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What is a Multiband Radio?

Patrick Wensink
Updated May 16, 2024
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A multiband radio offers listeners multiples stations for entertainment and news. Multiband radios can pull in AM radio, FM radio, shortwave radio and even weather radio. By picking up a wider spectrum of radio waves than traditional AM/FM dual band radios, multiband radios are coveted for emergencies. Most multiband radios operate like normal plug-in radios, but some are prepared for emergencies and disasters with special energy options.

A multiband radio does not look much different from most desktop models of radios. Most are portable models, comprised of a single speaker, sometimes two, and they feature a series of knobs or digital controls for dialing in stations, switching bands and volume. The biggest difference in appearance between a multiband portable radio and a traditional dual band radio is the station display. Depending on the model, there can be four or more lines of station numbers, each representing the various bands of radio frequencies that the multiband antenna can receive.

FM radio is the most common frequency that a multiband radio will receive. In most countries, this is the band used by commercial radio stations. Reception often is crisp and clear when in range of the radio station's broadcast single. These stations mostly cater to entertainment needs, playing music, sports, news and some talk shows.

AM radio is another popular frequency for entertainment and news purposes. AM actually predates FM by many decades and still is commonly used. Even in ideal conditions, reception of AM stations often is fuzzy. This band is dominated by talk shows and sports in many markets but also features some music.

Multiband radio really gets its appeal from pulling in stations other than the usual AM and FM spectrum. One of the most popular reasons users purchase these radios is to listen to shortwave radio. Shortwave, or ham, radio is a series of frequencies that allows amateurs to broadcast their own programs. The programs come from around the world and focus on anything from talk shows, political views, music and news or simply act as a platform for personalities.

Another popular reason for a multiband radio is emergencies. Most of these radios can pull in an emergency weather channel and get updates on emergencies. Some models go a step further in preparing for emergencies by offering not only battery power but also a crank that can be turned to power the radio and even solar panels. These models are designed to keep users informed even in the harshest emergency conditions.

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Patrick Wensink
By Patrick Wensink
Patrick Wensink, a bestselling novelist and nonfiction writer, captivates readers with his engaging style across various genres and platforms. His work has been featured in major publications, including attention from The New Yorker. With a background in communication management, Wensink brings a unique perspective to his writing, crafting compelling narratives that resonate with audiences.
Discussion Comments
By anon931062 — On Feb 06, 2014

Multiband radios cover AM, FM, SW "broadcast" channels, weather, CB, air-traffic and the now-obsolete TV channels (nothing but buzzing noise). You will not be able to listen to Hams or Ship-to-Shore communications on a multiband radio since these radios do not have SSB (single side band) tuning. You would need a pricey digital SW radio to be able to listen in on SSB. At any rate, multiband radios are okay for casual listening if you are willing to deal with a tuning knob instead of push-buttons.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 25, 2011

My parents have a multiband radio that they keep in the den. I listened to mostly FM radio, but my mother liked some of the gospel stations she found on AM radio, even though the clarity wasn’t great.

My dad liked shortwave radio. He liked to listen to the amateurs, because he was one himself. He had a ham radio antenna that allowed him to chat with other users.

My sister liked the emergency weather channel, because she was terrified of storms. Anytime a bad thunderstorm came through, she made whoever was listening to the radio at the time switch it to the weather.

That multiband radio really served the whole family. My parents kept it when my sister and I moved out, and they still use it regularly.

By cloudel — On Aug 25, 2011

We have a multiband radio because my husband insisted we have access to an emergency weather channel. He is from New York, where tornados are a rarity, so when he moved to Mississippi, he was shocked at how often tornados develop here. He was very near an area that got hit by one while he was working, and seeing the destruction it brought made him fear them and want to be prepared.

We have a tornado shelter, and we keep batteries in it at all times for the radio. The radio itself stays in our bedroom, but we grab it when we head for the shelter. He stays glued to that channel during bad weather, and once we are inside the shelter, he keeps it on until it tells us that the danger has passed.

Patrick Wensink
Patrick Wensink
Patrick Wensink, a bestselling novelist and nonfiction writer, captivates readers with his engaging style across various...
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