Over the years, shortwave radios have seen a decline in use, but they are still widely used outside the United States and North America.
They are used in many parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. Regardless of its near-obsolete state, there are still shortwave radio listeners and broadcasters in the United States who remain dedicated.
Maybe you are one of those people, or perhaps you found out that shortwave signals can be transmitted from one continent to another and decided to get the best shortwave radio to explore the landscape.
Pro Tip: Shortwave Radios are also known as SW Radios. As you can see, SW stands for Short Wave. In the radio community, all enthusiasts refer to Shortwave radios as SW Radios.
What Is A Shortwave Radio?
A shortwave radio is a radio that can receive shortwave radio frequencies ranging from 2 MHz to 30 MHz (3000 kHz to 30000 kHz). It is known as shortwave because the waves emitted are short compared to medium and long waves and wideband VHF waves emitted by AM radios and FM radios, respectively. However, some new models of shortwave radios can receive AM/FM frequencies.
Shortwave Radio Buying Guide
There are numerous factors to consider when buying shortwave radios, especially since there are different types of shortwave radios with their unique features. Summarily, you need to consider the following: the type of shortwave radio, sensitivity, battery, and sound quality.
Types of Shortwave Radios
- Portable Shortwave Radios. This type is common as they are easy to carry around to listen to the radio on the go. But most of these are analog, with the digital ones somewhat expensive. However, portable shortwave radios often come with an alternative power source aside from batteries.
- All-in-One Shortwave Radios. These have a wide range of frequencies, so they usually pick up most AM and FM transmissions. They can come in portable versions.
- Desktop or Tabletop Shortwave Radios. These versions often come with a power outlet. It is not impossible to find battery-powered versions, but they are usually expensive. Desktop and tabletop shortwave radios are designed to be bulky.
- Software-Defined Radios. These radios use specific software on a computer to receive all frequencies. This is a more recent invention when compared to the above types.
- Analog or Digital Radios. Analog radios lack signal accuracy because they use dials that you must adjust to get a specific station manually. But digital radios have the precision to pinpoint channels.
- Read more about Shortwave Vs. Longwave Radio here.
Loudspeakers do not equal clear or quality sound. The better the sound quality, the more expensive the shortwave radio is.
A radio’s ability to receive weak signals determines its sensitivity. A high sensitivity translates to more signals picked up and better sound quality. Radiosensitivity is measured in microvolt or millivolt. Shortwave radios that pick up signals at less than 20µV (20 microvolts) have excellent sensitivity levels.
There are two options for battery-powered shortwave radios: rechargeable Li-ion batteries or AA/AAA batteries. Rechargeable Li-ion batteries require a power outlet to charge.
These batteries are internal and cannot be removed from the radio. Li-ion batteries generally last up to 30 hours when fully charged. On the other hand, AA or AAA batteries can easily be replaced when they die, as long as you have new ones on hand. A single AA battery can last up to 40 hours, and some shortwave radios use four AA batteries.
We have picked the top 3 Shortwave radios here. But, if you want to find out more, you can read about all the best SW radios here.
TECSUN R-9012 AM FM SW 12 Bands Portable Shortwave Radio
This shortwave radio is a good fit for someone looking for a small and lightweight radio. Another feature is a high sensitivity ratio capable of receiving shortwave, AM, and FM frequencies.
This TECSUN radio uses 2 AA batteries and a DC-IN 5V Charging Cable.
It is an analog shortwave radio with a band selector switch, an on-and-off switch, easy volume control, and a tuning knob to find radio stations.
It can receive shortwave frequencies ranging from 3.9 MHz to 21.85 MHz. The TECSUN R-9012 can receive FM frequency ranging from 76 MHz to 108 MHz and AM frequency ranging from 525 kHz to 1610 kHz. This product is affordable.
Sangean ATS-909X2 The Ultimate Multi-Band Radio
The Sangean ATS-909X2 is outfitted with auto bandwidth control which enables automatic selection of the optimal bandwidth in terms of the signal to noise ratio.
This ensures quality sound and receives weaker signals. You can manually select and adjust the bandwidth to your preference.
The ATS-909X2 uses rechargeable batteries, and its battery compartment can detect and pinpoint a faulty battery.
The defective battery will be shown on the radio screen and indicated by its number. This radio is equipped with a large LCD and a backlight. It has up to 1674 memory slots, and it automatically stores radio stations with the strongest signals as preset stations.
This product is somewhat expensive, but its features make it worth it.
Retekess V115 Digital Radio AM FM
At 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches, this shortwave radio is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. It is very light, weighing a total of 160g/0.35lb.
Retekess V115 allows you to record as long as you insert a micro SD card that is 32 GB or less.
This radio can play MP3 music stored on the SD card, and it comes equipped with an AUX, which can be used as a speaker. It uses a rechargeable lithium battery.
With V115, you can search for channels automatically and manually. You can also store your favorite radio stations to preset positions. The Retekess V115 shortwave radio is affordable.
Kaito KA500 5-way Radio
This shortwave radio is perfect for emergencies and disasters. It is equipped with an adjustable solar panel that powers the radio and charges its batteries. This radio can also be powered by charging its built-in rechargeable batteries with a USB, old-fashioned hand cranking, or an optional AC adapter (this is sold separately from the radio). The Kaito KA500 can receive signals from AM, FM, shortwave, and NOAA weather stations. This shortwave radio is reasonably priced.