If rumours are to be believed, Ford will soon be fitting DAB as standard on some vehicles. But the retro-fit market still has massive potential and to fill that gap digital radio specialist Pure has come up with a really neat little gadget: the Highway. It's like all those iPod-oriented FM devices. Highway picks up digital radio …
So I get that DAB is arguably better quality than traditional FM, at least compared with most car stereos anyway. So let me get this right, you have a gizmo to receive DAB transmissions in all there crisp (again, arguable) stereo goodness, but you then have to retransmit this high quality audio over standard FM to be interpreted by your car stereo's FM radio?
Surely this is flawed? Neat way of obtaining more stations I suppose, particularly special interest stuff but surely not a device to get the best that DAB is capable(ish) of.
Grumpy, pedantic greybearded git that I am...
This is the second time in two days that I've seen the wrong one out of the homophones discreet and discrete used. Somewhere in the Grauniad yesterday, and now here on the Register, where I expect higher standards! (And can comment at once...)
This unit is indeed discrete, in that it stands alone, but also discreet in that it doesn't draw attention to itself by obstructing the driver's view when mounted on the screen.
And without my grumpy pedant hat...
...it is actually a good review of a device that I now want. My elderly and cherished Citroen Xantia comes with a super Blaupunkt radio which I'd not want to loose, especially as it is a custom fitting and you need fiddly adaptor plates to install anything 'normal'.
DAB sounds worse than FM.
Get it if you want DAB content, but don't get it if you want quality sound. Try Googling for 'DAB is worse than FM' and you'll see what I mean.
If this gizmo is built well, then the weak point will be the DAB transmission, so it shouldn't sound worse than a straight DAB radio.
I thought a major problem with DAB car radios was that when you moved from one region to another it would need to do a complete retune, so in driving from Birmingham to London it you would need to retune four or five times. Has this been rectified? I was under the impression it couldn't be because of the nature of the digital signal.
If you're going to pick up someone's spelling....
"lose" not "loose", but if you're a regular Grauniad reader then it's understandable.
Paris, because if anyone would be appropriate to be "loose" it'd be her.
My three penneths
1. No traffic info while picking up DAB stations (i assume - unless the review missed this "feature").
2. Wires all over the place and what with many people already having GPS receivers in their windscreen things are going to get cluttered (and dangerous) very soon.
3. DAB adds unnecessary complexity to a simple system that works just fine. It aint broke so don't waste billions fixing it.
No, you don't have to do that: "...have a line-in, and the Highway can plug straight in,..."
Of course, if you don't want to pay £70 for a Highway, you could spend £150 on a new DAB-capable head unit.
It's about bloody time. Car manufacturers should have been installing DAB as standard 5 years ago. If DAB dies, I reckon it's down to them.
I'll be getting one of these straight away. 6Music on the move at last !
Regarding quality: it's in a car. Anything above fairly decent quality is wasted with all the road noise. 70mph (no more, honest, guv) in a tin can is not the best place for the audiophile.
Actually, one main benefit of DAB is that it *can* be used on the move without ever retuning, and this has always been the case...
Unless you're listening to a local station, of course.
"No traffic info"
Not sure that's the case. Most RDS radios are EON-compatible, which amongst other things means they have two tuners. One for what you're listening to, and the other checking for announcements on other frequencies. If traffic announcements couldn't interrupt the DAB tuner's frequency, then that would also be a problem with local stations not buying into RDS, and I am not aware of that happening.
The quicker DAB gets fitted as standard to cars the better, the two main places I listen to the radio are in the car and doing the washing up, two places where ultra sharp mega high quality, super-duper hi def does'nt really matter and to be honest, I've not noticed, We have three DAB radios at home, all Pure models, and the recently purchased Marshall amp styled XT-1 is great, waking up to Alice Cooper everything blasting into my ear.
Just a side note to the He-Man fan, have you actually used a DAB radio or just read it on the fount of all knowledge that is the internet? Like digital TV, digital radio is amazing! and can everyone go along to planetrock.com and sign up their support for the station? Thanks
I've been waiting to get my mitts on one of these ever since it was announced bafore Christmas!
I love my digital radio - comes with me on my travels in the UK and we have 2 in our house - one for the bedroom and one my boyfriend takes to work to listen to, that also goes in the kitchen.
One of the biggest gripes I have with DAB is that only the UK signed up for the sensible band, Band III, which makes it usable with small aerials, and in a car. It flopped in France because they chose L-band, and the trials around Paris and Lyon failed due in part to to lack of coverage.
With few countries using it, the problems of economies of scale will always come up.
Maybe the digital AM route is the way to go, leaving Band II for decent quality FM? Now if only I could still get Radio 4 while driving across Europe...
Auntie has been running a traffic channel over DAB for some time now with the same data as you can find on http://www.bbc.co.uk/travelnews/ - maybe ICE manufacturers could think about integrating this into their GPS/DAB receivers too, so we can have a constant traffic feed instead of the occasional TMC updates. Well, I live in hope.
I own one of these, and so far it's been every bit as good, if not better than any of the DAB headunits that I've had in my cars, and it also works well as a standalone, useful for dog walking and listening to 5 extra for the football etc..
One downside, Planet Rock is up for sale, and I'd thought that some of the richer artistes regularly featured ought to repay the favour by buying the station, seems a shame as the station has won the Sony award for best digital radio station....
"Actually, one main benefit of DAB is that it *can* be used on the move without ever retuning, and this has always been the case..."
My Kenwood FM RDS radio does this very nicely as well. And I've driven many times cross-country without having to manually retune Radio 2 I usually listen to, or indeed having to touch the head unit at all.
DAB flopped in France coz Band 111 is still being used in France for analogue TV.....
That's why the UK Southern coast DAB transmitters can't be turned up to full wick (coz it'll blot out TV receoption in Northern France...
So, just for once, we can mess up the French in a similar way that they block the Channel ports...
>>DAB sounds worse than FM.
Only in UK, since the BBC and otehrs weer allowed to transmit at lower bit rates as they had to increase the choice of stations on a limited number of multiplexes.
Had OFCOM not messed things up, (by allowing more multiplexes to be licenced), then all the stations could have been transmitting at 192kb or even 256kb, and then the argument you make would have been void.
As it is, with only around 1Mb of bandwidth per multiplex, the BBC and others have limited capacity to broadcast all their stations at high bitrates and hence the sound quality is worse than it could be.
A better "phrase" would have been:
UK DAB sounds worse than FM
(And if OFCOM makes more multiplexes available, then we can have superb sounding digital radio ).
>>thought a major problem with DAB car radios was that when you moved from one region to another it would need to do a complete retune, so in driving from Birmingham to London it you would need to retune four or five times.
Not quite true.
The DAB system uses what's called a Single Frequency Network. So you can drive anywhere within England and if listening to one of the two National multiplexes (BBC and Digital One), then you won't need to re-tune at all. (However Scotland uses different frequencies for some reason, so once over the border you will need to re-tune).
As such, ALL the BBC stations as well as TalkSport, Virgin, Planet Rock, Classic FM etc can all be received without re-tuning.
The issue you might be thinking of relates to the local multiplexes which are normally licensed per "county" (or major city).
See here for the list of which stations are broadcast on which local multiplex:
You will then note that some of the same stations are available on different local multiplexes and that you might need to re-tune IF the new multiplex also carries the same station.
@ Three penneth
>>1. No traffic info while picking up DAB stations (i assume - unless the review missed this "feature").
Errr. A rolling "Traffic Radio" service is now becoming available on most local multiplexes...so you don't need to wait for either your local radio station to give you the news (and sometimes on my FM radio, it auto-switches to one station and halfway through the travel report, another radio station starts their travel report - so you lose the one you want....(esp in Cambridge/Essex/London area !!)
>>2. Wires all over the place and what with many people already having GPS receivers in their windscreen things are going to get cluttered (and dangerous) very soon.
For now, maybe.....a Highway only needs a wire for the aerial and a wire for the power....would be great if a Highway Mark 2 were availabel that output via Bluetooth.....(as some cars now seem to be allowing this....
Of course, IF all the car manufacturers had supported DAB since 1995 (even if only making DAB radios optional, which most haven't), then they wouldn't be playing "catch up" now, eh ???.
(Or losing out to another manufacturer who recognises the needs to have DAB in cars, vans and trucks.
>> 3. DAB adds unnecessary complexity to a simple system that works just fine. It aint broke so don't waste billions fixing it.
FM *IS* broke.....too much interference, too inefficient on FM bandwidth (I can pick up BBC R2 on 5 different frequencies near where I live !!) and not enough choice of stations. Plus there all these pirate stations at various times that mess up the band and cause further issues. Likewise FM is more prone to issues due to poorly maintained taxi cab transmitters and the clicks and noises from central heating system and refrigerator switching relays.
When I lived in NW Kent, I could only pick up (on FM) the 4 main BBC stations (1,2,3,4) plus two or three local stations.
By contrast, I could pick up over 70 DAB stations (the 2 National multiplexes, plus 3 from London, plus the Kent and Essex multiplexes) although, sadly, theJazz and Planet Rock might be closing soon (see http://www.saveplanetrock.co.uk ).
"FM *IS* broke....."
Works just fine for me! And it has done for several decades now. If I want lots more choice I download from tinternet (rare but it does sometimes happen). Otherwise I'm happy with FM (it's compatible with *all* my radios, from the old battery-powered box I bought back in the 1970's through to the one built into my new phone).
>> Works just fine for me!
Well that's good for you.
Personally, I like to listen to BBC 5Live without interference (as it's only available on AM) and TalkSport (ditto) when I'm in the car (so "online" SIN'T an option.
And I enjoy Planet Rock and BBC 6 and 7....and listening to some classical music on DAB is great coz there's no background noise....!
So, feel free to "put up with" the poorer signal receiving capability of FM and all the "nasties" you get if you live on the fringe for reception - in my neck of the woods, there's not a lot of choice at all on FM.
Personally, I like to have the choice when I'm out and about and to enjoy the benefits....
FM and AM are both appauling.
At Home, Radio 4 is constantly intercepted by a cr*p pirate station - so bad I even called the mobile number and told them to shut up (in my best middle class RP voice).
In the car in London Radio 5 is impossible to listen to, and while driving north, around the Midlands there's a section where neither the 909 or 693 frequencies will work.
So I bought a freeview TV for the kitchen, for the same price as a DAB radio, and have TV and all the digital radio I want, and a DAB head unit for the car - the talk and sports reception (Radio 4&5) is reception is excellent and interrupted, and while an audiophile would contest the true quality of the music, they wouldn't have the sunroof open and the the wind in their hair while singing along....
Nice looking device though.
I want one
The difference between DAB sound quality and FM sound quality is going to be inaudible over traffic noise. FM is only better when you have a good signal, which I often don't. And DAB vs AM is no contest, even if it's 64kbps mono DAB.
I love the fact that it's got ReVu - I often listen to podcasts in the car off a CDRW and I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to rewind because I didn't quite catch something, only to realise I'm actually listening to the radio and it doesn't do that. Now if they only added a memory card slot so that I could record a good track or an interesting programme that came on, or listed to those podcasts with slightly less hassle than doing the CDRW thing, it'd be perfect.
Shame about the please-smash-my-window-in-the-hope-of-finding-my-satnav-in-the-glovebox windscreen sucker though - any alternative mounting options (other than leaving it to rattle around on the dashboard)?
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