only radio, so even if you use a stereo headphone, the sound would come out of one side of the earpiece only.
At the top is a standard telescopic antenna for FM reception. At the bottom and back is the battery compartment. It uses 2 D battery which of course would add to its weight of about 2 lbs.
The pack comes with a carry-on strap. You can loop it through the hole on the top right corner. It makes a great substitute for a handle.
At 3 x 8 x 3 inches, it is not too big to fit easily into your luggage. Finding a nice little pocket for it in your backpack would not be a problem as long as the backpack comes with several decently-sized pockets.
Performance of the Sony ICF-F10
Sound – One word: amazing! I was really impressed that such a small radio is capable of sound output like this. It is already super loud by the time the volume dial gets to the vertical position, the halfway point. And I like it that you have to go almost to the end of the dial before you begin to notice any sound distortions.
The quality of the sound is quite something. It is full-bodied and not harsh in any way. It is soothing like a gently throbbing bass drum.
Since the radio is so loud, you are not likely to raise the volume up beyond the midway point. A quarter of the way up is my usual volume position and at nights, it is even below that.
AM/sensitivity – The AM worked rather well for me. I could get stations that are 700 miles away in the daytime. At night and early mornings, the reception improved remarkably.
If you love hunting for distant stations as a hobby, you’d have tons of fun with it. Stations with weak signals came through clearly because the sensitivity adjustment of the radio is top-notch.
I also love that hooked stations remain stable and you don’t have to keep on adjusting the dial to reel back a drifting frequency.
However, if you take radio DXing very seriously, there are certainly better models out there to help you lock on to very faint signals.
Again, the AM band stops at little above 1600 kHz. So if you want to listen to stations on the new expandable AM frequencies beyond that point up to 1710 kHz, this is not the radio for you.
FM – FM reception is not a problem. With the quality sound output, simply sit back and enjoy the music if you love music stations best.
Out in the country, I was surprised at the FM reception. I was able to listen to a station that was more than a hundred miles from my location. This is a must-have radio for people living in rural areas far from the FM stations.
Battery life – The performance of the battery could explain why Sony decided against including the AC power source. The two alkaline D cells I used lasted the whole weekend camping trip.
It took over three months before I swapped them out for new ones because, well, I simply got tired of using old batteries. Sony wasn’t selling a fib when they claim you would get over 200 hours of battery time.
Features and Specifications of Sony ICF-F10
- Battery Powered: 2 D cells
- Telescopic and Ferrite Antennae for FM and AM reception respectively
- Standard headphone jack
- 4″ dynamic speaker
- Cylinder-type volume control and tuning knob
- Large FM/AM dial display
- Easy to use
- Long battery life
- Very durable
- Great sound output
- Awesome FM reception
- Sensitivity for AM is okay
- Suitable for emergencies
- No AC power source
- AM band stops at 1600 kHz
The Sony ICF-F10 is simple, solid radio without any frills. If you simply want excellent FM and decent AM reception with great sound output, you won’t go wrong with it.
The two D cells would power it for at least two months on regular use and much more than that if you use it only occasionally. And if you want to listen discreetly, simply connect your earpiece to the 3.5mm jack on the side. It is a mono-only system, so don’t be alarmed if the sound comes out of one earpiece.
This Sony ICF-F10 review won’t be complete without a word or two on the cost. For such a basic device, I think the price tag is on the high side.
That aside, it is a wonderful gadget if your expectations are modest.