back to article DAB: A very British failure

Emergency talks to save digital radio are taking place in Manchester today, the FT reports. Unloved, unviable, and often unlistenable, DAB is a technology the public clearly doesn't want; so it comes as no surprise to learn that coercion will be used to persuading the public to get on board. With DAB, we're expected to pay for …


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  1. TallPaul

    DAB radios suck

    It's sad but true. Never mind "CD quality" we're nowhere near yet having a DAB radio that works with a less than perfect aerial or one where the batteries last more than a couple of days. I've got analogue radios here where the batteries last me a for months (4 C cells) or a couple of weeks on a single AAA. They work anywhere in the house on both MW and VHF. My DAB radio works ... sort of ... when plugged into the mains and carefully positioned - it's like VHF 20 years ago.

  2. David S

    Somebody's reading Catch-22...

    I'm pretty sure I've spotted a higher-than-background level of Heller references round these parts lately...

  3. hugo tyson
    Dead Vulture

    Apparantly it's for cars

    I've never seen the point of DAB meself, since there are 10s of radio stations on Freeview, Sky, cable, &c &c as well as the innerned. One of my friends who is keen is a "don't have a TV" so very much a minority; another always says "it's for car radios" where you tend to use whatever's fitted unless you're a yoof with a Nova, sorry Corsa, so no wonder it's been ignored. RIP DAB, waste of money.

  4. OpenSauce
    Thumb Down

    Too much for too little

    The two main issues with DAB uptake as I see it are:

    1. DAB radios too expensive

    2. DAB bit rate too low, needs to be 192K or higher (VBR based say).

    Whilst DAB might be hiss free, it also sounds dead.

    Traditional FM sounds more open and alive.

    I have tested a dedicated DAB 'HiFi' tuner through a quality Hi-Fi and stations sounded worse than via TV Freeview equivalent.

    DAB+ is the way to go by the sounds of things; just do it.

    HD Freeview is already being mooted and existing Freeview boxes not compatible...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of time

    I'd rather buy a Toshiba HD DVD player than a DAB radio.

  6. William Gallafent

    Shock: commercial organisations blame their failure on somebody else.

    Main advantages of DAB for me: BBC World Service, BBC Five Live Sports Extra, and 192kb/s (sometimes, although 160kb/s is also common) BBC Radio 3. I listen at home (through Hi-Fi and on a portable) and in the car. The sound quality on all of these is very good - the first two are often 64kb/s mono, but that's fine for sports commentary or news and current affairs - it sounds a lot better to me than LW or MW!

    As for the commercial stations, I very rarely listen to them using DAB. It is even rarer for me to listen to them using FM or AM, since those I do listen to from time to time are available on DAB where I live, but not on any analogue carrier.

    So from my perspective, it would be a great shame if the fact that commercial broadcasters aren't able to extract enough money from their advertisers to cover their costs causes certain BBC channels to become unavailable to me.

    Internet radio would be a solution when at home (I already listen to some internet radio stations, but the extremely low data rate and consequent low quality of the BBC live radio streams means I use DAB for their channels), provided the quality improved, e.g. 192kb/s MP3 or better. That's no good for the car, or other mobile use, though, since I don't have sufficiently cheap high bandwidth IP connectivity there!

    When there is a replacement, which I can use at home and when on the move, and which improves the quality, I'll use it. For now, though, DAB seems to provide a unique combination of choice, quality, and mobility, which I would be sad to see disappear.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Dib Dob DAB

    What a fantastic idea...

    We "use" (steal) lots and lots of "public money" (donations, tax payments and the like)... re-routed from silly crap like hospitals and schools to fund the development of a technology that is bearly up-to-date. Then we take even more of that money (lets nick it from the science research and astronomical physics funding this time) to advertise the unwanted media, more money (ooo lemmi see, how about cancer research next?) to help with the switchover knowing only too well that before long we will have to rob the infant support groups to be able to afford to buy the whole shebang up so that it can be managed by the only competent people around (AKA the government of course) and maintain it with money gleened from pensions until it finally starts to make a profit at which point we can sell it off to the general public who never wanted the f**king sh*te in the first place...AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!! wibble...

    ...£66.5 million per Eurofighter plane... wibble...

    ...closing whole hospitals to save a couple of million... wibble...

    ...can't f**king sit down without the f**king Health&Safety c**ts wanting to see my licence to be anally rested.

    Yeh - 3 f**king cheers for "Great" Britain ... home of hopelessness, capitol of chaos, the universe's centre for unhinged thinking.

  8. William Gallafent

    @ OpenSauce

    Bitrates on Freeview are indeed higher than those on DAB ... hence the better sound quality.

    Question: does one need a TV licence to listen to radio stations only using a Freeview receiver?

  9. William Gallafent

    @ OpenSauce

    Oh yes, one can easily buy a portable DAB radio for £30-£40, or a separates tuner for £70, which doesn't seem very expensive to me! (For some reason the separates tuner has gone up in price - they were £40 when I bought mine!)

  10. John Sims
    Dead Vulture

    Too expensive

    DAB radios have been too highly priced for far too long. I know quite a few people who would like one but to their credit they're stubborn enough not to pay more than they think a DAB radio is worth.

  11. Ralph B

    Rumours of DAB Death Exaggerated?

    My aged Mum loves her DAB radio. At least 5 sets in the house already. Sister-in-the-sticks can't get it and wants switchover to happen tomorrow.

    I see no failure.

  12. stuntman
    Black Helicopters

    Its like digi tele all over again.

    On my analogue tele when the signal drops I get a little snow and some white noise overlay. with digi, i get ear splitting cracks and pops and an artifact-y frozen display.

    same with dab, less the picture.

    Surely we can use the overblown/madeup climate change meme for a decent, profit killing purpose for a change - and kill DAB on the basis that it uses much more energy??

    Sorry I forgot - climate change is only for extracting taxes and creating spurious new markets for corporate pigs to feed! my mistake.

  13. Ash


    Only thing I have listened to on the radio recently is Jeremey Vine on Radio 2, and that's only 1pm on Friday when Martin Lewis aka Money Saving Expert comes on.

    Not a shameless plug, but statement of fact. Radio is boring programs and sensationalist news when I don't want it; i'd rather plug in my MP3 player and listen to music I like.

    Completely illegally filled with music, by the way, because I can't rip songs and use them on another device. Sodding bullshit laws...

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  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Dib Dob DAB

    ...whatever figurs you want to work with, they pale into insignificance with the 100 billion pounds in hock to Northern Rock...

  16. Andy Silver badge
    Gates Halo

    The funny thing is...

    Out in the wilds of East Anglia, where radio masts are sparsely spread and reception is consequently poor for analogue stations, DAB is a godsend.

    Our little DAB radio gives crackingly reliable reception and good clear sound. Unlike the hissy stuff we get from our FM radios (both in house and car), our DAB set locks on and stays locked on despite occasionally difficult conditions.

    So far the alternative way of providing reliable reception and a larger number of stations would appear to be IP radio. Where I can buy my IP radio from for a sensible price? Can I also get one to fit in my hover-car?

    Bill G because he must be feeling skint.

  17. Martin Lyne

    British failure?

    Erm. Didn't the same thing happen in Germany not a week or two ago?

    Perhaps more people would use DAB if it were actually demonstrated. Or incentivised. Or if people knew they could listen to it through their freeview box (they are DAB right?).

  18. Mage Silver badge


    Not just for Movies.

    Cheap chip set

    Low power


    In some phones

    superior codec gives much higher quality for same spectrum

    Scrap DAB and change to DVB-h for radio.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Eco angle?

    Using a DAB box or freeview through your telly or your whole computer just to listen to the radio surely must fly against the current climate of using less energy.

    An analogue radio will last for ages on small batteries so must be a more environmentally sound option than having to plug in large amounts of electrical equipment.

  20. Mark
    Gates Horns

    What a load of nonsense.

    DAB is not only about quality of broadcast sound (which I would class as adequete and onpar with FM). It's about CHOICE..

    Planet Rock, my radio station of choice is the only national station playing the music that shaped our country (Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, Who, Pistols, Clash and soforth).

    Whilst I can indeed listen to it on freeview/freesat, and occasionally do, I cant take my freview box to work, nor in the car...

    It's imperitive that DAB survives, OR the FM licence is opened up to more stations. WHy can I pickup 4 different frequencies with Radio 4, another 3 with Radio 2, and several frequencies all broadcasting the same BBC Radio 1 service?

    Why, when I go to the states, can they pack their FM frequency with loads of different stations.

    Why when I go to the states, there is none of this nonsense with Sirius, it just works.

    Would I be prepared to pay for a monthly Sirius licence in Europe, dam right I would...

  21. Snake Plissken
    Paris Hilton

    Work for commercial radio do you?


    When given the choice, people prefer listening to real people, rather than the patronising "local" voice of the BBC.


    I think you'll find you are wrong. Local BBC might be patronising, but at least it is local. How much of local commercial radio is streamed out from the same buildings in areas of the UK completely unrelated to their community? How much is just networked playlists? The only time local stations feature local content is during the adverts.


    The BBC receives a large public subsidy (£800m) for creating its DAB stations, and doesn't have to show a commercial return while it builds up these digital audiences. And incredibly, when commercial operators win a bid for a license, they have to hand the "penthouse suite" - the portion of the multiplex with the best audio capability - to the BBC. Who'd be a commercial digital operator, with these constraints?


    Or, to put it another way - the BBC has to build up the audience before a commercial station will decide to try and steal it away. And they can't even try to steal it for free! The barstewards!

    Paris - because she built up an audience with digital content

  22. Neil Hoskins

    HiFi Buffs

    They needed to get the HiFi buffs on-board telling the rest of us how wonderful it was at the start. Unfortunately, the bit-rates that were perfectly adequate for 99% of the population weren't good enough for the HiFi buffs, who've been slagging it off and whining and sulking ever since. Also, unless you live in London there's no local content.

  23. hugo tyson

    DAB radios suck

    Retraction: One of my friends whom I said was keen and doesn't have a TV is no longer keen on DAB, in fact he says "DAB radios suck" in this very forum. He still doesn't have a TV though.

  24. Tim Lake

    Only just got one :(

    My girlfriend just got me a nice little DAB for £25 which is great. I loved listening to The Jazz but it's being shut down. Planet Rock is great but it's being shut down and now, the whole damn thing might be killed off?!

    If DAB radios had been available for the money we paid for mine about 1 year or so agao, uptake would have been much higher.

  25. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    What's the point?

    Since we aren't allowed to record the CD quality music, and since the DJ's microphone *isn't* CD-quality, what's the point of having a CD-quality pathway to my ears? FM is good enough. (DAB may have more channels, but surely we all know by know that this doesn't mean better programmes. It's only *advertisers* who want more channels. Broadcasters and listeners alike want *fewer*.)

    Rather than fork out for a DAB radio, I'm much more likely to fork out for a cheap PC-like appliance that I can plug into my home network and point at the "Listen Again" section of the BBC web-site. I get adequate sound quality and my own choice of programme.

  26. Chad H.


    the reason it failed is simple:

    1) to get the early adopters, you need some sort of premium product so we can feel smug: broadband had faster net, etc

    2) to get everyone else, you need a critical mass of early adopters to build a solid foundation with somethig to aspire to, and somethig else... Freeview had the DSO.

    So, the solution? Upgrade the bandwith per channel to get the music freaks, and begin a RDSO.

  27. JasonW

    Only just got ½DAB here...

    Funny that I'm living in Scotland, receiving DAB from a Scottish transmitter yet I can't get BBC Radio Scotland on DAB. Because it's not broadcast from my transmitter - no commercial multiplex (for the non-commercial BBC to offer it's service on), and according to OFCOM no application for one either.

    Sound quality is crappy (compared to FM) thanks to the high compression, many stereo stations are mono or some hideous cobbled-together-bollocks-trying-to-pretend-to-be-stereo-but-failing.

    Net radio might be an answer when not on the move, but certainly not for on the move (then again since the DAB coverage map here looks like Rab C Nesbit's vest nor is DAB).

  28. David Gosnell

    If it wasn't for DAB...

    ... we wouldn't, nay, couldn't listen to the radio. Absolutely dire FM reception here in geographically-challenged Farnham. DAB's not 100%, but it is vastly better than FM - and some of the multiplexes (e.g. the one with Virgin and Classic FM) have excellent signal strength. FM was comparatively a load of mush, on about the half dozen stations the average hi-fi tuner could pick up in the first place.

    DAB's been badly marketed, pushed towards yummy mummies, snobs in general and minor-league sports fans. With no threat of an analogue switch-off, there's been no need for anything more coordinated and wide-reaching. With no need for commitment to the format, it's hardly surprising how (for example) bit-rates are economised, leading to the apathetic situation we're in now.

  29. Dominic Tristram
    Thumb Down


    Obviously most of us only have evidence from our everyday lives, but pretty much everyone I know owns or listens to DAB radios. The reception, here in Bath at least (where we can't even get Channel 5) is much better than FM, as is the choice.

    I must admit that I don't care about commercial radio as it's almost universally awful, and while things like Radio 4 are indeed on FM, reception on DAB is so much better... plus I can see what's on thanks to the display. DAB sets are also just as cheap as FM ones (a quick check on Dixons' site just now found one at 25 quid). We don't all want Freeview, Sky or whatever, especially in every room in the house.

    People do like to moan. DAB is here to stay - can you imagine the fuss if they stopped broadcasting it? This whole 'debate' is pointless.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    regarding "£100 million" (and that's just for starters) for Northern Rock... yes - I was just working up to that when my bowls let go.

    regarding "does one need a TV licence to listen to radio stations "... yes, one needs a TV licence if one owns any device that is capable of receiving television transmissions, regardless of the amount you watch or what channel you are tuned to.

    The only instances I have heard of where people have got away with it are a friend of mine a number of years back who could adequately prove that he was incapable of receiving anything BUT channel 4 (and thus could not be expected to subsidise the BBC)... and myself, who has had the nice TV people send numerous threatening letters and then finally the detector van came round and a nice man announced that he had come to check... he found that the front room has soooooo much computer in it that I couldn't possibly be harbouring a TV too and promised not to sully my doorstep for the next 3 years.

  31. Alex Threlfall

    Car Radios

    I'm told Ford will be making the jump to DAB in new cars soon, which should act as a further catalyst for the digital switch - IMHO that's where most people listen to Radio normally outside of the workplace. One of the best DAB channels is best suited for the Car - Traffic, run by the Highways Agency - it's a god-send when you're stuck in a traffic jam for no apparent reason on the motorway, because they actually tell you what's going on!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    <3 Dab

    I love my DAB set. No telly in the house, so the radio keeps me entertained. Radios 3 & 4, BBC 7, 5 Live Sports Extra - nothing else is needed.

  33. James Dunmore

    DAB Good, but won't last... RAJAR Rubbish !

    I find it hard to believe any figures when it comes to radio - has anyone seem how RAJAR calculates is figures - a shockingly bad way of doing it (I know it is wikipedia, but it's interesting... )

    Anyway - I have a DAB radio and love it - 5Live much clearer than AM, etc. However, I can't see DAB lasting... as the article mentions, many homes have WiFi and it makes more sense to build a radio set capable of picking up internet radio stations (and how much more potential does that have !! timeshifted playback, etc, etc.))... the only problem outstanding is getting Internet Radio's into cars, where to be fair, a large majority of radio listeners exist.

    Currently DAB take up for cars has been rubbish, but I'm sure with all these 3G networks, it won't be long until we can get Internet radio streaming to the car

  34. Luther Blissett

    Guess what Ofcom stands for

    At Ofcom do they think the "com" is really communitarianism, or communism, to enforce democracy? Hence no DAB+ before DAB, as that would be elitist. In the same way that multiplexing the sound quality out of DAB was democratic. (Funny how few other countries thought like that).

    I suspect if someone invented a way of transmitting radio directly into the brain, the BBC would still be over you and them like a rat up a...

  35. JCL
    Thumb Up

    Great stuff

    I've no problem with DAB if it helps others out in the sticks to get more stations. I know the stations do sound a bit dead, but the quality is fine for me, esp as I've been used to rubbish analogue quality. I don't listen to commercial stations because the "clever" adverts with stupid voices get on my nerves, so BBC it is. Now, getting a few foreign channels that are only available over the internet would be great (a bit like XM do in Canada).

    As said before, the receivers are getting a lot cheaper, and some of them are even styled in a way that you don't want to leave them hidden in a cupboard - what WAS that with the retro 50s styling? I only wish I could recognise a few more of the brands.

    Not a failure in my book.

  36. Jared Earle

    Radio 6

    We love DAB purely for Radio 6.

    ps. I thought it used MPEG-1 Layer 2, not MPEG-2. Big difference.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Nationalize Planet Rock!

    If they can save Nothern Rock my nationalization then why not the same for Planet Rock!

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  39. Rob Beard

    DAB costs so much to broadcast!

    I think (at least how I understand it) that part of the reason a couple of the GCap DAB stations were canned (Planet Rock, Core, that Jazz station) was because it costs so much to broadcast on DAB.

    At least broadcasting over the web pretty much only requires an encoder at the station, some bandwidth, and maybe the occasional reboot when it all falls over.

    I was a bit disappointed to hear about the closure of Planet Rock, I regularly tuned into it when driving between sites for work and they often had Pink Floyd on (and other good rock music). I liked their jingles too :-)

    I've also recently invested in a DAB radio. At least I can now listen to my local radio stations, as I couldn't pick them up before apart from listening online.


  40. Peter

    DAB didn't work for us...

    I bought one for the other half to wake up to. Alarm clock + perfectly tuned radio. Had to take it back for a refund.

    1/ You couldn't set the thing to any other than the (automatically) correct time. Other half has this weird way of setting her alarm so it shows and goes off 1 hour early - then she is really properly awake in time to get up (Yes I know, but works for her though!)

    2/ The DAB is out of sync with AM or FM so you need to upgrade all (3 at least in our house) the receivers otherwise they sound awful. And the signal heard via freeview is yet again at another timing.

    Why the hell can't the techies get the chimes of big ben to go off at the same time? They all originate at the same time!


  41. Hate2Register

    That's all bollocks.. DAB is great.

    DAB is much better than that crappy old analog, even my mum agrees. You guys are living in the past. Yeh maybe we could phase out analog, or force radio manufacturers to make new models compatible with both.

    Even if DAB is not quite CD quality - I can't tell the difference, and it makes old analog radios look really shite.

    Price is a consideration. So all new radios should support DAB, or both, so that the price differnential is reduced. DAB radios should also be made cheaper. Maybe the government can subsidise DABs until all the Luddites have them. On this technology topic all you guys are acting like my grandmother's chihuahua: Fru-fru. Hi Fru-fru!

  42. Hywel Thomas

    It's all Ford's fault

    I reckon the biggest problem is that they were never installed by car manufacturers. This is the only place a lot of people listen to the radio. For people who want alternative stations, 6Music, say, they they're pretty likely to have Sky/Cable, so don't need a player at home. Radio 4 types are unlikely to upgrade until their radio breaks, and radios don't often break.

    Kids would rather spend the money on alcopops and mobile phones.

    If they're going to pull the plug on it, then they need to do it sooner rather than later. The longer they leave it, the more DAB set owners will be pissed off.

  43. Mike Banahan

    Planet Rock

    I notice a couple of posters citing Planet Rock as a reason for listening to DAB - and I'd agree, but the bad news is that's one of the ones that didn't get enough listeners and is about to be chopped.

    WTF did the BBC choose to transmit its crown jewel comedy material (Radio 7) in mono? Beyond belief.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Low income families..

    Am I the only one who is fed up with being screwed over by this damn government while 'low income families' - aka labour core voters - are subsidised by my bloody taxes?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @William Gallafent

    No, you only need a TV licence to view pictures. If you've connected your Freeview box to a device with no video (say a hifi) then no TV licence is required.

  46. Morely Dotes


    The only time I listen to *any* radio of any kind is when I am in the car - and a good 99% of that time, I am listening to podcasts and CDs full of music MP3s.

    Of course, I don't have to pay a fee to listen to the radio, either. If I did, I wouldn't own a radio.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    shoutcast and streamtuner, much better

    shoutcast and streamtuner, much better

    I’ve got two DAB radios and I don’t use them a lot. Used to listen to planet Rock then they uped the adverts and I switched off. DAB is rubbish. I use shoutcast now and streamtuner, much better.

  48. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    The easy way to convert people to DAB

    All the BBC has to do is to *deny* rumours that 'The Archers' is moving to DAB only broadcasts. All of middle England will immediately rush out and buy the receivers...


    (and another reason it hasn't been taken up - car radios with it intelligently integrated with FM are somewhat thin on the ground... e.g. 'oh look, the radio 4 multiplex has dropped off, I'll switch to R4 on FM instead' rather than the depressingly common 'oh, he's listening to news/speech type programming, hmm, what have we got that's similar?')

  49. Paul

    @Ken Hagan

    I use one of those MP3 player FM transmitters to send "listen again" streams from my computer to an FM radio. Also good for listening to digital only stations on freeview. It's probably not what the architects of the new digital age had in mind though.

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  51. David Haworth

    Never mind the quallity ...

    If digital radio in Blighty is as poor as the terrestrial digital TV over here (Germany) then I'm not surprised nobody wants it.

  52. Paul

    Far too soon for an analogue radio switch-off

    "in the same way that as has happened in aiding the switch-over to digital television,"

    Except *that* endeavour was helped along by existing momentum: a lot of households had already taken up digital satellite or cable TV for the extra channels, sports (live footie on Sky only being a major driver), movies etc. long before the whole idea of switching off the analogue signal ever came into being. There were compelling reasons to switch, and people did, without being forced to.

    Catching the remainder with Freeview boxes, and several years to get them into homes, wasn't going to be a huge problem.

    There's also the issue of totally obsoleting every existing analogue receiver, including the one that might be very heavily integrated into your car. With the digital TV switchover, your existing TV could work with a digital set top box even if it was a 625-line black and white set you bought in 1964 to watch BBC2 on. Not so with the move to DAB, where fully functioning AM/FM receivers would become elaborate doorstops.

    "Oh yes, one can easily buy a portable DAB radio for £30-£40, or a separates tuner for £70, which doesn't seem very expensive to me!"

    Well good for you. Try telling a pensioner who can barely afford to turn the heating up above "hypothermia" that they'll have to stump up 30 quid just so they can continue to listen to The Archers. There are enough people who can't justify, or even afford, to replace just one receiver with a DAB unit at those prices to prevent it from taking off.

    Takeup of DAB needs to increase by many orders of magnitude before the analogue signal can even be scheduled for switch-off.

  53. Phil Endecott

    What's the truth about in-car reception?

    I thought that the "killer feature" of DAB was for in-car use: there would be no need to re-tune during long journeys because of the single freqency multiplex magic, and the spread-spectrum technique would improve reception in sunken country lanes. So, either the supposed problems with FM were never serious in the first place, or they've been solved by some other technology in the meantime, or the consumers don't care. Does anyone know which it is?

    It's a shame that the radios on the market have not done more with recording. There are a few with pause and rewind, but none that let you press a button to automatically record the next episode of something that you've been listening to. Nor, as far as I've seen, can they tell you what's on on other channels (like analogue TV's 606 "now and next" teletext page). Surely that's just a small matter of software?

  54. tim
    Thumb Up

    DAB's great

    I get really poor analogue reception. I'm based in SW London. In our kitchen I could barely get FM radio 4; in my bedroom i loose the signal as I move around the room (and I'm not that fat that I block bbc radio). Using my Nokia phone as an FM radio is patchy but okay, until i get on a train: as soon as the train doors close I loose the signal.

    DAB solves all that. I get excellent, clear audio. No messing around trying to tune in stations. I have now have 3 dab radios, one of them portable. An they're great.

  55. Nomen Publicus
    Dead Vulture

    the birdsong channel

    I occasionally scan the non-BBC DAB services but find that they are universally repetitive rubbish. You just can't push out the old short play list programming style when the computer can provide you with thousands of better music sources.

    Old media can't make DAB work, because they don't understand that the market has changed. Me Too programming doesn't work any more.

    One good result however, the birdsong channel is back! Ten minutes of birdsong is very relaxing.

  56. Steve Green

    DAB is the luddites' choice

    Some facts for the luddites to ponder regarding DAB:

    DAB was designed in the late 1980s, and the DAB system we're using in the UK is still using exactly the same technologies that were chosen for it in the late 1980s.

    The audio codec used is MP2 (MPEG Layer 2), which is meant to be used at 192 kbps or higher but 98% of stations in the UK on DAB use it at 128 kbps. For comparison purposes, the BBC uses MP2 at 256 kbps for its BBC 1, 2, 3, 4 TV channels, and yet it only sees fit to use 128 kbps for its music stations apart from Radio 3.

    The (convolutional) error correction coding is extremely weak, which is why so many people suffer from "bubbling mud".

    The AAC audio codec was standardised in 1997, which was 5 years before DAB was properly launched in 2002, and Reed-Solomon error correction coding was invented in 1960 and is used as the error correctino coding on CDs. If these two technologies had been adopted as part of an upgrade of the system prior to DAB being properly launched in 2002 we wouldn't have a problem with sound quality on DAB and those that suffer from poor reception quality would receive a far more robust signal for the same transmitter power levels that are used at the moment.

    DAB+ has now adopted AAC+, which is a slightly more efficient version of AAC, and it has adopted Reed-Solomon coding, so it does now solve DAB's technological problems.

    The reason why DAB+ was designed was that country after country was refusing to use DAB, and if DAB wasn't upgraded then the UK, Denmark and Norway would become stranded as being the only countries using the old DAB system, and everyone else would adopt one of the mobile TV systems to carry digital radio instead, like France just has.

    Just to show exactly how incompetent a decision it was to adopt DAB without upgrading it first, consider that AM radio has been around since the 1920s and FM was first broadcast in the 1940s, and they're still both being used today, and yet just THREE YEARS after DAB was properly launched in the UK WorldDAB decided that it had to design DAB+ in October 2005. How ridiculous can you get? And FM provides higher audio quality than DAB!!

    And as the excellent article comments, Ofcom only applies it "light-touch" regulation remit when it suits its own agenda to do so, and in the example of DAB+ it's stopped Channel 4 from using DAB+ for some unknown reason. Oh, hold on, Ofcom's Director of Radio, Peter Davies, was part of the "strategy" team at the BBC that made the fateful decision to use the 1980s version of DAB, so our hallowed regulator seems to have a massive personal vested interest in this issue.

    As the article also suggested, the future of digital radio is on the Internet, and DAB will become the choice of the luddites and technophobes ONLY. Well, perhaps a few other people without any sense may also use them.

    GCap Media, the UK's largest commercial radio group, has been running 128 kbps WMA streams for all of its stations since January last year, and there are around 5,700 streams on alone that are using bit rate levels of 128 kbps or above with the MP3 or AAC+ audio codecs, which are far superior to MP2, as is WMA, and hence all of these statinos provide far higher quality than DAB provides.

    The BBC has been trialing multicast for live streams for a number of years, and it will apparently be launching it this year. The bit rate levels are also between 128 kbps and 192 kbps, with modern audio codecs, so again teh audio quality will be far higher than DAB provides.

    By the time of the London Olympics, apparently we'll see a dozen or more HDTV streams of different sporting events delivered via multicast, and as HD uses bit rate of 10 Mbps+, the bit rates of radio stations using multicast can obviously be far higher than teh current 128k to 192k.

    As I say, DAB will be the preserve of luddites and technophobes, because why would anyone want to listen at lower quality to a narrower range of stations (all DAB stations have Internet streams) and possibly with dodgy reception quality?

    The problem with Internet radio up to now is that the BBC has been deliberately limiting the audio quality of its Internet streams, and given its massive bias towards DAB, I would say that has obviously been to help the failing DAB system. The BBC has just launched the iPlayer TV streams which are usign bit rates of 550 kbps serving up to 660,000 people per day, and yet until around September last year the BBC was only using bit rate levels of 32 kbps with the dire Real G2 audio codec for its Internet radio streams. The BBC also butchers the audio for its Internet radio streams by receiving its own stations off-air via satellite at the location where the Internet radio servers are (even though it has fat pipes to Maidenhead where the servers are located) where the audio is re-compressed to Real G2. This is terrible audio engineering practice, and combine that with the ultra-low bit rates until late last year and the use of a dire audio codec, it's no surprise that the BBC's Internet radio streams were completely unlistenable - and now the majority of the public is under the misconception that Internet radio provides low audio quality, so job done by the BBC.

    However, the BBC can only go so long before it becomes so much of a laughing stock that it will be forced to provide good quality - multicast is an obvious example where it will be inevitable that the BBC will provide high quality Internet radio streams.

  57. Mike
    Thumb Down


    I got 2 problems with DAB

    a) the radios are mostly ugly (retro possibly)

    b) the idea of digital clarity in a noisy atmosphere (hello car makers, or it could be what I driver) is ridiculous.

    I see a video over mobile phone moment arriving

  58. Mark Cathcart

    @mark "there is none of this nonsense with Sirius"

    Perhaps because it is satellite. The US is having its own problems with take up of High Def radio, aka DAB.

  59. Mark Cathcart


    I do the same thing to broadcast BBC London around the house here in Austin TX and pick it up quite reasonably with two FM sets, PC picks up over the net using RealPlayer, headphone socket plugged into to mini-transmitter. I thought about using IP over powerlines but realised it would just use bandwidth I could use elsewhere!

    "Theres no place like home".

  60. Anonymous Coward


    If I wanted to listen to DAB sound quality I'd listen to radio in bed with a duvet over my head. It's the same problem as digital TV broadcasting in this country. Give the broadcasters the option of 256kbit/s or 96kbps for 1/3 of the cost they choose the cheap option and us poor sods are expected to put up with soggy, mushy goo. Well no, ta, having to put up with TV with sod-all detail so we can have 15 gazillion shopping channels squidged into the available airwaves is bad enough, you're not taking away my FM to fill the space with more bloody rubbish.

  61. Steve Liddle
    Thumb Down

    Waste of time

    Tend to listen to the BBC radio in the car, it is a built in unit that can't replace with a DAB, especially as it is a company car

    Internet radio for music is not an option in the car, as for mp3's 320 is most common, 192kbps minimum for offline stuff

    If the BBC stop analogue radio, then will not bother with a new radio station costing £50+ to listen to a few hours per week

  62. John

    Dab is OK the providers and licences suck

    Dab in itself is a useful construct, albeit limited by the implementation,conglomerate controls and licences. People argued about FM for years after its introduction.. however it is now the best way to receive local radio.

    Dab Stations are controlled by multiplexes which are themselves controlled by groups of conglomerate radio stations, ever searching for profitability.

    Licences for dab stations are very costly making it currently economically non viable.

    Why are there any commercial radio stations?

    Listeners should remember that radio stations are run for the advertisers and not the listeners, what you hear is never designed to keep you listening.. its designed to earn advertising.

    If you don't hear adverts on the station you are hearing.. its either the BBC or a spin-off of some other business that is making profit.

    OFCOM yet again are too slow to open the spectrum to low budget broadcasting.. when will they learn that radio is not a huge money spinner and if stations were allowed to make *product*.. (because that's what you hear when you tune in) that does not have to make thousands of pounds an hour. So we can have something worth listening to where ever we are in the country..then DAB has a chance.

    Maybe the threat of closing down DAB will shake them up.. there is always hope.. but there is also always OFCOM.. so maybe not.

  63. Digital Freedom

    They really messed up DAB

    DAB has been doomed from the beginning, it uses ancient coding techniques and has error correction problems and the bandwidth is so limited stations are reverting to mono... come on, that is ridiculous.

    If they used some brain cells they could have used something like IP based transmission, then it could be added to and modded over the years to accomodate emerging new devices, perhaps radios with 6 inch LCD screens that show the album covers, or the DJ in the studio, need i mention it, even visual advertising to keep the music flowing....

    Dont complain because years ago nobody believed everyone would have a COLOUR screen on their mobile and a camera... that was surreal so this suddenly isnt that hard to believe!!! The biz word is future proofing by upgradability.

    If only they used IP based they could software-update the codecs, implement direct downloads into the radio's internal memory (ie podcasts that auto-download in the background and are playable anytime the user wishes..)

    If DAB had the optional screen on the radio the ideas are endless, weather pictures, scrolling songwords, news bulletins, radio station phone numbers shown, radio+tv guide, anecdotal entertainment,

    What a balls up of an opportunity id say........ Its not rocket science you know.

    Roll on DVB-H if this can do the above ???

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Try listening to FM in London

    One of the reasons we went over to DAB (two Pure Tempus - lovely sound, lovely reception, just lovely all over) is that if you try and listen to Radio 3 or Radio 4 in London you get loads of pirate stations.

    The sound quality is perfect compared to whatever phat beats comin' outta Stockwell when I want I believe the BBC calls "Intelligent Speech" rather than the revolting prolefeed that come out of commercial radio. Yes I know far to middle class. Whatevah capital listenah...

  65. Rich

    Planet Rock is the worst radio station in the world

    Here in NZ we get this on the work stereo as a result of the somewhat middle-aged office consensus. That and Radio Hauraki.

    Unfortunately, wanting music I haven't heard before puts me in a minority. Another reason to work from home.

  66. LeBeourfCurtaine

    British Leyland styling

    Aside from the bemusingly high price - despite DAB having been around for yonks - I'm put off by the appallingly awful look of, ah hell, every DAB radio I've encountered so far. Who, aside from the most ardent Next acolyte, wants a beech effect box sitting pride of place in their living room? ...with one speaker as standard?! What is that all about? Fortunately, I have the internet and *cough* Sky access to digital radio. Now what did I come in here for....?

    Oh, um, image chosen as "searching for Data's off-switch".

  67. Timbo

    What OFCOM should do FAST !!

    Instead of faffing around, OFCOM need to grab the bull by the horns and sort themselves out !!

    The biggest issue has been the reluctance of the Radio Authority (as was, now OFCOM) to actually license enough multiplexes, so that all the DAB radio stations could have transmitted at 192kb or 256kb....

    But instead, they held onto the licenses and forced teh radio stations to submit to having a wide chaoice of stations on each mutliplex.

    And as each multiplex has a capacity limit of approx 1Mb, so this meant each station was given less bandwidth than it should have had (for CD quality sound) - the exception being Radio 3, which has been at 192kb all the time, (coz otherwise, the blue rinse brigade would be up in arms....and we don't want to upset them, do we ????)

    The best solution would be for OFCOM to relent and to give each existing multiplex operator a license to have a 2nd multiplex frequency. This would then allow radio stations to broadcast at higher quality....

    Then the BBC could re-establish it's radio operations as the best sounding in the world.....

    and if OFCOM then stated publically that FM had a specific sell-by date, then the DAB transmitter power could then be increased so that all areas of the UK could pick a DAB signal up without needing to be living "on top" of the transmitter.

  68. This post has been deleted by its author

  69. Ian Ringrose

    Not including DABs in new cars is the problem

    Most people listen to radio in their cars, however it is very hard to buy a car with a DAB radio, as the car makers are not willing to include them (even as a option) until there is a demand in the whole of the EU. As most of the EU have not done DAB yet, it could be a long time…

    Fixing a DAB to a car is not easy, as a new aerial is often needed, anyway how many people every change their car radio?

    So if I was trying to promote DAB, I would be a tax of £100 on all new cars that had a radio that could not do DAB, then very quickly a lot more people will be able to get DAB.

  70. Roger Barrett

    Keep the DAB

    I already posted on the review article for the Pure Highway but again feel I should post again here, just because. I think one of the let downs for DAB radio has been the so slow uptake by car manufacturers to include DAB radios as standard kit. Surely 75% + of radio listening is in the car on the way/way back from work etc? Including the radios here would introduce the extra stations to every new car and push people into buying DAB for their home as well.

    I think the Pure review mentioned Ford are considering DAB as an option which is a start, but it needs to be there now, the extra cost of a DAB radio being fitted into even a basic model Fiesta would not even be noticeable would it? The three DAB radios we have are fantastic, living in slightly remote North Yorkshire, where we get 1 mobile phone provider and only if we lean out the window, we're too far from the phone exchange for a decent broadband connection and yet DAB is fantastic. Comments of poor DAB reception make me wonder where the flippin' heck you are? Ohh and just to mention it again, get along to and fill in the support page for them.

  71. Anonymous Coward

    DAB is *ugly*

    That's right. Ugly. It is not an issue of sound quality.

    It has failed so far because the market is limited to the UK so the folks who know how to make radios that sell don't want to get into the business. The numbers just aren't there for them, so instead a bunch of crappy little companies who can't afford to make moulds for plastic shells are building these boxy DAB radios with 16*2 LCD screens from Maplin and wood -- WOOD! -- all over them like something out of the bloody stone age.

    I *love* radio, I have lots of them all over the house, but I still don't have a DAB because I haven't found one thats not too damned fugly.


  72. Kieran

    Blame the audience

    The fault lies squarely with the hopeless quality of the commercial broadcasters' output.

    If you want listeners - give them compelling content to listen to. All these stations to choose from and the only things people are saying they'll miss are a couple of programmed music stations?

    This is all digital broadcasters have managed to come up with? It's pathetic.

    "Huh? We invested nothing in original programming, made no effort to produce compelling radio, and instead just trotted out cheap programming largely cobbles together to fit either a stupidly narrow 'niche demographic' (which we now claim is unsustainable because it's a niche), or to shoehorn a pre-existing brand onto the air and hope that the country is full of the kind of person who thinks "Hey, this magazine's alright - wish it had an identical radio station"...

    "... And it didn't work? We don't understand. The audience must be stupid. Why won't they just buy/listen to whatever crap we throw out there?!"

  73. Frank Bough

    Problems and solutions

    I use DAB, I have a nice little Sony DAB radio in my bedroom that wakes me in the morning and lulls me to sleep at night. Problem is that I spend most of my radio time behind the wheel (as do most), listening to FM, and DAB has been catastrophically absent from manufacturer fit in-car audio. I don't think public money should be spent encouraging Jaguar or Honda or Nissan to fit DAB but, if they don't, it will simply never find its true place. As for the DAB bitrates - these have always been woefully inadequate, maybe the stations that are now closing will provide enough extra bandwidth to finally allow DAB to put some clear blue water between itself and FM.

    I like DAB, it's such a shame it's nowhere near as good as it should be.

  74. Jon H

    I'd love to have DAB if only.... was available and any good!

    I have am up to date £400 head unit in my car, it plays DVDs on it's own widescreen display. It can output 5.1 DD and DTS. It will even play DVD Audio. It will play MP3 files on DVDs or CDs. It interfaces properly to my iPod. It will play a DVD to rear monitors while I listen to the radio up front. I can even attach an external video camera to it. It has bluetooth for the phone. But what it hasn't got is DAB!!! Why?

    Sure, you can get DAB head units for £150, but that's all they've got, no other features. Is DAB really that expensive / complicated to put into most / all head units? Or maybe they don't put it in decent head units as they know the bit rate is so poor, they don't want their fancy expensive head units sounding cheap!!!

  75. Richard Neill

    I *like* DAB

    Personally, I think DAB is great - and I have bought several of them for myself and friends. BBC7 is my newest discovery, also the World Service is now available 24 hours/day rather than just during Radio 4's night-time. And the reception is much better. Although I usually prefer national and international news, BBC Cambridge is also excellent. I gave up on Classic FM because of the irritating adverts.

    Anyway, I'm very happy with DAB (though I wouldn't mind DAB+ and some more bandwidth). I do hope that FM and AM persist for a while though, especially because to a child and beginner scientist, AM radio is hugely exciting!

  76. vincent himpe

    I don;t get it

    why do they keep pumping money in obsolete , cumbersome technology ?

    DAB was dead from the start ...

    The problem is 1) getting the infrastructure in place , 2) getting people to buy units (They were outrageously expensive.:things from Pure were like 200 euros for a stupid receiver ... or the tivoli cigarbox radio ... ) and especially 3) getting content providers to sign up and start braodcasting if you can't guarantee listeners because problems 1 and 2 ...

    We have a bunch of satellites over europe ( Astra 1 2 3 4 5 6 abcde f.... how many are there now ? 8 ? 9 ? in total ... and hotbird , also 3 or 4 ). these guys for sure have a couple of spare transponders. simply allocate 1 or 2 of these transponders. Instant full european coverage and you can easily send 100 radio channels over one of these transponders.

    Look at what XM and Sirius are doing in the USA. 200 channels. CD quality, with 4 satellites to cover the entire continent. And they are wildly popular. The recievers are cheap ( some as low as 20 $ ) and the content providers ( the broadcast stations ) were fighting to get a slot because of the potential audience.

    And it wasn't even a dramatic switch-on. They simply re-used an existing transponder in a bird that was already up there ...

    For 10 $ a month you listen to anything like

    So stop this DAB nonsense. Time to pull the plug.

  77. Glen Turner

    Subsidies for DAB when the masses want iPods. Why?

    "Price is a consideration. So all new radios should support DAB, or both, so that the price differnential is reduced."

    Oh come on, the price differential is near infinite. Analogue FM receivers are so cheap they are given away. I got one for going to a Microsoft sales event, and then another from Coca-Cola for taking my kids to little athletics. The little community radio station around the corner gives them away with their frequency printed on the radios, and it has got only 200 members.

    The only subsidy that's going to have any effect is to send a "free" DAB receiver to every house. But of course there's nobody that gets sufficient benefit from DAB to pay for that. There's a hint there, huh?

    Compare DAB with the iPod. People there see enough benefit to buy one with no government subsidy. In fact, they'll even put up with risk of the government's inept copyright legislation biting them on the behind.

    The iPod shows that people want to listen to *their* music. When they listen to DAB they either want something remarkably like what's on their iPod (and thus totally unattractive to mass market advertisers) or near-live information (such as news and current affairs). DAB falls between the stools here, with less than iPod quality, insufficient reach to build an audience attractive to advertisers (Sirius in the US is nationwide), and can't compete with major stations for talk/news radio (which has big fixed costs).

    Anyway, that's what the DAB implosion looks like writing beyond the blast zone from the safety of Australia. Noting that our Department of Communications and Other Technical Whatsits is all too keen on introducing digital radio here, using the UK as a "best-practice model". Duh!

  78. David Goldstein

    Does The Register hate Britain?

    Does The Register just hate Britain? It's funny how you report this. One of the heads of GCap was on Australian radio this week noting their strong support for digital radio, and that while they handed in two of their licences for digital radio, they also handed in 3 for FM radio. I notice The Register isn't discussing the end of FM radio. Reporting from the FT when it comes to the BBC is a dubious practice, as after all, the FT for all its wisdom is definitely anti the BBC. Much like all of Murdoch's publications.

  79. Christian Berger

    Failure? Sounds more like success!

    How can you possibly call it a failure. There are _millions_ of DAB recievers in your country. Some of the people in this comment section even have their very own DAB reciever.

    In germany, for example, DAB is virtually dead. Despite of no radio beeing transmitted on DVB-T, nobody has DAB recievers.

    As for quality, get a satellite dish. At least in Europe all german public TV stations transmit all their programmes at 320k for music, less for speech and some even in Dolby Digital. I think the BBC is doing something simmilar. But of course I am not allowed to know, living in Europe.

  80. David Shaw
    Thumb Up

    satellite radio for europe

    as I work at a sometimes european test centre for the US satellite digital audio radio service, I have been following with interest the activities of Delphi and Worldspace in europe.

    “The satellite digital radio (SDR) standard that was approved by the technical committee of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in November 2006 is the core of the technology that Worldspace is implementing in its satellite radio communication networks in Europe,” the broadcaster said.

    “It combines terrestrial repeaters and satellites and permits the most efficient use of the spectrum allocated for satellite radio (1479.5 to 1492MHz), thus maximizing digital capacity while maintaining excellent service quality, even in difficult reception environments such as urban city centers.”

    There are currently 2 Worldspace satellites in orbit, with a third in a garage in Toulouse quote "launch of its mobile service beginning in Italy in 2009. It will use MPEG-4 accPLUS v.2 technology"

    MPEG-4 High Efficiency AAC Profile @ L2, Enhanced aacPlus?, anyway you can start here to dig out details <>

    Delphi receivers hope to offer 40-50 channels within the 12.5MHz bandwidth EU SDARS. Meanwhile DAB seem to be a working system in Switzerland, but RAI in Italy trialled for a couple of years and switched everything off, there are some commercial multiplexes, but DAB market penetration is Zero. I couldn't find a DAB signal in the south of France. In Italy FM reception is *so* bad, that it's unbelievable - hardly any working national chains, Radio Monte Carlo 1 and Virgin Radio being two of the only channels that automatically allow RDS synchronisation to work. Even they peter-out in the Apennines and require the usual manual tune once per kilometer. I look forward to EU SDARS, it's great what you can stuff-inside the shark's-fin on a BMW!....that'll be sat patch up. sat in-fill vert sideways, gps, gsm, 3g, tv etcetera....

  81. Mark
    Gates Horns

    @Mike Banahan

    The Sony award winning Planet Rock has more listeners than BBC Radio 6, and has consistent listener growth.

  82. SmokeyMcPotHead

    What it all boils down to...

    So DAB is pants? Well actually I agree but only upto a point, the quality is poor, bit rates are far too low. But the reception problems mentioned have been created by the f**k up the goverment has made of the digital network as a whole. For starters Freeview is shite, the signal quality is piss poor and not strong enough, we're squeezing too many channels (many of which are crap) into not enough bandwidth. DAB of course in many cases is much the same unfortunately. The two go hand in hand, lets face it the British invented television and there are shed loads of people in this country that know how TV and Radio services should be broadcast be they digital or analogue, it's something we're good at. But add into the mix incomptent government ministers who know zip about doing things properly and who are only interested in bodging things and trying to save money in the public purse and you've got what we've got today, crap digital services all round.

    As it happens although we are in a poor reception area we do get a good DAB reception without any use of special aerials. However Freeview is shite and the only way I've make it work properly would be by re-wiring the entire house with double screened coax like Sky use and sticking in a good mast head amplifier with some decent boosters spread liberally to distribute the signal, about £100-200 worth of kit and a day or twos work.

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    The worst thing about the whole DAB screwup is that at the beginning bitrates weren't bad, i remember listening to R1 on my Psion Wavefinder (shudder) at bitrates of over 192kb.

    Then the Beeb decided we needed 19 differenet versions of Radio 5 and suddenly im listening to 128kb audio. Utter bollocks.

    And dont get me started as to why Kerrang! is broadcast in Mono (well it was the last time i bothered to switch my DAB set on).

  84. mad clarinet


    I would get a DAB radio....

    IF I could get my local stations (esp the BBC one) on DAB, until this happens I won't get one. Until that happens I'll have to stick with my FM/MW/LW/SW radio. Or the internet when I'm at work (my office is almost a Faraday Cage so the mobile doesn't worth either).

    The question should really be how much is the takeup in the parts of the country with 'full' DAB coverage (local and national).

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    have used my DAB in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Surrey, SW london, central London SW/W postcodes - all fine and dandy! on an E-V*ke-1 portable DAB with stock ariel its fine!

    i am obviously tone deaf as i find no real issues with sound quality, but maybe i am not an anal audiophile with an ariel up my ****

    Ok, so you can buy a cheap nasty FM radion for a £5, but a look in argos shos DAB being pretty cheap these days? My radio was more expsensive a few years back but the build quality was higher

    I always wondered waht became of the "advanced" featues sure has having pictures or info beamed to teh DAB sets....(or is that tv?) was that jsut a marketing myth like the "indestructable CDs" shown on Tommorrows world?

    radio of IP or wifi etc could be a goer if there was a standard plug-n-listen type device... i dont have the money for a B+O Systemt to pipe the music around the house and control it from anypoint?

    maybe sat-radio is the way to go.... spooky that the yanks got ahead of us on that technology? but then there are lots wide open spaces in their countryside - unlike the wide open spaces in out politicians and policy makers heads!

  86. Anonymous Coward

    We all need DAB because...

    CDs solved most of the problems of cassettes

    DVDs solved most of the problems of VHS

    Sky+ solved most of the problems of VHS recorders

    Digital (2G) telephones solved most of the problems of analogue mobiles

    DECT solved most of the problems of analogue cordless

    ADSL solved most of the problems of dial-up

    This version of DAB solved most of the problems of... oh wait...

    Does anyone else think that new incarnations of technology have a tough time of it because it's difficult to see the potential benefit to most consumers? Maybe currently technology seems 'good enough' and we need a really big leap in benefit to make it worth it?

  87. Matthew

    DAB is better than AM...

    We have a DAB receiver for listening to radio5live. It doesn't matter how low the bitrate is, whether it's in mono, or if there's a time lag - it is soooooo much better than AM. As long as the rugby gets broadcast on Radio5 there'll be people choosing DAB for the better sound!

    As to FM, most people think the quality is OK, and with RDS it's no harder to retune than DAB. There is no real reason to switch - unless you listen in several rooms at once and hate them being out of sync... (or set your watch on the time signal)

  88. Anonymous Coward

    I Love DAB

    We've got 3 DAB radios and they're great. There's a far greater choice of stations than on FM and once they're locked on to a channel they stay locked. None of this FM fine when you're at the cooker but fuzzy when you stand near the sink*. I don't want to have to run up my PC and stream web radio at some god awful bitrate over my wireless LAN to a media box in my kitchen just so i can listen to 6 Music. Surely that option isn't decreasing my carbon footprint.

    If DAB gets shut down I'll be gutted.

    *Oddly fire engines do seem to knock out Arrow Rock when they go past!

  89. Graham
    Dead Vulture

    So how come Andrew Orlowski wrote this story?

    Previously his byline has always been "Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco". Is El Reg offshoring its journalism to struggling ex-colonies? Has Andrew seen sense and come back to the UK? Or did he just have a really, really long holiday in the states and is now back?

    Enquiring minds want to know!

    Personally I love DAB. Local radio, whether commercial or public is really very, very bad anywhere except a large city, DAB means I get the stations I want to listen to at a decent quality (although as one of them is one of the ones GCAP is attempting to unload from its Xfm franchise I'll be interested to see what happens). Bring on the big stick and make people convert.

  90. Etienne

    The impact of replacing 100M perfectly good Radios

    If people are coerced to switch it would be interested to assess the environmental impact of replacing 100M perfectly good but made-obsolete Radios?

    Are organizations and government only concerned for the environment when it means we pay higher process or more tax, not when it gets in the way of their ramrodding.

  91. David Paul Morgan

    Not in cars because...

    ... the motor manufacturers are global, so the ICE has to work globally.

    You can't go from UK to France to Germany without having to change receiver technology!

    I have one DAB in the house and a dinky Philips portable. However, the one in the house only gets used in the bathroom. Otherwise, we listen to audio-streams (radio programmes?) via the Virgin box or listen again via the BBC.

    It is a shame that not all of the DABs have a timer-record to SD card/USB stick, so you could take your favourite shows with you and play in your Walkman-'phone.

  92. Dale
    Thumb Up

    DAB is great. At least in Reading it is.

    I've got 2 DAB radios and I've never had a problem picking up a 98% -100% signal in either room. For me DAB is worth it just for BBC 6 music alone.

  93. Ian Tunnacliffe

    Bring on the Satellites

    I didn't know that the Beeb sends out its digital streams from Maidenhead. Who says El Reg isn't educational? Thing is, I live in Maidenhead and DAB reception here is appalling (TV reception is pretty poor too. No chance of Freeview without a rooftop aerial). I have a couple of DAB sets. One is connected to an external antenna and works fine. The other is a top of the range Roberts and works on its own antenna, in one or two spots in the house. Sometimes. And it needs to be on mains power unless you own Ever Ready.

    So DAB provides a satisfactory service when tied to a fixed location. A bit like streaming IP radio. It does absolutely zero for me when I am moving between rooms, out and about, in the car or in the bathroom. Precisely the times when I most want radio.

    I recently rented a car in the States that had satellite radio fitted. It was a revelation as I cruised up I-75 in Georgia listening to the BBC World Service in crystal clear quality. I could have chosen from roughly a gazillion other stations and I did try some of them out.

    So my view to add to the debate is that DAB is a dead end. Bring on Satellite radio in Europe.

  94. Mark W

    6.5 Million people can't be wrong...

    For a format that's not been around for more than a couple of years, DAB has done pretty well. Now radio's are cheap and cheerful, and the sound quality is good enough for the masses. I agree it's not DVD Audio, but look what's happened to that - it's definitely not mass market.

    The problem here is that unless something does well immediately, it gets ditched straight away, vs a long term view. The opinions of the few (anal techies) get taken as the majority view, when it just isn't representative. As someone who used to work as a sound engineer in the recording industry, I wouldn't be considered a 'Luddite' as per Steve Green's post. In fact, the person with the narrow mind is indeed Mr Green. Look outside your little world and see the real people out there.

    For example - Freeview reception with me here in York is atrocious, and I have to use Sky to get anything apart from a snowy analogue reception, plus analogue radio reception is also dodgy, yet DAB reception is brilliant, and I get to listen to stations other than Minster FM or BBC York.

    I've recently installed a DAB head-unit in my car, and when it flicks from FM to DAB , as it tracks which signal is the stronger and switches between them, there is a noticable jump in quality for the better. For those audiophiles out there, the head unit also plays DVD-Audio at 96Khz 24bit, which is a bit overkill for car audio, but it shows it's not a limitation of the head unit itself.

    I firmly believe that the only way we're going to get DAB to be successful is to have it in the car, and get the manufacturers to install it alongside FM, much like the option is available in the states to have Sirius, for example. But with a malaise like we have about DAB (6.5 million people can't be wrong - and 1 million sold at Christmas...) it's sad that it probably won't happen. But look how long it took motor manufacturers to even put CD's in the car.

    Unfortunately us audiophiles out there are the minority - sadly the general populous don't care if it's MP2, MP3, AAC+ or whatever - that's your personal opinion - they just care that it works and it sounds 'ok'.

    Just look at how popular Sirius is in the states - I had a rental car over there with it in, and although it was quite groovy being able to listen to Radio1 time shifted, it sounds bloody awful - much like WMA at a low bitrate with the warbly echo in the background.

    So just because you don't like it / don't use it, don't be so selfish and piss on it for the rest of us.

  95. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Gordon Bennett

    If only half of the effort went in to defending DAB as has gone into these comments, it would be alive and well!! On some of the comments from others, here is what I think.

    If you cannot advance the closk, set the alarm an hour earlier (Duh!)

    DAB has DECODING delays in the receiver (listen to two different DAB radios at the same time, and hear the time signals at different times). This makes it impossible to correct by broadcasting it early. Same is true for Digital TV vs. Analog TV.

    DAB is as good as the ariel. Good ariel==strong signal==no errors or dropouts

    DAB radios have quite a lot of computing processing power, which is power hungry. I'm sure that if the person who complained about power consumption would really like to go back to listening to AM on crystal sets that can be made to work WITHOUT A BATTERY! If battery life worries you, get rechargable batteries.

    Planet Rock plays music A LOT of people like (including me). But it won't suit everybody. And listen to something other than the rock blocks. I hear new-to-me stuff all the time.

    Much of the BBC 7 content was recorded in mono (and some on acetate disks, not tape!), so stereo is not required for all of the material.

    I now notice hiss on FM much more than before I listened to DAB.

    FM and AM will never die as it is the official emergency information route for national emergencies, mearly because it needs less infrastructure to broadcast and recieve (can you imaging what the EMP from nuke would do to every satellite receiver)

    GCAP have lost the plot, and are just chasing as much money as they can get.

    There. Take that. My coat has the Roberts Robi hanging from the pocket.

  96. Alan Bish

    DAB uses too much energy

    If you look on the Specs for the Freeplay Devo wind up radio it shows that a 60 second wind will power the radio in FM mode for 1 hour but the same 60 second wind will only give you 3 - 5 minutes of DAB radio. From this it would seem that a DAB radio uses at least 12 times more energy than a standard FM radio. It seems ridiculous in this age of climate change that anybody would want to promote a technology that uses more energy when other technologies are boasting about how much less they are using.

  97. Iain

    Internet Radios FTW.

    They're a bit more expensive than DAB (£70 rather than £40), but Listen Again ISIHAC makes it worth every penny.

    But then, I can't get a DAB signal at home anyway, so that's rather academic.

  98. John Daniel
    Thumb Down

    Downloadable codecs

    DAB was technologically obsolete even before public transmissions started.

    Why the hell don't people think ahead and realise that there are ever more efficient ways of transmitting audio and video data. A downloadable codec system could have solved this. Instead we are trapped in the past with dismal quality and hapless features.

    Exactly the same applies to our "wonderful" digital TV....

  99. Tony Humphreys

    and they wonder why

    A national version of Londons local station just does not work - and even advertisers are finding that one out.

    All DAB seems to be is more of the same.

    I like the way to kill it off to, chuck the BBC and all its propaganda onto it, and leave real radio to those who do what the people want.

  100. Colin Suttie

    Audio quality isn't a technical issue, it's a monetary issue.

    The only reason we have "poor" audio quality on DAB is that the people who own the multiplexes crowbar far more stations into each multiplex than what the technology was ever supposed to support.

    The same applies to digital terrestrial telly. If it weren't for all those flippin awful unemployment TV channels (the ones selling stuff out the Argos catalogue and offering dubious opportunities to win vast amounts of money), the pictures would be far better.

    The telly issue will be helped after analogue switchoff when more spectrum will be available, I believe there are plans to add a significant number of additional multiplexes.

    As for DAB, it doesn't use the same bit of air as FM, so switching that off won't help. The band used by DAB is relatively empty (apart from in Northern Ireland where they still use it for analogue telly...I think). If OFCOM extracted the digit, and a willing operator were to come forward, I'm sure we could have bazillions of DAB stations, at good bitrates, in fairly short order.

    Mine's the anorak......

  101. Gavin Nottage
    Thumb Down

    My take

    OK, so I've skipped a lot of the comments, and this may only ever be read by some bot, as shirley everyone else will get bored before reading down here; but here goes...

    I have radios, I've had them years: Hi-Fi, surround receiver, alarm clock, oh and in car, (as in the ones that are standard and work with the remote controls and remote display). I don't listen other than occasionally, having got bored of the tediousness and inability to have any control over the music selection. So to go DAB I have to find a new radio that would replace an existing one - and the only way I'd consider it is it looks good (as in it fits in with the rest of my hi-fi or car), and be cheap enough to be bothered, which isn't £100, or even £20 as I already have the functioning radio already.

    DAB has never taken off as car manufacturers didn't immediately starting adding DAB to car radios AS STANDARD. They'd need good functionality to switch back to FM as well, so it's a pure investment. I think some offer them as options, but unless you buy your own brand new car and want to spend hundreds more to get DAB, nobody buys them.

    DAB is chicken and egg - to make it work there needs to be legislation banning the sale of non-DAB radios, and while they're at it, the sound quality needs to be better, and why not throw in a few more features that could be useful like immediate last traffic announcement replay, and playlistings (ie what's just played, what's playing, and what's going to be played). Without these kind of useful features it's worse than analogue, and thus you would have to pay me to take a DAB radio that blends in with my existing equipment.

  102. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB radios may be cheaper than you think!

    From larger Tescos you can get a white plastic Teknika DAB radio at £15. But even the manual says that if you use batteries they will last almost no time at all...

    The praise for the BBC's 'Listen Again' facility for PCs has been a bit overstated, I feel, because Radio 3 ends up being rebroadcast at 64 kbps or fewer.

  103. Steen Hive
    Thumb Down

    @Steve Green

    "As I say, DAB will be the preserve of luddites and technophobes, because why would anyone want to listen at lower quality to a narrower range of stations (all DAB stations have Internet streams) and possibly with dodgy reception quality?"

    Having recently experienced first-hand the horror that is commercial radio in the UK, I can only say - "because maybe the content would be better?" The true signal-to-noise ratio of radio hasn't changed much since 1922.

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Audio quality

    I don't think DAB will be killed off, I think the arrogance of the British Government in conjunction with Ofcom will cause them to try to force DAB onto the British public somehow, even though we clearly don't want it.

    They've tried to cram in as many stations as possible, reducing the bit rate to do so and lowering the audio quality to below that of the current FM radio system it is intended to replace.

    Why the hell would anyone want to replace a radio system with a new system which is inferior in the most important parameter, the quality of the sound it produces! But alas, the British Government and Ofcom do.

    Makes you wonder what planet these people are living on.

  105. Derek Thomas

    Great Choice

    I'm a very strong supporter of DAB. BBC Radio 7 is wonderful. Lots of great programmes from my youth and many I did not to get to hear the first time round.

    Yes sound quality my not be as good as FM but then most people of my age have some hearing problems and cannot tell the difference.

    There are plenty of services that don't pay their way and have to be supported by the tax payer. If everything had to make a profit the world would be a very dull place.

  106. andy gibson

    @William Gallafent

    Yes, you do need a licence for a freeview box.

    The "TV licence" is an outdated name and is actually a licence to receive broadcasts.

    In the past only TVs were capable of receiving TV transmissions, so were called TV licences. However, now that many other devices can receive TV transmissions (freeview boxes, PVRs, TV cards in PCs), you still need a licence.

  107. Tim Browning
    Thumb Down

    DAB wobbles

    I got a Psion Wavefinder as I listen to a lot of radio at home, and while the quality was good, I got annoyed with the dropouts and bubbling which I frequently suffered from, so I sold the kit on ebay and thought I'd wait for the technology to pick up.

    Then in 2006 I bought a Sharp DAB radio, which again suffered from frequent drop out - so I took that back from whence it came.

    Then I started to use my PC more and more for Internet radio listening, and my current solution is a BT internet radio, which gets all the stations I could wish for, and is better sound quality - I'm just waiting for the price to drop so that I can get one for the bedroom to impress the missus.

  108. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The thing that always made me laugh about DAB was that on one hand we were being told what fab quality it was and on the other hand most of the receivers being sold were not only expensive but only had a single speaker, the extra one to get stereo was a cost option! Overpriced, that's the problem, quality doesn't matter too much to most, they will just listen to whatever set they have near them, since DAB has been so expensive in the past they were less likely to have one than FM.

  109. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    You get what you pay for

    I'm a lover of DAB radio. I have a Blaupunkt in the car (NOT a Corsa thanks, I'm in my mid 40s) and a Roberts 21 Gemini at home. Both give exceptional reception, very acceptable sound quality, and as for battery life, the Roberts is supposedly good for 150 hours - is that long enough?! I'm sure the cheapo sets won't be as good - but as the title says, you get what you pay for as with anything in life.

    All these criticisms are bollocks as far as I'm concerned - in the car you can't tell the difference between FM and DAB, and unless you're used to Bose or something similarly high-end, I doubt any detractor could honestly tell the difference in a blind test.

    The only valid argument raised so far is that they are pretty expensive compared to analogue radios.

    Hilton because she knows bollocks when she sees it/them

  110. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ever tried listening to the GCap Stations?

    It is of little wonder that GCap are shutting Planet Rock.

    While the music selection isn't bad the amount of bandwidth they are using for it isn't much and more amazingly it carries no adverts.

    How a commerical radio company can justify running a station which makes no attempt at raising money to be spent on it amazes me, in addition it seems to be a preset playlist with no presenter so once you have listened to it for a couple of hours there is no point ever lsitening to it again.

    The BBC have unsuprisingly made the most of the system to put out some extra stations.

    The issue of single speaker systems I also notice mentioned, buy a cheap FM radio and coutn the speakers, most require headphones to get Stereo output and when you do that the aerial moves from the dipole to the headphone leads.

    My experience of Internet radio isn't good. If the traffic is heavy it drops out, (unlike DAB and FM where it is down to how good the signal from the local transmitter is, and when itnernet signal is bad you can just try moving it to the other side of the room)

    The standalone units have terrible interfaces and since I refuse to use Wireless networking, definitely not portable aroud nthe house let alone whiel walking to the bus, on the train etc etc etc.

    I have taken a portable DAB radio on holiday to London and Ireland, on the way to london there were few places on the ECML where I couldn't get a good enough signal to listen to Radio 2, and where I couldn't I just switched it over to FM mode.

    In Ireland DAB is only available in NI and Dublin.

    The crapness of Commerical radio is apparent on FM as well as DAB, I have given up on them now. Except for when there are High Winds and I ahve to listen to Local radio to find out if the bridge is open. How being stuck at home with no work to do and all day off manages to be more annoying than work I don't know.

    Paris because even she could be more interesting than Commerical radio

  111. conan

    BBC DAB Suicide

    The Beeb kills its own DAB offering for me - I think their "listen again" functionality on their website is ace, I've been using it for years, so why buy a DAB radio? My computer lets me listen to many more radio stations than DAB ever will, most of which aren't commercial (and hence are often of a higher standard).

  112. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Audio quality

    Re: Mark:

    >DAB is not only about quality of broadcast sound (which I would class as adequete and onpar with FM). It's about CHOICE..

    On a par with FM? That's complete rubbish. It is widely know it is inferior to FM in terms of sonic quality. In fact, a DAB adverstising campaign had to be changed because it wasn't stating the truth, it could not say it was better than FM, because it clearly wasn't.

    Adequate: adequate for you perhaps? Perhaps you're not used to listening to high quality audio, perhaps you don't have a good hi-fi in your home.

    I have a top notch hi-fi system and I really don't want FM radio being replaced with something that is inferior.

    I don't touch MP3's, for most people they might be Ok, but when you've got a top notch hi-fi you can really hear the difference between that and non-compressed audio.

    I used to work for a professional audio company making mixing consoles for the recording studios like Abbey Road, Air Studios, Enterprise, Sky Walker Sound, used to mix, master the CDs, the sound tracks to the cinema films, and the fact is, most people in the UK haven't heard good quality audio.

    When you're around this kind of professional quality audio, day after day, your ears and brain become used to it, you become much more discerning. Going back to something which is lower in audio quality is terrible, you notice it straight away.

    We should not be accepting systems which replace old systems which are inferior in terms of performance, period.

  113. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CD quality microphones?

    >Since we aren't allowed to record the CD quality music, and since the DJ's microphone *isn't* CD-quality,

    What on earth are you talking about? A microphone isn't CD quality? Depends on how much the radio company spends!

    And don't forget that the mic picks up the spoken commentary from the DJ, what about all the music they play? The music they play most definitely is CD quality! So, the broadcast chain and reception equipment should be, has to be CD quality to handle it!

    Your argument is wrong.

  114. joe

    DAB is a failure

    DAB is completely useless for mobile devices, the need for a processor to decode the digital signal means the power drain on ther batteries is much much greater + the DAB signal is weaker so the poor antenna of mobile devices does not cut the mustard.


  115. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bit Rate of FM

    >As for DAB, it doesn't use the same bit of air as FM, so

    Colin Stuttle

    FM doesn't have a bit rate. FM radio is entirely analogue!

    The concept of bit rate only applies to digital systems.

  116. Julian Back

    Power Consumption

    I like DAB, i find the reception is much better than FM. I only listen to Radio 4 and DAB is a good replacement for long wave and it doesn't get take over by cricket. Internet radio isn't really an option for me as I live too far from my exchange for my ADSL to be reliable enough.

    The main problem with DAB radios is that they use too much power. Batter powered DAB radios aren't really viable and mains powered radios use a lot more power than an FM radio (some even seem to use a fair bit on standby). Going to a more highly compressed stream like MPEG4 (DAB+) is unlikely to improve the power consumption situation.

  117. Anonymous Coward

    Use DAB for what it was intended for

    DAB is by far the best mobile brodcast reception system. It does not rely on too much unpleasant "psycho-acoustic" compression like kids seem to accept from MP3. It works when driving at high speed and in diffcult multipath conditions, and if you give it at least 256kbit/s it sounds much better than FM with its hissy and wandering stereo image.

    Most commercial radio stations store their audio in a 256kbit/s audio database and compress the sound to a point where receiver quality is moot, so they will probably be able to use lower bitrates without anybody noticing.

    For use in the living room, however, a satellite receiver, DVB-T or Internet radio seems a better choice. As with most things, one size does NOT fit all.

  118. This post has been deleted by its author

  119. jason

    Who cares about DAB...sort out Freeview first for heavens sake!

    DAB can disappear up its own transmitter for all I care. What I want sorting is Freeview picture quality first.

    Fed up watching what looks like bad YouTube on my 32"LCD all the while. Goes to prove though that its nothing to do with choice, its all about squeezing out the bandwidth for maximum profit.

    We need a campaign to get together to make folks boycott all those pointless sales channels so they can be taken down and the bitrate put up for the better entertainment channels.

    I think I have my Topfield channel list edited down to just 12 channels on Freeview

  120. Mark
    Gates Horns


    LOL, I just love uneducated posts like yours. It sounds like you have been reading the opinions of others, rather than listening to your ears and common sense.

    Different DAB stations broadcast at different bitrates, just as MP3's come in different bitrates, to make sweeping statements without know the stations I listen to, is pure nonsense, and I will challenge you to tell the difference bewteen a CD and a high bitrate MP3 in a blind listening test.

    There is nothing wrong with DAB audio quality, a real music lover would be glad to hear the music, and not worry that it's in 128k MP2 format, which falls into the adaquete category.

    By the way, how are those gold plated optical leads, still providing better sound quality???

  121. jeffrey

    Radio 3

    I quite like DAB, chill especially, refreshing to have commercial radio with no adverts. Besides I can get DAB reception at home where I can't get analogue.

    TBH I have more of a problem with BBC Radio 3 than I do DAB

    Why does the BBC waste £35.9 million a year chasing 700k listeners of Radio 3?

    and then only spend £30 million each on Radio 1 and 2 which pull in over 20 million listeners between them? Doesn't make economical sense, Classic FM are a) (adverts aside) better than BBC Radio 3 , b) seem to do ok with pre-recordings c) do so with a compartive shoestring budget.

    I say spend £10 million a year on Radio 3, and use the money saved elsewhere, oh and can bbc local radio on DAB as well, it will free up valuable badwidth for other channels

  122. Steve Green

    I just love uneducated posts

    @Mark You said: "LOL, I just love uneducated posts like yours" and "and I will challenge you to tell the difference bewteen a CD and a high bitrate MP3 in a blind listening test. There is nothing wrong with DAB audio quality, a real music lover would be glad to hear the music, and not worry that it's in 128k MP2 format, which falls into the adaquete category."

    You mention "high bit rate MP3", but you then go on to mention 128 kbps MP2 in almost the same breath, when MP3 is a vastly superior (yes, it is) codec to MP2, AND MP3 was designed to be used at 128 kbps, whereas MP2 was designed to be used at bit rate levels of 192 kbps or higher.

    Your view is as uneducated as it is possible to be on the subject of audio codecs.

    If 128 kbps MP2 were A-okay, as you say, why does the BBC use 256 kbps MP2 for the audio on its BBC 1, 2, 3, 4 TV channels? DAB is a radio system, isn't it, so why is TV providing far higher quality than radio?

    Face the facts: DAB was designed in the late 1980s, it was incompetent to adopt the DAB system in the UK, and anyone sticking up for it is a luddite, because (a) DAB+ should be replacing it, and (b) Internet radio already murders it in terms of audio quality, number of stations and rock-solid reception quality, and in years to come it will crucify DAB and DAB+.

  123. David Shaw

    @Bit Rate of FM

    there actually is a widely quoted BBC R3 bitrate for the digital PCM feed to the Analogue FM transmitters (with slope polarised antennas no less) , but I last heard the discussion a decade ago , so can't remember the was better than 128k DAB

  124. Anonymous Coward

    DAB radio's all look like they have been hit with the ugly stick

    forget any of the technology behind DAB radio...

    every DAB reciver i have seen has been a pig ugly afair that i wouldnt want uglying up my home....

    Hi tech equiptment should look hi tech.....not like 1950's bakelite crap....

    mine is the stylish looking one !!!

  125. Steve Green

    Yes, you are a luddite

    @Mark W: You said: "As someone who used to work as a sound engineer in the recording industry, I wouldn't be considered a 'Luddite' as per Steve Green's post. In fact, the person with the narrow mind is indeed Mr Green. Look outside your little world and see the real people out there."

    and you even have the audacity to go on to say:

    "Unfortunately us audiophiles out there are the minority"

    Here's a dictionary definition of "audiophile":

    "a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction"

    And yet you are accusing me of being narrow-minded because I think teh audio quality on DAB is crap? Do me a bleeding favour.

    The analogy with the luddites is perfectly valid. There are people who want DAB to continue just as it is, and you seem very much to be of that persuasion

    The problem with DAB is that it is using an audio codec and error correction coding that both date back to the 1980s - the MP2 audio codec is very similar to the MUSICAM codec, which dates back to the early 1980s!

    MP2 was DESIGNED to be used at bit rate levels of 192 kbps or higher, and yet *98%* of all stereo stations on DAB are using it at 128 kbps. Anyone who knows the first thing about compressed audio knows perfectly well that if you use an audio codec at below its "sweet spot", i.e. below where it is optimised to be used at, the quality descends rapidly. If you don't believe me, here's what Karlheinz Brandenburg (the co-inventor of MP3) has to say about it:

    "Lower bit-rates will lead to

    higher compression factors, but lower quality of the compressed

    audio. Higher bit-rates lead to a lower probability

    of signals with any audible artifacts. However, different

    encoding algorithms do have ”sweet spots” where

    they work best. At bit-rates much larger than this target

    bit-rate the audio quality improves only very slowly

    with bit-rate, atmuch lower bit-rates the quality decreases

    very fast."

    DAB stations are being transmitted at bit rates waaaaay below MP2's sweet spot.

    Would you encode an MP3 at 64 kbps or 80 kbps? That's the equivalent quality that DAB stations are using. NOBODY would dream of using 64 kbps or 80 kbps to encode their MP3 files, so why do we have to put up with this crap quality on DAB?

    Last year I looked on Kazaa just to see what bit rates people were typically using nowadays to compress their MP3, and about half were using 128 kbps and half were using 192 kbps. 128 kbps MP3 is in a different league to 128 kbps MP2, and 192 kbps MP3 is on a different planet to 128 kbps MP2.

    Accepting DAB is simply accepting mediocrity in the extreme, and anyone who does so deserves to be called a luddite. End of story.

    There were 5,770 Internet radio streams on using bit rate levels of 128 kbps or higher with the MP3 or AAC+ audio codecs the last time I looked. The vast majority of these will be providing far higher quality than DAB provides, so please justify why small-scale Internet streams are providing far higher quality than is being provided on DAB.

    The BBC has been trialing the use of multicast for years now, and it's apparently going to be launched this year. That will allow all the biggest UK radio stations to use bit rates of 128 kbps - 192 kbps with modern audio codecs, and it's scalable to as many listeners as you like, because that's how multicast works. And the bit rates of multicast and of Internet streams in general will simply continue to go up and up because bandwidth is getting cheaper and cheaper. DAB cannot compete with Internet radio, so anyone who's trying to justify DAB when Internet radio is far better in every way (apart from some mobile reception issues - although have you seen how low the price of mobile broadband is now? and it's only going to get cheaper), is a luddite. Sorry, but there you go.

  126. Anonymous Coward

    And what happens to all the car radios and RDS?

    I hope I am not missing the point here but most cars have a radio in them and have RDS. So if they are potentially considering turning the signal off, they will effectively silence every single vehicle in the UK immediately?

    This astounds me. Are they going to compensate all us consumers who have bought a new car in the past couple of years who will need to replace theirs?

    Seems like another disaster waiting to happen!

  127. ForceMajeure

    DAB sounds crap

    That's why I use FM.

    Also DAB reception is piss poor where I live which isn't in the sticks (Southampton).


  128. This post has been deleted by its author

  129. Chris Fleming

    Sorry kids...

    Sorry kids I know you are interested in ... but Daddy cannot build a digital crystal set!

  130. Anonymous Coward

    Ford and other car makers

    You can't blame Ford for DAB's failings. There have been plenty of announcments about car makers either about to, or already starting to, install DAB as standard on some models (including Ford) but then it all gets forgotten about and they quietly stop fitting them.

    DAB has been like air bags for the car makers. If you're old enough to remember, air bags were first tried in mainstream cars in the early 70s but the technology was rubbish and they were just more hassle than they were worth so they were abandoned. Air bags would go off just for going over a pot hole or even turning around a corner too fast, or worse still they wouldn't go off in a real crash or would go off just in time to propel the head of the driver back off of the steering wheel they had just headbutted.

    DAB is just too unreliable for cars. It's affected by interference more noticably as people drive around town, and it's not all smooth sailing for people driving up and down motorways either. Also, I don't know if DAB can do things like switch to travel news automatically when a bulliten is on, like FM radios can do thanks to RDS. These things are important to drivers and for all of "digital's" virtues, anyone with a Freeview box will know that it's much less irritating for a bit of analogue interference to affect the signal for a moment than to have drop outs that make you miss what's being said.

    If anything, the fact that DAB has largely been ignored by car manufacturers is the most telling sign that it's a dead technology. In the same way that airbags had to be reinvented to make them work acceptably and reliably, digital radio has to be reinvented so that Ford feel it's worthwhile giving it to their punters. Whether it's DAB+, DRM or another system that replaces it is another discussion, but DAB that we have in the UK was DOA.

    Announcing a timetable to switch off AM and FM is of no help either because there are at least 100M analogue radios out there in daily use. By switching off DAB you're expecting everyone in the UK to go out and buy a new set of radios. That means kitchen radios, portables (including pocket radios and mobile phones), car radios, hi-fi systems and separates. And what about all the perfectly functional antique radios and gramaphones that people still use on a daily basis. A gramaphone is as much a piece of furnature as it is a radio.

    Comparing the switchover to Freeview is unfair as no one has had to trow out or replace a single TV set due to Freeview. All you need is a £15 set top box, which is a reasonable solution to upgrading old TVs. But you can't expect people to buy a set top box to get DAB on their existing radios.

    You're talking about asking the nation to spend at least 10 billion pounds on new radios and cause an environmental waste problem just so the government can make a fortune selling off the spectrum left behind. Why don't we just give the government our £10B (they can bump up the council tax) and leave our radios where they are?

    And another aspect of analogue radio is that it needs very little power to work. Given that Sky, Freeview, digital radio (whatever system), Wi-Fi and every other way of streaming audio involves power hungry DSP chips, surely analogue has the unique selling point that the batteries last ages? DAB supporters are always going on about how normal listeners don't care about audio quality, well by the same token they don't care about fancy screens and lots of potential stations but they do care about battery life, so shall we keep analogue?

  131. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money Grabbing killed the Digital Radio Star!


    Well its just a load of old tosh really and i have one (present) so i know. The sound quality is poor in comparison to analogue FM with a average or even poor aerial or even digital TV which i can of course pipe through big phat speakers much more easily.

    With the quality being soooooo low, the customer base is tiny so the commercial potential is none existent.

    They could just screw everyone and turn off analogue but they would have to sit through lots of bleating but at least they could sell spectrum. The would of course get audience dilution where the same amount of people would still listen but they would be so spread out over different stations that advertising revenue would be too low for commercial viability.

    My advice, use the spectrum to increase quality above the best analogue FM and give people a reason to use it like HD TV,people always want better kit. It would sell best to people in cars where most radio is listened to anyway.

    I am not interested in a radio version of the digital tv with the equivalent picture quality / signal issues.

    Less stations, superior sound quality and your then moving towards commercial viability and better justification for an analogue switch off. Of course you wont make as much money as your spreadsheets said you would before on your old model (which doesn't match reality) and you also wont save as much spectrum to sell on but at least you will make something.

    Oh and if my licence fee goes on advertising DAB as it currently is, ill not be happy!

  132. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why close Planet Rock?

    So just why GCap have announced the closure of Planet Rock, and why just now?

    Industry types will remember that the big take-up of DAB was sparked when the commercial stations were offered an automatic 8-year renewal of their analogue licences (which would normally have been re-auctioned) if they took up DAB. Since this was worth very many millions to the average commercial group they took up the offer with alacrity.

    Only a very cynical person would suggest that threatening to close popular DAB services might be a ploy to get further concessions from OFCOM.

    Those same cynics might also wonder why Planet Rock - one of the most listened to of the commercial DAB stations - is being offered up for the chop when GCap have several less popular offerings A glance at the ratings on the RAJAR website shows it rating higher than almost all of the major analogue city stations for example.

    And why pre-announce the closure with such a fanfare? That's not the way bad news is usually handled in this business.

    Certainly the whole DAB roll-out was mishandled: insufficient multiplexes were offered, too many stations were crammed into the space, receiver manufacturers quite rightly didn't want to launch products until there was something to listen to so there was very slow take-up for too many years.

    And then the commercial stations almost universally set up their stations the cheapest way possible - as a PC automatically churning out a limited playlist that, with the best will in the world, is going to get boring after you've heard a favourite for the 50th time this week - however well the song originally rated in audience research.

    So the whole thing is a very sad story marked by a very British combination of delay and missed opportunities, bungled implementation, regulatory incompetence, and inept commercial exploitation.

    And yes, if the ISPs manage to get everyone onto metered services then online radio (and TV) will probably blow the whole thing out of the water. Always assuming the rights collection vampires don't get too thirsty.

    But meanwhile, might we expect OFCOM to come to the rescue of DAB with further bribes? I can't help thinking "Minister Rescues Rock Station" could be a popular headline in some quarters...

    Anonymous because, yes, it leads slightly less directly to the JobCentre this way.

  133. Kevin Johnston

    shurely shome mishtake

    And there I was having finished reading this wonderful review of a Pure DAB unit here -> which included the immortal quote "But a quick look at the listening figures for DAB, and the amount of DAB radios sold, shows the format is alive and kicking." then I came to this topic.

    Are these two reporters on the same planet?

  134. Tim

    OAP marketting

    Problem from what I could see is most DAB radios on the market seemed to be aimed at OAPs with retro designs that clearly are supposed to replace that antique 60s radio pensioners have in their kitchens.

    That has it seems been quite successful with many pensioners convinced they need to update to digital because they've been told they must, but the rest of the population is apathetic.

  135. Anonymous Coward

    Would not be without one

    I have 3 DAB radios. One in the car and another goes with me around the country while I am working.

    LBC 7.30pm til 10pm - Nick Abbott

    Radio 7 10pm til 12pm - some great comedy.

  136. Dan Maudsley

    Enough with this anti-BBC nonsense

    "These stations also embarrass the BBC, whose own lacklustre local radio stations too often appear to serve as a home for washed-up Alan Partridges. When given the choice, people prefer listening to real people, rather than the patronising "local" voice of the BBC."

    What pure and utter twaddle. Commercial radio is designed to be tapwater - exactly the same whenever you turn it on. Innovation is almost universally lacking from radio bosses who prefer to stick to tried and tested Hot 40 formats rather than invest in a local sound and discovering new music.

    People have plenty of choice - and listening figures show that a good many of them choose to listen to well-produced, local-centric, public-service broadcasting. ie BBC local radio.

  137. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    DAB styling

    The main styling problem is actually a power thing. DAB radios are power hungry which equates to large batteries, which leads to large sets. It does not really matter how you discuise it, it will look retro. I have a Pure Elan RV40, which does not look like a '50s radio, but is large (and has two speakers!)

    I also use headphone-only DAB radios (one branded KISS picked up in a catalogue clearence shop, and a Roberts Robi iPod attachment), and only get a few hours listening on either one. This is just a fact of life. I live with it. I regard it as an acceptable price for the diversity I cannot get on FM.

    I would want to ask how people would like to package radios in a way that was not retro? Can anybody point to a stylish modern FM radio? I will then be able to point to a Roberts or Pure device that looks similar.

  138. Alex

    For me, they are bob on apart from initial cost

    I like mine. Pure has decent enough radios and they sound much better than a crappy FM radio. Really can't see what the fuss is about. I get substantially better reception from a DAB radio than any other radio set in the house on FM.

    Fair enough, MW and LW are strong, but the sound is poor. I have never, nor will, expect CD based radio. i just wanted a radio that sounds like FM (if not better, which DAB is IMHO) that doesn't hiss and pop and fade whilst listening to it. Classic FM has never sounded so good; and don't get me started on the shambolic cull of DAB radio stations.. More, Dammit.. MORE!!!! Not Less!

    Pricks! (Aimed at the powers that be.. not anyone here)

  139. Keiran

    Listen to radio via freeview!?! Do you hate the world?

    Freeview box + TV (or integral) = XXX power

    Freeview box + external sound = XX power

    DAB radio = x power

    Also I've found when living in a flat (or now a house with generally poor radio and mobile reception) you are much more likely to get a useable DAB signal than an FM signal

  140. David

    It was the radio manufacturers who let us down: too little, too late

    Here's a heads-up to all audio system manufacturers:

    I've been wanting to spend ${moderate_amount_of_money} (£200 - £300) on a new hi-fi (or at least med-fi) system for at least *the past two years*, but have I been able to? No! Nothing out there meets my requirements. Come on, make an effort!

    At some point during the past few years, the middle seems to have completely fallen out of the audio system market. Sure, we can get high-end separates from the likes of Richer Sounds, but walk into any high street electrical retailer (or even a marginal specialist like John Lewis which pretends to have a bit of class) and for the most part all that is available is appalling low-end junk. Several years ago we had many reasonable or good quality brands to choose from, including the likes of Aiwa, JVC, Pioneer, Sharp, Technics, Yamaha, etc. Now it seems to be low-end Sony or low/mid-end Panasonic or an infinite variety of Goodmans conglomerate clones or no-name junk, and that's all there is to choose from. (I should point out one good-value budget exception to the above, the well-reviewed Goodmans Micro 1104, a cracking wee system for what it is, but very sadly, no (essential) wake-up alarm.)

    Here are my audio system requirements, surely at least one manufacturer can rise to the challenge:

    * Micro or mini format audio system

    * DAB/FM tuner with *at least* 40 presets on each waveband

    (for a few pennies more, why not just throw in MW and LW as well?)

    * Standard DAB/FM aerial connectors to allow connections to a proper aerial (no crappy proprietary connectors or hard-wired useless "pieces of string" - I don't have the best reception where I live.)

    * At least 20 W/channel output (RMS)

    * Wake-up alarm function (no alarm, NO DEAL!) and sleep timer

    * Full remote control for all functions

    * 3 or 5 CD multiplayer (no multiplayer, NO DEAL!)

    * At least 2 AUX inputs (you never know what will come along next, DAB+ even?)

    * (Ideally) auto-reverse *full-logic* cassette deck

    (I suppose I could live without the cassette deck, but if it's going to be included, at least make it a decent one.)

    These are hardly onerous requirements, yet no manufacturer seems able to meet them. With Panasonic you can have the CD multiplayer - but no DAB, with Sony you can have the multiplayer and DAB (and rootkit CDs) - but no proper aerial connector, <sigh>.

    To return to the topic, I think DAB is great. Yes, it's an outdated audio codec, and not exactly audiophile radio, but the choice of radio stations is fantastic. For radio, we can accept a *slight* loss in sound quality as a trade for choice - and it's still better than MW or my poor FM reception. Those who live in Planet London probably tend to forget that most of the rest of us only have the basic BBC stations and perhaps one or two commercial stations to choose from on FM or AM. With DAB, I can listen to Radio 5 Live (Up All Night - DAB's "killer app" for me), the World Service (great for a different perspective), and a wide choice of many other stations, from Chill to TheJazz (will be sorely missed!) and Galaxy and Kiss.

    I only bought a stand-alone DAB radio a few months ago (as a short-term fix while waiting for a decent audio system to appear), and even then, only because prices had at last started to become reasonable (£30). I'm sure the likes of Pure have made good money flogging mono-speakered radios for £100, but, get real: £100 for a radio?! The wider market won't support it. And the last time that stereo speakers were deemed a luxury extra must have been in around 1950! Sadly, although still hulking beasts, at least Pure's radios had a reasonably elegant design, but the rest of the DAB radio industry seems to have taken hideous and enormous 1950s design as some kind of standard cue, with the result that almost all DAB radios are huge fugly things, and it looks like I'm far from being the only Register reader who wouldn't touch those models with a bargepole. Black, sleek and compact, those are the inalienable audio design rules.

    So, the future? Now that DAB has shown that there is popular demand for broad channel choice - but only once the hardware price becomes affordable - let's quickly move on to DAB+ (just as we left VHS behind for DVD), and let's hope that the hi-fi manufacturers remember the "hi-fi" part and bring back the middle of the audio system market and stop merely churning out infinite clone crap for the sub-£100 market.

  141. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    BBC Local radio on DAB

    >> Well, DAB has to be the best thing to happen to the Corporation in the past decade. It screws commercial radio rivals, who hand over £100,000 for a property (licence), and then must give the "penthouse suite" back to the public broadcaster. The paltry audiences for DAB mean the commercial operators must bleed red ink, while the BBC runs its own deeply subsidised digital broadcasts.

    Err.....commercial operators DON'T give the "penthouse suite" to the BBC (for carrying a single local BBC radio station on the local commercial multiplex).

    The terms of the licence are that each local commercial multiplex allows the BBC to use ONE place on the commercial transmitter. And around here, the local BBC station runs at 128kb.....that leaves the commercial operator with enough room for maybe 6 or 7 other radio stations, which is more than enough to fulfill their operators license.

    Yet more b*llocks from Mr Steve Green.....still claiming dole money Mr Green ???

    Paris coz she hasn't got a proper job either....!

  142. Timbo

    @ Neil Hoskins

    >> They needed to get the HiFi buffs on-board telling the rest of us how wonderful it was at the start. Unfortunately, the bit-rates that were perfectly adequate for 99% of the population weren't good enough for the HiFi buffs, who've been slagging it off and whining and sulking ever since. Also, unless you live in London there's no local content.

    Errr....they did try that.

    In the first 5+ years of DAB (from 1995-2001), the BBC were transmitting at 192 kb on all their main stations (1, 2, 3 and 4).

    Trouble was, the BBC wanted to have more radio stations, but the Radio Authority wouldn't sanction a new multiplex....

    So, the BBC had to cut the bitrates on all (except Radio 3), in order to squeeze more stations onto the single multiplex (which has a capacity of approx 1Mb).

    The maths is simple:

    4x 192 kb = 768 kb,

    which still left enough space (out of the 1Mb capacity) for the speech stations, such as World Service and Radio 5 Live.

    Come the great day (Christmas 2001, IIRC) without warning and BEFORE the new stations first started broadcasting, the BBC decides to chop the bit rates down to 128kb, leaving Radio 3 on 192).

    This then left room for 6 Music, Radio 7, Radio 5 Live Sport Extra and BBC Asian Network.

    1x 192kb = 192kb (Radio 3)

    4x 128kb = 384kb (Radios 1,2, 6 Music)

    6x 64<->80 = 384kb (Radio 4, 7, Radio 5 Live, 5Live Sport Extra, Asian, World Service

    The other problem was that from 1995-2000, the only way to pick up DAB via a stand alone radio, was through a hi-fi tuner costing from £500 (and upwards) and available from just 5 "brand names" - Arcam, Sony, Technics, Cymbol and Tag McClaren.

    So, no wonder the "masses" didn't take up DAB in those 5+ could only pick up a few BBC channels (at CD-like quality) and you had to spend £500 on a hi-fi tuner.

    It was only after Digital One (who won the national commercial license in 1999) entered the market to find out that only 30,000 tuners had been bought in those 5 years, that they realised something had to change.....

    So, the "CD-quality" theme went out and the "choice" theme came in....

    If the Radio Authority HAD awarded a second multiplex license to the BBC, then the bitrates would never have been cut and the "sound quality" issue would never have.

    I also believe that the "Golden Ears" at the BBC decided that "joe public" couldn't tell the difference between a 128kb and 192kb signal and hence chopped the rates as it was the cheapest way to broadcast more stations (rather than pay for a 2nd multiplex license....!).

    Mine's the anorak !!

  143. Wize
    Thumb Down


    I bought myself a DAB clock radio. Should have saved my money.

    3rd floor flat (top floor with views in all directions), so have a better reception than most. Analogue works fine, digital drops out all the time. Some spots it wont even work on local radio (other muxes are fine). If its poor there, how will it work in a car between the buildings.

    The design of it is poor too. Constant hum from the unit (poor powersupply). Whole screen lit with LCD instead of the less obtrusive seven segment LED display. And a whole list of other reasons why I don't like it.

  144. Rob Davis

    Internet radio on mobile is best for choice, sound quality, better value and smaller stations

    By coincidence I wrote an article a few days before this on our local community radio station site that I run.

    In summary radio on internet enabled mobiles is the future, with a widening choice of very capable mobiles together with falling mobile data costs, the all-in-one value of a mobile, improving user interfaces (touchscreen), portability receivable anywhere there is a 3G signal, not just tied to a local region.

  145. Adam

    What?! Technology evolves over time? No way!!!

    Yes, DAB technology is outdated. But then so is pretty much all technology you are using. There's always something newer and better. The UK was an early adopter of DAB, so we've got the original flavour, old-tech version.

    To use a different example; the US uses a now-obsolete MPEG-2 based HDTV system. They were an early adopter. In the UK we dragged our heels and were late to the HD-fray so we have a more modern MPEG-4 based system. Do you hear our American cousins running around screaming that their HDTV is obsolete because there is now a more up-to-date implementation? No. It works, it does what people want. That's the same with DAB.

    Roll out DAB+ alongside DAB, by all means. Don't penalise those who bought into DAB though.

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