Which is better, DAB or Internet Radio?

DAB vs Internet Radio

In today’s world, radio has transcended its traditional boundaries, morphing into digital forms that offer clearer sound quality and broader accessibility. Among these modern options, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) and Internet Radio are the prominent choices for listeners.

Each platform offers unique advantages and caters to different preferences and needs. This article will explore both DAB and Internet Radio, delving into their characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks, and will help you decide which might be the better choice for your listening habits.

DAB Radios

DAB radios utilise a digital broadcasting technology (as opposed to the older analogue AM/FM transmissions) that offers listeners interference-free reception and a wide range of station choices. One of the key advantages of DAB radio is the ease of use; stations can be selected by name or searched for by genre, and radios automatically find all available stations, providing a straightforward tuning experience.

Additionally, DAB radios often feature additional information transmitted by stations, such as song titles, artist names, and news updates, all displayed directly on the radio's screen. Many now feature built-in rechargeable batteries and compact designs that allow them to be transported easily and enjoyed anywhere.

Another significant benefit of DAB is the sound quality. Although it can vary depending on the bit rate used for the broadcast, generally, DAB provides a clearer, more consistent sound than traditional FM/AM broadcasts. This is especially beneficial in areas where FM signal reception is poor. However, reception is still via an aerial and DAB coverage can be limited in rural or remote areas, which might restrict accessibility for some users.

Internet Radios

Internet radios require a connection to the internet to stream radio stations, which can be accessed from anywhere around the globe. This gives listeners access to a nearly unlimited array of stations, genres, and podcasts beyond the limitations of geographical broadcasting ranges. For those interested in niche music genres or foreign language content, internet radio can provide options that DAB simply cannot.

The primary advantage of Internet radio is its global reach and the diversity of content available. Additionally, because broadcasts are not limited by transmission bandwidth constraints like DAB, Internet radio stations often stream at significantly higher bit rates, which can translate to superior sound quality, assuming the listener has a stable Internet connection.

However, it's worth noting that streaming radio continuously can consume significant amounts of data, which might be a concern for those with limited internet packages or slower connection speeds. Some Internet radios are also WiFi only, which can mean a drop in stability in certain buildings, and obviously the need for a WiFI network to be present, or they may be a wired ethernet-only design, which can then drastically limit portability.

Is DAB or Internet Radio better for me?

Choosing between DAB and Internet radio largely depends on your specific needs and listening habits. If you prefer local content and want a simple, stable listening experience without the dependency on the internet, DAB radio will be the better choice. It's particularly suitable for those who listen to the radio in areas with reliable reception and prefer the convenience of a traditional radio set.

Conversely, if you are someone who values a wide variety of content, including international stations, or if you are a fan of niche music and talk radio shows that might not be available locally, Internet radio could be the more appealing option. It is ideal for listeners who have good internet access and are comfortable using mobile devices or computers to access their favourite stations.

There are also radios available now that include both DAB+ and Internet services, meaning you have both options available to you in one device. This comes at a slight premium over the standard versions but is a fantastic solution for the radio enthusiast.

Delving Deeper: Digital Radio

As we delve deeper into the specifics of DAB and Internet radio, it’s crucial to understand both the technical foundations and practical implications of each to make an informed choice that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

Technical Differences and Accessibility

Unlike the analogue-modulated radio signals of FM and AM broadcasts, DAB radio is a digital signal format, where the audio is a series of binary information (ones and zeros) that is sent as packets of data and converted at each end. This technology allows broadcasters to send out multiple programs over the same frequency, a process known as multiplexing.

As a result, listeners receive a greater choice of stations from a single digital broadcast. However, the quality of reception can be affected by physical obstructions and geographic limitations, meaning DAB coverage is not always available everywhere.

Internet radio, on the other hand, doesn't use the airwaves at all, and operates by streaming digital audio over the web. This does require a stable internet connection but is not limited by the geographic or physical barriers of an aerial-based reception. This makes Internet Radio particularly versatile for mobile use or for listening in areas where traditional broadcast signals are poor.

Does DAB Radio Work Anywhere?

DAB radios are limited to areas with DAB broadcast signals. While many urban and suburban areas in countries that support DAB broadcasting have good coverage, rural and remote regions might still experience gaps in service, or reception issues with certain stations, which can be a source of annoyance.

Does DAB Radio Need the Internet?

No, DAB radio does not require an internet connection. It relies solely on terrestrial digital signals, with the radios using the same aerial that is required for FM reception. This makes it particularly useful in situations where internet access is unreliable or non-existent, such as in rural areas or during travel in regions with poor mobile data coverage.

DAB vs Internet Radio Sound Quality

The sound quality of DAB and Internet Radio can vary significantly. DAB generally offers a consistent quality that doesn't fluctuate with network changes, as it's not dependent on internet bandwidth. However, the actual sound quality can be lower than that of Internet radio, especially if the broadcaster opts to use a lower bit rate to fit more stations into the multiplex.

Internet Radio, in contrast, can provide higher sound quality, often streaming at CD-like levels when available bandwidth permits. However, this can be a double-edged sword, as higher-quality streams consume more data and require faster, more stable internet connections to avoid buffering and compression artefacts.

Both formats are just audio sources, so the final sound quality is also highly affected by the playback method, which may be the compact speaker and digital amp of a desktop radio, or possibly a larger home HiFi system.

How DAB Radio Works

DAB radio works by encoding digital data into a carrier wave and broadcasting this signal over a specific part of the radio spectrum. The receiver in your radio decodes this signal to produce sound. Unlike FM which is susceptible to radio frequency interference and noise, DAB's digital nature ensures that it delivers a clearer sound. The robustness of DAB also comes from error correction capabilities inherent in digital broadcasting, which helps in overcoming minor signal degradations during transmission.

How Internet Radio Works

Internet Radio involves streaming audio data through the internet. It uses a variety of protocols to deliver continuous content without downloading entire files before playing. Streaming technology breaks the audio into small data packets, which are sent sequentially over the internet to your device where they are reassembled and converted back into audio signals. This method requires a persistent internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to handle the quality of the audio stream.

What Features to Look for When Buying a DAB or Internet Radio

When purchasing a DAB or Internet radio, consider the following features to enhance your listening experience:

Sound Quality: Look for radios that support DAB+ and high-bitrate Internet streams if sound quality is a priority. While all radios have the ability to receive, the lower-cost radios will often come with less than impressive speaker and amplifier capabilities, so ensure you do your research.

Connectivity Options: For Internet radios, ensure there is support for Wi-Fi and the desirable Ethernet option to offer flexibility in how you connect to the Internet.

Portability: If you intend to use the radio on the go, consider battery-operated models that offer both DAB and Internet streaming capabilities.

User Interface: Choose a model with an intuitive interface, easy station selection, and quick access to your favourite channels. Many modern DAB+ radios feature user-friendly colour displays with either touchscreen or menu button control.

Additional Features: Some radios come with extras like Bluetooth connectivity, alarm functions, and the ability to play music from external sources.

Style Options: It's common for manufacturers of DAB and Internet radios to produce the same model in several finishes to suit different tastes. Always look at the model you like to see what variations it's available in.

Remote Control: Some radios will include the convenience of a remote control, which can be a necessity for some.


Whether DAB or Internet Radio is better for you depends on your specific needs and listening habits. DAB offers ease of use and consistent reception without needing internet, making it ideal for everyday listening or in regions with limited internet service. Internet Radio provides a broader range of content and potentially higher audio quality, suited for those who value variety or listen primarily in connected environments. By understanding the technical aspects and weighing the pros and cons of each, you can choose the radio platform that best fits your lifestyle.