Top five best radios for 2021
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 this year in the table below, from pocket-sized portable DAB radios, 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.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.