The Five Ways You Can Get DAB Digital Radio in Your Car

Example of JustDRIVE DAB Car radio retrofit kit

DAB Digital Radio is the latest technology taking the world of radio by storm. We should know, after all were in the business of converting those old AM/FM RDS car radio sets so they can pick up DAB Digital Radio.

We launched our business in December 2012, and since then we have installed literally hundreds of kits. We have converted everything from Ford Focus’s to Maserati’s and even several Bentley Continental GTC’s & a £250k Ferrari FF, using our JustDRIVE DAB Car Kits.

We are in the process expanding our JustCONNECT product range with the introduction of some new products that will cater for all people, no matter what type of solution you want. We have spent hundreds of hours testing & evaluating different solutions, and we have managed to categorise the market into just 6 different types of solution, so here they are;

Plug & Play

These are very useful if you drive more than 1 vehicle in your busy life, as they can be moved from car to car very easily. They are also the most affordable way to get DAB Digital Radio into your car, as a good one usually costs between £60 & £100. They work by having a small built in tuner receiver, which through the kits antenna, collects the DAB signal. Once collected it pushes the signal into your existing car radio using FM Modulation. This means you tune your AM/FM RDS radio into an unused FM frequency that the DAB kit broadcasts on, usually 87.5, and hey presto you have DAB filling up your car speakers

There are generally 2 types of these plug & play kits available:

  • Windscreen Mount

    This type fixes to your windscreen, like a portable sat nav would. It can be a bit clunky as it has a long antenna wire that you have to trial up to the dashboard, & also has another cable that trails down to your cigar lighter socket for power. So lots of wires trailing all over the dashboard & something stuck to the windscreen means it can look a bit messy.

  • Cigar Lighter Socket mounted

    This type is normally mounted to a flexible goose neck bracket that plugs directly into your cigar lighter socket. The antenna is usually a wire that needs trailing up onto the top of the dash. So this style of plug & play is much less clunky & can be easier to work with in the car. We were so impressed with this type of solution that we have decided to launch our goose neck plug & play DAB kit, which we will be launching very soon.

3. Add on conversion kit

This type of kit converts your existing AM/FM RDS car radio so that it can collect the DAB Digital Radio signal & push the signal into your car speakers. These types of kits are great if you value the existing car radio set you have, and don’t want to change it, as the kit is hidden away behind your vehicle dashboard. If they are installed correctly then your vehicle interior will be unchanged as a result of having it fitted, so they are great for retaining the OEM look of your car. They work in the same way as the Plug & Play kits do, in that they collect a DAB signal & push it into the vehicle radio using FM Modulation, however they have much better antennas, so they deliver a much better user experience, as signal is a lot more stable. In good kits the antenna would be either a discreet glass mount amplified antenna or an external body mounted antenna.

Again there are 2 types of these kits available

  • Fully integrated

    With this type you will only see the antenna, & they are very discreet if you use Glass Mounted Amplified style. DAB information is displayed on your existing vehicle radio display, like it is now with AM/FM stations. Kit control is via the existing steering wheel buttons that were fitted from factory. So a limited solution as you need steering controls for it to work. You can expect to pay between £250-£350 installed for this type of solution

  • Semi integrated

    This type is exactly the same as a fully integrated, with one difference. These kits use a wireless remote for kit control. Good kits use RF technology for the remote, so it does not have to be pointed at anything for it to work. We favour this type of kit as firstly they work in any car, as you don’t need steering controls. Secondly the factory steering controls were never designed with a retro fit kit in mind, so the functions of a fully integrated kit & the factory buttons on the steering wheel don’t match up, this can make for a very tricky and confusing user experience. Also, you can expect to pay less for a Semi-Integrated kit, prices usually between £200-£300 installed for this type of solution. So, these can be a better all round product & user experience.

4. Replacement Radio Set

As you could expect, you can take out your existing radio & replace it with a set from someone like Alpine, Blaupunkt, Clarion, JVC, Kenwood, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sony. They all offer DAB replacement radios. We think this is okay if you drive a vehicle that is say 10 years old, but if you drive something newer then you will require a lot of additional parts to make the radio fit into your car, so lots of hidden cost. Also car interiors look great, as many millions of £’s have been spent on designing it, so taking out factory radios can make your car dash look worse. Car radios fitted by the OEM for the past few years are great, & a lot of the time they are superior to many retrofit products you can buy. We are launching a DAB Digital replacement radio set very soon.

5. Mobile Phone

This is a great way to listen to not only DAB Digital Radio, but also Internet Radio. There are around 300 DAB Digital Radio stations currently in the UK, but there are around 55’000 internet radio stations you can listen to. To make this work in car you would need to connect your phone through the car’s AUX in, if it has one. Or you can stream the audio through a Bluetooth Car Kit, like a Parrot Handsfree Kit. One word of warning here though, watch out in can be very costly as it eats into your data allowance. Listening to radio for 1 hour per day Monday to Friday while driving to & from work for 1 month will use around 1GB of data, so check your phone package carefully before adopting this way of listening.

This is not a fully comprehensive In Car DAB guide, but it certainly covers the best options currently available in the marketplace. We look forward to hearing from you, should you wish to make the switch to DAB Digital Radio.