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New VW cars to come with DAB digital radio, but what about the sound quality?

Good news, music fans. Every new car made by the Volkswagen group will come fitted with a DAB radio as standard. This applies to every vehicle in the VW group’s burgeoning portfolio of brands, which includes Audi, Seat, Skoda and Lamborghini.

Every VW group car from Polo to Phaeton will come with DAB, but don't expect miracles with the audio quality.
Every VW group car from Polo to Porsche will come with DAB, but don’t expect miracles with the audio quality.

The move will ensure all VW group cars aren’t left playing annoying static when, or indeed if, the UK switches exclusively to digital DAB radio. We may have to wait some time for that to happen, however, as the switchover may now not happen until 2019 — if at all.

VW says DAB radios will provide drivers with a larger number and a greater variety of stations to choose from. It also says digital radio will offer better audio quality, and the multi-speaker setups in most of its cars will really make the most of these digital signals.

But that’s not all true. Digital radios certainly offer more choice, but in many cases, you’re actually better off sticking with FM. 

Yes, digital lacks the annoying crackling and hissing we get when a signal isn’t at optimal level, but DAB radio drops out completely when its signal coverage gets patchy. Also, the low bit rate at which DAB stations are transmitted means many stations sound worse than their FM counterparts. This is unlikely to be a much of a problem on VW cars with entry-level audio systems consisting of few speakers, but the multi-speaker setups on most of VW’s cars will only highlight the questionable sound quality.

And don’t even get us started on DAB’s dodgy reception when on the move.

Thankfully, VW’s radios will still receive FM and AM radio broadcasts and, if radio isn’t your thing, they’ll even let you connect your MP3 player via a auxiliary input, which comes as standard. If you’re willing to spend a bit more cash, VW can provide more advanced speaker systems from Danish audio specialists Dynaudio. These provide more power, touchscreen controls, SD memory card readers and Bluetooth music playback.

2013 model-year vehicles can be ordered from your friendly neighbourhood VW dealer now. Make sure you read our VW Polo, Golf and Beetle reviews to fin dout more about these cars. 


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