Do you ever wonder, “What is DAB radio?” You might see the DAB radio option on your dashboard, and even choose those channels over FM most of the time.
But how much do you know about DAB technology? Do you know how a DAB digital radio works?
So, what is DAB radio?
DAB is a term meaning “Digital Audio Broadcasting”. DAB radio is a digital service in the United Kingdom, delivered by a range of transmission points all over the country.
DAB uses digital technology, which allows broadcasters to package various stations together through something called “multiplexing”.
A multiplexed radio station can broadcast across single frequency networks, so it’s much more efficient. The BBC even has its own multiplex.
Let’s take a closer look at the science behind DAB digital radio.
What is DAB? DAB digital radio
DAB, or Digital Audio Broadcasting radio, has been around for almost three decades.
The technology arrived in the UK in 1995, following the BBC’s discovery of multiplexing. They found it was a more efficient way to broadcast radio channels. DAB is the radio standard for a lot of audio lovers today.
There’s also an updated form of DAB known as DAB+ radio. This was introduced in 2005. Where the traditional DAB audio signals are encoded in an MPEG audio format called MP2, DAB+ is different.
The “plus” DAB gets AAC+ encoding, which makes it capable of delivering higher-quality audio at lower bitrates.
Is DAB radio replacing FM?
A lot of people assume DAB and DAB+ radio systems will one day replace AM and FM radio. Although the BBC and other groups in the UK have discussed eventually making the “switch to digital radio”, we’re not sure when this is going to happen.
Elsewhere in the world, countries like Norway have already replaced FM radio entirely.
How does DAB radio work?
We’ve answered the question “What does DAB radio mean?” but what about the scientific stuff? How does digital radio work? To answer this, we’ll need to look at frequencies and transmissions.
You may already know FM radio is an analogue transmission sent on a specific frequency. Every station on your radio system exists within a narrow frequency, so your channels aren’t overlapping. Straying outside of the channel your radio station is on often leads to a bunch of static.
DAB radio is a little different.
Transmissions from a DAB digital radio are made up of ones and zeros. There are no frequency bands to identify specific channels. This means the same signal can be sent out several times, giving your radio more chances to pick it up. DAB radio is therefore more reliable than FM.
What is the difference between DAB and FM radio?
DAB radio is more reliable than FM, but the technology behind digital radio has other benefits too. For instance, stations can send out more information than just audio.
Within a DAB radio signal, a radio station can deliver the name of the show you’re listening to, and the title of the song playing. DAB signals can even send pictures sometimes.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to track down new music over the radio, DAB signals ensure you know who you’re listening to. Plus, DAB radio signals also work around obstacles between you and your transmitter, like large buildings.
This makes it easier to pick up and keep the frequency.
What is the advantage of DAB radio?
So, what are the benefits of DAB radio, and are there any downsides?
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to radio streaming. Some people are keen to absorb as much DAB as they can with DAB aerials and antennas, whereas others are happy to stick with FM.
Some of the benefits of DAB radio include:
- More stations: DAB digital radio gives you a lot more choice when it comes to finding music and talk shows in your home and car. You can even listen to some of the most popular stations in the UK which happen to be digital only.
- Automatic tuning: Finding the perfect position on your radio dial for a station can be a nightmare. With DAB digital radio, you can tune into channels automatically. It’s much easier to find the audio you want.
- Better audio quality: Because you’re not struggling to find the best signal with a DAB radio, you can often access a better quality of audio. The sound just gets better if you upgrade to DAB+ too, thanks to the enhanced codecs.
- Extra features: Most of the top DAB radio options on the market today come with a bunch of bonus features, like Wi-Fi for online streaming. You can also use your DAB radio to check information like which channel you’re listening too.
- FM won’t be around forever: Digital listenership has already overtaken FM and AM listener numbers. Although we don’t have a switchover date yet, DAB could soon replace FM entirely.
Some of the downsides of DAB radio include:
- Interference: If you do end up with interference on your radio, you might end up with a horrible gurgling noise, or you might be unable to listen to your radio at all.
- Battery life: Because DAB radios have extra features, they often rely on additional power. You may find your DAB radio runs out of energy a lot faster if you’re using a portable device. This isn’t the case with all models, of course.
- DAB signal issues: There are still some parts of the UK where it’s difficult to get a reliable DAB radio signal. If this is the case in your location, you may need to stick to FM and AM radio for a little longer. Alternatively, you might try using a DAB radio aerial.
How much should you spend on a DAB radio?
The amount you spend on a DAB radio will depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for an easy way to upgrade the radio service in your car, you can find simple DAB radio adapters, or change your entire head unit for something new.
If you’re looking for something portable, there are plenty of great options out there, like the Roberts Play radio with its built-in charger, or the Roberts Solar for those who prefer eco-friendly tech.
You can even find full home systems equipped with DAB radio. These devices often come with a wide selection of extra features, such as Bluetooth streaming and alarm clock components so you can keep yourself running on schedule.
Since DAB radio is becoming increasingly common in the UK, it’s easy enough to find a range of DAB solution to suit virtually any need.
Here are some great DAB digital radio products to suit every price point:
- Pure Evoke H3: A stunning radio with a full colour display, Bluetooth, and dual alarms.
- Roberts Radio Revival: A smart DAB radio with Alexa and Bluetooth.
- AZATOM Blackfriars Retro: A budget-friendly digital DAB radio with subwoofer.
Quick facts about DAB radio
So far, we’ve covered the DAB radio meaning, how DAB differs from FM, and even the pros and cons of going digital. If you’re still intrigued by the covenience of DAB radio, now might be the perfect time to go shopping for the product to introduce you to a new age of audio.
Remember, there’s a DAB radio to suit virtually every need and budget out there. You can even get DAB radios which fit neatly into your pocket, like the Pure Move R3.
For those who still aren’t certain, here are a few quick facts about DAB radio:
What does DAB stand for in radio?
DAB means Digital Audio Broadcasting.
Does DAB radio need Wi-Fi?
No, but there are DAB systems with Wi-Fi included.
What is a DAB radio?
Any radio for your home or car which accepts DAB frequencies.
Is DAB digital radio better than FM?
This depends on your preference, but many people consider DAB to be more efficient and feature-rich than FM. You can also sometimes get better audio quality.
Are DAB radio devices expensive?
This again, depends on you. The more features you want from your DAB radio, from Bluetooth connectivity, to Wi-Fi, wireless charging, and smart-speaker access, the more you’ll pay. Many top-of-the-line DAB radios come with access to DAB+ too.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.