The Sangean WR-2 Digital AM/FM Radio (Est. $120) draws much praise as a classic table radio and an outstanding value. Experts and owners say audio quality is excellent, and the radio earns particularly high marks on FM reception. Although AM reception is good enough, some users report it can be spotty and inconsistent. Reviewers also like its retro design, which includes a wooden cabinet that's available in three finishes: walnut, black or white. There's a large LCD screen and an alarm clock, although some user reviews complain that the alarm can be frustrating to set or disable.
The WR-2 has a few nice extras. For example, Radio Data System (RDS) support processes digital information from station broadcasts to display song or artist titles as well as set the radio's internal clock. There's also digital tuning, but only five station presets for both AM and FM channels. Finally, the WR-2 has dedicated bass and treble controls, which is rare to see on radios in this price range.
The Sangean WR-5 Table-Top AM/FM Radio (Est. $120) is similarly priced and even richer in features, but isn't as well reviewed. It boasts an integrated iPod dock -- although you'll need a lightning adapter to use it with the latest-generation Apple devices like the iPhone -- a digital alarm clock, and digital AM/FM tuning with 12 presets and RDS support. Most owners say the WR-5's sound quality is excellent for the price, and that it's hard to find a better value in terms of features. However, we saw some complaints about reliability or durability. One oft-repeated comment is that the tuner has difficulty staying locked in on stations.
The Sangean WR-11 AM/FM Radio (Est. $80) is a basic table radio that's a terrific value. It has analog tuning, not the digital tuning found on the WR-2 and WR-5, and doesn't come with RDS support, an LCD display or a clock. What you will find is a headphone jack, auxiliary audio input jack for use with a portable device, and a record out jack for sending music to an external device. There's not much in the way of quality professional reviews, but owner feedback is very positive. Ease of use and value typically top the list of owner compliments.
Essentially a high-performance monaural auxiliary speaker with a built-in analog AM/FM tuner, the Tivoli Audio iPAL (*Est. $220) spans a couple of categories. This repackaged version of the Tivoli Audio PAL (*Est. $220) , has identical features and updated but still retro styling. Users can plug in any number of devices such as an iPod or CD player for audio playback. This versatile unit also sports a single 2.5-inch speaker, a headphone jack and a unique rotary tuning dial that allows for quick and accurate selection of radio stations.
Although somewhat pricey for the features and difficult to classify, the iPAL gets high marks from experts and owners. Reviews praise its retro styling, intuitive controls and sound quality. Editors at CNET say its strong points include audio performance and AM/FM reception, going so far as to say, "We almost forgot we were listening to a mono-only speaker." iLounge's team of experts is just as complimentary, awarding the iPAL a "recommended" label. One drawback they note, however, is that its monaural design isn't ideal for stereo devices like an iPod. While this may be a concern for audiophiles, most owners don't seem bothered by the inherent limitations of the iPAL's single speaker; after all, few table radios offer much in the way of meaningful stereo separation. It also earns an overall rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 at Amazon.com after more than 160 reviews.
For those on the tightest of budgets, it's tough to find wholly positive reviews of sub-$50 table radios. However, we did spot a few cheap table radios that are more likely to please than disappoint.
The Sony ICF-C717PJ (Est. $45) is a solid budget-priced clock radio. Users say it's adequate for a bedside radio, but with several caveats. Some say the alarm and radio don't get very loud, and you'll need to use the included external antenna to get AM stations. There is a projection feature that displays the time, but some owners dislike that the display automatically turns off after 10 hours.
The Sangean RCR-5 (Est. $35) earns praise for its design. Sound quality is another matter, although most say it's fine for its role as a clock radio. The Sony ICF-C318 (Est. $15) is a basic model that's for those on the tightest of budgets. Sound quality and volume aren't great and there aren't any standout features, but owners say the radio works well enough and you can set two alarms at once.