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Top five radios for 2017

By Alison Potter

From portable radios to bedside alarm clock radios, we round up the best DAB and internet devices for 2017, with models to suit every budget.

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A digital radio can be a great way to catch up with the news, listen to music or find out the latest drama in your favourite radio soap. But it’s imperative to make sure that any new purchase is not only easy to use, but also sounds great, too.

Radios come in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right radio for you will be contingent on how and where you intend to listen to it. We’ve picked out five of the best radios on sale in 2017 in the table below, from pocket-sized portable DAB devices to alarm clock radios and larger table-top radios.

These Best Buy radios sailed through our in-depth tests, excelling in terms of sound quality and user-friendliness, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. But it’s equally important to identify the radios that aren’t so impressive so you know which ones to avoid. As a result, we’ve selected three Don’t Buys you shouldn’t waste your money on.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 Which? trial.

Top five radios for 2017

Lowest price (in stock) £179.00
Which? score 83%
Reviewed Aug 2014
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Aerial:
Member exclusive
Battery operable:
Member exclusive

This is the highest-scoring radio we've tested. Not only does it look good, but it sounds great across all musical genres and you can use it as a DAB/internet radio or to stream music via Spotify.

Lowest price (in stock) £64.98
Which? score 82%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
5 out of 5
Aerial:
Member exclusive
Battery operable:
Member exclusive

If you're in the market for an alarm clock radio, this Best Buy model should be top of the list. The big front display, large snooze button and clear sound make it a fantastic choice for the bedroom.

Lowest price (in stock) £99.99
Which? score 80%
Reviewed Aug 2014
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Aerial:
Member exclusive
Battery operable:
Member exclusive

Although this portable radio looks distinctly retro, it scores top marks in the tech department. Not only can you control it from your smartphone, but this DAB/FM radio also has Bluetooth capabilities.

Lowest price (in stock) £62.00
Which? score 76%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Aerial:
Member exclusive
Battery operable:
Member exclusive

Most pocket-sized radios can't compete with larger models, but this diminutive radio really does punch above its weight. Perfect for holidays or for using out and about, it’s a well-made DAB/FM radio for a reasonable price.

Typical price £44.00
Which? score 71%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Aerial:
Member exclusive
Battery operable:
Member exclusive

It might be low in price, but it's high in terms of sound quality. Not only does it sound great, but it’s a doddle to use and it has five direct access preset buttons so your favourite radio stations are just one press away.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at May 2017.

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

And here are three to avoid

The worst radios from our testing not only sound awful but they’re a chore to use and have limited features. We’ve seen digital radio alarm clocks with impossibly small snooze buttons, portable radios that burn through batteries in a matter of hours and table-top radios with screens so poor that they are rendered completely pointless. Make sure you don’t waste your money on these duds.

Don’t Buy radios for 2017

Lowest price (in stock) £89.99
Which? score 43%
Reviewed Jan 2015
Overall sound quality:
1 out of 5
Ease of use:
3 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Total number of direct access presets available:
Member exclusive

The built-in battery charger means this radio can be used both in the home and outdoors. But its sub-standard sound and low-quality screen means you'd be better off packing an extra pair of socks in your suitcase to take on holiday with you rather than this radio.

Lowest price (in stock) £34.99
Which? score 40%
Reviewed Jan 2013
Overall sound quality:
1 out of 5
Ease of use:
3 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Total number of direct access presets available:
Member exclusive

Although this brand makes excellent alarm clock radios, this isn't one of them. Our listening panel could barely detect any bass or treble, and in addition to the tinny sound it was a pain to use because the buttons are small and close together.

Lowest price (in stock) £95.00
Which? score 33%
Reviewed Aug 2013
Overall sound quality:
2 out of 5
Ease of use:
1 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Total number of direct access presets available:
Member exclusive

It’s possible to listen to CDs as well as the radio with this model, but we wouldn’t recommend it. The sound is terrible, the design is poorly thought out and the interface is needlessly tricky to navigate, requiring you to delve into the manual to work it out.

How to choose the best radio

If you thought buying a digital radio was simple and straightforward, think again. As well as finding a great-sounding radio within your price range, you need to make sure it’s suited to the room or place you primarily intend to listen to it in. Below, we explain the key considerations to bear in mind, so you can make sure you invest in the right radio for you.

Bedroom

A large display is ideal so you can see the time at a glance, but it also needs to be dimmable to avoid being kept awake by the glare. We assess how suitable every radio would be as a bedside alarm clock radio, and this takes into account the display clarity and brightness level. 

You’ll need at least one alarm, although if you and your partner have different wake-up times it’s best to get a radio with multiple independent alarms. To avoid having to change the alarm time every week, you’ll want one with the ability to set different weekday and weekend alarms. The best radios will have a sizeable and easy-to-use snooze button, so you can easily find it through sleep-fogged eyes.

Kitchen

Touchscreens are a nightmare to use with wet hands, so avoid these if you like to listen to the radio while you do the washing up. Ideally, you want a radio with easy-to-operate knobs and buttons with a built-in timer to help you avoid burning dinner. If space is at a premium, consider a compact radio with a front or top-facing speaker, so it can easily fit on a window sill or slot in next to other kitchen gadgets without muffling the sound.

Living room

A radio with Bluetooth capability can stream music from smartphones and tablets, which is ideal for parties or if you fancy a change from the radio. Space is much less of an issue when choosing a radio for your living room, which means you can go bigger on sound and opt for a table-top model with large speakers. Some come with a remote control or an app that can turn your smartphone into a remote, which is handy as it means you don’t have to get up off the sofa to switch stations or adjust the volume.

Garden

If you live in an area with a lot of traffic and background noise, you want to make sure your radio will be heard. We don’t just test radios for sound quality, but also the maximum volume it can reach before distortion occurs. We would advise opting for one that is water resistant or waterproof in case you get caught in a sudden shower or accidentally spray it with the garden hose. It’ll need to be battery powered so you don’t have to have it plugged into the mains, and some radios have a built-in battery charger so you can easily recharge them if they run low.

Out and about

A pocket-sized radio with headphones is ideal for travelling, but make sure you check how long the rechargeable battery will last so you can make sure it won’t lose power mid-way through the day. Most come with headphones that also function as an aerial to improve the signal reception. It’s important to make sure it has a button lock so you don’t accidentally press the controls when you don’t need to.

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