DAB radio buying advice

About to buy a DAB radio?  This guide looks at the key things you should consider.

First published in the Radio Listener's Guide 2012 edition

 

If you are about to buy a DAB radio the first thing you should do is check that you will get a signal where you plan to listen. Coverage is improving but is not as good as that of FM, and due to the nature of digital transmissions if the signal is too weak the radio will not be able to function on DAB. One thing that we recommend is that before buying you check reception first in the location where you will be listening. If you don't already have a DAB radio, borrow a DAB radio to make sure that you can receive a signal in the location where you will be listening.

In weak signal areas moving a DAB radio from one room to another, or simply putting the radio on the window sill can make the difference between getting a signal or not. With a DAB clock radio used on the bedside you will not be able to do this - so only consider a DAB clock radio if you are in an area with good DAB coverage.

In weak signal area, one option is to use an external aerial, or even just an aerial placed on the window sill, where the signal is generally stronger. To do this you will need to choose a radio that has an F-connector with an aerial that can be easily removed.

 

DAB+ and DMB-A

The government and the radio industry are still dithering about which digital format will eventually replace the ailing DAB platform, although a report (Sep 2010) by the Consumers Expert Group, suggested that DAB+ compatible chips must be installed as standard to ‘future-proof’ receivers as a matter of urgency.

DMB-A is a new format that has been adopted by France. If you find a radio that supports WorldDMB profile 1 the radio will pick-up DAB, DAB+ and DMB-A, but these are not yet widely available.

 

Postcode coverage check

DAB transmitter coverage has improved over the last few years with both Digital One and the BBC building new transmitters.

If you can’t borrow a DAB radio to check your coverage contact BBC Reception advice.

BBC Reception Advice  tel 0370 010 0123

 

Online postcode checks at-

www.bbc.co.uk/digitalradio and
www.ukdigitalradio.com

It is a good idea to confirm with the retailer that you will be able to return the radio for a full refund if it turns out that your DAB signal is not good enough. If you are buying online, or by mail order you should be protected by the provisions of the distance selling regulations.

 

Buying a DAB personal radio

If you are buying a personal DAB radio you have to be careful, particularly in weak signal areas. We have found this type of radio to be less sensitive for DAB, and more likely to suffer signal dropouts than portable models. This is partly because reception is more difficult on the move, and also because the earphones lead operates as the radio’s aerial.

 

DAB RECORDING

DAB offers a number of useful features not available on analogue radios.

 

LivePause and ReVu

The ability to pause and then resume listening to a station is one of DAB’s most useful features. Manufacturers typically call this either Live Pause, or ReVu.

Not all radios offering this feature provide the same amount of pausing capacity. At worst, for a high audio quality station, this can be as little as 3 minutes; at best around 60 minutes. Lower audio quality offers a longer pausing time.

 

Recording

Pausing is only a temporary way to store audio. A few radios also offer permanent recording to SD card. Recordings can be played back at your leisure, or transferred to a PC or other device. On computer they can be converted to MP3, or copied to audio CD.

 

If all else fails...

In some areas, particularly in remote rural locations, you many not be able to pick up a DAB signal. In this case you may be able to pick up digital radio via the internet or a digital TV platform such as Sky, Freesat or Freeview.