Tried and Tested – DAB Radios

When it comes to buying a digital or DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radio, most of us want one that is easy to use and has great sound quality. See our pick of the best out there, each of which has some great extra features too.

Best portable

JBL Turner, £89.99,

This ‘three-in-one’ device – DAB+ radio, FM
radio and Bluetooth speaker – is incredibly compact,
measuring just 16.5cm by 6.6cm and weighing in at
0.44kg. Yet the 5W of sound is clear and surprisingly
powerful, particularly when playing DAB stations or
music from a device (phone, tablet, computer). FM
stations play with more of an occasional crackle and
hiss, like any conventional radio. You can play audio from
a device either by connecting the cable to the back of the
radio or via Bluetooth, which works over a good distance
(at least 15m), and the sound – whether speech or music – is still excellent. When you turn the speaker off while using Bluetooth, it turns off the source of the sound too. The cable also connects to the plug adapter for charging and the plug has two interchangeable pins for the UK and Europe. The battery takes about 31⁄2 hours to charge and lasts an impressive eight hours. There is a small backlit LCD that displays the station playing and five preset buttons each for DAB and FM, so you have quick access to your favourite stations. The buttons are quite small and might be a little fiddly for some, but in general the device is ideal when space is at a premium, or if you want to play music from a device set up in a different room via Bluetooth.

Best retro

Groov-e encore £69.99,

This retro-style radio features a distinctive woven front speaker of yesteryear. Made of a wood veneer with some plastic components, it doesn’t look quite as stylish as some of its retro counterparts, but then it is also a fraction of the price. As well as a DAB radio, it
has numerous other features: an FM receiver, Bluetooth, a sleep timer (which automatically switches the radio off after 15-90 minutes) and two alarms. It also accepts auxiliary cable from other sources so you can play music or podcasts that way. Sadly, it’s not portable – it has to be unplugged to be moved from room to room. But it was straightforward enough to set up – first it scans for stations and you can set favourites using three buttons on the right with 20 presets in total (ten DAB and ten FM). With two 5W speakers the sound quality was good enough – again, not as clear as the more expensive models, but absolutely fine when played while cooking in the kitchen or doing a spot of DIY. All in all a good choice if you’re on a budget and love the retro style.

Best luxury

Roberts Revival IStream 3 Smart Radio, £199.99,

Roberts Radio’s latest ‘revival’ model keeps its 50s heritage style but is described as the ‘ultimate in Smart Radio’. So, just like a smart TV, it connects to the internet via Wi-Fi. You can listen to FM and DAB broadcasts, and also to internet radio stations from around the world, and it connects to Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer via Wi-Fi or to a phone via Bluetooth for podcasts. It took a few minutes to get it set up and connected to Wi-Fi but once done, the top navigation buttons and full-colour screen on the top, made selecting the mode easy – simply choose between DAB radio, internet radio or a streaming service. You can also control the radio through your smartphone by app. The sound quality across spoken word and music was superb – dynamic and clear. It can be powered by battery or mains so it’s transportable and the display has a dimmable backlight – handy if you intend to use the sleep timer and don’t want a bright light in the bedroom.

Best sound quality

Pure evoke H4, £149.99,

With its high-powered 10W speaker, Bluetooth music streaming and large full-colour digital display, this is a surprisingly usable device with many useful features. It can be used as a wireless speaker for your laptop or phone, has a continuously updating clock and two alarms – set to your favourite radio station or a tone – starting quiet and slowly getting louder. The handle also doubles as an easy-to-use snooze handle. There are 40 presets and six selection buttons for your favourite stations. If you tend to use your radio in the kitchen there’s also the kitchen timer option, which our tester loved. It may be on the more expensive side but it looks good, the sound quality – including the bass – is excellent, and it really is easy to set up.

Best modern

Sharp DR-S460 Home Radio, £94.99,

This radio is all about simplicity, both in design and function. The stations are all auto-tuned for you on set-up – and you can store up to ten. Switch between settings – Bluetooth, DAB or FM radio – via the MODE button. The clock display
is clear and easy to read from a distance and carries song title information on the DAB radio setting. There is an alarm you can set to wake you up with music or a tone – though due to its size we found it looked most at home in the living room. The volume tool, set into the top of the unit, was a little fiddly and it was easy to turn it up too high too quickly. Sound quality from the two 15W speakers was great – voices were sharp, music sounded clear – while more upbeat radio stations carried bass and lower- level sounds with no distortion. It is powered only by plug-in, so is not portable as such, but it’s very light should you wish to move it around the house.

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