Buying Guide to Shortwave Radios

After a brief hiatus, shortwave radios are becoming more popular and more widely used. If you have never listened to shortwave radio, you are missing out on unique programming from all over the world. Before you purchase your own shortwave radio, there are a few things to consider that will help you make sure that you get the best radio for your individual needs.


Shortwave radios pick up frequencies from broadcasts all over the world. Frequency bands range from low, which usually range from 2.000 up to 10.000 to high, which can go all the way up to 20.000. Manufacturers of shortwave radios typically divide these up into Shortwave 1 and Shortwave 2. The reception quality for these frequencies can be dependent on many things, but a good rule of thumb to follow is that Shortwave 2 can usually be heard clearly during the day, while Shortwave 1 is clearer at night.

It is a good idea to purchase a shortwave radio that has access to both bands. This will help you get the most out of your shortwave radio experience and open up an entire world of programming.


Drift, or loss of a frequency is a common problem on inexpensive shortwave radios. These radios are incapable of zeroing in on an exact frequency and the result is usually static, and loss of programming. Shortwave radios that are priced over $100 typically have the ability to fine-tune a signal, thereby increasing the quality of your reception.

Shortwave radios should come with an antenna that can assist you in picking up more frequencies. The bands are quite crowded and it can be difficult to separate stronger stations from stations with less power. A longer antenna will help you pick up faint signals from lower wattage stations.


The Y2K craze saw the advent of wind-up shortwave radios that can easily be powered with 30 seconds of hand cranking. However, these models may not as reliable and hand cranking is not always fool proof. Shortwave radios with this feature will usually come with secondary power options, such as regular battery power or an electrical cord for regular power. Look for a model that offers these options to ensure that you will be able to use your shortwave radio no matter where you are.

However, hand cranking is a great option if you plan to use your shortwave radio on hikes or in areas that do not have access to regular power. Batteries can be used as well, but typically run out quickly with extended use. If your area is subject to frequent storms or loss of power, shortwave radios that offer this back-up feature are extremely useful.

Other Considerations

Shortwave radios that are intended for use indoors are typically larger than their portable counterparts. Before making a decision on which model is right for you, take some time to consider how you will use your radio. If you intend on using it outside, look for shortwave radios that are made out of shatterproof and waterproof materials.

Indoor shortwave radios may include extra features that you may not find on smaller, portable models. These fixed or non-portable shortwave radios will usually have access to more frequencies and are an excellent choice for the real shortwave radio enthusiast.

On the other side of the equation, portable shortwave radios typically include AM/FM options as well as the ability to pick up shortwave frequencies. This is a great feature for travelers that can combine several devices into one handheld unit.

Shortwave radios are a lot of fun and as they enjoy more popularity, prices should begin to come down. Right now, small handheld shortwave radios are priced right around $20, while more sophisticated shortwave radios are priced in the $250 to $500 range.

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