The 10 Best Portable Radios
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Even in today's world of smartphones and tablets, some of us still prefer to carry a good-old-fashioned portable radio, instead of the newest gizmo. Many of them fit in the palm of your hand, and some are compatible with inputs from more advanced technologies, like Bluetooth and SD cards. A few of them can help out in emergency situations, and none of them rely on cell towers or the internet. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 24, 2020:
We have made two changes to our list in this latest update, as even some of the older items ranked, such as the Sony ICFP26 and the Sony Two Band Transistor, are still popular, largely thanks to their build-quality, simplicity, and effectiveness.
The new additions add a little more variety to the ranking, as the Prunus J-288, while primarily a clock-radio, doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and digital music player. It also has a built-in rechargeable battery and lockable functions, which assist with its portability.
Next, we chose the Sangean HDR-14. It is the second item from this Taiwanese company to be listed, as they specialize in portable radios and have an impressive product line. This model incorporates both analog and digital radio receivers with HDR, meaning it can access a number of useful services, including displaying track and station names and issuing emergency notifications.
May 02, 2019:
If you're looking for something with a lot of features for a reasonable price, the Sangean PR-D7 definitely fits the bill. It has ten memory presets for your favorite stations, an auto-shutoff mode that can be set for anywhere between 15 and 120 minutes, and an alarm clock with an optional Humane Wake System that gradually gets louder to wake you up gently over time. The C. Crane CC Pocket can receive NOAA Weather alerts and has rubber sides that provide protection if you drop it, making it suitable for camping and other outdoor uses.
Survivalists will appreciate the Midland ER310, which has a built-in flashlight that can flash in Morse code to signal for help, as well as the ability to scan NOAA Weather channels for alerts and emergency messages. It can last up to 32 hours on a full charge and can be charged via solar panel or hand crank when you don't have electricity.
If you're just looking for a bare-bones radio without all the bells and whistles, the Sony Two Band Transistor offers traditional analog knob controls along with a charming retro look. The Sony ICFP26 is a great compact model that's affordably priced, but its headphone jack is located on the side, which can be awkward if you want to carry it in your pocket while listening.
Why You Need A Portable Radio
Important information about weather events and other emergencies is going to be relayed on the radio waves throughout a given crisis.
You may be convinced that the little phone in your pocket is the only thing that you need to stay connected to the world. It’s got your news, your sports, your contacts and communications with all your friends and family, and much more. With a tool like that, of what use could a portable radio be in your daily life?
It turns out, these devices can be plenty useful. For starters, phones are getting more and more complex in their capabilities — particularly in their displays — and this is a big drain on battery life. The flip phones of yore often boasted battery lives that lasted days between charging sessions, even with heavy use. Moderns smartphones play up something they like to call “all day battery life,” which is their marketing department’s way of saying that your phone should last you from when you leave the house to go to work to sometime that evening. For many, that’s not very good, and the last thing you want to do is to drain your battery listening to your motivational tunes or news programs at work. A portable radio can come with you to your place of business and save you that battery drain.
Portable radios can also make great emergency tools. Important information about weather events and other emergencies is going to be relayed on the radio waves throughout a given crisis. You may miss a crucial evacuation or shelter in place order if you aren’t tuned in. And since portable radios, by definition, don’t need to be plugged into a wall to work, you can stay informed even during a massive blackout — provided you’ve got batteries for your radio, of course.
A portable radio can also come in handy if the radio in your car bites the dust. Sure, you can go through the expense and hassle of replacing it with a new deck, but a portable radio is a much less expensive investment that you can bring with you in your vehicle until you decide to install something new.
Choosing A Portable Radio
Your choice of portable radio will have more to do with your intended use for it than anything else. We’ve outlived a few potential situations in which you might need a portable radio above, and each of them calls for a certain kind of portable radio that you’ll find on the market. Each situation will also mandate that you look for certain features that can be a boon to particular needs.
Many boast powerful speakers you can employ to blast the device at full volume.
For example, if you’re looking for a radio to serve as your link to the outside world in the event of a disaster, there are certain features that you won’t want to ignore. Clear and reliable access to the NOAA weather alert system is paramount, as this will be your most important station in the event of an emergency. Battery life will also be vitally important to you in an emergency, especially if you aren’t the type to keep a lot of spare batteries in the house. To that end, there are models on the market that are specifically designed for emergencies. These often boast solar panels and hand cranks for reliable charging without the need for batteries. Many come in rugged housings, as well, and feature things like flashlights and USB charging ports for other electronics.
If you’re less concerned with potential emergency scenarios, and you just want a convenient way to listen to your music wherever you please, you won’t need a lot of those more intense features. You will, however, have to ask yourself whether you intend to share that listening experience or not. There are portable radios that are designed to be as small as possible, so that you can carry them around in your pocket. Not only are these convenient from a portability standpoint, they also provide you with a little secrecy. Combined with a low-profile earbud of some kind, you can use a tiny portable radio to listen in on the activities of your favorite sports team while at the office, and no one will be the wiser.
There are also radios out there that are a little more cumbersome, but that are great for sharing tunes or radio programs with a crowd. These are also the best fit for the car situation mentioned above. Many boast powerful speakers you can employ to blast the device at full volume. These radios are the ones most likely to include additional means of music playing, like CD players or auxiliary jacks through which you can hook up a phone or MP3 player.
Other useful features to look out for include Bluetooth connectivity, carrying handles, and digital displays. And, of course, you’re welcome to consider style, as well. With a radio intended for emergencies or destined to live in your pocket, this might not be as important, but if you’re going to have your portable radio on display, make sure it’s one you think expresses your personality to some extent.
Other Ways To Enjoy Your Music On The Go
Enjoying things like music, podcasts, radio programs, and other sources of audio entertainment has gotten easier to do just about anywhere you might find yourself. That’s thanks to a litany of tools that have gotten smaller, more powerful, and easier to use over the past couple of decades. With a portable radio, you can take a lot of that entertainment with you wherever you want to go, but there are some other things that can make the experience even more enjoyable.
A good pair of headphones or earbuds is paramount. Sometimes, when you're out in the world, you don’t want your tunes disturbing others (or you don’t want people to know you’re into Britney). A high-quality set of cans will isolate your listening experience. Make sure you get a wired set if your portable radio only has a headphone jack. If it offers Bluetooth connectivity, you’re free to invest in a wireless set.
For those times when you absolutely must use your phone instead of your portable radio, hook it up to a portable Bluetooth speaker to share your song choices with a party. You can even find waterproof speakers if that party happens to take place at the beach or by a pool.