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Best DAB radio 2022: The best digital radios for every budget


Get rich, crystal-clear sound and the widest range of stations with the best DAB radios to buy right now

FM radio has been saved from extinction and will keep running until at least 2032, but if you’re thinking of buying a new radio, then picking up one of the best DAB radios is the way to go.

There are now more than 50 stations broadcasting nationally on DAB, along with many regional and local stations. You can listen to them without interference and – as long as you can get a signal – you’ll get flawless, clear digital sound.

The DAB radio market isn’t quite as busy as it was a few years ago, but there are still a lot of options out there. That’s why we’ve picked a selection of the best, covering different styles and price points, so that you can buy the best DAB radio for you.

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Best DAB radio: At a glance

How to choose the best DAB radio for you

DAB radios are now available at around the same prices as the old analogue models, and you can pick up a decent, simple, single-speaker radio for around £20 to £40. A higher spend will get you more luxurious materials, a larger speaker, a more powerful amplifier, stereo and more features, but you don’t have to spend more than £200 unless you’re looking for something that’s less a radio than an all-in music system with DAB built-in.

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Is DAB available in my area?

DAB reception now stretches across most of the UK, covering 97% of the UK population. In the event that you’re not covered, or your station selection is poor, you could opt for an internet radio station instead. This streams radio stations from the internet by connecting via your household Wi-Fi network. This is great, but it might restrict where you can listen. DAB, in case you’re wondering, uses a broadcast DAB signal so it’ll work in places where Wi-Fi isn’t available.

How good is the sound?

One of the most confusing things about DAB is that there are actually two standards in play: vanilla DAB and the newer DAB+. Some UK stations still broadcast over the older DAB standard, which uses the dated MP2 codec. In a bid to cram more stations on a single multiplex and keep costs down, they also tend to use low bit-rates in their broadcasts. The result? DAB doesn’t necessarily sound that amazing and can even be inferior to old-fashioned FM. Don’t get us wrong: a good DAB radio makes the most of every station, bringing talk shows and music to life, but if you’re expecting hi-fi quality audio, you may feel mildly disappointed.

DAB+ is now supported by even the cheapest new digital radios – it’s a requirement for the green digital tick mark – and allows broadcasters to use the more efficient HE-AAC v2 audio codec, providing space for more stations without the same compromises on sound quality. The problem, until fairly recently, was that the UK authorities weren’t making DAB+ mandatory for stations, and only a handful broadcast in the format. However, the situation has changed over the last year or so, and now roughly half of the UK’s commercial national stations broadcast in DAB+. Weirdly, the BBC doesn’t, though as the BBC hasn’t resorted to the same compression levels and mono output tricks as some commercial stations, its programmes have always sounded pretty good, anyway.

What other features should I look for?

DAB radios usually have buttons or a dial to quickly scroll through and select a station, but nearly all will also allow you to assign your favourite stations to a preset button. Some also have features that allow you to pause, and even rewind, live radio so that if you’ve missed the start of a programme or have to answer the door in the middle of a song, you don’t lose out.

Otherwise, the best bonus feature is extra connectivity. Headphone sockets are standard, but some DAB radios have an analogue line-in for connecting a smartphone or Amazon Echo as a source. Better still, a growing number include Bluetooth connectivity, while a few cram in Wi-Fi to function as an internet radio, too. Some DAB radios work better as Bluetooth speakers than others, but it’s definitely a handy option if you’d rather drop the DJ and listen to your own playlists for a change.

The best DAB radios you can buy

1. Majority Little Shelford: The best cheap compact radio

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a rival to Roberts’ retro radios at a third of the price, then you might want to adjust your expectations. The Majority Little Shelford does a decent job of capturing that fifties vintage look, but the gold plastic doesn’t look as good in the flesh and there are some minor issues with usability. Perhaps the biggest niggle is that the Mode button for switching between DAB, FM and Bluetooth modes also doubles as the on and standby, and holding it for long enough to go to standby rather than switching modes seems to be a touch-and-go affair. The menus aren’t clear or intuitive, and audio streamed over Bluetooth sounds horrifically weak and tinny.

However, the Little Shelford still wins a place on this list thanks to three advantages. It’s cheap as chips, reasonably stylish and it sounds half-decent when it’s playing DAB and DAB+. Sure, in terms of weight or presence it’s not going to trouble the Pure Evoke H3 or the Ruark R1 Mk. 4, but the output’s clear with a little more oomph than the budget competition. It’s fine for news and talk shows, while pop, rock, classical and country programmes are perfectly enjoyable as long as you don’t push the volume up too high. It’ll run from the bundled micro-USB charger or from four AA batteries, so it’s portable as well.

Key specs – Output: Not supplied; Display: 2 line mono LCD; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone; Batteries: 4 x AA; Dimensions: 130 x 110 x 170mm

2. Pure Elan DAB+: The best budget portable DAB radio

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for an affordable, portable DAB radio, the Pure Elan DAB+ should be right at the top of your list. It’s nice and simple to use, with a dial for scrolling through your station list and changing the volume, plus two presets at the touch of a button and eighteen more available with a few turns of the dial. The 2.4in colour screen makes navigating the menus easy, and also gives you useful info while you’re listening.

At first, the output is a little underwhelming. There’s more warmth than you might expect from a small plastic radio, but not much clarity or definition. Give it a few minutes, though, and the sound opens up. While the quality is still a bit boxy and congested, with a muddy low-end, it’s both very listenable and easily tunable through preset and custom EQs. With four AA batteries, you’re only looking at around eight hours of use, but this is a great radio for the money, all the same.

Key specs – Output: 700mW; Display: 2.4in colour TFT; Bluetooth: 5; Connections: Headphone, micro-USB; Batteries: 4 x AA; Dimensions: 187 x 109 x 85mm

3. Roberts Revival Petite: The best ultra-portable DAB radio

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

Roberts’ pint-sized miracle gives you 90% of the sound of a full-sized Roberts radio in roughly a quarter of the size, thanks to a bass radiator that adds a surprising depth and authority to talk shows and music shows alike. Push the volume up too far and the illusion breaks, and the sound when streaming over Bluetooth can be slightly boxy, but listen to Radio 4 dramas or jazz, rock and pop and you’ll be amazed what this tiny radio can do.

It's a practical option, too, with simple controls, basic features and a built-in battery that around 20 hours without a break when listening at moderate volume. Sure, the titchy display can be hard to read and the micro-USB charging port feels a bit outdated, but with its slick retro styling, zingy colours and smooth sound, this is one of the most desirable DAB radios out there.

Read our Roberts Revival Petite review for more details

Key specs – Output: 6W; Display: 2.8in colour TFT; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in; Batteries: Internal lithium-ion; Dimensions: 124 x 76 x 73mm

4. Pure Evoke H3: The best compact DAB radio

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

The Pure Evoke H3 is a lovely example of a mid-range DAB radio with a choice of oak and walnut cabinets in a compact bookshelf format that’ll fit as well in the kitchen or bedroom as the lounge. It’s easy to tune, switch sources and flick between stations, thanks to the clear 2.8in colour screen and a dual-mode dial that scrolls through menus and changes levels.

There are four buttons for up to 40 presets and the H3 has two alarms, plus a handy kitchen timer feature – ideal for those inclined to burn the dinner. Pure has done some clever audio tuning here to make the best of DAB and DAB+, and the Evoke H3 has a really crisp and lively presentation that’s superb on talk radio and great for rock, pop, classical and jazz. Switch to Bluetooth or an Amazon Echo connected by the 3.5in line-in, and the sound lacks a little warmth and weight, but this is arguably – pound for pound – the best-value DAB radio in town.

Key specs – Output: 6W; Display: 2.8in colour TFT; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in; Batteries: Optional ChargePak B1; Dimensions: 115 x 110 x 180mm

5. VQ Monty: The best DAB radio for under £100

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

VQ’s Monty gives you the style of a high-end radio at a lower cost than the premium brands, with a choice of oak and walnut finishes that look fantastic. Much the same goes for the sound. It’s best with talk radio, news and pop rather than more complex rock or classical music, as the output can be slightly boxy and some of the detail gets lost along the way. For casual listening, however, it’s a treat - and you can tune the sound to make it richer and more sparkly with just a little work in the MyEQ settings. The Monty also doubles as a decent Bluetooth speaker, if you fancy the odd podcast or some background music in the kitchen.

We have a few quibbles, like the way scrolling text makes the display flicker and the tiny buttons set into the front panel. These are presumably designed to look like touch controls, but they’re merely fiddly. Get over that, though, and it’s easy to add your own presets or set alarms - and we like the way the sound fades in gently rather than giving you a sudden shock-start to the morning. You don’t get perfection for under £100, but the Monty isn't too far off the mark.

Key specs – Output: 10W; Display: mono LCD screen; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphones, line-in, USB; Batteries: Optional Li-ion rechargeable; Dimensions: 130 x 186 x 100mm

6. Roberts Revival RD70: The most stylish portable DAB radio

Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon

Like vintage style and old-fashioned class? The Revival RD70 combines the best of 1950s style and modern features, hiding a colour TFT screen among the old-school knobs and buttons at the top, while cramming in DAB, DAB+ and Bluetooth. The two push-to-click knobs – one handling volume and the other handling channel and menu selections – make everything intuitive, and you have to love the small touches like the custom display themes you can use to match your radio’s finish.

The display even shows station or album art. The big surprise here, though, is that the sound is so warm and punchy, although it takes on a slightly boxy tone as you push the volume up. It’s not quite as brilliant as a Bluetooth speaker, where it goes slightly woolly with a soft high-end, but it’s nigh-on impossible not to love this blast from the past.

Key specs – Output: Not stated; Display: 2.4in colour TFT; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in; Batteries: 4 x AA; Dimensions: 252 x 160 x 104mm

7. Pure Siesta Charge: The best DAB clock radio

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

DAB clock radios are often either too big or too basic, but this compact number does it all. While it’s a fairly small, square unit, measuring 15.5 by 14.5cm, it packs in a big CrystalVue+ display and – more impressively – an even bigger sound. Music is detailed and surprisingly spacious, and talk comes through crisp and clear. It gets much louder than your average clock radio without losing any clarity.

It also moonlights as a Bluetooth speaker, although here we found the output got a little muddy and congested as you push the volume up. Still, it’s easy to use and set alarms, either once, daily or for weekdays only, and the sound creeps in steadily so you don’t get a rude awakening in the morning. Best of all, the Siesta Charge has a party piece: QI wireless charging, working flawlessly with our test Samsung Galaxy S8 phone. And if your handset won’t do wireless, don’t worry: there’s a USB port to plug your cable into. Make no mistake: this is the DAB clock radio that other clock radios wished they were.

Key specs – Output: Dual 4W; Display: CrystalVue+ LCD; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in, USB; Batteries: No; Dimensions: 145 x 155 x 80mm

8. Roberts Radio Stream 94i: The most versatile DAB radio

Price: £180 | Buy now from Amazon

DAB is great in good signal areas, but if you live somewhere with poor signal strength, you could be missing out on a lot of the best stations. The Roberts Stream 94i gets around this by incorporating internet radio streaming, giving you the choice of DAB and DAB+ when you’re out of Wi-Fi range and internet radio in the house. It also features Bluetooth and Spotify Connect. Sure, the 1.7kg Stream 94i is a little heavier than most portable radios, and you’ll need to pay £40 more for a rechargeable battery pack that really should be included, but it’s still the most versatile DAB radio around.

Like the Revival RD70, it’s easy to use, and it sounds even better, with two drivers at the front and a bass unit at the rear delivering beefy, warm lows and mids and crystal-clear highs. While it was outperformed in side-to-side tests by a Sonos Play 1, it’s one of the few DAB radios that can really double as a streaming speaker.

Key specs – Output: Not stated; Display: 3in colour TFT; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in. Ethernet, USB; Batteries: No; Dimensions: 162 x 25 x 163mm

9. Ruark R1 Mk4: The best high-end DAB radio

Price: £240 | Buy now from Amazon

The latest version of the prestigious British DAB radio is better than ever, with a touch of Scandinavia in the stripped-back bookshelf design. It looks great and sounds fantastic, with more weight and authority than you might expect from a compact, bookshelf radio and impressive levels of space and detail. Whether you like listening to rock and pop, classical or jazz, you’ll be impressed, and it handles radio news, sport, documentaries and drama with just as much skill.

It’s not quite as brilliant as a Bluetooth speaker, where the Roberts Stream 94i pulls ahead, and it doesn’t have any Internet streaming features, only basic functions for streaming music over a USB Type-C connection. But it’s elegant and easy to use, and the best compact DAB radio we’ve heard.

Read our full Ruark R1 Mk4 review

Key specs – Output: Not stated; Display: 2.5in Monochrome OLED; Bluetooth: Yes; Connections: Headphone, line-in, USB Type-C; Batteries: Optional Backpack MkII; Dimensions: 130 x 135 x 175mm

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