Digital radio switchover explained Digital radio switchover FAQs

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Do I need to go and buy a digital radio now?

No. National radio is likely to continue on FM until 2015 at the very earliest, so you don’t have to rush out to buy a digital radio now. However, if you want access to the extra stations available on digital radio then you should consider getting one.

It’s worth noting that you can also listen to digital radio on the internet. Some stations are available to listen to on digital TVs too. 

Find out more about listening to music online using a computer in our online radio advice guide and Radioplayer first look review.

I want to buy a DAB radio. Should I get one with an FM tuner included?

Yes. Even if there is a digital radio switchover, ultra-local and community radio stations will continue to broadcast on FM - FM is not being switched off. To receive the widest range of stations you should look for a digital radio that also includes FM.

UK DAB coverage isn’t complete yet either, so it would be useful to have FM included in the radio as a back-up for the time being. All of the DAB radios we've tested include FM.

Why are there plans to switch to DAB when digital radios use more energy than FM radios?

DAB and internet radios have screens so you can view the station list and other information. A radio with a screen is likely to use more energy than one that doesn’t have a screen.

If your FM radio doesn’t have a screen, the chances are that a DAB one will use more energy. However, if your analogue radio also has a screen, which model uses more energy out of the DAB and FM one is likely to depend upon the particular models in question.

The DAB signal where I live is poor, how can I receive digital radio?

Before a national station switchover from FM to DAB can be announced, the Digital Radio Action Plan stipulates that DAB coverage must be comparable to FM. More DAB transmitters are being installed on an on-going basis, so although you may not be able to receive DAB now, you should be able to by the time switchover happens. 

In the meantime, if you have digital television or the internet at home, you can listen to digital radio via these platforms.

If you're planning to buy your first DAB radio, it's a good idea to borrow one from a friend and try it in your home to see if you can get reception. 

Read our advice on what to do before you buy a digital radio for more information.

If I connect my DAB radio to my roof aerial will it improve reception?

Buying a dedicated DAB aerial is the best option to improve reception. External DAB aerials are available for around £20 upwards, but getting someone in to install it on the roof might make fitting one more expensive.

Your TV's roof aerial is designed to operate over a particular part of the TV band. The DAB signal operates in a lower frequency range than this, so connecting a DAB radio to your TV aerial may have little impact on improving the DAB signal. 

That said, it might be worth a try if it costs you nothing. If the DAB signal in your area is generally good but the location of the room you want to listen in is a problem for the signal – eg. you’re in a basement, or thick walls are reducing the signal strength – the fact that the TV aerial is on the roof may help to improve DAB reception a little.

There are many reasons why a TV aerial may not improve DAB reception though. The TV aerial will be less efficient than using a dedicated DAB aerial. If you use a splitter to send the signal to your TV and radio, the effectiveness of the aerial will be reduced further. If your TV aerial is pointing in the wrong direction for the DAB transmitter that may result in no benefit too.

If you have an old VHF FM radio aerial on the roof, that might work more effectively than the TV aerial for receiving DAB – the frequencies the FM aerial receives are closer to the DAB ones - but it still won't be as effective as a dedicated DAB aerial.

Can a roof aerial be attached to any DAB radio?

Few portable/tabletop DAB radios are designed so that the supplied aerial can be removed and an external aerial can be attached. Only a small number of portable/small tabletop DAB radios - like the Vita Audio R1 Mk II - have been designed with the intended option of being able to connect the radio to a DAB roof aerial if you want to.

The majority of portable DAB radios we have reviewed are not designed for this. For a few models it may be possible to remove the supplied aerial with pliers and attach a roof aerial to the connector, but you risk marking or damaging the radio if you do, so it's not advisable as standard practice - tampering with the supplied aerial could affect the radio's warranty.

Can I get DAB on my mobile phone?

Although you can get radio apps for a number of smartphones, using them involves streaming radio, which will contribute to your data allowance. 

At the beginning of 2011, Nokia launched a DAB radio headset for use with a small number of its smartphones. Using the Nokia DAB headset doesn’t impact on a data allowance, so you can listen for as long as you like without having to worry about data limits.

For information on compatible phones see our Nokia DAB headset first look review.