Silver Sony Pocket FM/AM Radio: As Good It Gets For A $12 Gadget

I don't use many gadgets every single day. Smartphone, sure. TV? Nope. But these little battery-operated Sony radios -- I have two of them -- receive local airwaves every morning, every night, and for almost 48 hours straight on weekends.

It could just be a quirk of personality. I occasionally live a sort of 1957 lifestyle. Every summer night, I tune in to local sports broadcasts while I wash the dishes after dinner. The rest of the time, the radios are permanently tuned to news shows.

Spinning its knob to scan past the stations, you mix that half-second of static with the clipped sound of a real signal -- a quick blare of Spanish radio, a few shouts from some sports game -- it's an analogue experience. The phrase "tune in" seems appropriate to this device in a way it doesn't quite fit when you're dialed in with the station's digits displayed on an LCD.

Participating in a totally mature broadcast technology doesn't cost much. The Sony ICF-S10MK2 is only $US11.70 on Amazon today. It comes in a handsome silver shade with a collapsible antenna. You have to change the pair of AA batteries every season or so. As far as rich bass and punchy treble, it honestly sounds pretty flat. But it's certainly loud enough for me to hear Morning Edition's peppy, soothing tones over the sound of my shower at 7 am. From a little radio on a bathroom shelf, what more could you want?



    This has obviously come from the US Giz feed, but here in Australia that radio costs $30 and whilst that is a good little performer, on ebay there is similar value for less money. By spending a bit more though, you can get all digital affairs.

    The Tecsun R-9012 is a lot smaller in person than it's picture implies, but it only costs $20 (with shipping), is an all analogue radio complete with the ability to tune japanese FM stations too if you're ever in that part of the world (it's FM goes 76-108Mhtz). It has quite good build quality, reception and sound quality (check youtube for reviews)

    The Degen DE321 will cost $20 and this one is interesting - it uses the Silicon Labs "radio on a chip" found in many PLL receivers but stil has an analogue face - but it's all digital behind the scenes - it's tuning can take some getting used to for that reason - each time you move the knob it's a different tuning "step"

    The Degen DE19 will cost about $8-10 more than the Sony but is all digital. It has good reception considering it's ultra small size, comes with rechargeable batteries, and a usb cable to charge ni-mh AAA batteries from right within the radio.

    The Tecsun PL-606 costs $50 so it's a lot more expensive, but it's by far and away the "ultra light portable" receiver with the best AM/FM reception in town, easily beating radios that cost 3 times that.

    If you really want the Sony though, which is the ICF-S10 (the mkII version is displayed in the giz post photo) you can get it from Hong Kong for $18 and free postage.

    Last edited 27/12/12 3:01 pm
      Surprisingly, only $8 more. More if you want delivery instead of buying in store.

      Completely useless by mid next year, mind.

        its the analogue TV signal that's being turned off next year,not radio broadcast frequencies. By analogue i think he means its old school to tune & adjust volume, not the type off signal...dude..

          I stand corrected.

            You'll probably be right sometime in the future though. The UK plans to turn of analogue radio in favour of all digital (not sure if a date has been set). That leaves portable radios like this rather screwed unless you like carrying around replacement batteries. The portable DAB+ radios available at the moment either have short battery lives or use non-standard batteries to extend to a semi-reasonable time. A pair of AA batteries in the little radio this article is about would last several months rather than half a day.

    "Completely useless by mid next year, mind."

    Why? There are no plans to turn off analogue radio anytime soon.

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