Best Shortwave Radios (UK 2019)

Unlike FM and AM signals, shortwave radio signals can travel thousands of miles, allowing you to listen to radio stations from other continents.

Shortwave radio waves can travel around the curvature of the Earth by being refracted or reflected by electrically charged atoms in the ionosphere, a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

While most radio stations are now available online, using a shortwave radio receiver to listen to broadcasts from around the world is much more fun.

A shortwave radio could also be a lifeline in an emergency situation.

Shortwave radio is one of the most robust types of communication technology, and is more likely to work after a natural disaster than FM, DAB or the internet.

If you’re looking to buy a shortwave radio in 2019, read our reviews and recommendations below.

Best Shortwave Radios (UK 2019)

1. Tecsun PL-660

Tecsun are one of the best known and most highly respected manufacturers of shortwave radios, and the PL-660 is currently one of their most popular models.

This radio picks up LW and FM signals as well as shortwave radio. You can also use it to listen to civil aviation radio on airband (aircraft band).

Features

  • AM, FM, SW radio
  • Beat frequency oscillator (BFO)
  • SSB mode
  • Airband (aircraft band) – lets you hear civil aviation radio
  • Auto scan for quick tuning
  • Digital tuning
  • Telescopic aerial
  • Strap
  • Dual alarm clock
  • Sleep timer (1-120 minutes)
  • Saves 2000 preset stations
  • Mains adapter and batteries included

Dimensions: 18.7 x 11.4 x 3.3 cm
Weight: 472 g

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Batteries last a long time
  • Lots of features
  • Good shortwave reception

Cons

  • Quite expensive (though has lots of features for the price)
  • Hard to set the volume to a very low level
  • No squelch or scan on airband
  • Sensitive to interference

Summary

Whether you’re an experienced shortwave radio user or a beginner, the Tecsun PL-660 is a great choice.

Tecsun are one of the most well-regarded shortwave radio brands, and the PL-660 offers a lot of features for the price.

 

2. XHDATA D-808

The XHDATA D-808 is a highly rated and affordable shortwave radio. It was released in 2017 and has since become very popular among shortwave radio hobbyists.

Its low price means the XHDATA D-808 could be a good choice if you’re just getting into shortwave radio.

Features

  • LW, MW, SW radio
  • SSB mode
  • Airband (aircraft band)
  • LCD display
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium battery
  • USB charging cable
  • Headphone jack

Dimensions: 15.7 x 9.2 x 3.2 cm
Weight: 265 g (excluding battery)

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Easy to use
  • Sensitive
  • Separate LSB and USB

Cons

  • Saving stations to memory is fiddly
  • Instructions manual isn’t very useful

Summary

If you’re looking for something capable yet affordable, the XHDATA D-808 is a great choice.

It costs about half as much as similar products from Tecsun, so it’s a good choice if you’re a beginner and don’t want to invest so much money in a radio.

 

3. Retekess V111

The Retekess V111 is one of the cheapest shortwave radios on the market. It’s a small and portable radio with good reception.

This radio was previously known as the Tivdio V111 before being rebranded.

Features

  • AM, FM, SW radio
  • Saves 60 presets (20 on each mode)
  • Digital alarm clock
  • Takes 2 AA batteries
  • DSP technology (improves reception)
  • Headphone jack
  • Sleep timer (0-90 minutes)

Dimensions: 12.5 x 7.7 x 2 cm
Weight: 150 g

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • Generally easy to use without looking at the manual
  • Good reception

Cons

  • Instructions aren’t very clear
  • Saving and accessing preset stations is fiddly

Summary

While it doesn’t have as many features as more expensive alternatives from Tecsun, the Retekess V111 offers great value for money if you want something straightforward that can pick up shortwave stations.

 

4. Tecsun PL-880 Portable Digital Radio

Here we have another shortwave radio from Tecsun. The PL-880 is quite expensive, but it offers a lot of features and is one of the top-rated shortwave radios on the market.

Features

  • AM, LW, SW, SSB radio
  • Upper Side Band (USB) and Lower Side Band (LSB)
  • Can save 3,050 stations
  • Key lock function
  • Headphone jack
  • USB charging cable
  • Sleep timer (0-120 minutes)

Dimensions: 19.2 x 11.3 x 3.3 cm
Weight: 550 g

Pros

  • Can be charged via USB
  • Battery lasts a very long time
  • Very good sound quality
  • Good shortwave reception

Cons

  • Lithium battery wouldn’t be much use in an emergency

Summary

The Tecsun PL-880 quite a bit more expensive than the PL-660, but it’s a superior product. Some of the best things about this radio are its exceptionally long battery life and great sound quality.

To take full advantage of the PL-880’s sensitive aerial, you’ll need to use it away from electrical interference (laptops, phones etc.) The reception is best when it’s used outside.

 

5. Retekess V115 Portable Radio

The Retekess V115 is a very affordable radio with some really interesting features including the ability to record radio to a TF card.

This product was previously known as the Tivdio V115 before being rebranded.

Features

  • AM, FM, SW radio
  • Stereo recording function that can record radio or your voice
  • TF card reader for playing MP3s
  • Rechargeable lithium battery
  • USB charging
  • Headphone jack
  • Key lock function

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 2 cm
Weight: 159 g

Pros

  • MP3 recording & playback features
  • Can be charged using a phone charger
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Reception can be poor
  • Battery life is shorter than on other shortwave radios

Summary

The most interesting thing about this radio is its recording function, which is quite a rare feature. Recordings are in stereo, and it even has a built-in microphone so it can record your voice or other sounds.

However, the reception can be quite poor, and the battery life is relatively short (about 6-8 hours).

 

What Is Shortwave Radio?

Shortwave is a radio band that covers the frequencies from roughly 1.7–30 MHz. There are other definitions of shortwave that give slightly different frequency ranges.

Shortwave radio signals bounce of ionosphere, high up in the Earth’s atmosphere. This allows them to travel around the curvature of the Earth, which is why shortwave signals can travel thousands of miles.

Shortwave Radio FAQs

What is the best shortwave radio to buy?

We would recommend the Tecsun PL-660 as the best shortwave radio for most people. It offers a lot of features, is mid-priced and is one of the most popular products from Tecsun, who are the most well-known manufacturer of shortwave radios.

Is AM radio shortwave?

Shortwave radio uses amplitude modulation (AM), but a regular AM radio will not be able to pick up shortwave broadcasts.

Most AM radios only receive MW (medium wave) and sometimes LW (longwave) transmissions.

You won’t be able to receive shortwave radio on your AM/FM radio unless it explicitly says it picks up the SW (shortwave) band.

What is a world band radio?

A world band radio is a shortwave radio receiver. It’s called a “world band radio” because it can pick up stations from around the world.

World band radios are affordable shortwave radio receivers that are available to consumers, as opposed to more expensive and complicated communications receivers.

What does SSB mean?

An AM radio signal is made up of a carrier signal and two modulating signals called the sidebands.

It’s by modulating these signals that the radio signal can transmit information (different sounds).

The signal above the carrier signal is called the upper sideband (USB), and the signal below is called the lower sidebands (LSB).

Sometimes a signal is transmitted using just one of the two sidebands. This is called single sideband (SSB).

When you listen to an SSB signal on a regular AM radio, the sound will be a lot higher than it should be, and voices will sound squeaky.

If your shortwave radio has a single sideband mode, you will be able to listen to SSB signals without them sounding high-pitched and squeaky.

Best Shortwave Radio Brands

Here’s a list of some of the biggest shortwave radio brands.

Tecsun

This Chinese brand is probably the most well-known manufacturer of shortwave radios.

Some of their models include the following:

  • Tecsun PL310ET
  • Tecsun PL-660
  • Tecsun PL-880
  • Tecsun Portable PL-606
  • Tecsun R-9012
  • Tecsun S-2000

XHDATA

XHDATA make some good budget-priced shortwave radios. We couldn’t find out much information about the brand itself, but they seem to be based in China.

Some of their top products are:

  • XHDATA D-808
  • XHDATA D-328
  • XHDATA D-38

Retekess/Tivdio

This brand seems to have rebranded itself from Tivdio to Retekess. We couldn’t find out a lot about them, but the appear to be based in China.

Retekess manufacture several very cheap shortwave radios, including the following:

  • Retekess V115
  • Retekess V117
  • Retekess V111
  • Retekess HR11S

 

Conclusion

If we had to pick just one shortwave radio to recommend it would be the Tecsun PL-660 due to its performance, sound quality and features.

While there isn’t as much to listen to on shortwave as there used to be, it’s still a fun hobby. Listening to news and cultural programming from around the world is a great way to broaden your perspective.

1 thought on “Best Shortwave Radios (UK 2019)”

  1. good day, came across your website,im an swl qth Birmingham located in the middle of the uk can afford expensive radio but love my tecsun pl-660+active antenna, wish to contradict on what you say about this radio, have found no problems what so ever including the volume etc etc, shopping around mine cost only 75 pounds sterling,most stores sold them between 85 and 120 pounds sterling, excellent ssb-usb often no need for active ant,whip ant works just as well,very good radio but mw could have been improved,at the moment using its whip ant listening to radio new zealand int at good to fair reception

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