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 2019)
1. AZATOM Multiplex
The Multiplex from British speaker brand AZATOM tends to be an excellent DAB radio for using in poor reception areas. It has an extendable aerial which you can use to improve the signal if you need to.
This radio picks up FM, DAB and DAB+ stations, and also has Bluetooth so you can stream music or radio from your phone or laptop.
It’s still a compact radio (27 cm 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.
The AZATOM Multiplex is portable and has a built-in rechargeable battery. This means you can easily carry it around the house and position it to get the best signal. There’s also a mains adapter so you can plug it into the mains.
This versatile radio has a lot of features including a USB charging point, a dual alarm clock, a headphone jack and a DAB+ tuner, making it “future ready”.
2. 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 Play has an extendable aerial which you can adjust to improve the 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 that charges AA batteries.
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. It has a headphone jack, so you can listen without disturbing others.
3. AZATOM Sonance T1
The Sonance T1 is another portable DAB radio from AZATOM with generally very good reception, even in poor reception areas. It has both an FM and DAB/DAB+ tuner, and uses an extendable aerial.
The Sonance T1 is quite small (14 x 14 x 4.4 cm), so the sound isn’t especially rich. However, it sounds good for something so compact.
This radio would work well as a bedside radio as it has a dual alarm clock with snooze, a sleep timer and a headphone jack.
It has a built-in rechargeable battery, so you can carry it around the house. One convenient thing about this radio is that you can charge it from a USB socket.
Read our full review of the AZATOM Sonance here.
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.
DAB Radios with an External Aerial Socket
Sometimes, the only way to get a strong enough signal is to attach an external aerial. However, most DAB radios don’t have an external aerial input socket.
Here are some DAB radios that do have an external aerial socket:
- Panasonic-SC-PM250BEBS Micro Hi-Fi System – This DAB stereo takes a coaxial cable
- Denon D-M41DAB Hi-Fi Receiver – This radio receiver allows you to connect an external aerial
Many mid-priced and high-end radios allow you to remove the telescopic aerial using an 11 mm spanner to reveal an F-type connector, which you can use to connect a separate aerial. The Roberts Stream 93i and 94i and allow you to remove the aerial and connect a different one.
If we had to pick just one of these radios to recommend, it would be the AZATOM Multiplex. It’s reasonably priced, reliable and portable, so you can easily move it around to get the best signal. Most people find that it has strong digital radio reception and picks up a lot of stations, even in areas where most radios struggle.
For more recommendations, see our guide to choosing the best DAB radio for you.