Best cheap DAB radios
Radios can cost hundreds of pounds, but our in-depth testing shows you don't need to spend a fortune to find a great-sounding one. In fact, there’s almost the same number of Best Buy radios under £100 as there are over £100, proving that money is no indicator when it comes to quality.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at January 2020.
Three cheap radios to avoid
The old adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ isn’t always true, as our testing has frequently proven, but it is correct in some cases. Even brands that make the best radios also manufacture one or two duds, and you can’t easily tell until you get it home and give it a listen. In our tests we’ve found some with flimsy aerials and feeble reception, as well as poor sound quality and confusing controls. To save you time - and money - we’ve rounded up three of the worst cheap radios below. These digital radios aren’t worth buying, no matter how much they're discounted.
Five ways to listen to the radio for free
You don’t necessarily need to shell out on a ‘traditional’ radio in order to listen to your favourite stations. There are plenty of other ways to tune in, some of which are free. If you have a TV, computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet - and a decent wi-fi connection - you can listen to internet radio.
Below, we round up the various options for listening online, and explain how to access thousands of major radio stations worldwide.
Digital radio on smartphone or tablet apps
Many of us carry around a perfect radio player at all times, as with the right app your smartphone or tablet can become a powerful alternative to the traditional ‘wireless’. There are plenty of apps to choose from, although one of the most popular on Android and iOS is TuneIn. It’s free to download, and will give you access to a plethora of internet radio stations.
You’ll not only be able to access the usual stations, such as BBC Radio 4 or Capital FM, but you can also listen to thousands of stations from across the globe. If 24-hour mariachi music is your thing, you’ll probably find a station that offers just that.
Digital radio on your laptop
Most radio station websites offer their own players, but if you’re something of an audio butterfly, and like to flit between stations at whim, constantly moving from one site to the next can prove tiresome. RadioPlayer is home to hundreds of radios stations and, as well as the big national stations, there are also lots of local ones to choose from, too.
You can listen live or use the catch-up service to listen to older shows from those stations that provide them.
Digital radio on TV
Since the move to digital, all TVs also offer radio stations as well as the usual channels. They’re tucked quite a way down the channel list, so if you’ve never made it any further than QVC, chances are you might have missed them.
The range isn’t as extensive as you’d find on the internet services mentioned above, and the number of channels you can access depends whether you’re on Freeview or you get your TV from a service provider such as Sky or Virgin Media. That said, all the big names are there, from BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 6 Music, Capital FM, TalkSport and others.
If your TV is smart (connected to the internet) it should also be able to stream digital radio – Samsung TVs, for example, can do just that through the vTuner app.
If you have a smart speaker with a voice assistant, or you're planning to buy one, you'll be able to ask it to play any available internet radio station. Most smart speakers use the TuneIn radio app to find and play your chosen stations.
Digital radio on an internet streaming device
Although more traditionally associated with video streaming, it’s still possible to use internet streaming devices - such as Google’s Chromecast or Sky’s Now TV - to listen to digital radio stations.
The method varies by device, but usually it’s as simple as downloading the relevant app, such as BBC iPlayer or TuneIn Radio.