back to article Ten digital radios to suit all budgets

After a slow start, digital radio might finally be getting somewhere. More people are buying DAB radios, coverage is increasing and, digital stations account for a growing share of the radio audience, according to the stats [PDF]. The BBC’s four main exclusively digital radio stations, for instance, reach a combined total of …

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FM degrades gracefully as signal strength goes down

You don't understand what that means do you? Although weirdly you do describe it perfectly well...

Incidentally, I live in a town, on a good day I can get exactly 1 radio station on my DAB radio, on a bad day I get fewer. It is now permanently on FM because quite frankly I have better things to do than piss around with something that works worse than the thing it's supposed to replace. It's like the Swordfish and the Albacore all over again...

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FAIL

Shops don't have transmitters?

The big department stores certainly do have low power relays - somewhat different from broadcast transmitters - especially if the audio department is in the basement, otherwise tey'd be completely stuffed.

"A failing DAB signal just mutes. If your receiver allows you to hear the burbles, it's either wrongly calibrated or you've deliberately turned off the muting to give yourself something to moan about."

I think I'd have something to moan about either way, and with justification. I'd rather have a bit of noise than no sound at all because the receiver can't recognise enough 0s and 1s to reliably convert to analogue.

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@AlbertH

I do deliberately turn off the muting. As I listen to non-music stations while driving (mainly Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra) I prefer to have some chance of hearing what is being said through the burbles rather than having it chop the audio right at the point of the punchline of a joke or a critical response to a well asked question.

I agree with the OP when he says that FM degrades more gracefully. In a poor reception area, I can make more sense of a poor FM signal than I can of a DAB one.

I would prefer to hear it all of course, and I find that DAB reception here in the heart of the Westcountry is diabolically bad, even close to the largest towns and cities in the region. Within 5 miles of Exeter, I can find completely dead spots where you cannot get DAB reception at all. That's not in the sticks, that should be like any suburban location.

On the subject of living out in the sticks, you can take a running jump. You are just jealous of the fresh air we breathe, the green spaces we have available on our doorsteps, and the spectacular sights that you have forgotten. Unlike the Internet where distance is a problem, radio is a medium that could and should be country wide.

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Anonymous Coward

"As a broadcaster"

How do you find the time to fit in a busy PC security business too?

http://forums.reghardware.com/post/1520493

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"they have low powered DAB transmitters in the shops

No they don't. Do you have the slightest notion of how much even a basic DAB transmitter costs? As a broadcaster, I can tell you. Shops are not going to install >£50k of DAB transmitting gear just to fool mugs like you into buying DAB radios."

Oh ffs, I didnt mean a bloody great transmitter you wally, I ment the repeating things with a low powered transmitter repeating the dab signal coming off an antenna on the roof. It gives the customer the ilusion that reception is very good in the local area with just the radios portable antenna, when in actual fact it will probably be far worse outside the store.

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This is from a which report from 2009.....

"Ofcom has granted a licensing scheme allowing electrical goods outlets, such as Currys, to install DAB signal boosters. The move is designed to improve DAB sound quality and drive flagging sales, but there is concern from industry analysts that the move contradicts the Consumer Act.

The move follows a year-long trial of DAB repeaters installed in Currys Superstores and branches of John Lewis, and now puts in place a new permanent licensing scheme available to all retailers across the UK."

So yes, they do use them........

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FAIL

What's the point? Last time I checked DAB radios had daft standby power requirements (5w in some cases) and are expensive compared to analogue.

But what's with the poster saying "DAB coverage is reasonably good these days"? Bull crap. .Okay so I live in a small rural town but Brackley is hardly the back-end of nowhere. I've even got a 76Mbps FTTC connection these days and am within an hour of both London and Birmingham. But according to the ukdigital checker I'm "..fairly likely to receive these stations, but may need an external aerial for best reception."

Which is all of them.

Pathetic.

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FAIL

Not a chance in hell...

...am I going to spend silly money on a product that sounds worse than FM when there are far better alternatives. DAB is just a total waste of time and money as far as I am concerned. FM should be allowed to stay.

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digital radios to suit all budgets

Who the hell pays £100 - £300 for a radio?

I could understand that kind of price range if they integrated with the rest of my hifi but they don't. Portable radios, as many of these are, shouldn't cost more than £50 at most.

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FAIL

Every Budget?

Where are the £20 radios?

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Boffin

Re: Every Budget?

Selling a £20 radio doesn't pay El Reg enough of a kick back to be worth promoting.

Seriously, does El Reg have shares in DAB or something?

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FAIL

My only experience of DAB is in our car, an Audi A8. While it can sound better than FM, it is still far from CD quality which should have been the aim. When I say CAn sound better than FM, I mean some popular BBC stations only, the rest sound like way too low a bitrate and no high or low frequencies. I also think with these lower bit-rates the noise to data ratio is higher, so it bubbles mud. I would like to see mandated 256kps bitrates, even if it means fewer stations, and boosted transmitter power.

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FAIL

Art Nouveau Reincarnated

What a ghastly looking lot of radios.

FM worked fine for decades, AM for much, much longer. What do we need all this for? Just so people can have more spectrum for cell handsets?

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Smartphone + Internet Radio + Speakers

Job done.

You can always use TuneIn or Shoutcast or even the BBC's own radio apps...

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Re: "Smartphone + Internet Radio + Speakers" Yep - charging dock with speakers, sorted.

........always supposing the audio manufacturers can be arsed to produce something that connects with more phones than just the iP!@! ffs. In fact the likes of Samsung, Nokia etc should be doing that kind of thing as peripherals for their phones.

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Re: "Smartphone + Internet Radio + Speakers" Yep - charging dock with speakers, sorted.

There's always the good ol' 3.5mm headphone jack

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Happy

Re: "Smartphone + Internet Radio + Speakers" Yep - charging dock with speakers, sorted.

Indeed, that as well. I was just thinking that the OEMs should themselves get their thumbs out from where ever they have hidden them!

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PAL+?

Wait a minute, wasn't that that now defunct slight improvement of PAL they put out in the 1990s?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDq95DbHvsg

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Re: PAL+?

Yup and I think C4 was the only channel to ever use it. I remember once flipping my TV to C4 in the analogue days and being surprised that my TV went into 16:9. Being rather pernickety about aspect ratios I made sure that it was appropriate. Unfortunately something wasn't right somewhere because there were horizontal gaps between the lines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PALplus

Hmmm. Looks like something was def. wrong then. Perhaps my TV at the time (a Sony CRT I think) wasn't able to fix up the vertical resolution.

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Re: PAL+?

Update: Didn't notice this bit in the Wikipedia article:

"Most widescreen sets without any PAL-plus processing will switch the display format automatically between 4:3 and 16:9, based on the signaling bits. These sets will display only the centre 432 lines of the 4:3 image, to fill all of the 16:9 frame."

I guess my TV would be one of those units then.

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Re: PAL+?

Well PAL+ was popular in Germany, at least with public broadcasters. They only switched it off this year.

I remember going to a local "trade show" initiated by a local electronics store to watch one of the early regular PAL+ programmes.... they simply didn't have a set to decode it. A few years later I was actually able to see a PAL+ Laserdisk from Sony.

Modern sets don't decode PAL+, but they can decode the WSS (wide screen signaling) signal.

PAL+ kinda was a stop-gap solution to still be able to do enhanced resolution (i.e 16:9 with full line count, and improved colour decoding) on terrestrial and cable channels. Back then the long term idea was to move to the "MAC" set of standards, semi-analogue standards broadcast over satellite. The idea was to start with D2-MAC and then move to HD-MAC in the second half of the 1990s. What they didn't anticipate was the "MPEG revolution". Suddenly, thanks to MPEG1 and MPEG2 it was practicable to squeeze a TV channel into a few megabits. The DVB set of standards was created and HDTV was postponed by about a decade.

So what's left of PAL+ is wide screen signaling as well as lots of 16:9 material from the 1990s.

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Hows this for a bargain?

I picked up two DAB radio alarm clocks in the clearance aisle of my local Tesco this evening- they're Tesco's own brand cheap and cheerful models, all the way from China.

Tesco Model DAB123 (a Toblerone'esque shaped charcoal grey blob with a single speaker) came in at 5 Euro. Yes- thats the equivalent of 4 quid sterling, give or take. Sound is fine- its not stereo- but perfectly acceptable for an alarm clock radio- which is what this is, after all.

Its slightly bigger brother- model CR112DABV- stretches to stereo speakers, a pleasant easily legible backlit LED, and controls that are actually easy to use. The sound is pleasant from this one- though the enclosed headphones are shite of the highest order, and should be binned. This one weighed in at 7 Euro- about sterling £5.50 give or take.

Both are alarm clock radios- both FM/DAB receivers- and one (the CR112DABV) actually looks and sounds good.

I don't understand why people don't shop around- there's two DAB radios- albeit alarm clock radios- with a combined price tag of about a tenner........?????

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WTF?

THREE HUNDRED POUNDS for a radio?

And you still get something styled from the fifties that is either made of bakelite or looks like it is. I mean honestly world, WTF?

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Flame

MP2 format

The Roberts RecordR records in MP2 format presumably because it's easiest, but what good is that to man or beast? What software will play MP2 or convert it to MP3 or any usable audio format?

If you buy a domestic video recorder, be it tape, DVD, BluRay or HDD, it comes with one or more tv tuners as a matter of course. If you buy an audio recorder it virtually never comes with a radio tuner or any facilities to schedule a recording. If I use the PVR to record radio off DVB-T it's recorede in some bloated video format that takes up just as much space as video, but I can't ediit the recording. The only thing I can do is play it back in real time to an audio recorder or computer, resulting in another cycle of expansion and compression.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MP2 format

VLC, and pretty much anything else using similarly capable decoding libs. Next question.

Also, the "some bloated format" might well be because you're getting a whole programme stream, and you just want the elemental stream, the audio essence. The trick, if that's the case, is it demux it first.

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Facepalm

DAB has restricted stations and stupid politics, and prices too high if no WiFi

As far as I'm concerned, currently only Pure provide both decent sound quality and affordable priced products for DAB and WiFi radio. My Pure One Elite DAB radio got retired because politics kept causing the better stations to be pushed off the limited multiplex slots; radios which also support WiFi are not affected by this and can get better quality audio streams.

Frankly anyone has to have more money than sense now to pay more than £100 for a DAB radio which does not also support WiFi radio; my old decent sound Pure One Elite was much cheaper than all of these!

The first Pure Sensia is cheaper and MUCH better than most of these at £140 (Amazon); like the newer, much more expensive revision it has amazing surround sound thanks to a class D amplifier and the side speakers, can support DAB, WiFi radio, podcasts, and UPNP streamed audio, can take a rechargeable battery, has an aux audio input which you can plug a Pure iPod dock or other device into, has an alarm and Apps including a social media and Weather. You really don't have to use the touch screen much because it has a decent remote control. Another nice touch is a mounting screw hole in the body; I've stuck mine on a large camera tripod from a discount shop.

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More of Less

Like Freeview, DAB may prove that more stations = same talent spread more thinly. Anyway, while the cost and power consumption issues remain, I have no intention of buying a DAB radio. Especially as I own about a dozen FM radios that sound better.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More of Less

DAB, the MiniDisc of the radio world! :P

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Facepalm

Re: MP2 format

most media players on the PC will play MP2 and there are pleanty of free convertor programs which will convery it to almost any other audio format :)

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I agree with the comments on price

When I was given my Panasonic DAB radio as a birthday present (still going strong btw), £75 didn't seem that bad given it was fairly new at the time. That said, I do like the look of the retro radio with the built in iPod dock :). Most people just want a basic radio, so most of the radios in this review are going to be overkill.

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Alien

DAB in Australia

Are there any readers here who have had experience with DAB in Oz? It appears that it is not all that popular over here in the colonies.

I have never really ventured into it after seeing an electronics company selling a DAB return radio in the returns bin with the reason written on the ticket "Customer returned due to no DAB services in area"

Granted I live outside of a capital city...

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Anonymous Coward

If you think content on smart radios is important

You're probably too stupid to use one.

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Anonymous Coward

DVB-T ("Freeview") boxes do radio stations too. And handheld DVB-T boxes?

Anyone wanting to listen to non-FM radio stations (6Music, NME, 4Extra) at home might well chose to listen on DVB-T (like what the UK calls Freeview, except without the UK-specific bits) if they have the option (obviously not all DAB stations are on FreeView).

In some countries you can apparently buy a DVB-T handheld. In fact in some countries you can apparently buy a mobile phone that includes DVB-T or its (allegedly compatible) successor DVB-H.

In the UK?

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Re: DVB-T ("Freeview") boxes do radio stations too. And handheld DVB-T boxes?

The problem with most DVB-T tuners is that you need to use the tv to select the station unless you can remember accurately what the key sequence is. Also those that record don't let you download MP3 to your computer or player although S/P-DIF is provided in some cases.

You can of course get portable DVB-T receivers (with screens) but reception is dire with the built-in aerials.

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Nev
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Waaaay too expensive.

Especially when you can download TuneIn on most portable devices and get similar "coverage"...

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FAIL

Any budget? Really?

It's easy to forget the difference that spending one's own readies makes, isn't it? But the cheap kit deserves a review, just as much as the crazy priced stuff that we'll never want to shell out on.

If lots of people say it, maybe it'll sink in...

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src
Linux

I think DAB is fine.

I don't really understand all this negativity. I find DAB preferable to FM and have ditched all but one of my old FM sets.

I have an Onkyo mini-system in the living room (£180), a Pure portable in the kitchen (£50) and a cool looking Sony clock radio by my bedside (£70). They all sound great.

I still use a Lidl supplied AM+FM penguin shaped, splash proof radio in the bathroom because it is so cute...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I think DAB is fine.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the UK has the worst quality DAB broadcasts in the world. Too many stations crammed into too few frequencies, leading to very low bitrates. Radio 3 is about the only one that offers (marginally) acceptable bitrates. At some times of day. And no-one listens to Radio 3. Remember 128k MP3s? They were recognised as being a bit rough back in the 1990s, but they were used because you could just about download a single over a modem. You need 256k for most people to perceive music as "CD quality". 99% of DAB stations are 128k or worse, and one is 192k, IIRC.

To sum up, the first post is correct - it's not worth buying an expensive DAB radio, because the source material is dross. It's like using a Rolls-Royce for muck spreading.

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Ugly, Expensive, Pointless

Bar the Yamaha, which I think looks pretty reasonable, most of these look grotesque. Why are the designs all copied from the fifties (poorly) or the Jetsons (even worse)?

El Reg clearly has aimed for the higher budget, but still, a lot of DAB kit is overpriced. I've got a reasonable Sony XDRS16DBPMI DAB which does the job, and at £70 odd is much less than most of these. Even then though, £70 for a radio is excessive. It was a gift, probably wouldn't pay that myself. But the thought of seriously spending £300 odd notes on a radio is insane to anyone but the most affluent aficionado.

Long term, I'm not sure there's really a place for DAB. FM/AM does a perfectly good job out of the home, and at best DAB is only a decent bet at home for the non-broadband users.

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Poor selection

Nothing cheap, nothing portable (as in MP3 player portable, not 1970's luggable).

This article was of no use to me.

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eh?

To suit all budgets?

As long as they are above £100? My budget for DAB is £0, because I don't need one. And with prices that high for a good one, I don't see the tempation to save up. £100 on a radio or a weekend drinking, or a new SSD, or 12 month car tax.

Too many things are better value, so lets review £20 DAB radios next time...

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LPF
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Limited number of presets!

This is one thet drives me up the wallo, why are all dab radios limited to 10 dab station presets , what the hell is going on, what they can't afford the tiny bit of extra ram to allow you to store 20??

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Stop

Roll on 4G & more WiFi hotspots - TuneIn Radio already works well on 3G & WiFi, Revo RadioStation

Assuming mobile internet availability continues to improve, DAB will become less relevant.

TuneIn Radio is an great mobile app - works well on Android on iPod touch in the home. Instead of spending 100 pounds on these radios why not spend it on a cheap Android phone such as the Orange San Francisco or similar, download TuneIn radio from the Android market and hook up some speakers. For the same cost of many radios here, you would have a more versatile, multi-purpose device, that is portable around the home.

Also, my three year old Revo RadioStation portable WiFi/Internet/DAB/DAB+/FM radio is still going strong.

I'm looking forward to forthcoming 4G / LTE roll out this/next year and the expansion of WiFi networks such as in London. Both of these are set to improve the availability of mobile internet to support internet radio apps such as TuneIn. I can already listen to internet radio in my car and hope that the drop-outs due to lack of mobile coverage will reduce as these new mobile networks are rolled out.

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+1 for San Fran plus speakers

Our kitchen radio is a San Fran running TuneIn (£25 on eBay due to a broken microphone) plugged into some middle-of-the-road Creative PC speakers. Works like a charm unless you're using the microwave. :-)

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2nd hand Grundig Opus (boxed) - £20 - Ebay

Great sound quality, works very well, worth every penny.

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love dab in the car,

but like a lot of people have said i use streaming in the house.

DAB for car tho, is great. lots of good stations (some utter garbage tho) and better sound quality than FM. lovely

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Anonymous Coward

SORRY to tell you this.

DAB IS DEAD!

Broadcast TV is going the same way.

Why waste 300 quid?

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WTF?

This is the review about DABs radios?

My, who would have thought that a DAB radio review could elicit such heated debate.

They just frigging radios….

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Re: This is the review about DABs radios?

Because when the government decides DAB is the dominate radio service, FM will be de-licensed and the spectrum sold off. All FM radios become junk, including the one in your car. The UK will be left with a national radio infrastructure determined to be inferior by all other European countries, who use later standards for digital radio and generally continue to support FM.

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Good piece and interesting. Sadly though, the budget band is more than somewhat skewed towards the well stuffed wallet, which takes the edge off the piece and responds to the headline disingenuously.

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