WEATHER PREPAREDNESS

Best Weather Radio – The Reason I Switched Back To This One

The best weather radio?

The one that you have! You do have one, right? With that said, if you don’t have one and you’re wondering what’s the best weather radio, well, here’s my opinion…

Note: When minutes count, a weather alert radio may save your life! Especially important at night while you are sleeping!

I’ve updated this every year for awhile. In the past, I have chosen the Midland WR300, the Midland WR120EZ, and the Sangean CL-100. I have owned and used all three of them. I have others too, which are integrated into so called “emergency radios”. But I’m strictly referring to a purpose-designed weather alert radio as opposed to a multi-functional or crank-up wind-up type (many of them kinda cheap…).

I have been recommending the Midland WR120EZ as sort of the best weather radio for economy. You might say the best cheap weather radio. Though still very good performance. It’s not that the others are very expensive, but they are about twice the cost.

Okay, why did I dump the WR120EZ off the top of the recommend list? Really it’s just one main reason… It is WAY TOO LOUD with no way to adjust the alert volume! It drives me nuts in this regard. As you’ll see below, I talk about it and show what I did as a “band aid”. I’m not deaf, and I don’t want to be jolted awake at night to have to peel myself off the ceiling from being blasted out of bed by the shock wave of its outrageously loud screeching (I think I’ve made my point). But it’s a good radio otherwise!

Why I switched to the Sangean CL-100

>> Sangean CL-100
(view on amzn)

Okay, what did I switch back to as my primary? My good old Sangean CL-100. I do really like that radio.

Let me back up for a second. I also really liked my old Midland WR300. But after years of service it broke. I really do want to buy its successor, the WR400, which is acclaimed by many to be the best weather radio today. It very well may be. I hope it has adjustable alert / alarm volume!!

Back to the Sangean CL-100… It has every feature that I want. Yes, the alert volume is adjustable! Plus, when the alarm / alert begins to sound, it has a “ramp up” volume. It doesn’t immediately BLARE. Rather, it starts quiet and after a few seconds (5?) it has reached the preset volume level. That’s really nice.

It is a solid and somewhat heavy radio, the heaviest of them all. That’s not an issue. If anything it indicates a significant construction / materials.

The SOUND is awesome. Very nice audio. Adjustable too. The best sounding weather radio in my opinion. It does also have AM/FM (as many do) so the good audio reproduction helps if you listen to that.

NOAA weather radio reception is excellent. In addition to its telescoping antenna, there is an external antenna jack should you need it.

I also utilize the accessory jack for a flashing red LED light. When an alert sounds, the light flashes too, for about 30 seconds or so. Nice additional indication!

I could get into more, but you can check these things for yourself. It’s this years favorite. My best weather radio recommendation at this time.

But I do want to get a Midland WR400 too!

Weather Radio Alert Accessory Strobe Light

A visual alert that will flash red when there’s a weather alert warning:

>> Strobe Light Accesory

Midland Weather Radio Visual Alert Strobe Light

The rest of this article is about the WR120-EZ, previously posted:

About the Midland WR120EZ

I’ve included a mod (modification) to my Midland WR120EZ. Why? Because it has a VERY LOUD alert with no volume adjustment for that (which may not be an issue for many people) (see my mod below).

Best weather alert radio by Midland

>> Midland WR120EZ
(view on amzn)

The Midland WR120-EZ is a NOAA Weather Alert Radio. Why this year’s pick? Because it’s the best value for your money in my opinion.

It’s not expensive and there’s no excuse not to have one for the safety of your household and family – especially if you live where tornadoes are possible, or hurricanes, or severe thunderstorms (which covers just about everyone).

[ Read: 10 Ways To Know If A Tornado Is Coming ]

– Purpose built & specifically designed as a weather alert radio.
– Midland is a well known quality brand.
– It’s popularity reflects being a best choice.
– Excellent price and value.
– Great features, listed below:

Midland WR120-EZ Features

  • ‘S.A.M.E.’ technology -Localized Reception
  • Continuous Backlighting Option- Keeps the LCD on
  • 25 Programmable Locations (counties /provinces)
  • Color Coded Alert Level Indicators
  • Alert Override automatically switches over to warn you of impending danger
  • Time & Alarm Clock with Snooze
  • Silent programming
  • Single, Multiple, or Any S.A.M.E program settings
  • 3 Selectable Warning Systems: 90dB Siren Alarm, Flashing LED, Voice Alert
  • Uses 3AA Alkaline batteries for emergency power back-up
  • All 7 NOAA / Environment Canada Weather Channels
  • Stores up to 10 Different Previously Received All Hazards and Weather Alerts
  • Public Alert Certified
  • Over 60 Emergency Alerts

UPDATE: A commenter emphasized the value of the national Emergency Alert System (EAS), which is part of this radio (and others).

“The real value is for “SHTF” EAS warnings. That’s up to and including presidential alerts.”

“Your local radio or television station may be part of EAS, but it’s unlikely to survive for long in a serious scenario, whereas NOAA Weather Radio is more resilient than most people realize – including government officials.”

Tip: The Midland WR120-EZ has a unique feature that lets you select which of the alerts you want the radio to respond to. The other good weather radios have this too.

For example you might not want the tone alert for many of the “Advisory” or “Watch” alerts (maybe you just the “Warnings”). The radio will still respond to these alerts though by providing the text in the LCD display, but just not the loud tone.

The entire list of alerts may be viewed in the menu. You can set which alerts will sound the tone. Note that some alert tones such as “Tornado Warning” cannot be turned off to insure you get this very important alert.

Midland WR120EZ Modification for Loud Alert Volume

The alert on this weather radio is very loud. It’s supposed to be! Hey, it’s giving you a warning, right? And for most situations that’s perfectly acceptable.

Here’s my issue… if it’s in your bedroom and a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued in the middle of the night, you’re going to hit the ceiling when you awaken to this alert!

I searched online for anyone having done a mod to this radio to adjust the alert volume. Couldn’t find anything. It’s apparently just the way the circuit is designed. So, I came up with my own modification to lower the volume. It works!

Weather Alert volume adjustment for Midland WR120

Don’t laugh! I used some white tape to cover over the speaker grill. The more you put on, the more it quiets the alert. There’s a menu setting in the radio to test the alert, so you can adjust the volume this way to your liking as you test it.

[ Read: Weather Radio Channel Listing & Frequencies ]

[ Read: Emergency Radio Choices ]

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38 Comments

  1. – Ken, this is the one sitting about twenty feet from me at this moment. Been there for about 6 years, very well pleased with the thing.
    – Papa S.

  2. Same here, sitting right here in the “Command Post” aka home office.
    Tis a good unit for sure.
    Even got da Strobe.

  3. Is this one that I can unplug and take in the shelter with me that runs on the batteries it’s got?

  4. A feature overlooked on many hand held FRS/GMRS transceivers is the weather alert. Three sets of mine have this feature, I’ve tested them, and they do work. I also have an old Midland police/fire scanner that has the weather stations and alert feature. The scanner is pretty much useless now that first responders have all upgraded their radios, but the weather feature works so well I always go to it first when bad weather threatens. All these also are rechargeable. No offense to the stand alone weather radios, but I’ve had some in the past that struggled to pull in the signal from the transmitters (I’m one those unfortunate folks who lives right on the border of three different coverage areas). The handie talkies and the scanner pull in the signals loud, clear, and static free (better tuners??).

    1. The particular Midland radio referenced in the article has a built-in telescopic antenna which is tuned to NOAA’s transmitter frequencies. It also has a external antenna jack. If you live way out on the fringes of a transmitter tower, you might consider an external antenna.

      (Sangean External Weather Radio Antenna)

      If you use a magnetic mount antenna indoors (like the one in the link – though designed for mounting on a vehicle), it will work better if you magnet mount it on a metal baking sheet or pizza pan (providing a ground plane).

      I’ve also built a number of antennas in the past, and I recall building one for my weather radio some time ago. It was a fun project – tuned it exactly to the nearest NOAA transmitter frequency. It plugged right in to my older model Midland.

      I dug out a picture of it from when I built it from scrap materials I had lying around:

    2. – Yes, I’m replying to a 2-year-old comment. Two of my FRS/GMRS transceiver sets have this feature, but mine tend to be less effective than the countertop radio. I had put it down to being on the fringe of their area (I’m about 70 miles each from the two that are able to be picked up) and didn’t consider it to be anything but the relative length of the antennae. It is a nice ability, seeing as I didn’t pay anything extra for it.

      – Papa S. 

  5. I have an American Red Cross FRX3 Emergency Weather Radio and I cannot easily receive a NOAA signal, I guess because of my location. I wonder if your recommended Midland WR120 EZ has better sensitivity or if I need to get an antenna? Any ideas?
    Thx

    1. Absolutely it has better reception in the weather bands than a typical emergency radio in my opinion. And LOTS more functionality.

      That said, at a certain distance from transmitting stations, there’s not a whole lot you can do except external antenna and HEIGHT.

      Though there’s no doubt that the WR120 EZ has better reception than most.

      I’m not discounting your FRX3 emergency radio – which does have attributes – general purpose AM/FM reception, hand crank power, solar powered, USB charging station, LED flashlight…

    2. I have an FRX3 as well. I do not have any problems receiving weatherband stations. Then again, I am not too far from Lake Michigan and Chicago. The AM part is absolute garbage though. Most of the time I cannot receive even one channel throughout the entire band. But the weatherband stations come in loud and clear. The weatherbands here include Chicago, parts of Michigan, and the offshore report for Lake Michigan.

    3. The ARC radio is not of the quality I want in critical gear. Their real forte is raising money, and maybe training; not good coordinated response. I stopped sending them money after CEO embezzled funds.

      1. Yeah, other than the radio, I have nothing and do not help the Red Cross. Too many bad stories even going back to WWII. I would go to the Salvation Army and buy clothes, books, and other knick-knacks. I’ve heard much better stories about the Salvation Army.

    4. I have one of the eton Red Cross weather radios. The NOAA bands work great. The AM and FM is garbage. Can’t hardly get anything on AM or FM. When I used it in the US, I would get weather notifications for Chicago area, northern Indiana, Lake Michigan, and some Michigan stations. All came in clear except when there was a lot of lightning.

      But I still love my Grundig. Weather notifications are great, good signal. AM and FM are second to none. My only complaint with the Grundig is the tendency to walk away from a station. After about 20 minutes, a station sounds a little staticky (maybe that’s a word, I don’t know) where I have to fine tune the dial again. Otherwise, awesome.

  6. My area currently has bad radar coverage. The nearest radars are too far away to be reliable. We still use weather spotters out here to update the weather. You have to call the nearest National Weather Service office to update the weather info.

    Sometimes, I feel like I am being taxed and not receiving anything…imagine that.

    1. Every location uses weather spotters, Most all of them are Hams and during bad weather they get activated. You can listen to them on just about any scanner on the Ham 2-Meter band (144.000 to 148.000 MHz.) The Ham service is called “Skywarn” and likely uses a local 2-Meter repeater that can be listened to for 50-miles in every direction.

      One thing about Storm Chasers and Skywarn, it’s raw-data and while helpful it’s important to understand it has not been confirmed by other sources.

      1. Very true all areas still have weather spotters. I am a trained weather spotter myself and I follow dangerous storms as part of my job. In fact in my County we are the only “official” spotters. Responsible for activating things like sirens…etc. We use radios but we are not on a public frequency.

        The lack of radar coverage isn’t the end of the world but it would be nice to have another source of data to work with. In my experience, weather spotters can also be unreliable.

  7. We have the latest/greatest electronic Wx gadgets etc. But I still have the old school wall mounted weather center with thermometer, barometer, and humidity gauge. I’ve had it since the early ’80s. Still works great. No batteries, no winding. Simply set the pointer to the current barometric pressure, then predict the weather accordingly.😎💦🌞🌈❄

  8. I have a few weather radios around, one of them has the alert feature on it. I keep it in the bedroom so it can alert me in the night time if things go bad.

    But for the most part I look outside and tune one of my Ham radios to the weather frequency if the sky looks bad, pretty much all of them cover the VHF-High band where the weather broadcast are. I always have a Ham radio on me or in the van and pu-truck so I always have access to the National Weather Broadcast.

    I also have a new digital scanner (still in the box waiting for me to program it.) that does weather alert but I probably won’t use the alert feature.

  9. Bought an old weather radio at goodwill $5.
    It is midland, reception where I am is bad so I added 7′ of bare wire antenna.
    Nothing real interesting happens in central WI.. ever.

  10. We had one a long time ago. It kept going off. It was for areas not even close to us. I don’t remember what kind it was, etc. But we finally threw it away. lol. Prob need to get another one. One that is a good brand.

    1. – Texasgirl
      often at the beginning of tornado season in our area, the local TV stations have a special at one of the retailers selling the midland radios. Buy the radio, put a set of batteries in it and the local TV weatherman/girl will set the SAME settings for your county/area as a free service. Makes people more inclined to use them if they don’t have to read the book and figure out the settings for themselves, and i’m not listening to Austin’s weather report alerts. Unless I want to.
      – Papa S.

  11. That’s the one I have. Very good unit and user friendly. I like using AA rechargeables. Sometimes with temperature changes I have to reposition the antenna or go to the next closest weather channel.

  12. @Texcalmom,

    I bought the Midland WR300 years ago, and still have it in use. I have been happy with it.

    Their new model, the WR400 looks great. I don’t have it yet. Though I’m sure it has improved upon the previous model. I would say it’s a dependable and quality weather radio, given the numerous reviews.

    Check it out here:
    Midland WR400

  13. Thanks for this info Ken. I have held off getting the radio as I had read some people don’t receive good coverage. We get very poor reception in our area. According to the links you provided I see that we are well in the coverage area. So it’s back on my wish list.

  14. I’m going to look into purchasing one of these radios. Perhaps also a police and FD scanner the way things are going in this country. Any recommendations for one of those?

    1. Forgot to mention we have weather alerts on our phones, but not trusting Apple very much these days….

    2. Dj5280,
      Might check scanner apps for your phone. I am using one now for my side of the Divide, seems to work fairly well for emergency services in my county.

    3. DJ5280 –

      I have a Uniden HomePatrol Scanner. I’ve loved mine and perhaps it would interest you as well.

      I also have a Midland, but the WR100 model. I realized today that it’s 20 years old, so I can certainly vouch for their longevity! We had a F3 tornado hit our city and within about 2 weeks every store from Lowe’s to Walgreen’s had displays of them for sale. Best radio for the money!

  15. We think there might have been a tornado sometime in the 1950s but no
    one can remember for sure.

  16. There’s a really important point here about NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) that’s being missed here: It’s a key part of the national Emergency Alert System (EAS). See link below.

    NWR’s 7x24x365 broadcasts of local weather information are useful, but hardly what anyone will leave droning on for long.

    The advantage of dedicated NWR receivers, such as the Midland WR120EZ discussed, is that they can be left muted (silent) until an alert is issued.

    Tornado and thunderstorm warnings are nice, but the real value is for SHTF EAS warnings. That’s up to and including presidential alerts.

    Your local radio or television station may be part of EAS, but it’s unlikely to survive for long in a serious scenario, whereas NOAA Weather Radio is more resilient than most people realize – including government officials.

    Do yourself a favor: Get a receiver, use it, and look into how a simple, external antenna is connected – useful, for example, if NWR is transmitting with low power to conserve batteries. The Midland WR120EZ or similar is the best $30 you can spend for survival communications.

    NOAA Weather Radio EAS Description:
    https://www.weather.gov/nwr/eas_description

    NOAA Weather Radio External Antenna Example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4WojpFX6go

    1. Thank you for pointing out that particular value, built-in to this (and other qualified) weather radios. The EAS messaging system. I’ve updated the article to reflect this.

  17. Mine, it’s old and works great it’s triangular shaped.
    Midland WR10 All Hazard Radio with AM/FM Radio (Discontinued by Manufacturer) .
    I did have to add an antenna inside, reception here is just bad.

    Bought at goodwill for $3.99

  18. Reading through the comments, some from 2 years ago when the original article was written, I don’t see any mention of Ham radio Handy Talkies. I have the Baofeng F8-Hp. It has 4 different locations programmed into it to receive area coverage for emergency alerts. Probably covers a 100 square mile area. Works for me when I’m out of the house.

    1. Thank you for the link. One more reason why I keep coming back to this site.

      Being able to quickly search by state and county when on a road trip would be a big advantage. The link will be saved for future trips.

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