We may now have devices that can do seemingly everything, but there’s something about that remains special about a dedicated radio. Once ubiquitous device in every home has quickly been abandoned for wireless speakers and streaming services.
These are the best options for those looking to keep things traditional, whether that’s a barebones AM/FM radio, something with a few more modern conveniences, or a radio for emergencies.
Sony’s ICFP26 portable AM/FM radio may not changed much over the years, but it’s as solid a choice as ever if all you’re looking for something is small, dependable and affordable. The classic design is pared down to just the essentials, with the only extras being a headphone jack and a carrying strap. If you’re looking for a bit bigger sound in a somewhat less portable package, however, the ICF-506 ($36) may be a better fit.
Is it the most practical travel companion? Probably not. But there is a certain appeal in a radio that’ll let you program up to 500 AM, FM, or shortwave radio stations and also keep track of the time zones they are in (complete with a map and knob to select various cities around the world). A stylish leather case is also included, but you’ll need to buy the 6V power adapter separately if you don’t want to rely on batteries all the time.
There’s certainly no shortage of retro-inspired tabletop or countertop radios available these days, but not all of them sound as good as they look. One option that’s unlikely to disappoint in either department is Tivoli’s Model One radio, which is available in a number of color combinations and a couple of different iterations. The basic model is your standard AM/FM radio with the addition of an auxiliary input, while the Model One BT adds Bluetooth streaming, and the Model One Digital adds full WiFi capabilities for even streaming options (as well as the ability to pair with additional speakers).
Shower radios are another once fairly popular category that have been largely replaced by Bluetooth speakers, but there are still plenty of more traditional options available for those who prefer to keep things simple. Sangean’s H201 is one of the best selling and better-reviewed options among Amazon customers, and adds a few features beyond the basics, including NOAA weather stations and a built-in flashlight for power outages.
A battery-powered radio is great to have on hand in the event of a power outage or other emergency, but an even better option is an emergency weather radio. The Wirecutter recommendsMidland’s ER210 as the best radio of its type for most people, with it packing both a solar panel and hand crank to keep its battery charged (which can in turn be used to charge our phone other devices), along with a bright Cree LED flashlight that can also be used as an SOS beacon.
A basic two-way radio is another type or radio worth considering whether you regularly spend time outside the reach of other means of communication or not. Something like Motorola’s Talkabout MR350 will let you communicate at distances up to 35 miles and also double as an emergency weather radio, with the ability to pick up NOAA weather channels and receive emergency alerts.
Designed for the outdoors, they’re also rugged enough to be tossed around a fair bit, and pack a built-in flashlight so you aren’t left in the dark.
Ham radios may require a considerable time investment (not to mention an FCC license), but you don’t necessarily have to spend a bundle to get started with them. BaoFeng’s UV-5R has a rating of four-and-a-half stars out of five on Amazon after more than 3,000 customer reviews and, at under $30, is one of the more affordable ways to get into the hobby. It’ll also let you pick up FM stations, and includes a handy built-in flashlight for emergencies.