At a time when audio equipment is geared towards the future, you might think that the humble tabletop radio is extinct. Not even close. It’s just evolved, and gotten a lot smarter over time. Radios now bear little resemblance to the dinky little clock radios from the past twenty years.
There are all various types of radios on the market right now. Sometimes it is even hard for you to pick one that you like as they are just too many. If you end up picking a tabletop radio, you can be sure it is going to give you a good performance.
A tabletop radio is always compact so that you can set it up with ease and start using it. Thanks to the size and sound performance, such radios can be used at home and office alike.
In our review article, we will be comparing tabletop radios on their most important characteristics such as audio performance, aesthetics, feature set and radio bands they support.
Do you need a tabletop radio?
There are many reasons to buy a radio for your home. They have a variety of uses and come with different functions that can help make you more comfortable in your home.
- Listening to the radio: The obvious answer is to tune into and listen to your favorite station at home through a decent speaker. You can use the radio to stay connected to the world through news and current event channels, or discover new music and relive old favorites on music channels.
- Bedside Device: Tabletop radios are also popular as bedside devices. You can use them to set your morning alarm, listen to them before bed or when you wake up to start your day.
- Connecting to other media: A lot of tabletop radios also make use of their speakers in multiple ways. Most will have a way for you to listen to other media devices. This could be through an AUX input, USB connection or Bluetooth.
Features to Consider Before Buying
You just can’t buy any and every tabletop radio that you see on the Internet. You need to take note of few things like sound quality, portability, power, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc. before making a purchase.
After all, it is your hard-earned money that you would spend on buying it and it should be worth the money you spend. Here is a quick list of things that you need to focus while buying a tabletop radio:
The sound quality question is a good one. It’s quite a subjective one, too, but not one without an answer. Sound quality in any set of speakers, or any amplifier, comes down so many factors: driver size, driver construction, the type of amp circuitry, how it handles power. The environment you put it in. But generally speaking: tabletop radios don’t match separate speakers for sound quality.
We know that probably isn’t what you want to hear, and it’s probably being a little bit unfair to some of the radios on our list, particularly at the top end. But it’s also the truth. A dedicated system with discrete speakers and an amp is always going to outdo a single, in-the-box system (at an equal price). Too many compromises have to be made. So generally speaking, you shouldn’t expect audiophile grade sound from your radio.
While tabletop radios seem like fairly simple devices, you actually might be surprised to learn that there are several different types you can choose from. The three main types of radio you should consider:
- AM/FM (Analog): Despite technically being older technology, analog tabletop radios are still very popular. They tend to be cheaper overall and since they’ve been around for so long, they are often more reliable than some of the more emergent technologies.
- Digital: Digital radio still receives signals from audio sources, but decodes them using digital receivers. This results in higher quality audio.
- Internet: Internet radio is the newest type of radio, and streams audio over the internet. This type of radio is becoming ever more popular because it gives you more options for radio stations and more customizability. However, it requires a solid internet connection, which isn’t always a given.
Tabletop radios are meant to be seen and be out in the open, which is why design is so important. The visual appeal your radio provides can be really important because they’re likely going to be placed in places like your living room, kitchen or bedroom. This is a largely subjective feature, so as you research the options on our list, don’t forget to think about how the radio will look in your home.
You’ll notice in our table above that we have a listing for wattage. Let’s keep it simple. Wattage is the amount of power the speaker or radio will put out. It’s not quite the same thing as loudness, which you can, after all, change by tweaking the volume knob, but it’s a rough analogue. If one speaker has 10 watts of output power per channel, and another has 20, and they are both at roughly the same volume level, then the one with 20 will make a louder noise.
When we have wattage stats for the radios, they’re measured in RMS, which is how much power the radio can put out over a long period – as opposed to peak or dynamic wattage, which is the absolute max it can put out in one short burst before it goes bang!
OK, yes, we know these are technically tabletop radios, but there’s no reason why they can’t be portable as well. Being able to take your radio with you can be a huge advantage, as it means you are never far from your favorite stations. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind before you choose a portable radio.
The first, somewhat obviously, is weight. A portable radio should be light and small, as well as robust. It should be able to be slung into a bag and forgotten about. While you may get slightly less volume and perhaps less clear sound quality, you more than make up for it in terms of convenience.
How we picked and tested Tabletop Radio
In researching this guide, I spoke with a number of potential tabletop radio buyers from around the country and asked why they wanted one and which features were most important. I also quizzed current owners of tabletop radios about how they used theirs and what sorts of features they would look for should their current radio meet an untimely end.
Our survey responses were so similar it almost seemed like a conspiracy. By a large margin, most people reported a desire for a simple radio that they could tune to their favorite local public radio station and leave it set there in perpetuity.
Tabletop Radio vs. Speaker System
At its most simple, a tabletop radio is a small model music station designed to fit unobtrusively on a desk, bookshelf, or bedside table. It is distinct from other radios, which may be part of a larger sound system.
It’s also definitely distinct from larger speaker systems, which usually have separate amplifiers, receivers and speakers – and which almost always require a separate sound source, like a smartphone or turntable.
A tabletop radio will be a fully self-contained unit, with speakers, receiver and power source all packed into one box. Unlike portable radios, it’s actually quite rare to have a tabletop radio that runs off a battery.
They almost always require mains power, so factor that in when you buy.
Our Top Picks:
|Bose Wave SoundTouch IV||8.7 x 14.5 x 4.3 in||13.23 pounds|
|Tivoli Audio Model One Digital||5.5 x 8.7 x 4.5 in||3.4 pounds|
|Grace Digital Mondo+||11 x 7 x 6 in||5 pounds|
|Como Audio Solo||5.2 x 9.4 x 4.7 in||4.2 pounds|
|REVO SuperSystem||16.9 x 8.7 x 6.5 in||21.6 pounds|
|Tivoli Audio Pal BT||5.2 x 8.4 x 4.5 in||4.1 pounds|
|Sangean WR-2||9.4 x 7.6 x 4.4 in||5 pounds|
|Insignia NS-HDRAD2||7.5 x 5.7 x 2.2 in||7.2 ounces|
|Crosley Solo||12 x 8 x 7 in||5 pounds|
|SPARC SHD-BT1||15 x 8 x 8 in||5.8 pounds|
This is our preferred high-end music system, an upgraded version of the original Wave IV, which is more expensive, although it is more expensive.
Everything has been improved, but the first thing that may cause attention is the lack of loud sound. Frankly speaking, its volume is really disturbing, and products of this size can generally emit ten times the sound.
Bose didn’t provide speaker data, so we couldn’t get accurate numbers, but the good news is that the sound quality of this system is very good.
It’s a bigger, better, and more complex product than most of its competitors in many ways, but it also provides excellent value for the cost you pay.
You can send audio from any source to this radio: AM, FM, streaming (using Spotify, Pandora or Deezer), MP3 players and even CD players.
The Wave Guide technology is here and used correctly, and the collaboration of dual 3 and 4 inch drive units provides an absolutely epic sound. With the excellent SoundTouch APP, your phone will become a powerful controller.
Wave SoundTouch IV is one of the best music systems you can buy right now, perfect for enthusiasts, or just want to hear the sound of the fans. But for those who just want a simple AM/FM radio, it may not be ideal.
Different artworks may not appeal to everyone because everyone has their own unique tastes.
If you don’t dislike the speaker drive unit covered by fabric, you’ll love Tivoli Audio’s new Model One digital speaker.
This is one of our favorite radios, we admire its retro wooden case, clear and simple display, and a rich feature set: from FM streaming to Spotify online music.
The wide dial around the digital display allows you to easily change the radio. Although no remote control is available, you can use the companion app for control.
Since the price is much lower than the Bose Wave SoundTouch IV, its sound quality is slightly inferior, but you can pair it with other independent speakers from your own company: a round art speaker, or an obvious cube speaker.
Of course, expanding the system in this way requires a high cost. But for all of us, this is a great desktop radio that works better as a standalone wireless system.
Welcome to one of the most surprisingly competitive models, an unbeatable upgrade to the original Mondo, offering a rich feature while maintaining a very good price.
You can access almost any digital radio station or music service, including SiriusXM and NPR. Although you can’t get AM/FM directly, you can listen to any online radio station and only need one wireless router.
The sound quality is not as good as the Bose and Tivoli Audio models introduced earlier. This should not be surprising. After all, Mondo+ is much cheaper than them.
The control scheme involves a remote control, two knobs (one to control volume, one selection frequency), and sixteen different buttons, which makes it more complicated to operate than many competitors.
Still, this is still a popular update compared to the original Mondo. As a bonus, you can also get a clear full color display.
Como Audio is a relatively young manufacturer, but they know what they are doing. Although this model has a larger brother Duetto (and a smaller Ambiente), we prefer Solo.
It achieves the perfect balance of price and functionality, offering a very good price/performance ratio and a wide feature set, not to mention the outstanding design and high availability.
Although it provides classic FM functionality, digital audio performs better. As for the overall sound quality, we think it doesn’t sound as good as other models. Once again, Bose and Tivoli Audio stand out in this respect. However, Solo is still a good start for Como Audio.
Undoubtedly, this radio is very beautiful, with a gorgeous design and reliable manufacturing quality, matching analog signals with modern technology.
In addition, it has a rich set of features, including some beautiful click preset buttons, a USB input port when playing music from a flash drive, and some smart technologies.
The internal power supply is one of our favorite components because it can be switched based on the detected voltage.
SuperSystem is an upgraded version of the highly acclaimed SuperSignal with a daunting look, but not everyone will like it.
We think its price is quite overpriced, far beyond the other models in this list. Compared to Grace Digital Mondo+, its value is far below the price of the mark.
Although you can get extraordinary features and sounds, there is no doubt that you have to pay a high price for it.
It is undeniable that REVO sells it as a complete music system and offers a wide range of features including DAB, DAB+, FM, streaming, and USB connectivity. In addition, it also has access to the UNDOK APP to allow you to create a multi-room wireless music system.
SuperSystem’s biggest attraction is its superior and deep sound quality, thanks to the output power of 80 watts per channel of the Class D amplifier.
Overall, this is an excellent option, but the price is too expensive.
In addition to the desktop radio, we also like portable radios. Relaxing in the park and listening to your favorite channels is a pleasure. But they have largely been replaced by smartphones, and good phones may be weak in this regard.
The Tivoli Audio Pal BT is a simple model that is well-designed, cute, portable, and features AM/FM and Bluetooth. It lacks some of the advanced features of other competitors (such as HD Radio), but it’s quite practical.
Not only does it deliver good sound, it also offers a range of great control features, including an analog dial that is comfortable to use. The radio can be set up in seconds and started to play, so you can put it in your backpack anytime, anywhere.
Even if you are not interested in portable design, it can still be used as a standard desktop radio. In addition, there is a similar model, which is the Insignia HD NS-HDRAD2 we will introduce below.
7. Sangean WR-2
In the current era, radios that don’t support digital audio are unusual, but the Sangean WR-2 makes up for this in some of its strengths. The answer is sound.
Sangean has produced a product with a clear sound quality, such as crystal, without any distortion at the maximum volume, and the warm bass and crisp high-pitched sound are clearly distinguishable. We recommend this model for those who want high fidelity sound quality.
Unlike other cheaper options, you can get a lot of adjustments to your audio so you can adjust your bass and treble to your liking at any time.
The radio’s outer casing is made of wood and offers digital tuning settings to store preset radio, clock and timer systems.
We really like this look, the wooden case is perfectly matched with the metal front cover, and although the button layout is more confusing than we would like, the texture is quite pleasant when pressed.
Sangean is not the most exciting company on the list, but the WR-2 does a good job of it.
The original NS-HDRAD used to be a cheering model. Although Insignisa is not one of the most eye-catching companies, the HDRAD2 they produced is a gem in the radio field. The built-in HD Radio is an advanced audio. Technology that allows listeners to hear higher quality radio stations with lower noise.
Strictly speaking, the NS-HDRAD2 is just a wireless broadcast device, and does not provide an MP3 connection, but you can get an excellent radio.
With a preset radio and a digital display for displaying artist and song names, it is more feature-rich than Crosley Solo.
We should point out that with the development of wireless audio, its sound quality has not been improved accordingly. The sound may sound a bit thin, and Insignia doesn’t provide detailed information about the size and power of the drive unit, but we suspect this value is very high.
If you are looking forward to the quality of audiophiles, you should look elsewhere.
With the development of desktop radios, it does provide some great features. As a basic economical option, it offers more than just standard plug-and-play functionality.
9. Crosley Solo
Originally listed in this position is Ranchero with a strange shape from the 1970s, but after careful consideration, we decided to replace it with Solo because it is a better product.
Don’t confuse it with the better (and more expensive) Como Audio Solo, which is a more affordable option, but very attractive. Although it lacks some of the features of the Sangean WR-2, it is still very suitable for most people.
You can only get some very basic features: AM/FM radio, headphone jack, auxiliary input and output, but you can make up for it in aesthetics.
Solo looks amazing and continues Crosley’s contribution to classic American design, similar to the alternative history of the 1960s.
We are skeptical about the company’s claimed audio-quality sound: Solo has only a basic 3-inch drive unit, and the superb sounds seem to be unheardable here. Despite this, the overall sound quality is still quite good, the volume can fill the entire room.
10. SPARC SHD-BT1
SPARC has created some amazing quality products, and the SHD-BT1 is currently at the top of its product line. Its compact size and easy-to-use design make it an ideal bedroom companion and easy to master.
In addition, it has a very handy trick: you can use HD when you are looking for an FM station, it will automatically tune to the corresponding channel.
The only downside to this price point is that the sound is not loud enough, but if you don’t need too much volume, then this may not be a problem worthy of mind.
Unfortunately, SPARC does not provide information about its audio specifications, but any attempt to increase the volume will not give you satisfactory results.
In contrast, the Crosley Solo and the Sangean WR-2 are much better, but it’s best to avoid listening in a noisy environment. On the other hand, its sound quality at medium volume is perfectly acceptable unless you are a very enthusiastic enthusiast.
The rich feature set and HD skills make it worth investing in. Although there are many good products in this price range, it is a good choice.
Tabletop Radios FAQs
What is the best sounding table top radio?
The best sounding tabletop radio on our list is the Bose Wave radio. It offers the traditional, high-quality Bose audio that will blow you away every time. Bose’s sound is rich and clear, no matter what the source.
Are tabletop radios portable?
Portability depends on lot of factors like size, features, etc. Some tabletop radios may have features like CD player, USB port for charging due to which they become non-portable. Generally, small tabletop radios are portable.
Who makes a good AM/FM radio?
The best manufacturers of AM/FM radios on our list are Panasonic, Sangean and Trivoli. Each of these manufacturers focuses on high quality reception and solid design aesthetics. And the three radios we’ve included on our list all display that dedication to quality and reliability.