Best DAB digital radios to buy in 2014
If you fancy a new digital radio, there's a baffling selection to choose from. To make it easier to pick the right model, we've gone through our digital radio reviews and picked out the best DAB radios to buy in 2014.
And to make sure we have something for every budget, we've picked models from under £50 right up to £600.
And it's not just the range of DAB radio prices to consider, with portable, handheld and desktop digital radios available, plus hi-fi tuners and in-car DAB radios. Here's our selection of the best on the market in 2014.
Best pocket DAB radio
It may have been around for a while, but the PocketDAB 1500 is still a great buy. It's compact, so slips easily into a pocket or bag, is built to last, sounds good and runs on rechargeable batteries for up to 24 hours.
DAB radio is ideal for live sport with access to Five Live's extra services, but just for good measure, there's an FM tuner built-in to this radio, too, should you wander out of DAB range.
Read our full Pure Digital PocketDAB 1500 review
Best portable DAB radio
£160 Compare Prices
The Best DAB radio in our Awards 2012, the Ruark Audio M1 MkII delivers a poised sound and stylish looks.
For such a small mono design, the Ruark radio delivers a remarkably expansive sound, with deep bass and impressive detail with vocals that makes it ideal for talk radio. As long as you don't expect room-filling scale, the Ruark is a winner.
Read our full Ruark Audio R1 MkII review
MORE: Pure Evoke Mio (pictured, top)
Best DAB radio £200+
This is a truly premium product. Beautifully made with a brushed-metal finish, the Geneva Sound World Radio DAB is an intriguing mix of ancient and modern, with an appealing old-fashioned look married to a decidedly new-world display and digital functionality.
It's got FM, DAB, Bluetooth, an auxiliary input and an alarm, and is simplicity itself to use. Geneva has hit the spot here as well. It sounds superb for a unit of this size, with a full-bodied tone that’s even-handed across the frequency range.
The Geneva Sound World Radio DAB is undeniably expensive for a radio. Yet it’s also one of those products that screams quality, making people say “I just want one”.
Read our full Geneva WorldRadio DAB review
Best DAB radio under £200
As an overall package, this is about as fully specified as you could possibly get. To go along with the usual FM and DAB abilities of the conventional portable radio alarm clock, the Evoke F4 also offers Bluetooth connectivity, internet radio via wi-fi, access to Pure’s on-demand, cloud-based music subscription service, and the ability to stream sound from a Pure Jongo compatible device. It will even record radio onto a USB stick.
The Evoke F4 really can do everything one could expect of it – even a bit more perhaps – and it sounds great doing it. Take your time to set things up properly and it will cover most radio, streaming and internet bases. We don’t believe it can be beaten at the price.
Read our full Pure F4 review
Best DAB radio under £100
£85 Compare Prices
This is a bargain of a radio at £85, though we’d consider investing in a ChargePak as well (£28 extra) – that would make the radio really portable for al fresco listening. It's nicely put together, with an expensive-looking wood-veneer finish.
The tuners are effective, finding most stations with ease and hanging on to them with a cast-iron grasp. You get 10 presets each for DAB and FM stations, and there's an aux input, alarm and sleep timer.
And sound quality is excellent for a sub-£100 radio. It's incredibly detailed, excelling with voices and allowing music to flourish. The Evoke D2 doesn't go as loud as some rivals, but otherwise it's perfect for the bedroom or kitchen.
Read our full Pure Digital Evoke D2 review
Best DAB radio under £50
If you want a simple, affordable digital radio the Pure One is just the ticket. It costs £50, comes with DAB and FM tuners, and is powered by six C-size batteries or the optional £30 PurePAK.
Sure, you won't get the bass-reach and richness of £100+ radios, but the One is a good listen and more than acceptable for background listening. So if you need something compact and easy to use for the kitchen, study or bedroom, this DAB radio is a bit of a bargain.
Read our full Pure Digital One review
Best DAB radio with Bluetooth
Some products appeal as soon as you get them out of the box. The Philips ORT2300 Original Radio Mini is a retro-styled radio alarm clock that had us smiling at its looks from the off.
As well as the usual DAB and FM tuners to go along with the auxiliary input and alarm functions, this good-looking desktop/worktop unit also has Bluetooth connectivity as an added bonus. There’s even a really handy app for your smartphone to control everything.
The sound the Original Radio Mini provides is clear, warm and comfortable and is especially good with voices. Bass is reasonably tight and fast, and treble notes are clean without being strident.
If you're after a DAB/FM radio with Bluetooth functionality for a good price, we urge you to look here.
Read our full Philips Original Radio Mini review
Best DAB clock radio
£50 Compare Prices
The Pure Siesta radio is everything a bedroom clock radio needs to be: it has DAB and FM tuners, the latter with RDS, three alarm settings, a nice big digital clock and comes in a choice of black, silver or white to suit your decor.
Given a good broadcast, it's a coherent and focused listen, with a particularly well-judged midrange. It doesn't have quite as many features as the pricier Pure Chronos II, but we think it's better value.
Read our full Pure Digital Siesta review
Best hi-fi DAB radio
If you have a full-blown hi-fi separates system and want to add a top-notch DAB tuner, look no further than Arcam's T32.
This is a full-size component and has the spec you'd expect of a serious bit of hi-fi kit: DAB, DAB+, FM and MW tuners, plus full iPod/iPhone control via the Arcam rLead or rDock.
Given a good quality broadcast, the T32 delivers a rich, atmospheric performance. The soundstage is big enough to allow a symphony orchestra room to flex its muscles, and the Arcam's dynamic poke and pudding-sweet tonality make for an invigorating listen. The best hi-fi tuner around.
Read our full Arcam T32 review
Best portable DAB radio
This compact DAB radio is small and light enough to take on your travels, to the park or the beach.
Naturally it's only a mono design, but Pure has squeezed in both DAB and FM tuners plus a handy line input for connecting a portable device, a headphone connection and a USB slot for future upgrades.
It sounds clear, natural and well organised. Our only gripe is that the a £25 ChargePAK is required to make it properly portable, but at least this is more eco-friendly than batteries.
Read our full Pure Digital One Mini review
Best DAB & internet radio
Revo AXiS XS
We voted the Revo AXiS XS our best internet radio over £150 in our 2012 Awards, and with good reason. This updated design is packed with features: the ability to stream content via Bluetooth, a side-mounted USB port for charging your iOS or Android device and a remote control.
But there's more: FM, DAB and DAB+ tuners, Last.fm, network streaming, iPod dock and an internet radio tuner. Oh, and clock-radio ficntionality for good measure. What more could you need?
A cracking touchscreen interface and excellent mono sound complete the package.
Read our full Revo AXiS XS review
Best DAB radio with iPod dock
Geneva Sound Model S DAB
For smaller-sized rooms that are in need of some iPod speaker love, as well as digital radio, the Model S DAB is a great choice.
The glossy cabinet in black, white or red looks the part, whether perched on its pedestal or sitting on its rubber feet. On top, you’ll find GenevaSound’s trademark power-dock and TouchLight panel; the (30-pin) connector spins into view when you power up the dock, which includes touch-sensitive controls and a click-wheel for changing volume and iPod /iPhone browsing. iPhone 5 owners will need to use a Lightning adapter.
Reception from the DAB and FM radio tuners is good, and the sound quality won't disappoint. It's lively, entertaining and with taught, well-defined bass.
Read our full Geneva Sound Model S review
Best in-car DAB radio
If your car isn't already fitted with a digital radio, this is a handy aftermarket option. The Pure Highway 300Di consists of three parts: a main unit with all of the connections, which sits behind your dashboard or in the glovebox and is wired into your existing stereo, a windscreen-mounted aerial, and a controller.
Installation is a complex job so needs to be done by a professional. In addition to DAB, the main unit also has connections for iPods, standard USB memory devices and a 3.5mm aux-in, and your installer should be able to route the appropriate cables to where you need them.
Once done, you'll be able to listen to DAB radio, and music from your iPhone/iPod/USB stick, through your exisiting car stereo.
Read our full Pure Highway 300Di review
Digital radio: buying advice
The switchover to digital TV may be complete, but radio still has some way to go. The Government had initially considered 2015 as the cut-off date for ending analogue radio transmissions, but the poliitical wrangling continues. Some experts believe switchover could be delayed until 2020, with even the Government admitting the UK is not yet ready for it. Nevertheless, if you are going to buy a new radio, it makes sense to go digital if you want to be future-proofed.
The UK has adopted the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard for digital radio. Since then, the World Digital Media Broadcasting Organisation has announced a new broadcast standard – DAB+, which offers better quality than standard DAB.
To date, the UK Government has made no commitment to adopting DAB+, but existing DAB radios won't be able to handle DAB+ transmissions unless they have a dual DAB/DAB+ chip, should the UK government one day adopt this standard.
DAB radio channels
There are more stations available on DAB than analogue, with digital-only channels such as BBC6 Music and Five Live Sports Extra, but it's worth noting that not all local radio stations are yet available on DAB.
To boost take-up and coverage of digital radio, Ofcom says it will begin the licensing process for a second national DAB network, Digital Two (D2). And the Government, BBC and commercial radio have agreed to fund the expansion of local DAB coverage over the coming years.
It's worth mentioning that the advertised 'crystal clear sound' on digital radio isn't always the case. DAB reception can be patchy in some areas, and you'll get a sort of 'bubbling' sound when the signal is weak or drops out, so don't discount the addition of an FM tuner to your radio for backup.
One other important thing to check before you buy is that you live in an area that receives DAB transmissions – currently around 93% of the UK is covered. There's a handy postcode checker on the UK Digital Radio website if you're not sure.
by Andy Clough