How To Choose a Shortwave Radio

by Mark Applegate Google

    Shortwave radios have been in use for nearly 100 years. These radios connected people over great distances long before other means of communication evolved. Today many people still enjoy listening to broadcasts on this set of frequencies to hear talk radio, emergency broadcasting and other material throughout the world. Finding a shortwave radio that meets your needs involves understanding several facets of this technology.

    Digital Versus Analog

    Shortwave radio technology allows you to listen to stations or broadcasts on frequencies ranging from 540 kHz to 30 MHz. There are countless broadcasts available to hear if you can fine-tune your radio to the exact channel. This fact is why the digital versus analog comparison is important. On a digital radio, you can dial exactly the frequency you are trying to reach and often store it in the memory of the radio. On an analog dial you are at the mercy of your ability to slowly dial a knob to find a channel that might be a fraction different than the next available channel. This factor can also greatly influence the price of the unit.


    Power for your radio is critical. Digital radios with multiple features such as a clock, an MP3 player and an alarm use much more power than a simple analog radio. If the radio is plugged in, power is not an issue. However, if you would like to use your radio camping or if it is for emergency use, you need other options to power it such as crank charging, solar panels or batteries. If you are utilizing these methods to power the unit, you may opt for a more simple radio to save batteries, your cranking elbow or to assist you on a cloudy day when solar is not convenient.

    Frequencies and Antennas

    Many consider a radio with multiple frequency options beneficial. While some radios focus on the most common range of 3 to 30 MHz, better radios cover all facets of shortwave -- called SW1 and SW2 -- and include AM, FM, longwave, weather band and other ranges. This makes the radio more versatile but uses more power. While all radios come with an antenna, if you purchase one with an eternal antenna option you enhance your range and clarity dramatically. These antennas are available at a local electronics store and can extend to 70 feet or more.

    Other Options

    Advanced shortwave radios include the ability to save a number of stations into a bank of presets. This allows you to quickly recall a host of channels without having to search for them. Some find external speaker ports helpful in boosting the sound level of channels beyond the small speaker on the unit. Output jacks can also be useful in hooking to a digital recorder so you can listen to the broadcast again later. Also consider the reputation of the dealer. Shortwave radios can be made very cheaply. Purchase one within your price range from a reputable dealer so you can have repair service performed if necessary.

    About the Author

    Based in Bolivar, Mo., Mark Applegate has been a professional writer since 2003. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Colorado Technical University and currently serves as the information technology director at a local public school.

    Photo Credits

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