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Portable Radios buying guide

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 Portable Radio Guide - An Introduction

A portable radio, or personal radio, lets you take your music wherever you go. Enjoy your favourite tunes or keep track of the score to the football match, even if you’re on the go. Portable radios range from simple, monaural transistor radios to larger stereo models that may play CDs or MP3s. These may also be called Boom Boxes, Jamboxes, or Radio-Cassettes.

Portable radios have been popular for many years, dating back to the 1950s. Early transistor radios weighed about half a pound and could fit in a shirt pocket. This was a major evolution from earliest portable radios that used tubes and were about the size of a lunch box.

While the use of radio has declined in popularity due to the use of digital music players, such as MP3 players, portable radios are still very common and very much in demand. They are most popular for weather, news, emergency alerts, and live sporting events. In fact, the transistor radio is still the most popular communications device in the world.

If you’re looking for a portable radio, Price Inspector is your best place to shop. We compare prices to bring you the best deals in the UK, and our buying guide will give you all the information you need to find the best model.

Portable Radio Features

  • Radio Bands: There are three different radio bands: AM, FM, and DAB. Most portable radios offer AM; most also offer FM. The latest considering is a DAB radio. DAB Radios are capable of receiving Digital Audio Broadcasts, or digital radio. There are more stations available in the same area than with analogue FM radio.
  • Antennae: Some portable radios have a built-in antenna, while others have an external antenna. These will usually collapse and/or fold for portability.
  • MP3 functionality: You can find portable radios that offer MP3 capabilities. The focus is still on the radio, but the MP3 function provides a good back-up for times when you are out of radio range or can’t find a song you like.
  • Power adaptors: Some portable radios operate only on battery power, while others give you the option to plug it into a wall outlet. Some also offer a storage area for the cord so it won’t get lost when not in use.
  • Ear phone jacks: Most portable radios have a standard 3.5mm jack to connect ear phones for privacy.
  • Alarm clock function: If you are travelling with your portable radio, an alarm clock function is a nice added feature. You can even use it when you’re awake but afraid of losing track of time.
  • Tuners: You can either get a digital tuner or an analogue one. Analogues are the old slider-type tuners, while digital tuners offer more precision when selecting your station. Some portable radios use a digital display but an analogue tuner.
  • Wind up radio: This will let you crank the radio for use in an emergency, without having to rely on batteries or electricity. This is primarily used for remote locations or during weather emergencies, but they can be used anywhere.

Popular brands

There are so many brands to choose from, you may not know where to start. Some of the popular brands include:

  • The Bush DAB Radio is a retro digital radio. It has touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the radio, coming to life with a blue backlight when touched. The controls are easy to operate and extremely responsive. However, the smooth surfaces will show fingerprints, so you’ll need to clean it periodically. It features a two-line display, which is bright and easily readable.
  • Cath Kidston Radio is available in a limited edition Electric Flowers print. This DAB radio makes a beautiful addition to any location. It has 120 hours of battery life and features rotary tuning and volume controls, portable carry handle, and RDS station name display.
  • The Dualit Kitchen Radio is an award-winning DAB radio. It offers outstanding acoustics and Dualit’s famous styling. It includes a built-in egg timer, and it has an extra-large display screen. There are 10 presets, five for FM and five for DAB. It can be powered with a rechargeable NiMH battery or through a mains connection. There’s even an auxiliary port so you can connect other devices like an MP3 player.
  • The Intempo TRS portable radio offers a retro design in five different colours. It’s lightweight and slim, making it popular for travellers. The sound quality is not as good as higher end brands, but considering the price, it isn’t bad. It runs on inexpensive AA batteries, making it less expensive to operate than some models. Overall, it’s a decent entry-level DAB radio.
  • Pure makes several high-end radios and music devices. The Pure Chronos II series has several different models of the popular Pure clock radio, from radio-only to adding CD or MP3 docking. Each offers popular features like a large display, independent alarms, and snooze and sleep timers. For the radio, you can choose stations by name, read news on the scrolling display, and enjoy crisp Pure DAB sound.
The Pure Evoke Flow combines DAB and FB radio with your own MP3 collection in one stylish and portable radio. It also offers Wi-Fi technology so you can connect to the Internet, accessing even more radio stations and podcasts from around the world.
The Pure Highway DAB radio is an in-car radio system that also plays your MP3 player. It’s powered by your car’s power socket, easily mounting to your windscreen with a removable mount. The radio lets you receive DAB stations through your car’s FM radio stations. It has easy-to-use features like ReVu that pauses and skips through live radio. When your journey is over, take it out of the car and continue listen through your headphones.
  •  The Pure Move is a compact radio that has built-in rechargeable battery and a telescoping antenna. It measures about 150mm by 85mm, and it’s only 27mm thick. The radio has an integrated stand that folds out on the back.
  • The Pure Oasis is a portable Internet radio that lets you save and access your favourite radio stations wherever you go. The Wi-Fi connection lets you stream music from your computer as well. The Oasis is rugged enough for outdoor use, as it’s weatherproof and splash resistant.
  • Revo is an award-winning Internet radio with Wi-Fi capabilities. It is splash-resistant so you can use it indoors or out. It’s cordless, portable, and comes with a remote control. The large LCD display offers a high contrast so it’s easy to read.
  • The Roberts solar DAB radio offers soft rubberised controls and a built-in rechargeable battery back. The backlit LCD display shows the solar and battery levels and the signal strength.
  • A popular Sony DAB portable radio is the XDRS10. It was designed for use in the kitchen, with a wipeable finish, clock display, and kitchen timer. There are 20 presets, 10 each for DAB and FM. It has built-in stereo speakers and a headphone socket.

Tips to consider before buying a Portable Radio

  • Consider the size, weight, and how you will use your portable radio. To listen while jogging, for example, you’ll want a small, lightweight model. These may include a belt clip or an arm band. For more stable use, such as at a construction job site, you can consider a heavier model that offers louder volume.
  • If you plan to use your portable radio in outdoor conditions, make sure it is either waterproof or water resistant.
  • While some radios will get better reception, your sound quality is mostly going to be determined by your location and the quality of your headphones or speakers. If your portable radio comes with ear buds, they are usually low quality and should be replaced with a better set. If you plan to use the built-in speakers, this will be a major determining factor in the radio’s sound.
  •  Consider the power source. Many portable radios use batteries, but some come with power adapters or use rechargeable battery packs. If you will be using the portable radio mostly on a table in your home, a power adapter will make operating the radio more economical. If you’ll most be using it on the go, rechargeable batteries will make sense.
  • Deciding which features are most important to you will make it easier to make compromises if your budget requires. Is sound quality more important or lightweight portability? Do you want DAB radio or will AM/FM be sufficient? What about Wi-Fi? Don’t pay extra for features you won’t use or ones provided by your other devices.

Jargon Explained

Transistor:This is a tiny electronic device that amplifies the radio signal. Although originally it meant a pocket radio, the term is now basically obsolete. All commercial radio receivers, whether they are pocket-sized, portable, or home models, use transistor technology, rather than old-fashioned radio tubes.
MonauralThe sound is presented on one channel only. This may be a single ear bud in one ear, or it may have an ear bud for each ear. In this case, however, the same sounds are heard in both ears.
Stereo A sound reproduction quality that uses two channels to recreate more realistic sound. The sound in each ear will be different, creating the illusion that the sound is located in a certain position.
MP3A compressed audio file used to download and transfer music. An MP3 player is a portable device that can play MP3 files. The music is ‘compressed’ into smaller files so the sound quality is diminished somewhat.
Wi-FiWireless technology that lets users access the Internet. 

Buying Guide to Portable Radios
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