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dab radioRadio has moved on considerably over the past few years. While FM (Frequency Modulation) is still the most popular platform, the combination of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) and the Internet has expanded the options people have for listening to both music and speech stations. There is also the phenomenon of podcasting; recorded chunks of audio ready and available for downloading or streaming.

I recently decided to buy a DAB radio, having tired of streaming online all day, every day. Whenever I buy new hardware I always make sure to conduct some serious research beforehand, looking at all the various options, from make to model, and beyond.

While conducting a search for the DAB digital radio that best suited my individual needs I discovered much that other potential buyers will be able to make use of. The following are all things you need to consider when choosing a digital radio. Especially if it’s your first DAB set.

Coverage

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The first thing to consider, and the one absolute essential on this list, is whether the area you live in is covered by DAB services. In terms of countries, most of Europe, much of Asia, and Australia have regular services. But even particular countries will have spotty coverage in certain areas, particularly in rural locales.

Your country may have a website dedicated to DAB, and that should be able to tell you which stations, if any, you’ll be able to receive. There is no point even contemplating buying a DAB digital radio if you’ll get it home only to find no stations broadcast to your location.

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Output

Assuming you can pick up DAB radio stations, what level of audio power output do you need? There are tiny personal DAB sets with outputs measuring fractions of a watt, while the larger portable or stationary sets may have much higher total outputs. This will affect both how loud the DAB radio will get before distorting and the quality of the audio. This is a much more important consideration for those listening to music stations than those who mainly listen to speech stations.

Volume

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While the audio output will affect the volume your new DAB digital radio is capable of reaching, there is another consideration to bear in mind. Are you the type of person who falls asleep listening to the radio? If so, I recommend choosing a set with an analog volume knob rather than a digital volume knob. The reason being that digital volume increases and decreases in set increments and the jump between quiet and mute may be so large that it’s impossible to find the right balance to drift off to.

Display

All DAB digital radios display information related to the station currently selected. But these displays vary massively in color, size, and clarity. Some feature dark text with a light source located behind, while others merely feature bright text. Some will display scrolling text showing the song being played or the host currently talking. Determine what type you prefer before buying as this display information is one of the advantages of going digital.

Portability

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Do you expect your new DAB radio to sit in one room of your house from the day it’s bought until the day it dies? If so then portability will not be an issue, and you don’t have to worry about the size of the set or how it’s powered when disconnected from the mains. However, if you expect to be taking your new DAB radio with you wherever you go be sure to check how many batteries it takes and how long they’ll power the radio for. Some sets (such as the Pure range) require an additional chargepak which will add to the initial outlay but will save money in the long run.

Presets

All of us who listen to radio on a regular basis have our favorite stations, and shows on those stations. In order to avoid retuning your new DAB digital radio each time you want to switch to one of these you’ll need to bear in mind how many presets the radio you are eyeing up is capable of remembering. Some have dedicated preset buttons that just need a single press to activate while others will have a menu system where all presets can be accessed after a number of button presses.

FM?

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Contrary to popular belief, DAB isn’t immune to reception issues. Depending on location and weather conditions a station can drop off the grid completely. It’s at times such as these that you’ll want a backup, so buying a DAB digital radio which also boasts an FM tuner is a sensible course of action. Some sets do, some sets don’t, so if you want the extra stations FM offers to listeners this is something else to check before you buy.

Extras

These are the other features that you may or may not deem important. Such as DAB+, recording capabilities and live pause/rewind, alarm and sleep functionality, a headphones socket, and connectivity for mp3 players. While some people will take or leave many of these extras, others will reject sets which don’t offer one or more of them. Make sure you know what the radio you’re buying is capable of.

Conclusions

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These are just the very basic things to consider before you head to a store to buy a DAB digital radio, and this article is not meant to be a comprehensive buying guide. They’re merely the considerations you need to have worked out in your head before a salesman persuades you to buy something you won’t be happy with. However, there is no substitute for actually testing hardware before you lay down the cash needed to purchase it. If you have the opportunity to try before you buy please do so.

I hope this article comes in useful for anyone choosing their first DAB radio. If so please let us know in the comments section below. Your feedback is always appreciated in regards to the content we provide for free here on MakeUseOf X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows Read More . Otherwise feel free to let us know your experiences with DAB radio, whether they’re positive or negative.

Images Credits: James Cridland, Timo Newton-Syms, Pete, James Cridland, Garry Knight, Highways Agency

  1. jonny
    April 26, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    If your DaB radio has Bluetooth can you listen to it with a set of Bluetooth wireless head phones?

  2. Sheeva
    April 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I'm neither 'here nor there' as yet with DAB. But it seems to me there would be some issues not mentioned here like Weather Channels. They broadcast info on things like tornado warnings and other such events where if DAB is not super rock solid, citizens would not have an early warning system in place. Especially those of us out in the rural areas. Am I wrong? Is there a method just not mentioned here?

  3. David Mcleod
    July 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I guess I need to get to town more. I haven't even heard of this, nor it seems have 1/2 the people I've asked about it. Maybe because our coverage is so "iffy". Most everyone is using XM/Sirus, and then you are stuck with their stations and timetables. Laptop, MP3 player, and maybe even an old fashion am/fm radio. Simpler times, simpler times.

    • Dave Parrack
      July 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      I'm guessing you're in the U.S.? DAB isn't really used over there, which would explain why no one has heard of it :) In the same way that satellite radio isn't really used in Europe, so XM/Sirius means nothing to me.

  4. Bumferry
    July 13, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Ive had a DAB for Years and love it to bits. Having lived in a caravan for 18months (while working away from home) my DAB was my primary source of entertainment (not including the laptop) BBC radio 4Xtra is possibly the best station out there with classic comedy and drama played throughout the day and night.
    Being without a TV really taught me the benefits of listening to the radio and how much better it can be beyond the usual dross pumped out on the goggle-box in the corner of the room.
    Even though I dont really listen to music on the radio, theres nothing better than Absolute 90's to bring back all those memories of friday nights back in the day!

  5. General Melchett
    July 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Thank god for DAB! - That's all I can say!

    At a workplace last year, the FM choices were crap, crap, and BBC Radio 2 - which no one else liked.

    But I converted them to the DAB 'Absolute Radio' station, and they still listen to it now!

    The reception was always dodgy though; I ended up attaching the aerial to some metal racking. I dread to think what it must be like in a car...

    • Saikat Basu
      July 14, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Numerous car manufacturers now offer the option of installing DAB radios in your car and with special DAB antennas or telescopic whips. As far as I know, you normal FM/AM radio antenna won't do.

  6. adrian
    July 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I always assumed that a DAB radio connects to your WiFi at home, so you are able to listen streaming. I never heard of "DAB radio stations". How do they differ from streaming? What is their magic content?

    • Dave Parrack
      July 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      DAB is different from Internet radio. These are stations broadcast over the airwaves in a digital format. This Wikipedia article explains all - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Audio_Broadcasting

      There's no magic content but for fans of radio it offers a cleaner, clearer sound without the need to suck bandwidth :)

      • Adrian
        July 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm

        Thanks! That was interesting!

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