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31 August 2021

Best cheap DAB radios

Find an excellent-sounding and easy-to-use digital radio without breaking the bank, with our pick of the best budget radios.
Oliver Trebilcock
John Lewis (Pure) radio
John Lewis (Pure) radio

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.

Only logged-in members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best cheap radios

  • 79%

    This affordable, compact tabletop radio excels – few radios sound this good. It has a beautifully warm tone that elevates a wide range of musical genres and means speech is wonderfully clear. It has 10 DAB and 10 FM presets to store your favourite radio stations. There’s also Bluetooth, aux-in and a headphones socket so you can connect various devices, and it’s suitable for any room in your home.

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  • 73%

    This DAB radio comes from a one of the best-sounding ranges of tabletop radios on the market. It offers all the common DAB/FM radio features you’d expect including bedside alarm clock functions, presets for quick-access to your favourite settings, as well as a headphones socket and even a line out socket. It’s remarkably competitively-priced compared to rivals, too.

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Pricing and recommendations correct as of September 2021.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our digital radio reviews.

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.

Worst cheap radios

  • 46%

    This DAB/FM radio may have stylish retro looks, but it narrowly avoids getting a Don’t Buy. Available for around £50, it would be an expensive mistake to buy this radio for use as an alarm clock, with the low maximum volume making the two independent alarms and snooze function useless if you’re a heavy sleeper. Despite having stereo speakers, it sounds poor, with a rough and scratchy sound that lacks life and bass. On closer inspection the build quality is quite poor as well, and having the screen on top of the radio makes it hardly ideal for use as a radio alarm clock. It’s not worth the money. Login to find out which radios we would recommend instead with vastly superior sound quality.

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  • 40%

    While designed primarily as a bedside alarm clock with two independent alarms, this small low-cost radio simply sounds awful. It’s the kind of radio that would annoy your partner each morning if they’re already awake. It has a thin, tinny sound with a lack of any bass or even higher treble frequencies. The screen can be hard to read as well as it isn’t very bright, and isn’t convenient to use either. You can’t display both the time and the radio station you’re listening to at the same time. The button layout isn’t good either, making it easy to get the volume and radio station buttons confused – which can make for a frustrating morning experience. Login to find out how power-hungry this radio is, and for a breakdown of how it performs across various musical genres in our test results.

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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, smart speaker 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.

Smart speakers

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.