You might expect a website about digital radio to recommend buying one. The answer really depends on whether you need to buy a new radio now and the sort of radio stations and programmes you enjoy.
A switchover to digital radio, or a switch-off of analogue signals, has been mooted for some time. There is currently no date set for such a change. Unlike the switch to digital television a few years ago there’s no need to buy a new radio now to continue receiving stations.
However, some stations may start to switch off their analogue transmitters voluntarily. In 2018 Absolute Radio proposed to reduce its AM coverage while Northsound 2 switched off its analogue transmitter entirely. If your favourite station made a similar change to its transmissions you may wish to buy a DAB radio to continue receiving it.
In 2018 the BBC’s Director of Radio and Music stated in a speech that although the corporation is committed to digital, a “switchover now would be premature”.
“We all once thought DAB was the only digital future for Radio. But audiences want choice. We now know DAB is very important but as a part of the story, along with FM and IP.”
With that in mind, it’s currently for you to decide whether to buy a digital radio, internet radio or smart speaker now.
Do you need to buy a new radio?
If you have a need to buy a new radio, do consider purchasing a DAB digital radio.
If your current radio is broken or not suitable for your needs and you intend to purchase a new radio, do ensure it has the digital radio tick mark. This indicates that the radio can receive FM, DAB and DAB+ stations.
This combination means the radio will be relatively future-proof. New stations might be available on DAB+, existing stations may continue using DAB and community radio stations might continue on FM. A radio with the digital tick will mean you don’t miss out over the next few years.
It’s worth noting that if you listen to medium wave stations there are very few radios which receive MW in addition to DAB. The digital tick mark does not mean a radio can receive medium wave stations. Whilst this might not be an issue for a radio station like talkSPORT which is available digitally, some local medium wave stations might not be on DAB.
Check with your favourite stations first to avoid disappointment.
Do you want to listen to new stations and programmes?
If you want to discover new radio stations and programmes, do buy a DAB digital radio.
Upgrading to digital radio gives you access to more news and talk stations, such as LBC and talkRADIO, in addition to the BBC’s offerings. If you love music from the 80s, rock music or jazz there are also dedicated stations on DAB for these genres and decades.
However, many of us are creatures of habit. If you can’t see yourself switching away from the Today programme in the morning or Smooth at work it might not be worth upgrading to digital radio now.
If your only radio listening is to BBC Radio 2 or your local radio station and you’re happy with the way your radio sounds, it might be best to hang on to your existing radio.
Should I order my new car with digital radio?
Yes. Car radios are integrated more and more inside car dashboards and displays. If you are buying a new car now it is well worth choosing DAB digital radio as an option, if it doesn’t already come as standard.
While you can add digital radio later with an adapter, this will involve a new or additional car aerial and a device on the dashboard. In many cases the cost of the adapter, aerial and installation will be close to or outweigh the price of the factory option.
Do think about the stations you listen to and test them out first. If you regularly listen to medium wave stations check that the digital radio in a new car does still receive them if they are not available digitally.
It’s up to you whether to upgrade to digital radio now.
If you have to buy a new radio, do consider a DAB digital radio which is future-proof. Radios can last 10 years or more, so it’s a good idea to be ready for any changes to analogue signals in the future.
If you don’t need to buy a new radio and are not tempted by the additional choice and features, consider saving your money for now.
Before making a purchase think about the stations which you listen to regularly. If any are on medium wave or long wave, check that you can get these on DAB digital radio, as a new DAB radio probably won’t receive them.
Finally, think about other audio devices. If you’re interested in buying a smart speaker which can stream radio stations as well as Spotify and podcasts this could be an alternative to a stand-alone digital radio. There are some very good radio apps, so if your phone or tablet is always in the kitchen with you a Bluetooth speaker might be a good idea.