Whether you want to use it for emergency purposes or simply to listen to your favorite local stations, an AM radio lets you tune in whenever you choose. Music, talk radio, local news and weather -- it's all within your reach with an AM radio.
This guide contains all the information you need to choose the best AM radio. Our favorite model is the Sangean H201 Portable AM Waterproof Radio. It's lightweight enough to use on the go, and its waterproof design is ideal for wet weather or in the shower.
Considerations when choosing AM radios
Portable vs. tabletop
Portable AM radios are small and lightweight enough to take on hiking or camping trips. They often have the kinds of extra features you might want on the go, such as built-in LED flashlights and access to weather channels.
Tabletop AM radios are designed to sit in one place, much like a stereo system. The sound quality tends to be better, since they can have larger, more complex speaker setups than portable options. You'll usually find plenty of preset stations and digital tuning.
Analog vs. digital tuner
Many AM radio stations now transmit digital signals in addition to standard analog signals. While analog radio waves travel farther, digital signals tend to be clearer and less prone to static. AM radios with a digital tuner are capable of picking up digital signals only and AM radios with analog tuners pick up analog signals only. It's up to you to decide which option you'd prefer.
Tabletop AM radios usually must be plugged into a power outlet, but portable choices can draw power from a variety of sources. Common power sources include standard alkaline batteries, built-in rechargeable battery packs, solar panels, AC adaptors, and hand cranks.
Portable AM radios often receive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather channels, so you can keep up to date with any potential inclement weather while you're camping or hiking in spots without cell reception or 4G.
A large number of AM radios have digital displays that show the frequency you're tuned to or sometimes even the name of the station.
A pull-out antenna helps you achieve a better signal at times when you're struggling to receive your station of choice.
You can find AM radios with a built-in alarm clock. Usually the station of your choice starts playing at whatever time you set your alarm for, which many people prefer as a wake-up call than loud beeping.
AM radio prices
The most basic AM radios can cost as little as $10, whereas high-end models with all the bells and whistles cost up to $100.
Q. Can you find waterproof AM radios?
A. Yes, you can find plenty of waterproof AM radios, though their level of waterproofing varies. Some are only water resistant, so these will just stand up to splashes or light rain showers, whereas others are completely waterproof and can even be fully submerged without damage.
Q. Is it normal for AM radios to have lots of static?
A. Unfortunately, AM radios are particularly prone to receiving static because of the way their signals work. However, you can find models that digitally clean up the signals received to give you far less static.
AM radios we recommend
Best of the best: Sangean H201 Portable AM Waterproof Radio
Our take: A high-end AM radio with a wide range of features. Thanks to its waterproof design, you can even use it in the shower.
What we like: Operates via battery power or an AC adaptor. Large backlit digital display. Can store five preset AM channels. Receives all seven NOAA weather channels.
What we dislike: Audio quality could be better.
Best bang for your buck: RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank AM/FM Radio
Our take: Although you can charge up this radio via USB or solar power, it also has a hand-crank option for emergency use when it's run out of juice.
What we like: Extremely inexpensive considering how useful it is. Doubles up as a power bank and an LED torch. Receives both AM and FM signals.
What we dislike: Takes a long time to charge fully with the hand crank.
Our take: With six ways to power this rugged radio, you'll always be able to listen to it when needed. Perfect for camping but also great for home use.
What we like: Receives all NOAA weather channels and public emergency alert system. Features an LED flashlight/reading light, plus a red LED S.O.S. beacon light.
What we dislike: Uses analog tuner only.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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