back to article Analogue radio is the tech that just won't die

Comms regulator Ofcom has highlighted what devices and digital services Britons use ahead of the UK's annual shopping orgy. The data was actually released in its vast compendium of consumer habits, a tome so large details sometimes get lost. The big trends aren't surprising: the UK is one of the most rapid adopters of …

  1. Caustic Soda

    The Government should continue to ignore the tedious bleating from the DAB industry that we should turn off analogue. DAB is a hopeless technology which delivers audio quality not much better than AM.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Most radios are tiny, tinny, little things, so audio quality beyond 'good enough' is not most people's first priority. As long as there's no static, they're happy.

      1. Caustic Soda

        I get that, but some of us have very nice audio equipment which we expect high standards from. A high-fidelity broadcast will still be "compatible" with a 2" speaker on a kitchen radio. An MP2 DAB broadcast sounds absolutely terrible on my floor-standing Mission speakers. It costs nobody any more to produce a hi-fi signal than it does an MP2 one.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      We have a DAB radio in the house for the dog when we're out. One day I was at home and it was rather stormy, and I noticed the signal on the radio kept being interrupted. I dug out an old Ghetto blaster thing with an FM radio on it from the mid-80's, there was no loss in signal.

      Call me old fashioned, but DAB isn't ready for the mainstream yet.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      It's not so much the audio quality that bothers me, it's the inconsistent signal.

      Using a DAB radio at a friend's house, which is situated on top of a hill, with line of sight to the nearest transmitter, we still get regular signal dropouts. I would imagine it's unusable in a car round here.

      Is this push for DAB just so they can sell off the radio spectrum, or is there actually a sound technological reason to use it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        that's the thing you need LOS Where I live on the coast we have no LOS to the transmitter so don't get any DAB

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'Innovations' such as DAB, IoT, Smart <insert name of thing here>, are generally all about increasing control over the plebs and increasing profits. How on earth did we as the human race manage to survive 1000s of years without these things?

    4. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      The Government should continue to ignore the tedious bleating from the DAB industry that we should turn off analogue. DAB is a hopeless technology which delivers audio quality not much better than AM.

      They can switch off analogue when I can receive something other than BBC radio on my DAB radio. Last year most of the DAB stations switched to another network, so the only stations my DAB radios (car and kitchen) get are from the BBC. Not that I mind BBC stations so much, but I bought a radio which should in theory receive any station, not just BBC specific ones.

      At home now I have bought a broadband radio as it is much more functional (in terms of choice) and reliable than DAB. In the car, I've switched back to analogue.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        ". Last year most of the DAB stations switched to another network, so the only stations my DAB radios (car and kitchen) get are from the BBC."

        They probably switched to DAB+ (AAC) which cannot be picked up by original DAB (MP2) receivers. Ofcom has said that everyone should migrate to DAB+, so in a few years you will hear nothing on a DAB receiver.

        1. Ragarath
          Coat

          They probably switched to DAB+ (AAC) which cannot be picked up by original DAB (MP2) receivers. Ofcom has said that everyone should migrate to DAB+, so in a few years you will hear nothing on a DAB receiver.

          But when all the Dabby-ness of things was being debated, everyone in the know was saying mandate DAB+ but they decided to go with DAB. Now we are seeing what has happened because they did not listen. People purchased radios because they were told FM would get switched off. People can't get DAB+ but because they purchased a DAB radio don't understand why they can't get it, they got this new DAB thing that they were told to get but now it's not working.

          To top it off they've now been told that it's because the thing they purchased in good faith, as it was to be the standard, is now a brick because everyone is moving to what should have been a standard, and they have to buy a new thing.

          All they did with the silly awareness stuff and the lack of creating a proper standard for the UK was to confuse the whole issue and made people waste money.

          Sorry rant off I'll get my coat.

          1. Spazturtle Silver badge

            "But when all the Dabby-ness of things was being debated, everyone in the know was saying mandate DAB+ but they decided to go with DAB. Now we are seeing what has happened because they did not listen. People purchased radios because they were told FM would get switched off. People can't get DAB+ but because they purchased a DAB radio don't understand why they can't get it, they got this new DAB thing that they were told to get but now it's not working."

            Same story with DVB-T (SD) which we rolled out for Digital TV, but by then not only had the development of DVB-T2 (HD) been going on for a few years but if was Ofcom's proposal for DVB-T2 that was accepted. Ofcom had demonstrated DVB-T2 back in 2007 and finalised it in 2009 and yet the government still went ahead with the roll out of DVB-T.

            One of the big annoyances of DVB-T that DVB-T2 fixes is not being able to support multiple resolutions and codecs on the same channel number, which is why BBC HD 1 is on channel 101, BBC HD 2 on 102, ect. DVB-T2 is designed to ignore any extra data it doesn't understand, so if a 1080p receiver sees a 1080p signal and a 4K signal it will simply use the 1080p signal. So 4K BBC One will share channel 101 with 1080p BBC One.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              bit like the other current fiasco SMART Meters!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                bit like the other current fiasco SMART Meters!

                Yes, in two similar ways, the roll out, and the technology. The main public face of the smart meter fiasco is the botched roll out programme that DECC and BEIS conceived against all industry advice and against common sense. The imminent NAO report will bring this to light, and it will run and run, whilst government wander round with fingers in their ears going "LA-LA-LA can't hear you".

                The less obvious face, and the one that parallels the technology fiascos of DAB and DVB-T (amongst other "picking technology winners" disasters) is that because the bureaucrats are slow, uninnovative, and lack any vision or interest in the future, they repeatedly select technologies that are obviously going to be obsolete and inadequate long before they are rolled out. I work for an energy supplier, and our consumer research amongst smart meter customers can be summarised as saying "Wow. So basic. Is that all it does? Meh". Effectively, the smart meter programme has costs of around £20 billion or so, and by 2020 will deliver a technology that is barely up to commercial standards prevailing in 2007. You and I may be more educated, but the public judge all technology by the standards of a decent smartphone, or stuff like Alexa, and a smart meter falls down on so many levels, even if it has a phone app available. It just doesn't do anything, it can't be customised, and the potential to control equipment is so rudimentary that they needn't have bothered. To create their bogus business case for smart meters, government over-estimated the consumer benefits, under-estimated the programme delivery and capex costs, and under-estimated the operating costs. And all along, they never gave ANY thought to what consumers wanted - like most government schemes, this was all predicated on spending your money (in a hidden manner) on something for the presumed greater good, without asking what those paying actually wanted - very much like DAB.

            2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

              The basic commercial model here is to produce a standard, produce equipment to that standard, attempt/force market saturation, make loads of money and tie the punter in. Change the standard away from the previous equipment, produce equipment ... etc

              It's a cynically planned, government led money making scam - much like the smart meter 1/smart meter 2 fiasco.

              As soon as any of this says "more choice for the consumer" read "more cost to the consumer for more, lower quality product with more income stream potential" - as in digital tv ...

          2. Gerry 3
            Alert

            Beware of obsolete new radios !

            Buy a new DAB radio at Tesco, John Lewis, Sainsbury's, Currys etc and you may well find you've bought a lemon: many of their own brands are effectively obsolete because they don't support DAB+. They want you to buy twice.

        2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

          They probably switched to DAB+ (AAC) which cannot be picked up by original DAB (MP2) receivers. Ofcom has said that everyone should migrate to DAB+, so in a few years you will hear nothing on a DAB receiver.

          Perfectly reasonable suggestion, unfortunately the radios are DAB+ compatible, instead I live in a corner of the country the commercial radio stations decided they could survive without. We simply don't have coverage here since the change over. When we go visiting family, the car radio's DAB signal magically comes to life and a whole plethora of stations are available. Between home and work? Not so much.

      2. rmason Silver badge

        There's something quite specific keeping FM going too.

        Additional to the other users of FM local football has a big part to play here,

        For many people it's the only way of getting coverage for their team, and the money grasping nature of the way it is licenced mean that said stations can only broadcast it in their local area. i.e via FM. Stations that offer output over multiple / types (DAB, FM, MW and online) are made to replay random pre-recorded shows on the others and just broadcast football via FM (or else pay through the nose).

        Or in areas like mine with multiple teams FM will carry one, and MW the other. Or one frequency of FM carries one and another frequency carries the other etc.

        It's a dead specific "use case" but it is a thing, and in quite large numbers in many areas.

        If you support a team not in the top tier, it's often the only way available to those who don't trust/won't or can't pay for the online streaming all teams now put out, and even then they aren't allowed to stream the 3PM Saturday games to UK punters etc.

        1. FlashBangWallop

          Signal Delay

          It's not just football - my wife and I support one of the premiership rugby teams. We each use a radio with earpiece to get the excellent commentary from the local BBC station whilst sat/stood in the ground watching the game: the commentary really augments the experience. I bought a DAB radio expecting the crystal clear commentary, which I duly got - but the 2+ second delay while the signal gets digitised/compressed, fed through some network or other and then decompressed on my radio made the listening very frustrating - so I switched back to my trusty AM/FM radio and get synchronised visual and audio!

          1. Pat Att

            Re: Signal Delay

            I bought a DAB radio expecting the crystal clear commentary, which I duly got - but the 2+ second delay while the signal gets digitised/compressed, fed through some network or other and then decompressed on my radio made the listening very frustrating

            You need my new, pat pending, digital delay glasses. put them on and the world gets delayed by 2 seconds.

            I'm working on some that delay by 40 years, for Brexiteers.

      3. SkippyBing Silver badge

        'At home now I have bought a broadband radio as it is much more functional (in terms of choice) and reliable than DAB. In the car, I've switched back to analogue.'

        Similar problem where I live in terms of only getting BBC radio, if anything. I've now taken to streaming radio over my phone in the car as I get a much better 4G signal than DAB and I can listen to any station.

    5. RockBurner

      Re DAB

      That's if the DAB signal can be found at all.

      I've got a couple of DAB devices, and neither of them can be relied on to maintain a decent signal reception, even though they don't move about.

      It could be that I need better aerials, if so, then we're talking roof mounted, five feet in length TV-type aerials like you used to see on taller buildings, because that's what DAB seems to need.

    6. Mage Silver badge

      not much better than AM

      Actually if there is no interference AM can be BETTER quality than 128K DAB or 64K DAB+ stereo, especially if you have poorer hearing.

      1) Less distortion (no artefacts)

      2) The acoustic lossy data compression model assumes average hearing

      3) DAB+, where it's used (starting in UK) is simply used to double the number of stations, hence 64K bps.

      4) Ergonomics on most 1935 to 1995 Analogue sets is better than DAB or Preset FM

      5) Few DAB sets have decent cabinets and speakers. Most 1965 to 1995 sets that's larger than pocket sized sound better on AM.

      6) Power consumption. Battery valve sets can beat many DAB models! Transistor analogue sets can run x20 longer on same size cells.

      1. Tony W

        Re: not much better than AM

        Radio broadcasting as a means of providing high sound quality is probably an anachronism. If you want hi-fi you can get it on line - if someone is prepared to provide it. BBC R3 on line has quite respectable sound quality - better than FM or DAB. And as for AM - don't make me laugh.

        When DAB was invented, radio broadcasting engineers were excited about the possibility of overcoming the bad aspects of FM, particularly for car radios. What they didn't realise is that most people have no interest in high sound quality, and digital systems would allow the top management to decide on the balance between sound quality and the number of channels. The re sult was inevitable.

        And for those extolling low distortion AM sound quality - when did you last listen to it? Restricting the frequency range to a theoretical best of about 4 kHz (from the 9 kHz channel spacing) is a serious form of distortion. And that's just the transmitters. When I measured a range of AM receivers in the 1980s the -3 dB bandwidth was typically about 2.5 kHz. Broadcasters use heavy multi-band audio compression, trying desperately to push more high frequencies through the system, to be louder than the competition, and to combat after-dark co-channel and adjacent channel interference. So the frequency response is continuously jumping about. That seriously alters any music and In my book that's distortion. I could go on. Yes, speech on BBC World Service DAB sounds nasty - but still better than AM. If you add typical AM background noise or restrict the frequency range to AM limits, it more than hides the DAB artefacts.

        1. simonb_london

          Re: not much better than AM

          @Tony W: "Broadcasters use heavy multi-band audio compression, trying desperately to push more high frequencies through the system, to be louder than the competition"

          Most DAB stations I here appear to be doing exactly the same thing :(

          At least the limited audio bandwidth on AM limits the amount of pain it can cause to listen to.

    7. simonb_london

      Doesn't have to be worse than AM, but it is

      DAB could give excellent quality if a station is over 96kbps and using AAC HE v2 codec.

      Unfortunately the main stations still use the bitrate-hogging MPEG 1 Layer II. And the rest are stations that all play the same narrow playlist at 32kbps AAC HE v2 and sound rubbish because of it.

      Get rid of duplicate playlist stations, phase out MPEG 1 LII and there would be enough space for some decent sound quality.

    8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      There's also the problem that if they turn off analogue radio I'll have to replace a perfectly working radio in the bedroom, one in the kitchen, one in the workshop, one in the living room, one in the car and one in the shed. When they turned analogue TV off there was only one TV affected, and I didn't even need to replace it, just put a dongle on the aerial.

  2. Korev Silver badge

    Poorer households in the DE socioeconomic groups are keener to go online with their smartphones rather than PCs, possibly indicating lack of broadband penetration (as Ofcom speculates) or a simpler user experience (as your reporter speculates).

    Or maybe because mobile phones appear "free" to people who take out contracts; as opposed to computers which "cost money (ie you pay upfront).

    Also, the number of people who don't realise that it's cheaper to buy a mobile phone upfront and then go "contract free" is astounding.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Also, the number of people who don't realise that it's cheaper to buy a mobile phone upfront and then go "contract free" is astounding.

      It may be that if cash is tight people find it easier to budget for a constant monthly payment, rather than a big wodge of cash up front and then lesser payments afterwards. The latter needs a cash surplus to start with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > It may be that if cash is tight people find it easier to budget for a constant monthly payment, rather than a big wodge of cash up front and then lesser payments afterwards. The latter needs a cash surplus to start with.

        Haven't these people heard of Scratchcards?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It may be that if cash is tight people find it easier to budget for a constant monthly payment"

        In one sense you're right. But it's constantly paying out rent that prevents you getting the required lump sum together.

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      @Korev I got an unlocked S9 for less than sim free price on a 24 month contract. I was effectively getting the minutes and data for free. Contracts are not always bad value.

      1. Kernel

        "@Korev I got an unlocked S9 for less than sim free price on a 24 month contract. I was effectively getting the minutes and data for free. Contracts are not always bad value."

        Agreed! - I would've saved a whole NZ$10.00 by purchasing contract-free upfront instead of on a 24 month contract.

    3. The Nazz Silver badge

      Or maybe it's also that many DE "households" around here have acquired, at very low cost, many such items initially bought by ABC'ers?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Get yer boots on

        And once again we're back to the Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice...

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Get yer boots on

          I've been applying that model since before the book & found that far too many people really don't get this 'lifetime cost' principle.

          25 years ago I bought a £300 Sebo vacuum after doing a little research. 3 beater brushes, 2 drive belts (cost under £100, both easy to fit) later its still going and yes new original parts are still available because the current model still uses mostly the same internal bits (and costs less now!). I can't see why it won't outlast me.

          I've also fitted a new motor (bearings shot on original) & drive belt (<£35 for both from the big-river) to a friends 6yr old Dyson but those chinese puzzle beasts need every bolt & screw removed & a total stripdown to fix.

    4. rmason Silver badge

      @Korev

      I don't think many people don't know about sim free phones being better value.

      I think what you're doing is underestimating the amount of people who can manage £50 a month IF it comes out on payday but know they don't have and "cannot" save 4-800 quid (or whatever) for a new phone.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        £50 a month? FIFTY QUID A ****ING MONTH??????? for a bleepin' phone????

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Korev are you from Cornwall mate?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Analogue radio continues to be resilient: a third of households don't have a digital radio "

    because there is little tangible benefit to the end user of DAB over existing FM radio, and DAB devices are more expensive and less reliable.

    The good old Alpine AM/FM/CD/USB stereo in my car works brilliantly - there is absolutely no reason why I would even begin to consider replacing it.

    1. hoola

      FM vs DAB

      Correct, both or our cars (and I think almost all new cars) now come with a DAB radio. Ours are never used on DAB as it is constantly dropping out and is an abomination to listen to.

      The radio keeps trying to seek the signal and will then spend minutes "seeking"

      This on a high quality Kenwood and a built in VW unit.

      A friend who has a cube shaped "portable" DAB radio has it permanently plugged in because the battery life is beyond awful. It just does not seem to comprehend to the DAB lobbyists that a radio with weeks/months of battery life that does not constantly need retuning and can be operated by the less tech members of society is a good thing.

      It is all about the money.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: FM vs DAB

        "Ours are never used on DAB as it is constantly dropping out and is an abomination to listen to."

        ....and the absence of RDS traffic services - DAB is 'digital' but the broadcasters do not support the most useful car based feature of the 'old, out of date analogue' FM RDS.

  4. monty75

    Just because I own a DAB radio doesn't mean I use it. Haven't switched the thing on in years. If I do listen to radio (as opposed to streaming) it's the trusty old FM in the car.

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Likewise, just because I don't have a DAB radio doesn't mean I have any other kind of radio either.

      1. Buzzword

        Re: No radio at all

        "a third of households don't have a digital radio"

        Some of those households (mine included) don't have a radio at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No radio at all

          Down-voted for your own benefit. You are ignoring the clear advice given in 'Protect and Survive' that a radio and spare batteries are essential. Don't come crawling round my fall out shelter after the bomb goes off asking me what's happened in the Archer's.

          1. Gnomalarta

            Re: No radio at all

            I bet he doesn't have a brown paper bag to put over his head either.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No radio at all

            you'd need a shit tonne of batteries at the rate DAB radios eat them!

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: No radio at all

            The tech behind DAB is more involved than with FM. A simple FM transmitter is easy to construct and there are even many experimenter's kits available along with more powerful sets that can be legal to use at events. The AC makes a valid point that in an emergency, a local analog station can be used to broadcast critical information. Another big problem in the UK and the US is that government is allowing more large conglomerates to own more broadcasting stations. It used to be that they were limited to how many radio, TV and newspapers that any one entity could own or control. What it means that programming is often done at a central studio and stations are simply broadcasting "tapes" rather than locally produced live programming. There were some very good articles about this after hurricane Katrina in the US. The few independent stations that could still operate on generators were indispensable in providing up to the minute information. The legacy behind FM goes so far back that there will be several receivers within short distance almost no matter where you are. The FM band is not that big to start with and at a low enough frequency that it won't support enough bandwidth for very many DAB stations.

        2. Dagg
          Unhappy

          Re: No radio at all

          Some of those households (mine included) don't have a radio at all.

          Same here, gave up years ago. All you hear in australia is ego and adverts.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: No radio at all

            I don't listen to the radio that often, but I have several around including one in my mobile and the car. I use the car radio for traffic when I travel to or around the city. My SatNav has a traffic feature, but it's a lot more helpful to hear from an announcer if I'm coming up on a breakdown that is just being cleared from the road or a major accident where it's worth the time to get off of the motorway and find another route.

            1. Barrie Shepherd

              Re: No radio at all

              "....but it's a lot more helpful to hear from an announcer if I'm coming up on a breakdown that is just being cleared from the road or a major accident where it's worth the time to get off of the motorway and find another route."

              Agree, but it's a service the old FM broadcasts delivers well but the new DAB does not (even though technically possible)

              DAB, Smart Meters, Smart Motorways and Smart cars and most other "Smart" things are generally "fails" in my view.

  5. msknight Silver badge

    The "click to enlarge"

    ...didn't enlarge very much.... and I couldn't make out blu-ray players on there.

  6. Keith Oborn

    Mystified by the endless complaints about DAB

    I have no axe to grind here, just playing the dumb user.

    We've had DAB and FM, both portables and in-car, for some years. In absolutely every case to date, the DAB wins hands down: far better coverage, more reliable sound quality, and so on.

    We live near Basingstoke and can SEE the Hannington mast. However, the same applies wherever we've been in the car in the UK: DAB rarely fails, FM is very hit and miss, and indeed the last two cars with FM we simply gave up, didn't get any signal at all near home.

    Having worked in the past in the audio industry I find the comments about FM having superior quality quite funny: maybe downhill with a following wind toting a giant aerial and £1k audiophile receiver near Crystal Palace - but not in the real world!

    What are we doing wrong?

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Mystified by the endless complaints about DAB

      We've had DAB and FM, both portables and in-car, for some years. In absolutely every case to date, the DAB wins hands down: far better coverage, more reliable sound quality, and so on.

      My experience is very much the opposite. On a road trip last weekend, listening to a DAB station on the car radio...I had to switch back to FM after a while because the DAB signal kept cutting out so often (and that was travelling on major roads like M1, M6...not the back of beyond)

      Also, there's the way that the signal degrades. With FM you might get a bit of white noise creeping in or signal fading out when it's on the edge - with DAB it's a much more brutal/jarring cut-off which I find most unpleasant.

      Oh yes, and when I'm at home the selection of of DAB stations is p*** poor - just a the BBC national ones.....can't even get my BBC local radio station.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Mystified by the endless complaints about DAB

        Both my cars have DAB+ headunits. One is an upgraded system (and so needed an extra aerial). Both of them have more dead sports and drop outs on my daily travels than I get on FM in the cars in months.

        Nothing like driving upto traffic lights, the radio dying, and sat there waiting... and only when you move off and get though the junction does the radio come back to life.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mystified by the endless complaints about DAB

      "We live near Basingstoke and can SEE the Hannington mast."

      Transmission is a funny thing. We're in theory within the range of the Hannington mast, but after a lot of experimentation with our aerial, we found we get a better signal from Crystal Palace, which is further away.

      Then again, we've got a home made aerial in our loft, and get a better signal than any of our neighbours do through their rooftop aerials...

  7. kuiash

    Analogue Radio Must Never Die

    It has a MASSIVE advantage over digital, one I hope we'll never need.

    Resilience.

    As a child I used to beaver away in my dad's shed making radios out of giant antennas, an earth rod, pieces of coal, aluminium foil in between pages of a book (variable cap), pencils and all odds and ends of wire.

    There's no way I could ever manufacture a digital radio in anything under a year assuming I can find myself a decent MPU to decode the signal.

    Oh, that and TMS and the shipping forecast.

    I'm probably being totally OTT but you can make an analogue radio, in times of crisis, out of pretty much any old crap lying around. This is not true of digital.

    Even the transmitters aren't that hard. All it is is a modulator & amp and they can be salvaged from plenty of places.

    Anyway, I'll get back to downloading me ZX81 programs off MW now. KTHXBAI!

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

      Actually a very good point. Rather like when the US Navy had problems with GPS and discovered none of its crew knew what a sextant was.

      Make it niche and for nerds, but don't make it disappear or the stone age beckons.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

        Actually a very good point. Rather like when the US Navy had problems with GPS and discovered none of its crew knew what a sextant was.

        How many movies have you seen where people are communicating with each other by tapping out morse on a heating pipe or adjoining wall? Doesn't work quite the same if the characters are tapping out some sort of binary representation of ASCII values for the letters in their message, does it?

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

          AC ”How many movies have you seen where people are communicating with each other by tapping out morse on a heating pipe or adjoining wall? Doesn't work quite the same if the characters are tapping out some sort of binary representation of ASCII values for the letters in their message, does it?”

          Even worse if they’re using 2-byte Unicode. Try doing that to tell your cell-neighbour that there’s an escape attempt planned, and you’ll find you’ve finished serving your life sentence before you’ve got to the first “cell bars” emoji!

          “Warder, I know I’m due for release, but can’t I stay in just another year or two?”

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

        The Navy do now, and Morse as well.

        Got a tour of an Aegis destroyer last summer, and asked the nav officer (he looked about 18) exactly this question. He practices several times a week, and compares his fix with gps.

        They also had a blinker and people who could use it.

        Now, no paper charts...thats because updating them was a huge manpower drain. Its all e-charts now, he said.

        1. Barrie Shepherd

          Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

          "Now, no paper charts...thats because updating them was a huge manpower drain. Its all e-charts now, he said.."

          .......will be useful when the ship has been hit and looses power or if the crew need to get in the lifeboats!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

      Another advantage is that analogue is very light on batteries, DAB drains them very quickly.

      1. kuiash

        Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

        Analogue don't need no stinking batteries!

        With a nice long aerial (a conductor in a moving magnetic field) you'll get enough juice to run a headset. That's "no battery". Freakin' awesome.

    3. Fred Dibnah

      Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

      TMS & the shipping forecast are both on DAB.

      1. Gerry 3
        FAIL

        Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

        The noon Shipping Forecast is LW only.

      2. MrBanana

        Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

        "TMS & the shipping forecast are both on DAB."

        But only when it works, which isn't often enough. Analogue radio is much more resilient. Would you want to rely on the shipping forecast on DAB when you're in a storm, close to a rocky coast, or the LW equivalent?

        1. Fred Dibnah

          Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

          Isn’t any service available only when the transmission medium works? The OP said that TMS and the shipping forecast were not broadcast on DAB, which is incorrect.

    4. naive

      Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

      That is so to the point, except from the fact that countless millions of FM car radios would become trash overnight, we hand control of radio reception to IT guys, and then we know what is going to happen.

      Every ten years we get "improved" but not backwards compatible iterations of DAB forcing everyone to buy new stuff.

      Since the world is slowly turned into a banana republic controlled by Big-Tech, it is unsure how long analogue radio will stay. The pressure of industry lobbyist on elected politicians will be considerable.

      Still waiting for the first fake news reports indicating FM transmission signals are a health hazard.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Analogue Radio Must Never Die

      That's the idea. Make things so complicated, that the average joe public engineer cannot design, repair and improve things themselves. Look at a BBC Micro technical manual, there are full schematic diagrams and details of many off the shelf components. Yes, the software is proprietary but the majority of the hardware was repairable and diagnosis of problems were possible with the correct test kit.

      You'd never get with the kit we have today, particularly with computers and mobile phones.

      DAB is an example of this. Not only cant you build receivers yourself like you can with analogue ones, the key issue is the inability to make your own DAB transmitters. It's all about taking control away from the plebs.

    6. I3N
      Devil

      Was it because of Mary Ann and Ginger ...

      "Even the transmitters aren't that hard. All it is is a modulator & amp and they can be salvaged from plenty of places."

      Clearly, Russell Johnson wanted to stay ...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @mystified

    +1 to your comments. AAC @128kbps is practically transparent, best of luck to anyone attempting to ABX it in a normal setting. MOST FM transmissions contain non-trivial non-linear distortion. As for AM, nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

    Funnily enough, I too can see the Hannington mast from close to my house!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: AAC @128kbps

      Ha!

      They'll switch to 64kbps AAC. Half the transmission cost. Because only "slightly poorer" than 128K MP2 Stereo (older DAB).

      " MOST FM transmissions contain non-trivial non-linear distortion" Due to misuse of the compressor on "loudness wars". Not at all inherent. Here most Digital (DVB-T has more than twice the DAB coverage and in this part of Ireland the same line-up) uses same feed as the badly engineered feed to FM. The DTT and Satellite RTE seem to be using the same 128K now as DAB. I could be wrong.

      What's the point of DAB when DVB-T and DVB-T2 has better coverage?

      Also DAB favours national broadcasters with multiple channels (see SFN and DAB multiplex coverage vs a local Radio FM transmitter).

      True national coverage is poorer on FM than AM and poorer still on DAB. This is why BBC R4 LW has the Cricket that is on DAB, spoiling R4 in areas with no VHF-FM, or when Satellite isn't practical.

      I have three old satellite receivers and the legal £5 approx FM transmitters for phone/MP3 to car Radio. Lets me have continental stations in better quality than local DAB on my FM portables. Sometimes I feed one from the MP3 Library (must get a bigger SD card for phone!).

  9. JDX Gold badge

    I like DAB myself and don't experience terrible issues with it though obvious coverage can vary. It's great to be able to receive a much wider selection of channels.

    That said, see no reason to get rid of FM just because DAB works (or doesn't). Most cars don't have DAB and these are surely where most radio usage happens, not in houses.

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    Amazing

    Considering the shops are full of CRAP DAB/FM sets with pathetic audio quality, or so called "Retro" styled sets with $5 innards and 2" to 3" speakers.

    You can't actually buy a decent radio in the high street and it's not easy online either.

    Loads of traditional "Brands" that are just badges on OEM junk built down to a price.

    I thought the Tesco World Radio wasn't bad, though needed headphones or a larger speaker amp. They changed the rather too simple superhet innards with a poor cheaper DSP IC with almost no RF filters, so it whistles easily. Same model number and barcode! Surely illegal?

  11. IGnatius T Foobar !

    "Broadcasting" in general is becoming obsolete.

    Forget analog/analogue vs digital. The whole idea of listening/watching a broadcast "when it's on" is becoming obsolete. As both the wireline and wireless providers move to the Internet, everything's just a data connection. Scrap the "channels" and the "stations" and the "what's on today" -- it's all tied to a model that assumes we only have an antenna/aerial and can only receive what's being spewed from the tower.

    The always-on data connection is *everything* now.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: "Broadcasting" in general is becoming obsolete.

      No, streaming, Podcasts etc are complementary to broadcast, and in some countries the anonymity of broadcast is absolutely needed.

      The problem though is marketing and finance wonks making decisions about content and infrastructure. We need both systems.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Broadcasting" in general is becoming obsolete.

        The problem though is marketing and finance wonks making decisions about content and infrastructure

        FTFY

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "Broadcasting" in general is becoming obsolete.

      The beauty of listening to things "when they're on" is that you get introduced to new stuff. I like my iPod and listen to my catalog of music and audiobooks all of the time, but I also have a couple of radio programs that I listen to for new music. It's a pleasure to have a massive geek that spends his/her whole week sifting through new releases and curates the best that they've found with background info and maybe even where the band might be playing.

      If all you want is Beatles, Led Zepplin, Stones, Deep Purple and a few other bands where many of the original members are dead, go ahead and just access what you know on demand. That's a good way to be "old".

  12. oldcrab

    Horses for Coourses

    I've got:

    1. A DAB radio in the kitchen

    2. An internet radio in the bedroom.

    3. AVR in the lounge - FM via a 4 element YAGI mounted on the chimney with a masthead amplifier.

    4. One car with FM radio.

    5 Second car with FM and DAB.

    The lounge FM quality is superb, rock solid and absolutely noise-free - system of choice for serious listening. All other solutions are inferior - poor audio quality - regular dropouts. I was an early adopter of FM (1961).

    (By the way - radio via satellite (Sky) is almost as good as FM.)

    The only thing which will get me off FM is discontinuation of the service (in the name of 'progress'?).

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I never bothered with getting a DAB radio, I can get a lot of the DAB stations on DVB through the TV at home. When I am in the car, the radio only has FM and I don't feel the need to shell out to replace it with a DAB one. If there is nothing worth listening to on FM I will put on my own music from MP3s.

    If I had to pick only one piece of kit I would take my laptops over my phone, sure it is less portable but I can do a lot more with it, and it is much nicer for internet access. I can even make and receive phone calls thanks to a VOIP client and a SIP phone number.

  14. Lee D Silver badge

    I listen to no radio at all.

    I own three or four, the car has one built-in.

    The car also has DAB.

    I use no desktop at home at all.

    I use a laptop exclusively.

    I also own half-a-dozen laptops, several desktops.

    I use no tablet at all.

    I own two tablets.

    I don't have a DVR, but I can do all my DVR from the stuff I have. It doesn't need to be a specific device.

    I don't listen to music at all.

    I probably have 5 or 6 MP3 players in my house of various kinds.

    I don't have a smart TV, or indeed any TV at all. But I have Kodi, a Chromecast, a Steam Link and a RPi plugged into my projector that does all the same jobs as a SmartTV could ever do, and more.

    I still own several DVD players, a Blu-ray, several Freeview/Sat boxes (including one on the RPi).

    Ownership means NOTHING at all. Especially not if you're going to miss out certain categories (e.g. laptops) entirely. Most of that stuff above is just sitting in boxes "in case I need it again". Or because someone threw it out and I took it in case it was useful.

    What do I *use*? On even the most irregular basis but presumably more than once a year.

    Smartphone. Laptop. Umm... that's about it from that list.

    DAB can go do one (technically I get the same thing over Freeview, no? I don't listen to it there either, despite it being able to be streamed to my phone anywhere I am). Analogue radio is dead.

    If you asked me if I owned something that can pick up analogue TV, the answer is at least in the dozens of devices. But Analogue TV in the UK has been dead for years and you can't pick it up any more no matter what you do. It doesn't mean anything that I have ownership of such a device.

  15. Andy Non

    I'm increasingly ambivalent about technology.

    We've got a DAB radio in the kitchen and while I can't tell any difference in the audio quality to FM I do like the way the radio scrolls the name of the composer and title of the music currently playing. I assume FM doesn't carry that information?

    We eventually got a "smart" TV by Sony and it is crap. By default it installs something called YouView and you need it to be able to use the ITV hub etc. However, it blocks recording (to USB device) of all programs on Freeview. As we tend to record everything and cut out the ads, we've had to disable YouView but the TV can no longer view any TV programs via the internet. So we've had to buy a NowTV box to make the so called smart TV actually smart; because without it, it was as smart as a pile of rocks. It is also as buggy as hell and needs the occasional full power off reboot to get it working again properly.

    I gave up on Windows long ago due to the crappy UI, spyware and bloat and use Linux Mint exclusively. Don't miss windows at all. I've still got an Android tablet but haven't turned it on for a couple of years.

    My Android smartphone just died and I've replaced it with the very latest in 2G technology... a Doro feature flip phone. So far I don't miss any of the bloat on the android, the poor battery life and I almost never used the android phone to browse the internet anyway, the screen size wasn't conducive to comfortable browsing.

    As for the IoT, not a hope in hell I will ever want an internet connected fridge, kettle, door looks or anything else IoT for that matter. IoT is a solution looking for a none existent problem to solve.

    If anything, I'm generally finding newer technology and the latest greatest gadgets over hyped and not as useful as some lead you to believe. Now get off my lawn.

    1. Gerry 3
      Boffin

      Re: I'm increasingly ambivalent about technology.

      FM does carry Now Playing info, assuming the station can be bothered to implement it. It's called Radiotext.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm increasingly ambivalent about technology.

      IoT is there for a reason. To track and monitor things, animals and other objects today, humans in the future. I don't want smart anything at home either. No need for it.

      Only the lazy will take on all these new innovations, even things like Google Home and Amazon's Alexia. Again, not for me thank you.

  16. jonfr

    Matter of frequency and transmission power

    Poor DAB coverage is down to two things. Frequency used (VHF-III/Band III) and transmitter power. According to this website the transmission power used for DAB is tiny. Its so little that it's considerable good if people get anything on their radios. There is also information about FM transmitters on this website, they broadcast at much higher power.

    https://www.ukwtv.de/cms/grossbritannien-dab/london-dab.html

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Matter of frequency and transmission power

      There is also information about FM transmitters on this website, they broadcast at much higher power.

      They don't really. Transmitter power is generally quoted as peak power. An analogue signal is very variable, rarely hitting the peak, but the nature of a digital signal is that it tends to run at peak all the time. The average power is much the same in both cases, and that's what matters. You'll see the same for TV stations, digital stations seem to have lower power output than analogue, but it's not the case in practice, and coverage is pretty similar.

  17. dogcatcher

    What's DAB?

    In the part of Scotland where I spend some time there is no DAB signal, nor a terrestrial TV signal for that matter and the mobile phone signal disappears more often than not. And no, there is no public phone box since BT took it away because no-one used it - because BT never emptied it so you couldn't get any more money into it.

  18. The Pi Man

    Pips

    Have they fixed the pips on DAB yet? I reckon cars will be quite a big blocker on shutting down analogue transmissions. My 8 year old car doesn’t have DAB and I’ve no intention of getting rid of it any time soon. I do think that car manufacturers have missed a trick in offering upgrades, the aftermarket alternatives all look a bit crap.

    1. Jan 0

      Re: Pips

      There is no way to "fix the pips". It becomes obvious, when you have more than one DAB radio, that there is no standard for the delay introduced when the signal is decoded and reassembled. The Pips could be broadcast a few seconds in advance, but manufacturers would have to agree to introduce a standardised delay on all broadcasts. As I walk through my house all the FM radios are nicely in sync. I find NTP a lot more useful than "the pips". Does anybody need to use "the pips"?

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Pips

        Does anybody need to use "the pips"?

        Gladys Knight would be lost without them

  19. 10forcash Bronze badge

    DAB is the IPv6 of radio

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only advantage I find with DAB is the Classic FM current track title display. Unfortunately - often it annoyingly just says to look at their web site for the play list.

    As the title text is so short - why can't they also do that on the text subchannel on their FM transmissions?

    Several times this week two of the three Sony DAB radios have had serious drop-outs on all stations. Switching them to FM has been fine - no sign of any interference. The bedroom one is usually on FM anyway - as in DAB mode it automatically switches on a cooling fan that is irritating when listening at low volume in the middle of the night.

  21. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Analogue radio continues...

    "Analogue radio continues to be resilient: a third of households don't have a digital radio"

    And probably all of them have more analogue radios than DAB radios.

  22. peter_dtm

    DAB no thanks

    I stream Planet Rock via my phone into the car.

    Apart from the variable time delay, the quality is outrageously better than the barely separated DAB “stereo”

    Coverage is different, but about 50% of the time streaming doesn’t work, neither does DAB. But streaming works more places than DAB (round the East Midlands, up to Manchester, down to north coast Cornwell & lots of places in between)

    Streaming gives me best audio by far, followed by FM. DAB works about as badly as AM stereo or ShortWave, in short for anything above talk it’s pretty poor.

    As noted above, some idiots were allowed to impose the very worst DAB solution on the UK, just skip DAB and stream, DAB was wrong technology even when it was first implemented

    1. Gerry 3
      Unhappy

      Planet Rock is MONO !

      Planet Rock is Mono, in common with many other UK stations that use plain DAB rather than the modern(ish) DAB+ standard used almost everywhere else.

  23. ThatOne Silver badge

    Less is less

    Digital radio could had been nice, except that corporate greed dictates to dial up compression as high as possible (to squeeze more channels in), usually resulting in audio quality one can only qualify as appalling. No wonder FM sounds better, even in a noisy environment like a car...

    I definitely won't bother buying a DAB radio, FM is good enough for me...

  24. silks

    FM All The Way

    DAB - power hungry, inconsistent sound quality, expensive hardware.

    FM - good signal all over UK, one AA battery/cell powers a small radio for weeks/months with great sound quality and no processing delay. Simple, cheap and effective!

  25. silks

    Skip DAB - FM & Internet Streaming Rock!

    FM - good (enough) sound quality, power efficient, cheap ubiquitous hardware.

    Internet radio streaming - PC, mobile, 4G etc.

    DAB - not so sure why we need it. The technology has been leapfrogged by internet streaming leaving it stranded in an unwanted middle ground. It's FM (or even AM/MW) or internet streaming for me - DAB like the Lib Dems just got lost in the middle ground somewhere...

  26. Vulture@C64

    I still use a 1970s ITT Palomino radio, for FM and occasionally long wave. The sound is relaxed mellow and many radio 4 shows sound as if the presenter is in the room. There is very little compression and it's a lovely way to listen.

    I also have a hi-fi system with a Denon analogue tuner from about 1997 or so which is even better feeding into a Naim amplifier and Mission speakers from the same period. Natural, warm and open - very relaxing and even encourages a little Radio 3 listening.

    I've tried DAB on small and larger systems and it sounds very nasal and compressed, there are some odd interference sounds and overall it's not pleasant. I've got it in the car but it's still like listening through a cardboard tube. Didn't know about DAB+ . . . maybe that's where some of my channels have gone !

  27. Mark Lawson

    The other issue with DAB (possibly other digital radio systems too) is that since all models process the digital signal at their own rate based on their own hardware, multiple radios (even the same model from the same manufacturer in the same room on the same signal) will be noticeably and unpleasantly out of sync with each other. Not great for clock radios triggering at around the same time. Or walking around a house with different radios on the same station. The solution is simple - switch back to FM, better reception and everything is in sync. Oops.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB is worse than FM

    I use analogue radios in my house. They consume very little power, thus environmentally friendly. Much cheaper too. The sound quality and reliability of the signal is much better than DAB.

    I know this having tried out DAB radio. Yes there are more stations than on FM, but what matters for me is quality not quantity.

    The power consumption of the DAB sets was much greater, with a lower quality sound, and a terrible signal.

  29. Daz555

    DAB is a car crash. Awful sound quality and it seems worse than streaming radio online.

    FM is still the best way to listen to the radio.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Timbo

    I could write a book...

    ...based on some of these ill-informed comments:

    1) DAB can sound better than FM - the issue is that OFCOM have NOT licenced enough ensembles/multiplexes, and Arqiva charge a small fortune for broadcasting from their old original 405 spectrum transmitter masts.

    So, IF Arqiva dropped their prices a bit AND OFCOM allowed more multiplexes, (say 30 instead of 6) then the result would be more stations and with fewer stations per multiplex, higher quality (as most multiplexes are limited to a maximum of about 1000kbps =- so 4x 256k stations (all at about CD quality) or 8x 128k stations, etc

    2) More recent DAB chipsets can receive DAB+ as some EU countries now have DAB+ broadcasters and sell the same models in those countries (but with different firmware). PURE offers some models with either DAB or DAB/DAB+ firmware so once UK licences more DAB+ stations the PURE models can be upgraded to cope. Other brands can do the same.

    3) The Single Frequency Network, on which DAB is built, can offer a better signal than FM and with no receiving issues...BUT FM has had many more years to build up a range of repeater transmitters and cost issues have stopped Arqiva from rolling out more DAB transmitters (as they want to give money to their shareholders from whatever income they get from broadcasters, rather than increase the number of DAB transmitter sites).

    4) The power consumption issue is being dealt with as better, more effcient chipsets come to market...in the same way as happens with a lot of other electronics.

    5) Some stations left Digital One and moved over to the Sound DIgital platform, which had less national coverage than Digital One - this was a cost-saving move on behalf of Bauer Media...but they have recently increased the numbers of their transmitters so coverage has improved (but still not 100%). All you need do is to use the radio menu to so a full scan of stations...and you should find the SD multiplex, if you are in their reception area.

  32. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Mobile v desktop

    I actually create things so "working" on a mobile is futile. Most people consume so only having a mobile for everything is the cheap way out. Lots of people put everything on their mobile without ever stopping to think what might happen if it was nicked or went Kerplunk into the loo and stopped working. A stolen mobile might mean an bank account gets emptied. But, you say, "I never have more then £100 in my back account anyway". Yeah well, on payday with DD, that might not be true and if you are that close to the edge, £100 might as well be £10,000. It also doesn't relate to all of the fun you will go through with the bank to get another account. My mobile is a backup to my desktop and home internet service. Wait until you get older and squinting at that tiny little screen is a bit tougher to resolve. You will appreciate a set of 24" monitors much more. Even when my home internet is a bit slow, it's still much faster than doing the same tasks on the mobile when it's peaking.

    Having the ability to look things up online while out and about is a great thing, but looking around while out is a good thing too. If you are just going to bury your head in your mobile and make like a nice moving target, you might as well stay in and quit imperiling the front of my car.

  33. Grinning Bandicoot

    Analog vs Digital and Gelware

    Not being a resident of GB but an always interested observer of this resource and having a rather biased opinion of the digital rush thought that I might weigh in with a thought or three.

    1) Yaesu makes a series of 2-meter amateur radios that have both a digital mode and analog frequencies so one variable in an experiment is removed. Also the same antenna is used. I have noted that when operating where the characteristic noted as picket fencing the error correcting will not permit traffic but in analog the gelware computer is able to assemble the message in the traffic. That is under marginal conditions voice analog has a better opportunity of success than digital between the same stations operating together. Admittedly under goods conditions the digital provides several nice bells and whistles but mobile from a vehicle the path changes minute by minute and so goes the bells and whistles. The APRS data has shown that my location information will jump between several gateways when in marginal areas (foothills and mountains, urban canyons) while the ability to use voice analog remains more constant.

    2) We've grown up with commercial analog and its associated emphasis/de-emphasis and are used to a certain "sound" and the absence of certain non-conscious noises constitutes a flaw. Some audiophiles make the same claim in that transistor class D amps are cold and lifeless while tube (valve) amps have warm comfortable sound

    3) Again about the error correction in used with digital broadcast. Had a hobby predating my amateur radio days of TV DXing. DXing is the listening or in this case viewing of distant signals not normally received. With error correction signals deep in he noise will not be processed and therefore no fun. My best was a 1200 mile signal very dirty but was able to watch for 30 + minutes including station ID. This is now not possible and less likely with change of bands used in broadcast TV even with some of the fun SDR stuff running loose.

    Consider this stern shot: The original radio communications were digital. _... _.__ .

  34. ForthIsNotDead
    Stop

    DAB

    I dunno what you're all doing with yer DAB radios. I've got in my house and it's perfect. I've also got it in my lovely Jag and it's perfect there too. Last night I drove from Aberdeen to Durham with Radio 6 Music all the way on DAB and it was perfect. And the sound quality is great - more than good enough for a car, and easily as good as, if not better than FM.

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