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Digital, or DAB radio is transmitted in a similar way to FM radio, but combines lots of signals into one to give the listener access to many more channels than you can fit onto an FM radio. And because it's digital, it is less likely to suffer from hiss and interference. Although many such stations can also be accessed via DAB, digital radio does not refer to digital radio services such as radio stations found on satellite TV, Freeview, and the Internet.

As you're probably aware, TV around the world will soon be turning off the analog signal and moving entirely over to digital. While there are no definitive plans to do the same for radio broadcasts, many think that this is just a matter of time. Whatever the case may be, a DAB can receive all the stations you love from FM, plus a whole lot more, so there's no reason not to dive in right now.

Before you start, make sure you're in an area that can receive DAB. The best way to do this is to enter your post or ZIP code into any one of the DAB signal sites now available on the Internet. While these sites will tell you whether or not you area is set up for DAB coverage, bear in mind that your personal surroundings will also influence your reception - for example, if you live in a basement flat where you can't even get an FM signal, then you've got no chance of receiving DAB broadcasts. If this is the case, you'd be better off with the wide variety of digital radio broadcasts that are available through the Internet, or via TV services like Freeview and Sky. Another alternative is to call your local aerial company to see how much a dedicated radio antenna would set you back.
Once you've determined that you can receive the signal, there are loads of DAB radio sets to choose from on the market today. If you want a set for your car, then we strongly recommend getting a professional car audio service to advice you, as DAB coverage varies considerably as you move around, and your average set designed for static use is going to be pretty much useless on the move. But if you're not planning to take it out on the road, you have the choice of clock radios, table-top sets, handheld sets or hi-fi components. If you're looking for a hi-fi option, you should look for a set with an external aerial socket, especially if you're not in a strong signal area. And if you want a more portable option, bear in mind that the aerials you get with portable or table-top sets tend to be much better than those you'll find on a handheld.
While most DAB radios have the same basic features, including presets to store your favourite channels and a digital display to show what channel you're on and the text that the radio station you're listening to is transmitting (like the title of the song that's playing, etc) there are some desirable extras out there that aren't available on some of the lower-end models. For example, if you want to record from your DAB radio, check to see what outputs a particular set can support - some record onto mp3, some let you hook them up to a separate stereo or your home computer, and some have no outputs at all.
The way DAB sets grab their power is an also an issue. You'll find many 'portable' sets that can only run off the mains, and won't take batteries, so they're pretty useless if you want to go camping with your set. Obviously, if you're looking for a DAB to keep in your kitchen or a bedside clock radio model, then this won't be an issue.

Author R. Germain
date added Wed 29 07 2009

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