Tune in or tune out with today’s best AM radios

AM radio nerds unite! As a talk radio and sports fanatic, I stay informed and entertained daily with my Sangean WR-16BK. I’m a massive fan of this radio for its clear sound and fresh looks, plus USB charging capability. This isn’t the only AM radio I swear by, though. Here’s the full list.

Best Overall: Sangean WR-16BK

The reigning champion of AM radios is this tabletop radio from Sangean. You’re not locked into AM-only stations, of course. With this model, you have access to AM/FM, plus you can plug into the auxiliary port and use the Sangean’s capable speakers to blast sound from a portable device. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for private listening, and Bluetooth is built-in so that you can stream cord-free.

This unit comes with a USB charging port. Dial accuracy is excellent. There is no drifting of the dial or tuning slips once you’ve locked in a station. An LED indicator on the front panel of the radio shows you when you’re getting the best reception from the antenna. The combination of the indicator and precise tuning gives you a stable signal that holds well in all weather.

There is some room for improvement. First, the headphone jack is in the back of this radio. It’s a pain, especially on a tabletop unit, to slide the radio out and plug in headphones to listen to a game and then do the same to disconnect. Second, this model is bass-heavy. This isn’t something people usually complain about, but it distorts sound a little when listening to sports play-by-play. If you can live with those hiccups, this is a beautiful walnut radio that looks as good as it works.

Pros:

  • Stellar sound
  • Bluetooth + NFC
  • USB charging port
  • Elegant walnut design
  • Precise tuning

Cons:

  • Bass-heavy
  • AUX plugin back

Best Overall

Sangean WR-16BK

A walnut tabletop with stellar accuracy

Precise tuning, USB charging ports, and Bluetooth combine to give this basic-looking radio standout features.

Best Value: Vondior Digital Pocket Radio

This nostalgic pocket radio from Vondior is prized for its long battery life, clear sound, and unparalleled reception. When you want a small radio to slip in your back or jacket pocket to tune in a game or get weather updates during a power outage, this one will exceed your expectations without putting a damper on your finances.

The Vondior sheds the analog slide rule tuning in favor of digital technology. You can tune in a station with the push of a button and then lock the station so that an accidental tap doesn’t mess with your listening pleasure. Two AAA batteries power this model, and they last for weeks, even if you’re habitually tuning in to talk radio every morning while you shower. It’s impressive!

An attached belt clip on the Vondior is handy if you want to keep the radio outside your pocket. My one complaint is with the sound. It’s excellent with earbuds, but the actual speaker is tinny-sounding and will remind you why FM radio overtook AM back in the day. It’s suitable for baseball games and talk radio, but music over AM suffers. Still, if what you want is a portable radio that has no trouble with reception, the Vondior is up to the task.

Pros:

  • Fantastic reception
  • Attached belt clip
  • Alarm clock function
  • Sleep timer
  • Small and thin

Cons:

  • A little tinny sounding

Best Value

Vondior Digital Pocket Radio

An updated classic pocket radio

Hello, nostalgia! This is a classic-looking pocket radio with impressive upgrades.

Best Emergency: Kaito KA500

When you need a radio, you can count on no matter the weather or circumstances; the Kaito KA500 is a lifesaver! The Kaito can be powered by an included hand crank generator, solar panel, AA batteries (not included), USB, 5V AC/DC wall adapter (not included), and a built-in rechargeable battery pack. Wow! The Kaito will also charge your portable devices via USB.

This shockproof radio has AM/FM coverage as well as a two-band shortwave, seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels, and Public Emergency Alert System (PEAS). The built-in telescopic antenna extends to just over 14 inches, and it manages to pull in signals that would be out of reach for other radios. This Kaito also has an LED reading lamp, LED flashlight, and a red LED S.O.S. beacon light.

Tuning is accomplished with a side dial. Reception and sound are both solid, and I love the impact and water-resistant materials. It’s an excellent radio for indoor or outdoor use. I wish the wall power charging cable was included, but with five other ways to keep this radio in business, it’s hard to complain. For everyday indoor or outdoor listening, camping, or occasional use during an emergency, the Kaito is a reliable AM radio you’ll be glad to have by your side.

Pros:

  • 6-way power
  • AM/FM/shortwave/NOAA/PEAS
  • Works as an emergency battery charger
  • Shockproof and water-resistant
  • S.O.S. emergency light + flashlight

Cons:

  • AC adapter not included

Best Emergency

Kaito KA500

A radio you can count on

A handy radio with weather channels, a strong AM signal, emergency light, and the ability to be powered in six ways.

Best Rugged: Sangean Toughbox

The Sangean Toughbox can withstand all the drops, bumps, and shuffling around that comes with working outdoors, camping, or bad weather. Made of industrial-grade ABS materials and housed in a roll-cage, this radio is rain dust, and shock-resistant.

There are ten memory presets on this Toughbox. Using these, it’s effortless to tune in your favorite morning talk show or evening game. Speaker sound is excellent inside and out. My only beef is with the antenna. It’s a flexible and pivots, and it’s pretty much indestructible, but it’s only six inches long. With a slightly longer antenna, this model could pull in far more stations without you needing to reposition it in front of a door or window. This isn’t an issue if you only use the Sangean Toughbox outside, so indoor listeners take note.

For those who love to listen to the radio when outside or working, the Toughbox is one of the most heavy-duty units I’ve ever used. I’ve carried it up and down ladders, set it atop a kayak, and even left it outside in a rainstorm. It not only survived but continues to work as well as it did the day it arrived on my doorstep.

Pros:

  • Indestructible
  • AUX-in
  • Good sound
  • Lightweight
  • Ten presets

Cons:

  • Short antenna

Best Rugged

Sangean Toughbox

The one that can go anywhere

This is the radio that will keep up with your rough and tumble life or outdoor job.

Best Old School: Panasonic RF-2400D

This is the radio I remember my grandparents using on trips to the cabin or when working out in the garden. It’s old school, but it still works and sounds as good today as it did back then.

With an analog tuner, you dial in your stations with a knob at the side of the radio. Signal strength is admirable, and the sound is suitable for such a small unit. The carry handle on top folds down when not in use and is a comfortable way to tote this one around.

You only get the basics here. It is just what it looks like, an AM/FM radio. There is an earphone jack, but that’s about as fancy as it gets. For the cabin, fishing trips, or yard work, this is a reliable radio that will do exactly what you want it to do.

Pros:

  • Good reception
  • Small enough to be portable
  • Clear sound
  • Headphone jack
  • Powered by AC or batteries

Cons:

  • Basic radio

Best Old School

Panasonic RF-2400D

A basic, reliable radio

It gets AM and FM stations and has a headphone jack. That’s about as fancy as this simple unit gets.

Best Waterproof: Sangean H201

Most AM radios are water resistant but not waterproof. The Sangean H201 is a portable radio that won’t blink out when it’s in the rain or the shower. A built-in swivel handle on top of the unit works as a carrying handle or a shower hook. This radio can also be permanently wall-mounted.

There’s a backlit clock, and digital display on the front of the radio, plus 25 presets and a scan function button. A flashlight is also inbuilt, making it a perfect radio for weather emergencies, beach use, and showers. And the sound and reception are phenomenal, even inside a closed space such as a shower!

The only thing that may be an issue for some users is the size. This is a much larger shower radio than the competition. Saying that, it also has better sound and reception thanks to its more prominent speakers. If the size isn’t an issue, this is the best waterproof shower radio I have ever used.

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • 25 presets
  • AM/FM/weather radio
  • Battery power indicator
  • Swivel handle

Cons:

  • A little bulky

Best Waterproof

Sangean H201

Go ahead, sing in the shower

A clear sounding waterproof AM/FM radio that’s perfect for the shower, camping, or use outside.

Bottom line

If you want a tabletop radio that you can set on a countertop or end table, it’s hard to go wrong with the Sangean WR-16B. This model looks a little like the radio you may have seen in your grandparent’s living room, but it has a few modern touches that add to its usefulness. A backside USB charging port and Bluetooth are two such features that futureproof this model and make it easier to justify the expense.

This Sangean model is bass-heavy. That’s not a bad thing if you’re listening to music on an FM station or streaming tunes from your phone. When tuning in a baseball game on an AM station, it’s another story. Everyday noises like background applause tend to overtake the announcer’s voice. Also, the headphone jack is on the back of the radio. If you like to pop in earbuds or slide on headphones for some privacy, you’ll need to pull the radio out to do so. Neither are stopping points, but they are worth mentioning.

Reception and tuning on the Sangean are world-class! The LED indicator shows you when you’ve locked into a station, and it holds the signal exceptionally well. And I can’t say enough about the beautiful real walnut cabinet. In the looks department, this model is in a class all its own. The Sangean is the best choice for most looking for an AM radio. It blends in well with any decor and has no trouble locking in on stations near or far.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jodi Owan is obsessed with finding and testing the best technology. Find her on Instagram and her website.

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