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back to article Bloke in shed starts own DAB radio station - with Ofcom's blessing

A three-month experiment in Brighton has proved that Digital Audio Broadcasting can be cheap and easy to transmit, opening the way to community and local stations – and perhaps a pirate or two. The experiment was carried out by Ofcom broadcast specialist Rashid Mustapha, though in his own time and at his expense. Despite that, …

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Nice work. I'm in two minds, though, as it's more lockin for the inferior DAB (inferior to DAB+).

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Also inferior to fm, from the point of view of most listeners

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however, the best thing to happen to DAB was Radio 5 Live :)

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Happy

R5L may have improved but surely the best use for DAB is 6Music and 4extra. Topped up with a little R4, there's no need to tune any further.

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Even so, the fact that he can do it at all is quite nice.

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I might be more positive about Radio 4 Extra if the stream was of sufficient bitrate to allow for stereo.

When it was BBC 7 and only played reruns of vintage content recorded in mono, it served its purpose on DAB. However, they've been commissioning new material (no doubt recorded in stereo) and then playing it on mono R4 Extra ...

If ever there was a case of squeezing a quart into a pint pot, it's the BBC switching R4 to mono whenever there is audio running on BBC Five Live Sports Extra. BBC R3 is at 192 kbps on DAB, R2 and 6Music are 128 kbps, and yes, you can notice...

Sorry but DAB just isn't good enough for music and the commercial stations consider DAB a bit of a Fail... cost wise they are laying out extra to provide DAB for a small listening audience compared with FM.

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Why bother

Given the lack of popularity and limited penetration of DAB into the home, why would a local station (or a pirate) bother? Audience would be limited to a few DAB adopters and the broadcaster's mum (assuming (s)he had given her a DAB for Xmas).

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Re: Why bother

Not so limited, perhaps.

I recently bought a new music system and it has DAB as it's default receiver choice. I set it up and it seems to be quite effective. I think it's true to say that more and more HiFi systems are equiped with DAB straight off the bat so we will probably see the same kind of take up that occured with digital TV when Freeview digital tuners became built in to new TVs, a default switchover.

I am aware of the argument that states that the dedicated music system will die out as more music moves on line. I'm not convinced by this, I feel that there will continue to be a demand for seperate music systems as there are quite few people out there who still don't use online music providers or radio for various reasons. I myself still prefer the quality of sound produced by CD's over MP3 (not really explored FLAC yet, a bit inconvenient to use) so for the time being a dedicated music system still has a place in our house.

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Re: Why bother

It's not so limited at home any more, digital; listening at home is increasing rapidly.

Where it is limited though is in cars, there's still too few cars with DAB as standard, they only seem to come as massively overpriced options.

I sat in many, many expensive cars at the weekend and hardly any had a DAB radio fitted as standard kit, as far as I'm aware it seems to be just Mini, who've been fitting them as standard since 08 reg, and Ford who are leading the way.

DAB in cars is mostly OK, I live in the arse end of Lancashire, and my DAB equipped Mini copes pretty well in most areas I drive, although it always drops out as I drive past Lancaster Uni on the M6, I don't know if it's caused by the thick stand of trees by the side of the road, or some dodgy kit they're running in the Uni

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Re: Why bother

Try FLAC - much higher quality than MP3 and said to be the equivalent of CD. Obviously file size is higher, but a large harddrive is the cure for that.

I use FLAC at home and convert to MP3 for my tablet which I use for commuting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why bother

> I use FLAC at home and convert to MP3 for my tablet which I use for commuting.

And this has what to do with Digital Radio Broadcasting (DAB)?

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FAIL

Re: Why bother

Useless for really portable use. FM & AM are better. DAB is a dinosaur.

DAB+ is NOT better, just cheaper as they fit in more stations.

DAB isn't "green" for Receivers or for a single channel of transmission rather than a bunch of stations multiplexing the data to the COFDM modulator. FM was popular BEFORE the patents ran out and they are still trying to promote DAB.

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Gav
Boffin

Re: Why bother

If you think CDs deliver noticeably different sound to that of an MP3 at a decent sample rate, then you either have inhumanly advanced perceptions, or are deluding yourself.

It's all bits being converted to sound waves.

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Headmaster

Re: Why bother

"equivalent of CD".

I would guess there is a lot wrong with that statement. Sadly. :/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why bother

The thing is, outside the UK and to a limited extent the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, DAB is pretty much unheard of in the rest of Europe and the World.

If you were to drive through continental Europe, your digital radio reception would be very patchy to say the least, mostly limited to around major cities. The rest of the time you would get no stations at all, unlike normal FM (limited range but plenty of stations to choose from), AM (limited quality, full of crackling during thunderstorms, limited choice, but countrywide range for European-sized countries), or SW ("This is London"... those were the days!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why bother

> And this has what to do with Digital Radio Broadcasting (DAB)?

Well, at least there is an IT angle.

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Re: Why bother

Even at a high sample rate, lossy digital compression is effectively audio compression. It normalises everything; you lose the clarity and peaks and deep bass just plain disappear. On any remotely decent hifi system you can hear the difference and you don't have to be some audiophile or freakish mutant or the idiot who spends a squillion quid on a gold-plated, jewel encrusted cable to do so. I noticed it one day playing the Master and Commander soundtrack. The CD version had this incredible deep thump in the bass that was missing from the ogg and mp3 versions I played over the same speakers. Even a q10 vbr ogg was missing it.

Of course if all your CDs are the hopelessly compressed, pumped up noise they sell so often these days then of course you're not going to hear a difference - a bit more lossy compression really won't make any significant change to that - but if they've been put together by a competent sound engineer then the difference is as between night and day.

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More stations than listeners?

> a Raspberry Pi could have filled that role

'cept that the RPi doesn't have an audio input - hence the need to generate the stream elsewhere and pipe it in using IP.

But really? DAB - does anyone care?

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Re: More stations than listeners?

I have DAB in the car. It just came with the car so i wasnt going to complain. It has a weird quirk (due to my wiring lots of extension cables for various chargers in the car) that DAB craps out when I plug too many things into the 12v sockets (or maybe the crap ebay plugs that generate noise more likely).

Anyway, in my recent trip down the M6,61,60,62,1 I did miss DAB R5L cricket so it does have its uses. also having to retune FM on such journeys is a pain too.

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@Danny

'retune FM' - I can't remember having to retune FM in the car since RDS came in decades ago, though I came back South from Carlisle a couple of months ago on the pretty route (avoiding the M6), and there are some real FM blackspots near places such as Orton. A mate has a new Ford with factory-fitted DAB and he reckons he can get from Bucks to Lands End without any reception problems, so coverage (or radios?) must be getting better.

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Re: @Danny - On retuning

My impression is that car radios have actually gotten worse at following RDS AF in the past 15 years.

I never used to have any problem but cars nowadays don't seem to handle it as well as they used to, or stations (mainly, it has to be said, endless bloody Heart, Magic, Galaxy, Real etc. crud) just don't implement properly.

In any case, DAB is little better as stuff drops in and out of MUXes as you drive about.

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Facepalm

Re: @Danny

FM channel hopping is instant and with RDS automatic. DAB Mux switching is PAINFULLY slow. Even within a mux channel changing is slow due to the MP2 (or AAC on DAB+, probably slower!) decoder buffer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More stations than listeners?

"But really? DAB - does anyone care?"

The BBC do - they've got to justify spending license payers' money on a system that's not fit for purpose.

OK DAB/DAB+ modes 2,3 & 4 are of use for national broadcasters in countries like China, Australia, India but why bother for a small country like the UK?

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Re: I did miss DAB R5L cricket

that is why God gave us Long Wave, so we can hear TMS throughout the whole civilised portions of the planet. And france.

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MrT
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12v adapters...

... are probably the cause of it - I bought a few for several cars and was careful to pick ones that had good reviews in that respect - not had a problem with Belkin single USB, Griffin twin USB, or even a generic brand twin from Amazon marketplace (last one is not in a DAB-equipped car though). However, some just put out so much RF noise that they can even overwhelm FM, or put out a really loud hiss. My commute takes me right past a TV mast, which will also do it for FM and DAB over about 300m radius.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Danny

"FM channel hopping is instant and with RDS automatic."

I think, as per a couple of comments already, you meant "was instant" not "is instant".

I've had RDS radios in car and at home for a very very long time.

In the last year or so since losing my ten year old Peugeot which had a nice but not particularly sensitive RDS/FM radio, I've used two VAG cars. One had actually a remarkably good FM radio - very sensitive, used to regularly pick up BBC Derby and BBC Oxford traffic reports (e.g. via RDS TP/TA) in suburban Birmingham. But although RDS auto follow is referenced in the manual, it doesn't seem to be implemented. The other was no better in that respect.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I did miss DAB R5L cricket

"so we can hear TMS throughout the whole civilised portions of the planet. And france."

I gave you a thumbs up just for the remark about france (was the all lower case spelling intentional?)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 12v adapters...

Various models made by the VW group (at least in the Audi and VW brands) have the option for a 220VAC socket built into the car. Saves screwing around with adaptors.

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Re: about france

Of course, or as they might say: 'May Wee' (wocab)

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B-D

Just as NTSC was backronymed to Never Twice the Same Colour, I'd love to see the moment when DAB means Dead And Buried.

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Joke

Did Anyone Bother?

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As a totally free and high-quality method of radio reception DAB is excellent. Most developed countries have used it for years and it has become very popular. It was available in north america some years ago (at least in Canada) but it was dropped for some reason that most people suspect was pressure from the fee-paying satellite-radio providers. There is no point in being negative about somethin just because you cannot have access to it yourself !

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Pedant alert!

" three-segment aerial"

I presume you meant to say "three element Yagi".

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Re: Pedant alert!

I was thinking that myself. I couldn't see anything with three segments in the pic but I did see a nice three element Yagi.

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Megaphone

Now I can get the BBC* again

I used to love listening to Delbert Wilkins on the *Brixton Broadcasting Corporation

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Re: Now I can get the BBC* again

Crucial memories there Winston, crucial :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now I can get the BBC* again

"Crucial memories"

I wonder if Lenny got paid for the advert. Did you?

;)

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Go for it

Launch Radio Vulture in Clerkenwell.

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Hoorah!

I look forward to the pirate DAB radio. The FM pirate that turns up in Oxfordshire from time to time adds to the gaiety of nations. Ah, bless the youth that can say things like 'a big shout out to the Chinnor Massive' without any sign of irony. What it is to be young.

Does anyone remember Thameside Radio (the London Sunday evening land-based pirate) doing a pirate TV thing one Christmas - it was quite a powerful signal, I could get it in Amersham (1984 according to Wikipedia which sounds about right to me)?

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DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

So - how many car radios handle DAB? Exactly. I'd bet that a lot of community radio's listened to in the car, but 95+% of car users don't have a DAB radio.

And that's the way it's likely to stay, for now. Few people are changing their car radios - not least because many of them these days also run the in-car displays, and users don't want to lose that. Even brand new cars don't have DAB: I just checked the Renault site, for example. Not one mention of it.You want a Ford Mondeo? DAB will be another £350. Fancy it? Me neither.

I'd love this to change. The extra range of stations is great, even if the "burbling water" in low signal areas isn't. But for the time being, the sensible place for community stations will remain the limited range of FM frequencies still being made available, and this DAB experiment is likely to remain just that - an interesting experiment.

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Re: DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

The bubbling mud effect is handled well in my Mini, as soon as the error rate reaches a certain level it just cuts out, but it's happening less & less as the transmitter power is being pumped up.

As for them not being supplied in cars, this is a real issue. I was at Carfest over the weekend and each car I checked had no DAB as standard, this applies across the range from Kia to Bentley (there was no Rolls stand, so I couldn't check them).

If you want one as standard it's just Mini and some Fords, the rest range from £150 to £7500 options. Yep, if you want DAB in a Bentley you have to opt for the NAIM audio pack which costs more than a new Dacia Sandero...

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Boffin

Re: DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

Which is, all in all, a ridiculous state of affairs.

DAB is/was designed for a *moving* receiver. It uses a transmission frame that can tolerate a 15% timing overlap from and adjacent transmitter on the same frequency and carrying the same programme. The intention was originally (I believe) to have a large number of low-frequency transmitters.

So we make DAB in cars effectively aftermarket only, use only the main transmitters, and complain that it doesn't work with a stationary receiver indoors...

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Re: DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

I did consider getting an iPod sized one to plug into the car's audio "in" jack so I could get the cricket back while driving.

Even that is expensive - £50-£100 for one, and I don't know how good reception would be stuck in the glove box where it would live, tuned to its one lone station sipping power from the 9V socket.

There is a Pure one that rebroadcasts the Decoded DAB as FM for use in a car. How nuts is that? I need a radio to turn the radio broadcast into another radio broadcast so I can listen to it.

An aside, why have car makers dropped AM and LW from their receivers?

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Len
Headmaster

Re: DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

Quite a lot has changed in the last twelve months. DAB is now standard in all Minis, BMWs, Fords, Volvos and Audis. Most other brands have it as standard on some models and as option on others: http://www.getdigitalradio.com/digital-radios/in-car/manufacturers

Last quarter 35.4% of all new cars changing hands have a DAB radio standard and at the current rate it will be 50% by the end of the year. At the same time car sales are have increased quite a lot recently after years of slump (UK car industry raises annual sales forecast, www.ft.com/cms/s/0/14a401e4-fe6f-11e2-97dc-00144feabdc0.html) so by this time next year DAB usage in cars will look fairly different.

Of course, it will take some time before 50% of all Britain's cars have DAB but there is a fair bit of momentum, finally.

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Re: Sorry, but no.

Definitely not standard in all fords.

Very recently brought a new fiesta (zetec, so fairly high up the spec list). No DAB. USB, Bluetooth. SYNC, but no DAB.

Was an option, for several hundred more pounds.

From what i saw, none of the models, except maybe the Titanium (highest end) mondeo had DAB as standard

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Len
Paris Hilton

Re: Sorry, but no.

That's odd, Ford's announcement to add it to all models was widely publicised:

Ford to set DAB standard from 2012 (http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/ford/mondeo/34622/ford-set-dab-standard-2012)

Ford to offer DAB radios as standard by the end of 2012 (http://www.t3.com/news/ford-to-offer-dab-radios-as-standard-by-the-end-of-2012)

Ford to Standardize DAB Radios Throughout UK Product Line by Late 2012 (http://radiomagonline.com/digital_radio/ford-dab-radio-standard-uk-2012-0406/)

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Re: Does seem odd

from this (from your first link)

"Digital radio offers more stations and improved sound quality, and is already standard on all Fords bar the Fiesta and Ka. It will be fitted to these car in the summer, and to commercial vehicles over the next 12-18 months."

Printed 2011, you would imagine that to be the case, but unless it is very, very well hidden, I can assure you it's not there. FM, and AM (I think) long wave (good enough to get test match special at least), but no DAB.

I'm actually tempted to print a few of these off and head down to my dealership and see what's going on

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Re: DAB? I'll just get out of my car first...

Well, Ford's web site still has DAB as a £350 cost-extra for Mondeos, for instance - I checked that before posting. If they're rolling it out as standard, it hasn't hit their product marketing material quite yet, but it's a welcome advance.

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Re: Sorry, but no.

http://www.ford.co.uk/Cars/Fiesta/Features-and-specifications

Quite near the bottom, £300. Style and Zetec only.

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Len
Unhappy

Re: Does seem odd

Very strange indeed. Ford's announcement was widely reported back then in a variety of media, from IT and consumer electronics to broadcast and motoring media.

I'm almost tempted to believe your local car dealer is trying to charge you for something that comes standard. They would never do that, would they?

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