- 1. JENSEN CD-490 Portable Stereo CD Player with AM/FM Radio
- 2. Panasonic RF-2400D AM/FM Radio Silver
- 3. Sangean LB-100 Ultra Rugged Compact AM/FM Radio
- 4. Sangean PR-D18BK AM/FM Portable Digital Radio with Protective Bumper
- 5. Sbode Bluetooth Speaker Portable Wireless Speakers
- 6. Antimi Bluetooth Speaker FM Radio Player
- 7. DreamSky Portable AM FM Radio with Speaker
- 8. Bluetooth Speakers Portable UZOPI 5W
- 9. ION Audio Block Rocker Plus 100 W Portable Speaker
- 10. Xeneo X21 Portable Outdoor Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
- Portable Outdoor Radio Selection Tips
- Types of Portable Radios
- Top Portable Radio Brands
- Average Portable Radio Pricing
- Questions and answers
The creation of new technologies do not always mean an end to older ones. For example, radio continues to be popular despite the presence of television and the Internet. Countless people listen to different stations every day on their way to work, during their breaks, or before they sleep. It’s a good source of information for breaking news. Smaller units can be carried around with ease. There is no need to plug them to an outlet as batteries can keep them going for a long time — great for outdoor use. Below are the top 10 best portable outdoor radios for 2020:
1. JENSEN CD-490 Portable Stereo CD Player with AM/FM Radio
If you want big sound, then you have to deal with big speakers. The Jensen's stereo speakers produce an output of 1.5W RMS. This model is fairly large but still light and portable with a built-in top handle. It measures 12.5 x 9 x 5.9 inches and 5.4 pounds according to manufacturer specifications. An LED display shows the current track. An AUX IN jack allows connection of external music players. It comes with an AC power cable.
The sound is good, especially for the low asking price. Big brands will set you back 10x as much without noticeable improvements. It does what it needs to do which is play CDs and catch radio stations thanks to the telescopic antenna. However, quality seems to be an issue as there are multiple complaints about CD player errors. Warranty only lasts for 3 months and not the usual one year which should be a red flag.
- Stereo speakers
- CD player
- Foldable handle
- Good controls
- Cheap price
- Big and bulky
- Needs 8 C batteries
- Poor CD quality
2. Panasonic RF-2400D AM/FM Radio Silver
This one is a straight up radio without a CD player. While you lose a nice feature, you gain better portability, cost savings, and reliability. This has an analog tuner which goes from 87 to 108 MHz for FM and 520 to 1730 kHz for AM. There is a single speaker with a 10 cm diameter and 779mW RMS that produces decent sound. The unit dimensions are 23.4 x 12.2 x 8.2 cm.
Like the Jensen, this also has a top handle and a telescopic antenna. Users can plug in an earphone through the 3.5mm jack. This can be plugged to an outlet or equipped with 4 AA batteries. Quality is excellent, as should be expected from a respected brand like Panasonic. This model is a joy to use even in the country as it can pick up weak signals thanks to high sensitivity.
- Sensitive antenna
- Small package
- Low cost
- Good quality
- Mono speaker
3. Sangean LB-100 Ultra Rugged Compact AM/FM Radio
If you are out in the wildness for a long time, then you need a radio that can keep up with you. It can't be fragile as drops and bumps are inevitable. That's why you need something rugged like this model from Sangean. The industrial styling makes it clear that this was built to last. The main unit is protected by a roll cage that doubles as carrying handle, much like racing cars protecting the driver.
Even the 5 1/4-inch speaker is water resistant, though there is only one here. The whole thing is rain, dust, and shock resistant. The bottom has rubber to absorb impact. The body is made of tough ABS plastic. A backlit display shows the station currently playing. The antenna is compact and flexible. Power can be either through AC cord or 4 C batteries.
- Extremely rugged build
- Water resistance
- Good bass
- Fair price
- Low signal sensitivity
4. Sangean PR-D18BK AM/FM Portable Digital Radio with Protective Bumper
Here is another one from the same company but with a different target market. Whereas the LB-100 is bulky and rugged, the PR-D18BK is small and compact. It can fit in a jacket pocket with ease. There is a single speaker, a backlit display, and buttons for controls. The antenna is telescopic and neatly tucks away at the top. The sides are rounded and covered with a rubber bumper for protection.
This model comes in black/gray, white/blue, white/gray, and white/red combinations. The 10 station presets are divided equally among FM and AM radio stations. It can auto-seek and adjust tuning steps. An alarm clock was added for better functionality. Battery power status is also indicated on the display. It requires 4 AA batteries to operate.
- Built-in alarm clock
- Protective bumper
- Compact size
- AC adapter not included
5. Sbode Bluetooth Speaker Portable Wireless Speakers
Wireless is all the rage these days including speakers, chargers, and earphones. People enjoy the freedom that comes when you cut the wires. Bluetooth is a vital technology that is making these advances possible. While there are plenty of basic BT speakers, this product from Sbode is more functional with the added FM radio. You can listen to any station wherever you are, including the shower or the beach thanks to the waterproof chassis.
On the downside, this does not have any AM stations. Some people like to listen to AM as they have more news-related content, so this might not be the best unit for them. You are limited to the FM band. If this is not enough for you, then you can insert a TF card and play music from there. You could also pair this BT speaker with your phone or mp3 player. It can detect devices up to 100 feet away. The slim cylindrical shape makes it easy to carry around and stash in a bag.
- Built-in mic
- TF card reader
- Bluetooth connectivity
- No AM stations
6. Antimi Bluetooth Speaker FM Radio Player
This looks more like a modern point-and-shoot camera than a speaker but it does its job pretty well. The compact design makes it highly portable and easy on the eyes. The 3W stereo speakers are hidden by the front grille while the controls and display are all located at the top. Sound quality is surprisingly good for something so small. It can play loud music with very little distortion.
Meanwhile, the build quality and the all-metal chassis gives confidence in its durability. The rounded edges make it a breeze to slip into a bag, but you will probably want to take it out for all to see as much as you can. Unlike most portable radios, this one has a rechargeable battery with 2200 mAh capacity. This is good enough to provide 12 hours of continuous music after a full charge. It can read micro SD cards and accept inputs from external music players.
- Rechargeable battery
- All-metal body
- Quality stereo speakers
- No remote control
7. DreamSky Portable AM FM Radio with Speaker
Not everyone needs to cram multiple features into their radios. Some are perfectly happy with a simple yet reliable package. That is exactly what this DreamSky unit claims to be, and it looks like it is living up to the expectations. This tiny black box has rounded edges, an obscured speaker, and a highly visible tuner. It can get both AM and FM signals even in remote places. It's definitely a nice thing to have in cases of emergency as you can get news updates from local stations.
It only needs 2 AA batteries to power on. For extended blackouts, this is the radio to use as you won't run out of disposable batteries too quickly. The simplicity of the design should appeal to the elderly and the minimalists. There are no buttons to confuse you, just a dial and a volume control. An earphone jack is available if you want to listen privately. Weighing just 8.5 ounces, this radio is great for backpacking and hiking trips as it won't break your back. The body is made from plastic but it seems to be holding fine.
- Very low price
- Compact size
- Simple control
- Signal sensitivity
- Plastic body
8. Bluetooth Speakers Portable UZOPI 5W
Here's a small and adorable radio that seems to be a great fit for kids and retro styling enthusiasts. There is a top handle and a square body with rounded sides, making it look like a tiny lunch box. The display and controls are on the top half while the speaker is at the bottom half. This produces good sound, including the bass frequencies. Note that this is also a Bluetooth speaker so connecting phones and players should be a breeze.
In fact, it comes with its own remote control so you can listen and skip songs from across the room. At the back are ports including a USB slot, a 3.5mm AUX line, a micro SD card slot, a charging port, and an AC power port. This can detect other BT devices with 33 feet. The rechargeable battery has a 2200 mAh capacity which is enough to provide 8-10 hours of playback depending on the volume. Note that it only has an FM radio and not an AM radio, which could be a deal breaker for some.
- Good loudness
- Rechargeable battery
- Nice retro styling
- Affordable price
- No AM radio
- No battery status indicator
- Poor build quality
9. ION Audio Block Rocker Plus 100 W Portable Speaker
This product redefines the word "portable" when talking about a radio. Perhaps it would be more helpful to think of this as a powerful speaker first with just the added bonus of a radio function. At 100W power output, this is good enough to keep a party going in your backyard. It has an 8-inch woofer and a quality tweeter for amazing sound clarity. You can boost the bass at the touch of a button. This may not be the smallest radio out there but it is compact for its category. It even has wheels and a handle for excellent mobility.
You can plug it into a socket or recharge the battery to gain 50 hours of nonstop sound. The battery is so big that you can use the unit as a massive power bank. Aside from listening to music, you can also use it to broadcast a speech, conduct a lecture, or sing a song with the included microphone. There are no sacrifices when comes to connectivity as you can pair the unit with any Bluetooth device or plug in external players via the AUX IN jack. Of course, the Am/FM radio is always there where you need it.
- Excellent connectivity options
- Rugged yet portable
- Mic included
- Powerful speakers
- High cost
10. Xeneo X21 Portable Outdoor Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Here is another Bluetooth speaker with radio functionality. It is small, slim, and cylindrical with driver at the top and the controls at the sides. Thanks to the waterproof chassis, you can take this anywhere including trips to the beach, to the lakes, to the pools, or even to the shower. Take it on camping trips and other outdoor adventures with no worries. The dimensions were specifically designed to fit a bottle holder on a bike.
It can detected devices up to 100 feet away under ideal conditions. Two of them can be paired to provide fuller stereo sound. The built-in rechargeable battery has a 2400 mAh capacity that can last for up to 10 hours. The package include a hard case for travel. There is a built-in mic for hands-free calling. On the downside, there is no AM radio and signal reception is spotty.
- Waterproof chassis
- Compact shape
- Stereo pairing
- No AM radio
- Poor signal reception
Portable Outdoor Radio Selection Tips
• The weight of the radio is the foremost factor that one should consider when purchasing a portable radio. Ensure that you go for a light model, as purchasing a heavier one beats the actual purpose of it being portable. Apart from this, it should also have a handle or strap for carrying it around from one place to the other.
• The different powering options are the secondary factor. Most transportable radios are powered by AC/DC power sources or even by a battery. It makes sense to purchase a model that runs on rechargeable batteries. Remember, the standard alkaline batteries deliver 1.5 Volts, whereas, the rechargeable ones output 1.2 Volts. If you purchase a radio whose batteries can be recharged with the help of solar energy, such as a solar lantern, grab it.
• The number of preset stations: Carry around radios provide different options for presetting your preferred radio stations, allowing you to effortlessly select any station without going through the strenuous tuning effort. Search for a model that has 10-15 presets. Remember, such features are only available for digital radios.
• Sound quality and speaker size: Opt for a model whose speakers can faithfully reproduce the sharp notes as well as the bass. Do not be misled by the myth that bigger speakers are better. If you are looking for faithful sound reproduction, go for models that contain Sony, Sangean, and Panasonic speakers.
• Battery life: Obviously, when you have no power supply except solar cells, you would want your transportable radio to work for as many hours as possible on a single recharge. You can increase battery life by switching off the backlight and the LCD screen of the radio.
• Wideband range: Always go for a portable radio that has a wider frequency range, as this allows you to access more stations. NOAA, AM, and FM bands ought to be a priority. Certain models also have an inbuilt clock and alarm, which is a good feature when selecting a portable outdoor radio.
Types of Portable Radios
• Conventional FM: This frequency modulated system is a popular technology in analog radios, and nearly all radio manufacturers around the world offer support to some type of conventional FM technology.
• Conventional AM: Used in electronic communication and in portable radios, amplitude modulation is most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. In this method, the signal strength (amplitude) of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to that of the message signal being transmitted.
• MPT1327: It is unarguably the widest used analog trunking technology nowadays. Some manufacturers support this technology.
• Tetra and P25: These technologies are akin to GSM used in modern cellular phones. However, they are not suitable for the normal transportable radio enthusiast. It is targeted for use by airports and large public safety agencies.
• DMR: Digital Mobile Radio is among the latest open radio standards. It is a TDMA technology that employs two-time slots plus operates in the 12.5 kHz channel space, which is available in any licensed frequency.
• NXDN: This employs FDMA technology that is similar to DMR and operates in the 6.25 kHz spacing. Apart from supporting trunked and conventional operations, it is not limited to any specific frequency.
• WiFi: These radios depend on a wireless network to work. They can pick up signals transmitted through the wireless adapter of your computer via their antenna, translates and decodes the signals, and then plays it. However, these models are of no use if you plan to use them outside your house.
• Bluetooth: Like the WiFi radio, there must be a Bluetooth transmitter within the signal capturing the range of such radios to ensure that they can capture the signal through their Bluetooth receive and playback the audio being transmitted through the Bluetooth transmitter. You have to first “pair” the devices so that they both recognize each other before the device can start receiving signals from the transmitting device. They are of no practical use while on the move as there are no radio stations that transmit such types of signal.
NOTE: On the one hand, AM signals are more powerful than FM. On the other hand, FM is less prone to interference than AM. To make matters more confusing FM signals are impacted by physical barriers but offer better sound quality due to higher bandwidth.
Top Portable Radio Brands
• C. Crane
Average Portable Radio Pricing
It would be unfair to comment on this directly, as most of the companies mentioned above manufacture different brands of easy-to-carry radios, and some of them have additional features, and therefore cost more. For example, Sony’s model ICF-P36 portable model costs a pocket-friendly $21.89 and the ICF38 model from the same manufacturer costs a whopping $199.95 but offers many other features than the ICF-P36 such as “tone control,” “large speakers,” “LED tuning indicator,” and so forth. However, after going through the prices of a number of low-end and high-end models I can safely say that the average price for the low-end models is $25, whereas the higher end models average at $90. Obviously, the Sony ICF38 is an exception to this rule. No doubt, when you pay such a price, you get exceptional quality reception, dual speakers for awesome stereophonic sound, and nearly no static in the output.
Questions and answers
Q: Do rechargeable batteries work on carry-around radios?
A: Yes, rechargeable batteries work perfectly on transportable radios. However, the batteries supplied with the radio are not rechargeable.
Q: How to charge the batteries of my portable transistor while hiking?
A: You can easily use a portable solar lantern to charge the batteries. Alternatively, you can purchase solar battery charging kits too.
Q: The sound is not clear on the FM band
A: Try to re-orient the antenna by moving around until you get the best sound. Adjust the radio’s antenna to that direction.
Q: Can I leave the batteries in the radio for a long time even if I do not use it?
A: Remove the batteries if you do not want to play your transistor for more than a week.
What is the best portable AM FM radio?
As mentioned above, the quality of a radio depends on its signal capturing capability, the quality of its sound, are they monophonic or stereophonic, do they or do they not emit static sound, how quickly can they lock on to a particular band, the number of preset bands included with the device, the number of features it contains, as well as the price tag. Keeping all these factors in mind, I would recommend the following models:
• Panasonic RF-2400D AM/FM Radio, available in silver color
• JENSEN SB2000RB portable AM/FM radio available in red color
• Sony ICFP26 portable AM/FM radio available in black color
• Horologe pocket radio with AM/FM plus alarm clock, time, stereo mode, as well as digital display
What is the best Bluetooth radio?
Most modern generation speakers come with Bluetooth connectivity. Therefore you can purchase any of them that meet your budget. Remember, the sound quality of these speakers are far better than that of your mobile phone. It does not matter whether you opt for an expensive JBL model or a cheap Bluetooth speaker, the sound quality will pleasantly surprise you. The icing on the cake is that many Bluetooth speakers include an inbuilt FM radio. Some of the popular models include:
• Anker SoundCore
• ION Audio Tailgater
• Celtic Blu
• EasyAcc P6697
Why is there static on my radio?
Static noise is caused by several factors such as natural electromagnetic atmospheric noise, radio wave disturbances caused by factors such as lightning or an electric spark in the vicinity, radio frequency interference emitted from other electrical devices (such as a mixer grinder) picked up by the antenna of the radio. Try connecting the two ends of a battery with a piece of wire near the radio’s antenna and you will hear static noise in the form of pops and crackles.
How do I get rid of static on my radio?
If the static disturbance is caused by lightening you can do nothing about it. However, if the interference is due to electrical sparks released by electric gadgets such as the television, microwave, grinder/ mixer, you can try changing the orientation of the radio’s antenna. Move the antenna slowly until the static disappears or goes down significantly. You can also prevent the external electrical interference from reaching the portable radio by encasing it with a shield.
What is the difference between DAB and FM radio?
DAB or Digital Audio Broadcasting is a technology that allows radio stations to broadcast their signals digitally. The biggest advantage is that lots of signals can be accommodated in a small space compared to the frequency-modulated method. This apart, the sound quality if mush better on a DAB receiver.
Is Internet radio better than FM?
Internet radios offer better sound quality, for the simple reason that internet stations use more efficient codecs (coders decoders) even if they have the same bit-rate. The 320 kilobits per second Radio 3 stream uses AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) for encoding with the help of AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) instead of MP2. Technically, it is better than FM.
Hopefully, this article will help you with selecting a portable outdoor radio.
George A. Smith received a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Berkeley. George has been teaching music professionally for the past 8 years. George regularly contributes content to several music websites including LoadRecords.com.