You don’t need to wait until you get a new car to enjoy digital radio. We’ve tried a selection of DAB radio car adaptors that plug into your existing car radio, which you can install yourself in just 10 minutes. We’ve had our hands on models costing as little as £65.
The days of FM national radio are numbered. Sometime in the future, the government will switch off FM radio transmissions for stations such as BBC Radio 4. Once this happens, you’ll need to switch to digital radio instead.
With digital radio you also benefit from higher audio quality and many additional stations. Many DAB radio adaptors will also add Bluetooth to your car, allowing you to play music from your smartphone, including from services such as Spotify. Some adaptors add hands-free calling as well, all without needing to wait until you buy a whole new car.
Best Buy radios: see the top models we’ve tested if you’re looking for a new digital radio to use at home.
How do DAB car radio adaptors work?
They all have a control unit with a screen that displays the current radio station. They plug into your car’s 12V or cigarette-lighter socket, sometimes the radio adaptor’s control unit is mounted on this socket itself, but more commonly you fix the radio adaptor to your dash like a sat nav.
They also have an aerial that you fix into the top corner of the passenger side of the windscreen. This aerial picks up DAB radio broadcasts and feeds these stations to your car’s existing FM radio and car speakers.
If your car has a 3.5mm aux-in socket, it can connect to your FM radio through this, otherwise the DAB radio adaptor can convert the DAB radio signals and broadcast them at an FM frequency of your choosing. You can then tune your car’s existing FM radio into this frequency to pick up whatever DAB radio station you select on the adaptor unit.
Find out which are the best DAB car adaptors we’ve tried by heading to our guide to how to get DAB radio in your car.
How well do they work?
The best models will deliver you superb DAB digital radio that will breathe new life into your radio listening in your car, with excellent sound and great new stations to listen to.
However, we also found huge variations in the quality of car radio adaptors available on the high street – pick the wrong one and you might not be able to get it to work at all.
We tried out all features of the DAB car radios we looked at, including both whether they work via your car’s aux-in socket as well as by converting the digital signals to FM for your existing radio to pick up. We also tried the added extras the radio adaptors offered, such as the ability to save your favourite radio stations as quick-access presets, Bluetooth to play music off your smartphone and even hands-free calling.
In our guide you can see our top pick – an outstanding DAB radio car adaptor that will give you all the benefits of digital radio and more besides, at a fraction of the cost of a new car or complex installation of a new car radio by a trained professional. Plus, with a DAB radio adaptor, you can switch it between different cars with ease.