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on October 16, 2009
I'm a big time radio guy, and have used many models over the years. There are two things that really make any radio stand out, and this one has both of them.
The ICF-38 is an excellent performer as far as reception of both AM and FM signals go. Weak signal pick up on both bands is markedly better here than with almost all small portable radios I've used, and even more importantly, selectivity (ability to seperate stations cleanly) is better as well. The tone switch (which some radios don't even have) cuts the treble when desired, if you want a less harsh sounding AM signal. The dial has no clock or light, but an LED for indicating if a station is tuned in. Battery life is excellent if alkalines are used (it takes 4 AA batteries). Output volume is listed as 4 watts, quite loud for a radio of this size, with little distortion at top level.
The other ingredient for a good radio is ease of use and a well thought out design. There are little things here which most people won't notice that actually make this radio a joy to use. Many radios today that run off both internal batteries and AC require a seperate wall-wart that plugs into the radio and the outlet, but the ICF-38 has the power cord built in so you won't have to search for it when needed. Also, the battery cover is hinged, which is great as battery covers can disappear as easily as wall-warts (and you can't just go to Wal-mart to buy a new battery cover). The carry handle flips up when needed, and there is an indentation in the cabinet which allows you to slip in a finger to raise it easily, and you'll find out how nice this is when your hands are full and you need to bring the radio with you as well. Both slide switches for band selection and power have a raised bump in the middle which makes it easier to change bands or turn it on. Finally, The shape makes it easy to place in most locations and it is very stable, making it unlikely to get knocked over.
If there were no markings on this radio to indicate the manufacturer, I would have easily guessed that it was a Sony product. It has the great performance and clever design that I associate with Sony.
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on July 27, 2013
This is one of four Sony Radios I recently purchased. I wanted a whole bunch of radios for each room in my home, one in my shed, my Travel Trailer and one to keep in my JEEP. All the Sony radios are perfect. Just the kind of quality I would expect from Sony.

What sets this radio apart from the others is it's large speaker, among other things. After purchasing all the Radios this one is only one of my favorites. The radio accepts 4 'AA' cell sized batteries which has kept my radio playing for well over 2 weeks. I use the radio for about 2~3 hours per day. I don't use the AC corded power very much but it's nice to have that extra capability.

The large speaker is what makes this rig beautiful, though. It has a full rich bass sound with ample mid-range and very sufficient treble. Compared to other radios with a single speaker (not including boom boxes) the sound from this Sony is almost High-Fidelity. There is a tone switch on the side of the radio which helps reduce the level of noise during AM reception. I prefer the bass tone rather then the treble tone but regardless of how you have the switch set the radio still sounds really good in either position.

I like that there is a large tuning knob which makes for easy, accurate and dead-on fine tuning. I also like the tuning indicator which helps to further fine tune the radio. A also like how the handle folds down into the radio and out of the way, too.. The handle easily flips up into the carry position when your ready to go.

This Sony sits easily on any table and is very stable since it's very wide and not so tall therefor, it won't accidentally tip over even if you bump it really hard. The radio also has a very nice appearance. It's a pretty radio which would look very nice on any kitchen counter-top or Bathroom shelf. I think it would look great anywhere you place it though.

I've been a Ham Radio Operator for over 35 years so I think I am very qualified to offer these three very important characteristics for a radio. A good radio has to have good sensitivity, selectivity and good sound. Well, this radio has all three of those quality's which makes this Sony the perfect companion.

FM reception is very impressive. I have six commercial stations on my Island and the radio receives all of them without me even having to extend the FM antenna. AM reception is equally impressive, I am able to hear stations 100 miles away loud and clear with very little receiver noise. I don't have to turn the radio all that much to try and capture AM stations either, so it's very sensitive, again with almost no receiver noise.

All this being said and for the price it's being offered for, it's also a great radio to kick around town with. You don't have to worry about bumping it around harshly since it's easily cheap enough to buy another, not that I would do that but it's certainly a radio that can withstand some decent abuse.. Anyway It's pretty hard to find a decent sounding radio with good sensitivity, selectivity and great sound these days but this particular Sony has absolutely blown me out of the water. I highly recommend the purchase of this Sony. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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on November 20, 2017
When I bought this for $30 several years ago, I wasn't expecting much. I was surprised however, because the sound is great for its size. The reception seems to be good, as I can hear the local AM and FM stations loud and clear. I've read some reviews that say the reception is poor, however I've found that it easily picks up daytime AM signals from 70 miles away with no static. The design is small and unassuming. It looks fantastic on any bookshelf or countertop. Sound quality on AM and FM is excellent for its size, many newer radios sound less-than-ideal on AM, but this one doesn't. I've used it regularly for about eight years and it works as good as it did on day one, no broken buttons or switches. The signal strength light is great for locking onto the signal. I have two minor critiques, however. One is the power cord is virtually impossible to store inside the unit. Another is that it has a difficult time with selectivity at night, when the air gets saturated with DX signals. On other radios, I can fix problems like this by adjusting the bandwidth, but this radio doesn't have anything like that. I've noticed that the price on eBay and Amazon has gone up significantly, while I can't say I would pay $100, it was definitely worth $30 when I purchased it.
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on May 26, 2016
I bought this radio for my elderly mother, who wanted a little radio she could carry around, but she also wanted better sound than a tiny pocket transistor radio would provide. This model hit the sweet spot between a tiny pocket radio and the boombox that sits on her kitchen table. She reports that the controls are easy to operate and the stations are easy to see. She appreciates the tone switch and the overall sound of this radio. She laughed when she saw how far the antenna extends, but it turns out she doesn't need to extend it at all to get great reception anywhere in her apartment. In fact, even with the antenna not extended, the reception is better than her boombox delivers. The only issue involves the headphone jack. This is a monophonic radio, and so a stereo headphone only gets sound on one side unless you use an adapter. Other reviewers have reported success with these adapters, but my mother couldn't get hers to work. It might be user error or a bad adapter, rather than a problem with the radio itself. You might have better luck. If you don't care about the monophonic earphone, then I recommend this little radio.
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on September 24, 2015
This is a solid, basic "old school" radio, which is exactly what I was looking for. The reception is great, sound quality is good, and the materials/construction seems to be good (it doesn't look/feel "cheap").

I do have one complaint, however, which may be an issue for some people (and it actually is a big deal for me). I use the radio in an office environment, so need to keep the volume very low (and I need to change it up/down regularly). This is SUPER touchy on this radio. In fact, I often have trouble actually dialing the volume down to a very low level. The volume knob goes from zero to barely audible to medium loud with, I would say, much less than a millimeter of travel. I have to be *very* careful, taking significant effort and care to only barely budge the volume up or down by a fraction of a millimeter. However, once I've gotten it to the volume I want, often literally just lifting my finger off the button will unintentionally move the volume to a level that I don't want...just from the friction of lifting my finger straight off the knob as carefully as I can. It really is that touchy. I don't recall ever trying to use the radio at a normal/higher volume, so do not know if the whole volume range is this sensitive. If you are not trying to play the volume low, then I suspect that you will be happy with this radio...everything else is great for me.

4/2016 update: I continue to like this radio's look and feel, reception, etc...but am continually frustrated by how much effort it takes to adjust the volume a small amount. Sometimes it literally takes me 10-15 seconds to actually successfully adjust the volume up or down. I literally touch the dial as LIGHTLY as I can with my finger, and then don't even move my finger, instead simply exerting the smallest pressure I can up or down. It *still* overshoots, even doing that. So, then I do the same thing, trying to exert pressure back in the other direction, and now it overshoots what I want again. Then, sometimes, when I get it the way I want it, just lifting my finger off the dial changes the volume. I've never had this kind of trouble with any other device, lest you think that I'm uncoordinated for some reason! We're talking about FRACTIONS OF MILLIMETERS of movement here.
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on May 8, 2017
After the severe summer derecho in our part of the US, we were without power for 5 days in the extreme heat of July. I knew then that I needed a battery-operated radio to keep up with what was going on and to find out when they expected to get our power back on. I decided to order this radio in case the power went out again for an extended period of time . . . which it did. This radio kept me informed!
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on August 19, 2015
This is a great TABLETOP radio. The description stating that it's small enough to fit into a pocket or purse is pure rubbish. Like another reviewer, I was expecting something much smaller (to fit into my Go Bag) and was rather stunned when I took it out of the box. It's pretty big, and heavy, as the dimensions, which I apparently failed to notice, DO state, (mea culpa). Also, the statement that the tuner is lit up by LED led me to believe that the frequency range window was lit up for night viewing. That is not the case. What happens is that when a station is locked in, a small red LED light comes on. Kind of unnecessary, since anybody who has ever used a tuning dial can hear when the station is clearly dialed.

Otherwise, it appears to be a well built, no frills radio that uses both AC and batteries, thus making it handy to have in the house. For my Go Bag, I have ordered the following. We'll see how it works out.
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on April 14, 2015
I just received this radio - IT IS FANTASTIC. I have spent many dollars trying to find a radio that will pull in talk radio stations - I listen to talk radio out of Orlando (I think it is FOX). It is FM 96.5 - I have had all kinds of trouble pulling it in - in my bedroom in DeLand. It is clear - and has no fade in and out. This radio is similar to one that I had back in the late 90s - even looks very much like it. That was a wonderful radio (I worked in a concrete building with steel bars (a jail) and my office was in the front of the building but had worked also in an office deep in the jail. That radio always worked. I was hoping this updated model would do the same AND IT DID AND DOES. This is a no-nonsense radio - simple and easy to operate. I am sure you will be pleased if you order one.
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on July 14, 2012
I wanted a small, simple, inexpensive radio for kitchen use. The Sony ICF38 is well made, can use either an AC cord that stows in the back of the radio, or 4-AA batteries.

Styling is simple and clean, with clear, solid controls. Sound quality is very good for such a small radio. Very happy with the radio to this point.
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on July 2, 2015
UPDATE: 6 months later

I've used this radio every morning for 15-20 minutes on the same set of AA rechargeable batteries and it's still going. It's really quite loud for what it is, it's super clear. When I moved cross-country in to an empty apartment with nothing but myself and two suitcases, I packed this radio with me in my checked luggage, it helps keep me company while I wait for my furniture to arrive in two weeks. In that time I'm probably clocking 2-4 hours a day of listen time daily. It's so loud I usually have to turn it down (it's in the other room) to get work done.

Reception in a dense city like San Francisco, full of concrete and steel buildings, is fantastic. Once it locks on the station, you can pick up the radio and walk around the house with it no problem, even on the first floor of a 6 story building.

Overall I'm very happy with it for listening to talk radio on it, particularly NPR.

This is a great radio. If you want to listen to really clear talk radio (I use mine for NPR) this should be on your short list. I had originally bought a "waterproof" Coby-brand shower radio, but the audio was garbage and the reception (90.1 fm) was really hard to get unless you were standing in a very specific spot. And I couldn't hear it outside of the bathroom.

This Sony radio changed all that. Volume and clarity are amazing. This does not go in the shower with me, but sits on the counter next to the sink. It is loud enough to hear in and out of the shower, and in my ~1400 sq ft house I can hear it nearly anywhere in the house at moderate volume, with no distortion of audio. My morning routine is to turn on the radio in the bathroom and then go about the rest of my routine, and then turn off the radio before I leave for work in the morning. I get 30-45 minutes of news each day as a result.

The other thing is reception. Sony did a great job. The radio station I listen to most of the time is 90.1 fm which, as far as radio signals go, below about 100.1 fm it is very hard to pick these up, especially in dense urban areas. I can pick up my radio station anywhere in the house, walking around the radio causes no issues with reception. I don't know if it's "the best, ever", but I had really bad, unfixable reception issues, and this solved them.

I don't listen to music on this radio. The speaker isn't really tuned for that. It does a really good job of reproducing sound, but if there's a bass boost I wouldn't recommend using it. Also it's not a stereo radio. But it's very loud so if you want to listen to tunes in the garage while wrenching on the car but don't care about hosting a dance party it might be a good choice.
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