DAB radio in the UK is notorious for having unreliable reception. While some parts of the country have crystal-clear reception, in many areas digital radio reception is still weak.
The good news is that some radios have better reception than others, and sometimes switching radio can make all the difference. We’ve researched the market and picked out 5 radios with a reputation for having strong DAB radio reception even in poor reception areas.
It’s important to note that DAB reception is very variable so no radio is guaranteed to have good reception in every location. It’s likely that remote and hilly areas of the UK will always have poor radio reception. You will also need to experiment with where you place your radio and the aerial to get the best signal. Read about how to improve your DAB radio signal here.
Below are 5 great DAB radios for poor reception areas in the UK.
Best DAB Radios for Poor Reception Areas (UK 2018)
1. Roberts Play
The Roberts Play is one of our favourite portable DAB radios. It’s simple and easy to use, and tends to have very good reception even in areas where most DAB radios struggle to get a clear signal. In addition to DAB it also has an FM tuner, so you have the option of listening to the big stations on whichever has the best signal.
The Roberts Play is small and light, making it easy to carry around the house. This radio doesn’t have any advanced features such as Bluetooth, but it does have one very rare and useful feature: a built-in battery charger. The radio’s battery charger means you can just keep the same set of rechargeable batteries in it and let them charge when the radio is plugged in, without having to worry about a separate battery charger.
This radio doesn’t go very loud and sounds best at lower volumes, so it’s not suitable if you want to really fill the room with music.
2. Goodmans Canvas
This portable radio from Goodmans could be a good alternative to the Roberts Play reviewed above. It’s cheaper than the Roberts Play (at the time of writing), and offers similar features except that it doesn’t have a built-in battery charger.
The Goodmans Canvas has better DAB reception than average, and tends to work well in areas with a weak DAB reception. It’s also one of the best-sounding small portable DAB radios, with a crisp and clear sound.
3. AZATOM Multiplex
If you’re looking for something bigger and more powerful, the AZATOM Multiplex D1 could be a good choice. It’s still a compact radio (27cm wide), but it has stereo sound and 30 watts of power so it can go quite loud. The bass and treble can be adjusted to get the right sound.
This radio generally has very good reception on DAB, and has a long aerial that you can extend and adjust to improve the signal. It also has Bluetooth so you can stream music or radio from your phone or laptop.
This versatile radio has a lot of features including a USB charging point, an alarm clock and a DAB+ tuner, making it “future ready”.
4. VQ Hepburn Mk II
The VQ Hepburn Mk II is a very stylish retro FM/DAB/DAB+ radio available in a large choice of colours and finishes. It offers similar features to the AZATOM Multiplex D1 but with more style and class.
DAB reception is strong, and the adjustable aerial is useful for getting the best signal. This radio also has Bluetooth, so you can stream radio or other audio from your phone, tablet or laptop.
With a 20-watt output this radio is fairly powerful and can go quite loud. It has some useful additional features including a USB charging point for charging your smartphone and a dual alarm clock, making it a good choice as a bedside radio.
5. Revo SuperConnect
The Revo SuperConnect is a very stylish high-end radio that offers not just FM/DAB/DAB+ radio but also internet radio. It has a telescopic aerial which offers very strong DAB radio signal, and you can always fall back on internet radio if you have reception problems.
This radio is quite pricey, but it has very good build quality and it’s truly “future ready” with both DAB+ and an internet radio tuner. It has a beautiful wooden cabinet which helps give it a warm sound.
The Revo SuperConnect offers a great amount of choice of things to listen to. As well as digital and internet radio, it’s also compatible with Spotify Connect so you can stream millions of tracks from Spotify. It also has Bluetooth and an aux-in port so it’s very versatile.
What Determines the Strength of DAB Reception?
The strength of the DAB reception on your radio is the result of a combination of factors, including the following:
- Location in the country – The biggest determining factor when it comes to DAB reception is usually your location in the country. If you are located in a city you will typically enjoy better DAB reception with a greater choice of stations than if you are located in a remote area. DAB signals can also be blocked by geographic features such as hills and mountains, so areas such as the Scottish Highlands have especially poor DAB reception.
- Strength of DAB transmission – This is related to the point above about your location in the country. Your DAB signal will vary depending on which station you are listening to and how far you are from a transmitter broadcasting that station. For example, you can pick up BBC Radio Wales in Liverpool, which is about 20 miles away from the Welsh border, but the signal will be weaker than if you were listening in Wales itself nearer to one of BBC Wales’s transmitters.
- Aerial position – Adjusting your radio’s aerial and moving the radio near a window can make a big difference to your DAB reception.
- Quality of aerial – Some DAB radios have better quality aerials than others.
- Interference – LED bulbs can interfere with your DAB radio signal, so moving your radio away from lamps might help.
Other Solutions for Poor Reception Areas
If you live in an area with very poor DAB radio signal just buying the right radio might not be enough. Here are a few other things you can do:
- Position the radio near a window
Most people find that DAB radios have the best signal when positioned next to a window.
- Choose an internet radio instead
If you have a good internet connection but poor DAB reception, an internet radio might be the best choice. See some of our recommendations here.
- Get an external aerial
If you’ve tried moving your radio next to a window and are still having reception problems you could try attaching an external radio aerial such as the Philex 27741 Indoor DAB Aerial. However, there’s no guarantee this will improve your signal. See our roundup of the best DAB aerials here.
If we had to pick just one of these radios to recommend, it would be the Roberts Play. It’s reasonably priced, reliable and portable, so you can easily move it around to get the best signal. It also has a useful built-in battery charger, which is quite a rare feature.