Picking the right radio for your home can be tricky — there’s a lot of choice, ranging from simple budget units all the way up to hand-crafted wooden radios with premium speakers on board. The good news is that that there’s a style to suit everyone, whether you’re after slick minimalism, Mid-century charm or something a little more classic.
What's more, lots of radios these days aren’t just radios. Many have the added benefits of alarm clock functions, wireless Bluetooth streaming and even support for Spotify so they can potentially double up as a desktop speaker.
We’ve tested the best DAB radios around, and hand-picked the finest in terms of sound and usability. Scroll down to find our top choices, but first, make sure you ask yourself these questions before you buy.
How much should I spend on a DAB radio?
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Prices for radios range massively from anything as little as £15 up to hundreds of pounds. There’s something for every budget and every different size of home so it’s worth doing a little homework before you splash out.
Unsurprisingly, design and sound quality will affect the price tag. If you’re not too bothered about audio quality and just want a little radio to listen to while doing the gardening, then you can pick up something for next to nothing. If you’re after serious audio performance then you’ll have to spend a little more – potentially over £100. As well as design and sound quality, the type of radio you’re looking at will have a major influence on the price.
What are the different types of radio?
There are three key types of radio – digital, analogue and internet.
1. Digital radio
As the name suggests, digital radio is transmitted digitally, and offers a much more reliable signal than analogue radio. The digital radio standard used in the UK is called DAB and an upgraded version called DAB+ was launched about 10 years ago and lots of digital radio stations are moving towards it. Lots of older DAB radios can’t pick up DAB+ signals, but most new ones can. Just make sure you look for a DAB+ logo or Digital Radio ‘tick’ on the box.
2. Analogue radio
Transmitted using radio waves, analogue radio — which includes FM and AM — was the default for broadcasts before digital radio came along. AM was the most widely used radio format in the UK until it was overtaken by FM in the mid ‘80s. The vast majority of analogue radio stations are broadcast on FM and while some of these are simulcast in AM, very few are AM-only.
The sound quality of analogue radio can be patchy compared to digital, as it’s very sensitive to interference. That’s why you sometimes have to move the aerial, and even the radio around to get a good signal. Most DAB and internet radios also include an analogue tuner.
3. Internet radio
Rather than being transmitted using an analogue or digital radio signal, internet radio is accessed online. That means you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection to pick up signals, rather than the usual aerial. The biggest advantage of internet radio is that you’ll be able to access a gigantic selection of radios stations — more than 30,000 — from all over the world.
DAB and FM radios with built-in internet radio tend to be pricier that their counterparts. However, you can also access internet radio for free on your computer or on the relevant smartphone or smart TV apps.
1. Pure Evoke H3 DAB/FM radio
This cute little DAB radio sports a mid-century look with rounded edges and a choice between an oak or walnut finish. The small footprint means that it’s ideal for spots with limited space, such as the kitchen worktop or a desk. Unlike its predecessor, the H2, this neat device sports both Bluetooth and a 2.4-inch full colour screen, which makes it easier to see what you’re listening to and to navigate around the on-screen menus.
The scroll wheel and small selection of buttons on the top of the radio are very neat and incredibly intuitive to use, so you’ll be up and running in no time. The radio has a Digital Radio tick, which it means it's future-proof against changes to DAB transmissions. And it sports a generous 20 DAB presets (plus 20 FM presets), along with a alarm that’s easy to set using the top-mounted controls. Want a radio you can take to the bottom of the garden? An optional ChargePAK B1 (£29.99) battery unit will give you up to 30 hours playback away from the mains.
Use the equaliser to change the bass and treble and levels to suit your tastes or simply pick from a range of customer presets including ‘Classical’ and ‘Pop’.
Despite its pint-sized dimensions, the Evoke H3 offers a surprisingly full sound. That, combined with the slick design, is extremely impressive at this price.
Ideal Home's rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
2. Ruark R1 Mk3 DAB/DAB+/FM radio
If it’s sound quality you’re after, then Ruark’s chic tabletop radio is hard to beat. With a curved chassis that comes in a slick black or white lacquer finish or a hand-finished ‘Rich Walnut’ wood design, it’s a thing of beauty that looks good in any room of the house.
This is the third generation of Ruark’s mini radio, which now features a sharper OLED screen as well as the familiar top-mounted RotoDial controller. This makes the whole unit very simple to use. You’ll get Bluetooth connectivity and 10 presets apiece for DAB and FM, and the unit is also future-proofed with DAB+ support on board.
You’ll have to attach the aerial yourself with the supplied tool, which is a little fiddly, but once it’s on, it’s on and you don’t need to do anything more. You also have the option of adding the BackPack battery pack (£59.99) if you want to unplug from the mains, though it does stick out a fair bit from the back of the unit. It’s also worth noting that the alarms will only work when the radio is plugged into the mains.
The R1 doesn’t come cheap but it offers sensational sound for a radio of this size, or indeed any size.
Ideal Home's rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sony XDR-S41D portable DAB/DAB+ wireless radio
For those that like to keep it simple, this basic DAB unit won’t break the bank. The no-frills design feels a little plasticky, though the lightweight build means that it’s genuinely portable.
The radio comes in a choice of red, blue, black or white finishes and features a rather nifty little jog lever control for scrolling up and down menus. It makes the radio super-easy to use when you’re holding it in your hand, so it’s ideal for when you need to move it around while cleaning, decorating or gardening. What’s more, it takes 4x AA batteries so it doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time.
Features are fairly basic and include a five-line LCD screen, wake up and sleep timer and 5 presets each for both DAB and FM. There’s no Bluetooth on board, but the radio is certified with a Digital Radio tick.
Volume can be boosted without too much distortion though with only a simple mono speaker on board, the audio is a bit weak compared to more highly priced units. A decent basic option if you’re after a durable little DAB that can be moved around at will.
Ideal Home's rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
4. Revo SuperConnect
This stunning radio combines a gorgeous Mid-century wooden cabinet with tank-like build quality. It comes in a range of finishes – including walnut, black or white with a silver grille, walnut with a black grille or an all-black version.
Not only does it look good, it also boasts internet radio capability along with DAB and FM. The mini joystick control takes a little getting used to but it’s actually grows on you after a few tries. Soon, we found navigating through the onscreen menus an absolute doddle. There’s even a handy on-screen setup wizard to get you started.
The SuperConnect is packed with features including Bluetooth, top-quality audio engineering, and an alarm that can be snoozed by tapping anywhere on the metal front. The radio can even be linked with up to five other units to form a multi-room system. Spotify Premium subscribers can use the Spotify Connect support to stream direct and control the tracks from the unit.
A free UNDOK smartphone app makes it even easier to control, turning your smartphone into touch remote . There’s also a traditional remote in the box if you prefer a simpler approach. A superb all-rounder that sounds just as good as it looks.
Ideal Home's rating: 5 out of 5 stars
5. Roberts Radio Uno DAB/DAB+/FM digital radio
The Uno is a pint-sized version of the original Revival radio. And just like its older sibling, it sports Roberts’ distinctively adorable 1950s styling. It’s 35 per cent smaller than the original but has a similar gold speaker grille and cursive ‘Roberts’ logo on the front.
The colour selection includes classic like Black, Dove Grey, Pastel Cream and Duck Egg, along with music-inspired hues such as Yellow Submarine, Blue Monday, Pink Cadillac, Purple Haze.
There’s no Bluetooth connectivity, but the digital radio supports DAB+ and can be loaded with 4x AA batteries for listening without wires. And when the power cable is plugged in, it fits neatly into the underside of the unit, so that there’s no unsightly back panel to spoil the aesthetics. The usual pair of top-mounted dials and small selection of buttons make for incredibly easy operation.
While all the others radios found a DAB signal straight away, the Uno needed some repositioning before it would search for stations, so you may need a little flexibility when it comes to positioning the radio and aerial. Once connected, the audio is more perfectly respectable for a radio of this size. A cute classic that’s hard to resist.
Ideal Home's rating: 4 out of 5 stars
6. Geneva Touring S Portable FM/DAB+ Digital Radio and Bluetooth Speaker
This compact DAB and FM radio from Swiss audio brand sports a cool 80’s look with a sleek silver top combined with a textured faux leather covering in black, white, tan or red. The retro aesthetics also extend to the red LED lights which shine through the mesh and display the name of the current station and ‘playing now’ information.
The top of the extendable aerial sits flush again the top of the radio so it’s a little fiddly to prise out, but it does look very neat when folded away. Packing Bluetooth, as well as DAB+ support, the radio sports a solid aluminium volume dial with slick action and a satisfying click when it’s turned all the way down to turn the power off. Just remember to turn the volume down again after you’ve been listening over Bluetooth or you’ll be in for a loud shock.
The dial is really easy to operate with your thumb if you’re holding the radio in one hand and sits alongside a small selection of polished metal buttons, which are all pretty intuitive to use.
Along with the compact design, the rechargeable built-in battery with an impressive 20 hours of playback means that the radio is genuinely portable and can easily be slipped into a bag.The sound is a little thin compared to some of its higher priced rivals, but its much more impressive than a budget unit. Genuine portability and a cool retro design make the Touring S worth a second look.
Ideal Home's rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
7. John Lewis Spectrum Duo II DAB/DAB+/FM Bluetooth NFC Digital Radio
One of the more affordable radios in our roundup, this is the successor to the original Spectrum Duo from John Lewis and brings a 2.8-inch colour LCD, Bluetooth and NFC to the party.
The soft-touch rubber finish gives the design a contemporary feel while the red, yellow and teal options add a pop of colour to any room. There’s also black, white or grey to choose from, all of which perfectly complement the brushed metal handle.
We love that the bright colours even extend to the matching power cable and soft-touch plug which is good as it plugs into the side of the radio, rather than the back so it’s always visible. Alternatively, you can get yourself 4x C batteries and ditch the cord altogether.
The big, friendly buttons and dials are very easy to get the hang of, meaning that scrolling through stations at speed is child’s play. A glance at the spec list reveals it to be fairly basic, but you do get DAB+, 10 DAB presets and 10 for FM. And the NFC support means you can pair a device over Bluetooth simply by tapping it on the top of the radio in the designated spot.
The unit sports a dual speaker, which is decent enough for a radio of this price, though the sound is little flat. If you’re after a bright and cheerful DAB that won’t cost the earth, this is an excellent choice.
Ideal Home's rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Do I need to worry about the digital radio switchover?
In January 2017, Norway became the first country in the world to turn off its analogue radio signal and switch to digital only. The UK is set to do the same in future, but a definitive cut-off date has yet to be set. However, it’s important to be ready for the switchover when it finally happens.
To make sure that your radio is future-proofed, look for the Digital Radio tick logo on the box. This means that it can receive FM, DAB and DAB+ signals.
Other things to consider when buying a DAB radio
- Is it battery powered? Depending on where and how you want to use your radio, you might not want it to be tethered to a plug point. Some radios have the option of adding standard batteries for portable use while others offer optional rechargeable battery packs.
- What's the display like? You might want to check out the size and quality of the display showing the station and programme information. They vary from simple two-line scrolling displays to full-colour screens and some are easier to read than others.
- How many presets does it have? Most radios offer presets, but their usefulness depends on how many different stations you listen to. Five preset buttons might not be enough if you like to chop and change between stations.
- Does my radio have Bluetooth? Lots of radios now offer Bluetooth streaming. This means that you can send music directly from your phone and play it through the radio's speakers. It's will save you from splashing out on a separate Bluetooth speaker.
- What does the radio sound like? Audio quality will be a sticking point for some. It’s worth checking out the power of the on-board speakers and whether the radio carries any extra audio features such as an equaliser to help you get the perfect sound experience.
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