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.
You’ll need to buy a digital radio if you want to continue listening to radio in the future. Digital is scheduled to replace analogue radio, although a date for the switchover hasn’t been set.
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. However, a strong FM signal produces superior sound compared to digital as broadcasters compress the digital signal which can reduce the sound quality.
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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 or caravanning. 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
Alarms 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.
EPG 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.
Timers 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.
Bluetooth 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.
Wi-Fi 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. Look for a Lightning connector for modern iPhones.
Touchscreen 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.
USB 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.