If your car already has a single-DIN size radio it should be possible to replace it with a DAB radio for reception of digital radio stations. This is often a fairly simple upgrade which can be done at home or inexpensively by a professional installer.
There are advantages to using an aftermarket radio rather than a DAB adapter. There are no trailing wires on the centre console and dashboard and the 12V socket is also kept free. Aftermarket stereos often have USB sockets, aux-in sockets, Bluetooth and hands free calling. They can also be used with an amplifier and kits are available to retain the use of steering wheel controls.
In this guide
Choosing a new DAB car radio
When choosing any new digital radio it’s important to check that it receives DAB+ radio stations. Look out for the digital radio tick mark on new radios, or for the DAB+ logo on older radios.
One of the first choices to make with a new DAB stereo is whether to go ‘mechless’ or not. An increasing number of DAB car stereos don’t come with a CD player – i.e. don’t have a mechanical drive, so are ‘mechless’. With USB sockets, aux-in connections and Bluetooth for music streaming you might not miss a CD player in your car. But if you still carry CDs in the car do check that your new device does play CDs.
Most DAB radios do now have a USB socket for playing music files. The MP3 format is widely supported and FLAC support is starting to appear on more stereos. Bluetooth is another option and some stereos come with a microphone to use for handsfree calls.
You might need to choose a DAB aerial too. Some DAB radios come with an aerial in the box, while some DAB adapters come with a specific aerial which is only suitable for that model. We have been impressed with the Autoleads DAB-AA1, although you can choose from magnetic mount antennas and roof mounted aerials too.
It’s a good idea to take care when removing the old radio. If the radio, front panel, trim surround and radio cage are kept in a good conditoon the radio can be used again. Should you sell your car in a few years you could swap the radios again and keep the DAB stereo for your new car.
Alternatives to replacing the radio
You don’t have to replace the existing car radio to start enjoying DAB in your car. Adapters which receive digital radio stations and make them come through your existing car radio are available. Options include the Majority Journey, Sonichi S100 and Pure Highway models. These adapters can be used with an aux-in socket in the car or transmit on an FM frequency.
For cars which have space for a double-DIN radio you could consider one of these too. They tend to be more expensive than a single-DIN radio, but some models come with touch screens, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Some cars can be fitted with a DAB adapter which is hidden in the dashboard and is controlled with the steering wheel buttons.
For cars with existing radios which are not already single-DIN or double-DIN in size, we have a guide on replacing a factory fit radio.