What’s the best DAB radio on the market in the UK in 2019?
That’s a tough question to answer, as there’s no single best radio for everyone.
However, after reviewing hundreds of digital radios we’ve picked out our favourites in different categories to help you choose one that won’t disappoint.
The first step in choosing a DAB radio is to answer these questions:
- What size radio do you want? Do you want a pocket radio, a small portable radio, or something substantial?
- Where will you use the radio? Do you want something for the shower, the kitchen, the garden or the office? Maybe you want a car radio or something you can listen to while jogging or commuting.
- How much is your budget? Do you want a cheap radio for less than £30, a mid-priced radio for around £100, or a more high-end model?
- What features do you need? Do you just want to be able to listen to the radio, or do you also want Bluetooth, a CD player or an iPod dock?
We’ve broken up our recommendations into different categories as there’s no such thing as a single ‘best’ DAB radio for everyone. However, we have also picked one radio that we think is the best for most people.
- Best DAB Radio in 2019
- Best DAB Radio With…
- Best DAB Radio Under…
- Best DAB Radio For…
- Choosing a DAB Radio
- Should You Buy a DAB Radio in 2019?
Choosing a DAB Radio
DAB radio offers greater choice than FM radio, and is gradually becoming the most popular way to listen to the radio in the UK.
It’s likely that there will be a digital radio switchover in the UK at some point in the near future, so it’s a good idea to make sure your next radio has a DAB receiver if you want it to be ‘futureproof’.
If you’re new to DAB radio, you probably have some questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about DAB radio. If you have more questions, you can read more about what DAB is here.
- Does DAB use the internet?
No, DAB radio does not use the internet. It’s completely free to listen to DAB radio, and you don’t need any extra equipment other than a DAB radio.
- Does DAB work abroad?
DAB radios only pick up national stations. This means that if you use your DAB radio in France, for example, you will only pick up French stations. If you’d like to be able to pick up stations from another country, you should consider an internet radio.
Types of DAB Radio
Radios come in all shapes and sizes, and are made with different uses in mind. It wouldn’t make sense to pick out just one ‘best’ DAB radio, as it wouldn’t be right for everyone. Here are some different categories DAB radios fall into:
- Pocket radios: These radios are small enough to fit in your pocket and either have a built-in rechargeable battery or take regular batteries. Pocket DAB radios have a headphone jack and usually don’t have a built-in speaker, though a few do have a small speaker.
- Portable radios: These are usually too big to fit in your pocket, but are powered by batteries or a built-in battery pack. Most portable radios can also be mains-powered. Portable radios are good if you want something small you can carry around the house or use in the garden or while camping. You can see some of the best portable DAB radios here.
- Mains-only radios: This broad category includes any radio that doesn’t take batteries. These radios are fine if you’re going to use the radio in a fixed location. If you want the best sound quality, you usually need to choose a mains-only radio, as bulkier, heavier non-portable radios tend to sound better.
- Internet radios: Internet radios are a pretty new phenomenon, and you might not have encountered on before. They connect to the internet via WiFi, and let you listen to the thousands of radio stations available online. This includes national stations like the BBC, but also stations from all over the globe. Internet radios make a great choice if you’re interested in exploring a whole new world of radio. Most internet radios also have FM and/or DAB, so you won’t need to rely on your internet connection all the time if you don’t want to.
- High-end radios: These radios are for the true audiophiles. If you want to experience music in all its glory, you should go for a high-end radio that will offer excellent sound quality.
Features to Look For
Here are some of the most useful features to look for in a DAB radio:
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth allows you to connect two devices wirelessly, and transfer audio from one to the other. For example, you could connect your smartphone to your radio and play a podcast through the radio’s speakers via Bluetooth. Bluetooth is now quite a common feature in radios, though radios with Bluetooth tend to be more expensive than those without.
- Headphone jack: If you want to be able to listen to the radio privately, you should make sure the radio you choose has a headphone jack. This will usually be a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
- DAB+: DAB+ is the more modern version of DAB radio. If you want a radio that is truly ‘futureproof’, you should choose a radio that can pick up both DAB and DAB+ stations.
- Alarm clock: Many DAB radios have an alarm clock feature and allow you to wake up to either a regular alarm sound or the radio. Some also have dual alarms, so you can set separate alarms for weekdays and weekends or set alarms at different times if you and your partner have different schedules.
Other Things to Consider
Here are some more things to think about:
- Where will you use it?
The best radio for the kitchen probably won’t be the best radio for the bedroom, bathroom or garden. Before looking for a radio, consider where you want to use it.
- What do you want to listen to?
DAB radio lets you listen to regular stations like Radio 2 and Radio 5, but also additional stations like 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra. If you want an even greater choice of stations, you should consider getting an internet radio.
You should also think about whether you will be mainly listening to music or speech programmes. If you will be listening to music, you will appreciate a radio with better sound quality, whereas for speech you might not mind if the radio doesn’t have a lot of bass or detail to the sound.
- How much is your budget?
DAB radios vary greatly in price. A budget pocket or portable radio could cost £20 or £30, while a really high-end radio could cost over £400. A mid-sized radio for the kitchen or living room will normally cost £50-£100.
Of course, you get what you pay for, so it’s worth paying more if you want better sound and build quality, and more features.
Some radios are overpriced, while some budget radios over-deliver for the price. Try to read several reviews before purchasing a radio and look out for deals and discounts.
Should You Buy a DAB Radio in 2019?
DAB radio has never been particularly well loved in the UK. Despite promises that DAB would offer better sound quality than FM, reception has always been patchy across parts of the country.
It’s harder to listen to a DAB radio with weak reception than an FM one as instead of just getting a bit of interference the radio cuts out entirely or produces an unpleasant gurgling sound.
The good news is that you don’t need to give up FM altogether. Almost all DAB radios on the market also feature and FM tuner, so you can always switch to FM if you find the reception is better on FM.
Despite rumours that the UK government will switch off FM radio, this doesn’t look likely to happen in the next 10 years, so if you don’t want to switch to DAB there’s no rush.
Choosing a DAB radio will ‘futureproof’ you to an extent should the UK ever switch off FM, but it’s quite possible that DAB itself will become obsolete at some point.
Most European countries that use digital radio use the newer DAB+ standard, which the UK may adopt at some point. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure whichever digital radio you choose can also pick up DAB+ stations (most digital radios on the market today can).
A greater threat to DAB radio is the internet—it’s quite likely that online listening will overtake both FM and DAB in the next few decades. Listening online doesn’t necessarily mean listening through tinny computer speakers or headphones, as you can now buy standalone internet radios that have excellent sound quality.
While DAB radio isn’t perfect and probably won’t be around forever, we’d still recommend choosing a DAB radio in 2019 unless you live in a very remote area where the signal won’t be strong enough.
If you live in a very remote area, an internet radio is your best bet as long as you have a good internet connection. Unless you want to listen to AM-only stations, we’d recommend getting an FM/DAB radio or a radio with FM, DAB and WiFi.
We hope this article has helped you decide which DAB radio is right for you.
To recap, we’d recommend the Pure Evoke H3 to most people, but if it doesn’t fit your needs or budget, take a look at the other recommendations above.