While it has plenty of enthusiasts, DAB radio also has its fair share of critics. Many people say that DAB reception and sound quality is inferior to that of FM, though this does vary greatly depending on where you live.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of DAB radio to help you decide whether or not a DAB radio is right for you.
- DAB offers more choice than you get with AM/FM. Lots of popular stations such as 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra aren’t available on AM/FM.
- Listening to DAB doesn’t cost anything. If you listen to internet radio on your phone instead, you might have to pay data charges.
- Most DAB radios come with FM anyway, so you can still choose to listen to FM.
- The UK may switch off FM at some point in the future, so if you buy an analogue radio now it could become obsolete. This has already happened in Norway, and the UK is expected to follow suit at some point in the near future.
- DAB radios tune themselves automatically – no more fiddling to get the right frequency.
- DAB stations can have a poor signal, and DAB interference is usually more irritating and disruptive than the interference you get with FM.
- Batteries drain quicker than in AM/FM radios.
The main issue people have with DAB radios is that they often create a squelching or gurgling sound when the reception isn’t strong enough. This can be very annoying, which is why many people prefer to either stick with an analogue radio or listen to radio online. There are several tricks you can use to improve your DAB radio signal, though even after trying these suggestions you might still have problems.
Using internet radio instead of DAB
Pretty much all of the stations available on AM, FM and DAB are also available to stream online, and this is becoming an increasingly popular way to listen to the radio. Most people already have a smartphone which can be used to stream online radio, and there are lots of other devices that can help you do this.
As long as you have enough bandwidth and your internet connection is stable, listening to online radio offers you the best of both worlds: consistently clear sound and a large (20,000+) choice of radio stations.
There are several ways to listen to internet radio besides just listening to it directly on your computer or smartphone:
Buying a specially designed internet radio
An internet radio will connect to your home WiFi giving you access to over 20,000 radio stations all without the reception problems that still plague DAB radio. You can also listen to podcasts and other on-demand content.
We recommend the Denver IR-110 Internet Radio, which also lets you listen to DAB and FM.
Streaming via Bluetooth
With a Bluetooth-enabled radio, a Bluetooth speaker or Bluetooth headphones, you can stream internet radio, podcasts and other audio from your smartphone, laptop or tablet (provided it also has Bluetooth).
If you get a radio with Bluetooth like the 1byone Portable DAB/FM Bluetooth Radio, you can use it as an internet radio by connecting it wirelessly to a laptop or other device. If your radio doesn’t have Bluetooth built in, you can get a Bluetooth receiver like this one from TaoTronics that plugs into the radio’s aux-in cable enabling it to stream music using Bluetooth.
Another option is to use Bluetooth headphones in combination with a smartphone, laptop or other Bluetooth-enabled device. With Bluetooth headphones you can walk around the house while listening to internet radio via Bluetooth.
Using a Wireless Audio Receiver
A wireless audio receiver like DigiFunk turns any kind of speaker or stereo into a wireless speaker for streaming radio or other audio content from the internet. This could be a good way of bringing your old Hi-Fi system up to date.
There’s no definitive answer to whether or not you should get a DAB radio. Digital radio works great for some people, while others prefer to stick to AM/FM or stream radio online.
If you want to listen to more stations but aren’t very techy, a DAB radio will be easier to use (these DAB radios are a good starting point). If, on the other hand, you already listen to the radio online, a Bluetooth speaker or wireless audio receiver might be a better option.