We still have a lot of love for the original 'wireless' – the radio. OK, we now have myriad options for listening to music and accessing news headlines, but there are still times when sticking BBC 6 Music on in the kitchen just can't be beaten.
With the advent of DAB/DAB+, internet radio and Bluetooth streaming, the humble radio has also come a long way since its bedside clock integration. However, digital DAB radios' popularity changes depending on which part of the world you're in: it's more prevalent and popular in the UK and various Europe cities like Norway, while it's non-existent if you live in the USA (which uses a different digital system).
What follows is our pick of the best DAB radios to have graced our testing facilities (and homes) over the years, tried and tested by our team of expert in-house reviewers.
The quick list
The best overall DAB radio
The most enjoyable and versatile radio performance that also includes Bluetooth, a headphone port, internet radio and even network streaming. Easy to use, nicely built and sounds dynamic, punchy and clear with voices. Excellent value.
The best budget DAB radio
Incredibly cute and portable design that comes in many attractive shades, this basic radio and Bluetooth speaker sounds surprisingly big, clear and detailed for its dinky size.
The best premium DAB radio
A premium radio that offers gorgeous looks in tandem with stunning sound, the Ruark R2 Mk4 is an intuitive sonic powerhouse that gets a hearty recommendation from us.
The best DAB radio system
This isn't just a DAB radio; it's a fully-fledged music system that's packed with wi-fi streaming features. If the gorgeous retro-modern design doesn't win you over, the Revo's impressively large-scaled, weighty and richly detailed sound will.
Best overall DAB radio
The Roberts Stream 94L is the latest iteration of an Award-winning radio (Stream 94i and 93i before it has won multiple times) and its updates are simply a new logo, a faster processor, and built-in Amazon Music and Deezer support alongside Spotify. Its considerable talents as an FM, DAB and internet radio remain the standard to beat too.
It’s a smart-looking unit, with excellent build quality throughout. The full-colour display is large and readable at a distance, and it's easy to use with the unit's buttons and the smartphone app.
This digital radio is such an enjoyable performer. Voices come through crystal clear, it times well, is punchy and detailed, and dynamically so expressive too.
The Stream 94L’s smooth, unfussy nature masks just how talented a performer it is, especially in its ability to sound so fluid and capable with anything you play through it. At an unchanged price of £200, it remains the best sound-per-pound radio we've tested.
Read the full review: Roberts Stream 94L
Best budget DAB radio
The Roberts Revival Petite is an item that, without a scale of reference, appears roughly the size of a shoebox, but it's actually the size of a Greggs custard slice and is so beautifully styled – in such mouth-watering retro colourways – you may experience what psychologists call 'cute aggression' and want to try to break it. Once this illogical urge subsides however, this newest, smallest and most affordable radio in Roberts' retro Revival range reveals itself to be a serious, stone-cold winner.
At £99 and boasting 20 presets (10 DAB and 10 FM), Bluetooth connectivity and a 20-hour portable battery, the Petite boasts an abundance of features for the money, but its sound is the star. Considering its tiny dimensions, the Revival Petite sounds as big and detailed as you could ever hope – a credit to Roberts’ know-how when it comes to gleaning the best possible sound from a portable design. For anyone yet to invite the joys of the original wireless into their lives, the Revival Petite is an ideal gateway radio.
Read the full review: Roberts Revival Petite
Best premium DAB radio
Oh, what a lovely thing the Ruark Audio R2 Mk4 is. It's rare that we find audio products that achieve the Holy Trinity of sounding fantastic, looking sublime and being so easy to use that a newborn baby could probably find its way around the navigational menu, but the Ruark R2 (now in its fourth generation) has managed it, and in some style.
The beautifully made Ruark stole our hearts pretty much as soon as it was out of the box, and things only got better once we'd fired it up and started listening. It's a good thing too, considering its rather high price tag. It has a rich, detailed sound that doesn't sacrifice any musicality or timing, with a particularly nuanced, natural way with voices that make a great radio truly great. The Ruark is an engaging, vibrant listen no matter the genre or playing method you're using.
It's also, as you'll have guessed, a wonderfully made unit in its own right, sporting that stunning wooden slatted front, a clear, crisp display and a high-quality cabinet build that screams of a product made with care and precision.
It supports Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer over wi-fi, while all other music can be streamed from your device over Bluetooth. And whether you're streaming, playing FM, DAB, or internet radio, the radio is easy to use thanks to the built-in controller or by using one of two third-party apps.
It's priced at the premium end for a radio, but you really do get what you pay for with the Ruark R2. A wonderfully complete radio that truly deserves your consideration.
Read the full review: Ruark Audio R2 Mk4
Best DAB radio system
The new five-star Revo SuperConnect Stereo might have stolen the old dog's thunder, but rest assured, the original 2014 mono model (which won a 2016 What Hi-Fi? Award) still knows plenty of tricks.
It's still a fair bit pricier than the standard DAB radio (but cheaper than the new SuperConnect Stereo). But it's jam-packed with extra features, including internet radio, Bluetooth, network streaming and Spotify Connect, not to mention the same physical connections (analogue and digital, 3.5mm headphone jack) as its Stereo sibling. So you should be able to play music from just about any source.
We like the retro-modern design. It's easy to use and the audio quality is impressive, too, with a weighty, grippy sound. You have to pay more for those extra features (and the room-filling sound) but if you want a premium radio with a whole lot more on offer than just DAB radio – and even act as your main sound system – this could well be the one for you.
Read the full review: Revo SuperConnect
How to choose the best DAB radio for you
While all of radios on this list give you access to hundreds of digital radio stations, some models include a number of useful features to boot, such as Bluetooth streaming and integration of your favourite music streaming service.
Most importantly, when deciding what digital radio is right for you, you need to figure out whether you want something small and portable or larger and mains-powered, or if maybe you want a radio you can install in your car. Then, you'll have to decide if you just want to listen to the radio or if you're interested in wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ and streaming support, or even CD player functionality.
Our round-up includes budget and premium options, with standard DAB digital radio to various music streaming goodies. Perhaps you want something tiny and ridiculously cute; perhaps it needs to fill a larger room – we have the best digital radio options across all shapes and sizes here.
How we test DAB radios
We independently review hundreds of products each year, always as a team. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency and of course, impartiality. To this end, we have state-of-the-art testing facilities located in London, Reading and Bath where we do most of our reviews.
All products are tested against rivals in the same price category and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference. We make sure to compare products against similarly-priced class leaders to ensure we get a good sense of its sound-per-pound value and settle on the right rating.
With DAB radios, we test not just the radio functionality itself (including the FM tuner) but every feature included in the product, from streaming to Bluetooth connectivity, to how easy it is to use and even setting the alarms and presets. It's important that we evaluate all aspects of a product in the context of its price, to ensure you're getting the best value product.
We choose only the best products from all of our reviews to feature in our Best Buys. There's no input from PR companies or sales teams, either. At What Hi-Fi? we are proud to have been delivering honest, unbiased reviews for decades. Our goal? To help you to find a product you'll be over the moon with.
You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.
F. A. Q.
What’s better: internet radio or DAB radio?
Internet radio gives you access to tens of thousands of radio stations from across the globe, so you get far more choice than DAB radio. DAB is perfect if you're happy to listen to local and national stations, though, of which there are plenty in the UK in particular. Internet radio is your portal to world music but remember, you will need a wi-fi/internet connection, whereas DAB radios have the required tuner built in. Sound quality? Again, that depends on the radio station and the strength of your connection. It isn't necessarily true that one always sounds better than the other.