The 9 Best Shortwave Radios

Updated December 14, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

9 Best Shortwave Radios
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. For all you hams out there, as well as anyone who wants an emergency notification system in the event of a natural disaster, take a look at our selection of shortwave radios. But be warned, while the waves may be short, their range is quite long, and these receivers might just keep you up all night discovering music and information from all over the world. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best shortwave radio on Amazon.

9. C Crane CC Skywave

The C Crane CC Skywave packs a punch in its impressively compact housing. It can run for up to 70 hours on two AA batteries, making it a convenient option for travel. A pair of earbuds and a carrying case are included, and it can also serve as an alarm clock.
  • keypad for dialing in frequencies
  • fold-out kickstand
  • am reception quality is poor
Brand C.Crane
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Kaito Voyager Pro KA600

With its patented, 180-degree tilting solar panel, integrated 5-LED reading lamp, and durable housing, the Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 is a good portable option for both family camping trips and doomsday preparation. It's available in black, green, or silver.
  • built-in thermometer and hygrometer
  • can also be powered by hand crank
  • instructions aren't very clear
Brand Kaito
Model KA600
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Tecsun PL-360

The Tecsun PL-360 is ideal for travel, thanks to its diminutive stature. Its digital signal processor offers a superior listening experience with excellent clarity and high tone quality, while its easy tuning mode prevents too much static.
  • slips easily into a pocket
  • removable am antenna
  • no direct-tuning option
Brand Kaito
Model PL360
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Eton Field Grundig

With the Eton Field Grundig, you can store up to 50 of your favorite stations for quick access and connect your smartphone for playback via Bluetooth. Its dial-in-dial operation allows for both fine and coarse tuning adjustments, but it tends to produce a bit of static.
  • can run on ac power or 4 d batteries
  • external antenna connection
  • forgets settings when batteries die
Brand Eton
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Sony ICF-SW7600GR

The Sony ICF-SW7600GR provides reliable reception across all four of its bands thanks to its built-in antenna. Its memory scanning functionality cycles through up to 100 preprogrammed frequencies. Unfortunately, its included warranty only covers the device for 90 days.
  • built-in headphone jack
  • four tuner input methods
  • display is small and hard to read
Brand Sony
Model ICFSW7600G
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Kaito KA550

The Kaito KA550 has a few too many features to list here, but suffice to say it is quite a powerful device for its size and price. In addition to weather and AM/FM bands, it picks up frequencies of 3.2-22.0 MHz with ease, so you can discover all that the air has to offer.
  • can be powered in six different ways
  • built-in usb port to charge devices
  • water-resistant housing
Brand Kaito
Model KA550
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Sangean ATS-909X

If you're just in search of something to listen to and you don't care too much what it is, the versatile Sangean ATS-909X can automatically find the strongest signal available. If you want to take a more hands-on approach, it has five tuning methods to choose from.
  • 406 station memory
  • easy-to-read large lcd
  • available in black or white
Brand Sangean
Model ATS-909X BK
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Tivdio V-115

The Tivdio V-115 is a highly portable option with an ultra-long extendable antenna, perfect for picking up high-frequency signals in the great outdoors. It also features AM and FM bands and a built-in microphone for recordings, which can be saved to a micro SD card.
  • great low-budget option
  • auto-shutoff sleep timer function
  • can also be used as an mp3 player
Model 4331019190
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Tecsun PL880

The versatile Tecsun PL880 has a digital receiver that offers a wide range of coverage, including AM, FM, and longwave operation, plus a single side band that can be tuned in 10 Hz increments. It also comes with a convenient carrying pouch.
  • unparalleled sensitivity
  • works as a 24-hour alarm clock
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Brand Tecsun
Model PL880
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Shortwave Radio Basics

Shortwave radios provide an inexpensive, low-tech way for anyone in any part of the world to receive radio transmissions. Also known as high frequency, shortwave is transmitted just above the AM band on the radio spectrum. Radio waves at this frequency are reflected back to Earth from the ionosphere instead of being absorbed, allowing the signal to travel thousands of miles.

While originally developed for emergency military transmissions, shortwave is now used by governments, private organizations and amateurs alike to reach large populations across the globe. Because they travel such great distances, shortwave communications are not always as clear as your local FM station. Atmospheric conditions can even cause the signal to fade in and out, and you are more likely to get interference from stations on adjacent frequencies.

With all the advanced technology you have in your house, you may wonder if listening to shortwave radio is worth the trouble, but part of the allure is the chance to explore stations from other countries and discover the unknown. A portion of the shortwave spectrum is even designated for amateurs who want to talk back and forth in two-way communication.

The practical advantage of having a shortwave radio is that it remains the only way to make direct communication from one country to another without an intermediary such as a satellite or cable company. In the event of a global disaster or zombie apocalypse, you'll be able to stay connected with the rest of the planet.

Even if the world isn't coming to an end, a shortwave radio is an important part of any emergency preparedness kit. Many models are available with solar panels or even a hand crank so they are guaranteed to function under any circumstances.

What's on Shortwave Radio?

Before the advent of the internet, shortwave radio was the primary way many expats kept in touch with their homeland. Gaggles of college students would huddle around shortwave radios to listen to their national teams play soccer games and other sporting events. Families would forgo the nightly news on TV in favor of broadcasts from home.

Because of the internet and the proliferation of dozens of cable news channels, some governments have closed down or reduced their shortwave offerings. Despite this disappointing development, the shortwave spectrum continues to offer a vast landscape of programming options. There is still an avid community of shortwave hobbyists listening to and creating interesting and original content.

Aside from stations run by governments and major religious organizations, there are a few privately-owned international stations that sell blocks of airtime to a variety of groups to provide a wide range of music, entertainment and educational programs. Segments of the spectrum are also blocked off for amateur usage, marine communications and other utility functions.

One can argue that modern communications is killing shortwave listenership, but it is also making it easier than ever to explore the high frequency universe. There are websites devoted to providing schedules of shortwave programming and even smartphone apps that list schedules and report ever-changing frequencies to help you track your favorite stations.

A Brief History of the Shortwave Radio

The invention of shortwave radio technology is often attributed to Nobel Laureate and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. He and his assistant Charles Samuel Franklin began a large-scale study in 1923 to determine if short wavelengths were suitable for long distance transmissions. His work led to the creation of the Beam Wireless Service that connected the United Kingdom to Canada in 1926. The service was expanded to Australia, South Africa and India in 1927.

There is evidence that amateur radio operators were the first to propagate a transatlantic shortwave signal. The lowest-frequency band considered to be shortwave, 1.8-2.0 MHz, was deemed useless for long distance communications and designated for amateur use. It was within this “useless” frequency that hundreds of North American amateurs were heard in Europe in 1922. The first two-way communications between North American and Hawaiian amateurs were also recorded in 1922 at the same wavelength.

Having their own frequency and newly available vacuum tubes made it possible for radio amateurs to experiment and make significant strides in long distance usage of shortwave technology, including the first transatlantic two-way contact in 1923.

Shortwave technology was such a cheap investment that it rapidly eclipsed the usage of the transoceanic cables for telegraph and television. By the late 1920's, over half of of all long distance communications adopted the use of shortwave, ending the need for further investment new transoceanic cables and massive longwave wireless stations.

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Last updated on December 14, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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