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Radio 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Otherwise feel free to let us know your experiences with DAB radio, whether they’re positive or negative.