What is the difference between Shortwave Vs Longwave Radios

Before we start talking about the difference between shortwave and longwave radios we first need to know what they are and how do they work. Basically, in this article, you will find out everything that you need to know about shortwave and longwave radios, and, which one is better!

In another article, we have discussed some of the best shortwave radios and longwave radio models. This time we will get a little deeper below the surface and discover whether shortwave radios are better than longwave ones or are it vice versa.

So without any further ado let’s start right away. We will first bring shortwave and longwave radios a little bit closer to you and see their main differences.

Shortwave radio Longwave radio
Type of signals they receive Shortwave signals Long wave signals
How the signals travel Bounce off of surfaces, travel through the air, water, earth Travel from point A to point B
Usage For distanced communications Daily receiving of signals
Popularity Gained a little bit of popularity
during the 2020 first lockdown/was very popular in the 20th century
Moderately popular
Ideal for Locations where certain broadcasts are prohibited Community radio stations
Wavelength The higher the frequency the longer the wave length The higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength

What is the difference between shortwave and longwave radio?

1. What are shortwave and longwave radio?

A shortwave radio is essentially a radio that is able to transmit shortwave radio frequencies. The shortwave radio frequency band does not have an exact definition. Mainly, shortwave frequencies are frequencies between 3 to 30 MHz.

These kinds of radio signals are able to reflect on the water and bounce off certain surfaces. They are mainly used for distanced communications. Generally speaking, shortwave radios can catch shortwave radio signals from all around the world. read more about shortwave radio.

Photo: amazon.com

Longwave radios are radios that are able to catch long-wave radio signals. These types of radio signals are able to travel a very long distance. During travel, these types of signals consume and use much power. On top of everything, they have a frequency range of 1.5-30 MHz.

2. The quality of the sound

Of course that these two will have different sound qualities– they are totally different devices! Since the signals that they receive are different, so is the sound quality. We cannot say which one is better since it’s all a matter of taste. But, if we think about it, long wave radios are radios that receive signals directly from the transmitter. We have mentioned earlier that they also consume a little more power than the shortwave radios while the reception is occurring. Since some of the transmitters that are creating longwave signals do not pick the best weak signals, long-wave radios can sometimes pick up that poor signal and end up producing a bad quality sound.

On the other hand, shortwave radios are the ones that do not depend on the closeness of the transmission source. Since they can bounce off of certain surfaces, they are able to remain just as strong while traveling at bigger distances.

shortwave and longwave radio
Photo: amazon.com

3. The frequency differences

If you have ever learned physics in your life, you should know that if a frequency is very high, the length of the signal is short, and in reverse. Longwave radios, as we have mentioned earlier, can catch signals between the 1.5-30 MHz, or 30 kHz and 279 kHz. With that being said, these radios are able to generally catch signals that are over 1500 meters.

Shortwave radio signals are usually between 3-30 MHz which may seem as if they are not that different from the longwave signals. But, what you should remember is that these signals are able to travel greater distances since they can bounce off of surfaces and even travel through water! To sum this up, shortwave radio signals have the power to be heard on the other side of the world even if they are being produced by one simple transmitter.

Photo: amazon.com

4. The traveling of the signals

It’s known, and we have mentioned several times throughout this article that shortwave radio signals travel in a very specific way. Namely, their ability to travel through water, sky, and even though the ground is very impressive! Basically speaking, they have no boundaries and can easily get from one place to another. That is why these radios were very popular throughout history.

On the other hand, longwave radios have greater frequencies. This means that they have a shorter range and the length of their signals. That is exactly why these signals can only travel from point A to point B. Usually, the broadcasting towers need to be near the receiver in order to have a better sound quality and a strong, uninterrupted reception.

5. Their usage

Longwave radios are definitely used more frequently than shortwave ones nowadays. We think that it’s because there are many long wave transmitters available at every step. On the other hand, shortwave radios were so popular in the 20th century. To be precise, they were used for different purposes, mainly for war ones.

The good thing about both of these types of radios is that there are still communities from all around the world that adore them. During the first COVID 19 lockdown, at the beginning of 2020, both of these radios actually gained popularity. Since many people have been searching for new hobbies back then, the sales for both of these radios went up!

In conclusion

Our final verdict is that both of these radios have their benefits and their flaws. Longwave radios are perfect for people who want to have constant access to the longwave frequency bands since they happen more often. While, on the other hand, shortwave radios can tune into broadcasts that are scheduled for on a certain day and time, they can sometimes be frequent, and sometimes not.

We can say that the shortwave radios totally deserve more recognition due to their ability to catch signals from all around the world!

After we have presented you with the biggest differences between these two types of radios, we would like to let you decide on your own which one you think is better. It’s all a matter of a subjective feeling! So, who in the shortwave VS longwave radio battle, who would win?


Q-1. How can I tell if my radio is shortwave or longwave?

When choosing a radio, it is important to know the difference between shortwave and longwave radios. Shortwave radios can pick up signals from farther away, while longwave radios are better at picking up signals that are closer by. There are a few ways to tell if a radio is shortwave or longwave.

If you’re not sure whether your radio is a shortwave or longwave model, there are a few ways to check.

  • One way is to look at the frequency range on the back of the radio.
  • Shortwave radios typically have a frequency range of 530 kHz-1710 kHz, while longwave radios have a frequency range of 150 kHz-435 kHz.
  • Another way to tell is by the size of the antenna. Shortwave antennas are usually larger than longwave antennas. Finally, you can also check your radio’s manual to see which type it is.

Q-2. How does shortwave differ from longwave?

Shortwave radios use higher frequencies than longwave radios. This means they can send and receive signals over a greater distance. Shortwave radios are often used for international communication, while longwave radios are more commonly used for domestic communication.

the Difference Between Shortwave Vs Longwave Radios
Photo: amazon.com

Q-3. Is long wave the same as AM?

No, these two signals are not the same. AM signals, or Amplitude Modulation signals, are signals that are one of the oldest broadcasting signals. AM signals are related to medium wave ones, which means that they are not the same as longwave signals.

Q-4. What is another name for longwave signals?

If you ever stumble upon an abbreviation LW, you should know that that stands for longwave radio signals. There is no other name for them.

Q-5. What is a shortwave radio good for?

Shortwave radios are good for over the sea communication since they can cover greater distances and travel fast! These signals were commonly used during the Cold war and WW2.

Q-6. Is FM radio a long wave?

FM radio is not a long wave. FM radio waves have a shorter wavelength than AM waves, which is why they can’t be heard as well over long distances.  Shortwave radios use longer waves that can travel farther and are less likely to be blocked by buildings or hills.

FM radios operate on the VHF spectrum between 88 and 108 MHz. This is a much higher frequency than the long wave spectrum, which ranges from around 150 kHz to 30 MHz. While there are some shortwave radios that also operate in the FM range, most shortwave radios operate in the long wave spectrum.

However, shortwave radios also require a larger antenna to pick up the signals.

Photo: amazon.com


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Scroll to Top