Shortwave radios are receivers capable of picking up transmissions that range between 0,5 and 30 MHz. These are great for very long distances and this is the reason why shortwave radio is utilized for international broadcasts. You might stumble upon the phrase “world band radio” as this is how shortwave radio is often referred to. These radios are also good choices for relay stations or emergency communication. You might also be interested in our articles about the best WiFi radio and the best CB radio.
If you wish to buy such a device, it’s recommended to do some research. The market is varied and can be confusing for many people who don’t know that well what to look for. The following list should help you narrow down the list of available radios and get the best one for you. Some of the essential features that should be evaluated to get a quality and reliable product are:
1. Frequency coverage
In case you want a larger frequency range for your device, look for the frequency coverage of radios. Although most come with frequencies between 1,6 and 50 MHz, there are some models with wider ranges which can be better choices.
Shortwave radios generally tune AM mode stations but it’s not uncommon to find some that are capable of transmitting using additional modes like SSB. If you get one with multiple modes, you can enjoy tuning into more broadcasts.
3. Digital vs analog readout
The market provides both radios with analog and digital frequency displays. Analog is cheaper but if want extra accuracy and clarity, digital readouts are superior so this is the recommended option.
The way a shortwave radio is built can also be an important factor to take into account. This is especially the case if want a portable model that you plan on carrying during emergencies. It should be sturdy enough to hold during more intense usage sessions. If portability is essential to you, pay attention to details like size and weight because a compact unit can certainly make a difference in many situations.
Shortwave radios can be pretty complex in terms of features but these are the basic things that you should look for. Armed with this knowledge, you can check the selections below if you are interested in a solid starting point. Models that can fit a vast range of budgets are studied a bit more in-depth to help you decide. These are the most cost-effective choices you can make. They represent the result of long hours of research so let’s see what they can offer.
1. Tecsun PL880
If you want to make a solid investment, you can’t go wrong with the Tecsun PL880. It’s an outstanding shortwave radio in all regards. It offers a great range coverage, four selectable bandwidth filters on AM and it comes with SSB. It’s powered by a strong rechargeable battery and has a 24-hour alarm clock.
The shortwave reception on this model is very good as the device is capable of nicely separating closely-spaced signals. The SSB works as it should and it’s not a particularly difficult process to tune in thanks to the coarse and fine tuning knobs. Here too the reception seems devoid of unusual artifacts.
There are 8 bandwidths provided by this unit and they come in two groups. One is for the AM mode but it’s also used for shortwave. The other is set for SSB and sync modes. AM sounds very clear and detailed mostly due to the wide 9KHz filter which delivers a level of clarity similar to FM taking into account that this is a portable device.
The basic controls include two knobs used for tuning, fast and slow for all bands, a great setup for quick access and satisfying results when tuning. You will also find a volume and control knobs, a Local/Normal/Distant switch for shortwave, a light switch, and a Hi/Lo Tone switch. This model runs on a 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery which comes with a smart charger that won’t overcharge the battery. There’s a typical wire antenna and a nice pair of earbuds included as well as a convenient carrying case.
Considering the price, if you want to listen to shortwave or distant AM stations, the Tecsun PL880 is worth a shot. Other more expensive models have more features but this one is the perfect all-around unit. Highly recommended if this is within your price range.
- AM, FM, shortwave, and longwave
- High-quality sensitivity and selectivity
- Single Side Band
- Five and four bandwidth filters for SSB and AM
- Good selection of accessories
- High-capacity rechargeable battery
2. Kaito KA500
A great choice if you want a portable emergency radio solution is the Kaito KA500. It comes in a multitude of vibrant colors and offers comprehensive coverage of 2-band shortwave, AM, and FM. It’s also a solid survival unit as it comes with many features to keep the device going including a hand crank generator and a solar panel.
When it comes to coverage, this model can serve your needs well. Besides the AM, FM, SW1 and SW2 broadcast coverage, there are seven pre-programmed national weather channels which provide real-time alerts. This unit has been certified by National Weather Service. It comes with a telescopic antenna that extends for high sensitivity reception. It’s assisted by some of the most advanced semiconductor circuitry design.
The analog tuning has decent sensitivity and selectivity and thanks to the 3” dynamic speaker, you can enjoy a crisp and loud sound for AM talk shows and FM music stations. For safety, this unit offers a LED flashlight to light the way in the dark and a useful reading lamp. A red LED SOS beacon light has also been integrated.
To power this radio, you can do so in multiple ways, six to be more precise. You can use AA batteries (not included), AC/DC wall charger (not included) or you could try the solar panel and the hand-crank dynamo generator to manually power the device. There’s also the possibility to use a NiMH rechargeable battery pack or a 5V mini USB charger. It’s worth noting that the radio can power both iOS and Android devices if needed.
If you want to have some extra peace of mind in case of emergencies, the Kaito KA500 is hands-down one of the best shortwave radios for the money. This multi-functional device can make a difference in many unexpected situations as it comes with so many useful features. A highly recommended buy.
- 6-way powered portable emergency radio
- AM, FM, 2-band shortwave coverage
- 7 NOAA weather channels
- 5V USB port
- Durable construction
- 5-LED reading lamp
- LED flashlight
Another model from Tecsun that’s worth your time is the PL-360, a capable shortwave and AM/FM radio which delivers a powerful punch thanks to its patented ETM tuning with 450 memories available. There are lots of things to get excited about this unit especially considering the affordable price it has.
There’s a decent range of frequencies picked up by this receiver, such as shortwave, AM, and FM. A total of four methods for tuning are at your disposal. Use the tuning knob, ATS tuning, memory, and Easy Tuning Mode, a patented technology, abbreviated as ETM which has been developed by Tecsun. This method differs a bit from ATS as it can do a more advanced scanning, catching without issues all the frequencies that the unit is capable of receiving.
In total, you can use 450 memories to tune into a wide range of your preferred stations. Gaining access to more stations in your local area is done with ease making this model great for traveling. Another interesting feature of this radio is the high sensitivity ferrite external antenna which has been designed to enhance the AM reception of the device. It can pick up even some long distance stations which usually have less stable signals.
The frequency coverage between 2300-21950 KHz for shortwave is very good. Keeping the radio powered is done through batteries which you’ll need to purchase separately. The radio is equipped with a DC jack that can charge compatible batteries if necessary. Among the included accessories you will find stereo earphones and a carrying pouch.
When you look back over its features, the Tecsun PL-360 delivers quite the value for the money. If you’re looking for something portable, easy to use, and not too expensive, this shortwave radio fits the bill. It’s also worth adding that it comes with decent reception capability and it’s not too demanding on batteries. The nice little extras make this product a very recommended choice for a quality shortwave radio.
- Digital Signal Processing Technology
- ETM Tuning
- High-Sensitivity AM antenna
- Alarm clock
- Battery charger
Best Portable Shortwave Radio
For those who consider portability the most important feature of their ideal shortwave, the C Crane CC Skywave can be a great solution. It’s a small lightweight device which comes with an LCD display, 400 memory presets, auto scan tuning, and runs on either AA batteries or through an optional AC adapter.
From such a small radio the AM reception is surprisingly good. The radio has the ability to reduce signal interference. When it comes to shortwave, the worldwide coverage is within 2.3-26.1 MHz which are some decent values. The manufacturer includes NOAA weather radio alerts to prevent being caught unprepared by sudden weather changes.
The radio has 400 memory presets to store plenty of stations and provides selectable fast or fine-tuning for almost all bands (weather is an exception). It comes with the Air Aviation Band that lets you listen to air traffic controllers, nearby pilots or the ground crew. It can be entertaining and informative as well if you’re traveling and you’ve got airline schedule changes and can’t figure out what’s happening.
This is definitely a travel shortwave radio considering the compact construction. It runs on two AA batteries and it can be optionally powered by an AC power adapter which charges NiMH batteries. Some of the other interesting little features of this model are the fold-out back stand, rotary volume knob, lighted LCD display, and the stereo headphone jack. Earphones and a carry case are included in the package.
The Skywave from C Crane is a portable radio that can satisfy many users’ needs. It has a balanced cost considering the versatility, design, and overall quality. The reception quality on shortwave is quite decent and even if it doesn’t have SSB, it’s well worth the investment. The speaker output is not very impressive but this is intended as a portable unit so you can’t really expect too much in that department.
- AM/FM/Shortwave/Weather/Airband Travel radio
- Small & Lightweight
- 400 Memory Preset
- Lighted LCD Display
Featuring a solid shortwave and AM/FM receiver with Digital Signal Processing in a very simple and small little package, the Kaito KA321 is one of the most affordable shortwave radios you can find. It provides a solid coverage at this price and it has a stereo earphone jack to enjoy private listening sessions.
The build quality is decent at this price, especially the telescopic whip antenna which seems very stout. There are two ridged knobs protruding from the right side of the radio. These are used for tuning and adjusting the volume. On the top side of the radio there’s a sliding band switch and a small dot, painted red, shows through tiny square holes to indicate the current band.
Tuning can be a bit difficult as it feels a little quirky when adjusting for weak stations. The soft-mute feature is present which can be advantageous in certain cases while unfortunately, it will also bury low-level signals in noise. The AM sensitivity is not amazing but it offers acceptable performance. The shortwave radio is a particularly delicate medium and this unit is capable of tuning well on many broadcasters after you get the tuning right.
This radio requires two batteries to operate and the built-in speaker is surprisingly clear and loud. It’s probably a better idea to use earphones though because it’s much easier to distinguish adjacent signals so it makes for a more pleasant shortwave listening experience.
As it truly delivers in terms of both shortwave and AM/FM reception performance, the Kaito KA321 is an excellent radio that shouldn’t miss from your travels. At this price, you can hardly find a better option and even if this unit lacks a few refinements and could be a bit tricky to figure out at first, it’s still deserving of getting a spot on this list of the best shortwave radios.
- Silicon Lab DSP Technology
- 64-108 MHz FM coverage
- Built-in the telescopic whip antenna
- Stereo earphone jack
- Very portable
If you’re looking to make a more considerable investment into a shortwave radio, the Sony ICF-SW7600GR is a premium model that can satisfy more demanding needs. This portable receiver follows the success of its predecessor, the ICF-SW7600, and makes some notable improvements so that you can easily enjoy programming from around the globe.
The AGC and sync detector on this unit are some of the best you can find. It performs extremely well during field recordings. An aspect that matters to all shortwave radio users is the ability to quickly access the controls. You can, for example, engage the key lock during recording and you can be certain that there won’t be any accidental pressings of other buttons.
Some people will probably miss the presence of a tuning knob but the buttons are fairly responsive and you can get used to them. Where this unit truly stands out is the sturdiness. It’s a solidly built radio, designed to be reliable during travels. As opposed to some cheaply-made Chinese models on the market, this one feels durable to the touch and definitely performs way better.
The LCD display is a bit small and not very bright but it does its job in a satisfactory manner displaying all the essential information. The page memory system works nicely and even novice users shouldn’t have problems with it. This model manages to impress with its performance even if you don’t get more upgrades for it besides the whip antenna.
A very sensitive radio, it can catch more shortwave stations than other models on this list and the FM reception is pretty solid too. The battery replacement indicator is a nice touch and it’s great the fact that there’s no diminished performance as the batteries are draining. One major downside that has to be mentioned is the weak sound quality of the internal speaker. At this price, Sony could have done better but if you use headphones, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- FM, MW/AM, shortwave and longwave
- Up to 100 frequencies
- Direct, manual, scan and preset
- World clock and dual clock function
Any shortwave listener would love the Tecsun PL-380 for its balanced set of features for the cost. It’s powered by RioRand advanced technology, has 7 tuning modes that you can toggle and it provides a small footprint that makes it very convenient to carry around. At a glance, it seems like a unit full of potential.
When it comes to coverage and sensitivity, this model performs above average. It comes with Tecsun’s powerful Easy Tuning Mode function which is capable of scanning through the whole frequency band. It will select all the available stations with ease. The difference between this mode and ATS is that it won’t store or replace existing memories with a new scan.
By using the tuning wheel you can use the radio like a fast tuner. The device comes with alarm functions including the option to wake up to your favorite radio station. The display of this unit is fairly easy to read thanks to the nice contrast similar to the PL-600.
An aspect where this shortwave radio really stands out is the build quality. The telescoping whip antenna incorporated on the device feels sturdy and durable when fully extended. There’s a good and solid click when you press the buttons as they have a stiff spring behind them. On the left front, you can discover a round speaker which doesn’t really impress in terms of power and clarity but you can connect headphones if you want better sound quality.
Anyone interested in a relatively inexpensive shortwave radio that comes in a small package can definitely benefit a lot from a model like the Tecsun Pl-380. Thanks to the Easy Tuning Mode, finding stations is a breeze and overall, this unit works exactly as advertised. All the included goodies like the wrist carry strap and the carry pouch as well as the earbuds and the antenna extension wire are of good quality so this offers a nice value for the money.
- Silicon Labs Si4734 DSP technology
- Selectable Seven Tuning Modes
- Charging System
- LCD Display Screen
- Compact design
Shortwave radios don’t have to be too expensive and still retain great qualities. A solid example is the TIVDIO V-115 which delivers powerful features at a low price. It’s a compact world radio receiver which can also play MP3/WMA format music stored on a memory card.
There are 100 radio presets you can use with this unit and you’ve got two options at your disposal for searching radio stations, either by automatic or manual scanning. If you prefer, there’s also the possibility to search using direct radio frequency input.
Although small, this radio is quite powerful and versatile. It offers three recording modes. The first is MIC recording for whatever you’d like to say, the second is the line in recording to capture the playing music and finally, there’s the option to record radio stations. You can record in three selectable quality levels: 64/96/128 kbps.
The operating shortwave frequencies are between 4.75 and 21.85 MHz, a decent coverage at this price. The FM reception is reasonably good too. One aspect where this unit can surprise you is the audio quality which is actually better than you’d expect. The internal amplifier is solid enough to fill a large room with sound without suffering from too many distortions.
This model comes in a pretty compact package and the controls are intuitive, clearly marked in English even if the menu might come in Chinese, you can change it to English. The battery life of this device is pretty good, you can get around 10-15 hours of playback time and you should expect a bit less for recording.
With great reception and capable lock-in of the stations, the tiny V-115 by TIVDIO is a solid device all-around. It provides an excellent sound quality with headphones but the internal speaker is surprisingly loud and clear too. A particular disadvantage is the lack of EQ presets in radio mode but you can at least tweak the sound when in MP3 mode. All in all, this is a great buy for a shortwave radio.
- 4.75-21.85MHz shortwave frequencies
- MIC and Line in radio recording
- 100 Radio presets
- 1000mAh rechargeable lithium battery
- Adjustable LCD backlight
If you want more features you have to be willing to spend more. For those who want a more premium package, the Sangean ATS-909X is a highly capable shortwave radio that can do a lot for the money. It uses an Auto Tuning System, has 406 memory preset stations and boasts a large LCD screen that makes it very easy to use.
When it comes to performance, this unit takes advantage of certain enhancements like a selectable upper and lower single SSB which tunes to 40 Hz steps. There’s a wide-narrow bandwidth switch and Sangean equipped this unit with a total of five tuning methods: Auto Scan, Manual, Memory Recall, Rotary, and Direct Frequency tuning.
Of a total of 406 memory presets, 351 are reserved for shortwave, 18 for AM, 27 for FM, and 9 for longwave with one extra for priority. There are 42 world city times stored which the radio can display when it’s tuning. The integrated LCD display is fairly large showing more relevant info like the remaining battery power or the strength of the signal.
With the help of a built-in 3” speaker, you can listen to your favorite stations with ease and the radio offers decent customization options like a sliding tone control. Speaking of sound, this model provides two more alarm types besides the classic buzzer. You can wake up using music from the radio or you can choose the Humane Wake System.
The shortwave reception performance is incredibly good and if you want to get more serious about shortwave listening it would be a good idea to purchase an external antenna as the sensitivity is only mediocre for the whip antenna. Considering the superior audio quality, durable design, and the ease of use, the Sangean ATS-909X is absolutely a must-have for shortwave radio enthusiasts.
- 406 Memory Preset Stations
- ATS (Auto Tuning System) Auto Scan
- Multiple tuning methods
- Large LCD Screen
- Bright LED Backlight
The Voyager Pro KA600 from Kaito is the perfect tool for any survivalist. This AM/FM/LW Shortwave and NOAA weather radio can be powered by a dynamo and solar energy besides the usual charging methods. It can be tuned in four ways, it comes with a thermometer/humidity meter, back-lit digital display, and an auxiliary input jack, everything at an unbeatable price.
As this has been designed primarily for emergency preparedness applications, it will offer plenty of options to keep the unit powered. When all else fails, you can always rely on hand cranking or the patented flip-up solar panel which can be adjusted to 180 degrees. This can definitely be an indispensable tool as it offers so much versatility to charge it.
One of the most interesting features of this unit is the ability to connect to the Emergency Alert System through National Weather Radio which is a network offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The radio is capable to automatically inform you of any potentially dangerous weather conditions. It also sends you warnings that cover environmental, natural, and public safety concerns.
To tune this radio you’ve got a few methods at your disposal. Among the included ones we can count ATS and memory tuning, as well as direct digit entry. A total of 335 memories are available, so you can access your favorite stations without too much hassle. Other notable functions of this device are the thermometer/humidity meters, the alarm clock with dual settings, a flashlight, and a reading lamp.
The crank and the solar panel work flawlessly as well as all the other features of the Voyager Pro KA600. Even though this was intended for emergency situations or extensive traveling, the radio can be a great tool to use in everyday settings. It’s very simple to use, compact and can hold a charge for quite some time. The only small problem is regarding the durability which although decent, the materials used aren’t of outstanding quality but this is somewhat understandable at this price.
- Dynamo and Solar Powered
- 4 tuning methods
- NOAA all hazards alert & RDS
- 180-degree adjustable solar panel
- Alarm clock with dual settings