DAB vs. FM Radio

DAB vs. FM Radio

History and Evolution

FM has been around since the early 20th century and quickly became an important technology for audio broadcasting. Even nowadays it’s integrated into most cars, home stereos and portable radios.

However, in the 1980/'90s, DAB was developed. This technology was created to overcome the limitations faced by FM.

Nowadays, DAB is firmly in the mainstream with some countries actively encouraging the transition to DAB, with the very real threat of losing FM.

What is DAB?

DAB is a digital radio standard that offers crisp, clear sound and a broad range of channels. DAB presents a more robust way of delivering high-quality audio compared to traditional analogue radio. It uses digital signals for better quality and versatility.

Advantages of DAB

  • Sound Quality: DAB offers a clear sound quality and is less vulnerable to interference.

  • More Channels: With DAB, you can access a wide range of radio stations.

  • Data Services: DAB radios often display additional information, like the song name, artist, or even news updates.

  • Ease of Use: There’s no need to remember frequencies; you can usually select stations by name.

  • Multiplexing: Several stations can be bundled together on a single frequency, making efficient use of the spectrum.

  • Energy Efficient: DAB transmitters are generally more energy-efficient.

Disadvantages of DAB

  • Coverage: In some more rural areas, DAB signal coverage can be patchy.

  • Cost: DAB radios are generally more expensive to buy.

  • Old Tech: Older cars and home radios that only support FM won't be able to pick up DAB signals without an adaptor.

  • Signal Delay: Digital processing can introduce a slight delay, which can be problematic for live events.

  • Complexity: The features and interfaces of DAB radios might be overwhelming for some users.

What is FM?

FM, unlike DAB, is an analogue radio broadcasting system that’s been around for decades. It’s well-known for its easy availability and generally lower costs and is the standard for audio broadcasting, especially music and speech.

Advantages of FM

  • Sound Quality: If a signal is strong, FM offers high fidelity and good sound quality, especially for music.

  • Wide Availability: FM radios are accessible and fairly cheap.

  • Simple Tuning: Tuning into an FM station is generally straightforward.

  • Low Power Usage: FM receivers often consume less power compared to digital ones.

  • Local Content: FM stations are often local, offering specific content that might not be available on digital platforms.

  • Analogue Charm: Some people prefer the warm sound characteristic of analogue signals.

  • No Data Costs: FM radio is free to listen to and doesn't require an internet connection, unlike streaming services.

Disadvantages of FM

  • Limited Range: FM signals usually have a shorter range and can be affected by obstacles.

  • Interference: FM is sensitive to interference, including those from electrical equipment and other FM stations.

  • Bandwidth: FM stations take up more bandwidth than AM stations, limiting the number of available channels.

  • No Additional Data: FM doesn't support the data services that come standard with digital formats like DAB, such as song titles or artist information.

  • Variable Quality: The quality of FM reception can vary significantly based on your distance from the transmitter.

  • No Multicasting: FM supports only one program per channel, whereas digital formats can bundle multiple streams on a single frequency.

  • Ageing Infrastructure: As technology moves on, FM is becoming outdated, and investments in the system are decreasing.

The Key Differences Between DAB & FM

  • Signal Quality: DAB often has a clearer sound than FM.

  • Coverage: FM might have wider availability, especially in remote areas.

  • Channel Availability: DAB typically offers more stations.

  • User Experience: DAB radios display song titles, artist names, and more.

  • Cost: FM radios are generally cheaper than DAB radios.


Both DAB and FM have their advantages and disadvantages. If you're after fantastic sound quality and a wider variety of stations, DAB might be for you. If availability and cost are your main concerns, FM could be a better fit. 

If you’re looking to better your radio signal, check out our range of radio aerials. We’ve got both FM aerials and DAB aerials, all made in Sheffield and covering all needs.

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