Test transmissions of DAB radio started in the UK in 1990 and were followed by a public launch in September 1995. Since then, the UK network has grown to become the world’s largest with 103 transmitters and almost 300 radio stations at the last count.
That growth has led to a decreasing emphasis on AM and FM services, with both of them expected to cease eventually when the switchover to digital becomes complete. Until then, most stations continue to broadcast in both analogue and digital formats, with a fairly even split of listening between the two and over half of UK households having a DAB radio.
One of the reasons for the change to DAB is that its quality is (in theory) superior to FM, which in turn is better than AM. Consequently, AM has become the poor relation, and while most new radios released to the market offer FM and DAB, hardly any have an AM receiver.
Listening to AM Stations on a DAB Radio
Despite the growth of DAB radio, a handful of the UK’s most popular radio stations are still broadcast on AM, most notably BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSPORT. Many people wonder if they will still be able to listen to these stations if they upgrade to a DAB radio.
The good news is that both BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSPORT broadcast on DAB as well as AM, so you will be able to listen to them on a digital radio. See a full list of the stations available on DAB here.
Buying a DAB Radio With AM
There are very few DAB radios that have an AM receiver in addition to FM. Nevertheless, they do exist and are available for those who need them.
One example is the Sony CMT-SBT100B audio system that features AM, FM and DAB+ radio plus a CD player, audio-in port and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s also the Steepletone Dorset radio with retro styling that has DAB, FM and AM reception and an aux-in socket.
If you can’t find a radio that suits your needs, one option is to access the required radio station online, either via an app on your mobile phone or other mobile device, or through an internet radio.
If you opt to use an app on your phone, you could connect it to a DAB radio via Bluetooth, enabling the radio’s speakers to be used to listen to the station. Although this might not be an ideal solution and is a bit messy, it does at least give the impression of listening to an AM station through your DAB radio.
If you want to continue listening to AM stations but aren’t keen on DAB as a technology, it might make sense to leapfrog it altogether and get an internet radio, as this will give you the biggest possible choice of stations.