Tesco DAB123 Radio Alarm

This small DAB/FM radio was sold for about €25 and reduced to under €9

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Specifications

  • DAB 174MHz to 240MHz. No mention of DAB+ or AAC. Basic DAB, while used in UK and in some locations by RTE is obsolete.
  • FM 87.5MHz to 108MHz. Basic Mono only. Absolutely no RDS or Stereo.
  • Aerial: Trailing wire. No telescopic or socket
  • Display: Small LCD with one line text and no backlight. Just 6mm high Starburst segments plus some 1.5mm high annunciators.
  • Loudspeaker: approximately 2" (about 50mm). No earphone/headphone socket
  • Power: 4 x Alkaline AA Cells about 4.5 hours or supplied 6V 500mA "plugtop"/"Wallwart" SMPSU. Class II double Insulated
  • Approvals: CE mark
  • Size: 155mm x 78mm x 74mm (w x h x d Curved case)
  • Weight: 600g

Operation

On first use it scans for DAB stations and stores them in Preset Memories. FM stations must be individually manual scanned and stored.

There is no separate volume control. The << and >> buttons have multiple functions including volume up down according to mode.

It's impossible to use the set other than turn on / off on last station and adjust volume in steps without the manual to hand. Also the buttons are all flush and on th sloping back so impossible to see sitting or lying down. The button text is 1.5mm grey, so impossible to see without decent light, and if you need reading glasses, impossible to decipher without them.

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Top view of Tesco DAB123

The audio quality is abysmal due to the earphone sized loudspeaker.

The sample model would not turn on with NiMH rechargeable cells. 

If the last station was DAB rather than FM, there is a noticeable switch on delay.

Sensitivity

Without specialised test gear this is impossible to gauge. The DAB mode received all the RTE DAB stations (Transmitter less than 14km). Currently in Ireland there is only limited DAB coverage and RTE only.  The FM reception was better than a €2 "autoscan" FM radio, but poorer than a 1963 Hacker, 1970s Fidelity (both about 200 hours or more battery life) and similar to a 1980s LED LW/MW/VHF clock radio.

Conclusion

Is it worth €8? Not really. There are far easier to set Alarm/clock radios. This needs the Manual to change the Alarm time. Compared to AM/FM there appears to be no value to DAB in Ireland. Any set purchased for DAB should have DAB+ / AAC  as non-RTE trials have used this. In a sense basic DAB is obsolete, unfortunately DAB+ isn't going to be used to improve quality but double the number of stations so as to halve the transmission cost per station. The scanning and saving of FM stations is laborious.  While the radio is small, it's too awkward to retune or use other than presets, so poor as a travel clock. The Battery life would seem so poor that it's only of use as a clock backup. However if there is DAB reception the clock is set from the  DAB signal. It's unable to use VHF-FM RDS signal to set time.

The awkward buttons (flush, facing away from user, poorly labelled and too many functions per button), tiny display and lack of a backlight make it fairly poor as an alarm clock. , 

Improvements

Buttons on front, x2 to x4 taller display with back light option, simpler to use buttons, a knob for volume, a knob for FM Tuning and VHF-FM RDS features to auto retune stations and set time would be more useful than DAB, especially as battery life would x 20 at least and the Radio / Clock would be useful at home or travelling.  

Manual

Higher quality scans are available.

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