DAB Digital Car Radio Guide
|DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting. It’s a modern replacement for the older FM and AM radio technologies, offering a number of advantages. Being digital, the signal doesn’t suffer from hissing or distortion, as is common with FM/AM, and the technology provides great data on your radio’s display, such as the station you’re listening to, and even track information. Tuning is as simple as switching channels - no scanning is necessary. Some radios even let you pause and rewind.|
Why install a Digital Car Radio?
The UK government has plans for a DAB switchover, similar to the digital TV switchover, with all radio planned to be switched to DAB by the end of the decade. You’ll find most of your favourite radio stations are already broadcasting on DAB, and there are already a number of digital-only radio stations offering exclusive content, including the award-winning BBC Digital Radio 6, Planet Rock, BBC 1Xtra, and more. Upgrading your car stereo to use DAB will offer not only access to this exclusive content, but will also future-proof the stereo.
|Some popular digital stations|
Types of in-car DAB Radio
There are three ways to get DAB capabilities in your car stereo, from low-cost, low-hassle ‘Plug and Play’ options, to units that integrate seamlessly with your current stereo, or full replacements for your current stereo’s head unit. Whatever your current setup and needs, there’s an option to suit you.
Plug and Play
A ‘Plug and Play’ DAB adaptor is the most simple option for adding DAB to your system. These are stand-alone units that fit to your windscreen or dashboard like a sat nav unit. Most adaptors will stream audio by broadcasting on an FM frequency, allowing your current stereo to play music as it would with legacy radio. With prices starting from £64.99, they are the most cost effective way to listen to DAB in your car. Good example is the AutoDAB-GO
An integrated adaptor will work with your current stereo unit to provide in-line functionality. Some, like the Pure Highway 300Di come as a discrete secondary unit with its own display, while others, like the Connects2 AutoDAB are installed without having any visible elements, presenting information through the existing screen, and allowing control from the steering wheel. You can also retrofit a DAB unit from your original manufacturer, providing complete functionality as if DAB had come with the vehicle, though this can be costly.
|Pure Highway 300Di||Original Factory DABretrofit|
AutoDAB works with steering wheel controls and the cars own display. AutoDAB module, supplied with internal glass mount aerial and a car specific wiring harness.
Replacement Head Unit
Instead of adding to our current car stereo’s functionality, you can simply replace the whole head unit with a different one that has in-built DAB radio. These units take a little more effort to install than the Plug and Play options, but offer a more streamlined result. This is also a great option if your existing head unit is relatively basic, as replacements often come with added functionality, such as the ability to connect to an iPod or iPhone, and connect with bluetooth and handsfree hardware.
Pioneer MVH-290DAB with DAB, AUX, USB
|Alpine iLX-702D with DAB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, Phone Miror, HDMI, CD||Pioneer DEH-X7800DAB with DAB, Bluetooth, AUX, USB, CD|
You can find our full range of DAB digital Stereo here
Types of DAB Aerials
As with standard radio, reception is key to getting the best from your DAB radio. As DAB is transmitted on a different frequency to legacy radio, it’s necessary to fit an aerial that’s designed for digital broadcasts. What aerial you choose will depend on your usage case, so we offer a selected range of different styles. We have tried and tested every aerial that we sell.
Internal glass mount
These aerials fit inside the car, sticking to the glass of a window. They are quick and easy to fit, and don’t change the external look of the vehicle. However, their lack of extrusion from the car body means that they do not offer the best reception. If you live in an area with a weak signal, you may be better off with a different style of aerial. This design is also permanent, so a new unit aerial will need to be bought if you change vehicle, or replace the window. Internal glass mount aerials will not work on metallised or heated windscreens.
External glass mount
These aerials offer better reception than internally mounted aerials, but are still easy to install. They do protrude from the window to which they’re fitted, which means they aren’t as streamlined as internally mounted aerials.
Body mount aerials
Body mounted aerials offer the best reception for DAB radio, especially if they are mounted on the roof of the vehicle. It’s also a nicely streamlined solution, with no visible cables, or fittings on the car windows. Installation can be more difficult, as it may involve drilling into the bodywork, though the aerial can often be fitted in the position of a current aerial, if there is one.
|JVC HAL-3 roof mount DAB aerial||JVC HAL-2 roof mount DAB AM/FM aerial|
Having tested all of aerials we sell, our highest recommendation is for aerials made by Calearo. This Italian company has a distinguished history of providing aerials for some of the world’s best-known car brands, and their aerials have time-proven strong performance.
They offer a range of different styles, which can be fitted as replacements to the current aerial on your vehicle with little noticeable difference. Of these aerials, the Calearo ANC7677932 offers peak performance, with exceptional reception, even in areas of very weak signal. It also works as an FM/AM radio, and can improve reception on these bands too.