10 Best Shortwave Radios in 2020
Being a kid who spent childhood turning the knob of an old tabletop radio, I could never let go of the thrill of having a physical device to catch international programs on. Now everyone has a smartphone and doesn't need a separate device to listen to the radio no more.
But when you live on the coast, on an island, or in a distant country, there's not much to listen to. Therefore, many still search for the shortwave radios. They're also used for military, marine, or aviation purposes.
If you are still searching for one, this article is just for you. I'll save you the hassle and confusion of choosing between many exciting features with a buying guide.
Benefits of Shortwave Radios – Why Buy One?
Shortwaves can travel great distances, leaping over the cultural and geographical boundaries. That's why international radio stations like the BBC have remained shortwave to reach people all over the globe.
I love Spanish reggae, and I always tune in to the Spanish channels to follow my favorite artists. Now you can take a look at other cultures such as the Russian or Chinese, and follow your favorite artists anywhere.
In case of an infrastructural failure, you can still count on shortwave radios. You can send emergency shortwave signals, which the rescuers can tap into and pinpoint your location. That's why it's used by ship or airplane crews and military personnel often.
These radios are wildly popular among hobbyists who just want to learn and tinker with this stuff. They can point you towards the top shortwave radios currently in the market.
Shortwave radios are not a thing of the past. They have also evolved, having some riveting features which make them look futuristic and cool.
10 Best Shortwave Radios Review
Thanks to modern cutting-edge technology, you can now see some of the best shortwave radios of all time. Let's jump right into my list!
1. Sangean ATS-909X BK AM/FM/LW/SW World Band Receiver
Sangean ATS-909X is a super radio that comes with a wide-narrow bandwidth switch. You can dial in wide bandwidth to get higher data transfer speed and more channels.
But narrowband has an advantage over wideband. This transmission mode eliminates the adhering noise to give clearer audio. The fine-tuning then further filters and enhances the signal, and the squelch function eliminates weak ones. I used to turn the radio knob for fifteen minutes to get clarity!
Apart from fine-tuning, Sangean ATS-909X has direct frequency tuning, auto scan to randomly find strong signals, manual scan to directly connect to a particular channel, rotary tuning, etc.
The sixth tuning method is memory recall. Sangean ATS-909X uses an alpha-numeric memory system that lets you store 406 stations. Right after a scan, it'll save the most vital signals so that you can tune in later.
Because of the whip antenna, the FM (Frequency Modulation) selectivity is remarkable. The strong ferrite antenna is for AM (Amplitude Modulation) broadcast.
Who doesn't want to wake up to the sound of the radio?! Sangean ATS-909X has a radio alarm system and also, an HWS (Human Wake System) and a buzzer alarm. The large LCD shows the signal strength, battery life, and even the time of the country you're tuning to. You can also listen to it via speaker or headphone.
2. Tecsun PL880 Portable Longwave & Shortwave Radio with SSB
My very first ShortWave radio was a Tecsun, so I can vouch for the quality. Tecsun PL880 has features that'll blow your mind!
This guy can switch between FM and AM easy. The AM signal reception is surprisingly strong, and you can try out different antennas to get the best out of it. With main and fine-tuning knobs, you can tune in to your favorite channels!
Both the Shortwave and Longwave reception is impressive, and dual conversion finely tunes into the intended channel frequency. This offers unrivaled selectivity and sensitivity! The four selectable bandwidth filtering on AM offers superb clarity!
If you're looking for single-sideband modulation, Tecsun PL880 is probably the best in it. The lower and upper sidebands can be adjusted easily, and the five bandwidth filters eliminate the noise.
It's 18650 rechargeable Lithium-ion battery has long battery life. You can keep the backlight on for as long as you want, and the battery will still go on for days! Tecsun PL880 can be recharged over USB, so one charger is enough for your phone, iPad, and radio.
The sound quality is unparalleled to most radios as the radio auto-calibrates it to get the best performance. Equipped with a 3-watt speaker and 450 mW amplifier, Tecsun PL880 offers exceptional clarity on all frequencies. I almost forgot about the 24-hour alarm clock. It's the whole package!
3. Eton Grundig Satellit 750 Ultimate
Switching to one of the most versatile radios on the market. Eton Satellit 750 can effectively switch between AM, FM, LW, and SW. It has an external antenna jack for both modes. AM, however, is direction selective. So, this guy comes with an antenna that can rotate 360° to capture even the weakest of signals.
To reel in FM and Aircraft bandwidth, Satellit 750 has a telescopic antenna. It also makes necessary amplifications. Airport dwellers will have a blast with this!
Did you know it has four tuning modes?! Auto, Manual, Direct Frequency, and Memory Tuning. The knob is perfectly weighted, adding a nice feel to it. Moreover, the auto-tuning works nicely with AM, FM, and SW!
The memory tuning is one of the many features that stand out. Having 1000 station memories, 500 customizable, the auto-tuning station can be saved easily. This radio will recapture the frequency the next time you want to listen to it!
Its dual alarm clock can ensure a sweet start to the morning. The 6V DC power input lasts longer and easy to switch. Using the line out socket, the radio can be mounted to other devices. Satellit 750 also comes with a line-in socket. If you have an MP3, you can use its amazing speaker to play your favorite tracks!
4. C Crane CC Skywave Weather and Airband Portable Travel Radio
Next up, we have a cute little portable SW radio. CC Skywave is small, lightweight, and easy to carry around. This little guy will fit right in your palms or your sweater pocket. It's made for rough usage while traveling or hiking.
Skywave has a wide range of signals compatible with AM, FM, SW, Airband, and weather. Operating it is intuitive and straightforward. The AM reception is strong and capable of eliminating the noise. This unit is also a master of sniffing out weak FM signals!
Moreover, Skywave can not only track signals from nearby traffic controllers but also capture weather broadcasts and alarms too. In case of a hurricane, this one's a lifesaver!
The speaker produces clearer and crisper sound despite its size. It doesn't have an antenna socket, but the clip-on antennas will work just as fine! The turn knob is smooth and easy to operate. Skywave also comes with a pouch to protect it from external impact.
A DC powered radio has the convenience of easy battery replacement. But with Skywave, I doubt you'll have to worry about it anytime soon. The double AA batteries can power it up to 60-70 hours for medium usage!
Finally, this little guy can remember 400 stations either by auto or manual tuning. It may be is small, but can sure pack a punch!
5. Tecsun PL-600 AM/FM/LW SSB Shortwave Radio
Tecsun is one of the prime-time players in radio manufacturing. So, you're going to be hearing the name more than once in the market!
PL-600 comes with a Phase-Locked Loop (PLL) dual conversion technology that utilizes two intermediate frequencies to fine-tune the desired frequency.
This handy radio excels in AM and FM reception. It can track down frequencies from 100 miles away! The FM works exceptionally well with stereo, offering better sound quality. A lot of customers also expressed their satisfaction with the SW and LW tuning.
When tuning, you have four options, auto, direct, manual, and preset tuning. The auto-tuning is a time saver. What's impressive is that Tecsun PL-600 autotuning doesn't mute the intermediate frequencies, so you can even track the weak signals.
The manual tuning can be done by turning the knob. Tecsun PL-600 also provides 600 presets that automatically scans and presents the stations when you move to a new place or country! You can also tune directly by dialing the frequency using the keypad.
Its orange back-lit LCD caught my eye since it's my favorite color. The display shows the reception strength, battery level, and time. If the battery is low, you can recharge it using the 110V AC adaptor. Prevent unnecessary power usage with the sleep timer.
6. Tecsun Radio PL-380 DSP FM AM Stereo, Small Size Radio
If you ask me, a company that changes or evolves its products according to necessity truly deserves to survive the competition. Take the example of Tecsun here. They've also made a portable radio for the hikers, campers, and the truckers.
Tecsun PL-380 is portable, lightweight, and easy to carry. The simplicity in operation makes it one of the most sought-after SW radios on the market. You won't have to look at the manual twice!
Using the whip antenna, this guy can receive SW and LW and switch between AM and FM with ease. The amplitude modulation offers excellent selectivity and sensitivity. PL-380 provides a sharper, clearer sound that doesn't fade against the intense truck noises.
If you're impressed with just four tuning methods, this guy has seven! They are Easy Tuning Method (ETM), Manual searching for RF, Direct Input, Auto and Manual search for stored stations, and Preset tuning. The auto-tuning is exceptional, as it doesn't mute the intermediate weak signals.
Its preset tuning can save up to 500 stations and lets you save manually besides auto and semi-auto storing. You can now save shortwaves, too, along with LW, FM, and AM stations. Keeping tabs with local broadcasters ain't going to be an issue now!
The orange back-lit display is multifunctional; it shows the time, temperature, radiofrequency, signal strength, and battery power. Three AAA battery gives excellent battery life. This is a must-try for adventurers.
7. Kaito Voyager Pro KA600
Honestly speaking, despite all the advanced circuitry and features inside, the products above haven't shed that old grandpa radio look, have they? And here we have Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 using a solar panel to power itself!
There are different alternatives to charging this futuristic radio. You already know about the solar panel. On a sunny day, you won't have to worry about power. All you have to do is adjust the position of the panel to get the most out of it. The panel can rotate 180 degrees.
But on cloudy weather, the DC power battery will come in play. The battery can be recharged and changed when it drains out. Moreover, the radio can be powered by hand with the crank handle. Being a versatile radio, KA600 can receive AM, FM, LW, and SW. There's an input jack for external audio devices also.
KA600 also comes with a radio data system that allows you to hook embedded signals on FM. In case of an emergency such as a hurricane or typhoon, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) alert activates automatically; so, remember to keep the radio on!
With its 4-tuning method (Auto, Manual, Direct entry, and Memory tuning), you'll always be able to listen to what you want. The memory tuning uses 35 presets that refresh when you move to a new region. Also, the radio comes with a calendar, clock, humidity meter, thermometer, and a flashlight.
8. SONY 12 Bands World Band Receiver Radio
If you're looking for a budget speaker, shift your attention to SONY ICF-SW11. This one's a treat from Sony. Given the price and the size of the speaker, the sound is surprisingly coarse and clear. The 140mW speaker only has a 57 mm diameter. It may be is small, but there's no compromise on quality.
SONY ICF-SW11 is for those folks who still search for the old-fashioned radio. The thrill and nostalgia of manual tuning, knob turning, and the analog display are too precious to let go. That's why SONY ICF-SW11 held on to the analog display. You need to tune in manually with the knob and relive the old days!
This is a one of a kind radio that comes with the Band Spread System. BSS ensures the safe propagation of a signal over a large spectrum of radio frequencies, fine-tuning and excellent connectivity among different bases.
The PLL (Phase-locked Loop) single conversion system doesn't distinguish between any frequencies. This radio uses other methods of noise elimination so you can tune in to any station without worrying about the 'crackle' or noise.
SONY ICF-SW11 uses two AA batteries that have a combined battery life of 30 hours! You are not getting any AC recharging cable with this, but in case of a power outage, you won't have to rely on the power supply to listen to the radio.
9. TIVDIO V-116 Portable Shortwave Radio with AM FM Transistor Support
Let's move to the cooler portion of the list. TIVDIO V-116 is popular among travelers and campers. It is light and can fit in your palm or pocket easily. The surface has an excellent hardness that prevents scratch, protects it from impact and UV radiation.
TIVDIO V-116 has made teenagers their target audience as well. It has a built-in MP3 player. This radio supports a maximum 32 GB flash card and has a USB port that you can use to play your favorite tracks, which you can hear with the speaker, earphone, or connect the device to any external audio device!
You can also load E-books and listen on as you drive. TIVDIO V-116 has a sleep timer up to 90 minutes, and the alarm clock will wake you up in the morning. It shows the date too.
Don't worry; it does its job as an SW radio perfectly too! Besides SW, it can track longwave, AM, and FM just as well. The FM works well with a mono or stereo with a headphone. Additionally, the Whip antenna receives all types of waves.
This little guy runs on an 850mA rechargeable Li-ion battery. The radio can run up to 4/5 hours continuously.
10. Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power, Dynamo Crank, Wind Up Emergency AM/FM/SW/NOA
Last but not least, we have a budget radio from Kaito, equipped with all the latest technology. Kaito KA500 is a portable version of KA600. It's an NOAA certified weather radio every traveler should try.
Do you see the crank handle on the side? It's unique because you can power the radio by hand. KA500 has a solar panel to draw power from the sun. The radio can also be powered by rechargeable and AA batteries. And if you have a depleted battery with no option to recharge, just turn the crank handle!
It doesn't hurt to have more than one method of power, especially when you're in the path of massive wrath of nature like hurricanes! KA500 has seven pre-programmed weather channels in which you can look for a tornado alarm. Don't worry if you missed it; the radio will spring up with the warning in case of peril.
KA500 is not just a weather radio. It's whip antenna that extends up to 14.5", makes it highly sensitive to AM, FM, and Shortwave broadcasts. The LED lights will let you know when you're receiving a strong signal, and the speaker will allow the broadcast out loud and clear!
Like KA600, this one also has a flashlight on the side that's quite handy. Apart from that, this radio also has a 5 LED reading light! Be sure to include this in your camping backpack next time.
What to Look for Before Buying
Shortwave radio is still used all over the world for long-distance broadcasting. Although its popularity has remained somewhat stable, its evolution hasn't, making the job a lot harder for us. Are you looking for good shortwave radios? Here are the things you should look for.
Before buying a radio, you should look for what frequency ranges it covers. It's better to know what you're looking for. Be sure to check the frequencies of the local broadcasters before you buy a shortwave radio.
Not the first one on the list but should be the first thing you look for. The type depends on the purpose. If you want a nice durable bedside radio, then a desktop radio is the right choice. But if you're looking for going to travel with it, a portable radio is your guy.
SDR or Software-Defined Radios rely on a PC or laptop to operate, but they offer much more than the traditional ones.
Frequency Sensitivity and Selectivity
Sensitivity is the response of the radio to all types of frequencies. A good radio should have a satisfactory sensitivity; in other words, it should be able to receive all kinds of signals. Selectivity refers to the intensity of response. A good SW radio should be able to fish out weak signals and amplify it.
Battery Life and Recharge Options
You're not going to be using the radio all the time, but it should be able to withstand 2/3 hours of rough usage. That's why you need a radio with good battery life. You can't seek a charging station every time you land on a new space; there might not even be one nearby.
The more options of recharging, the better. Kaito radios offer solar panel and hand-powered recharging, which comes in handy.
Method of Tuning
Exactly like recharging, the more options you get here, the better. If you already know what you're going to listen to, dial the frequency in the number pad for a direct search or search it manually. Now, if the radio has preset tuning, you can even load the channels you previously listened to.
And if you're in the mood for some random listening, leave the tuning to the radio (auto-tuning)!
Frequently Asked Questions
I bet you have some questions regarding shortwave radios. Here's our list of some FAQs.
1. What's shortwave?
It's the wave with frequencies lying between 3-30 MHz. These have the advantage of leaping more distance to reach far away receivers.
2. Why should I buy an SW radio?
People buy shortwave radios to listen to broadcasts of other countries or international stations.
3. What's the difference between AM and FM?
AM or Amplitude Modulation means the amplitude of the carrier and signal wave is altered, keeping the frequency the same. FM or Frequency Modulation is the opposite of that; it covers short distances but delivers strong signal availability. On the other hand, AM crosses large distances at the expense of signal strength.
4. Why can't I find my desired channel with my radio?
Normally, auto-tuning radios mute the intermediate signals to tune to the next strong signal. If your channel has a weak signal, it won't be captured by the radio. Try manual tuning.
5. What's the difference between single and dual conversion?
Single conversion lets in all types of signals. Sometimes the intermediate frequency creates an extra noise, which is why double frequencies cancel out any frequency above 910 kHz.
I hope you liked my list of best shortwave radios. Make sure the radio you're eyeing has the best specifications and configurations for you. With all the complicated science that makes it tick, a radio has to be easy to operate so that even beginners can make the most of it.