back to article The coming of DAB+: Stereo eluded the radio star

Among my collection of radios, I have a couple of DAB sets, a 1940 Pilot Twin Miracle, a 1950s Ferguson that needs a bit of repair, and a rather long-in-the-tooth Marantz tuner as part of the living room hi-fi. It's a while since I powered up the Pilot, but it still more or less worked, which is not bad going for something that …

Re: RTF R M

You can usually turn it off completely. But sometimes it's actually handy - driving in London, it can be very useful to get the bulletins every 20 minutes, just in case something's going to mess things up.

The problem is the stations that turn it on too early, or turn if off too late, so you're stuck with half a news bulletin. Even worse when you get the impression someone just sat on the button at random and your current station is hijacked.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: If 6music was on FM

"You had me until RDS, the technology that makes me mash the stereo to get back to what I was listening too whilst swearing."

The TLA you're looking for isn't RDS, it's EON. Turn it off if you don't want it.

3
0

Ever seen a Digital Tick?

Has anyone ever seen a radio boasting the fabled Digital Tick?

This scheme dates back several years, but it already seems to be Dead And Buried...

2
1

Re: Ever seen a Digital Tick?

The digital radio tick is, apparently, pretty new, unlike the one for TV.

1
0
Len

Re: Ever seen a Digital Tick?

Correct, I'm not sure if it's even officially launched yet. The application process for radio manufacturers opened just a few months ago. I hadn't expected the actual Digital Tick in stores until later this year to be honest.

0
0

Re: Ever seen a Digital Tick?

Yup. Got one sitting on my desk right now - a Dension DAB+U which is an amazing little device. Plugs into any USB port and then emulates stations as audio files in a FAT32 filing system. Search is done through executing files too.

0
0

"It is, in theory, around three times as efficient as the DAB that we're used to"

Does that mean it's 3 times worse or 3 times less worse? I bought a portable DAB radio some years back. I gave up on it because unlike a portable radio that i can listen to on the move, i cold only listen to DAB if i sat still and didn't move, otherwise the signal kept dropping out. Bit pointless when it was designed to fit in your pocket for portable listening!

As for Hugo, I have had a portable light taht take batteries for years, It's called a torch, and I have a bigger one that uases LED's too, it's called a battery powered lantern. Neither cost £69.99 !!

4
0
Thumb Down

This is what happens when you let the market run things

My DAB radio lives on FM because the same stations (Radio 4 and Classic FM) just sound better on FM than on DAB. In the living room there's a 20 year old Sony tuner with a proper roof aerial. 70dB SNR on Classic FM, no hiss. Yeah, I know FM (apart from tedious Radio 3, which must be the most expensive radio station per live human listener, anywhere) is subject to dynamic compression by the broadcaster so isn't actually hi-fi, but it still kicks DAB into touch.

I bet DAB+ will just be used as an excuse to cram in more bland or duplicate mono stations and drop the bitrate even further. As Bobbi Flekman says in "This Is Spinal Tap", money talks and bullshit walks.

To add insult to injury, many Pure radios are DAB+ capable only if you pay Pure an unspecified fee for a firmware "upgrade", or rather a "reversal of deliberate crippling". It's like the old Intel 486SX processor, which was a lobotomised 486DX.

5
0
Silver badge

My portable radio of choice ...

It's hard to beat a landfill android or an ancient iPhone in a decent speaker dock.

Use your home WiFi in and around the house, or use 3G elsewhere; in fact my 3G service is better than my landline internet even in the house.

I should think one could make something quite nice with a Pi, a touch screen and a USB freeview dongle. DAB, on the other hand, seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

3
0
Silver badge

Statistics and lies?

While everyone talks about the key figures, like around half of adults owning a digital radio, and almost 40% of listening now being done via digital, that obscures some of the key things. Like, how many of those digital radios are actually used?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "owning"? Posessing a family car that happens to have DAB on it (never used) and an utterly useless DAB radio in the kitchen I guess that applies... but as for using? Never. The DAB on the car seems to be missing the desired channels, frequently drops into radio black holes and is generally crap - there appear to be lots of stations that I don't care for though. As for the kitchen radio? Poor to no-signal and very limited stations again puts that into the useless category.

If they're lumping Internet listening into the statistics then that just makes a total mockery of the numbers and means that DAB uptake is in reality very, very low.

The one thing that I have noticed about discrete DAB sets is that they are finally no longer all ugly-as-shit with as few uselessly multi-functional buttons as possible. No idea what the designers were thinking but making all the sets as ugly and unusable as possible really wouldn't have helped the cause.

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

The same kbps as a potato

Every single time I have tried DAB it has ended up sounding no better than a potato. Underwater.

The only time I ever listen to radio is TMS on LW, or 5 live MW in the car, which are both equally as capable of sounding like a potato underwater at times. But I accept potato sound quality because it's old tech that's universal, and my portable radio easily fits in a pocket and can do an entire winter test match series on a single pair of AAAs.

I expect much much better from DAB radios that are typically larger, heavier, more expensive and either require mains power or a daily feed of batteries/charging.

Happy to be proven wrong though if anyone can find me a DAB radio that has a mass equal to or less than 150g, dimensions equal to or less than 7cm x 10cm x 3cm, and can run for a week non-stop on a pair of AAAs. Or that works when not driving in perfect concentric circles around the nearest transmitter.

Digital TV works because its consumption happens through a stationary receiver/aerial. Radio on the other hand, less so, alot less.

2
0
FAIL

Frikkin' MONO!

I used to enjoy DAB for Planet Rock. Then the rot, facilitated by Ofcom, started. The bit rates started to fall because "it doesn't sound any different", then to cram more "choice" onto the D1 mux, most of the stations switched to glorious mono. The justification? Most people only buy radios with one speaker. Seriously? You are going to ignore those of us with 2 or even 5.1 speaker systems?! If DAB is aimed at replacing Band II VHF, it is a spectacular failure!

Streaming has become the fall-back at home, but it's far from perfect. The streams for Planet Rock and Absolute 80s can be extremely flaky at times - even on a 40/10Mbps VDSL circuit. I will be forced to put a Freesat system up if I want better playback.

Ironically, my ancient Yaesu FT-757GX amateur radio transceiver can produce better quality sound than DAB - even when tuned to short-wave radio stations broadcasting from China!

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Frikkin' MONO!

Apropos number of speakers: Have they ever heard of this thing called "headphones"? I've heard they are getting quite popular nowadays.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Fooled?

An article about DAB, a pretty lame April 1st joke I think.

3
0
Silver badge

How does DAB survive?

I've been following its progress for nearly 25 years and it's just constantly disappointed.

Any other tech or service that came out the same time would have been dumped at least 15+ years ago.

Who keeps this crap going?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: How does DAB survive?

The license payers' money keeps it going, that's who.

0
0

Pure want money for the DAB+ upgrade.

0
0
Gold badge

Quality?

(Disclaimer, I'm in the US so this is 2nd hand.)

The thing that I think has held back DAB is... well, it'd be mighty disappointing to hear FM, hear this shiny new FM-replacement, and find that none of the stations even equal the audio quality of FM, which is apparently the case.

DAB was spec'ed out long ago, perhaps good codecs weren't available yet then; but they were available well before significant amounts (if any) DAB services and devices actually shipped. They should have essentially switched to a "DAB+" like 20 years ago.

0
0

Con trick

I have said this elsewhere and on many occasions. DAB was the biggest con trick ever foisted on to the great UK wireless-listening public, with their empty promises of "near-CD" quality and user-switchable compression (or did I dream that last bit?). I was an early adopter with a Technics tuner and what, eventually, did I get? Unreliable burbling signals (even in a supposedly good area with a half-decent external aerial; more and more stations squeezed in at ever-decreasing bit-rates plus MONO thrown into the mix, for goodness' sake on Radio 4 Extra (previously 7)! All this, together with the obvious butchering of the audio by compression and processing makes the output (for me, at any rate) almost painful to try and listen to. I have some old reel-to-reel tapes from ancient FM music broadcasts and the sound quality (even on pop from the era) knocks spots off current day offerings. If I load them into an audio editor like Audacity, the dynamics are there, plain to see. Try doing that with modern broadcasts (or even some CD's) and the waveform almost flat-lines - such is the complete lack of dynamic range. I despair with what's happening to both broadcast and recorded audio these days.

4
0
Devil

Re: Con trick

Although to be fair to Radio 4 Extra, The Clitheroe Kid was recorded in mono.

0
0

Re: Con trick

Yup - very good.......if you like that sort of thing! Loads of stuff being put out that was originally stereo though! Satellite is the way to go for the best quality, for what it's worth with the hideous compression still being applied. I once asked the now defunct Radio Authority why this technology (Optimod, I believe it was called), originally designed for AM, medium wave and brought in from America by the sixties off-shore pirate stations, had been allowed on FM. The reply was a joke, stating something like that there are many situations (such as in a car and noisy areas) where the majority of people would be listening (huh?) and the transmissions were adjusted for this so-called majority. You certainly wouldn't be listening to a satellite transmission in a moving vehicle, so why use compression on that medium? It's only to try and make the audio sound louder than anybody else's, the consequence being that most transmissions ALL sound as rough and as hideous as each other!

1
0

Re: Con trick

"Although to be fair to Radio 4 Extra, The Clitheroe Kid was recorded in mono."

But who ever listened ?

0
0

Re: Con trick

I can't tell if you're joking about the consequence of compression on Satellite being that most transmissions ALL sound as rough and as hideous as each other, but I suspect it's just 'easier' to take the post-Optimod audio and spit it out to AM, FM, DAB, Satellite etc. Just lazy I reckon.

0
0

Freeview

> Just as the extra HD channels on Freeview are intended to encourage take-up of kit that has T2 and H.264, eventually allowing the DVB-T and MPEG2 muxes to be converted or switched off in the name of efficiency.

C'mon Elgato, how long are we going to wait before you bring out a DVB-T2 tuner??? JFDI!

2
0
Anonymous Coward

DAB+ v streaming

I've a Pure Highway that I bought in the UK to use here in Australia (there's a firmware upgrade to enable DAB+). It works very well and I've had none of the "burble" I've heard on DAB in the UK. That said, I don't use it any more. The sound quality may be great, but it's still relatively poor content (have you heard Australian radio?). In the end I gave up and now stream Radio 4 or 4 Extra over my mobile phone. A month's worth of streaming whilst commuting barely touches my 4 GB data limit on my phone contract.

To me, that data limit is probably the only thing that stops internet streaming over a mobile device from beating plain old DAB as the coverage seems to be fairly similar.

1
0
FAIL

powerrrrrrr

Only one of you has hit the key reason for the population not embracing DAB.

The ability to operate your FM receiver on a pair of AA batteries for about 6 months. The DAB will require 4, almost every other day!

They're too power hungry.

Sort that out and regardless of sound quality, people will switch.

6
1
Silver badge

Digital Radio is probably redundant

DAB is, like our local brew of digital radio, HD, a proprietary technology that's designed to fill a need that just doesn't exist any more. We switched to digital radio using WiFi devices, things like Squeezeboxes, and they out perform anything that's pure off air (not to mention that one of the units, the hifi tuner, also receives FM). The selection of audio isn't just things like BBC Radio 3 and KUSC but there's services like Pandora, podcasts and music streams from our in house NAS unit.

Since its also possible to stream audio away from home using the cellphone it really does beg the question as to why we'd bother with new types of pure radios. The older radios still have a role -- if nothing else, you can make an AM radio from 'common household items' post-apocalypse and the quality of FM is still hard to beat -- but keeping the old broadcast model with newer technologies is just pointless.

(Incidentally, I use a small internet radio to provide an appropriate signal feed for vintage audio kit. You want the vinyl look and feel -- and sound -- but its a hassle dragging out phonograph/gramaphone and disks.)

0
0

Does anyone really think DAB+ will lead to any betterness? The broadcasters will simply look at the new technology and say 'hey, we can squeeze our station into even less bandwidth, get the same quality and save money!' In the end, the consumer gets a new radio (more money down the drain) but everything else stays the same. More waste, more money, more landfill.

5
0
Headmaster

Pilot of the airwaves...

... Here is my request. You don't have to play it, but I hope you'll do your best. I've been listening to your show on the radio, and you seem like a friend to me....

Cant get rid of the earworm since last night. Thanks El Reg!

2
0
Angel

Dagang DABit

As long as the DAB / DAB+ kit remain expensive and power guzzling compared to FM/AM/LW sets and require a manual to tune why should anyone bother given all the alternatives there are

3
0
Silver badge
FAIL

in theory, around three times as efficient as the DAB that we're used to.

No, about x2.

and only if you were using 128K on DAB.

DAB+ is PURELY to double number of stations, by using 64K instead of 128K for same poor quality.

FM / CD quality needs 192K to 256K on DAB. The savings are very much less. 128K AAC has much more artefacts and loss of quality than 256K MP2.

Add issues of radio power consumption, not enough relays, much more expensive for Local Radio (ironically too much coverage), poor design of sets (ergonomics and speaker size and cabinet).

3
0

I have DAB in the car because it came with it.

The subjective sound quality when reception is good is better than FM.

It would be better if OFCOM mandated a the maximum bitrate and stereo as a license pre-requisite. I like the extra information such as TEXT traffic news, song name, programme info. There is also a slideshow picture capability but have never seen it work in the UK, only in Germany.

0
0

Why bother when online radio can be better quality?

I know not many commercial stations can be bothered with a high quality web stream because they would crush their RAJAR stats, but seriously, DAB/DAB+ has just got surpassed now we have decent broadband and 4G available.

I've got a Revo Superconnect which sounds superb and gives me amazing choice on all the formats (Spotify Connect/Internet/DAB/FM). Shame DAB sucks as it's really good speakers really show it up as really poor. I tend to listen to a lot of European/US radio that seem to be putting more investment in online radio with 192kbps MP3/AAC streams.

0
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018