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Digital radio hi-fi tuner reviews

DAB+ radio for your existing stereo system.
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01.Introduction

CH0312_DRadio_Marantz_S_LEAD_WEB

We review nine of the latest digital radio tuners, priced from $199 to $999.

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which digital radio tuners have the best:

  • Ease of use
  • Reception
  • Remote control
  • Onboard controls
  • Internet radio features

On this page you'll find:

For more information about Digital products, see Home entertainment.

Digital radio (DAB+) can deliver better, interference-free sound than AM or FM. However, since most of the available digital radios are table-top or portable models with tinny speakers, your first experience with DAB+ may not be a pleasant one. 

Thankfully, more component digital radio tuners are appearing on the market, allowing you to enjoy digital radio as it was meant to be enjoyed - through a good pair of speakers.

We put nine DAB+ radio tuners designed to be integrated into a hi-fi system to the test. Several units, including our top two performing models (see What to buy), offer additional features such as iPod connectivity, the ability to play music files stored on a USB drive and also access to thousands of radio stations throughout the world via the internet.

Digital radio (DAB+) has been in Australia for a few years, but unlike analog TV, which has a clear cut-off date, there are no plans to switch off analog radio. Before buying a digital radio, visit www.digitalradioplus.com.au and type in your postcode to see if you're in an appropriate reception area. 

If you live outside the mainland capital city areas, you can forget about digital radio for the next 12 months at least.

Make sure you see the '+' sign. When buying a digital radio for Australia, make sure it has DAB+ somewhere to show it will work locally. Any product that just has DAB on the box or unit should be avoided as it's most likely made for the UK market and may not work here.

Brands tested

  • Arcam FMJ T32
  • Cambridge Azur 650T
  • Digitech AR1753
  • Marantz NA7004
  • NAD C446G
  • Nextwave DAB390
  • Sangean WFT-1D
  • Sherwood TX5505iD
  • Yamaha T-D500

How we test

Sound quality
Our testers, Scott O'Keefe, Corinna Horrigan and Denis Gallagher listen to the same DAB+ music stations with similar music in an attempt to distinguish between the models. This score was not included in the table and overall score, as the panel found all units delivered high levels of audio quality with the live DAB+ broadcasts.

Ease of use
Our tester, James Thomson, uses all the main functions of the radios to assess their ease of use. In particular, he looks for ease of the initial setup, clear labelling, placement and functionality of the buttons, controls and knobs as well as the size and clarity of the display.

Reception

Unlike the previous test with table top and portable radios, all models performed very well in the good reception area and intermediate area. The one area to get differentiation was in the area classed as delivering poor reception. In tests carried out in this area James attempted to get a good consistent signal with a house mounted digital areal as well as a standard telescopic monopole aerial commonly found on portable radios. All but three models performed very well in the most difficult reception area with the worst performing models reflected in their scores in the table.

Remote control
James analysed whether the button layout is intuitive and logical, and the remote control buttons were of a distinctive size, colour and shape to help make selections in low light.

Presets and favourites
James assesses the ability for the user to create presets or favourites using the onboard controls and the remote. Points are deducted if he is unable to carry out this task for DAB+ (even if it is possible for Internet radio) or if the task can be carried out on the remote only and not by using the onboard controls.

Standby Energy score
A measurement is made with the unit in standby mode. Any model that records a measurement greater than 2 W scores 0%, and greater than 1 W 40%.

Internet radio - ease of use
Our tester assesses how easy the unit is to operate in Internet radio mode for finding and selecting radio stations as well as storing for future use. This is score does not contribute to the overall score.

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