Shortwave radio has been around since the early 20th century, but it is arguably still one of the most simple and effective means of communication around. With a shortwave radio, you can tune into international broadcasts, listen to AM/FM radio in remote locations using relays broadcasts, participate in the ham radio community, and pick up emergency broadcasts. Any one of these applications would make shortwave radio a worthy purchase. The fact that you can do all of this with just one device is incredible.
If you are thinking about buying a shortwave radio, but you are not sure where to start, the product comparison table below can help you out.
|Eton Grundig Satellit 750|
|C Crane CC Skywave|
If you still are not sure what you need in a shortwave radio, read on to learn more about features as well as questions you should ask while shopping.
What is a Shortwave Radio?
A shortwave radio is a receiver which can pick up transmissions on frequencies up to 30 MHz, usually ranging between 1.6 and 30 MHz. These frequencies work well over very long distances, which is why shortwave radio is used for international broadcasts and why it is also sometimes referred to as “world band radio.” This is also what makes it ideal for relay stations and emergency communication.
Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Shortwave Radio
Where will you be using the shortwave radio?
Shortwave radios are available in desktop or portable configurations. If you will be keeping your radio on a desk in one location, a desktop model makes sense. But if you need something compact and lightweight that you can carry around, you should shop for a portable model. Portable radios lack the wide range and high sound quality of desktop radios, but they usually include more power options (battery, hand crank, etc.). You can also shop for what is known as an “all-in-one” radio, which is a shortwave radio that also can pick up AM/FM stations. Desktop radios are often all-in-one radios, but this is less common in portable units.
How will you be using the shortwave radio?
Answering this question will also help you to determine which type of shortwave radio you should buy and what features are important to you. If you are buying shortwave radio to listen to AM/FM relays in the country, different features will be important to you than those you would look for in a shortwave radio for emergencies.
Features and Add-Ons to Look For When Shopping for a Shortwave Radio
How many frequencies can you pick up on the radio you are thinking of buying? Most radios will offer you a range between 1.7 MHz and 30 MHz, but you can find some models which range from 0.54 MHz up to 30 MHz. The wider the frequency range, the better.
Digital vs. analog readout
Both analogue and digital frequency displays are available. Analogue displays can save you money, but digital readouts are far superior. You can get much more detailed and accurate data on frequencies with a digital display. With analogue, it is hard to tell when you are on the exact right frequency.
While it is common for shortwave radios to tune AM mode stations, there are some which transmit using SSB or additional modes. If you select a shortwave radio which offers AM, SSB and other modes, you will be able to tune into a lot more broadcasts.
If you want to reduce the amount of interference you get from other stations while tuning into shortwave, then you should look for a radio which has narrow selectivity bandwidths. Usually on a portable radio, you can choose between two settings: wide and narrow. You will get more options if you are using a desktop radio, possibly up to five.
Option for an aftermarket antenna
If you want to boost the range of your shortwave radio, the best way to do it is by purchasing a longer aftermarket antenna to replace to built-in antenna with its limitations. Not every shortwave radio offers a jack for an external antenna, however, so you will need to make sure that the one you are planning on purchasing does.
Another matter to consider when you are buying a shortwave radio is ease of use. Some radios include knobs for tuning while others include only buttons. Most users prefer knobs, and are especially happy with units which include knobs that turn very smoothly. This is not to say that a knob is the right choice for everyone, but this is a factor to think about before purchasing.
This is a feature which allows your shortwave radio to lock onto signals more effectively. This helps to get rid of noise and fading, producing a strong, clear broadcast. This feature does typically add to the price of a radio, but it can be well worth paying a little extra for.
The actual build of your radio is important too, especially if you are shopping for a portable model which you are planning to carry with you during emergencies. You want it to be robust enough to hold up to wear and tear. Pay attention to the dimensions and the weight while you are at it. Portable radios need to be compact and lightweight. Some models can be quite heavy, which could be a problem in an emergency.
You now know what features and questions are important to consider when you are shopping for a shortwave radio. Shortwave radios offer incredible range and versatility, and have numerous applications. If you are ready to start shopping, then scroll back up to the top of this page to look again at our comparison chart. We have searched for the most popular and highly-rated shortwave radios on Amazon.com and have compiled a detailed list comparing features and prices. Once you look over our comparison chart, you will be ready to pick out the perfect shortwave radio.