FM radio has been around for almost a century now. Even people who have never used one should have a basic understanding of how they work. So you might think that DAB is just the same old thing in a new package. In fact, it's more than that. It's the future. There are actually some key differences between the two formats, and DAB ultimately has the edge. But just why is DAB radio better than FM? Well, we're glad you asked- because we're about to tell you!
Related: Can I Get Digital Radio In My Area?
DAB Radio Offers So Much More Choice
This is the big one- the main reason why so many people have switched to DAB radio. FM only has a limited bandwidth it can use, and stations have to be quite far apart so they don't interfere with each other. That means you can usually only get about fifteen different FM stations in any one area. Once upon a time, this was enough to satisfy the public. Nowadays, though, we're used to having much more choice. TV went fully digital just a few years ago, and it's already hard to imagine a time when there were just a handful of channels to choose from. What's more, there's also the internet to distract people, with endless music and video streaming available pretty much anywhere. To survive into the modern era, radio needed to offer a whole lot more. And so- DAB was born!
As the name suggests, digital radio is sent out differently to FM. Instead of a traditional radio signal, the DAB feed is made from a string of ones and zeroes. Naturally, this means that plenty more stations can be broadcast at once, without stepping on each others' toes. In theory, there could be up to 60 digital radio stations broadcasting from a single transmission tower. In practise, though, there are usually about 30 stations in any one area. Still, that's double what FM has to offer, including digital-only stations like Talksport and BBC 6 Music.
The Reception Is Better, Too
Digital doesn't just offer listeners a wider choice of stations. It also makes the radio reception much more reliable, too. How? Well, FM can only broadcast on a fixed frequency. Your FM radio antenna will need to be in just the right position to pick this up. With DAB, though, that restriction is lifted. Instead, DAB radio antennae send out that same broadcast multiple times. This gives your DAB radio multiple chances to hit upon a reliable signal, and it's especially useful in built-up areas. It also puts an end to crackly static. Instead, it either works perfectly, or doesn't work at all. Only on very rare occasions will you experience DAB radio interference. If you do, we've already put together this handy guide to help. Plus, you don't need to manually tune in to stations. The DAB radio finds them all for you- perfect!
A Few Extra Features
There are more benefits to digital radio than just the broadcast itself. It can also send out extra data alongside the audio. Pretty much every station also broadcasts the name of the song that's playing, as well as the artist. No longer will you hear a song on the radio that you like, but miss out on what it's called. Instead, you'll always know what's on the dial! Some stations send out album artwork as well- this isn't quite as common, but it is still a possibility.
There's one last extra feature we should mention as well. Modern FM radios usually do one thing, and one thing only. On the other hand, plenty of DAB radios also act as Bluetooth speakers. Even fairly cheap models often include this feature. That means you can use them to listen to your own music as well as the radio, making them even better value for money.
So Is DAB Radio Always Better Than FM?
Well, not 100%. A little bit of the audio quality is lost when broadcasting a digital signal. That's not the case with FM. FM can therefore sometimes sound slightly better than DAB when it's working perfectly. As we mentioned earlier, though, that's not always going to be all the time. Plus, most DAB radios come with an FM mode as well, so this option is always on the table if you need it.
On balance, though, it's clear that DAB radio is better than FM. It's got more stations, a more reliable signal, and is generally a more modern way of tuning in. If you're yet to make the switch to digital radio, then there's no time like the present!