Buying Mini Boombox, Pen, and Headphone Radios

Mini boombox, headphone, and pen-based radio receivers are three inexpensive options worth considering for portable stereo listening. Read on for details on each of these types of radios…

PEN RADIOS: Pens with built-in radios provide sound through earphones plugged in a jack on the top. They can be purchased inexpensively (under $10) and are occasionally used as promotional items. Most pen radios receive the FM band; you will need to look for one of the better models if you want both AM and FM (some Quasar pen radios have this capability). At least some of them have stereo sound. The type of batteries these radios require varies depending upon the model; some pen radios use LR44/AG13 batteries (available inexpensively on and some websites; fairly expensive in stores which have them), while others need “AAA” batteries, which are offered in many more stores. Some come with ink re-fills, earphones, and/or batteries.

MINI BOOMBOX: This is a type of small (7-8″ long) two-speaker radio which resembles a boombox but doesn’t have a CD or cassette player. They are frequently listed on and almost always sell for under $15. It is also not uncommon to see them at yard and garage sales. They are usually made by lesser-known brands like Suntone, Lifelong, and Sentry, sometimes with “Twin Speaker System” printed on them. Although they have dual speakers, the value of multiple speakers is diminished because they are very close together, and some of these units may not be equipped for actual stereo sound reception. Most of them feature a telescoping antenna, AM/FM reception, and a small handle. A few mini boombox units, usually the very smallest, only receive FM. Many are either black or silver in color, while some units are brightly colored. A few of the more sophisticated mini boombox models have additional features like an LCD clock, separate volume controls for each of the two speakers, or detachable speakers (reduces the problem of speakers being too close together for improved sound). Most require three or four “AA” batteries.

HEADPHONE RADIOS: Yet another type of portable radio, headphone radios are a set of headphones with a radio receiver built-in. They are available at some stores (including Radio Shack) and online, with prices usually ranging from $10-50. A few advantages of these radios are that they are more compact, can be used hands-free after the controls are set, and eliminate the need for a wire from a separate radio to the headphones. Some headphone radios can also be connected to an external audio source and used as regular headphones. They are (or have been) manufactured by a wide variety of brand names, including jWin, Realistic, Electro Brand, Panasonic, and Coby. When searching for them online, also try searching for “am fm headset radio”. Most headphone radios run on “AA” or “AAA” batteries.