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Updated: 4 Mar 2022

How we test radios

Discover how we thoroughly test radios to find the ones that sound great and are a pleasure to use, so you can find the perfect radio for your needs.
Oliver Trebilcock

Watch the video below to see exactly what it takes for a digital radio to earn our coveted Which? Best Buy recommendation, and how our testing separates the best from the worst. 

We independently test a wide range of digital radios using a strict range of criteria and will only recommend the ones that are easy to use, give clear instructions and, most importantly, sound fantastic. So, you can be sure that the radio you're buying is excellent and really does what the manufacturer claims it will. 

Our in-depth reviews will answer the most crucial questions about radios, including:

  • How good is the audio quality and how loud will it go?
  • How easy is it to use on a daily basis?
  • How clear will the reception be?
  • What room will it be best in?
  • Should I buy it?

Ready to buy? Head over to our expert digital radio reviews to find the perfect model for you at the right price.

What are Which? Best Buys, Don’t Buys, and Great Value models?

The radios that perform best in our tests we make Best Buys. To earn this recommendation, the radio has to score at least 70% in our professional tests. You should still read our review of the radio to check for any factors that might impact your buying decision, such as whether it’s best radio for use in the bedroom, kitchen or wherever you want to use it.

Radios that only score a poor 45% or lower are Don’t Buys and you shouldn’t buy them – these will have poor sound quality and some will have reception issues or frustrating controls, so you’re likely to regret buying them.

DAB radios can be quite expensive, and it’s often the case that the best-performing models in our tests are the more expensive ones. That’s why our experts also signpost Great Value models – these do pretty well in our tests – scoring 60% or more. But they're also at least 20% cheaper than the average cost of a DAB radio of a similar design in our tests – such as other radios that are battery-powered out of the box. So if you’re looking for a bargain, check out our Great Value models to get a great saving over more expensive Best Buys and still get a superb radio. Some Great Value models may even score well enough to be Best Buys, so it’s a win-win.

How good is the audio quality and how loud will it go?

At Which? we take our testing seriously, which is why we use a panel of five audio experts to listen to each radio and give their verdict. With established backgrounds in the audio industry, they're a tough bunch to impress, but it means that if we've given a radio the thumbs up, it's more than deserving of your time.

With each radio, the expert panel listens to a selection of tracks, from jazz to pop, rock to spoken word. Not only does this mean we can tell you which radio sounds the best, but also which is best suited to your favourite genre.

We also check the maximum volume a radio will go to before the sound distorts, so if you live in a noisy area or have hearing difficulties, you can gauge if a radio will suit your needs. 

How easy is it to use on a daily basis?

Every test we undertake starts as soon as the radio comes out of the box. We replicate your experience and assess how easy it is to set up the radio for the first time. If you need to read a hundred-page manual before you can even turn it on, we'll let you know. 

We also test how easy it is to save your favourite stations and adjust the sound settings, as well as use any other features, such as internet radio and streaming services.

How clear will the reception be?

The last thing you want to do is get your brand-new radio home, only to find that the reception is spotty. At Which? we broadcast our own DAB signal in the lab, which means we can test the strength of each radio's receiver. 

If a certain model isn't capable of receiving a weak signal, it won't be any good in your home, especially if you have thick walls. We can let you know which models will give you patchy sound, and which will maintain a constant reception.

What room will it be best in?

We test a wide range of radios, from bedside to kitchen models, and from portable to personal. If you're looking for a radio to listen to while you do the washing up, or one to catch up with The Archers while you do the gardening, we can let you know the best model for you.

If you're looking for a bedside radio, we can tell you which models have the best alarms, with the most prominent and easy-to-use snooze buttons (and precisely how many minutes more you'll get in bed!). We also inspect the brightness of the display and whether it's dimmable, so you don't accidentally invest in a radio with a screen that disrupts your sleep. 

Should I buy it?

Our raft of tests all contribute to the overall score of a digital radio, but some elements are more important than others. We believe that first and foremost a radio should sound fantastic - it can be as feature-laden as you like, with all the latest bells and whistles, but if the sound isn't up to scratch it's not worth your time. As such, our score breakdown is:

  • 70% sound quality
  • 20% ease of use
  • 10% features

Digital radios need a score of 72% or above to be awarded a Best Buy. Anything that gets 45% or below is automatically a Don't Buy, and we wouldn't recommend wasting your money on it.