How to Tell if Car Radio is DAB+ Enabled: The Basics

DAB+ car radios are becoming increasingly common throughout the world.

In Europe, governments are gradually beginning to phase out the use of older AM and FM radio broadcasts, encouraging manufacturers to create more digital-ready car models.

Although the age of FM radio isn’t over yet, the UK government and other bodies are now setting out criteria for the rise of DAB.

For instance, local DAB must reach around 90 percent of the population. The good news for drivers is that onboard radios are growing more advanced.

Today, virtually every new car produced in certain parts of the world allows you to traverse the digital landscape, taking advantage of more channels and greater audio quality.

But how can you tell if your car radio is DAB+ enabled?

What Is a DAB+ Car Radio?

Hand adjusting DAB+ radio in car without internet
DAB+ radio is the latest and greatest form of digital audio broadcasting with more stations to enjoy.

Before we explore how you can examine the DAB+ functionality of your vehicle, it’s worth explaining what DAB+ actually is.

Since the first portable radio prototype was installed into a vehicle in the 1930s, our driving experiences have fundamentally changed.

Radios then issued signals using AM waves, the same frequencies used for CB and ham radios today.

Next, FM radio was introduced, improving audio quality and reach for talk shows, music programs, and countless other channels.

Now, we’ve officially entered the age of digital radio with DAB.

DAB stands for digital audio broadcasting, a version of radio technology introduced in the UK in 1995.

After an experiment with multiplexing, the UK’s radio teams found DAB presented a more efficient way to broadcast radio channels.

The digital transmissions of DAB radio can contain more information than standard FM/AM transmissions and offer super-fast wavelengths for enhanced audio.

In 2013, DAB+, the upgraded version of DAB technology, was introduced. It uses the same technology and transmitters as DAB but offers a more spectrum-efficient experience.

With DAB+, users can access a wider variety of stations from all over the region.

Since DAB and DAB+ emerged into the broadcasting world, these technologies have been used in everything from standard radio sets to car entertainment systems.

The Benefits of a DAB+ Radio Car

So, why would you want a car that’s DAB+ enabled?

The most obvious answer is that you’ll have access to more stations and higher-quality sound.

DAB+ is up to three times more efficient at broadcasting than DAB. Plus, it suffers from fewer issues with lost transmissions and content.

DAB+ radios also offer the following:

  • Easy-to-find channels for radio browsers
  • Access to channels from the UK and abroad (no regional locks)
  • More advanced features, such as multimedia screens and playlists
  • The ability to pause, rewind, and record live radio (on some models)
  • Sensational sound quality via quicker wavelengths

Although the UK and other European governments haven’t set a specific date for phasing out FM/AM radios, that day could be on the horizon. Having a DAB+ radio in your car means you can continue accessing amazing content when FM disappears.

How Many Cars Have DAB+ Radio?

An up-close shot of a DAB+ car stereo with red lights
DAB+ radio is on the rise and may soon phase out FM radios in vehicles.

Although it’s difficult to know how many vehicles are equipped with DAB+ radio today, the number of models is growing.

In 2020, the UK Parliament approved a regulation that requires all new commercial and passenger vehicles to include DAB radio services.

According to a report, by the end of 2021, DAB+ radio came as a standard feature, with 95 percent of all new cars sold throughout European markets.

However, some locations are further ahead with their DAB+ roll-out than others.

For instance, 100 percent of the cars produced in Italy and Norway after 2021 have DAB+ radio, 99 percent of cars in Switzerland are DAB+ enabled, and 98 percent of cars in Belgium and the UK share the technology.

If you bought your car from Italy or Norway in the last couple of years, you’re almost guaranteed to have a DAB+-ready car.

How to Tell If a Car Radio is DAB+ Enabled

There are a few ways to check whether your car radio has DAB+ or DAB radio.

First, consider your location. Many countries throughout Europe and the UK now require all manufacturers to embed DAB or DAB+ radios into their models as of 2021.

However, the United States doesn’t have the same DAB radio solutions. If you have a US-made car, likely, you’ll have AM, FM, and perhaps satellite radio.

You can also search for the digital radio tick mark to define if your car is DAB+ enabled. This is the official mark used on car radios with DAB technology.

You can usually find it in the manual for your car radio or the broader car manual.

If you don’t see the tick mark, it’s still worth reading through your manual to see if you can find any references to DAB+.

Some cars can be upgraded to DAB+ but may require customers to purchase the feature as an extra service.

Alternatively, if neither of these methods works, consider scanning through radio channels in your car to see if you can access any DAB-only channels, such as BBC Radio 1Xtra, or TalkRadio in the UK.

How to Get DAB+ Radio for Your Car

If your vehicle doesn’t have a DAB radio already, you may still be able to access it. There are various ways to unlock the digital radio in your car, depending on your budget and how much time you want to spend fiddling with technology.

The best options include:

Plug and Play Radio Adapters

Car radio adapters are one of the easiest and most popular ways to upgrade your radio service.

Many of the early versions of these tools were complicated to use, with various wires you had to plug into your vehicle. However, there are some more straightforward options on the market today.

Depending on your chosen model, a DAB car radio adapter allows you to access DAB and DAB+ radios.

The tools receive DAB signals through antennas, then convert them into FM frequencies to play through your standard car radio.

The great thing about car radio adapters is they’re usually inexpensive and work with various models.

Some options can plug into a cigarette lighter socket or car 12V, making moving your system from one car to another easy.

Digital Radio Conversion Kits

Similarly to plug-and-play adapters, digital radio conversion kits convert digital signals into FM wavelengths.

However, they’re a little cleaner than a plug-and-play option, as you won’t see any wires or plastic obtrusions in your car.

The downside with these solutions is they can be quite complicated to install and require support from a trained professional in most cases.

There are usually two options to choose from. The first is a fully integrated conversion kit.

With this tool, the only change to your car will appear as a new antenna, and DAB radio information will appear on your existing dash display.

Fully integrated conversion kits often use your steering wheel controls and can be slightly more expensive than their counterparts.

The other option is a semi-integrated conversion kit. With this system, you get a wireless remote to control your radio rather than using your existing dashboard.

Replacement Radios

A replacement system might be the best choice if you don’t mind investing in new technology for a DAB+ car radio experience.

Purchasing a new radio might be easier for people with older vehicles, as not all new conversion solutions work with older models.

Before installing a new radio into your car, ensure your model is compatible with your vehicle and includes all the right features.

It’s also worth determining whether you can install the system yourself or whether you’ll need some extra support.

Remember, some cars can make it a lot trickier to install new audio systems than others. Avoid experimenting with your car’s tech and wiring if you’re not a professional.

Use Your Smartphone

Smiling woman wearing a white shirt and headphones looking at her phone and listening to music while sitting on her couch
You can listen to DAB+ radio on your smartphone at home or in the car.

Accessing DAB+ radio in your vehicle doesn’t have to involve installing any new technology at all.

You can access DAB+ apps on many mobile devices to give you direct access to content.

You can connect your phone to your car’s speaker system using an aux-in cable or a separate Bluetooth kit.

However, this can be a costly solution. DAB radio requires access to your phone’s data, which could mean you spend your monthly allowance quickly if you listen to a lot of content.

Using your smartphone for DAB+ radio access can be a good way to experiment and check out the available channels before you commit to anything permanent.

Is Your Car DAB+ Radio Enabled?

If you’re wondering how to tell if a car radio is DAB+ enabled, the process is often much more straightforward than you’d think.

Reading through your manual or checking for a verified mark on your radio device should be enough to give you good insight.

Today, most modern cars will already have DAB+ radios installed throughout the UK and Europe. However, if your vehicle is a little more old-fashioned, don’t worry.

There are still plenty of ways to upgrade your digital radio experience with adapters, converters, and even your smartphone.

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