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.
These adapters are generally cheap and easy to use, and work by plugging into your car or van’s cigarette lighter socket.
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.
Here’s a roundup of the best plug-and-play DAB car radio adapters available in the UK in 2019.
Best DAB Car Radio Adapters (UK 2019)
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 it 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 have a large selection of reasonably priced DAB adapters, with lots of review to help you choose the right one.
Argos sell a few DAB adapters, but they don’t have a very large choice. At the time of writing, all the car radio adapters they sell are from Norwegian brand Tiny Audio.
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.
At the time of writing, Halfords sell adapters from Pure, Nextbase and Sonichi. The most popular adapter on their site at the moment is Sonichi S100, which is inexpensive and highly rated by users.
At the time of writing, John Lewis only sell two DAB adapters: The Pure Highway 200 and Pure Highway 600. It’s worth checking the price of these products at John Lewis if you’re interested in them.
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 FirstE DAB-005 Car DAB/DAB+ Adapter as it’s very afforable, easy to install and generally offers good DAB radio reception.
Here are some related articles on getting digital radio in your car: