Whilst cell phone reception has made rapid gains in coverage over the last few years. Old-school AM radio receivers continue to be the most effective and reliable way of keeping informed in remote areas. Whether on a camping trip, an adventure in the wilderness, or climbing a mountain, long-distance AM radios are vital for getting the latest news, sports, and weather warnings even in extreme conditions where mobile signals and FM radio could be disrupted.
The key to staying connected is to trust in a quality AM radio that fits the needs of your adventure. Though, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to tell the great from the rest. In this list, we’ll be looking at our picks for the best and most reliable AM radio receivers.
Each product has its own strengths and drawbacks and one radio might be more suitable than the others for your use case. Key factors to pay attention to are the sound quality, build quality, and portability of the respective radio options.
1. Sony ICF-P26
Great for: Portability
Sony is a well-known brand for quality and reliability when it comes to audio and radio products and this handy radio is no exception to this rule. The Sony ICF-P26 is a compact vertical AM/FM radio that is intended to be a successor to the legendary ICF-S10MK2 – and it delivers. Housed in a sleek black plastic casing, the 12×7 cm dimensions make this perfect to stick in a pocket for long walks in the countryside.
This unit is operated by dialing an analog tuner and you can pick from many different stations: both on AM and FM radio. Whilst its mono speaker lacks bass, the ICF-P26 makes up in portability and its 100-hour battery life. Though, for personal listening, you could also use its 3.5mm headphone jack and listen with your favorite pair of headphones.
The ICF-P26 is a powerful radio receiver for its size and it’s a fantastic pick if you’re looking for a portable AM radio with a loudspeaker. With its antenna fully extended, its reception is excellent – making this product great for listening to on the move. Whilst it lacks some features of its digital counterparts such as station memory, the charm of an analog pocket radio is undeniable, and it comes with a significant bump in battery life compared to its digital counterparts.
Great for: Sound and Portability
Spending a few extra bucks lands you another fantastic portable radio from a reliable radio brand, this time it’s Panasonic. The RF-2400D Portable AM/FM Radio packs together both great sound and on-the-go portability. Whilst the casing is plastic, reviewers comment on how sturdy but light the build quality is – making it great for adventures outdoors as its likely to survive a beating! This radio is quite a bit more expensive than other portable units from the cheap Chinese brand, but with the higher price tag comes the quality and reputation of a top electronics brand.
This unit runs on both 4x AA batteries and mains power and as the DC power adapter is built into the unit, there’s no need to carry around a bulky power brick. It’s one light lead and you’re good to go.
AM reception is very excellent, with expectedly great results picking out your favorite stations in the day. But, the RF-2400D also performs with enough selectivity to separate signals and tune at night, making it ideal for after-dark listening, perhaps as a bedtime relaxer or on a camping trip.
The Panasonic RF-2400D is a good allrounder, delivering the sound and performance to keep you tuned in to your favorite AM stations. A boombox is not but for a portable radio, this unit packs a bunch – a great portable choice.
Great for: Build Quality
For those daring expeditions in harsh weather, you’re going to need an AM radio companion that can take the beating of the elements. That’s where the Sangean LB-100 comes in. This compact radio offers not only the reliability and great sound quality of the other entries on this list but also the best-in-class durability. Built with durable ABS plastic and held in a shock-absorbent frame, this radio is great for construction sites and other outdoor work and rated for both dust and water resistance.
The 5-inch driver delivers a full and crisp sound and can get quite loud: ideal in noisy situations like construction sites. Reviewers comment on its high bass response, perfect for those who prefer a bassy sound profile. Though, if you prefer a more treble-heavy or balanced sound profile, you may be disappointed at the lack of bass/treble adjustment. Its digital LCD display allows for super precise tuning and those who regularly cycle between stations will love the tuner preset buttons.
The antenna is flexible but isn’t extendable. This means it won’t snap, but also that reception isn’t as great as radios with larger antennas. If you’re looking to use this in super remote locations, the LB-100 may not be for you – but if build quality and bass response is what you need, this could be your choice!
Great for: Style and Premium
With its solid MDF cabinet with a walnut finish and its warm and rich sound profile, the Sangean WR-11 is the choice if you’re looking for that premium edge. Whilst the WR-11 can be pricey, hovering around $87.99, you pay for the state-of-the-art build and elegance. The acoustically tuned cabinet brings a warm and crisp sound and its Dynamic Bass Compensation delivers a rich bass response.
The sound signature of the WR-11 makes this ideal for bass-driven rock or warmer classical sounds whilst news bulletins will be clear and crisp with its great high and medium tone replication. The reception is great with options for both an internal and external wire antenna, with reviewers commenting how this radio picks up AM stations not receivable by any other indoor-use radio.
The 3-inch 65W speaker gets decently loud for indoor environments but does not match the volume of its Lunchbox LB-100 cousin. The WR-11 is designed to be an indoor radio and is advertised as a tabletop radio for desk and table use. It would make a great companion at home or in your office – blending style, performance, and simplicity to deliver a premium radio experience to rival offerings from luxury brands like Tivoli.
Great for: Affordability
For those looking for a cheap, no-frills portable radio – look no further than the PowerBear Portable Radio. Don’t let the no-brand name fool you, the PowerBear offers great reception and portability for the price. Being the cheapest option in this round-up, this product isn’t going to blow you away. But this is a great option as a burner radio you don’t mind getting damaged as a companion on daring outdoor adventures.
Its plastic build offers adequate sturdiness and rigidity, and its tiny size makes it incredibly portable. The small driver doesn’t produce the best sound but for AM signals it is good enough for the price, and the 3.5mm headphone jack will easily solve this problem with a pair of good quality headphones. It’s easy to use, has decent battery life after sticking in quality 2 AA batteries, and weighs less than a lemon (3.7oz).
The PowerBear portable radio doesn’t have the best sound quality, neither does it have the highest quality or smoothest tuner. But this little handheld radio performs well enough for the price and great if your budget is tight and you’re willing to skip out on premium feature comforts.
It’s important to consider the needs of your use-case scenario before purchasing a radio. Affordable radios like the PowerBear and the Sony ICF-P26 offers great bang-for-the-buck performance to fit a tight budget but pledging just a few extra dollars can get you a higher quality driver.
Portability is also a key factor in your decision. If you’re looking to use your radio on-the-go outdoors, a small and light portable radio is your best bet. A bigger radio with a larger driver will deliver better sound and especially bass response but at the cost of convenience and portability. Will you be playing your radio through the in-built speaker, or are you using headphones? Using a radio with headphones Walkman-style might be easier with a smaller radio – especially as the in-built speaker quality wouldn’t matter anyway.
Ruggedness is key if you’re going to face harsh conditions, whether it be extreme weather or hazards on a worksite. Radios built for ruggedness are ideal for this use case, and the Sangean LB-100 is a great choice for that.
Whatever your needs are for a long-distance AM radio, all the recommendations on this list offer great quality and performance at their respective price ranges and are all great picks for AM radios. Be sure to click the Amazon links to check the latest prices of all these products.