Looking to buy a DAB radio but don't know what features to look for? Most DAB radios now feature Bluetooth for wireless streaming convenience, but live radio fans will want easy-to-use preset buttons for instant access to favorite stations across DAB, FM and even internet if it is Wi-Fi enabled. A digital display for time, date and programme information may also be useful.
What is DAB+?
DAB+ is essentially an upgrade of DAB, three times as efficient so it can carry many more stations and at much higher audio quality. It uses the same transmitters and most broadcast on both, but there are now over 180 stations broadcasting on DAB+ in the UK, including 19 national stations.
Here we review three of the best DAB radios
Best DAB radios
Best compact DAB radio
Pure Evoke Spot
British brand Pure’s Evoke range has been fully revamped (there’s also the more powerful Play (£250) and Home (£400), which includes a CD player). All have a flip-up 2.4-inch colour display and are available in either coffee black or cotton white with a recycled wool grille. The Spot has a 3-inch full range driver, 20 watts of power, DAB/DAB+/FM, Internet Radio, Bluetooth 4.2 and Spotify Connect built-in (for subscribers) for seamless streaming over Wi-Fi. It’s more a streaming speaker than a simple radio, yet its ease of use and preset buttons will appeal to techies and traditionalists alike.
Best portable DAB radio
Roberts Revival Petite
This radio is positively Lilliputian – a mere 12.4 x 7.6cm. It not only looks great, with six stylish colours and a classic transistor feel, but also manages to sound good and boasts Bluetooth, DAB, DAB+ FM and Aux-in plus a 20-hour battery life. It makes a great travel option and sounds more accomplished than it has any right to. Quality suffers when you turn the volume up to max, but that is hardly surprising given the miniscule proportions.
Best all-round DAB radio
Ruark R1 Mk4
One of the most impressive aspects of Ruark Audio is their ability to keep both audio- and designophiles happy, regularly winning awards for performance while their products pop up in the world’s swankier hotel rooms. Now into its fourth generation, the R1 remains one the best-looking DAB radios available. The solid wood casing of old has gone, in favour of a vibration-resistant polymer – in cream, espresso or blue – but they have kept the organic aesthetic with a gorgeous wooden grille.
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But what about features and performance? The R1 has DAB/DAB+ and FM tuner (with eight presets), you can plug in a media player via 3.5mm jack or USB-C (which can also charge your gadgets), and there’s Bluetooth 4.2 streaming which, while not the latest version, is perfectly adequate. The display may not be as fancy as that of the Pure (see left) but it has refreshingly large text and scanning for stations takes seconds.
This is a premium-price radio with wireless streaming – rather than a jack-of-all-trades smart speaker – and though it lacks features like voice control, it sounds splendid, with spoken word, vocals and instrumentation all effortlessly smooth, articulated and engaging.
Besides desktop/kitchen styles featured here, there’s also a good range of battery-powered options – try Sony’s £70 XDR-P1DBP – and bedside designs, with radios such as the Roberts Ortus also having wireless charging from as little as £89.
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.