We’ve put together a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about DAB radio. We hope we’ve covered most issues. However, if you can’t find the information that you’re looking for, please do get in touch via the contact page.
- Q: Can I receive stations from America or other countries on my DAB receiver?
- A: No. Unlike satellite radio or Internet radio, DAB radio is land-based and operates only within its transmission range.
- Q: Can I take my DAB digital radio abroad and still listen to the same stations?
- A: No. DAB digital radio is a terrestrial technology using land-based transmitters. You can only listen to stations when you are within their transmission range.
- Q: If I take my DAB digital radio abroad, will I be able to pick up foreign DAB services?
- A: Yes. In the UK, DAB services are broadcast on a band of spectrum called Band III. Many European countries also use Band III, although some use a different band of spectrum called L Band. And, just to be awkward, some countries, such as Germany, use Band III in one part of the country and L Band in another.
If the receiver you are using is designed only to pick up Band III, then it will work in other countries using Band III and you will be able to listen to local DAB services. If it is a dual-band receiver (that is, designed to work on either Band III or L Band) then it will pick up any DAB stations being broadcast on either Band III or L Band abroad. If you specifically want a receiver that will work both in the UK and Europe, then make sure before you buy that it is a dual band receiver.
- Q: Can I listen to my in-car DAB radio abroad?
- A: Digital Radio UK is working closely with vehicle manufacturers, as part of the Digital Radio Action Plan, to ensure there is a pan-European standard for digital radio in-vehicles. As part of the Digital Radio Action Plan, a minimum specification for digital radio in-vehicles is being developed. This is due to be published early in 2012. The minimum specification includes FM, DAB and DAB+. Several European Union states are planning similar transitions as the UK and have services available on DAB or DAB+ (for example, Germany is rolling out DAB+ services in August 2011). As a result, vehicle manufacturers who comply with the minimum specification can be sure that their cars can access all digital radio stations available across Europe.
- Q: Can I use my existing FM or TV aerial?
- A: Probably not, but give it a try. Some DAB stations can be received by plugging a standard FM or TV aerial into a DAB radio, but the best reception will always be via a DAB aerial. There’s no guarantee your existing aerial will work.
- Q: Do I need a new aerial for my car?
- A: Yes. Many existing FM aerials are ‘helically wound’. A helically wound aerial is short and stubby, and is usually roof-mounted. It is most often fitted to newer models and is designed to amplify the FM signal, so it may not work effectively with a DAB radio.
You can either buy a combined FM/DAB roof mounted aerial for your car and replace your existing aerial with it, or you can buy a separate DAB aerial to sit alongside your existing FM aerial. There are two types of DAB aerials available for the car, either a magnetic mount for steel panels, or an active glass strip aerial, which is an adhesive amplified antenna for glass mount.
- Q: What sort of aerial do I need?
- A: Your digital radio hi-fi tuner will come with an indoor aerial, either a ‘ribbon dipole’ or a ‘monopole’ (‘half dipole’). Portable radios usually feature either a standard telescopic aerial, or with handheld models, the aerial is usually built in to the headphones.
The aerial supplied should work well if you’re within a DAB coverage area. However, if you’re listening in a basement, or your building is steel-framed or made of reinforced concrete, you might need an external aerial. As a rule of thumb, if you already have poor FM or mobile phone reception, chances are you’ll need an external aerial. If you want an outdoor aerial, we suggest you have it installed by a professional aerial installer registered with the Confederation of Aerial Industries, www.cai.org.uk. First, though, see if placing the radio near to a window improves reception.
The Yagi aerial must be pointed at the transmitters. All DAB aerials must be vertically polarised. The higher the aerial is mounted, the better reception you will receive.
To obtain the best results from an external aerial, either use a dipole (omnidirectional aerial – should work well for moderate to strong signal levels provided it is vertically polarised) or, in exceptional circumstances, a Yagi (which has a much higher gain than a dipole, but is directional – best suited where reception is poor and all transmitters are in the same direction).
- Q: Can I get DAB digital radio anywhere in the UK?
- A: Coverage of BBC national digital services is currently 94% and is being extended to 97% target by the end of 2015.Local DAB is available to 72% of the UK population. Plans are currently being developed to extend local commercial and BBC coverage to 90%+ (around 200 transmitters) by the end of 2016.National commercial digital services are currently available to 85% of the UK population and will cover 90% by end of 2016.
- Q: Can I get local stations from other parts of the country?
- A: No. Because it’s a terrestrial transmission system, you can only receive local stations within their transmitter range. So, for example, you can’t get BBC Radio Wales on DAB digital radio if you live in Scotland. However, you can access local radio from around the country via the internet or digital TV.
- Q: Is the reception the same all over the UK?
- A: No, the reception you get depends on the coverage in your area. Stations also vary from region to region, so if you take your DAB radio from one part of the country to another, you’ll need to ‘auto-tune’ it to pick up the stations that are available locally.
To find out which stations are available in your area please use the postcode checker on our website.
- Q: What is DAB+?
- A: DAB+ is not currently used in the UK but is an upgraded version of the technology used to bring you DAB digital radio. DAB+ uses exactly the same transmitters and broadcast technology as DAB, it simply converts sound to digital in a different way and therefore requires sets capable of receiving DAB+.
- Q: I've read that my DAB radio will become obsolete when DAB+ comes in. Is that true?
- A: There are currently no plans for the UK to start using DAB+.
Existing DAB radios will continue to receive all the stations currently broadcasting. It is currently against Ofcom regulations to transmit in DAB+ and so there are no DAB+ stations planned by broadcasters. While there are few DAB+ radios available to buy in the UK, some models do include DAB+ as standard, and more are upgradeable to DAB+ via a firmware download. You can generally check DAB+ capability with the manufacturer.
- Q: Why isn't the UK using DAB+?
- A: The benefits to UK radio listeners of DAB+ are relatively marginal, plus the vast majority of the UK’s 11.5 million DAB radio sets would not be able to receive those services. However, DAB+ is compatible with DAB and could, in due course, be introduced alongside existing DAB services.
Other countries are adopting DAB+ simply because they are launching now and it is the most up to date version available to them. DAB+ uses exactly the same transmitters and broadcast technology as DAB, it simply converts sound to digital in a different way and therefore requires sets capable of receiving DAB+.However, the BBC has recently announced they are doing a technical trial for DAB+ in 2014.
- Data Services
- Q: What are data services?
- A: DAB has the potential to deliver all sorts of data to your radio. For now services are mostly audio, but several of the latest DAB radios are EPG-ready. An EPG is an Electronic Programme Guide, similar to that available on Sky TV. It lets you scroll through all the programmes available on the various stations and select the ones you wish to access or store for future listening. (See What is an EPG?)
- Delayed Transmission
- Q: Why is there a delay between analogue and DAB radio?
- A: If you have the same station playing on two radios, one analogue and one DAB, you will notice there is a delay of a few seconds between the two. In fact you will hear the DAB broadcast slightly after the analogue version.
There’s nothing wrong with your radio. If you have digital TV, you’ll find the same thing happens when you switch between analogue and digital transmissions of the same channel.
The techy answer is when the station originates as an analogue broadcast, the signal must be transformed into a digital transmission using MPEG2 encoding and COFDM modulation. This takes a couple of seconds, hence the delay when you hear it come out the other end.
- Digital radio
- Q: Why are we switching to digital radio?
- A: FM is full and has reached the limit of its capabilities and like other media, radio needs to have a digital future to meet listeners’ expectations. Digital broadcasting is more efficient and we need to invest now in infrastructure for the future.
Digital radio gives you more of what you love: More content (the stations you have now, and digital-only stations); ease of use (find your favourite station at the touch of a button, track and artist information onscreen); and digital features (digital quality sound, internet radio, and the ability to pause, rewind and record).
- Q: When is digital radio switchover happening?
- A: There is a proposal for all UK national and most regional/local radio stations to transition from analogue (FM/AM) to digital radio. Some smaller local stations and community stations will continue to broadcast via analogue on FM.
However, there is no definite date yet set for when this will happen. Government has said that certain criteria has to be met before a definite date can be set - including national DAB coverage matching that of current national FM coverage; local DAB coverage reaching 90% of the population and all major roads; and 50% of all radio listening being digital. Only when these criteria are met will a date be set, giving two years' notice.
Many improvements to the service will be made before stations transition from analogue to digital. For more information please see the coverage FAQ.
- Digital Radio UK
- Q: What does Digital Radio UK do?
- A: Digital Radio UK’s Board comprises representatives from the BBC, RadioCentre, Arqiva, Global Radio, Bauer Media, Intellect and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Digital Radio UK works with Government, broadcasters, manufacturers, retailers and a wide range of stakeholders to accelerate digital listening, to enable the expansion of the digital radio platform, and to ensure that industry meets the consumer-led criteria to be achieved before a digital radio switchover.
Digital Radio UK sits on the Ministerial Group and the Steering Board for Digital Radio, and chairs two of the task groups of the Government-Industry Digital Radio Action Plan, the Technology and Equipment Group, and the Market Preparation Group.
- EPG - Electronic Programme Guide
- Q: What is an EPG?
- A: An EPG is an Electronic Programme Guide, similar to that available on Sky TV. An EPG lets you see what’s on now and next, to search programmes and to set an advance timer record.
It lets you scroll through all the programmes available on the various stations up to a week in advance, and to select the ones you wish to access or store for future listening.
EPG data is available from a wide selection of broadcasters, including BBC services, Capital Radio, Heart, Absolute, Galaxy, Choice, Gold, Xfm and some local stations.
- Mobile Phones
- Q: I can already get FM radio on my mobile phone, why can’t I get DAB?
- A: Manufacturers, broadcasters and telecoms operators have been talking for a while about putting DAB into mobile phones, and prototypes already exist. We expect to see mobiles with DAB soon.
- More Coverage
- Q: There is no DAB coverage in my area, will this change?
- A: Yes, coverage of BBC national digital services is currently 94% and is being extended to 97% target by the end of 2015.Local DAB is available to 72% of the UK population. Plans are currently being developed to extend local commercial and BBC coverage to 90%+ around 200 transmitters) by the end of 2016.National commercial digital services are currently available to 85% of the UK population and will cover 90% by end of 2016.
- Q: What is a multiplex?
- A: A multiplex is a block of frequencies containing radio and data services. Using digital technology, more services can be carried within these blocks than can fit into a similar FM spectrum. So, there’s more room for more stations.
- Q: Who owns the multiplexes?
- A: You need a licence to own a multiplex. Ofcom advertises licences for which interested parties can bid. Once the multiplex licence has been awarded by Ofcom, the new owner will seek out services to broadcast on the multiplex.
There is one national commercial multiplex owner (Digital One). The BBC has a separate national multiplex for its services. There are local multiplexes around the country, each broadcasting an average of seven services, plus the local BBC station. And there are several regional multiplexes covering a wider area and broadcasting up to 11 services each.
For more information on who owns what multiplex visit http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/radiolicensing/digital/dm-main.html
- My radio has lost its pre-sets
- Q: Why does my radio sometimes lose its pre-set stations?
- A: Some DAB radios have a backup battery that powers a memory chip. When the radio is switched off or unplugged from the mains, this chip remembers the stations you have stored as pre-sets. If the battery runs down, the data is lost. In addition, if the radio is moved to a new location, or signal strength is very low, some radios will automatically erase existing pre-sets and scan for new stations.
- Q: How much do DAB digital radios cost?
- A: Hi-fi tuners and micro systems start at around £50. Hand-held products are priced from £35, while kitchen radios start at £25. CD/cassette radios start at £35. DAB clock radios start at £25. Wi-fi radios start at £50. In-car radios vary in price depending on if you buy an all-in-one unit, or go for the separates option (a boot box and head unit). Integrated DAB radios start at £125. DAB digital radio is a relatively new technology, so prices will continue to fall as the market matures, check our Product Finder regularly.
- Programme Listings
- Q: Where can I find out about programme listings for digital radio stations?
- A: There is little printed information on DAB programmes currently available. However, many DAB stations list their programme details on their websites. You can find URL addresses for most DAB stations via our station finder.
The Radio Times now carries listings for BBC digital stations and some national commercial DAB stations.
And more and more newspapers are beginning to feature DAB programmes in their ‘Radio Choice’ sections.
You can also check out the What’s On page on this website for highlights of some unique DAB-only programmes.
- Q: Where can I buy a DAB radio?
- A: DAB digital radio receivers are stocked by more than 8,500 retailers around the country. They are available from most multiple high street electrical retailers and department stores such as John Lewis, Argos, Maplins, Dixons, Currys, Comet, Miller Brothers, Littlewoods etc. as well as from more than 1,600 independent hi-fi dealers around the country. You can also find DAB radios at most leading supermarkets. And you can also buy online from hundreds of etailers. For a complete list of retailers stocking DAB digital radios, visit our Where to Buy pages page.
- Satellite Radio
- Q: What is the difference between DAB and satellite rado?
- A: DAB digital radio is a terrestrial-based system, which means the services are broadcast on a number of multiplexes across the country with capacity for a certain number of services. These multiplexes are broadcast in different areas/regions via many transmitters across the UK. For DAB, the selection of stations you receive will depend on where you live. DAB radio is free to listen to.
Satellite radio is a digital radio signal that is broadcast by a communications satellite, which tends to cover a wider geographical range than terrestrial radio signals. However this service is often subscription based and consumers have to pay to listen to it. In areas with a relatively high population density, it is easier and less expensive to reach the bulk of the population with terrestrial broadcasts. Thus in the UK and elsewhere in the world, we have focused on DAB rather than satellite radio.
- Secondary Services
- Q: What is a Secondary Service and how do I tune in?
- A: (The following answer comes from the BBC’s digital radio website.)
Flexibility within the DAB system means that secondary services can be brought onto the multiplex to allow broadcasters to create ‘part-time’ channels. Radio 4’s LW output is transmitted as a secondary service to Radio 4’s main output. Yesterday In Parliament and The Daily Service are broadcast on DAB in this way.
Similarly, 5 Live Sports Extra allows 5 Live to double its live sports coverage at certain times and is the digital radio home of Test Match Special.
To find out when 5 Live Sports Extra is next scheduled to broadcast, visit: www.bbc.co.uk/5livesportsextra/
To access a secondary service you need to tune in when the service is actually broadcasting. That way your DAB set will store the station in its memory. If you try tuning in when the station is not broadcasting the display screen will state: ‘Station Off Air’ or ‘Station Unavailable’.
Many DAB tuners (hi-fi separates) utilise an LED display, which will illuminate when a secondary service is about to commence a transmission, and some tuners are programmable so that the radio will automatically switch to the secondary service of your choice.
- Q: What stations can I listen to with a digital radio?
- A: On average, digital radio doubles the number of stations you can receive (compared with licensed AM/FM UK stations).
For a complete list of stations available in your area, both national and local, BBC and commercial, please visit our station finder page.
- Q: How much does it cost to subscribe to DAB digital radio channels?
- A: Nothing. Once you’ve bought your radio receiver, listening is absolutely free.
- Q: What is Text?
- A: All DAB digital radio receivers come with a small screen. This screen serves two purposes: first it lets you scroll through a list of stations to find the one you want, and then, once you’ve settled on a station, it displays a line of scrolling text generated by that radio station.
Most stations already use scrolling text to broadcast their name and music format. Some also identify the track and artist you’re listening to, tell you what songs are coming up next, deliver news headlines, sports results, contact web addresses and telephone numbers.
- Q: I’m in coverage area but I can’t get anything on my DAB Digital Radio. Why?
- A: The first time you switch on your DAB Digital Radio you need to hit the Auto Tune button so it can pull in all the stations available in your area, otherwise it remains on factory settings. When you do this you’ll see a number appear on the right of the screen which will rise as the scan continues. This tells you the number of stations you can receive. Once you’ve auto-tuned the radio you don’t need to do it again unless you take the radio to another part of the country with different coverage.
- Q: Problem listening on DAB Digital Radio with your Denon TU-1800DAB Tuner?
- A: We've found that some listeners are having a problem with the following radio models:
- Denon TU-1800DAB tuners
- Marantz tuner ST7001
The symptom is that the tuner appears to randomly switch to other radio stations and then switch back again, for no apparent reason.
Please visit www.sontec.co.uk if you are experiencing TA issues with your Denon TU 1800. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the address is:
Sontec Electronics Ltd,
A customer contact form can also be found here: www.sontec.co.uk/contact.html.
There is a charge for the firmware upgrade which is required to solve the TA issue. Please use the following description: "DAB TA functionality update" when contacting Denon.
- TV Listening
- Q: Can I listen to digital radio stations through my TV?
- A: If you’ve got Sky (satellite digital television), Freeview (terrestrial digital television), or digital cable television, you can listen to some of the digital radio stations that are also available on DAB.
Of the more than 170 different formats available on DAB digital radio, you can listen to around 30 of them via Sky satellite TV, and about 20 are also on Freeview..