Our friend, Jeff McMahon, over at the Herculodge blog has just replaced his bedside radio–he writes:
Inexplicably, the Sangean WR-2 wasn’t getting 89.3 KPCC without static, distortion, and bleed-in from another station, over the last few weeks, even with the wire FM antenna attached to the back of it. Who knows why FM reception is subject to variation. It could be the weather.
In any event, I put the Sangean WR-2 in my daughter’s room (she gets her pop station MyFM 104.3 very easily, with the pigtail antenna on the back) and put the 13-year-old Grundig G4000A by my bedside. With the telescopic FM antenna alone, KPCC has a weak signal, evidenced by the Grundig’s reception meter, but when I put the wire SW antenna to the side SW antenna port, the reception is strong and clear.
Over the years, I’ve had many portables, including the Degen 1103, and some old Tecsun models from about 10 years ago. They all suffered from weak tin speakers. Not so with the Grundig G4000A. The speaker sound is very pleasing.[…]
Would you like to buy a shortwave radio as a gift for someone, but you don’t know a thing about radios? Or, are you thinking about buying a radio for yourself (cashing in a gift card, for example) but aren’t sure how much you need to spend to be satisfied with function and performance? Want a little help leaving a hint for Santa or Ms. Santa? If so, no worries: you’ve found the right place in this vast world wide web to answer your questions, or help you with that hint–just leave a link to this article somewhere that Santa can find it!
Following you’ll find a few select radios I recommend based on best performance, lowest price, and ease of use. I’ve also included current pricing and made suggestions where these radios may best be purchased. Of course, radios are available at large internet retailers–occasionally for better prices–but I highly recommend you purchase from the manufacturer and/or authorized retailer. Most radio retailers offer much better customer support in case you have a problem or question, or just need a little help getting started.
This quick guide is basic, non-technical, and to the point. For more comprehensive reviews, please consult SWLing.com’s Radio Reviews page. Also, take a look at our new Radio Marketplace page where we have pre-filtered shortwave radio eBay search results.
How current is this information? This guide was last updated on: 6 December 2010
Best performance for price
I start with this category because I believe that if you’re going to the trouble of finding the right radio as a gift, you at least want one that will perform and give years of listening pleasure. All of the following radios are sure to please those who are new to shortwave radio, and seasoned radio listeners as well. Most of these radios fall between the $100-150 price range.
The G4000A is a great portable radio and I include it here first because it is a part of a special promotion continuing through the end of March 2010. The receiver performance is very good, and it has all of the major features one might expect in a radio in its price class. I owned a version of this portable for over ten years and traveled with it extensively–it’s the perfect little travel companion, and it even has an alarm clock. But what’s really amazing about the G4000A is that it’s currently part of an exceptional package promotion by Universal Radio. If you buy the G4000A for $99.99, you also receive a free Grundig FR350 self-powered (emergency) shortwave radio, and a Grundig AN200 indoor antenna. I wrote about this special in a previous post if you want more info. Suffice to say, this is the best advertised deal for a portable shortwave radio I’ve ever encountered. You could, of course, buy the G4000A for someone and give the two extras as gifts to others on your holiday shopping list–or, better yet, keep one for yourself!
This Sony shortwave radio is a classic, with solid, time-tested performance, and features to please both the beginner and the seasoned radio enthusiast. The instruction manual is comprehensive and easy to read. Read the full review here.
The Grundig G3 was introduced in August 2009. It’s the latest portable receiver from Grundig and is an upgrade of the popular Grundig G5. I reviewed this radio right after it hit the market and found it to be excellent, save that its sync detection (a new feature for this model) did not perform up to spec, so I simply never use it–but this is no problem, as the receiver has many other outstanding features. The latest models of the Grundig G3 all have good sync detection. Overall, the G3’s performance is on par with–or in some respects, better than–the Sony (above). Read full review here.
This large portable would be my first pick for someone who wants excellent radio performance, but also wants a radio that is very simple to use (i.e., grandparents, children, your uncle who gets muddled by the TV’s remote control). It comes with an owner’s manual, but you most likely will not need it. The CCRadio-SW has robust, room-filling sound, and is a joy to operate. Ergonomics are excellent, and it sports a large tuning knob. Performance is top-notch on all shortwave bands and it’s top of it’s class on Medium Wave (or the AM broadcast band). It’s a little bigger than the previous radios (not really for flight bags), but still fine for car, camper, and fishing trips. The CCRadio-SW will please both the beginner and seasoned radio listener; speaking for myself, I find I use mine all the time. Read the review here.
This radio is more expensive than the others listed here, and is not a portable, however, I couldn’t help but include it because I recently reviewed this radio and found that it offers high-end performance for a fraction of the cost of a tabletop receiver. The little RX-320 is PC-controlled, meaning, you need to hook it up to a computer to bring it to life. It’s the perfect gift for your favorite ham radio operator or a computer enthusiast who also likes radio. Read the full review here —or, if you prefer, a short review here.
Let’s face it, these are tough economic times, and it may very well affect your gift budget this year. Below, I’ve put together a small list of radios for $100 or less that would make excellent gifts for a radio enthusiast or for someone who has never used a shortwave radio. Keep in mind, of course, that you pay for what you get; thus these radios do not perform quite as well as the portables above.
The G6 has many of the features of the portables above and comes at a much better price and in a smaller package. This radio could easily fit in a glove compartment or coat pocket. Its shortwave radio reception is very respectable for such a small radio. Read the full review here.
The Kaito KA1103 (a.k.a. Degen DE1003) offers the best performance I’ve tested under $100. But keep in mind, the ergonomics of this radio (pretty much any Kaito/Degen radio) leave something to be desired: for example, to turn up the volume, you have to press the volume button and use the tuning knob to adjust. Still, it’s fairly easy to operate, and comes with a one-of-a-kind digital display that imitates an older analog style dial. Another Kaito/Degen Product to consider is the KA1102/DE1102–read a review of this $60 portable here. In general, I’ve found that Kaito offers great performance for price, but their quality control is sometimes sub-par. I have had to return two of their products in the past, and each time was relieved I had purchased from an authorized dealer (see below). Read the KA1103 full review here.
The CCRadio-SWP has a great receiver, especially in such a tiny package. C.Crane ergonomics are always very good, and you’ll probably never read the manual, it’s so simple to operate. I keep one of these in my car to listen to shortwave radio when I have few minutes to spare. A few “AA” batteries will run this little radio for 70 hours! Now, the CCRadio-SWP has some limitations, as does any little radio in this price bracket, so read the full review here before purchasing. But this cute radio can make a great stocking stuffer–and will fit in that stocking’s toe just fine!
The Grundig G8 is a nice pocket radio and the perfect traveling companion. I’m quite impressed with this radio. Shortwave reception is good and FM reception exceptional. The AM broadcast band does suffer from some images, though still quite respectable. The G8’s audio is a little tinny, though quite good for a radio this compact. The customary price for the G8 is $49.95, but occasionally retailers place them on sale for nearly half this price. It’s a grab at $50, it’s a steal at $25!
The M400 is a fun, ultra-portable, ultra-thin shortwave radio. Though its performance isn’t as good as other portables on this page, it is a super simple radio and is quite capable of picking up strong SW broadcasters–at $30, it’s also super affordable. I wouldn’t purchase this radio for someone who is just discovering shortwave radio since they will want a better performer with more features (like the portables at the top of this page). I do think the M400 makes for a nice stocking-stuffer or small gift for the radio enthusiast in your life. I take mine with me on morning walks and overnight travels.
Since I review shortwave radios for SWLing.com, I’m always looking for great deals on popular portables. This summer, I’ve noticed several exceptional values and thought I’d share them with you. Note that many of these deals are for the North American market, but if these models are available in your part of the world, you’ll probably find bargains where you live, too.
Grundig G4000A Special
Universal Radio has a limited time offer on the Grundig G4000A. They’re selling this capable little radio for $99.99 and including a freeEton FR350 self-powered shortwave radio (a $59.95 value) and a Grundig AN200 indoor antenna ($29.95).
Wow. What a deal–possibly the best I’ve ever seen on a new shortwave portable. For those of you who don’t yet know, the Grundig G4000A is a classic little portable. It has very decent audio fidelity, good shortwave sensitivity, excellent SW coverage (1711 to 30000 kHz) and is a capable performer on FM and AM bands. It can also tune in SSB (Single Side Band) signals.
I am also quite familiar with the FR350, as it is one of the few self-powered radios (along with the FR200) that passed all of our rigorous tests for use with the classroom SW radio distribution project, Ears To Our World. (Kudos to Universal, by the way, as they are a big supporter of ETOW).
I have not used the Grundig AN200 AM broadcast antenna yet, but I have used similar antennas and must admit that they do improve AM reception. Great thing is, you don’t even need to hook this antenna up to your radio; just place it next to the radio and you’re ready for MW (AM broadcast band) DX.
Universal lists that this unique deal is available until the (updated) 30th of June 2010, or while supplies last.
Prices have been falling recently on the G5 as Grundig makes way for their new G3 Voyager.
The Grundig G5/Eton E5
The G5 has been a choice radio amongst SWLers who want portable performance, and, along with many other reviewers, I have given this radio high marks.
There are some good deals out there on the G5 as Eton makes way for the much anticipated G3 Voyager (see previous post). Keep in mind that the G5 used to sell for $160. Below, I have listed some authorized retailers that carry the G5, and their prices as of the date of this posting:
The Sony ICF-SW7600GR is a great choice for the beginner and experienced shortwave listener. It's portable, yet has the features and selectivity of a larger radio.
The Sony ICF SW7600GR
Many believe that Sony is slowly pulling out of the shortwave radio market. That may be, but they have made some highly sought after radios over the years. The ICF-SW7600GR is no exception (see my mini review here). What sets this radio apart from the competition (at least until the G3 hits the market) is synchronous selectable sideband, a feature which is effective at reducing fading distortion and adjacent-channel interference.
I’ve noticed that prices on the ICF-SW7600GR are starting to fall and supplies are dwindling at retailers. Here are a few that still carry this fine portable:
C. Crane offers two radios that I’m quite fond of–the CCRadio-SW tabletop/portable and the ultra-portable CCRadio-SWP. I reviewed both of these on SWLing.com.
Like many manufacturers, C. Crane sells products that they refurbish and clean, and then guarantee them. They refer to these units as Orphans. Having purchased from C. Crane in the past, I can say that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy an orphan radio from them. It can save you anywhere from $5 to $20 on one of their radios.
Pricing and availability vary, so check out their Orphan page before purchasing new.
Two more Grundig Specials from Universal Radio
Get a free Grundig FR350 with the new Sattelit 750 at Universal Radio.
UPDATED 20 July 2009:
Universal is now offering a free Grundig AN200 antenna with the purchase of the much awaited Grundig G3 Globe Traveler ($149.99) and a free Grundig FR350 self-powered shortwave radio with the purchase of the new Satellit 750 ($299.99). I believe these offers are exclusive to Universal Radio.