Most DAB radios are supplied with some sort of aerial. However, whether this is good enough will depend on the type of aerial that’s provided and the strength of the signal, which is influenced by the area of coverage.
For FM reception in a car, there’s generally a stubby, roof-mounted aerial. If you switch to a DAB radio, the existing aerial is unlikely to work effectively because it’s searching for signals in a different band—FM uses frequencies of 88-108 MHz while DAB is much higher at around 280 MHz.
Many new DAB car radios are supplied with an aerial that sticks to the interior of the windscreen and so doesn’t require any complicated fitting. However, if the signal isn’t strong enough, performance may be poor and you may need something better.
You can either use an aerial that attaches to the roof magnetically, routing the cable through a door or boot opening, or replace the existing aerial with a combined FM/DAB aerial that will be more complicated to fit.
Aerials for Home Listening
A portable DAB radio will usually have a telescopic aerial. A mains-operated home radio generally has a telescopic or wire aerial that may be adequate, particularly if you’re in a good coverage area. As a general rule, if FM reception and phone reception are good, the digital signal should be also.
Reception may be poor in a steel-framed building or one with thick walls and moving the radio nearer a window may improve things. Positioning the aerial higher may also help.
Using an FM aerial is unlikely to be sufficient due to the different frequencies and also because FM aerials are normally positioned horizontally in the direction of the signal while DAB aerials are placed vertically.
A dipole (omni-directional) aerial should be okay for moderate to strong signals whereas a Yagi (directional) aerial is better for poorer signals. If you need an outdoor aerial because of poor signal strength, use a professional installer that is a member of the Confederation of Aerial Industries.
Pocket DAB Radios
Pocket DAB radios usually use headphones as the aerial. You don’t need special headphones, and can use regular earphones or headphones as the aerial. Some pocket radios have a built-in speaker, and therefore feature an aerial for when you aren’t using it with headphones.
Buying a DAB Radio Aerial
For some recommended aerials, see this article: