Last updated: August 13, 2021

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DAB radios are a popular way to listen to music. Whether indoors or outdoors, these devices offer a variety of uses. In cars, they are even becoming mandatory to provide a constant supply of information and other signals.

With our DAB radio test 2021 we want to go into the most important criteria that you should consider when buying a DAB radio. In addition, we will highlight common questions about these devices and briefly present the advantages and disadvantages compared to FM and Internet radios, so that you are well informed about DAB radios.




The most important facts

  • DAB radios enjoy great popularity due to the stability of the digital signals and the CD-like quality of the audio transmission.
  • The devices differ in sound, power supply and the additional equipment. The latter offers the user massive added value when additional information about the terminal is available.
  • In contrast to FM or internet radios, a DAB radio has some advantages, which means that in the future there will be a strong focus on these devices.

The Best DAB Radio: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for DAB radios

In the following, we present some criteria that you should consider when buying a new DAB radio.

We will look at the following aspects:

These factors will now be explained in more detail so that you know what is important when buying.

Power supply

The compact digital radios have different ways of being powered.

  • The classic variant is operation via batteries or rechargeable batteries. With batteries, however, as with all areas of application, there is the problem that the right size or quantity is not always available in the household when the batteries currently in use are empty. Rechargeable batteries can be recharged or, depending on the manufacturer, changed directly if several batteries are included. When doing so, pay attention to the battery life so that your radio performs optimally even during prolonged use and you can enjoy the music for a longer period of time.
  • Larger radios also come with a mains adapter to supply the DAB radio with power. This then limits the flexibility in where you can place the radio, but it avoids the need to buy batteries or recharge the battery and ensures uninterrupted use.
  • Innovative models even have small solar cells. This eliminates the need for batteries or power from the socket, and especially in outdoor areas, any interruption can be avoided in sunny weather. At night or on cloudy days, however, these devices can also be operated with batteries or by means of a mains adapter.

Which of these options is best for you depends on your intended use. If you are more likely to be outdoors, you will of course need a device without a power cable. If you want to use the radio for a particularly long time at a stretch, you should always take enough batteries with you or focus on a high battery capacity.

Reception

Reception of the most important channels is a basic requirement for using the DAB radio.

DAB radios usually transmit via radio transmitters, which then forward the digital signal to the radio. A broadly developed transmitter network is necessary for this.

DAB+ cannot be received by older DAB radios.

In Germany, a very broad network has been set up for this purpose, so that around 82 percent of living space has good DAB reception. On motorways, this network has even been expanded and covers about 98 percent of the area.

However, before you buy, you should check whether your area has sufficient reception. You can find this out by entering your place of residence at www.digitalradio.de and looking at the values for your location.

You should also make sure that your radio has a built-in antenna so that the manufacturer can ensure maximum compatibility.

Display

The display must be able to show all the necessary information clearly. It contributes significantly to the operability of the device.

It can show the time and date, the current frequency of the station or even be responsible for the operation itself as a touch display.

For example, installed apps can be selected via the display.

The size of the display and whether a simple LC display is sufficient or an elaborate colour display is desired depends on the user's preferences.

A DAB radio can also serve as a design element and the focus is then on the elements of housing and display.

If you want to have a good overview and the most important information directly in view, look for a large and clear display.

Sound

For a radio in general, the sound quality is of course of particular importance. DAB radios can be equipped with stereo speakers and therefore offer a very rich sound.

If this sound can also be modified via an equaliser, the sound can be further adapted to your own preferences.

With these compact devices, the wattage is often used to determine the sound quality. If the wattage is low, the sound quality is assumed to be poor.

If a connection is available, external speakers can of course still be connected to the DAB radio, but this would make the compact aspect of the device seem trivial.

When buying a new DAB radio, we recommend that you test it beforehand so that you don't get any unpleasant surprises with the sound.

Additional functions

Apart from the actual purpose of the DAB radio, these devices can do a lot more.

For example, DAB radios can also be used as playback devices for other sources. These can be music streaming services via app or files on a USB stick or even an integrated CD player. Devices such as smartphones or MP3 players can also be connected via Bluetooth to play music via the DAB radio.

Another additional function is the built-in alarm clock. This is available in most models nowadays, but it is not a must.

An automatic switch-off function, similar to TV sets, ensures that the radio switches itself off after a preset time. If you listen to music while falling asleep, you don't have to worry about the device running all night.

With some devices, the manufacturer even provides a remote control, which makes the operation of the DAB radio even easier.

If you are looking for a device with additional music playback options, you should at least look for a Bluetooth connection so that you can connect your smartphone.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about DAB radios answered in detail

In the next section, we answer some questions about DAB radios so that you have plenty of information about these devices before you buy them.

How does a DAB radio work?

The abbreviation DAB stands for "Digital Audio Broadcasting". This refers to the broadcasting of digital audio signals that are received via antenna. For this purpose, the analogue signals are converted to digital and can thus be played back with a CD-like quality.

The outgoing signals from the transmitter are thus less susceptible to weather, noise or other interference.

In addition, several transmitters can broadcast their signals within a given frequency band.

What does DAB+ mean?

DAB+ offers the DAB service in an enhanced form. The signals are heavily compressed so that the signal packets can be sent faster and with higher quality.

In addition, further data can be added. Texts for information about the programme or even pictures can be displayed without loss of quality.

This variant has been available in Germany since 2011 and achieved the desired acceptance of DAB.

From December 2020, DAB+ will be mandatory for car radios in new cars.

What alternatives are there to DAB radios and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

As alternatives to DAB radio, we take analogue FM radio and internet radio, and compare the two variants with DAB radio.

DAB versus FM

Compared to analogue FM radio, DAB radio offers a greater variety of programmes. With FM frequencies, there is no longer any leeway to find a free frequency for a new station. DAB has the possibility of several stations finding their place on one frequency block, thus providing a broader distribution.

Additional information is not possible with FM radios. Only through the compressed distribution of signals can larger data packets be provided without loss of quality and contain images or texts.

The eternal search for the best frequency is also history because DAB radios have an automatic station search with memory function so that you can easily switch between your favourite stations.

The sound of FM stations is inferior to digital. If you don't find the optimal frequency, the audio track is accompanied by hissing or other noises.

In addition, DAB radios can usually still access FM stations.

Advantages
  • Greater programme variety
  • Additional information
  • Automatic station search
  • Memory function
  • No noise
  • FM additionally included
Disadvantages
  • Not all FM stations available
  • Overabundance of niche stations
  • No unique selling point of the stations
  • In case of poor reception, the signal goes completely silent
  • Higher energy consumption of the digital devices

However, not all FM stations are available in DAB format, which means that the favourite station cannot be listened to via DAB.

And unfortunately, due to the large number of broadcastable channels, there are also many similar-sounding niche stations that merely resemble a playback station, whereby the individual charm of a presenter or a station itself is lost.

DAB Radio-1

FM radios are very popular among collectors. Due to their retro design, they have a nostalgic effect. For this reason, there are also modern DAB radio models that pick up on this design.
(Image source: Structuro / pixabay)

Also, a station cannot be received "halfway". If noise can be heard with FM due to poor reception, with digital radios the signal either arrives completely or not at all and then sounds rather choppy or falls silent completely.

Finally, a digital receiver also consumes considerably more energy than its analogue counterpart.

DAB versus internet radio

In contrast to an internet radio, a DAB radio does not consume any data volume. In addition, a certain amount must be paid for this data volume so that the content can be used. Therefore, the running costs are higher with an internet radio.

The data packages of DAB radios can be used at the same time by several different end devices without the quality having to suffer. With Internet radio, the infrastructure of the mobile network often cannot withstand the demands. Consequently, congestion leads to interference and poorer signal quality.

The internet is known for the fact that anonymity is not always given. With DAB radio, no user behaviour can be analysed or stored due to terrestrial broadcasting. Data protection is therefore higher with DAB radios.

Due to the stable network of DAB radios, they can be used for information exchange even if the mobile phone network fails. This results in a secure communication option in the event of a disaster.

Advantages
  • No chargeable data volume
  • No network overload
  • More data protection
  • Security through stability
Disadvantages
  • Less range
  • Less choice of stations
  • Antenna or location important for reception
  • Internet radio can suggest similar stations or artists

The advantage of internet radio, however, is the greater area coverage. Although DAB coverage is more stable, it is not yet as widely developed as the internet. Thus, internet radio has a far greater range.

More stations can also be received via the internet than via DAB, providing a huge selection.

For Internet radio, you do not have to aim an antenna or place the device very precisely to get the best possible reception.

Networking with the internet gives the user the ability to find similar songs or even stations if the current one matches preferences.

What is a DAB radio suitable for?

You can use a DAB radio anywhere you want to listen to music. It doesn't matter whether it's in the home or outdoors. The only important thing is that you have good reception and that your device is supplied with sufficient power.

DAB Radio2

Especially when the weather is nice, you spend a lot of time outdoors and don't want to miss out on music. Thanks to their mobile nature, DAB radios are ideal for providing entertainment in the garden, on the terrace or in the park.
(Image source: Naadir Shahul / unsplash)

DAB radios are also available in cars. They are especially important for announcing traffic jam reports on motorways or for sweetening the long drive with music among other entertainment.

There are also DAB radio apps for smartphones so that you can use your mobile phone as a receiver for your favourite DAB stations.

How much does a DAB radio cost?

DAB radios vary in price depending on their features. In the following, we distinguish between rough factors such as the power supply and the power in watts. We also compare the prices with an Internet radio and an FM radio:

Product Price range
DAB Radio (battery operation) €17 - 414
DAB Radio (battery operation) €15 - 435
DAB Radio (mains operation) €15 - 1,350
DAB Radio (up to 1 watt) €32 - 144
DAB Radio (3 - 5 watts) €30 - 310
DAB Radio (over 15 watts) €23 - 997

Of course, prices depend on many other factors. The additional functions, the quality of the housing and the manufacturer itself have a major influence on the acquisition costs.

Comparison product price range
FM radio 10 - 50 €
Internet radio 40 - 997 €

Who repairs DAB radios?

As with all technical end devices, either the electrician around the corner can help out with DAB radios, or you can go to a repair service in an electronics store.

If you are not completely sure, you should leave the repair to a specialist.

If the radio was also purchased there, you can expect warranty services.

Another option, and the safest, is to have the unit repaired by the manufacturer. The manufacturer knows the equipment best and you can be sure that optimal maintenance will be carried out.

However, if you are familiar with electronics and have the necessary tools and know-how, you can of course try it yourself.

However, this is not advisable in order to avoid worse defects. In the event of failure, the manufacturer's warranty can no longer be claimed, since you have worked on the device yourself.

How do I install a DAB radio in my car?

It is very easy to retrofit a DAB radio in your car. The manufacturers of such devices supply all the necessary components.

We show you here in a short video how to install the radio in a car step by step:

How do I improve the reception of a DAB radio?

To improve the reception of your DAB radio, there are a few tips and tricks that we would like to briefly introduce to you:

  • New station scan: If you often place the radio in different locations, a new station scan can provide more programmes or better reception of the previous ones. Especially near a window, this measure can add a lot of value. Reception varies greatly in deeper rooms such as a basement.
  • External antenna: Unofficially, some devices have an input that can be used to connect an external antenna. This allows you to increase the range of reception and achieve better quality.
  • Outdoor antenna: An outdoor antenna is closer to the associated radio mast and thus avoids all interference signals that prevail within your own four walls.

DAB Radio-3

Similar to TV sets, more stations can be received on the radio by using an additional antenna or satellite dish. The quality of the previous stations can be improved even more.
(Image source: Mohammed Iak / unsplash)

Picture source: Pontchour/ 123rf.com

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