Tabletop radio is man’s most portable companion when it has to do with keeping informed and engaged off and on busy hours. The advent of mobile phones with radio facility has not pushed tabletop radio into extinction. Tabletop radio is still very essential today in the society. So which ones are the best with very high quality and interesting features? Here’s a list of top 15 Best tabletop radio sets in the world, in an interesting analysis done by TheMasterSwitch. The selection was done based on sound quality and feature sets. This also includes radio sets with most advanced features, from liquid crystal displays and equaliser controls, to multiple drivers, high-quality analog circuitry and the latest digital audio mode capabilities.
As is the case with most budget audio equipment, cheaper models may sacrifice advanced features like equalizers, digital audio and streaming music services (such as Spotify or Pandora). As Masterswitch observes, if you don’t need all those fancy additions, no need to pay for them. It’s worth noting that it’s actually quite rare for manufacturers to release new models; although while some of these units are a few years old, there’s a reason, according to Masterswitch, they’re the best available. So this analysis did not rank tabletop radio sets primarily in terms of cost but user-friendly features.
1. Bose Wave Soundtouch Music System IV ($599)
At the very top of our selection is the Wave Soundtouch Music System IV – the upgraded version of the original Wave IV which, while a little pricey, is a lighter version of the original. Everything is supercharged here, but it’s the sound you’ll notice first. Frankly, it’s a little disconcerting that something this size can make a sound that should come from something ten times larger. Bose doesn’t supply speaker data, so we don’t have wattage figures for you, but this can hit some substantial volumes.
It’s a bigger, badder and in many ways more complicated than something like the Cue Radio Model R1, but it also offers superb value for what you pay for it. You can send audio from any signal source into this radio: AM, FM, streaming (with services from Spotify to Deezer), MP3 player and even a CD player, if you still have some lying around. The Waveguide technology is present and correct here, with twin 3” and 4” drivers partnering up to provide that absolutely epic sound. The Soundtouch app provides excellent control, too. This is still one of the most superb systems money can buy – perfect for audiophiles, or those who simply want superb sound. It’s probably not ideal for anyone who wants just a simple AM/FM radio – for one of those, look further down the list – but we still consider it the business. Be aware: Amazon lists a newer model of this product, the Home Speaker 500…but that’s a straight smart speaker, and doesn’t actually have a radio.
2. Como Audio Solo ($299)
Como Audio is a relatively new manufacturer, but they know what they’re doing. Although this model has a bigger brother, the Duetto (and a smaller one, the Ambiente) this is our pick. It strikes the perfect balance of price and features, offering excellent value for money as well as a huge range of capabilities – not to mention fantastic design and useability. It’s probably better for digital audio than FM, although it does offer that. And while we think it doesn’t sound as good as other models – once again, the Bose and Cue models come out on top for that particular aspect – but it’s still a great start for Como Audio.
The sound quality may keep it off the top spot, but there’s no question that it’s one of the better looking models in this list, with a gorgeous finish and build that matches analogue design with modern sensibilities. It also comes with a good range of features, including some nice, clicky preset buttons, and a USB input for when you want to playback music from a flash drive. There’s some smart technology at hand as well – we particularly like the internal power supply, which switches depending on the voltage it detects. Bottom line: we expect big things from Como in the future.
3. Avantree SP850 ($30)
The Avantree SP850 is a super popular little desktop radio, perfectly suited for the kitchen. It features a rechargeable battery and, being roughly the size of an iPhone7, it can be taken virtually anywhere. Aimed at the casual FM radio listener, there aren’t any digital or even AM options here. Instead, Avantree have focused their efforts on user-friendly features such as auto scan and one of the easiest ways of manual search. The ten large buttons with numbered slots (0-9) not only make saving a favorite station a breeze – just hold to save – but also act as a smart dial. Just punch in 1022 to tune into 102.2, for instance.
The SP850 is advertised as a 3-in-1 Radio Speaker on account of its auxiliary (mini-jack) input, TF card reader slot and Bluetooth. These are very popular options for streaming music from an external source and using Avantree as a speaker. TF cards are becoming slightly obsolete, but you could save a large audiobook file one one, for instance. Bluetooth streaming gives this radio the edge over the majority of similarly-specced units, though you will notice a slight latency (loss of lip sync) if watching movies. Finally, selectability, channel hold and audio quality are good for the money – you won’t even need an antenna, the USB charge cable acts as one.
4. REVO SuperCD ($800)
Here’s something we didn’t expect: a CD player in our top five. The REVO SuperCD may be a tabletop radio at heart, but it has a vertically-loading CD player included, too. We think that’s overly optimistic – even the most old-school of us are turning away from CDs in favor of vinyl or streaming – but REVO clearly know something we don’t!
The SuperCD is a magnificent update on the old SuperSystem. For the same price point ($800) you get every feature you could possibly need, from a simple FM radio to digital streaming over a Wi-Fi network, including via Spotify Connect. There’s also a well designed app, meaning this is very much a forward-thinking radio. But you don’t come to high-end radios just for the features; you come for the sound, and the SuperCD more than delivers. Its effortless detail and crystal clear audio quality easily make it the best-sounding radio on this list, handily beating models from the likes of Bose and Como Audio. Those models still offer better value, but if you demand the best from your radio, this is the one you should buy.
5. Running Snail NOAA Radio ($50)
This might seem like an odd choice for one of our top five radios, but if you ever happen to find yourself in one of those zombie flicks, in a city undergoing a power cut…this little radio will still be able to pick up the emergency broadcasts. In more realistic terms, if you just happen to be at the beach, sailing boat, local park or your front porch, this fine NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) device will keep chirping away all day long – on account of its solar power self-charging. Its ability to be also charged by hand winding (as well as AAA batteries) is useful, too. A minute of hand-cranking gives you 15 minutes of broadcast.
What’s more, this little radio also acts as a power bank (2000mAh) with an included 4-in-1 USB cable with lightning port, 2 micro-USB and 30 pin connections. That alone makes it a must-have for music festival lovers. Aside from the survivalist kudos, the NOAA radio sports a jolly 80s vibe. You’ll be limited to AM/FM bands only, and of course frequency tuning is manual – the old fashioned way. Audio quality is decent enough – no thundering bass or audiophile clarity, but the Running Snail still manages to get a loud enough background playback and there are no major sonic issues. If you live in Florida or anywhere near hurricane weather this is the perfect companion – its third WB (VHF weather band 162.400-162.550) picks up the governmental emergency bulletins.
6. REVO SuperConnect ($399)
The REVO SuperConnect deserves its name, as it focuses on packing pretty much every modern connectivity protocol in a traditional-looking tabletop radio. If it weren’t for the very cool-looking black OLED screen, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a simple ‘classic’ radio. Far from it – the SuperConnect features a wealth of digital radio standards including DAB, DAB+and internet radio, as well as FM with RDS of course. Its ability to be integrated within your home ADSL network opens up the near-limitless realms of streaming over Wi-Fi. Spotify comes as standard and any Bluetooth device can communicate with the REVO.
The preset memory slots and remote function are handy, but the REVO app makes any handheld device the perfect partner to this little radio. Browsing and saving favorites, creating playlists, and so on is so much quicker on a smartphone or a tablet than using the radio’s controls. Is the SuperConnect any better than the tens of hundreds of digital radios out there? Short answer is yes, mainly on account of its great ability to pick and hold steady wireless streams. Audio quality is better than most similarly sized units, comparable to the Grace Mondo+, below. Just like with the REVO SuperCD above, we do think that the unit is slightly overpriced, but that aside the SuperConnect is definitely one of the best in its class.
7. Tivoli Audio Model One Digital ($299)
Different pieces of art aren’t going to appeal to everyone. Everybody has their own taste. With that in mind, if you can handle the fabric covered speaker driver, you are absolutely going to love the new Model One Digital from Tivoli Audio.
We do. We adore its wooden housing, it is clear, simple display, and its range of functionality, which runs from FM streaming all the way to Spotify. The wide dial around the digital display allows you to change the station. There is no remote, but you can control it using the companion app. The sound is nothing to write home about, hence its low-ish position on the list (the REVO, for one, has it beat) but what you can do is pair it with one or more of the company’s stand-alone speakers. You can choose from either the circular Art speaker or the cuboidal (obviously) CUBE. You get fair warning: expanding the system this way is expensive, and it may be worth your while to look at a separate wireless system, or at least a cheaper one. For the rest of us, this is an excellent tabletop radio. And if you do want the original, and can deal without the extra features, then check out the original and brilliant Model One.
8. Roberts Revival iStream 3 ($260)
Roberts makes some of the coolest radios we’ve ever seen, and our current favorite is the Revival iStream 3. It’s not the newest model they offer – technically the Stream 94i is newer. But that model costs the same as this one, and there’s no question as to which one we prefer. Like the REVO SuperCD, the Roberts Revival iStream 3 crosses the line between smart wireless speaker and traditional radio, with Amazon Alexa included. You get an FM radio, as well as full digital functionality. But we’ll be honest, the appeal here lies in the pleasingly retro looks matched with powerful sound quality. We don’t have a listing for watts per channel, but we were satisfied with how loud this radio played.
The downside? Although it is available in the United States, to the best of our knowledge, it can sometimes be a struggle to track down. That’s deeply annoying – would it really be so difficult for Roberts to list this radio on Amazon? Especially given the Alexa inclusion. All the same, if you can find one (check your local hi-fi store) it’s well worth your time.
9. Grace Digital Mondo+ ($150)
Welcome to one of the most surprising entries around. The updated version of the original Mondo is a phenomenal bargain, offering a wealth of features is a very good price. You get access to just about any radio station or music service that has seen fit to go digital, and that includes things like Sirius and NPR. While you won’t get direct AM/FM functionality, you are able to listen to any of those stations that broadcast online. All you need is a wireless router.
The sound quality is definitely not going to touch the two models above it – both the Bose and the Cue models have it beaten there. And the control scheme, which involves a remote, two knobs (one for volume, one as a selector) and no less than sixteen different buttons on the face, makes this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be. All the same, it’s a very welcome update to the original Mondo, which was already pretty good.
10. Sangean WR-50P ($190)
We’ve got a lot of love for stereo tabletop radios, with one master speaker and one slave speaker. They offer a convenient and fun way to get stereo sound, and Sangean’s WR-50P offers an excellent way to do this. It’s not the most exciting radio on the list, by a long shot – you get AM/FM, and Bluetooth, and that’s about your lot – but it’s definitely a better buy than something like the SPARC SHD-BT1, which is definitely a downgrade in terms of features and audio quality.
We love the usability and functionality here, as well as the crisp sound, thanks to well-made digital signal processing circuitry. You get a decent remote, a good range of features, and generally, nothing you wouldn’t expect to see in this particular price range – although, for the record, we think this is a touch overpriced right now. Having said that, you can always opt for the mono option, which sacrifices the slave speaker (God, that sounds ominous) and offers just the one speaker at a cheaper price. It’s good to know there are options.
See the Sangean WR-50P
11. C.Crane CC 2E ($170)
The C.Crane CC 2E offers a staggering performance for the price. Staggering not in terms of audio quality, but in selectivity (often called sensitivity) and sync hold – the ability to hold steady onto a frequency band. The fact that it can ‘hear far’ also makes it invaluable if you enjoy regional broadcasts. In our buying advice section, we talk about synchronous radio circuits which employ a dual antenna – the CC 2E is equipped with this and it’s the reason for its incredible ability to lock onto signals, especially when operating in AM band.
With its primary purpose being a long-range AM radio, it’s got to be said that C.Crane’s FM performance is impressive in terms of level, voice intelligibility, and top end detail. Both music content and speech broadcasts sound clear when compared to lesser radio units, and the bass/treble controls can make a tremendous difference to a dull signal. In terms of specs, you get a lot for your money: plenty of buttons to save your favorite stations and of course, headphone and line outputs. If you live near areas with difficult weather conditions, the C.C Crane CC 2E might be the radio for you.
radio for you.
12. Tivoli Audio Pal BT ($200)
Enter the Tivoli Audio Pal BT: a simple, well-designed radio with both AM/FM and Bluetooth functionality. While it does lack in a lot of features that are present on other models on this list, such as HD Radio, you do get quite a bit for your money. Not only does it offer some very decent sound, but also some splendid control features, including an analogue dial that is just a joy to use. It’s the kind of radio that can be set up and running in seconds, and is easy just to throw in a bag for when you need it. And even if you aren’t interested in the portable aspect, it’s more than happy functioning as a standard tabletop radio, meaning it deserves a place on this list. For another portable radio that can also function as a tabletop, check out the Insignia HD NS-HDRAD2. Also: we’ve seen its availability on Amazon fluctuate, so beware!
13. Ocean Digital Wi-Fi Internet Radio ($80)
The Ocean Digital Wi-Fi Internet Radio is a rather self-explanatory title – and we tend to prefer names that avoid sounding like R2D2’s latest sidekick. Ocean (for short) is a fantastically well spec’d tabletop radio, with built-in FM and Wi-Fi receiver. That’s pretty much all you need and more, connecting to over 26,000 radio stations. With eleven languages available for the unit’s menu, it’s easy to imagine what anyone travelling to the other side of the world may end up doing with this little device – tune in on their hometown broadcast. As long as there’s wireless internet you can bask in the sounds of another place or even time.
The 2.4” Color TFT Display is great for broadcast info and is dimmable – a function which can even be time programmed. Audio quality is crisp and aided by a digital EQ, with several genre-related presets. The 5-watt output is plenty for any room, if you don’t expect a lot of bass – it is, after all, a tabletop radio and not a hi-fi system. The aux-in and headphone outputs are thankfully present and all menu functions can be accessed by a combination of the few buttons on the front. The large volume knob on the front also doubles as a parameter selection wheel. Needless to say, there are a ton of digital options here – the Ocean blurs the line between radio and smart handheld devices. Anyone familiar with those will feel right at home when diving in the menu options.
14. Auna KR 200 ($100)
The Auna KR 200 is how we like things – smart, modern, and good looking. Firstly, its design allows for direct mounting under a surface – shelves, kitchen cupboards and come to mind, but it can also be used as a traditional tabletop radio. In both cases, the TFT color screen and controls are clearly visible. The Auna KR 200 comes with its own Wi-Fi interface, so you need little more than tapping into your broadband to get the included Spotify Connect going. While this works flawlessly, tapping into other internet radio options can prove convoluted due to the slightly archaic Frontier-Silicon portal.
The Auna delivers clear DAB/DAB+ and FM playback supporting RDS, displaying artist, track title and genre info – super handy for discovering new artists. Playback is not limited to lossy formats only, and audio quality is delivered by two surprisingly detailed speakers. Even if it’s a little light in the bass department the Auna can feed your ‘proper’ system via the included line out. The buttons feel a little flimsy, and the lack of Bluetooth is a real pity, but if your desktop radio budget is under $100, this is well worth a look.
15. SPARC SHD-BT1 HD Radio ($77)
SPARC make some surprisingly good products, and the SHD-BT1 is currently at the top of their range. Its small stature and friendly design make it an ideal bedroom model, and the control scheme is easy to get to grips with. Plus, it does have at least one very nifty trick: if HD is available when you’re looking for an FM station, it’ll automatically tune to that channel. Sweet!
It’s a tad underpowered, but perfect if you’re not pumping the volume too high. SPARC don’t give out information on their audio specs, sadly, but any attempt to turn this thing to high volume will not give you pleasing results. Trust us, we’ve tried – and it’s something the Crosley Solo and the Sangeans had much less trouble with, so avoid if you want to go loud. On the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable at medium volumes, if not exactly audiophile-grade, and we think its feature set and that HD trick make it worth an investment. The $75-$100 range is crowded here, and this isn’t the best of the bunch, but does make for a good alternative.
(This article was first published on The Master Switch)