Best Retro Radios

Updated December 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
How we decided

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

30 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
170 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for Best retro radios

Device upgrades are synonymous with the twenty-first century. While they afford us modern conveniences, electronics are often more focused on function than appearance. Music lovers can get the best of both worlds when they buy a retro radio. 

Listening to the radio — terrestrial or satellite — delivers a sense of nostalgia. Retro radios embrace the traditional features of popular models of the past, right down to color schemes, dials, and displays. Some designs even boast modern features like Bluetooth compatibility or jacks for headphones or auxiliary cables for other devices.

Next time you jam to your favorite tunes, make sure they’re coming from the speakers of a retro radio. We examined the top models on the market. Here’s our breakdown of notable feature and design trends.

retro radio
Retro radios are perfect additions to bedrooms, especially if you’re trying to eliminate digital overstimulation or an overabundance of light.

Key considerations

Unlike modern devices that often strive to become multipurpose electronics, a retro radio has limited functionality. Basic models offer AM/FM radio, volume controls, and tuning dials. Only select models have bass and treble settings. Given this, you may be wondering what the purpose of a retro radio really is.

Main purposes of a retro radio

Aesthetic value: If you’re investing in a retro radio, it’s probably because you’re looking to add a touch of throwback style to your space. Retro radios are popular picks for simple yet functional office décor, and they can serve as genuine conversation pieces in homes. 

Gifting: Retro radios make great gifts for recipients who enjoyed the original designs of radios. They’re also suitable for new homeowners, newlyweds, or individuals who like off-beat, unique items. 

Power source

Retro radios usually have power cords, so you’ll need to set yours up near an AC outlet. Compact and portable models typically take AA or AAA batteries. Premium retro radios outfitted with rechargeable batteries are ideal if you intend to move your radio frequently. On average, a full charge can last between 10 and 15 hours. 

Quality

Retro radios may be simple devices, but that doesn’t mean they lack in quality. In fact, many retro radios come with top-notch speakers to deliver a rich sound experience. In the spirit of their original designs, the best retro radios are well-constructed units that are built to last. 


The classic theme for fifth wedding anniversary gifts is wood. Retro radios are a unique spin on tradition, as they’re available in a variety of finishes and colors.

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Throwback detail

Materials

Retro radios are notable for their predominant wood detail and metal embellishments. Finishes and wood types vary considerably between models. Radios can feature real hand-carved wood or composite wood. As expected, 100% natural wood designs cost significantly more.

There are also some retro radios made of metal. These models are often painted with period-appropriate colors reminiscent of original radios, cars, or metal signage of the era. They’re a bit less popular than wood radios, but their attractive colors appeal to many consumers. 

Dials

Dials on retro radios are the signature controls to find stations, adjust volume, or customize bass and treble. In some models, they’re flat, brushed metal discs. In others, they’re bulky, spartan knobs. Dials are defining features of retro radios, as they double as embellishments that add a touch of old Hollywood glamour and pizazz. 

Display

You won’t find digital displays on retro radios. Instead, you’ll have a traditional display featuring numbers and markings. For these, you’ll turn the dials to select a station — which takes some skill if you haven’t done it in a while. 

Design

As the name implies, retro radios adopt iconic designs of the last century in their modern iterations. They may feature curvaceous silhouettes, scalloped edges, or hand-carved detail. Perhaps what sets them apart the most from modern devices is the fact that they resemble furniture more than electronics. As a result, they blend in easily, complementing spaces with their ornate aesthetics. 

retro radio2
DID YOU KNOW?
Keep in mind that retro radios don’t have the dual power source feature that many clock radios do. If power outages are a concern, consider choosing a portable or compact retro radio, as they are often battery-powered.
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Bonus features in multipurpose retro radios

Bluetooth compatibility

Certain retro radios are Bluetooth-compatible, so you’re able to use them as speakers. These pair with your smartphones and devices so you can listen to your favorite music. This feature is a popular choice for those who enjoy listening to satellite radio. After all, there’s something marvelous about listening to new music on what appears to be an antique device. 

Accessible ports

There are also retro radios outfitted with ports for SD cards or USB drives. These let you play your stored digital audio files. The USB port can be used as a secondary charging option for other devices, as well. 

Headphone jack

Many portable and compact retro radios are equipped with headphone jacks. This makes them ideal for travel and for people who like more versatility than traditional speakers. It’s unusual to find headphone jacks in full-size models, though there are some outliers. 

Auxiliary cable jack

Retro radios that come with auxiliary cable jacks can be connected to external speaker systems. This feature is practical for at-home use as well as use in offices, studios, and classrooms. 

Retro radio prices

Retro radios cost between $20 and $120. Price depends on how many modern features the radio has and whether it comes from an established or classic brand.

  • Portable and compact retro radios cost between $20 and $30. These are usually limited to AM/FM radio capability.
  • Retro radios with modern features like Bluetooth or SD card compatibility range in price from $30 to $70. These are generally built better and offer good sound quality.
  • Top-of-the-line models run closer to the $100 mark, as they’re usually full-size models with high-quality speakers. They include a full range of electronic features and often have the most accurate retro details. 

If you’re displaying your retro radio on a high bookshelf or entertainment center, you’ll probably need to invest in an extension cable to reach the outlet. Try to choose a cable the same color as the power cord so it doesn’t take away from the radio’s aesthetic appeal.

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Tips

  • Keep it in your she-shed. If you’re building a peaceful she-shed, pick up a retro radio if you aim to keep your area free from electronics and other distractions.
  • Add one to a dude cave. If you like wooden décor, especially in a bar area, add a retro radio to your dude cave for a classy, functional accent piece. 
  • Replace a clock radio. Since most people use their smartphones for alarms, replace your old bulky clock radio with an attractive retro radio instead. 
  • Be patient finding stations. Especially if you’re used to digital radios in your car, be patient as you turn the knob to find radio stations. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s easy to master the technique. 
  • Take care when cleaning the wood. Retro radios with wood detail should be cleaned carefully with the appropriate cleaner. Using a small amount of product on a rag, go over areas without saturating the knobs or speakers.

Other products we considered

Enjoy tunes on the old Victrola again with this reimagined Victrola Retro Wood Bluetooth FM/AM Radio with Rotary Dial. It earns high marks for its impressive sound quality and easy Bluetooth pairing. The radio is also a popular choice among consumers with retro remodels in kitchens and living rooms.

We like this Studebaker-inspired Greadio Retro FM Radio Bluetooth Speaker. The palm-size radio is available in six finishes including classic cherry red and wood. It even comes with a bass enrichment system for music lovers who want a modest boom while listening to their favorite songs. 

retro radio3
Bluetooth-enabled retro radios are ideal choices for yoga and dance studios. They have the modern features necessary to play music during class and can even be paired with Bluetooth surround-sound speakers.

FAQ

Q. Are retro radios a trendy phase, or are they really a thing?

A. There’s quite a large market for retro radios, especially those that can be paired with other devices. These models are the most practical with expanded functionality, which is why they tend to appeal more to consumers. There is also a large demographic, namely those interested in vintage and retro memorabilia, who would love to add replica models to their homes. 

Q. I can’t find the AM stations on my retro radio. Am I missing something?

A. Double-check your display and dials to make sure you don’t have to switch over to access AM stations. If there’s no such function, you probably have a retro radio that is FM-only. Quite a few models actually forgo AM stations because most people listen to FM radio only.

Q. Does the wood of my retro radio have to match other wood furniture in my room?

A. Not at all. In fact, the contrast in color or grain adds a unique decorative edge to your space. If you are concerned about coordinating, though, it’s best to compare retro radios that are available in multiple finishes and colors.

 

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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