With Britain set to switch off FM radio stations for good as early as 2015, it makes sense to start thinking about how your car will cope. But is there an alternative to pricey DAB headunits? Jon Reay finds out.
>What is it?
The Aves 'Air' handheld DAB and FM radio – proudly designed in the UK, and on sale at around £50-70. It's battery powered, should last around 8 hours and – in theory – can be plugged into your car's stereo and used there too.
What's in the box?
Nothing fancy – the radio its self, a pair of AAA batteries to get you started, and a slightly tacky pair of in-ear headphones. We binned these and borrowed a 3.5mm aux cable for our in-car tests.
What are its features?
Aside from picking up DAB, the Air will also flick through FM channels if you so desire. We didn't have much of a play with this, but it seems to work reasonably well (albeit not in our nuclear bunker-like office).
There's a handy preset menu that can be used to save your favourite stations, and a sleep mode should you wish to drift off to the dulcet tones of Ken Bruce. Not recommended while driving.
There are a smattering of handheld DAB radios around, ranging from between £40 and £100. Pure's Move 2500 is probably the closest at around £80, and does have a few features on top of the Air – bass and treble controls and a 14 hour battery life for starters.
There's also the Pure Highway – a DAB radio designed specifically for your car. Around the £80 mark, it comes with a windscreen mount and can be powered from your car's cigarette lighter.
What's it like to use?
Not bad. The unit itself feels a little on the plasticky side, though it does at least have a soft touch back and feels quite robustly built. In terms of picking up channels, we haven't had a chance to compare with the likes of the Pure Highway, but it did an admiral job – particularly given that we just plugged it in to our test car's aux socket and shoved it on the passenger seat.
We tried it in an £97,000 Mercedes with an ultra-posh stereo, and we must say it sounded great. It did suffer from some signal drop-out a couple of times, however – an issue we haven't found with manufacturer-fitted systems around the same test route.
The AOL Cars Verdict
With countless radio stations broadcasting in high quality on DAB (many of which aren't available on FM in most regions), upgrading to the new format certainly isn't a bad idea. Is a portable unit like the Aves Air the way to go? If you're after a well-priced unit that can be used in and outside of the car, we're happy to recommend it.