In times of Corona, information is more important than ever – and the most important information medium in Germany is still radio today: 77 percent of the population listen to it every day, according to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Media-Analyze e. V. in a report. Due to the Covid 19 crisis, many public and private broadcasters are currently broadcasting more information and news programs.
The listeners no longer only receive via the analog reception standard FM (ultra-short wave), but also via the digital standard DAB + (Digital Audio Broadcasting), whose range and station selection is growing. Politicians are also interested in this: On December 21, 2020, digital radio will become mandatory by law. The test reveals what this is all about, the advantages and disadvantages of digital radio and which device you are using to prepare for the changeover.
The best digital radios
Below are the list.
DAB +: The digital radio obligation is coming!
Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB), in German “digital terrestrial radio”, is received as conventional radio via antenna – without internet and without additional fees. It is sufficient to pay the broadcast fee (formerly GEZ fee) to the ARD-ZDF Deutschlandradio contribution service, which is due anyway. Incidentally, digital radio has been around since the 1990s, but only after a restart in 2011, including renaming to DAB +, did it pick up speed. Politicians keep planning to switch off analogue VHF transmission and replace it with DAB +, but there is no switch-off date. On November 8, 2019, the Federal Council decided at least to make digital radio mandatory: From December 21, 2020, newly sold devices with displays showing station names must receive digital reception – possibly in addition to FM reception. Manufacturers choose whether to equip their products with DAB or Internet radio reception. The regulation also applies to car radios in new cars, but the requirement is more specific and the devices must always offer DAB +.
Overview of DAB and Internet radios
DAB radios put to the test: the advantages of digital radio. With digital transmission, there is no noise and no crackling like with FM. DAB also provides information such as headlines, weather reports and traffic information that are much more up-to-date and more accurate than the VHF traffic data via the Traffic Message Channel (TMC). The sound quality depends heavily on the broadcasters and the data rate they use. The classic program of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (BR) is exemplary: It uses the technical possibilities of DAB + very well and transmits 144 kilobits per second (kbps) – that is almost CD quality. The around 100 kbps of many other stations sound decent and, depending on the device and program, better than VHF. On the other hand, some private broadcasters deliver quality that is difficult to enjoy at less than 72 kbps. Then there is no noise, but an artificial and dull sound. This is particularly annoying in combination with a good stereo system. If it does not have a receiver for DAB +, a small corresponding receiver such as the Technisat Digitradio 10C can be connected.
DAB +: New nationwide stations in autumn 2020
Up to now, DAB has broadcast radio stations in packages of 8 to 13 programs. There is a Germany-wide program package with Deutschlandfunk, its sub-channels and some private stations such as the chart station Energy and the rock music channel Radio Bob. In addition, there are regional packages with ARD stations such as NDR or SWR and with private programs, depending on where you live. Apart from a few blank spots without DAB reception, at least 21 programs are available throughout Germany, in Bavaria even more than 80. The digital radio Germany website shows which stations are available depending on the region. On February 5, 2020, the broadcasting network operator Antenne Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG announced that another nationwide program package would start – during the IFA from September 4 to September 9, 2020.
Imperial Dabman 12 IMPERIAL
The Imperial Dabman 12 is very compact and can be used mobile thanks to the rechargeable battery and battery.
There are already decent DAB radios in the price category of up to 50 euros: Handy devices like the Imperial Dabman 12 or the TechniSat Digitradio 1 fit in your pocket and can be operated with a rechargeable battery when you are out and about. In terms of sound, one shouldn’t expect too much from the little radio operators; they are sufficient for voice programs and news. The Xoro DAB 200 delivered the most pleasant sound in the price range in the test, but it still seemed nasal. At the time of the test, the device was just over 50 euros, but now it costs around 75 euros due to lack of availability. Thanks to a practical handle and a battery compartment, you don’t have to do without radio reception on the balcony or in the garden.
The Dabman 12 from Imperial is a real pocket radio, it is significantly smaller than a current smartphone. The sound of the tiny speaker is still usable and clear, but more suitable for news and football broadcasts than for music. It can even be used as a radio alarm clock.
DAB radios in the test: Sharp DR-S460 Sharp. The Sharp DR-S460 delivers acceptable stereo sound, but operation is cumbersome.
Lots of functions or good sound? In the price range up to 100 euros, you unfortunately have to choose one of the two. The Sharp DR-S460, for example, has a pleasant sound with present bass, but it only offers mains operation and is awkward to use due to the extremely stiff buttons. The best device under 100 euros is the Albrecht DR 850. It has a stylish color display and can be retrofitted with a battery, but struggles with blurred highs and a slight noise.
The Albrecht pleases with its simple wood look and bright color display. The sound is okay: the built-in loudspeaker reproduces the highs in a somewhat washed-out manner and has a slight noise, but otherwise sounds balanced. A battery can be retrofitted if necessary.
If you play CDs from time to time, you should take a look at the TechniSat DigitRadio 3.
Anyone who (also) wants to listen to music apart from DAB + and FM is well advised to buy a device from the price range 100 to 200 euros. With the TechniSat DigitRadio 3, users can play CDs or songs from their smartphone via Bluetooth. The Karcher DAB 7000I with internet radio is a bit more modern.
- GOOD to offer
- Karcher consumer electronics
- Remote control
- Internet radio
- Network operation only
- Very sharp highs
DAB radios from 200 euros: no compromises
DAB radio test: Roberts Stream 94i Roberts
The Roberts Stream 94i is well equipped. Only a built-in battery is sorely missed.
The Roberts Stream 65i (500 euros) and its successor, the Stream 67 (750 euros), are the most expensive digital radios in the test. They offer good sound and excellent equipment, for example with Internet radio, Spotify Connect and CD player. The Teufel Radio 3Sixty is much cheaper (200 euros). It does not come close to the variety of playback of the Roberts radios, but offers a good sound and a compact size. In this price range, buyers not only find high-quality plastic but also wood and glass – the radio also looks good, which is to be expected for the estimated prices.
The Roberts Stream 67 makes no compromises when it comes to playback options: It has Internet radio, Bluetooth, USB and network playback and plays music from all streaming services. However, there is also cause for criticism. Voices are reproduced by the CD radio and, like its predecessor, it has slight operating weaknesses. For the high price you expect a little more.
- to offer
- STREAM 67
- A lot of playback options
- Good color display
- Voices occupied
- Lettering on remote control too faint
- Music streaming: test results in detail
Digital radio test: conclusion
Whether the music comes from an inexpensive 25-euro model or a top-of-the-range radio for 750 euros: With DAB +, the program selection grows – and with some devices it is unlimited thanks to Internet access. With better equipped products, songs from the smartphone come conveniently via Bluetooth, and some models play the favorite playlist from the music subscription service via Spotify Connect. If you use the radio not only as a daily wake-up service or as a generator of background noise, but also want to listen to songs, you spend a little more money – then, in addition to the equipment, the sound is right: devices like the Roberts Stream 65i easily work as a stereo system and even bring one CD player with.
Who builds the most popular radio? According to an analysis by idealo.de, users use TechniSat devices most often.
DAB radios: which manufacturer is the most popular?
The price comparison portal Idealo has determined the most popular DAB radio manufacturer, based on total demand from January 2018 to October 2019. TechniSat is most frequently represented with three devices, including the DigitRadio 110 IR. Teufel follows with two digital radios – both even in the top 3. The Teufel radio 3sixty takes first place, while the Teufel Boomster (2nd generation) takes third. And that although the Boomster is primarily a Bluetooth speaker and only a second a radio. Test winner Roberts, on the other hand, only made it to ninth place.