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||View on Amazon|
|Tecsun PL-880||View on Amazon|
|Sony ICF-SW7600GR||View on Amazon|
|Sangean ATS-909X||View on Amazon|
|C Crane CC Skywave||View on Amazon|
|Kaito KA1103||View on Amazon|
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.
Sony ICF-SW7600GR: A Throwback to the Golden Days of Shortwave Radios
If you’re looking for a classic shortwave radio that’s loud, durable and portable, you’ll be very happy with the ICF-SW7600. This device’s origins date back to the late 70s and every feature has been refined and tweaked to perfection. The ICF-SW7600 is not the best shortwave for playing music, but news and talk radio stations sound very crisp and clear.
- 25 year old model. Sony has been perfecting the ICF-SW7600 for over two-and-a-half decades– and it shows.
- Heavy duty construction. This very solid metal shortwave radio is incredibly sturdy and well-built.
- Professional features. The ICF-SW7600GR’s synchronous detector allows you to lock on to faint, far-away stations.
- Excellent reception. This radio is quite small, yet surprisingly powerful.
- Portability. You can carry this shortwave radio with you wherever you go.
- Intuitive controls. Beginner shortwave radio enthusiasts will appreciate this product’s easy-to-use interface.
- Energy efficient. The ICF-SW7600GR has better battery life than most other portable shortwaves.
The ICF-SW7600 is made for talk radio, not music. Voices come in loud and clear, but songs don’t sound very good.
Eton Grundig Satellit 750: Exceptionally Good Audio
Most shortwave radios come with rudimentary speakers, but the Eton Grundig Satellit 750 sounds quite good. It even has an input port that you can use to pipe in music from your smartphone or from any music device that has a headphone jack. Another nice thing about this shortwave is that it has a foldable handle to allow for easy carrying.
- Well-balanced audio. The Eton Grundig Satellit 750 has adjustable bass and treble knobs that you can use to dial in the perfect tone.
- Comes with AC adapter. When you’re near a wall outlet, you can plug in this radio to conserve battery power.
- Large memory. The Eton Grundig Satellit 750’s 1000 available presets allow you to save all your favorite stations.
- Backlight controls. The backlight makes it easy to use this shortwave at night and during emergency power outages.
- 2 antenna ports. This shortwave is compatible with both high and low impedance antennas.
- Foldable handle. Fold the handle down when you’re not using it to save space.
- Input/output jacks. Most shortwave radios don’t have a line-in jack, but this one does.
Because this shortwave doesn’t have a synchronous detection circuit, you’ll might run into interference and static issues when listening to weak signals.
Tecsun PL880: Precise Analog Knobs and Dials
If you hate fiddling with digital buttons and prefer to use analog knobs to dial in radio stations, you might enjoy using the Tecsun PL880. It’s got very good reception for a portable, especially when it comes to AM/FM frequencies. Additionally the PL880 is surprisingly loud, thanks in large part to its 450mW amp.
- Excellent controls. Fans of the PL880 love its old school knobs and dials.
- Good battery life. The PL880’s lithium batteries will run for hours and hours before they need to be recharged.
- Loud speakers. This radio’s 450mW audio amplifier allows you to crank it up when you need more volume.
- Excellent AM/FM reception. The PL880 is extremely good at picking up faint AM/FM signals.
- USB port. If there is a computer or laptop nearby, you can siphon power from its USB port.
- Backlighting. The backlight can be configured to switch off immediately or stay on for several seconds.
- Comes with a case. The PL880 is one of the few portable shortwave radios you’ll find that comes with a carrying case.
Other portable shortwaves do a better job of filtering out interference. This shortwave does have a sync detector, but it doesn’t work very well.