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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  1. Rentaguru
    Pint

    this is radio

    Worth nothing more than a £19.99 jobbie from asda. I suppose the idiots actually paying 249 are the same fools who think we need more radio than radio 4, test match special and world service.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge
      FAIL

      "To suit all budgets?"

      A quick trip to Amazon revealed a lot of sub-£100 digital radios (some as low as £24).

      What happened to the reviews for these?

      1. Richard 81

        Re: "To suit all budgets?"

        That, surely, is a better investigation for a reviewer: out of all the sub £100 gadgets, which ones aren't going to fall apart in a week?

        Honestly, El Reg, you keep doing this. No one has any bloody money, so we need to know how to squeeze every last penny.

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: "To suit all budgets?"

        "What happened to the reviews for these?"

        That "Buy from Amazon" link should be your first clue.

      3. Smallbrainfield
        Meh

        Re: "To suit all budgets?"

        I bought a Tesco Value DAB about 4 years ago. It sits on my desk at work and works like a dream, albeit a slightly tinny sounding dream. Think it was a shaving under £20.

        There must be loads of cheap ones. A review of the best of these would be far more useful. What sort of buffoon pays £200 for a radio?

        A review of in-car DAB sets wouldn't go amiss, either.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Shouting back at John Humphries - Re: this is radio

      "Worth nothing more than a £19.99 jobbie from asda."

      Or a tenner on Ebay for one of those wooden Roberts radios that take two PP9s (fiver off the market, they last a couple of years) and that goes loud. I use it when making the coffee and porridge in the morning, about an hour a day. It lives on the fridge. I'll get a dab headphone radio and plug it in when FM goes off.

    3. Zombie Womble

      Re: this is radio

      When I read the article "to suit all budgets" i thought to myself, I bet the cheapest one will be around £100 and I was spot on, the writers here are out of touch with reality when it comes to some peoples finances.

      1. Joefish
        Devil

        Re: bet the cheapest one will be around £100

        I always see "...and here's another Reg guilty-feeling round-up of free shit we've been sent..."

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: this is radio

      "Worth nothing more than a £19.99 jobbie from asda."

      The Asda DAb radio is very good, it picks up signal well and sounds sharp enough.

      Definatly the best radio under 50 quid and should have made an appearance.

      DAB quality is still abit shakey, high quality internet radio is where it's at - there's no point in paying decent money for a radio if it can't tune into a good quality stream.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed the best

    Why no Roberts Stream 83i? One of the best on the market:

    http://www.robertsradio.co.uk/Products/Internet_radios/STREAM83i/index.htm

    I have two and they are excellent. It has the lot. DAB, FM, USB, Aux-In, WiFi, RJ45, DLNA. Can be had for £120.

    I just wished they would make a larger more powerful version with a colour screen. Although the colourSTREAM wasn't quite what I had in mind.

    1. Rusty 1

      Re: Missed the best

      Agreed, the 83i is great - the best radio I have used. UI is great, sound is great, the range of sources is great. Replaced a Pure Evoke 3 that crashed and corrupted its firmware too many times.

      The only issue I have is how chuffing bright the blue display and power button are.

  3. skuzzzy

    The hideousness of them all

    When will they stop making DAB radios so damned ugly? Some of the Roberts ones are nice but I don't own much other glossy vaneered furiture

  4. DUNCAN E.

    never ever

    gonna buy nything over £50 its just a radio

    1. Richard 81

      Re: never ever

      ...a radio that may or may not become a genuine standard. I'm still hoping DAB dies out ASAP.

      1. Chris 3

        Re: never ever

        My parents are in the 80s live in rural Glocestershire and have been happy DAB users for well over 5 years. I don't think you're going to win this argument.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: never ever

        Actually, there is nothing wrong with the standard per se- it is quite well engineered. The problem is that given the fact that it uses mpeg layer 2 audio (the best codec available at the time), sound quality is quite bitrate dependant. In the UK, we broadcast at a lower bitrate for DAB than most of Eastern Europe, even, so it can sound really horrid and crunchy; certainly worse than a strong FM signal.

        As for the power consumption, that is an implemetation issue. It's a bit chicken and egg, if the demand was there, then it's probably that chipset manufacturers would put a lot of more expensive R+D into it. As things are, things have come along reasonably, though not far enough. Mind, I saw one of the lab prototype recievers, and it was the size of a large crate.. now that was scary.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "power consumption .. is an implemetation issue"

          Really? How does that work?

          An FM radio, even a stereo one, isn't really a complex beast. Some might even call it nearly trivial, if it's just an analogue radio, no RDS, no iPod dock, whatever. Even after adding digitally controlled FM tuning you can still get pretty much the same battery life as an analogue FM radio. The biggest part of the power on one of these is consumed by the audio output to drive the speaker.

          A DAB radio, in contrast, has lots of work to do, by design. You still need an RF receiver and an audio output stage, just as you do in the analgue version, but in between the two you need to get from DAB (or DAB+, where was that in this review?) digitally encoded audio to something to drive the audio output stage.

          That chunk of digital electronics simply isn't needed in an ordinary FM radio, and unfortunately it seems to eat a disproportionate number of watts when in use. Maybe in theory it'll be possible to reduce that stage's power consumption somewhat, but many smartphone users already know that despite their advanced low power ARM processors and expensive Lithium Ion batteries they still don't get a day between recharges, especially if they actually use them.

          I looked at a Roberts DAB radio a few weeks back (doesn't matter which one). It caught my eye because suddenly the battery life numbers appeared almost usable, and I wondered what technological miracle of silicon and software design had brought this on.

          Turns out the technological miracle that brought this on was giving up on HP11 ("C") size batteries and making room for a ridiculous number of HP2 ("D") size batteries. I didn't even know they still existed.

          That's progress, innit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "power consumption .. is an implemetation issue"

            It works by the fact that the current DAB chipsets are.. a bit pants, really. Technical term. There's a lot of stuff that could be done more power efficiently if there was money in it- custom hardware decodes of MPEG 2 with the signal processing (all the transforms and such) done in ASICs built in the latest tiny die processes and things, rather than a combination of slightly custom bits, and badly adapted and slightly more general purpose hardware.

            Right now, what you have is about as elegant as Intel's "Prescott" (fat bastard) CPUs in terms of fitness for purpose. There's a sort of graph you can draw for these situations with crossing lines for off the shelf and custom-fettled top of the range silicon. The axes would be cost of initial implementation and fitness for purpose. Where you decide the sweet spot is tends to be a matter of economics rather than engineering, sadly :(

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "a bit pants, really."

              "a lot of stuff that could be done more power efficiently if there was money in it-"

              I thought FPGAs were supposed to be sufficiently good/fast/cheap (pick two) these days that you could seed the market with an FPGA-based product and move to ASIC implementation to recoup the losses on the FPGA design by selling at the same end user price once the market had bought into the concept and the (cheaper per unit) ASIC implementations were ready to go?

              There's plenty of FPGA/microcontroller combos to chose from, which one fits the needs here, how expensive is it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: never ever

      Agreed. FM radios are cheap, sound fairly good, batteries last for ages. DAB has a bigger selection of stations but battery life is a joke, the sets are too pricey, and the sound quality- even in areas of good reception- leaves me feeling I have blocked ears due to the compression used.

      If only there was a station like Radio 6 Music on FM... commercial stations all seem to play the same Radio 2 -style MOR stuff. When at home, internet radio is straightforward, but it is when driving that I do much of my listening.

      Sing-sing.org is a favourite for music, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/ a favourite for speech programs (especially their Science Show) with bog-standard MP3s available for download.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A curate's egg

    Bought a DAB/PM radio as a replacement for the kitchen. Most of the time it seems ok - but there are days when the sound "burbles" for a while. Presumably it is a reaction to some interference - aircraft flutter? Switching to the same station on FM is perfectly clear. Now we just leave it on FM.

  6. Nigel Steward

    UK DAB is U/S

    Put quite simply we are behind the times, but no doubt will catch up.

    Put quite simply don't buy a DAB radio that does not support WorldDMB Profile 1 which is needed for DAB+ when it becomes available in the UK.

    I have over the years bought 3DAB radios, including ones from Pure & Roberts. They EAT batteries, when you turn them on they take quite a time to "fire up", sound quality is no better than FM, and often worse.

    Please press you MP to get the UK to start catching up & adopt a better DAB standard.

    In the interim internet radio is however quite good. If you haven't done so listen to Linn Radio broadcasting at 320 kbps MP3. That's better than what you pay for on iTunes and over twice the quality of DAB radio.

    http://www.linn.co.uk/music

    NJSS

  7. Fuzz

    price

    I'll echo the comments on price, for DAB to take off in any meaningful way the price needs to come down.

    I've just bought a new DAB for the car so I can listen to 6 and sports extra but in the house I have a squeezebox which uses the Internet.

    For a static radio the Internet wins you get almost endless choice in stations from across the world and you don't have to worry about signal strength.

    My mum has two DAB radios in her house and she listens to both of them on FM because they sound better. Too many homes are on the limit of acceptable DAB reception and people don't want to have roof top or loft aerials for the radio.

    1. Spasch

      Re: price

      +1 for the Squeezebox - brilliant piece of kit as a kitchen radio (especially as we have very poor DAB coverage).

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        Re: price

        According to wikilies Logitech have dumped the squeezebox range, all bar some token thing with limited functions.

    2. David Beck

      Re: price

      And your Mum is counted as a DAB user in the race to kill off FM. Tell your MP that you either want DAB+ or FM but preferably both, if not both then FM is fine. The receivers are cheaper, use less energy (by design, not an implementation issue as discussed earlier) and sound better than DAB. Ask yourself, who benefits from a switch to DAB? If you or your family are not on the list, then don't support it.

  8. djstardust Silver badge

    Thing is ..... radio stations broadcasting on DAB are still using compression to cut the bass/treble which kinds defeats the purpose of pure digital sound.

    I have a Roberts Ecologic4 DAB radio and it distorts like hell if the volume is increased or the bass turned up. Very poor indeed!

    1. AlbertH
      Boffin

      Compression - audio processing for beginners

      DJStardust is just suffering from the limitations of a poor audio amplifier and a cheap loudspeaker in his Roberts radio - it's nothing to do with DAB or audio processing!

      Compression does not affect the frequency response - as a professional broadcaster, I can tell you that compression is used to reduce the dynamic range of the programme material. It amplifies the quiet bits, and attenuates the loud bits, giving a more "average" range of levels.

      The other thing that's done with compression is to increase the average level of the material, to make it sound "louder" without overmodulating the transmitter. This is common on "pop" stations - there was a "loudness war" in the USA 20 years ago, and the only result was to push listeners away from FM radio. Heavily compressed audio is fatiguing to listen to - just a few minutes can give you a nasty headache!

      The original theory of DAB suggested that compression would be much less necessary. This was initially true on "quality" services like Radio 3, but ultimately found to be impractical partly because everyday ambient noise would drown out the quietest bits, and because the bit rates were progressively reduced to allow more stations into the same digital space. Quality was seriously compromised - so much so that the analogue 15 kHz rolled-off, compressed Radio 3 on FM sounds significantly better than their DAB service.

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: Compression - audio processing for beginners

        Your on about the wrong type of compression when talking about DAB. DAB is MP2 and will sound like crap even with the best amp and speakers (digital audio has come a long way since 1995). It's only really useful on a radio with small cheap speakers where you can't tell if it's crap.But it works fine for NEWS/Talk radio, or in a noisy car.

        DAB+ is AAC and much better quality given the same bandwidth (iPod level) but the only way they would ever be able to switch over is to require all DAB radios sold also support DAB+ so people don't have to buy new radios... Again.

        1. This Side Up
          Unhappy

          Re: Compression - audio processing for beginners

          "Your on about the wrong type of compression "

          No, he was specifically replying to a post about audio (dynamic range) compression. The problem with DAB specifically is the excessive lossy digital compression which is used to squash as many channels as possible into the bandwidth. This knocks the stuffing out of music and in particular destroys the stereo image because it loses phase information, not that you'd notice with two speakers 10cm apart.

          It's very sad that the BBC has lost any desire for technical excellence, a few old school engineers excepted. It just wants to be a ratings whore and pump out stuff to the uncritical masses.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Compression - audio processing for beginners

            >> It's very sad that the BBC has lost any desire for technical excellence, a few old school engineers excepted. It just wants to be a ratings whore and pump out stuff to the uncritical masses.

            I was in the very meeting when the BBC Head of Engineering got on his hind legs in front of a room full of engineers and engineering project managers (I've been both) and announced with a completely straight face: "Engineering is not a core activity of the BBC".

            This in a company which has led pretty much every technical innovation in broadcasting for both TV and radio for ninety years; a company which designed, developed, and defined the standards not just in the electronics but also the very grammar of TV and radio.

            Bah.

            Still, what did they expect when the appointed the head of Channel 4 to take over as DG? He did his best to turn the BBC into a playout centre, not a broadcaster.

            Neil - an old school engineer (excepted).

  9. croaker
    FAIL

    Useless - all of them

    They may work OK if you're on the top of a hill in the city but anywhere else - they're door stops.

    Wait until the DAB coverage equals FM and then think about it...

    1. AlbertH
      Boffin

      Re: Useless - all of them

      DAB coverage in many areas is better than FM! The receivers that are around are mostly using up the first generation receiver chipsets, and their performance is rather less than stellar! Pure and Roberts are particularly bad about this - they both wildly overestimated the number of receivers they were going to make and ordered a lot more components than they could use up. They are still building first generation radios with heavy power consumption and poor sensitivity.

      Philips have recently released their new generation of DAB receiver components, and their performance is like the difference between MW and FM - these provide a perfectly listenable signal under even the most adverse conditions. The cheapest of the Philips radios outperforms almost anything else on the market, except in the amplifier and speaker department. If you use the radio as a tuner for your hi-fi, you'll be astonished by the results.

      Unfortunately, OFCOM and Radio Authority politics and policy have turned DAB into a radio ghetto - we're now assailed with innumerable "ethnic" and "religious" stations, all crammed in at the expense of things that we really would want to listen to! DAB will die out as a medium if this nonsense goes on.

  10. pPPPP

    I bought a Denon mini hifi system (currently £180) a while back purely so I can listen to 6music. It's connected to the roof aerial, but works fine with the small lead supplied with it. Sound quality is flawless, at least for Radios 4 & 6 which are all I listen to.

    Then again, I do live in London. Not sure how good it would be in a deep valley somewhere remote. But then again, FM's not so good in those places either.

    Why anyone would pay £250 for some of these though is beyond me. They won't sound good enough for anything other than talk radio, which for me is available on FM.

    1. teapot9999
      Thumb Up

      Denon

      I also have a Denon mini hifi and I live in a small country town in West Oxfordshire, reception is fine on DAB and FM. Also have a Pure Sensia 2 which works well as a kitchen radio

  11. John H Woods Silver badge

    Anecdotal, I know, but for a while I had a car that had a DAB radio in it. I got slightly better coverage (in rural Warwickshire), and what sounded to me like much better quality, by plugging in my '3' Android and using TuneIn radio (or Jango, or iPlayer).

    I just can't see how the poor quality and apparently poor coverage of DAB can continue to be justified, especially given the continued complaints about portable DAB equipment is consuming batteries at a huge rate. I'm certainly never going to buy one.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB radio sales may be on the up...

    ... but given the poor protocol and the resulting poor performance, they then end up dialed to FM instead. That's quite a few quid wasted on a battery-eating feature that then doesn't get used.

    Methinks this is quite a clear case of new technology that cannot stand on its own merits (and lo and behold, its uptake is twisted such that it doesn't need to), and so I wonder about repeat sales. Why pay the premium again, for something that didn't get used after all?

    The basic problem with going digital on radio is both that FM works so splendidly, and that digital in contrast will need a few rounds of upgrades before it'll be really usable. And that means shelling out a hundred quid several times for each round and each radio you own. As a punter, I wouldn't be prepared to do that.

    Then again I haven't seriously listened to the radio in ages as its compression and programming both never cease to annoy me. But even so, the digital radio set market isn't exactly driven by informed punters demanding it, and won't be for a while. I'd sooner expect to see the reverse: Punters demanding their low-power FM back, petitioning their MPs to keep the FM service because that at least works well.

  13. Steve Crook

    It's a conspiracy...

    I think the plan is that they'll persist with this strategy of high price functionally deficient DAB for long enough for the rest of us to have got used to streaming radio over the internet, and at that point they'll close DAB broadcasting and sell off the frequencies...

    Or am I just being cynical?

  14. PabloPablovski
    Megaphone

    Android?

    Anyone able to make a recommendation for a good DAB radio which I can connect to my Samsung Galaxy S3? Bluetooth or USB audio.

  15. Dick Emery
    Facepalm

    Bah humbug!

    Oh well. When they finally decide to turn off FM (which they probably will so they can sell even more spectrum to mobile operators to fill the government coffers) I will just listen to prerecorded music.

    1. Dick Emery

      Re: Bah humbug!

      Oh and just been listening to that Linn radio station and on the third track it got stuck in a digital (CD?) loop. Kinda amusing for a site promoting Linn products.

  16. Mr_Blister
    Happy

    WiFi is best for home; FM cheapo for outdoors

    I bought a terrific Tevion WiFi Internet Radio from Aldi in 2008 which I use all the time, even when sat in front of my desktop PC. It cost a mere £65 but fell to half that the following year I think, but I am not bothered as it works brilliantly and even has FM radio for when WiFi is not available. The sound quality is amazing for the size of the unit and its speakers; full, rounded non-case vibrating bass with clear but not tinny or shrill treble. It also supports the BBC On Demand service, so you can catch up on programmes you have missed.

    The downside is that it does not run on batteries but then that is understandable, considering it has a WiFi receiver which on any battery powered product is a real energy sapper. If I really needed to take it out and about, I could just take a car booster battery with a mains inverter, however I doubt I would do this and instead would buy a cheap radio or ghetto blaster for this purpose.

  17. Sarah Davis

    Utterly absurd !!

    It seems remarkable that all of these items are so over priced. Clearly this is a list of the worst DAB's as they're all such a rip-off. The message seems to be don't buy anything from these manufacturers as they clearly over charge on all their products. Thanks for the heads up. Now I'll go look for the sub £50 DABS as none of these are worth a penny more. No wonder DAB is doing so poorly when a bunch of dodgy companies are incolved.

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Utterly absurd !!" I agree and furthermore.......

      ...........I do not understand why the Editor's Choice includes a major facility that you can only use if you own one particular brand of smartphone. That would be fair enough if we were doing a round-up of dedicated smartphone peripherals/partner equipment but we aren't. The moment you are not an owner of that particular brand the Editor's choice goes from (very) mediocre value for money to truly appalling.

  18. sirwobble
    Thumb Down

    dab sales are on the up....

    because its virtually impossible to find a good quality, fm only radio for a reasonable price that doesn't look like a fisher price toy. also it must not be tiny so the noise is tinny. and no to dab for eating battery.

    i have a radio i bought at lidl about 12 years ago. digital tuning, world coverage, 20 squid. nice sound. i just have to buy a new aeriel for it every couple of years or so when i knock the old one off.

    other than that i use my ipad and wifi.

    DAB can go piss in a bin.

  19. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    FAIL

    The fundamental problem with DAB

    Which is never ever mentioned... is that the whole transmission system is designed for use in a moving receiver. Whereas an FM network is carefully arranged so that adjacent transmitters are not on the same frequency, DAB networks require that each transmitter uses the same frequency.

    From memory - it's a long time since I worked with DAB services - each data packet lasts 1ms but has an expected overlap in the time domain of 0.2ms - giving a bit rate per multiplex of something like 1500kb/s. The coding for the transmission - not the audio being transmitted - is arranged with at least two and I think three levels of error correction but the forward correction nature of this requires that you get at least fractions of a packet on subsequent packets. That's intended to happen by the vehicle moving between cells; if you're on a marginal reception location and you're only seeing one signal you're stuck with whatever error correction you can get from a single signal.

    So many of the complaints about DAB are simply because it's being used in a stationary location. Admittedly, the reduction in bit rate for channels stuffing more and more crap in doesn't help the audio quality, but the burbles are purely and simply because the thing's not being used as it was designed.

    The reference design - Blaupunkt was the BBC's partner, I believe - will silently switch to another channel or technology if the s/n ratio gets too high (and back, if it's clever). This behaviour is dependent on the implementation though; I don't believe that there are requirements. Blaupunkt (who no longer make DAB receivers, I think) fall from e.g. Radio 4 DAB to Radio 4 FM to 'speech' DAB/FM by default; other makers somewhat irritatingly don't drop back to FM but instead will switch from R4 to R2 - they don't seem to understand the concept of listening by preference to a station rather than a subject or broadcaster. Others will switch from one 'speech' or 'music' channel to another 'speech' or 'music' channel without regard for the broadcaster...

    1. This Side Up
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: The fundamental problem with DAB

      "Which is never ever mentioned... is that the whole transmission system is designed for use in a moving receiver."

      Ah, at last I see what I'm doing wrong. I should be waltzing around the kitchen carrying the DAB radio to keep it on the move while I'm frying the black pudding. I'm glad you pointed that out.

  20. mickey mouse the fith

    Out here in the sticks, the few DAB radios i have come across were all tuned to FM as DAB sounded so awful.

    FM degrades gracefully as signal strength goes down, DAB just degenerates into a cacophany of burbling,popping unlistenable sonic mush.

    The retailers are cunts as well, they have low powered DAB transmitters in the shops, so DAB sounds much better in-store than it actually is anywhere 20ft from the store.

    1. AlbertH
      Boffin

      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.

      FM degrades gracefully as signal strength goes down

      No it certainly doesn't - at least not on this planet. FM becomes progressively noisier until it starts to "chop" as the receiving aerial passes through nodes and anti-nodes. Most commercial receivers switch to mono as the signal becomes weak, only to switch back to stereo as the field strength increases. This switching is seldom inaudible....

      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.

      DAB coverage is reasonably good these days. There are still a few areas of towns and cities that are poorly served, but this improves every day. It's analogous to the early days of mobile telephony, with areas of good coverage, and other areas with little service.

      Out here in the sticks,

      .... There's your problem. 90% of the population of this country live in towns and cities. You're just part of a small vocal yokel minority. Move house! You probably also whine about poor internet connection.....

      1. jason 7
        Facepalm

        Erm.....

        ....you don't happen to work for the 'DAB at all costs lobby' do you?

        You sound like the Pope defending his stance on contraception.

        DAB in the UK was wrong from the start 20+ years ago. Why bother defending a service that's been dogged by incompetence from day one?

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        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...

      3. This Side Up
        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.

      4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        @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.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        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

      6. mickey mouse the fith

        "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.

        1. mickey mouse the fith

          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........

  21. AndrueC Silver badge
    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.

  22. Dire Criti¢
    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.

  23. Irongut

    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.

  24. ToonArmyBarmy
    FAIL

    Every Budget?

    Where are the £20 radios?

    1. The First Dave
      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?

  25. Richard Cartledge
    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.

  26. JaitcH
    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?

  27. npo4
    Thumb Up

    Smartphone + Internet Radio + Speakers

    Job done.

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

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. npo4

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

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

        1. Arctic fox
          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!

  28. Christian Berger Silver badge

    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

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        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.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          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.

  29. Shane McCarrick

    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........?????

  30. Chris Holt
    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?

  31. This Side Up
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  32. Infernoz Bronze badge
    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.

  33. Fihart

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More of Less

      DAB, the MiniDisc of the radio world! :P

  34. Sarah Davis
    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 :)

  35. Jason Hindle

    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.

  36. The Aussie Paradox
    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...

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you think content on smart radios is important

    You're probably too stupid to use one.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. This Side Up

      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.

  39. Nev Silver badge

    Waaaay too expensive.

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

  40. Hilibnist
    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...

  41. 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...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  42. Prof Denzil Dexter

    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.

  43. Russell Howe
    Thumb Down

    Poor selection

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

    This article was of no use to me.

  44. Avatar of They Silver badge

    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...

  45. LPF
    Thumb Down

    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??

  46. Rob Davis
    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.

    1. Richie Hindle
      Thumb Up

      +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. :-)

  47. andy gibson

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

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

  48. Mike Brown

    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

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SORRY to tell you this.

    DAB IS DEAD!

    Broadcast TV is going the same way.

    Why waste 300 quid?

  50. Pahhh
    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….

    1. David Beck

      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.

  51. CPE Bach

    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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