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7 best DAB radios for kitchen discos and garden parties

From retro designs to modern alarm clocks, these are our top-rated picks

David Taylor
Wednesday 19 October 2022 18:49 BST
We looked at ease of setup and use, but also at design and, of course, sound quality
We looked at ease of setup and use, but also at design and, of course, sound quality (iStock/The Independent)

As much as The Buggles might despair, we think they jumped the gun – video never quite killed the radio star. Despite TV hogging our attention, and streaming making it easier than ever to listen to what you want, when you want, switching on the radio is a particular pleasure that millions of people across the country, including us, still enjoy.

It’s been made easier over the last decade by the introduction of DAB radio. DAB, or Digital Audio Broadcasting, uses a network of transmitters across the country to group together a series of stations, making it a doddle to find your favourite channels, especially when FM or AM aren’t quite cutting it.

If you’re someone who thinks that sometimes the old ways are still the best (join the club), it’s a relief to know that many DAB radios include FM and AM frequency access, giving radio lovers the best of both worlds.

Because the technology is so versatile, the possibilities for DAB radios are pretty comprehensive. From compact, bedside table units, to full, sophisticated-soundscape pieces of furniture, your options are anything but limited. Of course, more portable radios won’t offer the same depth of audio as their bigger cousins, but on the other hand, you’re less likely to carry a cabinet to the beach.

We channelled Tony Blackburn, Zoe Ball and Greg James, put on our best snazzy radio DJ jumpers, and took to the airwaves to find the best DAB radio for all manner of occasions. Tune in to discover our favourites.

How we tested

It’s not hard to imagine how we tested a series of DAB radios. Firstly, we looked at ease of setup and use – how quickly could we get to our favourite “choons”, and how simple was each radio to navigate? Secondly, we checked out the radios’ looks, considering unique designs, balanced aesthetics, durability and portability. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we tested audio quality – while a radio’s good looks are important (especially as you get towards the higher end), it’s the way it sounds that’s most vital.

The best DAB radios for 2022 are:

  • Best overall DAB radio – Ruark R1 MK4: £239, Johnlewis.com
  • Best DAB radio for tradition and tech in one – Roberts revival istream 3: £229.99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best reliable budget DAB radio – Sony XDR-S41D: £74, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best DAB radio for starting the day right – Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB: £229, Lumie.com
  • Best DAB radio for looks – Loewe klang S1: £459, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best DAB radio for portability – Roberts revival petite: £99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best DAB radio for sound quality – Ruark audio R3: £649, Johnlewis.com

Ruark R1 MK4

Ruark R1 MK4.png
  • Best: Overall
  • Connectivity type: Bluetooth, USB-C, Aux, headphones out
  • Alarm: Dual
  • Radio tuner: DAB, DAB+, FM

If there was an award for “most perfectly radio-looking radio”, the Ruark R1 MK4 would win. Actually, we’ve just decided to create that award: congratulations, Ruark!

The R1 MK4 is the fourth iteration of a famous model, and the best of the bunch. The gorgeous, hand-crafted wood grille neatly hides a heap of features and a sophisticated soundstage that has no right to be in such a compact box. It’s not just DAB, either, with a Bluetooth receiver letting you besmirch the audio technology with your choice of embarrassing Spotify playlists.

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Roberts revival istream 3

Roberts revival istream 3.png
  • Best: For tradition and tech in one
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB, Aux, wifi, headphones out, line in
  • Alarm: Buzzer, radio
  • Radio tuner: DAB, FM, Internet

The Roberts Revival series of radios is perhaps the best you can get. It hits the sweet spot between modern audio technology and retro styling, perfectly shown by the istream 3.

Don’t let the attractive 1960s design fool you – the istream 3 has all the mod cons you could shake a digital stick at, from DAB and internet radio to Spotify and USB connectivity. All this is a bonus, though, as it’s the sound quality that’s the primary takeaway – it’s among the cleanest, most-balanced performances on the market for this price.

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Sony XDR-S4ID

sony.jpg
  • Best: Reliable budget radio
  • Connectivity: Unspecified
  • Alarm: Radio
  • Radio tuner: DAB+, FM

Beauty is much more than skin deep. Granted, the Sony XDR-S4ID won’t be to everyone’s modern-sleek-chrome-no-buttons-all-curves tastes, but this little powerhouse scans for your favourite channels, offering five presets. (A word of warning: these will disappear if you’re using batteries and they run out.)

It’s easy to take with you, the sound is capable without pulling up any trees, and the LED screen is very early years of DAB. Not much to dislike, a load to enjoy.

  1. £74 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB

Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB indybest.jpg
  • Best: For starting the day right
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB, Aux
  • Alarm: Brightening light
  • Radio tuner: DAB, DAB+

Let’s face it, the British winter can feel a little on the long side (and this is from a dyed-in-the-wool winter apologist). The short days and dark mornings can begin to weigh on our mood, which is why the concept of the light alarm clock is such a winner.

The bodyclock luxe 750DAB is at the top of the tree when it comes to starting your winter mornings on the right foot – its gradual, natural daylight-mimicking tech helps you to wake up in a gentle, energised fashion, with 20 sounds that can accompany your own little sunrise. If you fancy a radio wake-up call, the bodyclock luxe also has Bluetooth, DAB and USB connectivity, with a more-than-handy audio setup.

  1. £229 from Lumie.com
Prices may vary
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Loewe klang S1

Loewe klang S1.png
  • Best: For looks
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB, wifi
  • Alarm: N/a
  • Radio tuner: DAB, DAB+, FM

Loewe has made it clear what its Klang range is all about. German for “sound”, the klang S1 packs plenty of the stuff into its sleek silhouette, combining DAB/DAB+/FM/internet radio tuning with integrated streaming and crystal-clear speaker setup.

The S1 is among the most design-forward radios on the list, the aluminium housing coming in basalt and light grey, and the compact frame taking up very little room. It’s a classic minimalist German design that would look at home just about anywhere and make you feel slightly better about the conspicuous pile of washing hiding in the kitchen.

Configuring and programming the S1 is straightforward via the set’s impressively large top display, the remote control or the partner Loewe radio app. With up to 25,000 stations available, we suggest the app.

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Roberts revival petite

Roberts revival petite.png
  • Best: For portability
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Aux
  • Alarm: N/a
  • Radio tuner: DAB, DAB+, FM

The Roberts Revival range does it again with the petite. The name is apt: it’s a tiny radio that fits pretty neatly in hand, but still manages to give off a premium air. The Roberts retro design approach comes into its own here, creating a DAB pocket rocket (10 DAB and 10 FM presets) that offers a clear screen, big tuning knob and amp-style speaker grille.

The petite also connects to your favourite streaming services via Bluetooth, and has a 12-hour wireless battery life, meaning you can take your old-school looks with you wherever you go.

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Ruark audio R3

Ruark audio R3.png
  • Best: For sound quality
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, wifi, RCA in, RCA out, optical in, USB, ethernet, headphones
  • Alarm: Buzzer, dual, programmable timer, radio
  • Radio tuner: DAB, DAB+, FM

It feels a little unfair to the rest of the list to class the Ruark R3 as a DAB radio. Its smart-radio tuner offers internet radio, DAB, DAB+ and FM, with access to stations and podcasts worldwide, including a raft of on-demand services.

However, the R3 offers much more than Greg James (although we’d be happy enough with that). It’s a fantastic all-in-one music streaming and CD system that produces sound much richer and louder than its size would suggest. It’s also a beautiful piece of tech art that would elevate any room. If you’re looking for a centrepiece audio player, and have the cash to spare, the R3 is the way to go.

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The verdict: DAB radios

The Roberts revival range is one of the most consistently high-quality audio ranges we’ve had the pleasure to listen to, especially for the price, but its istream and petite radios are just pipped to the best buy title by Ruark’s class-leading R1 Mk4. The handmade wooden grille and left-field shape gives Ruark the crown, but either would be a worthy addition to your kitchen or bedside.

In the mood for something classic? These are the best record players for spinning your favourite vinyls

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