Time for a new Personal DAB Radio?

Whether it’s your first time, or you’re upgrading an old set, DAB is helping people rediscover the world of radio. And who wouldn’t want their very own personal DAB radio? You can carry with you wherever you go, around the house or to work.

We love DAB at Audio Punch. Why? Clear audio. No searching for the stations. Tons of choice in what to listen to. What’s not to love?

So what’s the best dab radio in 2021? Well read on my friend! That’s what this guide is about. We’ll cover everything you need to know about which is the best buy portable DAB (and probably some stuff you don’t need to know…)

Turn on that old radio one last time. And let’s find the best DAB for you.

What we look for when ranking portable DAB radios

  • Design – nobody wants to lug around a beast, just because it sounds like a beauty.
  • Is it well made? Impressive photos can often mask cheap, plastic light-weight components. We want something special!
  • Price – are you getting good value for money? Are there any cheap DAB radios that are punching above their weight?
  • Ease of use and the quality of instructions. Ever fumbled through poorly written instructions trying to find out how the hell you get something simple to work? Not good. This is something we look into constantly.
  • Does the DAB part work well? Sounds obvious. DAB is all about making finding your stations easy as pie. This is something we want to see in spades.
  • Portability! Size, weight and extras like a carry-handle are important.
  • Sound quality – buzzing speakers, no thanks. Wimpy bass  – forget it. Just because a radio is all dinky and stylish doesn’t mean it can’t put out incredible sound.
  • Overall quality of the radio. There’s a certain difference. A good quality DAB radio just has that feel. Usually it’s a good brand name, but there are some ‘unknown’ brands that have it too.

#1 Choice: Sony XDRV1

The stereo speakers pump out great sound

Unusually for a small, portable DAB radio, the XDRV1 has two decent sized speakers that deliver a full range of stereo sound. While you can get top sound with a single, decent quality speaker, you can tell the difference and it sounds absolutely great.

The sound quality is definitely the best out of all the DAB radio’s we’ve compared. Whether it’s singing or speaking, it’s all nice and clear. Bass booms as it should and for a compact little thing, the XDRV1 really fills the room with sound.

Long battery life

A very respectable 25 hours is what you’re going to get with this portable DAB radio. Of course, unless you”re seriously hardcore with your DAB, a full charge is going to last you a good few days worth of radio. Whether you’re at the beach, camping, or taking care of things around the house, the Sony XDRV1 is a good, super-portable choice.

Another appreciated feature is that this IS a rechargeable radio. Never again fumble through a drawer looking for those long-lost AA batteries. You can also listen to this portable DAB while it’s being charged.

DAB and DAB+

While DAB Plus isn’t an absolute MUST yet, it’s nice to know that you’re not only future-proofed, but you can also tune in to any of the existing DAB+ stations that you can’t get without a PLUS portable radio. DAB works extremely well and the reception works seamlessly.

Easy to use, for all ages

Not everyone has time to swat up on how a radio works but you don’t really need to with this portable DAB. It’s super easy to use and is ideal for new ‘DAB’bers’ or anyone who isn’t good with techy stuff. There’s nothing really ‘to’ setup here. It’s very simple to get up and running.

Really nice build quality!

You can easily find way cheaper DAB personal radios than Sony’s one but you don’t need to be an expert to see the quality in this little radio. Everything about it oozes a nice quality and feel. This DAB radio is built to last a long time.

Play your tunes using bluetooth

If you’ve used a Bluetooth speaker or a smart speaker before, you’ll know the deal here. As well as enjoying DAB radio you can hook up a tablet or phone, and stream your tracks wirelessly to the Sony XDRV1.

Verdict: Sony’s XDRV1 is easily best small portable dab radio out there right now. It’s built of strong stuff and seems like it will last a long time. Both music and voice sound crystal clear and there’s plenty of volume when you need it. We really like this portable Sony DAB radio.

  • Very well made
  • High quality distortion-free sound
  • Easy to setup & use
  • Lengthy battery life
  • Rechargeable (but can also run off mains)
  • DAB+ for future proofing
  • Not the cheapest compact DAB radio
  • Only comes in BLACK

#2 VQ Portable ‘Monty’ DAB Radio

Gorgeous ‘VQ’ design

You know when you get a product in your hands and you just think, ‘oooooff!’ Well, the first time you get hold if the Monty, it’s a bit like that.

This personal DAB radio from VQ has an absolutely gorgeous wood finish (available in maple, walnut and a number of other natural wood finishes). This is great for matching in with furniture and other gadgets in your home. Overall the product has a modern, high-quality look and feel to it.

Oh, and it is REAL wood. Not plastic that looks like wood. Nice.

Analogue sound processing makes a difference

A pretty exterior is one thing, but how does Monty sound? This radio has something called Analogue sound processing that gives the radio a warmer, richer sound than other personal dab radios. There’s also plenty of punch with the sound too. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the volume this thing can push out, considering it’s compact size.

You’ve also got a decent amount of choice here about what to listen to. As well as DAB, you’ve got the newer DAB+ and the ability to stream over Bluetooth. Monty is also very happy playing from USB drives, or from the AUX in cable (which is great for older non-Bluetooth devices you have).

The alarm has everything you need to get going each day

The alarm works well here and there’s some good features to help you get up on a morning. Dual alarm lets you set different times for the weekend (who wants to get woken up at 6.30 on a Sunday!?) It works and is simple to setup.

Verdict: Whether you’re upgrading an old radio, or buying this for a gift for someone, VQ’s Monty is a great little DAB radio. The design is eye-catching, it’s easy to get up and running and the sound quality is definitely up there with the best.

  • Best design ever on a portable DAB radio
  • Extremely good quality build
  • Sound is clear, loud and warm
  • Good alarm functions
  • Packaged beautifully
  • Buttons straddle the screen, which is a bit of a nuisace
  • Some touch screen controls are on the small side

#3 Roberts Radio Play

Roberts Radio Play comes in a range of awesome colours

Sleek design doesn’t take up much room

Roberts know what they’re doing with radios. They’ve got a long history of building fantastic, high quality radios. The Play is a sleek and compact budget DAB personal radio that’s super-portable and will happily sit on a kitchen or on a bathroom shelf.

the radio and a pretty comprehensive set of instructions (if only all radios did!)

The aesthetics are really good and the buttons are clearly laid out on the front. There’s a 2 line LCD display that’s nice and crisp and shows the station names.

Perfect clear sound from a little radio!

Despite it’s compact size, the Play beats out a decent level of volume but also operates perfectly well at lower levels. Ideal for late night listening! It’s definitely not a tinny type sound we’ve seen from some small portable DAB radios. Voice and music are rendered perfectly well here.

No complaints about setting it up

The box comes with a mains lead, the radio and a pretty comprehensive set of instructions (if only all radios did!) Getting set up is really straight forward, with the play radio scanning for all the DAB stations by itself.

There’s 5 good sized preset buttons with a dual use that can be set to one of 10 presets. There’s also AM and FM radio and a simple volume up and down on the front. Stick in some rechargeable (sold separately) and you can get a good month of play time per charge. (At around 45 mins listening per day).

Verdict: A really good little radio for the price. Roberts play offers a great sound quality, plenty of volume and a much appreciated simple layout. There’s no tiny buttons here! Well designed in and out, definitely recommended.

  • Sleek compact design looks great
  • Highly portable
  • Built in battery charger
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Easy to use
  • Clear voice and plenty of volume
  • No Bluetooth
  • Doesn’t have tone control
  • Rechargeable batteries need to be purchased separately

Above: The Majority Shelford II Vintage is a superb budget DAB Radio – See it on Amazon UK

Personal DAB Radios – BUYER’S GUIDE


If you’ve been hunting around for the ultimate personal dab radio then you’ll have no doubt seen that there’s a DAB and DAB+ in the title of some radios. So what’s the diff? What’s the best? Which on should you get?

DAB+ is basically a new standard of DAB radio that will let you get more stations than regular DAB. Most UK stations still use DAB as of 2021. Technically it is more efficient and can be a higher quality – IF (and it’s a big IF) the broadcaster supports it.

Here’s the important thing to remember:

A radio with DAB+ can receive DAB stations (it’s backwards compatible) BUT a DAB radio cannot receive DAB+ stations, unless it can be upgraded with a firmware patch.

While you might think you need a DAB+ radio, that might not be the case. With all the DAB only radios out there, it’s highly unlikely that a radio station would get rid of all those valuable listeners and completely swap to DAB+ … at least not just yet.

Read loads more here about it, if you’re interested!

Volume – should go quiet as well as full-on party mode

Most people think about the upside of volume. Blasting your tunes in the garden. All good. But what about the other end of the scale? Not every DAB radio has the capability to function well at lower volumes.

If you’re lying in bed, enjoying some late night listening, then you might want to actually keep the volume DOWN to a mere whisper-of-a-sound. A good quality radio should be able to ‘keep it down’ as well as blow the roof off, when needed.

Battery life – don’t you die on me!

In 2021, battery life is thankfully longer than it’s ever been in pretty much every device. How much juice you get out of your DAB radio is obviously an important thing to check.

Most decent DAB radios should net you at least 20 hours per charge, or per battery change. And you’ll probably also want something that can also be plugged into the mains too.

Number of preset stations

Your preset buttons are a way to ‘bookmark’ favourite stations so you can jump straight back to them. Your new DAB radio will likely have at least 4 buttons, with some having up to 10.

While one of the things DAB thankfully gets rid of is the tuning part of finding your favourite station, it’s still really helpful to be able to press one button and hop to that station fast.

Are you a sneaky snoozer?

When the winter months hit, one thing you’ll be glad your portable radio has is a snooze button. Just don’t whack that thing too much or you might get fired, when you eventually get to work.

If one of your main uses for your lovely new portable DAB radio is going to be using it as a radio alarm, then you might want to check if it’s got a good old snooze button (the bigger the better, we say). They don’t all have this, so it’s something you’ll need to check on a radio to radio basis.

Stand by mode, clock and other bedside alarm features

If your portable DAB is going to be used partly as a bedside clock then there’s a few features you’ll want to look out for.

First up, check it it has a standby mode, and if the clock is shown when it’s in that mode. A nice, bright, clear clock is a must.

Secondly, what alarm features does it actually have? It’s alright saying it’s a DAB radio alarm, but has it really got the chops? Look for:

  1. Dual alarms – great to be able to set different alarms for different days
  2. Snooze function – as above, savoir those last precious moments in the sack
  3. Auto switch off after X hours (why waste power)
  4. Can you use your presets to wake up to?
  5. Soft wake – where the volume gently builds rather than blasts you out of bed

Thanks for reading this guide!

We hope this guide on the best personal dab radio was helpful. Anything we can help with? Please use the comments and ask! Thanks for reading and please let us know which DAB radio you think is the absolute best? Got a favourite you want to tell the world about? Share in the comments below!

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