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Which radio brand?

Most reliable radio brands

By Oliver Trebilcock

Article 1 of 2

Don’t make the mistake of buying a poorly made radio. Our reliability survey reveals which radio brands will last for years to come.

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Every year, our huge reliability survey asks thousands of people about their experiences with their radios. We collect data on faults to work out which brands are the most reliable.

By far the most common fault reported with radios was problems picking up signal, so making the wrong choice of radio brand could see you enduring garbled speech and sporadic music. Radios are generally pretty reliable, but over the first five years of use, the worst brand is twice as likely to develop a fault as the best. 

Our reliability survey of nearly 10,000 people allows us to rank radio brands on how likely they are to cause you trouble. We have results for all the biggest manufacturers, including John Lewis, Pure, Roberts and Sony. 

The table below summarises the results for each brand. Once you’ve got the information you need, find the ideal radio for you by visiting our Best Buy radios page. 

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

Brand name Reliability star rating Percentage reliability score
93%
92%
91%
88%
87%
87%
86%
85%
85%
82%
Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 2,367 digital radio owners. Data correct at August 2017.
 

Key

Member Content

Which radio brand stays fault free the longest?

You wouldn't expect that your brand new radio would go wrong within a year, but our survey tells us that's exactly what happens to 10% of people who buy a digital radio. The worst brand in our survey was more than twice as likely to develop a fault in the first year than the best brand, so you don't have to leave things entirely down to fate.  

The graph below shows how the brand that stays fault free for longest compared with the worst brand and the average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults and which are the best and worst in the table below.

Brand name % faults after one year % faults after five years
3% 10%
10% 20%
13% 17%
9% 15%
9% 18%
10% 16%
5% 9%
7% 10%
15% 21%
13% 13%
Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 2,367 digital radio owners. Data correct at August 2017.

Key

Member Content

 

How radio brands compare

On average, 17% of radios will develop a fault within the first five years of use. There's a fairly big difference between the best and worst brands. If you buy a radio from the worst-ranked brand, there's a 21% chance that you'll experience some kind of fault over five years. Choose a radio from the best brand however, and this chance more than halves to just 10%. Even better is that this brand makes budget radios for under £50, proving that you don't have to spend big to get a reliable radio.  

0None of the faults reported for our highest rated brand were classed as major or catastrophic.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that the reliability scores we give in the first table do not exactly match the percentages of faulty products in the second table. This is because we don’t just take the raw number of faults into account when we calculate our scores: we also ask people how severe faults were and when they happened. We judge major or catastrophic faults more harshly than minor annoyances, and also penalise faults that occur when the product is new and hasn’t had much use.

Common radio problems

As mentioned above, the most common fault was with poor DAB reception, but this was far from the only problem people reported. Of the faults you experienced, these were the next most common:

  • 32% developed signal problems, eg radio cuts out/poor signal
  • 12% lost presets
  • 11% experienced a deterioration in sound quality

Signal problems aren't necessarily down to the radio itself, but from our lab testing we know that some are far better than others at holding a steady signal. Music continually dropping out or speech becoming garbled is incredibly frustrating even if it happens occasionally. See the image below for tips on improving DAB signal in your home. 

Losing your presets is another frustrating fault, although not one that will stop you from using your radio completely. Unfortunately, there's no general fix for this problem. 

Deterioration of sound quality could be caused by a number of issues, including poor signal as mentioned above. DAB radios receive a digital signal which then needs to be converted back into sound waves for the speakers to play. A problem with the sound could be down to this circuitry, or it could be a physical problem with the speakers themselves. Once again, it's unlikely that an issue like this would be repairable, so you may need to buy a new radio to get pristine sound once again. 

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