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Nice build quality, but poor quality speaker marr this otherwise spec-friendly DAB, DAB+ and FM portable radio

Our rating

four stars out of five

Proper buttons, a finely-adjustable volume control that goes from very quiet up to reasonably loud, "AA"-battery or mains-powered for portability and futureproofing thanks to its DAB, DAB+ and FM reception are let down by a thin, tinny sound and no alarm settings. However, plug in earphones, extend the aerial or connect to a hi-fi system and the Sony XDR-S40's sensitivity offers a relatively inexpensive way of pulling in digital radio stations to feed to your own good-quality earphones or hi-fi speakers. It's a practical-sized radio to pack in a bag and take away with you.

Where to buy

The Sony XDR-S40-DPB portable DAB is available from Co-op Electrical and Amazon.

If you'd prefer to click and collect on the highstreet, search for this Sony DAB portable radio - item #911/989 - at Argos online.

Sony cheap DAB portable radio review - is it still worth a punt?
Saturday, 5th November 2016

With the launch of three new stations broadcasting in DAB+, alongside a fourth, Union Jack, more recently in September, is it worth taking another look at futureproofed DAB/DAB+ portable radio, in the form of the Sony SDR-S40DBP? You betcha.

Neat and compact, the Sony SDR-S40DBP is ready to receive DAB digital radio stations, such as BBC Radio 6 music, talkSPORT and Absolute Radio, in addition to Magic Chilled, Jazz FM, Fun Kids and Union Jack.

Rather lacklustre sounding, the 'S40 suffers from a single, poor, tinny-sounding speaker. It's okay for the occasional listen and - it being equipped with a battery compartment that takes 4 "AA"-size batteries - use in the bathroom, but for anything more, you'll want to use the headphone socket to connect it to your hi-fi system or a bigger, powered speaker, from which you'll get a meatier, more authoritative sound. Out-of-the-box it fails to impress, soundwise, even allowing for the radio's compact size.
Sony XDR S40dpb DAB portable digital radio
Sony SDR-S40DBP review - futureproof DAB/DAB+/FM portable, battery or mains radio at under £50

Nevertheless, the 'S40 is well-built, with decent buttons and a dedicated volume dial on the side. With the telescopic aerial extended, it does a valiant job of searching out and storing all digital radio stations, including those from distant multiplexes, equally as well as the best digital radios from Pure and Roberts. It's a sensitive receiver, but does need the aerial extending to tune to all stations. We would always recommend high-capacity rechargeable "AA" batteries, including a spare set, when using DAB portables on battery power, to avoid frustration.

The display shows only the eight-character station name, not the full sixteen character of other DAB radios, but it's easy enough to select the right one unless you have multiple Heart stations showing in the station list, which makes it a bit more of a challenge. As the display is a single-line affair, you have the option of viewing scrolling text info, the time or the station name at any one time. There are battery level and waveband indicators occupying the top-line of the backlit display; the backlight turns off after a few seconds to save batter power. If you've selected a preset, the radio also tells you which one of ten presets on each waveband you've chosen, on the top line of the display.

With lots of DAB stations in the list, it takes a while to flick through them using just up and down buttons; there's plenty of button pressing involved. Thankfully, 10 preset stations can be stored in memory on each waveband. Whilst storing stations isn't intuitive (you have to go via the preset option within the menu to save or delete presets, instead of a long-press over a particular preset), once done a quick press of the preset button allows you to scroll up and down through the memories for quick retrieval of your favourite stations.
Sony XDR S40DPB DAB portable digital radio display and buttons
Sony SDR-S40DBP orange backlit display and buttons

By itself, the 'S40 is a bit of a disappointment, but equipped with a headphone socket (for listening at the bedside, in stereo through headphones where the station is broadcast in stereo) and with its DAB+ capability for receiving stations that broadcast in this more efficient digital radio standard, the 'S40 offers a potentially inexpensive upgrade path for your existing hi-fi system (with the radio connected to a spare "AUX" input on your hi-fi by an audio cable), alongside the benefit of a portable that can be unplugged from the mains and taken out and about on battery power into the garden or shed, or away with you on holiday.
Sony XDR S40DPB DAB portable volume control
Sony SDR-S40DBP volume control

Although the sound from the 'S40 lacks punch and bass for music stations, it's just about acceptable for speech radio. Its programmable display light (always on or set to timeout after 10 seconds), sleep timer (which switches the radio off after 60, 45, 30 or 15 minutes) and finely-adjustable volume using a traditional dial all score points in its favour. Its lack of FM RDS station naming and scrolling radioTEXT means, however, its FM user-friendliness is less than satisfactory. Still, you'll likely be tuned to digital radio stations, and familiar FM stations tend not to move around the dial, so unless you're hunting for new stations on FM this may not be a dealbreaker.

The fact that it's a Sony, it can receive DAB and DAB+ stations, and can be plugged in to a bigger system are the three main reasons to go for this particular model, but the newer Sony XDR-P1DPB is the one to go for if you want a bigger sound (oddly, from a smaller unit) from a decent speaker in a Sony radio.

The Sony XDR-S40-DPB portable DAB is available from Co-op Electrical and Amazon.

If you'd prefer to click and collect on the highstreet, search for this Sony DAB portable radio - item #911/9899 - at Argos online.

More information and related links:
see our DAB Buyers' Guide for more advice and suggestions
recommended wi-fi and wired internet radio suggestions

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Sony XDR S40DPB headphone socket view
Sony SDR-S40DBP headphone socket and power inlet