Digital is on the way to accounting for half of radio listening, although uptake hasn’t been quick enough for a date to be set for switch-off of the AM-FM analogue network. The two reasons most often cited for this are the preponderance of AM-FM units fitted in cars and the expense of DAB sets. However, the prices of DAB radios have been falling, so here we look at some of the more reasonably priced units in the shops.
Apart from the Logik, these units feature DAB+, a higher quality audio format. Only a handful of UK stations broadcast in DAB+ at present and older sets should be compatible, sometimes requiring a firmware upgrade. A further switch over to DAB+ is certainly a long way off.
DAB+; Bluetooth; NFC; 5W speaker; aux in
This understated looking set is well camouflaged for most modern interiors. There is no battery option, so it will be confined to your home.
It’s simple to operate – our unit didn’t come with any instructions, but they were not needed. This radio also doubles as a speaker for your smartphone – via either Bluetooth or NFC (Near Field Communication) – so when you’ve had enough broadcasting you can stream your own choice of music from Spotify, Apple Music et al. Produces a clean, rich sound that should be big enough to fill all but the most spacious of kitchens.
For listeners of: Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service
DAB+; 2x2W; aux-in
Unbelievable value. This is the only unit in this selection that has a clock radio function in addition to 10 presets and most of the functions of the more expensive units. No wireless connectivity but you can plug in your smartphone via an aux socket if you wish. Minor quibbles would be the LCD display that blinks rather than scrolls the info about songs and stations and the somewhat dated 90s design. The sound is good for the price, although the stereo is superfluous.
For listeners of: The Michael Ball Show
Pure Pop Midi £75
DAB+; Bluetooth; 4.3W speaker; aux in
Feels of poorer quality construction than the Astro – the buttons wobble a bit and finish is plasticky. And the sound quality is disappointing for this price: the gains in quality that DAB or even FM should afford are lost on this device. Pluses are that you can store up to 20 of your favourite stations, it has a battery option and a headphone socket.
For listeners of: The Nick Grimshaw Breakfast Show
Goodmans Pebble £29
DAB+; 1W speaker
Really simple pared-back design that is available in various hues. Use is very intuitive – the turn and press dial to select stations is less fiddly to use than buttons. Not surprisingly for this price it doesn’t have any connectivity, wired or otherwise, but add some batteries and it’s ready for the outdoors. The LCD screen is tiny but that doesn’t detract from the usability of the device. The sound is surprisingly good, really vibrant.
For listeners of: Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Target
Logik L2DAB16 £20
DAB; 1W speaker
This utilitarian unit definitely has a functional charm. It’s simple to operate and you won’t be upset if you splatter it in emulsion – this is the perfect radio for a shed. It features 20 presets, battery or mains power plus a headphone socket if you want to go private. The sound is a little tinny but adequate for listening to late-night radio phone-ins and such like.
For listeners of: Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast
DAB+; Bluetooth; aux in
With its wooden grille and leather strap, this looks more like a wireless than a modern electronic device. However, the retro only goes woodstain deep. This model also multitasks as a Bluetooth speaker for linking up to streaming services and USB socket for firmware updates. Like the Goodmans it employs a simple-to-use dial to select stations and it has a generous 20 station presets.
This is certainly the most handsome looking radio we tested and its sound quality is equal to the Astro – really natural and detailed.
For listeners of: The Archers