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Shortwave Radio Reviews

This page of shortwave radio reviews is intended to help the shortwave listener--or "SWLer"-- find a quality shortwave radio. Family and friends of SWLers (or those new to shortwave) who wish to give the gift of a quality shortwave radio may also find these recommendations helpful. While there are many shortwave radios currently available, this list is not intended to be comprehensive; rather, here we recommend a small, select group of radios that offer the most for the money, and that will serve the beginner to the hobby and the experienced shortwave listener equally well. For more comprehensive, in-depth shortwave radio reviews, see The SWLing Post: Reviews. If you're looking for a used radio, check out our used radio marketplace.

A world of shortwave radio listening: the CommRadio CR-1 is a great choice for the beginner as well as the experienced shortwave listener. Read about the CommRadio CR-1 in our desktop radios section. Read reviews of portable radios here.


Selecting a shortwave radio

For SWLing beginners, the following radio features are especially useful:

I have broken down this page into Portable Radios (priced in the $100-$500US range), Ultra Portable Radios ($50-$100US) and the new Desktop Radios ($300US+) category.

Feeling adventurous? Many of you have asked about purchasing radios on eBay. To help, I have created a page on our blog called the Radio Marketplace which pre-filters search results to display more relavant shortwave products. In addition, I have included links within the product reviews below. With regards to eBay, keep in mind that unlike purchasing from a radio retailer, who has been in business for decades, eBay sellers come and go. If you have never purchased from eBay, read these tips first. Happy hunting!

This page was last updated on 8 March 2014.

Portable Radios

I start with Portable Radios because I believe you get the most value and quality in the $100-150 price class. Plus, most beginners want a radio that includes everything necessary to get on the air immediately--all of these radios do just that. Straight out of the box, you'll have everything you need to listen to shortwave bands. All of these suggested radios are designed to pick up major shortwave broadcasters with ease, and contain the following features: good frequency coverage; circuitry that helps the radio detect weaker stations; and the ability to receive single-sideband activity.

Tecsun PL-660

The Tecsun PL-660 is currently one of the most popular portable shortwave radios on the market--and for good reason. The PL-660 has a full compliment of features and is quite easy to operate. The sync detector (selectable USB/LSB) is currently one of the best in the sub $150 US price range. Sensitivity and selectivity are both excellent. With the introduction of the Tecsun PL-880 on the market--a radio that may eventually replace the PL-660 as Tecsun's flagship portable--the PL-660 has also become more affordable and can be found at or near the $100 US price point with shipping. Here are a few of its specs:

We recommend purchasing the Tecsun PL-660 from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for Tecsun PL-660 pricing.

Click here to search eBay for the Tecsun PL-660.

Grundig G3

Eton (or Grundig, same company) has been a leader in shortwave and self-powered radio technology for decades. The G3 has a smooth tuning wheel and direct keypad entry for finding frequencies. The G3 is very simple to operate compared to many similar receivers. This radio is very portable and has a rubberized body. For an $80 US radio, you'll be impressed with its sound quality and selectivity. Its ability to tune in FM stations is likewise quite impressive--and with built-in RDS, you'll have FM station and song information display and scroll on the G3's digital display. The only true negative about this radio is that it has weak sync detector lock. Still, without using the sync function, this is a very capable receiver--read our full review of the Grundig G3 for more details). Here are a few of its specs:

Note that the Grundig has discontinued production of the G3 in 2013. There are still some on the market that are NIB (new in box), but I encourage you to purchase one from a retailer that will physically test the radio before shipping. Universal Radio will do this complimentary for their customers.

We recommend purchasing the Grundig G3 from Universal Radio.

Search eBay for a Grundig G3

Sony ICF-SW7600GR

Sony is also a leader in portable shortwave technology. Performance-wise, you'll find that this radio is on par with the Eton E5/Grundig G3 and is usually slightly more affordable. It gets consistently good reviews from users and guides. One of its outstanding features is its synchronous selectable sideband, a feature which helps to reduce fading distortion and adjacent-channel interference. This feature alone gives the Sony ICF-SW7600GR the ability to hold its own with radios in a higher price bracket. Another plus is that the Sony will allow you to select between upper and lower sidebands. This makes tuning in ham radio, utility and other SSB signals a breeze. The only thing lacking on this wonderful portable is a tuning knob, something I personally prefer for browsing shortwave bands. Here are a few of its specs:

We recommend purchasing the Sony ICF-SW7600GR from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for the Sony ICF-SW7600GR.

Search eBay for a Sony ICF-SW7600GR.

C. Crane CCRadio-SW

If you're not as concerned about portability, the C.Crane CCRadio-SW is an excellent value for performance. Think of the CCRadio-SW as a larger portable/table top radio (11.25" x 7.25" x 3.5"). What makes this radio stand out from its peers? Truly exceptional audio fidelity. The large built-in speaker has separate treble and bass controls and reminds me how important audio quality is while listening to a faint signal. This radio's audio will fill a large room. Shortwave sensitivity is very good. If you like to do Medium Wave (or AM broadcast band) Dxing, you're in for a treat. The CCRadio-SW has the best AM reception of any radio I've ever tested under $300. FM reception is equally amazing. Negatives? Well, besides being a larger portable--not ideal for stashing in your carry-on--the CCRadio-SW does not have direct keying to enter frequencies. Also, it does not have Single Sideband built in. However, it does have impressive array of external connections, including an IF Out connection, which (with an IF converter and some free software) will allow you to interpret SSB and an array of digital signals including DRM (Digital Radio Mondial). What really strikes me about the CCRadio-SW is its sheer ease of use--it's design is simple, ergonomic and effective. Here are some specs:

We recommend purchasing the CCRadio-SW directly from C.Crane or from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for pricing on the C Crane CCRadio-SW.

Search eBay for a C.Crane CCRadio-SW.

Eton E1

Unfortunately, the E1 is no longer manufactured by Eton, but they are still widely avaialble in the used market--check Universal Radio's used list or eBay (below). With that said, the Eton E1 is, by far, the best performer in the portable selection on this page. It offers a professional quality receiver that will impress the experienced shortwave listener and outperform pricier tabletop models. I really think of this rig as a tabletop shortwave radio that's designed to be portable. The only negatives I've heard about the E1 were some initial quality problems with the LCD display and the eventual "sticky" feeling of the rubberized body (click here for remedies). Here is a basic list of features:

Search eBay for an Eton E1.


Ultra-Portable Radios

If your budget is tight, or if you're looking for a radio that could easily slip into your glove compartment, backpack, or even jacket pocket, you need to look at an ultra-portable shortwave radio. Typically, there is a performance compromise with ultra-portable radios, in that: they usually don't have the ability to receive weaker signals like their more expensive cousins; they have a more limited frequency range; and they don't detect single-sideband signals. Still, the ones listed here are good performers for their size and price.

Tecsun PL-310

The Tecsun PL-310 has become a mini legend in the world of portable radio as it offers exceptional value and high-performance in a small package. What makes it so special? A DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chip that gives this ultra-portable excellent sensitivity and selectivity. A favorite amongst ultra-light Dxers, the PL-310 has exceptional overall performance on the shortwave, mediumwave and FM bands--especially for the price. The price? That's the other thing that makes this radio so special--about $60US including shipping. Mind you, the PL-310 is primarily available through eBay sellers in Hong Kong, so it may take up to 2 weeks to receive your new radio, but it's well worth the wait. Please see link below to search eBay for a Tecsun PL-310.

Check Amazon.com for the Tecsun PL-310.

Search eBay for a Tecsun PL-310.

Tecsun PL-380

The Tecsun PL-380 is my favorite radio under $60. Much like its cousin, the PL-310 (above), the PL-380 has a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chip that gives this ultra-portable excellent sensitivity and selectivity. Indeed, the DSP bandwidth can be adjusted to 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 kHz. The PL-380 is even marginally better at weak signal DXing than the PL-310. The PL-380 is my favorite radio for travelling--I even wrote a post about this on our blog. You can also click here to listen to an audio clip of it being compared to two lesser radios. Take note, however, that like the PL-310, the PL-380 does not have a single-side band mode.
In short, the Tecsun PL-380 is a superb value and excellent listening companion!

Search eBay for a Tecsun PL-380

We also recommend purchasing the Tecsun PL-380 from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for the Tecsun PL-380.

Kaito KA1103 or Degen DE1103

The Kaito KA1103 (and the KA1102, below) pack the most "bang for your buck" if you're looking for an inexpensive, ultra-portable entry into SWLing. The KA1103 is full featured and a great performer. I'm also impressed with the audio quality that comes out of this radio's relatively small speaker. One interesting design feature of the KA1103 is the large Digital/Analog frequency display. The LCD screen features the frequency display in digits (like all of the portables I recommend), but also sports a working digital representation of an analog frequency dial. As you tune up and down the band--with, yes, a tuning knob--the LCD needle moves along the display like an analog radio dial would. I suppose this could be a useful feature for people who like to see where they are on the band as they scan. I know of no other portable radio that has this quirky feature. The KA1103 gets a lot of good reviews for its ability to receive weak FM signals. My only gripes with the KA1103 and Kaito radios in general: 1.) I believe radio ergonomics could be better. 2.) You really need to read the manual before understanding all of the radio functions--I wish Kaito's were slightly more intuitive. 3.) Quality control varies with Kaito (more so than with Grundig/Etón and Sony)--make sure you buy from an authorized dealer and that you save your reciept.
Still, for the money, with the KA1103 you're getting a receiver that is almost as good as the Sony and Eton E5 above. Features include:

We recommend purchasing the Kaito KA1103 from Universal Radio.

Search Amazon.com for the Kaito KA1103.

Search eBay for a Degen DE1103.

Kaito KA1102 or Degen DE1102

What caught my attention before purchasing the Kaito KA1102 (a.k.a. Degen DE1102) were the numerous positive customer reviews on the internet. The KA1102 radio is small, but feature-packed. This radio actually has the ability to receive single-sideband (SSB)--one of the only radios in its price-class which can. Many shortwave radio listeners and radio amateurs consider the KA1102 to be an ideal backpacking rig because of SSB capability. Quality control with Kaito and Degen radios is hit-and-miss. I had to return my KA1102 twice before I got a fully functioning radio. If you live in North America, I strongly suggest you purchase the Kaito brand (not Degen) from an authorized dealer as it carries a warranty and can be returned/replaced. Degen products, in general, do not carry a warranty in N. America. Even minding some QC issues, I still believe the KA1102 is a solid performer and worth some minor hassel. Other features include:

We recommend purchasing the Kaito KA1102 from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for the Kaito KA1102.

Search eBay for a Degen DE1102.

C. Crane CCRadio-SWP

I was skeptical when I first held the CCRadio-SWP in my hand. I mean, this is a tiny shortwave radio--how could it possibly perform? I was pleasantly surprised, however, once I turned it on. First of all--as with most C.Crane products--the layout and design are very simple, the display clear, with easily read icons and intuitive controls. The tuning knob on the right side is for fine tuning--no muting or chugging between frequencies, either. Shortwave and MW sensitivity are better than one might expect for a radio this size; I find myself comparing it to much pricier portables. Admittedly, this is a small radio, so lacks some qualities of larger portables: the small speaker has a tinny sound, the tuning knob is small, there is no single-sideband reception, nor does it have an external antenna jack. This is also one of the few radios I list that doesn't have a battery recharge feature. But (and this is a great "but") it also has the longest battery life of any radio I own: almost 70 hours on 2 AA cells! This is a great portable, and you're going to find that you take it with you everywhere. I certainly do. Here are some specs:

We recommend purchasing the CCRadio-SW directly from C.Crane or from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for the C Crane CC SWP.

Search eBay for a C.Crane CCRadio-SWP.

Kaito KA1101

Like its bigger brother (the Kaito KA1102, above), this ultra-portable packs a lot of features and performance into a small package. It is quite sensitive on the shortwave bands, and, as a bonus, user reviews consistently tout this radio's ability to pick up weak FM stations. One odd thing about this radio is that it displays frequencies in MHz format rather than kHz. And being very compact, its speaker does not have the audio quality of the larger portable radios. But the larger radios don't fit so nicely in a car's glove compartment, either. Please note that the KA1101 does not receive single-sideband. Here's a list of its features:

We recommend purchasing the Kaito KA1101 from Universal Radio.

Check Amazon.com for the Kaito KA1101.

Desktop Radios

Alinco DX-R8T

The Alinco DX-R8T is a fine receiver tabletop receiver and our recommendation as a first tabletop receiver. Why? It's simple to operate, yet it has all of the major features I like in a tabletop radio: it's well-built, easy to use, sensitive, versatile, and it has sufficient control options to help adjust adjacent interference and improve intelligibility. It also has a very attractive price at $499 US. It's next-best competitor is probably the Icom R75--but neither the Icom, nor the Palstar R30A, can be used as a Software Defined Radio and neither have the appropriate IF output for Digital Radio Mondial (DRM) as does the Alinco DX-R8T. In short, it's a lot of radio for the money, excellent for those starting in the hobby. With the Alinco DX-R8T, you get the best of both worlds, a simple "turn on and tune in" tabletop, plus a fully DRM ready SDR. Read our in-depth review of the Alinco DX-R8T by clicking here.
Here's a list of its features:

We recommend purchasing the Alinco DX-R8T from Universal Radio.

Search eBay for an Alinco DX-R8T.

CommRadio CR-1

The CommRadio CR-1 is the newest portable/desktop radio on the market. The CR-1 was introduced in January 2013. The CR-1 is a sturdy radio built with longevity and performance in mind. It’s the little touches I love: a near-perfect anodized aluminum tuning knob, size & portability, multiple antenna jacks, an excellent internal battery and gold-plated circuit board pads. Performance-wise, the CR-1 has great sensitivity and selectivity on the HF bands.

Specifications include:

We recommend purchasing the CommRadio CR-1 from Universal Radio or directly from CommRadio.

Click here to search eBay for a CommRadio CR-1.

Be sure to check out our blog for other radio reviews.