Updated April 6, 2023
Best Shortwave Radios Reviews and Buyer’s guide (Updated 2023)
Looking for the best shortwave radio? The best radio in the market for 2023?
Best Shortwave Radios at a Glimpse:
- Tescun PL880 Portable Digital shortwave Radio– Editor’s Pick
- Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar – Runner Up
- Eton – Elite 750 – Best Premium
- XHDATA D-328 – Best Budget
- Kaito Voyager Pro KA600
- Sangean ATS-909X2 Best Audio Quality
- Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM shortwave Radio
The best shortwave radio is the Tescun PL880. It runs on high output power, providing a clear sound with a long-lasting battery.
What Is Shortwave Radio?
Shortwave radio is radio transmission using shortwave radio frequencies up to 30 MHz, usually ranging between 1.6 and 30 MHz. It has been one of the simplest and most effective means of communication since the early 20th century.
A shortwave radio can be used for long-distance communication including:
- Broadcasting voice and music to shortwave listeners over large areas; sometimes entire continents or beyond
- Military over-the-horizon radar
- Diplomatic communication
- Two-way international communication by amateur radio enthusiasts for hobby, educational and emergency purposes
- Long-distance aviation and marine communications.
You need a license to create ham radio signals i.e., to transmit, but you don’t need a license to receive or listen to ham radio. All you need is a radio capable of properly demodulating the signal. If you invest in a decent shortwave radio you can receive ham radio over the shortwave (HF) bands.
Comparison Table – Best Portable Shortwave Radios
Check Price Now
Best Shortwave Radio
Best Cheap Shortwave Radio
Eton Grundig Satellit 750
Best Premium Shortwave Radio
Top 5 Best Shortwave Radio Reviews 2022
1. Tecsun PL880 Portable Digital PLL Dual Conversion AM/FM – Editor’s Pick
- A single 18650 Li ion battery is enough to power it up for hours before requiring recharge.
- Impressive ergonomics with a dedicated fine-tuning control.
- The backlight can be configured to switch off immediately or stay on for several seconds.
- Comes with a carrying case.
- For both AM/SSB, it has a wider array of functions.
- 24-hour alarm clock with a sleep timer of 0-120 minutes.
The Tecsun PL880 is our pick for the best shortwave radio. It is almost identical to its past two models, PL-660 and PL-600. It has a broadband filtering array and it is a sensitive and selective radio capable of receiving AM, FM, Longwave, and Shortwave broadcasts. The buttons are highly responsive, and the entire control panel has a smooth response.
It has an external jack, a headphone jack, a line-out jack, a three-position antenna gain switch and a 5 Volt DC input jack on the left side. The right side holds the central tuning knob, volume control, the fine-tuning knob, a tone controller switch and a backlight switch. It also has a 24-hour alarm clock, a sleep-timer adjustable between 0-120 minutes, and a snooze button.
The PL-880 has the best sound quality of these radios. It produces a highly accurate frequency response. High frequencies are crisp and clear, low frequencies are audible, and the midrange is exceptionally clear.
FM Stereo is available through the headphone jack. Although it doesn’t have a bass that some larger models have, this hardly makes any difference to the listening experience.
The radio is powered by one single 18650 Li-ion rechargeable battery with built-in charger, battery included. With heavy use and the backlight on, the factory-supplied 2000mAh battery lasts about 15 days. When it does discharge, you can recharge it in the radio, or swap it out with another inexpensive battery.
Tuning for all bands is easily accomplished with separate main-tuning and fine-tuning knobs. This is a great arrangement, far better than the auto-switch tuning speed of the PL-660.
In addition to the many features listed in the manual, there are many more hidden features like the USB/LSB Synchronous Detector, Dynamic Noise Reduction, Muting Threshold, Changing Line Output Level, Calibration of Single Side Band (SSB), Antenna Source, Firmware Version Display and Date, “Up” time, and a Wall Charger.
Other portable shortwaves do a better job of filtering out interference but the PL880 shortwave has a sync detector, though it doesn’t work very well.
The PL880 is an everyday radio. It may have functionality that blows other radios in its class out of the water, but it is nonetheless in that class. Not a perfect radio. But perfect enough for shortwave listening fanatics, and imperfect enough to make reception reporting worthwhile. It is well worth the money and it’s highly rated by Amazon buyers.
2. Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Shortwave Radio – Runner-up Best Shortwave radio
- Solar-powered with at least 4 other power options, including dynamo crank
- Comes with multifunctional 5-LED lamp
- Has access to 24/7 weather forecast and emergency alert systems
- Made from durable, water-resistant ABS material
- Has a USB port/cord to charge your mobile phone
The Kaito KA500 5-way solar-powered emergency shortwave radio doesn’t require sun, batteries or mains electricity to run, all of which might be absent if you’re stuck in a bad storm, or merely camping off-the-grid overnight. As long as you can turn the dynamo crank, you’ll have access to radio stations.
Designed to receive AM, FM and 2-band shortwave, it comes with pre-programmed weather channels and access to real-time weather forecasts in North America. You can even set it to automatically alert you of important news, including from the Public Emergency Alert System (PEAS).
Gain peace of mind knowing you have access to vital information during weather disruptions and other emergencies, or even if you’re just on the road or hiking and need to check in so you can decide your next steps.
Not only does it provide weather updates, news and entertainment, it can also recharge your mobile devices and function as a torch, lamp and beacon.
This all-in-one highly portable radio, light, and power source is hard to lose, and hard to miss, with its bright yellow durable waterproof casing. It is a useful travel radio for camping, hiking, road trips and other excursions but is also an affordable part of your home emergency preparedness kit.
3. Eton – Elite 750 – Best Premium
- Features manual and automatic frequency input options
- Has an attractive yet compact design
- Can receive FM/AM Short radio waves, Long radio waves, SSB and VHF aircraft bands
- Comes with rotating antenna and digital display alarm clock
- Has flawless stereo and speaker audio quality
- Program up to 1000 channels from around the world
- DC and battery operated
Eton Elite 750 hits the spot for a premium setup thanks to its build, features, quality, and yes, pricing. There can be some questions about its value, but the radio is good at its job.
This radio is a proven and popular design. While we look at the Eton Elite 750, it’s worth noting that this radio is the same as Tecsun S-2000 and Grundig 750. Between these models, the difference usually comes down to the brand label stuck at the top left of the radio. Also, irrespective of the branding, the radio is manufactured by Tecsun.
The first thing to notice about this radio is its appearance and build. The design is attractive, feeling somewhat muscular even in the block shape. Its looks lay the foundation for the premium feel and pricing. Thankfully, the build quality follows through and makes this a dependable radio for those who want quality shortwave reception.
While the Eton Elite 750 is a remarkable SW radio, it works on several bands, including LW (longwave), SW (shortwave), MW (medium wave) FM, and Airband. It also works with SSB, further adding to available features.
The capability of this radio receiver to work well for SSB and SW are highlights for me, though it isn’t a slacker for other bands either. Managing controls and frequencies is easy.
Users can enter the desired frequency directly using the keypad/buttons on the face of the radio. Or, go about it the old-fashioned way and move the dial to get the frequency you want. It’s a fun way to discover new SW channels, and there’s a lot going on in this band.
Interestingly, though the radio covers a wide range of frequencies and bands, it doesn’t leave gaps and covers the full band.
On that note, many users find the wideband for this radio to be too wide, while the narrowband can seem too narrow. It’s a valid criticism, though this experience can vary with geographic region. The BFO can work as a clarifier and is very useful in such situations.
Elite 750 manages a decent reception even when working solely with its telescopic antenna and rotating antenna. I like the rotating antenna – it has a nice touch when moved and is aesthetically pleasing.
If you want more out of the radio, hook it up to a quality external antenna. The radio’s side has room for accepting antenna connections, including longwire antennas. Add an antenna tuner for better signal and a significant jump in signal quality.
Power flows through D batteries and it is very efficient for a radio with this size and features. It sips battery and you can expect it to last a very long time. There’s also room for a 6V DC input at its side.
At the back of the radio, along with the battery compartment, you’ll find another compartment, which is empty! Apparently, this is used for a built-in power supply for some markets but not in the USA. So, we get an empty spot. It’s great for storing a few small items. I’d put my Bluetooth earbuds in there, but unfortunately, this expensive radio shies away from Bluetooth!
Overall, Eton Elite 750 is a good SW radio, though probably more expensive than it should be.
4. XHDATA D-328 – Best Budget
- Small size and light weight, compact and easy to operate with Best Reception
- High sensitivity 12 Band radio. Equiped with long antenna and upgraded DSP chip, D328 Radio is a Full band radio/ multiband radio receiver with FM MW SW DSP, also a MP3 Player Portable speaker supporting TF card.
- Built-in high-performance drivers and built-in bass, XHDATA D328 radio with volume control, band selector switch, and tuning knob, is easily to select channel on am fm sw band to listen music, sports, and news!
When you want a budget radio that will work with shortwave, XHDATA D-328 might just be the choice. It’s a decent radio for shortwave reception and works well with AM and FM as well.
The radio can work as an mp3 player as well. Insert a microSD card and it will play the music on the card. The manual actually calls for a TF card, but for broader use, they’re the same as a microSD.
XHDATA D-328 has a fairly basic appearance. It’s a radio design we’ve all seen, and one that has been around for decades. A speaker covers half the front portion of the radio, while a frequency chart and indicator covers the other side. This block shows the frequencies for FM, AM, and SW bands.
There are two dials at the side of the radio. The upper dial is to scan frequencies for tuning and the lower dial is for volume. This is all very analog-ish and very similar to retro radios.
Moving the tuning dial also moves the indicator for frequency on the front. This way, users know what band of frequency they’re on and can pick the desired frequency. There seems to be a slight mismatch between the dial and the frequency readings, but it’s workable.
On AM and FM, the frequencies can appear very close to each other. This occasionally creates a problem with overlap or scenarios where users have to be very precise. It makes using the radio somewhat problematic, though it works fairly well.
Things are easier on the shortwave front. XHDATA D-328 breaks SW into nine bands, making it easier to pick the frequency you want. A sliding band switch control on the front of the radio makes it easier to tune it to the band and frequency you prefer. In a way, this feature is what makes it a useful SW radio.
According to the radio’s documentation, the accepted frequencies are 64-108MHz for FM, 520-1620KHz for AM, and 4750-22000KHz for SW.
In theory, that is an impressive range. Practically, it bodes well to keep in mind that this is a cheap radio. It works best with strong signals, which is especially relevant for SW. The lack of tuning and dedicated noise filters means that some signals won’t be intelligible or might even end up getting skipped.
There is a telescopic antenna on its top, but it doesn’t make a huge difference. Adding DSP (digital signal processing) into the radio is an attempt to make the signals better and reduce noise. It works fairly well and adds to the value of the radio.
This is a rather interesting use of digital technology on a radio that’s largely on the analog side of things.
Power comes from a rechargeable Li-ion BL5C battery, though it can work with direct DC input as well. The radio package includes a USB cable for direct power input. In my opinion, employing a USB is a better choice than working with an adapter.
Users who want a more refined experience can work with the slightly more expensive XHDATA D-901 radio. It offers the same features as the XHDATA D-328, but in a more decent and better-built package.
Overall, the D-328 is a good pick when you want a cheap radio receiver with SW capabilities. It works well, while staying within a good price.
- AM/FM/LW Shortwave & NOAA weather radio with back-lit digital display, NOAA all hazards alert & RDS
- 4 tuning methods including manual, direct digit entry, ATS & memory tuning with 335 memories for easy access to favorite stations
- Calendar, alarm clock with dual settings, sleep timer, thermometer & humidity meter
- 180-degree adjustable solar panel with 5-LED reading lamp
- Auxiliary input jack available for external audio devices
The Pro KA-600 from Kaito offers a wide range of features. One notable aspect is that this radio has gone digital, unlike many of Kaito’s popular analog offerings such as the KA500 and KA340.
However, the radio has many other useful features. A small circular display located at the top right of the radio provides helpful information such as temperature and humidity, which are essential metrics both indoors and outdoors. A large display takes center stage on this radio, providing information on radio frequency, mode, battery status, and related information. The tuning and volume control knobs are placed on the right side of the radio, while the radio’s control buttons are below the display.
The Voyager Pro KA600 is also NOAA certified and can tune into NOAA weather channels, receive emergency alerts, and RDS. Moreover, it can receive conventional AM, FM, and SW frequencies. SW frequencies are especially useful for remote or rural regions. However, to get the best results when using SW, an additional antenna is required.
The radio also features an auxiliary input jack at the back, enabling it to work with external audio devices.
The Kaito Voyager Pro KA-600 can be powered in multiple ways. It has a built-in 600 mAh NiMH battery that can be charged through a micro USB connector. The radio can be powered through an adapter, power bank, or a computer. Other methods of power include cranking the radio or drawing solar power through the photovoltaic cells at its top. However, both of these options take a long time to charge the 600 mAh battery. The radio can charge mobile phones, but there isn’t much battery power for charging. Nonetheless, it is sufficient for emergency situations.
Other notable features on the radio include a flashlight and a reading lamp. The flashlight is located on the side of the radio, while the reading light is placed at the radio’s top.
Overall, the Kaito Voyager Pro KA-600 is a decent emergency radio that offers excellent features and functions. However, some might find that the radio falls short of its offering, especially when compared to its price tag.
6. Sangean ATS-909X2 Best Audio Quality
- 1,674 station presets with 3 individual memory banks
- Air band mode (118 MHz ~ 137 MHz)
- ATS (Auto Tuning System) on LW/MW/SW/FM
- 5 tuning methods: direct frequency tuning/auto scanning/manual tuning/memory recall/rotary tuning
- Fine tuning and quick shift tuning controls
Sleek looks, great audio, a beautiful display, and excellent performance over SW make Sangean ATS-909X2 a great pick in this category. It has a premium feel and is expensive. However, the construction quality and features make up for the cost, though it still feels a bit steep.
One of the biggest selling points of this radio has less to do with its job as a receiver and is more about aesthetics. It is positively good-looking and has that sleek touch and feel about it that makes it desirable.
The speaker and display are laid out very nicely, as are the controls and buttons. The curves seem to be all in the right place and all the features and functions are easily accessible. As for the buttons, the tactile feel and feedback are pretty good. They’re all placed and spaced nicely, so there’s not much room for error.
Its audio quality is good, loud, and remains well balanced on all bands. The audio output is generally pleasing and amongst the best in this category.
Sangean ATS-909X2 has a big display that has room for a lot of information. It’s bright, feels clutter-free, and shows the information in a very convenient and clear setting. Most competitors for this receiver can’t hold a candle to this display.
The radio works on several bands, including LW, MW, SW, FM, and air band. It has full shortwave coverage and provides remarkable performance on this band. The signal reception is clear and tuning options work flawlessly.
The included portable reel antenna is easy to use and helps with the signal quality on the SW band. Even SSB (single side band) works very well with this radio.
Previous versions of this radio, including the Sangean ATS-909X, struggled with SSB. The problem appears to have been solved for the ATS-909X2.
That’s not to say that its working on SSB is flawless. There is a noticeable volume drop on SSB, and while not too troubling, it is something to keep in mind.
It offers 1,674 station presets with 3 individual memory banks. That covers most popular offerings. However, if you want to explore more, there’s always the option to enter the frequency of choice or use manual tuning.
The horizontal dial for tuning is an interesting touch here. We’re pretty much conditioned to expect a knob-style option for tuning. The step button in the middle is useful too and adds to the functioning of the device. It reminds me a bit of the iPod click wheel, but of course, these are very different things.
In my opinion, the dial works well and can be operated with a finger. However, preferences are bound to be subjective, and many people might prefer the classic knob-style tuning controls.
Sangean ATS-909X2 is worth comparing to its nearest competitor, the Tecsun PL990X. I’d say Sangean does better on audio quality, display, and aesthetics, while the Tecsun performs better on tuning and SSB.
Tecsun draws power from a 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery, while ATS-909X2 works off a direct power supply or four AA batteries.
Overall, Sangean ATS-909X2 is a well-made and very capable SW radio with great features. Although I do wish it was a bit cheaper.
- Digital AM/FM shortwave, mediumwave and longwave tuner
- Multifunction LCD screen digital display
- Four tuning modes available including direct, pre-set, manual and scan
- Strong metal build for enhanced durability with a compact antenna
- AA battery powered with optional AC adaptor
This compact, sturdy and highly portable radio punches well above its weight if you’re looking for a radio to take wherever you go while enjoying flexible tuning options, impressive sound quality, and outstanding reception.
For such a small radio you have access to a range of functionality with its four different tuning capabilities. You can punch in the frequency digits and go straight to your desired frequency or you can manually tune incrementally.
You also have a scanning option to pick up any transmissions within range. The synchronous detection feature in particular helps lock in and enhance your listening experience of weaker signals. You have access to 100 pre-set stations and can label these as you prefer with up to six alphanumeric characters.
This transistor radio, which picks up FM/AM, shortwave, medium wave and long wave, has outstanding receiver capabilities, which can be heard via its inbuilt speaker or the headphones that come with it.
The Sony ICF-SW7600GR comes with an easy-to-program world clock feature, including a dual clock enabling you to track two time zones as well as a turn-on/tune-in capability and a sleep timer function. It operates best when battery operated though you have the option to get an AC adapter too.
Advantages of Shortwave over Newer Technologies
- Minimal infrastructure is required for long-distance two-way communications using shortwave radio. All one needs is a pair of transceivers, each with an antenna, and a source of energy. This makes shortwave radio one of the most robust means of radio technology communications, though it can be disrupted only by interference or bad ionospheric conditions
- Shortwave radios can be used in situations where internet or satellite communications service is unavailable, temporarily or unavailable.
- Shortwave radio travels much further than broadcast FM (88–108 MHz). Shortwave broadcasts can be easily transmitted over several thousands of kilometers, including from one continent to another.
- In tropical regions, shortwave is less prone to interference from thunderstorms than medium wave radio and can cover a large geographic area with relatively low power, thus it is widely used by domestic broadcast organizations in many of these countries.
Drawbacks of Shortwaves
- Shortwave reception can be challenging in urban areas because of excessive noise from switched-mode power adapters, fluorescent or LED light sources, internet modems and routers, computers and many other sources of radio interference in the developed world.
- Shortwave radio ownership is usually limited to true enthusiasts since most new standard radios do not receive the shortwave band. Therefore, Western audiences are limited.
How to Choose A Shortwave Radio
With a near endless list of options to choose from, it can be hard to find a shortwave radio that checks all your boxes. It helps to have an idea of the specific features you want. Think about whether you want a shortwave receiver for emergencies only, for entertainment, or both. Don’t fret if you haven’t the slightest clue what you want.
To help point you in the right direction, read on to find out which factors you should consider when shopping for the best portable shortwave radio.
A Synchronous Detector
Each radio comes with a unique set of features. The one most crucial feature, you should look out for is the synchronous detector. This feature is what enables the radio to lock on to frequencies and signals. It clears all the noise, limits distortion, and enables you to listen to clear audio. Finding a shortwave radio with synchronous detection circuitry makes your work of finding channels so much easier.
Coverage of Frequencies
The golden rule here is, the wider the range, the better the radio. Most shortwave radios have a frequency coverage ranging from 1.7 MHz to 30MHz. But don’t be surprised if you find one whose frequency coverage ranges from 0.54 MH to 30MHz. Of the two, the latter is the best choice because it gives you more options.
Most shortwave radios only support AM and FM modes. However, some radios also support SSB, SW or LW modes. Pick the radio that can transmit in different modes because this gives you more options. You can tune into as many frequencies and broadcasts as you like.
If your budget is tight, then a shortwave radio with an analog display is what you should go for. If you are willing to adjust it slightly higher, then shortwave radios with digital displays are the better option even thought they are in a higher price tag. Digital readouts are far more accurate, visible and easier to read.
Sensitivity and selectivity
The number one headache most people encounter when using shortwave radios is finding a clear frequency. Whether you are tuning or transmitting, you should find a radio that can limit interruptions to give you clear and precise audio. In this case, find a portable radio with at least five selectivity options.
Knobs or buttons for tuning? Some people prefer one to the other. But when it narrows down to the ease of use and effectiveness, the knob method of tuning is far much better than pressing buttons. Some radios feature both options to cater to each user. In the long run, it is about finding what works for you.
Jack for an Extra Antenna
An antenna is a superb way to enable you to enhance the range of your shortwave radio. While a built-in antenna can still work, you should find a radio with a provision/jack to fix an extra antenna. Should the need arise, you can bank on the additional antenna to tap more frequencies.
What material is the radio made of? Is it portable? How well is it built? Since a portable radio is often used in the outdoors, it should be able to handle adverse weather conditions like prolonged exposure to sunlight or being bumped and knocked.
Find a model known for its durability, doesn’t tear and wear quickly, and operates effectively even after years and years of use. The more compact, light and robust the radio is, the higher the chance it will give you longer service.
Frequently Asked Questions for Best Shortwave radio
What is a shortwave radio?
A shortwave radio receiver is a device that can pick up signals and transmissions ranging from 1.6MHz to 30MHz. This type of radio can tap into frequencies over significant distances between you and the transmitters. It is ideal for use during emergencies or as a means of communication during outdoor getaways.
What is the main difference between longwave and shortwave radio?
The difference is that longwave radios operate in frequencies ranging from 30kHz to 279KHz and shortwave radios operate in frequency ranges from 1.6MHz to 30MHz. Longwave radios cover wavelengths up to 150 meters while shortwave radios cover up to 85 meters or less.
What does frequency range mean?
Each radio is enabled to support different bands. The shortwave radios listed above are designed to support FM and AM bands. Others support extra bands such as SSB, LW and MW, and so on. Each band carries a set of frequencies. The set of frequencies therein tells you the frequency range the radio you buy can match.
Tabletop, portable, or ultra-portable: which one is the best shortwave radio?
The type of shortwave radio you choose depends on your needs or demands. If, for example, you are looking for a radio to keep you company as you work on some DIY projects in your garage, or shed, then a tabletop radio will do. However, if you are looking to travel long distances on foot, or you want a radio you can use for emergency communication, then a portable or ultra-portable shortwave radio will be the better option.
Tabletop radios are more advanced and have stronger signals but can be bulky and demanding when it comes to the power supply. Portable and ultraportable shortwave radios are much smaller, don’t need much storage space, and they are easy to carry around. However, their frequency reception is not as strong as desktop radios.
Shortwave radios are one of the most widely used radios even in the modern days. The market is flooded with some great shortwave radios. We did the hard part for you and after researching and getting hands-on experience, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Tescun PL-880 is the best shortwave radio you can buy in 2022.
Hopefully this thorough article with buyer’s guide and detailed reviews has helped you make a better decision for yourself. Feel free to let us know if you have any queries regarding shortwave radios.