In a world where you can play any song or podcast from your phone in seconds, having a radio may not feel like a particularly pressing buy.
But the small box, which began life by receiving its first waves back in 1895, has many uses for modern day living.
Offering hands-free, unsupervised entertainment while you’re WFH or whipping up delicious meals in the kitchen, you can catch the latest tunes, weather, traffic updates and news while getting on with other tasks.
Over the weekend, many are easily portable to parks and BBQs, leaving your phone’s battery reserved for bigger tasks, like capturing the best pics and sending Google drop-pins to lost pals.
Like most personal tech, radios have had an upgrade in the 21st century, with DAB joining FM and AM frequencies.
What is DAB radio?
Standing for Digital Audio Broadcasting, it operates on digital radio, which comes from a network of transmitters across the UK. This method allows broadcasters to group together several radio stations; offering an efficient way to provide listeners with more radio stations using fewer radio frequencies. Digital radios have the potential to pick up 60+ stations, while some FM radios can only manage 15 or so. You can also access digital-only stations like BBC’s 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra.
What are the benefits of DAB?
One of the biggest pluses is the sheer level of choice you’ll have, as you can access more stations. If a tune that you can’t stand comes on, there’s plenty more options that you can switch over to.
As well as having DAB, DAB+ and FM radio capabilities, many DAB radio models are Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled so can connect to the Internet and your other devices to stream sound.
What about DAB+?
While DAB was a 90s baby, it’s little sister is DAB+, which started being used from 2007. As the name suggests, it’s simply more efficient, with clearer sound and better radio station selection. While it is superior, not all stations have made the switch over to it just yet. If you’re shopping for a new radio, it’s a good idea to have this capability included - it’s the future of radio.
As well as looking and sounding great, a radio can make an excellent and useful gift choice.
Here are our favourite models to buy now.
Majority Little Shelford DAB/DAB+ Digital & FM Radio
Best for: bang for your buck
Small, light and with a matching carry handle that makes it party ready, Majority’s dinky Little Shelford radio is our top pick for those keeping an eye on the purse strings. For under £40, the radio serves double duty as a Bluetooth speaker, and is mains and battery operated. It looks great anywhere in the home, and has the government certified ‘Future Ready’ Green Tick for digital radio. The vintage-look design comes in a selection of bold and neutral colours to fit in or stand out from your decor as you wish. Majority is a sustainably-minded company too, vowing to plant a tree for every product sold.
Measuring just 10 x 13 x 17cm, it’s perfect for the home office, kitchen window and garden shed.
John Lewis & Partners Spectrum Solo Portable DAB+/FM Digital Radio, Mustard
Best for: a bright pop of colour
John Lewis’s own brand range of homewares, Anyday, is the perfect place to pick up homely essentials with the same features as bigger name brands. This compact 350g weight design reminds us of a LEGO brick, and is small enough to sit anywhere, as well as taken on the move. The Solo has both FM & DAB+ so you can access thousands of stations. There are five presets so you can easily find your favourites. Also available in gunmetal grey and teal.
JVC RC-D327B DAB/FM Bluetooth Boombox - Grey
Best for: listening to your dusty collection of mix-tapes
The UK feels engulfed in a Nineties fashion tornado and when it comes to jamming retro-style, few can beat the Boombox. JVC’s design brings together the best of both worlds, with a cassette and CD player (remember those?!) alongside FM and DAB radio capabilities. Use one of the 20 presets to keep your favourite stations on call, and take it anywhere thanks to battery power - although there is a mains outlet for all your nostalgia-themed parties.
£59.99 | Currys *On sale from £69.99
Bush Wooden DAB Radio
Best for: budget buy
If you’re looking for something small and stylish, check out Bush’s wooden cabinet design DAB radio. Adding mid-century glam to any room, it displays your radio station on the LCD screen and offers 20 presets, giving you plenty of options to keep your favourite stations close to hand. There’s also an auto tune function for perfect sound and auto scan if you’re browsing what to listen to next. It’s mains operated but can work with two AA batteries if you want to take it out with you.
Roberts Revival RD70 DAB/DAB+/FM Bluetooth Digital Radio with Alarm, Duck Egg
Best for: timeless appeal
One of John Lewis’s best selling radios, Roberts is a brand that needs no introduction. Famed for its vintage-look designs, the features are wholly modern: think Bluetooth connectivity for wireless streaming, and a bright full colour display, crystal clear digital radio, alarm mode, and portability, thanks to the option of battery power.
Also available in black, dove grey, leafy green, cream and red, and comes with a two year guarantee.
KREAFUNK aTune DAB/FM Radio - Black
Best for: sleek style
This bluetooth speaker can also catch DAB/FM signals, allowing you to play your own tunes and catch the footie scores with one seamless switch. Offering 15 hours playback and fitted with an alarm clock too, it is dust and water-resistant, offering full bodied sound, whatever you’re listening to. Also available in white.
Roberts BLUTUNE5BK Portable stereo digital radio
Best for: a retro aesthetic
Catch crystal clear DAB/DAB+/FM sounds on this portable digital radio, which also has Bluetooth connectivity. Running on both battery and mains power, you can carry your music indoors and out in the garden, without missing a single beat. The large LCD panel also shows the station, and you can set it to sleep or on snooze, making it a great bedside essential too.
Bush Compact DAB/FM Radio – White
Best for: minimal contemporary vibes
Start the next stage into your wireless journey with Bush’s sleek compact radio, which offers DAB and FM frequencies. Perfect for teenagers and students, it boasts crisp audio and 20 presets, with a headphone jack for private listening.
LEXON Tykho 3 FM silicone radio and speaker
Best for: belting out power ballads in the shower
Why risk water damage to your tech when this splash-proof shower buddy can provide ample entertainment? In a silicone casing, it has a 20 hour playback time, and can charge with a USB port. It doesn’t offer DAB (FM 88-108MHz only) but can connect to Bluetooth to 10m, so you can still use it to play your Spotify playlist from elsewhere in the house. Also comes in various other colours.
Rydell Nostalgic DAB Radio - Cream / Brown
Best for: crooning classic show tunes
The fact that this radio is named after the school Danny Zuko, Sandy and the Pink Ladies go to in Grease should clue you in to its retro stylings. But, while it may look vintage, the features are anything but. It comes with 20 presets to keep your favourite stations close to hand as well as an alarm, sleep and snooze function. Never worry about the clocks changing again, either - this mighty device auto adjusts the time via DAB.
For the price, design and no-fuss function, we think Majority’s Little Shelford is the wisest way to spend your money. With a choice of colours and easy portability, it’s a little gem whether you’re in the house, garden, or further afield.