Should You Get a DAB Car Radio Adapter?

If you’re looking to get DAB radio in your car, you should consider buying a digital car radio adapter. This could make listening to digital radio as simple as plugging in a small piece of kit into your stereo. However, there are some things you should consider before going down this route.

How do Digital Car Radio Adapters Work?

Plug-and-play digital radio adapters work alongside your regular radio, so you can still use your CD player or FM radio. They are usually powered through your cigarette lighter socket and connect to your existing radio through the aux-in channel.

Before buying a digital radio adapter, check that your car stereo has an aux-in input (which looks just like a headphone jack).

DAB Adapter Features

Some cool features DAB car adapters can offer include:

  • The ability to pause and rewind live radio
  • Playing music from smartphones, tablets or MP3 players
  • Automatically scanning for new stations and updating the station list

Plug-and-play DAB adapter FAQs

Do I need an additional aerial?

No, DAB car radio adapters connect to your existing FM aerial. However, if you want to improve your digital radio signal you should buy a specially-designed roof-mounted aerial.

Are plug-and-play adapters hard to fit?

This depends on your experience and the type of car you have, as well as the adapter in question. It’s best to read reviews of car radio adapters before buying to make sure you get one that isn’t too hard to fit. Places like Halfords offer fitting services (even if you bought the adapter elsewhere). However, though will probably cost over £50.

Questions to ask before buying a DAB car radio adapter

Is it easy to install?

Some plug-and-play adapters like the Pama Plug n Play DAB Add On and the Veyron V-DAB+ are very easy to connect to your car stereo. Others like the PURE Highway 300Di require more work, and you may need to pay a professional to install them for you.

Unless you have experience working with car audio equipment you should either buy an adapter you can just plug straight into your stereo, or factor in the cost of paying for installation into your budget.

Is it compatible with my car stereo?

Most DAB car radios attach via an aux-in socket, so you should check that your car radio has one before buying.

Alternatives

Using a portable DAB radio

One alternative to buying a plug-and-play adapter is simply to buy a portable, pocket-sized DAB radio and either connect it to your car stereo via aux-in or listen to it using headphones. This will probably be cheaper, and it also means you don’t need to worry about installation or finding an adapter that is compatible with your car radio.

One drawback to this workaround is that portable DAB radios generally don’t automatically retune themselves as you travel.

Another issue is positioning the pocket radio in the best place to get a good signal. You’ll probably need to position it quite high up, perhaps on the back of the rear view mirror, but this obviously wouldn’t be easy to do without wires getting in the way.

If you live in an area like London with a strong signal you might find a portable DAB radio to be a good alternative to a plug-and-play adapter.

Using a smartphone

Another alternative is to connect your smartphone to your car stereo to listen to either DAB radio or internet radio. Currently there is only one smartphone to offer DAB/DAB+ radio available, the LG Stylus 2. If you happen to be looking for a new smartphone and a DAB car radio solution at the same time, this product would let you kill two birds with one stone.

You can connect a regular smartphone to your car stereo via aux-in and listen to radio through the internet, though this will incur data charges, which will add up quickly when listening to the radio. Listening to a radio stream through an app such as TuneIn will use around 1MB a minute, or 60MB an hour.

You can connect your phone to your car stereo wirelessly using a Bluetooth receiver like this one from TaoTronics. This device turns your car stereo into a Bluetooth speaker, so you can stream internet radio, podcasts or songs from your smartphone through your car speakers.

One thought on “Should You Get a DAB Car Radio Adapter?

  1. Do I need an additional aerial?

    The answer on this question is incomplete. It is only correct when the old aerial has no filter. There are aerials with a filter that only works up to 108 MHz. In that case for DAB+ reception (174 – 240 MHz) the aerial has to be replaced. Choose a type with a preamplifier direct under the aerial for best reception. Many types have two signalcables. One for the old radio and another for the DAB+ adapter. A third cable is for 12 V supply to the preamplifier.

    This was my experience as a radioamateur when I bought a new car and replaced the old fashion radio that was still built in from the manufacturer.

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