In-car DAB will only be as good as the aerial you’re using. Even with the best speakers, you need a good aerial to enjoy reliable reception as you drive around.
One of the most frequent complaints with DAB radios is poor reception. Bad reception on a DAB radio is even more annoying than bad reception on FM as rather than just sounding a bit distorted, the signal cuts out entirely.
If you’ve tried everything else to improve your DAB radio signal, it’s time to consider getting a new aerial.
Choosing a new aerial can be confusing though. Which type of aerial do you need?
This article aims to help you choose the right aerial to fix your DAB signal issues.
DAB Car Aerials
If you’ve replaced your FM car radio with a DAB radio you will either need a new aerial or an aerial splitter, which would allow you to use your existing aerial to receive DAB stations.
If you have an AM/FM car radio, simply installing a DAB aerial won’t allow you to listen to DAB stations, as you need some equipment to decode DAB signals. This means you will either need to install a DAB car radio or buy a DAB car radio adapter.
Here are some of the best DAB car aerials and aerial splitters available in the UK in 2020.
1. Eightwood DAB Car Aerial
This Eightwood DAB car aerial lets you pick up AM, FM and DAB radio with one antenna. It uses a DIN plug for DAB and an SMB plug for AM/FM radio.
Most people find that installing this aerial gives them better DAB and FM radio reception than they had before, though it can be tricky to install, and no instructions are included.
In summary, this aerial is a good choice if you’re confident in your ability to be able to fit it.
2. Hama Car Antenna
Like the Eightwood DAB car aerial reviewed above, this Hama antenna picks up AM, FM, DAB and DAB+ stations. It has three cables: one for DAB, one for AM/FM, and a power lead. Each is five metres long.
This antenna should be compatible with all DAB car stereos, but isn’t compatible every all plug-and-play DAB adapter.
This aerial requires a 1.8-cm hole in the roof of your car, which you may need to drill yourself. Instructions are included and the aerial should be fairly straightforward to install, though if you haven’t fitted a car aerial before you may find it tricky.
Most people who go to the trouble of installing this aerial find that it makes a big difference to their reception, and delivers better results than an aerial splitter.
3. Eightwood DAB Car Aerial Splitter
This amplified aerial splitter from Eightwood lets you use your existing AM/FM car aerial to pick up DAB signals. It uses a DIN plug and an SMB connector and is fairly easy to fit.
This aerial splitter is compatible with most car DAB radios including almost all Pioneer, Sony and Kenwood DAB car stereos.
The Eightwood DAB Car Aerial Splitter is cheaper than a DAB car aerial and is easier to install. It doesn’t work for everyone, but most people find it to be effective.
Types of DAB Car Aerial
Here’s an overview of the main types of DAB car aerial.
This aerial sticks to the glass on the inside of the windscreen, usually on the passenger’s side. To get the best reception, it should be positioned vertically. It’s a ‘film antenna’, which means that it’s a bit of flat film rather than a rod like a traditional antenna.
Some advantages of this type are that it’s easy to install, doesn’t require drilling a hole in the roof and can’t be broken by vandals. However, reception is usually worse than with externally mounted aerials, and this type can’t be used with reflective-coated glass.
This DriveSmart DAB Car Aerial is a good example of in internal glass-mounted aerial.
External glass-mount aerial
This goes on the glass on the outside of the car. It can go on any of the windows. It’s a whip antenna with a mounting foot for attaching it to the glass. ‘Whip antenna’ simply means that the aerial is a straight rod or wire.
You don’t need to drill a hole in the windscreen because the signal is transmitted using a technique called capacitive coupling.
Some advantages of this type are that it usually offers better reception than internal aerials
Multi-frequency roof-mount aerial
This type can be used to replace the AM/FM radio on an older vehicle. It offers AM and FM radio as well as DAB and sometimes DAB+. If you already have an aerial on the roof of your car, you won’t need to drill any additional holes.
This type of aerial usually offers the best reception, but is also the most expensive.
Magnetic roof-mounted aerial
This is another type of roof-mounted aerial. Instead of requiring a hole in the roof of the car, it sticks to the roof of the car using a magnet. It has a cable that needs to go through one of the car doors or the boot lid, so it isn’t an ideal long-term solution.
The Cootway DAB Car Aerial is a good example of a magnetic roof-mounted car aerial.
An aerial splitter isn’t actually a type of aerial. It’s a cable with two connectors that allows you to use your existing AM/FM aerial as a DAB aerial. They are cheap and easy to install, so can offer a good alternative to installing a new aerial.
Indoor DAB Aerials
Before buying a new aerial for an indoor DAB radio, make sure your radio has an external aerial input socket.
If you can’t see an aerial input socket, try to unscrew the current aerial. Sometimes the aerial is attached to a female F connector socket which you can a different aerial to.
Philex 27741HS DAB Aerial
This non-amplified aerial from Philex is one of the most popular options for improving the signal of a DAB radio indoors. It connects to an F socket and has a 1-metre cable. The aerial looks neat and is about 45 cm tall.
Most people find that this aerial results in improved DAB reception, though some find it’s no better than the original aerial. It’s inexpensive and is cheaper than buying a new radio, so it’s worth trying if your DAB radio reception needs boosting.
DHCHAPU 11-ACTION F Connector DAB FM Aerial
It’s a good replacement for broken telescopic DAB aerials or aerials and offers strong DAB reception.
The aerial screws on easily and it extends up to 65 cm.
This product is cheap and easy to use. It’s a quick fix if your DAB radio aerial is broken or just isn’t up to the job.
DAB Aerial FAQs
Will a new aerial improve my reception?
If you live in an area with no or very limited DAB service, a new aerial might not make a noticeable difference. As long as you can already pick up at least a few stations, it’s worth trying a new aerial to see if it improves things.
Whether or not a new aerial will improve your reception depends on the quality of the particular aerial you choose and the one it’s replacing, as well as where you use it.
Do I need a new aerial?
If you are using a DAB radio indoors, try moving it near a window first to see if this improves the reception. Read more tips on boosting your DAB radio signal here. If reception is still unsatisfactory, it’s probably time to try a new aerial.
If you have replaced the AM/FM radio in an older car with a DAB radio, you will probably need a new aerial, though you can alternatively use an aerial splitter which will essentially convert an existing AM/FM aerial into a DAB aerial.
How should a DAB aerial be positioned?
DAB transmissions are vertically polarised, so DAB aerials work best when positioned vertically.
What is an amplified antenna?
An amplified antenna boosts the signal using a power supply.
What is an F connector?
An F connector (shown in the picture below) is a coaxial radio frequency (RF) connector.
Higher-end DAB radios from brands such as Pure and Roberts often use telescopic aerials that connect to the radio using an F connector. This allows to unscrew the original aerial and replace it with another one.