The Best AM / FM Radio Kit for 2021

Updated on August 8, 2021

Whether it’s a source of news and entertainment that you need, or you simply love working on DIY projects, radio kits deserve a place in your household. This multi-purpose piece of technology is so versatile that it can actually keep families tightly bonded together. How? Assembling radio kits sometimes needs collaborative effort. This means that putting the radio together is something that both adults and kids can enjoy.

If you’re planning to build your own radio, how do you know which kit will give you the best experience? Read our reviews and buyer’s guide to find out which brands and models are given a thumbs up.

Top Pick: Elenco Superheterodyne

Elenco is a home-runner in the field of electronic equipment manufacturing. It is highly recommended for families, hobbyists or enthusiasts, and learners in the secondary and tertiary levels.

This radio kit has a superheterodyne design that allows users to switch from IC to transistor and makes the easy changing of AM and FM frequencies possible. In terms of assemblage, this model comes with a printed manual. So, although it requires soldering, the instructions are detailed and easy to follow. As an educational tool, this model has a 56-page training course that is divided into 9 lessons. The modules do not only explain the steps in putting the equipment together, but also include theories behind every step. The printed circuit board is another useful feature and a good guide during assembly, especially for non-tech savvy users. With this product, you can finally build your own transistor radio kit. Truly a “best buy”, the Elenco Superheterodyne is our top pick for this review.

PROS

  • Receives both AM and FM broadcast frequencies
  • Comes with a detailed manual
  • Has a printed circuit board

CONS

  • Requires soldering – not ideal for kids

User Reviews

High ratings and good reviews come from users who had a great experience piecing the parts together. Most of those who have tried the Elenco say that this is an easy-to-assemble electronic equipment. The manual is very helpful and detailed and the end-product satisfactorily meets expectations. Some users claim that they were able to make the AM and FM work at the first try, picking up signals from local radio stations. There are others who work in the field of electronics that don’t believe the manual is helpful and not really recommended for younger users. Still, there are others who say that they’ve tried giving it to their kids and they had fun building this radio.

Runner Up: Tecsun 2P3

Another radio kit with an impressive performance is the Tecsun 2P3 AM Receiver. It is most suitable for DIYers and enthusiasts and a more recommended build your own radio kit for adults.

Being a bit more challenging to assemble, this kit uses high-quality parts and, as the brand claims, is 99% more sensitive than other receivers. It comes with transistors, resistors, capacitors, radio knobs, and a circuit board that all make a high-performing radio. Now, the Tecsun is even more portable because it comes packed with a radio case. If you are an adult, a fan of electronic projects, or an engineer-in-the-making, then take the challenge of playing with this radio kit.

PROS

  • Uses high-quality parts
  • Has a radio case
  • High sensitivity

CONS

  • AM only
  • Not recommended for kids below 8 years old
  • May require good soldering skills to assemble

User Reviews

The hype about the Tecsun’s sound quality is real and several users do find that it is better than other radio kits. Picking up frequencies is not a problem and the components look well-made. Some reviews say that instructions are not clear. However, there are still some that had no problems following the manual and even found assembling the device fun. Based on the reviews, the Tecsun is not a recommended kit for younger users to work on by themselves, but is a good collaborative project between parents and children or for those with solid soldering skills.

Best for Kids: Snap Circuits FM Radio

This is what kids would love for a present – the Snap Circuits FM Radio. This is easy to build for starters and children because assemblage does not require soldering and parts just literally snap together, so kids can build it by themselves or with minimum supervision.

The illustrated manual that gives clear instructions is another thing that would make kiddos love this product. Kids just love pictures, don’t they? Apart from an FM radio, three other circuits can be built with this kit. It’s like three fun, educational projects for the price of one. In terms of quality, it does not fall far behind other high-performing radio kits. Once put together, the Snap FM Kit makes one functional radio that can be used to listen to FM stations. The make, the overall building experience, and the quality all prove that this is the product that’s most suitable for children.

PROS

  • No soldering required
  • Manuals are illustrated and easy to follow
  • Parts just snap together to assemble

CONS

  • No AM receiver
  • Batteries are not included

User Reviews

Most reviews are from parents who purchased the Snap FM Radio Kit for their 5- to 6-year old kids. Some appreciate how this turned boring lockdowns into exciting and productive electronic building sessions. There are reviews stating how the kids were thrilled to build something from scratch and find that it actually works once they’ve snapped everything together. The Snap FM Kit is excellent for youngsters – it’s easy to assemble, the parts are just the right size, and it’s an educational activity. This gave kids, and, in some cases, dads something fun to do.

“Hours of fun for my 7 year old son. Really put his mind to work.” – Amazon user

“Keep dad occupied” – Amazon user

Most Versatile: Vogurtime AM/FM Radio Kit

If you’re looking for the best AM/FM radio kits to build, this product by Vogurtime deserves to be on your list. Not all radio kits are designed to receive both AM and FM frequencies, but the Vogurtime AM/FM Radio Kit is one of the few that can.

This comes with high-quality parts and a circuit board that is made of fiber glass. These high-class components help produce good sound quality.  There are two adjustment modes for AM and FM receivers making frequency configuration hassle-free. The Vogurtime DIY kit is also perfect for STEM projects and for those looking to learn and apply theories in electronics. Since assembling this device requires soldering, this will also help improve one’s soldering skills. A manual which is made available through email is easy to follow making the build process almost effortless. So, as a functional radio and an effective electronics training tool, the Vogurtime AM/FM Radio Kit embodies versatility and is perfect for learners, experienced builders, and enthusiasts.

PROS

  • Has two adjustment modes for AM and FM
  • Easy to build

CONS

  • Detailed manual only available via email

User Reviews

Users are one in saying that this radio kit is easy to build. Although it’s not really for beginners, kids and grandkids enjoy following instructions with assistance from adults. There are positive reviews on the radio’s performance, saying that it has an impressive pick up of FM signals. The AM receiver does not work quite as well but, still, users believe this is so worth the price. Being a good adult-kid project, this product is also considered by some users as a good tool for STEM learners.

Best for Learning: Elenco FM Radio Kit

The Elenco FM Radio Kit is one of those self-build radio kits that give you a functional end-product after a fun and educational building process. You can’t expect less from Elenco, which is a master in electronic tools.

At a very affordable price, users get a radio with an auto scan feature, picking up frequencies between 88-108MHz. As a tool for STEM learning, the Elenco FM Radio uses a printed circuit board and comes with instructions that are clear and concise. It is a good way to understand different electronic theories and components, and improve soldering skills through building a radio kit. These are what make it a perfect tool for both teachers and learners.

PROS

  • Has an auto-scan feature
  • Comes with a printed circuit board
  • Instructions are easy to follow

CONS

  • Only scans FM frequencies
  • Parts may be too delicate for soldering

User Reviews

It’s surprising that despite soldering being a required skill, a lot of users have reported buying the Elenco FM Radio Kit for their kids or grandkids and having a terrific time building it. Although some did mention having trouble with some parts, most users got the radio to work. Some emphasized reading the manual and strictly following the instructions to make sure everything will work. One common concern is that some parts are too small and would require a soldering iron with a small tip. Nonetheless, most agree that the Elenco FM Radio Kit is a good learning and practice tool and is suitable for kids (with supervision and assistance), experienced builders, and engineering students as well.

“It works well as this was my first experience with electronics and soldering electronic components onto a board. If you are curious enough, you can really get out more than advertised. Highly recommend for starters and specifically, engineering and science students like me.” – Amazon user

How We Picked the Best Products for this Article

Assemblage

Because we are talking about DIY or build-your-own-radio kits, one important factor we thought was worth considering is assemblage. What good is a product if users struggle to assemble it. Apart from being doable, the whole process of building a radio must, at least, evoke positive user experience. Some radio kits need soldering experience – we wouldn’t recommend these for kids. We, instead, looked for ones that had snap-together parts. We also identified radio kits that are more suitable for electronics learners. We kept users – beginners, enthusiasts, and learners – in mind and selected products based on what we saw were workable for them.

Functionality or Usability

The fact is, radio kits don’t really differ much in terms of features. They are all equipped with basic functions such as AM/FM receivers. So, with functionality, we mean the overall usability of a product. After assembling their own radio, does the radio actually work? Do customers really end up having a functional radio? What is the sound quality? How is it picking up radio signals? Can users actually scan frequencies and listen to their favorite radio station? These are some of the questions asked to rate one product’s usability. And, yes, quality might have been a consideration here as well.

Documentation

Without proper documentation, it would be almost impossible to build a radio from several detached components… unless you’re an experienced electronics engineer. However, since the target market for radio kits includes kids, young learners, and enthusiasts, having a document with detailed instructions is very important. We understand that some companies have decided to go paperless and only make manuals available online or through email. We did not discriminate against them. So, for this parameter, we researched how clear, concise, readable, and doable the instructions are. There are some products that come with pictured manuals so we thought these were perfect for kids. What we omitted from the list are products that seem impossible to assemble because of vague instructions.

User Experience

This is something we could not emphasize enough. User experience is what keeps products on the market. Products that consistently garner negative reviews may soon find themselves out of the competition. For DIY’s particularly, user experience is overly significant because of users’ involvement in the building process. In the case of radio kits, users are asked to assemble parts to get the product to actually work. If they have any undesirable experience during the building, or if they end up with a radio that doesn’t produce any sound or can’t pick up any signal, then other users will definitely know about it. It’s the same for positive experiences. That is why user reviews give a sound gauge of how good a product is.

Self-build radio kits have become a thing, especially during these times when people spend a lot of time at home. Instead of sulking in boredom, these radio equipment become a source of entertainment not only because you can listen to them, but also because you now have a way to build your own radio. Now, it’s only a matter of considering our tips and points before you finally decide to purchase one for your kid or yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best FM Radio Kit for Adults?

The best AM/FM Radio kit for adults is the Elenco Am/FM Radio Kit. Since this kit requires soldering, you may want to pick up a soldering iron as well.

What is the best FM Radio Kit that requires no soldering?

The best FM radio kit that doesn’t require any soldering is the Snap Circuits FM Radio.

Once you have assembled your kit and got it working, what better way to test it than to tune in to one of the many FM bands around you. You might also be able to pick up some FM transmitters from a drive-in movie theater.

Summary

In this article we have presented the best AM/FM Radio kits. These kits provide hours of fun, education and a finished radio that you can use at the end of it all. As a recap here’s the list:

Further reading

If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy our article on the best portable AM/FM radio. And if you are interested in experimenting with software-defined radio, get yourself one of these kits, install gnu radio and get started with listening to FM radio broadcasts on your laptop.

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