A plug-and-play DAB car radio adapter (or adaptor) lets you listen to DAB and DAB+ radio stations in your car using its existing FM radio.
Most new cars come with DAB radio built-in, but if you have an older car, it’s easy to upgrade with an aftermarket DAB car radio adapter.
These adapters are generally cheap and easy to use, and work by plugging into your car or van’s cigarette lighter socket.
These adapters connect to your existing stereo, so you don’t need to replace it altogether.
Using an adapter is one of the easiest ways to upgrade your car radio to DAB, and you should be able to install the adapters reviewed here in less than 30 minutes.
Buying a car radio adapter and installing it yourself usually works out much cheaper than buying a new car radio and paying to have someone else install it.
DAB gives you a bigger choice of stations than FM, including lots of digital-only stations such as Kisstory and Radio 5 live sports extra.
You could use your phone to listen to internet radio in the car, but this will incur data charges and will mean you need to look at your phone to change the station.
At the time of writing, all of these adapters can be bought for less than £100. While buying a DAB radio adapter requires an upfront cost, DAB radio is free to listen to and doesn’t use internet data.
Here’s a roundup of the best plug-and-play DAB car radio adapters available in the UK in 2020.
Best DAB Car Radio Adapters (UK 2020)
1. Pure Highway 200
This DAB adapter from radio manufacturer Pure connects to your car stereo using a built-in FM transmitter.
You tune both the adapter and your radio to an unused FM frequency, and the adapter acts like a mini radio station broadcasting DAB radio to your car stereo.
This adapter comes with an antenna, which is best positioned in the top corner of the windscreen.
- Receives DAB and DAB+ stations
- Saves 20 preset stations
- Aerial included
- Connects to your stereo via the built-in FM transmitter or the line-out cable included
- Can be powered from the 12v socket
- Easy to install
- Good DAB reception when using the external antenna
- Good sound quality
- Wires can be messy
Provided you follow the instructions carefully, this DAB adapter should offer good sound quality with strong reception and few signal dropouts.
It’s also easy to install and can be fitted in as little as 20 minutes.
2. FirstE DAB-005
This 5-in-1 adapter from FirstE offers a lot of features at a reasonable price. It plugs into the aux-in port on your existing car radio and can be powered by either a 12V or 24V system.
It comes with an aerial that works well for most people, so it should offer you reliable DAB and DAB+ reception in your car.
- Receives DAB and DAB+
- Bluetooth for wireless streaming and hands-free calls
- Micro SD/TF card reader
- Saves up to 20 preset stations
- External antenna included
- Instructions are easy to follow
- Installing the aerial is quick and easy
- Strong DAB signal
- Bluetooth works well
- Screen can be hard to read
- Interface could be more user friendly
- Lots of wires, which can be untidy
The DAB signal compares very well with pre-installed DAB car radios, so it’s a great way to get digital radio in your car without having to completely replace your radio (or your car!) Installation is quick and shouldn’t take more than half an hour.
3. FirstE DAB-008 Radio Adaptor
The FirstE DAB-008 adaptor offers a very convenient way to get DAB radio in your car and has a great TFT colour display which makes this adapter look more modern and fun.
You can connect this device to your stereo using an aux cable or the built-in FM transmitter, which broadcasts the signal to your existing FM car stereo.
One nice thing about this adapter is that it has Bluetooth, so you can stream music from your phone or take hands-free calls.
- Receives DAB and DAB+ stations
- Bluetooth for music streaming and hands-free calls
- Antenna, mount and line-out cable included
- Can be connected to your stereo via an aux cable or the built-in FM transmitter
- Can take micro SD cards
- Saves up to 60 preset stations
- Easy to fit
- Instructions are easy to follow
- TFT colour display looks good
- Sound quality of hands-free calls may be poor
- SD function may be fiddly to use
The FirstE adapter is easy to install and offers pretty good value for money. It should pick up a good number of DAB radio stations.
When using the SD function, it may be best to have your music in folders, or you may find yourself flicking through all of your songs to find the one you want.
4. Blufree DAB-106B
This DAB car radio adapter from Blufree offers great value for money. This adapter plugs into the cigarette lighter socket and connects to your car radio via an aux cable (included).
If you don’t have an aux-in port, you can just tune your car radio to the adapter’s frequency instead as it features an FM transmitter. It comes with a windscreen aerial for picking up DAB signals.
As well as picking up digital radio stations, this adapter also features Bluetooth so you can take hands-free calls or play music from your phone through the car stereo speakers. This device will work with either a 12 or 24-volt car.
- Receives DAB and DAB+ radio
- 3-metre external antenna included
- Bluetooth for taking hands-free calls and streaming music
- Stores up to 60 preset stations
- SD/TF card reader for playing MP3s
- USB charging port
- 2.3-inch LCD display
- Quick and easy to install – takes 30-40 minutes
- Strong DAB reception
- Bluetooth works well
- Instructions manual could be clearer
- USB power cable is short
This adapter is an affordable choice that offers a quick and easy way to get digital radio in your car.
It’s quite a versatile device that offers Bluetooth streaming, USB charging and MP3 playback as well as just digital radio.
5. Esuper Dual-Use DAB/DAB+ Radio Receiver
This affordable DAB car radio adapter comes with an aerial to attach to your windscreen, and can be connected to your car stereo either by using the built-in FM transmitter or by attaching a cable to the aux out port.
This adapter is very small, measuring just 5.3 x 5.3 x 3.2 cm. This means it won’t get in the way while you’re driving.
According to the product description, the “Dual-Use” in this product’s name refers to the fact that you could use it in the home as well as in the car, though once you’ve installed it in your car, you’re unlikely to want to take it out and use at home.
- DAB aerial for attaching to windscreen
- FM transmitter
- Aux out
- LCD screen
- Picks up DAB and DAB+ stations
- Good value for money
- Easy to hide wires
- Easy to install
- Small, unobtrusive design
- Signal can be poor
This adapter offers a cheap and relatively painless way to get DAB radio in your car. You should be able to install it in about 30 minutes.
The aerial supplied is a wire aerial that sticks to the windscreen. Some people have found this aerial to be disappointing, but others find it offers a good signal. You may need to experiment with its placement to get the best signal.
How DAB Car Radio Adapters Work
DAB car radio adapters allow you to receive DAB radio stations without replacing your car stereo. They are usually powered from the cigarette lighter rather than having an internal battery. They connect to the existing car stereo in one of two ways:
- Via an aux cable which connects the adapter to the car stereo’s aux-in port
- If the adapter has an FM transmitter function, you can connect it to the stereo wirelessly by tuning the car stereo to the same FM frequency as the adapter (usually an empty frequency such as 87.5 MHz). The adapter acts like a mini radio transmitter that only broadcasts a few metres, so your car FM radio can pick it up. This doesn’t require Bluetooth, as it uses FM transmitting rather than Bluetooth.
Some adapters have an antenna which you attach on the roof of the car, whereas others have a wire antenna that you attach to the inside of the car. The adapter usually goes on the dashboard or the window screen.
DAB Adapter FAQs
Can I use a DAB car radio adapter if my stereo doesn’t have an aux-in port?
Yes, if the adapter has an FM transmitter function. This will allow you to connect the adapter without needing to plug a cable into the car radio.
Where does the aerial go?
Depending on the adapter, the aerial will either go on the roof of the car or be attached to the door frame or inside of the front window. Most adapters come with a magnetic ground which attaches to the car’s metalwork, thereby grounding the aerial.
Do plug-and-play adapters remember the station you were listening to when you switch them on and off again?
This depends on the adapter, but adapters usually remember the radio station you were listening to. Many adapters also let you save your favourite radio stations as presets so you can find them again quickly.
Do you need to buy an aerial?
DAB radio adapters usually come with a wire aerial which attaches to the windscreen. However, these aerials usually don’t work as well as roof-mounted aerials, so if you find the reception is poor you may want to invest in a roof-mounted aerial.
Aux vs. FM transmitter
Most DAB adapters can be connected to your car stereo in two ways:
- Via an aux cable – Most DAB adapters let you connect the adapter to your car stereo using an aux (auxiliary) cable. Most car stereos have an aux port, but if yours doesn’t you will need to use an FM transmitter instead. Using an aux cable usually offers better sound quality with no interference, but having an extra cable on your dashboard can make things untidy.
- Using an FM transmitter – If a DAB adapter has an FM transmitter this means it can transmit an FM signal to your car’s existing FM radio. The adapter acts like a mini radio station that just broadcasts within your car. You have to tune your radio to a free frequency. One problem with this method is that the sound quality can be worse due to interference.
How are DAB adapters powered?
DAB adapters can be powered in a number of ways, but usually, they plug into the car’s 12V cigarette lighter socket.
Some adapters, such as the FirstE 5 in 1 Car DAB/DAB+ Radio, can be powered via a USB port (if your car has one).
Pure Highway 600 comes with a specially designed 12V adapter that is designed to avoid interfering with DAB signals.
How to Choose an Adapter
Here are some things to consider when choosing an adapter:
- Price – The price of DAB car radio adapters ranges from about £40 to over £150. A higher price doesn’t always equal better performance, but more expensive products often have better warranties and look more stylish.
- Brand – Many DAB adapters are made by obscure Chinese manufacturers that you probably won’t have heard of before. These products are often affordable and work well. Pure and Majority, both British brands, also make some popular adapters.
- Features – Some features to look for in a car radio adapter include Bluetooth for streaming music from your phone and taking hands-free calls, USB ports for charging devices and playing MP3s and the ability to save and easily access preset stations.
Where to Buy a DAB Car Radio Adapter
Here are a few places to look when buying a DAB adapter.
Amazon has a large selection of reasonably priced DAB adapters, with lots of reviews to help you choose the right one.
You can find quite a large selection of new and second-hand DAB radio adapters on eBay. Most of them are made by less well-known brands from the Far East, but they are usually very affordable.
Halfords could be a good place to buy a DAB adapter as their staff have expertise in installing car electronics, so they will be able to help you if you have any issues installing your adapter.
A DAB adapter isn’t the only cheap way to get DAB radio in your car. You could use a pocket DAB radio and attach it to your car stereo. Another alternative is to stream online radio, MP3s or podcasts from your smartphone by plugging a Bluetooth receiver like the TaoTronics Receiver into your car stereo.
If we had to pick just one of these adapters to recommend it would be the Pure Highway 200 as it’s quick and easy to install and offers strong DAB reception with good sound quality.