My most frequently used (and favourite) portable radio is the Panasonic RF P50 - it's a small silver-coloured receiver which i've found to be very reliable over the years. First released in 1999, the P50 is a little tricky to get hold of these days - I bought mine around five years ago for under £10 from Amazon, but eBay is one of the only online shops which still sells it. The current retail price is £11.99 (with free delivery), which I feel is a respectable cost for what is ultimately a quality product.
Design & Features
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In terms of its specifications, the RF P50 features the standard AM/FM tuner which is inline with Sony and Roberts' portable radio offerings. I would have liked to have been able to access longwave on the P50 (to pick up the test match cricket), but then longwave is usually lacking from pocket radios, and its exclusion is therefore no surprise. For elderly users, the radio is especially easy to operate, with a on/off volume dial on one side of the unit, and a tuning dial on the other. The tuning scale is large and easy to see, and there's a small red LED which illuminates when the device is switched on. The radio is light and easy to carry around - plus there's a cord attached which gives you something to wrap around your wrist if needs be. The dimensions are 11.6 x 7 x 3cms, and it will just about fit into a pocket.
The Panasonic utilises a telescopic aerial which is easy to extend and can be manoeuvred in all manner of directions. Said aerial does an excellent job of picking up stations, even in the downstairs rooms of the house which I've found won't get reception with my larger digital radios. To operate, the RF P50 requires two AA batteries, which will last a very respectable amount of time before needing to be replaced.
Audio Quality & Final Word
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In terms of the sound output, the P50's mono speaker is surprisingly clear for its diminutive size, and there's actually a fair bit of volume to play with once the dial is cranked all the way up to 11. Obviously this sort of device is best used when listening to spoken word as it just doesn't have the dynamic range to reproduce music as it's meant to be heard - however for me, this isn't an issue as I predominantly use the radio to listen to the football coverage on BBC Five Live. For those of you wanting a more immersive sound, the radio's headphone jack allows a pair of stereo speakers to be added.
Overall the Panasonic RF-P50 is an impressive little device which is reliable and easy to use - it's a great radio to take to the beach, and is tough enough to stand up to a little rough treatment.
A few days ago thanks to an error in Glasgow, most of the west coast of Scotland were left without electricity meaning a whole hour's worth of entertainment brought Dunoon to a stand still. At this time around tea time when the power cut occurred, my mother was anxious to hear the news and knowing that she had chucked away virtually every radio my father had owned after his death last year she suddenly began to have a few regrets. Then I remembered a radio I had bought for my dad a few years ago. It was a radio designed to be kept for emergencies even though my parents often took it away with them if they were going on holidays. Now was as good as any time for it to be taken out again.
It was in 2004 that my dad's old 19 year old Sony radio had taken its last tumble that I went out and bought the Panasonic RF P50. When it came to brands he was a definite Sony man, having had the tiniest hand held radio cube with a single dial made out of wood and solid metal I last saw in India in the mid 1980's. That radio had made quite an impression on him - it last well over thirty years and from what I gather is still in the family home to this day. Longevity and sound quality are two aspects my father frowned on, not because he wasn't a musician but simply because those were two aspects that he found difficulty to find in many different brands. Although unable to find a Sony model at the time, he was impressed with the Panasonic because of its general size and detailing since his poor eye sight could cope with the larger channel numbers on the dial.
Similarly sized like a pack of playing cards, but a little bit thicker (ok here are the exact measurements: 6cm length, 11cm height, 2.5cm width) the Panasonic RF P50 is a basic designed battery powered pocket sized radio that has two selective radio stations at its disposal such as FM or AM. None of my family has ever used AM as a general rule but it's good to have nevertheless.
The RF P50 is a cracking little unit coloured completely in silver and light grey contrast; controls such as the roller slider switch on/volume control harks back to the 1970's whilst on the other side the tuning dial is symmetrically similar and likewise positioned. You can't fail to miss how to tune the radio either thanks to its large to read window that shows the FM/AM channel numbers. There is a little red LED light that lights up whenever the radio station when chosen has been tuned in properly. Another window by the side of its large and easy to read station dial comes up in green to show when the volume has been adjusted as well as showing in a half band when the radio has been switched on. Such simplicity and design through has to be awarded here for those who inadvertently forget to switch the radio off, thus wasting battery power. Those looking for a DAB radio better look elsewhere however; the Panasonic RF P50 was launched in the 1990's and is therefore default analogue with a mono speaker. Thanks to the original price of £6-99 (now commanding prices of £12 and upwards on EBay) it was anything but digital but that's missing the point. On power alone by 2 AA batteries, the Panasonic only has 3Volts power, but there's a bit more to this than meets the eye.
For a start, the volume control on this radio is quite loud, bright and despite its one speaker only allows sound to come through without being too tinny. If anything there is more of a hollow bright sound with some bass added to give a surprising sound unlike the distant sound my old Lloydtron hand held radio used to give out. From time to time a scratchy sound can be heard but this is only static and when the dial is turned up all the way, sound generally isn't disruptive unless your batteries are failing and the red LED tuner light will become diminished to show your battery power too. In FM mode, the radio has a fantastic telescopic aerial that can be adjusted to any direction even though the height of it is long; it never topples the radio over even though the Panasonic is slightly narrow but should sit happily on any level surface. The whole unit is also surprisingly lightweight even without the aerial extended and unlike other hand held radios of this calibre, a permanent fixed rope strap is fitted to the side and doesn't get in the way.
A headphone socket allows owners to get mono sound but with stereo headphones fitted buyers will find a split sound to each ear cup unlike other radios of the age where one sound went to one ear! Power options are however limiting - there is no adaptor socket that would allow this hand held portable radio to be mains powered. Many would argue that this kind of design doesn't merit such things. I know of many people who have severely limited kitchen space and where this radio would be of great advantage; I'd certainly have it in place of my own kitchen radio which is now beginning to get too bulky amongst gadgets.
These days hand held portable radios such as the Panasonic RF P50 are becoming rare and its no surprise to find that it is no longer on sale at Argos where I purchased mine at the original cost of £9-99. On EBay prices are very different for almost double the price adding the postage charge. However this radio in particular may still be available to buy from private electrical / hardware shops. For dire emergencies or simply something to listen to if you love FM radio without worries of it breaking down, the RF P50 from Panasonic should suffice. Thanks for reading. (c)Nar2 2009