‘Best’ is a bold word, however in my opinion (and that of others if you search for it) perhaps the best AM radio for long range (DX) listening of the AM Radio Band is the CCRadio-2E by C Crane. I now have this radio, and can absolutely confirm its attributes.
Here’s why I bought it, why I believe it’s the best AM radio in its class, and a short review as to why I like it for preparedness…
(UPDATE) It has been a few years since I originally posted this, and the radio is still going strong. My opinion has not changed – likely best in its class for AM Radio Band listening.
I’ve updated the article for your renewed interest:
THE AM RADIO BAND
The 530 to 1,700-kHz frequency band, which broadcast AM occupies, is classified as a medium wave (MW) radio band.
Medium wave signals follow the curvature of the Earth, using ground wave propagation, but can also bounce off the ionosphere at night, resulting in skywave propagation.
With the addition of skywave propagation, AM broadcast signals can travel great distances — 500 miles or more.
I simply enjoy radios and radio listening. When time permits, and when I’m in the mood, I might spend a little time listening to HAM radio (HF and/or VHF/UHF) as well as the AM radio band radio during the evenings (the best time for DX listening).
HAM radio communications are typically personal 2-way conversations with topics surrounding the hobby itself.
AM radio band broadcasts on the other hand are commercial broadcasts often consisting of talk radio and news (and sometimes sports broadcasts).
I do enjoy listening to AM radio for a few talk shows that interest me. Even though I can listen to most any of these on the internet, I enjoy the good old fashioned ‘airwaves’ too. ;)
Additionally, I believe that a portable AM radio for preparedness is a good thing because if you lose power (your cable, internet, or satellite is down) – you will have a source of news and information (these radios are battery powered).
Since AM radio is local, especially during the day (when reception is mostly limited to 100 miles or less), you will have a good resource for news reporting of any event which may be unfolding.
During the evening and night, atmospheric conditions enable AM radio wave propagation to great distances – which is where the CCRadio-2E really excels.
Why CCRadio-2E Is The Best AM Radio
Superior audio quality
Even with my older model C Crane radio, their audio quality has always been significantly better than others. This AM radio has the best sounding audio I’ve heard in this category with a 5-inch, 6-watt speaker and audio tuned for the spoken word.
The bass and treble controls allow you to equalize the sound to your own taste. Very solid. Given my previous career in audio I can appreciate what they’ve done.
Superior AM Radio Band Antenna
One very important factor to good reception (regardless of what type radio) is its antenna. The CCRadio-2E has a new internal ‘Ferrite Bar’ which measures 8 inches long and has what they call “Twin Coil Ferrite®” technology. Let me tell you – it works!
This feature alone attributes to it being considered as a best AM radio. It is exceptional at pulling in distant stations.
There are also terminals for an external AM antenna, however I have not used or needed to use it given the remarkable performance of the internal antenna.
The radio also will tune in the FM band but also has all seven NOAA weather radio bands (with emergency alert functionality).
Additionally it will tune in the HAM radio 2-meter band (often used during emergencies and disaster situations by emergency responders). The inclusion of the 2-meter band is new for C Crane, and is a nice fit for this radio as a preparedness information gathering tool.
Other features include memory presets, clock, sleep timer, headphone jack, line in-out, and adjustable display light.
Let me expand on the display light… this is a nice touch and something I’ve not seen in other similar class radios. There are several brightness settings for the green hue LED back-light display. The dim setting is perfect for lights-out listening and won’t affect your eye’s night vision.
CONCLUSION. There’s an old saying that ‘you get what you pay for’. While it’s not cheap, I am very satisfied with the new CCRadio-2E and still believe it’s the best AM radio in its class. I live in a rural region far away from AM broadcast stations. This radio will impressively pull in some of them which are very far away.
Note: One thing I’ve noticed regarding its functionality: While you’re tuning to a faint/weak station, you can hear the special tuning (internal automatic gain structure) such that the volume (strength) of the station will change up/down until it ‘locks’ on to it. This is normal – and interesting to observe.
Tip: An article about an inexpensive but halfway decent AM pocket radio:
Best Cheap Pocket Radio
Here’s a list of 50kW AM radio stations that I put together, sorted a few different ways:
Download a PDF copy and print it for your reference…
(I feel the frequency sort is the most useful, given that an unknown station that you’re listening to will reveal their station identification call letters often at the top and bottom of the hour)