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Best Pocket Radios

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 23 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 107 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best pocket radios

    Last Updated November 2018

    In an age of streaming music and MP3 files, you might think that radios are passé. But there are plenty of reasons to own a radio, particularly a small one that you can easily carry wherever you might roam.

    Radio is still a very convenient way to keep up on news, weather, and traffic reports, and, of course, many people enjoy tuning in to their favorite radio talk shows. Plus, there’s a radio station playing just about any type of music you might fancy within receiving distance of most large cities.

    But if it’s been a while since you purchased a radio, you might find the various choices confusing. That’s where BestReviews comes in. We’ve created this handy guide to choosing and using a pocket radio to simplify your decision.

    A pocket radio lets you enjoy music or your favorite radio talk shows while on the go, camping, or even relaxing in your backyard.

    What is a pocket radio?

    A pocket radio, as the name suggests, is a portable radio that is often – although not always – small enough to fit in a pocket. A pocket radio is a handy way to listen to music or talk radio inside or outside your home or when out of range of streaming music services. Since they’re small, pocket radios are excellent for the beach, hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities. They’re also useful in emergency situations when you might not have electricity to power your television or other news-gathering devices.

    Know your bands

    The sound you hear coming out of your radio is produced by radio waves, a type of electromagnetic wave. The radio’s speaker converts these waves into mechanical vibrations, which in turn create the sound waves that travel to your ears and then to your brain, where the sound waves are translated into music, speech, or some other recognizable sound. There are four major types of radio waves you’ll encounter when shopping for your pocket radio: FM, AM, NOAA, and shortwave.

    Frequency modulation (FM): FM uses changes in sound-wave frequency to transmit signals. On the most basic level, frequency is the speed of a sound wave’s vibration. While FM signals don’t travel as far as AM signals, they do have better sound quality, which is why the vast majority of radio stations that play music are on the FM dial. FM is standard on pretty much every pocket radio.

    Amplitude modulation (AM): AM uses changes in amplitude to transmit signals. Amplitude, simply put, is the size of a sound wave. While AM signals travel much farther than FM signals, they have poorer sound quality. Most talk radio stations are on the AM dial. AM is standard on all pocket radios.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Weather stations use a different frequency than the regular FM band on your radio. If you want to be able to hear weather reports – including emergency broadcasts – you need a radio that includes the NOAA weather bands. If you camp, boat, or live in an area with frequent severe weather, it’s worth spending extra for a pocket radio with NOAA bands.

    Shortwave: These frequencies bounce off a layer of charged atoms (ions) in the atmosphere, and depending on the angle of the waves can travel thousands of miles. By contrast, AM signals only extend up to 100 miles or so from the broadcast center, while FM signals are even shorter, reaching up to 30 or 40 miles from where they originate. A pocket radio with shortwave capabilities means you can listen to broadcasts from other countries or even other continents.

    A pocket radio isn’t going to replicate your high-end stereo system, but a quality radio has good enough sound for an enjoyable listening experience.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Pocket radio features to consider

    You’ll find a wide range of features to consider. The following are some of the most important.

    Controls: In the past, most radios had analog controls, meaning you turned a large dial to find your station. These days, digital controls are the most common, but you’ll still find analog pocket radios, especially in the lowest price range.

    Presets: Just about every digital pocket radio lets you preset your favorite stations, but the number of available presets varies from a few to 15. For most people, 6 to 10 presets are sufficient.

    Power source: Pocket radios run off batteries, but some also have AC capabilities so you can plug the radio into an electrical outlet when desired. You’ll also find pocket radios that use solar power – these can be good for camping – as well as some with USB ports that let you charge the battery using your computer.

    Weight and size: While all pocket radios are fairly light and small, some are lighter and smaller than others. If you’ll be carrying the radio while hiking or exercising, you’ll want one that’s as small and light as possible.

    Bluetooth capabilities: Many pocket radios now have Bluetooth capabilities, meaning you can use the device to play music from your computer or cellphone music library, as well as listen to the radio.

    Display: If you’ll be using your radio in low-light situations, such as camping or nighttime outdoor parties, a backlit display is a must. Without it, you’ll struggle to find the volume or station controls in the dark.

    Auto seek: You’ll find this handy function on digital pocket radios. It lets you automatically jump to the next station rather than slowly scroll through the dial manually.

    Low-battery indicator: Since pocket radios generally run off batteries, a low-battery indicator is a very useful feature. Without one, you risk running out of power right in the middle of your favorite song or talk radio show.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, or other severe weather conditions, a pocket radio that receives NOAA weather warnings is a must.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Choose a pocket radio with enough presets to cover all of your favorite radio stations.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Pocket radio prices

    Under $10: These pocket radios are the simplest analog devices. Don’t expect any frills or very good sound quality.

    $20 to $40: This is the sweet spot for most buyers. You’ll get good sound quality, nice features, and reliable performance in this price range.

    $40 and up: Expect to pay over $40 for a pocket radio with good sound, most of the desirable features, and NOAA and/or shortwave capabilities.

    Tips

    • Will you use the radio while camping, hiking, or exercising? If so, look for a model with a telescoping antenna to catch sound waves even if the nearest radio station is far away. One with a flashlight mode comes in very handy after dark. A pocket radio with a belt clip or strap makes it easy to carry while on the go. Some pocket radios have built-in clocks and alarm functions, too, making them useful when you need an early morning wake-up call while camping or participating in other outdoor activities.

    • Will you listen to your radio while on public transportation? If you want to listen to the news or music on the bus or train, you’ll need a pocket radio with a headphone jack.

    • Will you use the radio as a speaker for an MP3 player? If so, choose a model with an auxiliary (AUX) port.

    • Will you use your radio near water? If you want a pocket radio to use while fishing, boating, or even drifting on a float in the middle of the lake, look for a waterproof model that won’t be ruined if it takes an accidental dive into the water.
    Not all pocket radios are small enough to fit in a pocket, but all are lightweight and portable, making them perfect for a day at the beach, park, or campground.

    FAQ

    Q. What type of batteries do pocket radios use?

    A. Most use either AA or AAA batteries. As a general rule, radios with LCD screens and backlit controls use up batteries more quickly than simpler devices. Rechargeable batteries will save you money, and if you keep one set in the radio and one fully charged, you can switch them when needed without any downtime.

    Q. Do pocket radios have good sound quality?

    A. Don’t expect the highest fidelity sound from your pocket radio. These devices are more for convenience than great sound. Still, there’s no need to settle for terrible performance. Typically, the larger the speaker, the better the sound. Most pocket radios in the middle to upper price range have better sound than those toward the bottom of the range.

    Q. Do pocket radios have stereo sound or only mono?

    A. Some lower-end pocket radios only have mono sound, and most higher-end radios have stereo sound. Many pocket radios have stereo sound through headphones and mono without.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Ciera
      Ciera
      Production Assistant
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Michelle
      Michelle
      Writer
    • Steph
      Steph
      Web Producer

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