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6 best DAB radios for kitchen discos and garden listening

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

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 25 March 2021 11:48
<p>We tested a range of models for sound quality and useful features including fast connectivity and portability </p>

We tested a range of models for sound quality and useful features including fast connectivity and portability

Despite what you hear from the naysayers that claim everyone just wants to stream their music now, there are millions of people who still prefer something tangible, whether that’s a vinyl record or an old-fashioned radio on their kitchen counter.

When it comes to a DAB radio, the most discerning of audiophiles will look for something that allows them to tune into their favourite stations but with modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports and state-of-the-art sound quality.

What is the difference between DAB and FM radio? DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting, a service running from a UK-wide network of transmitters that enables broadcasters to put several radio stations together (known as multiplexing). This means we can access more radio stations using fewer radio frequencies.

Because the signal is digital rather than analogue, like with FM radio, it means you’re less likely to experience interference from neighbouring channels. DAB also offers text information about what’s being broadcast in real-time.

There are several different types of DAB radios, including tabletop (for using at home), alarm clock radios (with built-in features to help get you up in the morning), and portable radios (to take on holiday, on picnics or out to the garden).

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Tabletop radios will usually be bulkier and heavier but tend to come with better-quality audio. Portable radios will be much smaller and lighter, but you might find the sound isn’t as good, and you’ll probably need to make sure you have a spare set of batteries to hand.

Do DAB radios need an aerial? They need the right kind of aerial – portable and tabletop DABs will usually come with a telescopic one. A new model will already be fitted with one, so you don’t need to worry about hunting for spare parts unless it gets damaged or broken. In that case, make sure you check the warranty to see if you can send the product back to be fixed or to get a replacement.

We were really keen to find a range of DABs to suit all needs, whether you’re a fan of dancing around the kitchen while pretending to do the washing up, or someone who loves to take their music on the road. Obviously, we kept our ears alert for radios with great sound quality, but we also sought out those additional features that make our lives so much easier, such as USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity.

We judged the radios on style and design (falling for both classic and avant-garde looks), and made sure we tested all of them in their best environments: from the radio alarm clock on the bedside table, to the super portable model that made the perfect picnic companion. Here are our picks of the best DAB radios around right now.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best DAB radios for 2021

Best for sound quality: Roberts revival istream, £199.99, Johnlewis.com

Best for under £100: Sony XDR-S4ID, £59.99, Amazon.co.uk

Best for being portable: Geneva A200R touring/S+, £200, Amazon.co.uk

Best for waking up to: Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB, £199.13, Amazon.co.uk

Best for value: Roberts revival RD70, £179.99, Johnlewis.com

Roberts revival istream 3

Best for: Sound quality

You’d be hard-pressed to find a DAB radio that looks better than a Roberts. The revival istream combines that timeless handbag design with all the modern features you could want, from FM, DAB and internet radio to Spotify Connect and USB playback. The sound quality is outstanding, with gorgeous tones and a sharp distinction between instruments; the subwoofer at the back gives the bass some extra oomph.

Sony XDR-S4ID

Best for: Under £100

Small but dependable, the Sony XDR-S4ID will automatically scan and save your favourite radio stations, allowing you to access each one via five preset buttons (if you’re running it on batteries, the presets will be erased when the battery runs out). We love the design of this one, and it’s small and light enough to carry around without too much bother. It’s not the best sound quality but it’s decent – music fans might want to spend a little more if they’re looking for something to get them dancing around the living room. The set-up is a piece of cake, and the backlit display is a nice touch.

Ruark R1 MK4

Best for: Design

We adore the eye-catching design of the Ruark, complete with a hand-crafted slatted wood grille on the front. If you’re looking for something that’s more than just a bog-standard DAB radio, this model has plenty of bells and whistles to keep you entertained, including a Bluetooth receiver that allows you to stream directly from your phone or computer. The high-contrast OLED display comes with an auto-dimming feature. It’s also got one hell of a soundstage for such a small box – we wouldn’t blame you if you thought the band was right in the room with you.

Geneva A200R touring/S+

Best for: Portability

Small but mighty, this underdog from the (you guessed it) Swiss company Geneva packs a real punch. The retro design reminds us of those classic Casio digital watches that have made a welcome comeback in the past five years, and the buttons and volume control are incredibly satisfying to use. You can also turn the volume up to 11 without upsetting the audio balance. The only possible downside is its lack of an IP rating – maybe check the weather forecast before you take it with you on a picnic.

Lumie bodyclock luxe 750DAB

Best for: Waking up to

With our hectic lives, it’s important to wake up feeling rested and ready to start the day. Several DAB radios now come with features such as bodyclock, which mimics the light and colour of a real sunrise and sunset (find out more in our review of the best light alarm clocks). It’s a far less stressful way to be woken up than by the jarring noise of an alarm. Available in a choice of pleasing colours (and with a variety of optional extras, such as a glass shade), the luxe 750DAB also includes more than 20 wake and sleep sounds, from soothing birdsong to distant thunder. You can also enjoy all of your favourite music thanks to the excellent Bluetooth speakers, DAB+ radio, and the USB port that gives you the option to add more music and charge your phone while you sleep.

Roberts revival RD70

Best for: Value

Roberts has successfully managed to keep its instantly recognisable design while fine-tuning its already impressive reputation. Don’t be fooled by the Fifties stylings – the RD70 comes with Bluetooth connectivity and sparkling sound. There are a whopping 20 presets (10 DAB and 10 FM) so you can access your favourite stations with the touch of a button. You can also pair the radio with your smartphone or tablet, to transform the Revival into an excellent speaker system.

The verdict: Best DAB radios

Through the years, Roberts has continued to assert itself as the go-to brand for crystal-clear sound twinned with stunning design. The istream is a great investment that would make a stunning addition to any home.

If you’re looking for something a little different, the unique design of the Ruark R1 MK4 packs a real punch for such a tiny radio.

For more on audio, read our review of Anker’s Soundcore flare 2 and find out if it’s as fun as the original

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