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How to choose the best DAB radio

04 March 2022

Whether you want a DAB radio for the kitchen or a portable one to listen to in the garden, our DAB radio buying guide will help you choose the radio that suits you and your lifestyle.

Digital radio

Buying the best DAB digital radio can transform your radio listening, with great audio quality, a wider choice of stations and innovative features.

There are lots of advantages to buying a digital radio. DAB (digital audio broadcast) radio gives access to more stations than FM, with many dedicated to particular music genres such as jazz, classical or rock.

Digital radios have LCD screens that show the names of the stations available. To listen to a station, simply pick its name from the list. Some digital radios let you listen to internet radio, include iPhone docks, and can pause, rewind and record radio programmes.

The plan is to eventually switch off FM and AM radio in favour of digital, although how much support for this in communities is debatable. Switch-off dates have come and gone - 2015, 2018, 2022. Currently around 35% of the population are still using analogue radio, so media regulator Ofcom has renewed the licences for another decade, meaning analogue radio will continue until at least 2032. Even so, there are reasons to look at upgrading to DAB. Upgrading to DAB doesn't even have to mean giving up on FM, as plenty of DAB radios include analogue tuners too.

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Why switch to DAB?

DAB don’t suffer from interference that plagues FM radio. There’s no hiss, crackle, or fading, meaning digital radio sounds crystal clear most of the time. The downside is that DAB coverage in the UK is about 98% - meaning there are areas in the country that won't receive a signal at all (check your postcode here).

Digital radios have far more choice than FM/AM stations, with over 50 DAB available so there's bound to be something you enjoy, whether your into jazz, classical, rock or golden oldies. It's also easier to switch between them than scanning for an analogue station.

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What to consider when buying a DAB radio

DAB radios come in all shapes and sizes – from small handheld models to large, heavy dual-speaker models. Choosing the right radio for your home depends on which room you intend to listen to it in.

Kitchen Look for a DAB radio that’s easy to use. Ignore models with touchscreens that are fiddly to operate with wet hands. Instead choose a radio with easy-to-operate knobs and dials. If space is limited, consider a front or top-facing speaker model, which can slot in next to other kitchen gadgets without muffling the sound. A built-in timer for cooking is useful.

Bedroom For use here, DAB radios need at least one alarm ­– and the ability to set different weekend and weekday alarms is useful. The best DAB radios have plenty of alarm options such as a buzzer, radio alarm, ambient noises or using your own music. Make sure that the snooze button is easy to use – a simple task that some of the worst radios make surprisingly difficult. A large, dimmable display is preferably too as overly bright ones can be annoying when you’re trying to get to sleep.

Sitting room Here you can go bigger on sound, so look for a DAB radio that offers top-quality audio wherever it’s positioned. Internet radio features are good if you’d like to listen to a wider range of stations, including podcasts and catch-up services. If you own an iPhone, a radio with a dock connector is a good idea. Space is usually less of an issue when choosing a radio for the sitting room. A tabletop model with large speakers is a good bet, as is a remote control so you don’t have to get up off the sofa to change stations or adjust the volume.

Out and about A small, portable DAB radio is a must for sports fans or simply listening to the radio while travelling, caravanning or wanting some music in the garden. Choose a DAB radio with a carry handle, and ideally a rechargeable battery – although the ability to use replaceable D or AA batteries is handy if you’re away from a power source. Other features to look for include Bluetooth connectivity so you can play music from a smartphone using the portable DAB radio as a speaker.

DAB radio features to look for


Essential to get you out of bed in the morning, alarms cover a range of settings – including buzzer, radio, ambient sounds or, if connected to an iPhone, the ability to play stored songs instead. Some DAB radios have multiple alarms, which is ideal if you and your partner need to wake up at different times.


A electronic programme guide will show you what’s coming up next or what’s currently playing.

DAB and FM

Want the best of both worlds? Most DAB radios will include the ability to listen to the existing FM wavelength and FM stations, as well as their updated digital DAB counterparts.


DAB+ is an upgraded and more efficient technology. New DAB radios should come with DAB+ as standard, and other models might have a firmware upgrade available, which you can check on the manufacturer's website.


If you’re looking for a DAB radio for the kitchen, consider a model with handy timers, so you can set an alarm countdown when cooking food.


Enables you to wirelessly connect to a nearby Bluetooth device, including Bluetooth headphones and smartphones. This lets you listen to music without a tangle of wires, or play music from a Bluetooth smartphone using your DAB radio as a wireless speaker.


DAB radios with built-in Wi-Fi can be wirelessly connected to your home network and then access the internet so you can listen to catch-up radio services, a range of internet radio stations and download podcasts.

iPhone dock

Small connectors that let you plug an iPhone, iPod or iPad into your DAB radio to play music from it and charge it too.


Rare on DAB radios but some models have a touchscreen that controls audio, stations and other settings.

Snooze button

Essential for a bedside DAB radio, this allows you to snooze an alarm. Typically, snooze is set for nine minutes, with increasing shorter intervals between button presses. Look for one that’s easy to use – a simple task that some of DAB radios make surprisingly difficult.

Remote control

Some DAB radios come with a remote control for adjusting volume, station and basic settings.


A port for connecting devices such as a tablet or computer, or plug in a USB memory stick and play songs that are stored on it.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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