How to choose a radio

how to choose a radio

by Stephanie Spencer |
Published on

Nowadays there are lots of options on the market for listening to our favourite songs, so we’ve created this which radio buyers guide to help you cut through the tech jargon and find how to choose a radio and discover the best radios for you.

We’ll discuss FM and DAB, the differences and benefits of both, what to look for in a radio, and extras that most radios now include.

What to look for when buying a radio?

Audio quality – If you are looking for a cheaper portable radio or even an expensive one, it’s important to check its sound quality. Make sure it can reproduce sound well and covers all lows, mids, and highs without any distortions. At least, the sound should be clear enough to hear, and it should be value for money.

Connectivity – As we all know, radios have an excellent inbuilt speaker and usually don’t require external ones. Therefore, they make a good speaker when you have none. However, you will need good connectivity and compatibility so you can connect the radio to your music player or mobile phone using a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. Also, look for wired USB and MDCI inputs.

User experience – simply put, how easy is it to use? Some radios have digital displays, or smaller buttons which can be fiddly to switch between favourite channels. If you can’t visit a shop to see the product in person, reading online reviews will help you determine user experience and decide how to choose a radio.

Additional features – many digital radios have multiple functions, such as Bluetooth connectivity so you can also use the radio as a speaker for your favourite songs on Spotify. You can also find some with alarms, and even some that are water-resistant. If there’s a particular feature you’re looking out for, make sure the radio you find has this feature, this will really help you with how to choose a radio.

Design – this is personal preference, perhaps you prefer sleek and modern, or you’re looking for something colourful, or perhaps you want a vintage look.

Size – what do you want your radio for, are you looking for something lightweight and portable, or would you like something larger that can live on your sideboard?

Future proof – Eventually, FM radio will be switched off, so if you’re still on analogue it could be worth investing in a digital radio.

Battery life – if you’re hoping to use the radio as garden speakers or take it on a camping trip, check what the battery life is. Some radios will also have the option to be plugged in, charged via battery or USB.

Which is best DAB or FM radio?

Digital radio is the latest radio technology, which refers to the use of digital technology to transmit or receive across the radio spectrum, while analogue radio is the traditional type of radio, using frequency modulation (FM) to encode a voice signal within a carrier wave.

DAB and FM radio have both been in use for quite a long time, however, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) is often looked to as the better alternative as it offers more channels to choose from, has a more reliable signal and is available over longer distances.

FM radio waves from different radio stations in the same area cannot easily coexist with each other within the same airwaves. This results in the distortion of frequencies, and therefore, distortion of sounds. DAB solves this problem by allowing for program signals to be encoded into digits, and sent over in fragments that can only be decoded by a digital radio receiver, so you can listen to a wider variety of channels without interference.

The disadvantage of DAB radio is you either receive the signal, or you do not. This is how DAB works, there is no in between. When deciding how to choose a radio you might decide to stick with analogue for this reason, there are a number of users who are more inclined to stick with FM radio mainly because the quality of sound received largely depends on how well you place your antenna.

The plan is to eventually switch off FM and AM radio in favour of digital, however around 35% of the population are still using analogue radio, so media regulator Ofcom has renewed the licences for another decade, meaning analogue radio will continue until at least 2032. Even so, there are reasons to look at upgrading to DAB. Upgrading to DAB doesn't even have to mean giving up on FM, as plenty of DAB radios include analogue tuners too.

How do I choose a DAB radio?

DAB radios come in all shapes and sizes – from portable travel friendly models to those designed to make a statement in your home. How to choose a radio that's right for you depends on how you intend to use your radio and where you plan on having it in your home.

For example, if you’re hoping to use your radio in the kitchen, functionality is key. Something with easy-to-operate knobs and dials will be best. If space is limited, consider a front or top-facing speaker model, which can slot in next to other kitchen gadgets without muffling the sound. A built-in timer for cooking is useful.

You can also find some radio models with a remote, which is a great feature particularly for radios in the living room. When you can opt for sound quality over size, look for larger speakers for top-quality audio.

If you want your radio for the bedroom and to act as more of an alarm then the ability to set different weekend and weekday alarms is useful. Check the brightness of the display so it won’t interfere with your sleep. Also make sure the snooze button is easy to use!

If you’d rather have the option of portability, weight is key. Look out for something with a carry handle and a rechargeable battery, or you could even go for a wind up radio. Some portable radios also come with a case which is very useful when packing it to protect your device.

Stephanie Anthony is the Deputy Digital Editor of Having worked across a variety of topics, from travel and food to pharmaceuticals, she also has a particular interest in mental health and wellness.

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