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back to article Blighty's great digital radio switchover targets missed AGAIN

The digital radio revolution is taking place regardless of the uptake of DAB, according to Ofcom's annual digital radio report (PDF). Home penetration of DAB receivers has still not reached 50 per cent and sales of DAB receivers in Britain – including car audio systems – has fallen from 2.2 million in Q1 2008 to 1.9 million in …

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Meh

The future of radio is in some form of radio-on-demand. Folk can already download podcasts to listen to at their convenience. Unless you want to hear the news or live reports such as traffic updates there is no need to tune into the local radio.

One note of caution though, if you already have a radio show you can expect a better response to your approaches than a podcast only outfit. For example I doubt that 'One Life Left', a radio show about computer games on Resonance 104.4FM, would get the same input from the industry if they operated as podcast only.

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Almost - you can get *some* podcasts (minus music) of radio shows, but there is still a vast wealth out there that isn't available yet. I'd love to listen to more Radio 4 shows (It's Not What You Know being a cracking example), but it has only been available as one-off guest appearances on the Comedy of the Week podcast, or streaming live. Through the majority of my drive, I don't have anything like a good enoug mobile connection to stream, although I've certainly tried.

My only outlet so far has been getting it through "illicit" places such as the now defunct thebox. My primary option now is taping it! Barely a 20th century solution...

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Have a look at Radio Downloader from nerdoftheherd.com

RSS & Any streamed/available BBC radio show - Small PC app: series link & future schedule link.

Excellent stuff.

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Pint

thebox (sigh) and before that UKnova.......

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Not any more

The BBC provider plugin for RadioDownloader has been removed ... at the request of the BBC.

get_iplayer still works and generally downloads better quality material than the official BBC podcasts.

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Cost

A DAB radio costs 25 quid and eats a set of 4 AA batteries before 9 hours of listening.

A mechanically-tuned FM radio costs 3 quid and a set of 2 AA batteries lasts longer than 24 hours of listening.

A digitally-tuned analogue-signal FM-RDS radio costs 15 quid, has all the pushbutton/auto-tune functionality of DAB and still lasts more than 24 hours on 4 AA batteries.

A mechanically-tuned AM-MW/LW radio will last 96 hours or more constant listening on a pair of AA batteries!

If Kerrang was still on FM in the Midlands, I don't think I'd bother with DAB at all.

I do find myself listening to a lot of BBC World Service on DAB, though. But a lot less local radio - BBC Radio Gloucestershire isn't even on DAB at all!

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Re: Cost

My Freeplay runs off solar, or 30 minutes on one wind. No batteries at all. Thank you Trevor

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Boffin

Re: Cost

400 Hours on some 1950s battery valve radios. Though large batteries. But a 1929 radio with rechargeable LT and a staggering 80 x AA cells for HT runs for 450 hours on HT. vs 6 hrs for 4 x Alkaline AA on DAB set.

dividing 450 by 20 gives 25 hrs per 4 x AA, so 1/4 running cost of the DAB set.

Only LW & MW though.

An all band Tesco mechanical £8 radio (€10) is about 135 hrs on VHF-FM on 2 x AA, so comparing with DAB set 4 x AA, that's 270 vs 6, an incredible 45 times better. It also does LW, MW and many SW bands well.

Try and get a DAB set with LW, MW & SW. Many with FM don't even do RDS. The sales of DAB sets is purely because they are commonly available in the shop. Many are used for FM, or not used at all. Channel changing too slow and awkward User Interfaces.

Also a few weeks ago on Feedback BBC said Cricket is on R4LW because the BBC DAB coverage is 6% worse than FM, which is only 99%, that means about 1% of households = 200,000 Households don't get VHF-FM and rely on MW & LW. So if I interpret BBC correctly 212K households can't get DAB. That probably assumes an aerial. If so then about 1 Million out of 20Million households can't get decent reliable FM without an extended aerial (not needed MW & LW) and very many more no DAB reception without moving the radio to a suitable window.

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DAB in car

Considered purchsing a DAB radio for the car, but then nearly all the stations on D1's multiplex went mono and I thought what's the point?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: DAB in car

I did too. Until I realised that a base model DAB stereo was at least twice the price of a comparable trad head unit. And that the makers of my 5yo car had installed a DAB blocking aerial filter which would cost £many to get round. Pity, cos R6M is great - but moving to DAB car audio is just too hassly.

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MJI
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Not getting it

Sticking with FM ot works

Oh and no one does a DAB head unit with built in MD player with CD changer control.

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Re: Not getting it

no one does a DAB head unit with built in MD player

Does anyone do any head units with MD these days, DAB or not? Most people have progressed to USB and/or SD cards.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not getting it

" Most people have progressed to USB and/or SD cards."

A friend bought a new Khia saloon last year with an upmarket radio/player. Trying to get MP3 tracks transferred in bulk to the internal storage involved reading the thick manual**. It was amusing to see the section on USB said that such devices should be temporarily removed before starting the engine - otherwise there was a risk of them being destroyed.

**It transpired that you had to go through an arcane sequence of pushing several buttons to transfer each MP3 track - one at a time. You could then play all your (potentially several thousand) tracks in that fixed order - without any "album" preselection choice.

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Re: Not getting it

My car has a 3.5mm socket which I can use to plug in an iPod. I haven't attempted to use any of its other audio features.

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Re: Not getting it

I've got a USB-iPod head unit. Plug in iPod, control it via head unit, sound comes out the speakers. Nice.

In future though, I'll get one with a rear mounted USB socket and route the cable through the dash. At the moment, it's...er...kind of messy:

Clicky for Piccy rehosted from my FB account

(front mounted USB cable is normally caught in the corner of the glove box, and held taught so it doesn't interfere with the gearchange. Ford Puma/Fiesta (same dash), Kenwood head unit. Controls for the iPod are pretty good though, it follows the whole 'rotate and click' model of the iPod so it's straightforward to use)

Basically, get one that has front and rear sockets if possible so you can hardwire and properly cable a decent amount of storage in an old iPod classic, and still have a front USB for if someone wants to play their own MP3s.

Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, FM for me thanks. I'd rather have static than 'blocky' noise. It's bad enough on telly when it screeches and squeaks at you, if I had the radio turned up in the car and it did that I'd probably either shit myself, end up in the ditch, or end up in the ditch while shitting myself. While on fire. Backwards. Or something.

Steven R

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MJI
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Re: Not getting it

I transferred about 30 LPs to MD, it was that or buy a new HiFi cassette deck.

I like Minidisc!

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Re: Not getting it

I got upvotes for my meandering ramble about car head units?

Thank you, one and all - hope it helped your in car entertainment needs.

I'd also suggest getting something with Bluetooth support for hands free (and car satnav) - see if you can find one that supports Google Apps/iOS navigation, I'd imagine that'd be pretty fecking handy.

Steven R

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FAIL

DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

FM does me just fine. Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4. Sometimes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

"Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4. Sometimes."

Classic FM helps fill in the gaps - particularly when Radio 4 is trying to attract a youf popular audience. However - many of the Classic FM adverts are so excruciatingly annoying that the reaction is to become an anchorite and switch to CDs. Dental treatments, car servicing, car insurance - all as grating as each other.

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Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

There is, of course, Jazz FM. Which is no longer on FM any more...

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PJI
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Go

Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

Radio 3 can be very good, not just for classical/serious music. Also jazz, "world music", poetry, plays and discussions. Much underrated because otherwise intelligent people are often frightened off by the name, "radio 3".

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MJI
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Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

Local radio travel news.

Any travel news when in the car.

I used to listen to Tommy Vance. RIP

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Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

Agreed in full.

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Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

@JimmyPage "Anyway the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4."

Radio 4 Extra for usual listening, plus the occasional comedy on Radio 4.

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Re: DAB. Don't want it. Don't need it.

"the only radio worth listening to is Radio 4"

Radio 5 Sports Extra lets you keep listening to TMS during the shipping forecast

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padding the numbers with Freeview

Bloody annoying they continue to add Freeview reception figures to the total. Freeview radio has no local coverage and barely possible mobile reception. Yet it's still being used as an excuse to cut off analogue radio without being a viable replacement for it.

Even more depressing is Freeview has had much better sound quality than I've heard on DAB, even on the BBCs brief excursions in 128k MP2 hell.

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Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

Kind of interesting this, as it was myself who first mooted (at a conference set up by the government), the idea of broadcasting the Digital Radio channels on Freeview when there were only 50k DAB receivers in the market and Freeview had access to 1.25M OnDigital receivers. The DAB guy making the presentation about lack of DAB receivers in the market was very dismissive of my suggestion at the time!

It was not a surprise to me however that a few months later after my suggestion, hey presto Freeview was broadcasting digital radio channels on DVB-T with a much higher bitrate than DAB. Freeview since then always has had the best quality digital radio reception (some say better than FM).

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Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

They're also underplaying the numbers of FM radios since many phones include FM and they're conveniently choosing to avoid these numbers.

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Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

What number of the Freeview receivers are built into TVs. Do they expect people to turn on their TV to listen to the radio?

I'm in Canada where they killed off DAB after a short attempt to get anyone at all interested in it. I can get one Audio only station on my TV (from the US) but I'm not going to turn on the TV to listen to radio.

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Re: padding the numbers with Freeview

@Tom 35:

Reluctance to turn on a TV may explain the fairly small proportion Freeview contributes to the figure. A lot of people do just leave small sets turned on all the time in rooms like kitchens and might be using them for radio. I think I only have 1 DvB tuner here (out of 5 devices/9 tuners) that routes through a TV but that's a rare setup - so plenty of people must be using TVs or TV+set top box to do it.

I'm just grateful so few bother or FM would have been turned off years ago.

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If...

I could get a sigal I'd be qualified to comment on quality.

Given I live 20 miles from the centre of London and can't get a signal at home at all it shows how poor coverage can be in places.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If...

"Given I live 20 miles from the centre of London [...]"

30 miles north here - and it needs a cascade of two mast head amplifiers on a 4 element yagi before DAB reception of BBC and Classic FM is mostly ok. FM from Wrotham is no problem.

It was interesting that the preamp suppliers started selling a replacement version - apparently identical apart from the same product number having a "4G" suffix. They hadn't read the literally small print. The original was FM-DAB-Freeview wideband up to about 900mhz. The "4G" version was narrowband excluding FM and DAB bands - and reducing the top frequency of Freeview coverage.

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Re: If...

I live about 20 miles from London, in Slough, and here DAB radio is far superior to FM. I listen mostly to classical music on Radio 3, broadcast at 160k or 192k, and DAB has the edge in two ways. Firstly, background noise is much lower. Radio 3 is compressed much less than other stations, so can be much quieter, as can classical music - switching between DAB and FM reveals significantly higher noise on FM.

Secondly DAB is practically immune from the effects of aircraft passing by to and from Heathrow, just a few miles away. FM copes badly with lots of flutter from the dramatically changing signal levels.

I suppose this is to be expected, as FM is an 80 year old system, with stereo being a bodge which greatly degrades the mono performance. The DAB standard was designed to reduce the problems I describe, but alas the broadcasters try to cram as many stations as possible into each multiplex, with low bitrates and high audio compression. If we adopted the more recent digital radio systems I suspect things would be unchanged as even more stations are crammed into each multiplex.

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Re: If...

Well, I must live within about five miles of you and DAB is only reliably available with a roof mounted aerial . There is one windowsill where I can sometimes get DAB depending on the weather and no doubt the phase of the moon.

I get very cross when the Beeb uses my licence money to advertise this useless system.

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Re: If...

In North-east Hampshire I struggled for years to get any kind of usable FM reception except via a large roof-mounted four-element antenna. Then I tried DAB, and it just works, everywhere in the house, so I have several receivers. I now have it in the car too. I mostly only ever listen to Radio 4 though. Does anyone actually listen to any of those identi-clone commercial music stations on DAB?

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Lovely Low Quality

It's not looking good is it? In the West Midlands the regional Multiplex has recently ceased transmission, shunting more stations on to the local multiplex and some local stations dropping from 128K to 112k (Free Bham - formally BRMB).

Looks as if the quantity over quality brigade are running the show. Only station available over 128k is now Radio 3 (Classic used to be 160k).

DAB+ might help, but with millions sold the DAB quality lie it might be some time before old sets are replaced.

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Re: Lovely Low Quality

Exactly: DAB is simply poor quality audio.

Try plugging a tuner into your hi-fi and listening to a few stations - it's almost painful.

Add the fact that they're expensive, energy guzzlers and at least as far as the four PURE units I've had bloody unreliable (with no firmware upgrades either), it's not difficult to see why the public are unimpressed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lovely Low Quality

Must be in a minority here.

I love my DAB radio.

FM and MW reception near me (for the stations I like) is awful. DAb signal is perfect, Mradios are used when plugged into the wall so all this stuff about battery consumption is a none-issue for me.

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Unhappy

Re: Lovely Low Quality

I'm pleased someone loves their DAB radio, because it is a very interesting technology. There is potential for excellent sound quality coupled with information services, and I once sent streaming video and files over it.

We all know that any deficiencies in the DAB experience are due to

a) Allocating too little bandwidth, so as to squeeze in more channels at the expense of sound quality

b) Not even bothering to transmit interesting text info, like full details of the track playing

c) Poor user interfaces, as if someone has re-invented the wheel and tried a square version this time

The parallels with my lovely computer hardware and some of the software available for it will make all of us wince.

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Re: Lovely Low Quality

At home I also plug into the wall, with a network cable that provides me with whatever digital data I need via the internet (including "Digital Radio"). I hear you can get something called "Wifi" as well, that removes the need for the cable to the wall.

Availability of DAB is a non-issue for me when in a home with an internet connection. When I want radio to work is when I move around.

This is where the disadvantages of DAB are a problem, and it has many compared to FM radios,

cost, weight, complexity, power consumption,multiplex handover.

I don't support a radio standard that works in situations when I don't need radio, and doesn't in situations where I do!

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MJI
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Re: Lovely Low Quality

Free Birmingham

How many Tiger Tokens?

Our local station disappeared as well!

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No Traffic Announcements on DAB - useless in cars

The fact there is no provision for a similar facility for RDS-style traffic announcements (switching to a local station for traffic announcements when they are broadcast from whatever else you were listening to) would make me resistant to using DAB in my car even if it had a receiver.

I do listen to "digital radio" from time to time (usually TMS on Radio 4 longwave!) using internet radio from my phone (which is then interrupted by TA announcements from the FM tuner as needed).

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Re: No Traffic Announcements on DAB - useless in cars

There may not be the provision on DAB - but my car regularly switches from 6 Music to local traffic (though I am getting fed up of one of the local commercial radio switching for advert, then switching again for traffic)

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DAB in cars

£420 optional upgrade on my new car. That's after paying for the 6 CD changer and MP3 gubbins.

Be better spending money on nationwide 3G, then stream radio that way. Alternatively, just stick with FM.

DAB is 20th Century solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: DAB in cars

"£420 optional upgrade on my new car. "

Is that the one where you have to unplug any MP3 USB stick before starting the engine - otherwise risking destroying it (according to the manual)?

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Facepalm

Re: DAB in cars

Is there an in-car receiver that will do DAB here, T-DBM in France and DAB+ in Italy?

(And cost less than the car it's fitted to of course.)

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HMB
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Oh Dear

Expensive receiver + Bad Coverage + MP2 sound compressed to 128 Kbps when you're lucky.

Vs

Free software + Existing device (Smartphone) + Mobile Network Coverage (with added caching) + Huge Listening Choice + High Quality Sound.

As time moves on, the environment that DAB has to compete in gets harsher and harsher. I don't think DAB is going to have a happy ending.

I have unlimited data and use Spotify and iPlayer Radio, even in the car. It works very well and the sound quality is very good. I don't think I'll ever be interested in buying a DAB radio again (I did look into it around 5 years ago but dismissed it due to SQ and coverage issues).

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Re: Oh Dear @HMB

Add eats batteries so even "portable" needs to be plugged in. DAB is another example of technology that just seemed like an interesting idea -- until someone realised it would free up FM wavelengths to be flogged off to telcos.

In the end that's what it's all about.

As for more stations, we've seen how well that worked with Freeview -- so much crap programming and advertising to wade through that anyone with an alternative (i.e. downloading movies and select stuff like Breaking Bad) has given up on broadcast TV altogether.

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Pirate

Re: @Fihart

I think you have hit the nail on the head - the pressure is from the "guvm'nt" to free up the bands so they can be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Expect to see the update and coverage stats fudged even further to try and achieve this.

"Pirates" icon - robbery, that's what the "guvm'nt" is trying to do!

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Re: Oh Dear @HMB

But the Band II VHF is no use to Telcos.

Community radio would remain on VHF-FM anyway.

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