back to article In the ditch with DAB radio

In 2008, the wheels fell off the DAB digital radio platform. Last week, after a year of deliberation, the government’s Digital Radio Working Group concluded that outdated DAB technology should be the sole broadcast platform for UK radio, irrespective of global market conditions or the impractical cost of its implementation. …


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  1. Jon Wilson

    I was right with you until..

    "Just as we already have right-hand drive cars, pounds/ounces and sterling instead of Euros, we can now add ‘DAB’ to our esoteric list."

    Um, what else is made of wood?

    As the voice gets higher, the face redder and the supporting points become more and more preposterous, so the core argument gets diluted.

  2. Julian
    Thumb Down

    Madness (and I don't mean the band)

    My first thought when I read this was are they mad? Then I realised they are in fact mad! Digital switchover at 50% I Predict A Riot.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    If this helps with any study....

    .....I don't know ANYONE who owns or uses a DAB radio.

  4. Paul

    Never underestimate Radio 4 listeners

    They can't even turn off the long-wave Radio 4 transmissions, what makes them think they'll be able to dump FM?

    If they are planning to turn off analogue when there is 50% digital penetration, they will have a fight on their hands. They like to include things like DTV to inflate their calculations and stick their head in the sand over the real level of use. If they try to turn it off based on dodgy figures they are going to create a real backlash.

    With an average of 6 radios per household, and all those car radios to replace it just isn't going to happen.

    If DAB actually offered better quality (I can't tell the difference) I might think about it, but with the price differential between ok DAB receivers and excellent FM receivers, I'll plump for the cheaper/better FM ones.


  5. M7S
    Thumb Down

    We're stuffed then

    As well as having to have "UK only" versions of car stereos that are therefore expensive to install, and prevent us using the sets when we travel abroad (assuming either we still have oil or the batteries will get us off the ferry), we wont have useable pocket radios either and in the event of a local environmental disaster taking out a nearby transmitter, no means of informing the populace of any action they should take. It'll also mean buying gadgets abroad with radio functions may be frustrating.

    What I have come to expect from my country.

    Still, it wont matter as I beleive (Lewis P should confirm this) that the last recourse of the captain of the active patrol submarine carrying our nuclear deterrent it to determine if Radio 4 is still broadcasting, and it it isnt, to annihilate Johnny Foreigner before scuttling (sorry) down to Oz or similar. No self respecting tactician will come so close to the UK (to pick up "Just a Minute") as required by DAB and thereby placing his vessel at risk of being spotted by a potential enemy, so we'd better hope that the rest of HMGs emergency communication stuff never ever fails. Given the fiasco over Airwave, that's an awful lot of lives being bet on whatever PFI project gets the comms contract.

    I've spent a bit on DAB sets, and I like one channel not available on FM (BBC7) and some features of the sets (recording with EPG etc) but most of this could be replicated on new FM kit. I'm actually now refusing to buy new radio receivers until the UK decides to follow reasonable global technical standards as I am afraid of being stuck down a dead end in a few years time.

  6. James
    Thumb Down

    Commercial Stations?

    Who listens to them?

    Their adverts are designed to be annoying so that you can't get them out of your head.

    I have a digital radio system and listen to exactly the same stations as I do on my FM/AM systems no more no less. It has made precisely no difference to me other than being more expensive, as I wanted to buy an analogue-digital system capable of both.

  7. Steve

    Why bother?

    The signal quality in the East of England is truly awful. My other half has a DAB in the car and it's never used for digital - only FM - due to the fact that we can't get any bloody stations! The Working Group seems oblivious to the fact that people will only shell out good money to upgrade when there is something worth upgrading too. FM quality is excellent for what I need, and the only advantages appear to be more stations.

    Consider that the majority of the time I listen to the radio is traveling to work, I maybe listen to radio for 2 hours a day Monday to Friday. As such I'm not willing to pay over £100 to get more stations when I already have access to at least 7 currently with great quality.

  8. Roger Stenning

    The cost and portability of the kit is the main snag!

    OK, let's be serious here: Who wants to shell out a minimum of fifty quid (only one model going for that, do a google shopping search), more typically more than a ton to a ton fifty, for a radio that *should* cost no more than an equivalent piece of analogue kit? That's the main problem.

    Analogue kit is tried, tested, and cheap. DAB is not cheap, is allegedly patchy in its reception the further away from metropolitan areas you go, and is hardly portable for the smaller units either - the smallest with speaker analogue radio can slip into your pocket: Not so a DAB version. Got an attaché case?

    THOSE are the stumbling blocks DAB has to surmount to make it to the wider public, not the buzz-word laden 'choice of programming', content, and so on.

    There y'go. Gauntlet thrown. Now someone come back and defend DAB as it is now!

    Fire, as this is a flame bait ;)

  9. alphaxion

    utterly pointless

    In my house there are 4 of us.

    1 will listen to "net radio" (mainly eve radio)

    1 will listen to podcasts and only ever hears any radio while in parents car or taxis

    2 stream TV over the net and don't listen to any radio at all now (tho 1 of them used to religiously listen to John Peel and Mark and Lard).

    We own a grand total of zero radios.. our TV is largely unused and our house phone only ever gets an outgoing call when we need to order food in >.<

    It's all about the net connection and the devices that use it. I even have a broadcast TV tuner hooked up to my PC and stream that around the house, but even that is rarely used.

    UK radio can keep trying to follow this path, but there are more and more of us who view our net connection as our delivery mechanism, and our consumption is of "unregulated" content that doesn't treat us like nannys and lets us decide what is appropriate.

  10. KB

    In-car DAB

    I am one of the few (apparently) that does have an in-car DAB radio, although if I'm honest, I specified it because I wanted the 6-CD autochanger and much improved amplifier and speaker system that the particular stereo system offered, rather than any interest in DAB.

    It is nice to be able to switch quickly between radio stations without relying on auto-search or my own knowledge of the FM frequency I'm looking for, but beyond that, the best thing I can say about it is I haven't really noticed the difference between DAB and FM. The autochanger and amp/speakers were worth the extra cash - but unless DAB is part of the package, I wouldn't bother with it again.

  11. PaulK

    Upgrade to DAB+

    Stuff the early adopters!

    By the way, anyone want to buy a cheap Betamax box?

  12. Gerry

    Battery life....

    When was the last time you changed those two AA batteries in your FM radio? When was the last time you changed those six D batteries in your DAB radio?

    Alternatively try to imagine the wind-up generator needed for a DAB radio.

    If we are being exhorted (rightly) to fit low energy light bulbs, I'm a bit unclued on how DAB and energy conservation fit together, especially as it doesn't seem to have any compensating features.

  13. Tony Hoyle

    So they expect us to shell out?

    My pocket FM radio cost £5 from Asda.. it has a built in alarm clock and a battery life that's so long I've never needed to change it. Its nearest DAB equivalent costs anything between £50 and £150, and the ads for them claim 'over 40 hours' battery life as if that was something to be proud of.

    In-car it's even worse. I have a nice radio that has a full ipod interface displaying track names etc. and a CD player build in. It cost less than £100. No such model exists to replace it with DAB. Even if I were to find such a beast, I would first need to pay for a new antenna (a normal FM one won't do, for no reason I can fathom), end up with an ugly aerial sticking out of the bonnet (very 70's) then pay the inflated DAB prices. Not going to happen.

    If they're waiting for 50% of people to get DAB then they'll be waiting forever.

  14. David Haworth

    part of the problem

    is that by and large, the quality of the DAB radio stations is actually worse than the analogue ones. they don't have to be, but all the broadcasters are going for a quantity over quality approach and stuffing more stations in, htus bringing down the bandwidth for the remaining stations. generally, if you get a half decent analogue signal, it'll be better than the DAB one.

    I had a very posh DAB radio (sony 777es) and kept it for years, but normally listened to stations also available on analogue, and earlier in the year, I sold it for more than I bought it for.


  15. Gulfie
    Thumb Down

    Made in the UK?

    I defy anyone to identify a volume source of UK manufactured DAB radios. C'mon, El Reg, how can you slip in such shoddy reporting? Perhaps you think we're all to befuddled with our Christmas alcohol intake to notice? 'Fraid not, some of us are sober and working :-(

    And as for analogue switch-off in 2017, I can't see it happening - the core of the article was good, identifying a lack of need to move to DAB on behalf of the listener, and a lack of funds to invest on behalf of the commercial sector.

    My listening is, in the following order - (1) podcasts, (2) 5 Live (AM in the car, or IP at home) and (3) the odd FM station in the car when the kids insist.

    In the absence of a sensibly priced radio (you forgot to mention price) and the funds to invest in a medium where advertising income is actually falling, this is just an utter fail.

  16. james hedley
    IT Angle

    I had a DAB in my car

    Yes I bought a DAB radio for my car - because it's an old vauxhall and so the stereo in it sounds like an angry bluebottle in a biscuit tin. Some observations:

    - The reception is crap. Really crap. The stick on aerials are about £30 and only work in towns. That makes it even worse than Freeview! If they're waiting for 50% take up before switchover, it'll never, ever happen.

    + The sound quality is actually a big improvement over FM. I know there are loads of hi-fi prats that go on about how awful it is but they're idiots who spend a grand on a cd player because "it's got a lower bit error rate"...

    - BBC broadcast different stations at different volume levels! So you have to set 1xtra to 6 on the dial, then if you want to listen to Radio 3 you have to crank it up to 25. Which is annoying, plus it makes you jump when you switch back.

    - All the commercial stations on DAB are a) impossible to pick up because they're on a low-power mutliplex b) crap anyway.

    - The kit is bloody stupidly expensive and really chunky. How comes I can buy a freeview box for the the fluff in my pocket whereas a mono dab radio that does nothing else costs £50??? Where are the personal DAB receivers?

    So when I sold my car I let the dude have the DAB radio, not that he wanted it particularly.

    Just go DAB+ or come up with some sort of standard that is low bandwidth enough to piggyback on the FM signal.

  17. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    No just an IP-based future

    One of the great advantages of traditional broadcast technologies is how little power the receivers use: radios do not need DSPs and codecs to receive. This doesn't much of an effect on BoM for modern devices but it does affect their energy requirements. This is probably why phone manufacturers have plumped for FM as a "nice to have" feature that was easy to do.

    I, personally, can't see IP-based services sweeping the globe quite yet partly because of the need for the receiving device to stay in touch with the nearest cell, and of course requiring enough cells for everyone who wants to talk, listen, watch, etc. DVB-T (not DVB-H) is being adopted by phone manufacturers as an established international standard and, of course, like satellite supports radio. This provides a reasonable trade-off between portability and power consumption and as more manufacturers add the technology to their phones, adoption rates will shoot up far faster than for DAB as phones are replaced much faster.

  18. Topsy

    At home

    I own one DAB radio and stuff it with 4 fresh NiMH AA's every week despite the relative high usage of 4hrs a day. Of course the problem here on the East coast is that any transmitter is inland, so usually only one within range. Coverage indoors is patchy, depends which side of the home you are .... and other factors such as metallic fittings.

    So, when it works it is good. The info screen _can_ be useful. The battery life may vary, depending on the model etc. But, the technology works and should be promoted.

    Of course, if WiMAX (or similar) took off, we'd all stream the stations to the garden or car.


    Hand me my jacket - I'm on my way out the door

  19. Joe Harrison


    My wife loves her DAB radio and keeps telling her friends they should get one too. Personally I can't see the attraction since the best quality you can sometimes get is 128Kbs and most are at 64. It sounds *worse* to me than FM.

    I finally asked her straight out what she liked about DAB and she said (I'm not making this up) "You just press the button to change channel and it's so convenient." Thinking back a few years yes I believe she used to have an analog radio where you had to tune in the station with a rotary dial.

  20. Steve Foster

    Competition Time?

    How about an El Reg competition for a replacement definition of the DAB acronym?

    I submit "Dead And Buried" (as in, it's time it was).

  21. Loki

    What to do with the free airwaves?

    If at the magical 50% we are all going to switch, wont the recently freed up bandwidth be ripe for the plucking. I imagine the pirate radio stations will love this.

    "This is Radio 1 going off the air, join us on DAB. Goodbye" *crackle* "Yo man! BBC1 be replaced by Underground Reggae Radio. Sit back, light a spliff, and chill".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Choice? What choice?

    Some slight exaggerations here, while stand alone sets are a rip off - an mp3 player with DAB is under 30 quid (so the actual DAB chip must cost buttons), and in car DAB/CD/FM players are available for £88 delivered (proper DIN replacement players, not the malarky which requires a line-in).

    If they ever become standard within mobile 'phones, then 50% market penetration is just a matter of time. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but does anyone when I.P or satellite radio will become available, how much they'll cost? (transmitting IP radio to the countryside doesn't appear to be a cheap proposition!) Let alone whether the range of broadcasting would make any other switchover worthwhile. DAB+ would be nice, but it seems there's little choice when buying new equipment;either make sure it's got twin tuners so is future proofed, risk obsolescence, or hang on and wait for a technology which might not even be free-to-air.

    Although, if it ain't broke...

  23. Paul

    Battery life comparison


    Battery life is one of my main reasons for not getting DAB. I normally listen to Radio 4 (yes, I'm a young fogey) on a small FM radio that takes two rechargeable AAs which get recharged about once every 3-6 months, that's for about 4 hours use per day.

    The idea of changing the batteries every week just to get the same channels I've already got, at roughly the same quality (doesn't matter much on R4), is nuts and an atrocious waste of leccy. Claiming 40 hours battery time as good is also nuts when I'm getting 400+ with ease.

    DAB really is a problem looking for a solution.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    "Last week, after a year of deliberation, the government’s Digital Radio Working Group concluded that outdated DAB technology should be the sole broadcast platform for UK radio,"

    The clue to the whole affair is in this sentence. "the Governments..." This is Government policy and thus is not constrained by practicality or other such irrelvancies (like facts).

    Nu-Lab want this to be so and it shall be so. Unless they call an election of course and they will only do that when the rioters are hammering their doors down.

  25. Dangermouse

    Competition Time - Yay!!

    Duck-arsed bollocks!

  26. Steve Liddle


    Seems to work all over Europe, excellent sound quality where ever you are, being Brits, we have to have the stiff upper lip and go with a cheaper, but much poorer version.

    Can see me not even using the radio in the car after 2017

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sorry to buck the trend

    But I really like DAB and have had a few radios for some time.

    Means I can listen to Planet Rock and LBC (London based) in the wilds of Wiltshire. No hiss.

    Funny how many people have not actually heard the difference.



  28. Ron Eve

    I don't get it.

    So you can get more channels on DAB. That's just more channels of shit. Look at TV - you've got five basic channels of shit. If you get Freeview you get even more shit and if you get Sky/Virgin you get a shit load of shit.

    I know 4 people with DAB radios, who listen to stuff that's on FM, only in mono. I've never come across DAB in a car and I do a lot of travelling.

    Oh wait, we had the BBC computer for a while didn't we? <sound of wind in empty corridors>

    Meanwhile I'm listening to Radio Paradise (via iTunes or web site) with no ads and no dj's wittering on about the neighbour's cat.

  29. Chris

    "The wheels fell off"...?

    Really? I've got two DAB radios in the house and they are both fine. My 80 year old parenrts have a couple too (no, I had nothing to do with the purchase).

    OK, so I don't rely on batteries, but I much prefer DAB to FM.

  30. Dave
    Dead Vulture


    If you had mentioned miles vs kilometres you would have had my agreement - (I walk kilometres, but always drive in miles) - but have never used pounds/ounces in my life!

    Back on topic - if measured in a sensible way, I doubt that we will ever reach 50% of RADIO listening via DAB, but clearly these idiots cannot be trusted to measure things sensibly.

    On the other hand, making everyone upgrade their DAB sets to DAB+ would be an equally stupid move - I suspect that IP-based listening will be the dominant force by then.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    I got a Freecom MusicPAL internet WIFI radio for Christmas for the kitchen. Absolutely brilliant, but would be no good when away from a WIFI network. Maybe the future of broadcast radio is that there is no future in these modern times of Podcasts and mp3s etc...? Maybe we should take the audio content with us when we go out or download it from public WIFI such that it's not quite live? i.e. we could have portable radios that are subscribed to channels/podcasts and quickly download any episode updates to memory when we are in range of WIFI networks which could be at traffic lights or car parks? When we are at home or work, live internet radio would also be available.

  32. An nonymous Cowerd

    Pure Dab Highway...

    is quite a nice DAB Radio, I emailed Pure (now Apple?!?) before Christmas asking if anything of theirs can handle DAB+ which is in some use here in central EU-land. They very helpfully explained that the Highway hardware can already handle the DAB+ waveform but they would need to release a codec upgrade, which Pure plan to do soon (due to codec licensing issues there will be a nominal charge) I'm also considering the which does analogue/digital LW/MF/HF/VHF-RDS, DAB , DAB+ and digital radio mondiale for the new BBC worldservice pan-european joint operation with Deutsche Welle!

    I certainly approve of the innovative UK use of MPEG 4 HE AAC v2 Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex over Medium and Shortwave frequencies, the BBC/DW drm signals are specifically NOT aimed at the UK, but should be receivable.

    Parenthetically, I've just taken delivery of a few GNURadio USRP2's for beta-testing, these universal open source radios are programmable and do RF to Ethernet, just about any frequency/mode/waveform, one of these USRP's was detained by MI5 at LHR in 2008!

    The USRP2 is *much better*, although around U$D 1400 plus accessories each.

    The Starwave Truckbox is around 250 euros and the Pure Highway is around 69 quid/sorry euros.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    don't understand replacing a working technology with a worse technology... although it does seem all the rage now days.

    The only pluses mentioned (sum rebuffed) are sound quality improvements (sum) and easy to change channels (programme some buttons you fail sage.)

    The downsides, expensive units, awful reception (my old dear has a dab radio, someone bought it for her a few years ago - can't pick up any stations on the isle of skye though), expensive network upgrades, already outdated, sucks battery life (I remember years back that when the radio in the kitchen died it was a major trauma, as it only happend once a year or more so there were never any batteries to replace it), and you can't get decent portable ones...

    Well based on those differences it's no wonder the powers that be want it, just like national id databases and passanger data, no real benefits but alot of misc overheads.

  34. No

    Terrestrial Radio, people still listen to that?

    Over here, across the pond, some of us do something that most in the UK probably cannot fathom: we pay for radio.

    It's called satellite radio (Sirius and XM). Why do we pay for it? No commercials on the music channels. That's right, I can listen 24/7 and never hear a single commercial. There are channels dedicated to whatever genre of music you want. On my trip to Britain last year I had dozens of hours of precorded sat radio with me. I tried listening to the local stations from time to time, but after getting used to zero commercials, I didn't last long before switching on my sat radio.

    I realize the UK is a different market, covering the UK with radio is vastly easier then North America due to your higher population density. That said, IMHO, the days of commercial radio are numbered. If there was a service available in the UK (be it terrestrial or satellite based) that offered completely commercial free music, would you pay for it?

    FWIW, DAB exists here in Canada, barely. It came out a few years ago with huge fanfare. I actually bought a receiver, it's reception was beyond horrendous. I returned it a couple days later. The problem DAB has is it has pretty much no advantage for the consumer over FM. Even if it's reception were perfect, the sound quality is no better then FM. Battery life could eventually come close, but it's doubtful it could beat FM.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What sells more - Analogue or DAB?

    It's interesting to read that they estimate DAB will outsell analogue by 2010 because I remember clearly a couple of years ago that radio stations were claiming DAB sales had already overtaken analogue for the first time. So was that a damn lie or twisted statistics?

    I think we'll end up with DAB because those in charge are too pig-headed to admit they're wrong and do a U-turn. Captain Mainwaring has made it to government!

    So much for the 60+ stations promised to London by last summer:

  36. Michael
    Thumb Down

    FM vs DAB

    Will never convert to DAB.. Too much compression up in the upper frequencies, the cost of shelling out again.. Or am I the only person who can hear it?? Its like watching freeview when the screen gets busy and the compression in the video is very noticable....

    I have an FM reciever in my mobile and it hardly uses any battery life..

    Analogue rules. period

  37. Richard Porter
    Thumb Down

    Time to Petition the PM

    It is absolutely disgraceful that the BBC should be running commercials for DAB radios (or anything else for that matter). I don't pay my licence fee just to be advertised at, and the last thing I wanted for Christmas was a DAB radio.

    Whether it sounds worse or not depends on what you are listening to. For heavily compressed pop, rock and electric music there won't be much difference, but compare classical music (piano in particular), jazz or acoustic folk and country music and FM wins hands down. Of course the distribution to FM stations is digital, but uncompressed and with sufficient bandwidth.

    As for cars, we drive on the continent too, so we must have a compatible radio system across Europe at the very least. Oh and by the way, we're not the only country to drive on the left. So does Japan, nearly all Commonwealth countries (Canada excepted) and other countries too. It was the French who changed, not we!

  38. David

    Digital dogma!

    DAB basically offers no advantages over FM radio with RDS & a good quality receiver. This is digital for the sake of digital.

    I predict DAB will be wiped out once a European satellite radio service goes live. You'll pop a tiny antenna on your car roof, pay a small subscription & get access to thousands of station thematically organized etc

    At least two companies are planning such service.

    Most people are happy with an MP3 player, iPod, phone & fm radio!

    Commercial FM stations are not going to spend money on DAB it's only heavily rolled out in the UK because the BBC sunk millions upon millions of licence fee payers' money into it. They don't have to worry about annoying things like commercial reality when they have vast pools of cash they don't have to earn to throw away on White elephants like DAB

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Roger Stenning

    50 Quid? Try 22 quid from Asda, OK, it's not a particularly nice looking piece of kit but it is portable and it's *very* cheap.

    Personally, I'll just start listening to more pre recorded stuff as the only place I listen to the radio is in the car, albeit for a high percentage of my day.

    Paris, won't be a turn off in the foreseeable future for me at least!

  40. Dave

    Perhaps I won't buy one...

    I was thinking about getting a DAB receiver, but if they're measuring for a 50% threshold to force everyone to switch, it's in my best interest not to buy one, lest the day be hastened. I tend to listen to internet radio anyway, simply because I'm usually at my computer and in the great RF wasteland of the East of England, the computer puts out enough hash to upset any radio, let alone a DAB one with almost zero received signal strength.

  41. David

    DAB dead duck?

    I have it on good authority from an industry insider that DAB radio is considered something of a joke and I would agree. When it was first proposed, the buzz-words were “CD quality or better”. Perhaps the word “potentialy” should have been added as it hasn’t happened. As usual, the great god of money has intervened and we now find extra stations being shoe-horned into each multiplex at ever-decreasing bit-rates. To really add insult to injury, some channels are actually in MONO! BBC7 is one such. Although I would agree that quite often it doesn’t matter, as a lot of the nostalgic output was originally recorded in mono, there are numerous, more modern plays, etc; being broadcast that can now only be heard in their full stereophonic glory on their satellite outlet or from the BBC iPlayer. Furthermore, hideous amounts of audio compression and processing are still used. Again (unless I had a dream) I seem to remember a proposal that compression would be user-controllable at the receiver/tuner, some sort of control signal being sent out with the DAB signal to facilitate that idea, which really appealed to me. Again, it didn’t happen. I also gather that in-car units are somewhat variable in their ability to give a clean signal, without the characteristic “burbling” that is a dead-give-away of a lousy DAB signal. So, once again, an opportunity to establish a really high quality audio broadcasting system has been squandered by the suits.

  42. OpenSauce
    Paris Hilton

    DAB+ or leave well alone

    Through a decent Hi-Fi system, you can clearly hear DAB is inferior to FM.

    Similarly, the digital radio on Freeview through the Hi-Fi sounds superior to DAB.

    I believe DAB+ and the Freeview CODECs are similar spec.

    When listening on a tinny portable radio, it doesn't matter, however any digital system must cater for Hi-Fi use (since FM to be killed off).

    Most enlightened countries are going DAB+ and that's what I'd like to see in GB, not DAB.

    I have a Roberts WM202 which is firmware upgradeable to DAB+, has FM and Internet radio over Ethernet or WiFi and can stream audio off a PC. Sound is fine & have used as a tuner for the HiFi. Some Internet radio at 128K sound perfectly acceptable. All that's missing is AM/LW.

    It was over a ton, but will hopefully have a long life through firmware.

    Sounds like an ideal candidate for an online petition to 10 Downing Street.

    Paris, because even she would know to go DAB+

  43. Zorric

    Re Battery Life

    I bought a Devo "wind-up" DAB/FM radio the other day, cos it was reduced from £90 to a more like what it's worth £35. It's mainly for FM and sometimes BBC 7 or 6 Music. If you switch from Radio 2 on FM to Radio 2 on DAB, the FM sounds better, without question.

    The interesting thing though is that one minute of winding the charger handle gives an hour of FM listening, or 3-5 minutes on DAB. Quite a difference.

  44. Red Bren
    Thumb Down

    Double Standard?

    Purchases of DAB radios are minimal yet OFCOM insist on keeping the existing crap standard to avoid upseting early adopters.

    Purchases of "HD Ready" DVB TVs are widespread, due in part to the digital switchover, yet OFCOM are happy to render this costly equipment obsolete by mandating a new (as in not yet available) standard for HD freeview!

    Why the two different approaches?

  45. Steve Green

    DAB+ will replace DAB

    "the UK is unlikely to make such a switch [ to DAB+] because the majority of the 7 million DAB receivers sold to date are not upgradeable."

    Ofcom estimates there are around 120m - 150m FM devices in-use. So it's common sense that DAB+ is bound to replace DAB over time as the number of DAB+ receivers first outnumers, then vastly outnumbers the DAB-only devices. It'll be a gradual process, but the end result is inevitable.

    For a stereo station using 128 kbps MP2 on DAB, they could reduce that station to mono at 64 kbps and broadcast a DAB+ version of the same station at higher quality than the MP2 version without requiring any additional capacity at all, so the transition isn't even difficult.

    "BBC’s national DAB multiplex presently costs £6 million per annum for a network of 96 transmitters that cover 86 per cent of the UK population. To increase coverage to 99 per cent would require 1,000 transmitters, increasing the cost significantly to £40 million per annum."

    I've been provided with info under the Freedom of Information Act that the £40m estimate is for 95% population coverage, so it's going to be far higher than £40m per annum to achieve FM's 99% coverage.

    A rule of thumb is that the transmission costs are roughly proportional to the number of transmitters. So using the above figures, that would work out to be about £60m per annum.

    In other words, we're going to have to pay through the nose for the privilege of having the choice of stations and the audio quality of those stations being severely limited just so that the BBC and the commercial radio groups can stop us listening to anything they don't produce.

    The most outrageous thing about the DRWG report, IMO, is the fact that the BBC obviously has a power of veto to stop these blatantly anti-consumer recommendations being made, but the BBC went along with them.

    Then again, this didn't come as any surprise, because the BBC has acted disgracefully on DAB since day 1.

  46. Jack Barker


    I've been through a few DAB radios and still listen to two, even though it's irritating that they broadcast a few seconds late so can't integrate with other fm sets. But apart from needing mains power all the time they also seem to be less reliable, rarely lasting much more than two years. I've analoge radios forty years old that still work fine.

  47. Steve

    @ In-car DAB

    "It is nice to be able to switch quickly between radio stations without relying on auto-search or my own knowledge of the FM frequency I'm looking for...."

    The bog standard stereo in my 15yr old Corsa is capable of that.

  48. paulc

    yup definitely dead and buried

    DAB is dead because the receivers are still too expensive and there is no percievable advantage over the existing FM system... CD and DVD took off because there were advantages over the existing formats and the prices of basic players came down fast enough

  49. blue

    DAB+ FTW

    To hell with the DAB crowd.

    I bought a DAB radio a few years ago and I'm happy to have that investment junked to get a modern digital network going in this country, rather than leaving us like some digitally-backward 3rd world country.

    Seriously, how can anyone justify using mpeg1-layer2 technology for audio in this day and age? Bin it! Move forward!

    Next up - design digital radio that *fails gracefully* like anagolue radio (no interference my arse) - I'd rather have a little 'Hiss and crackle' than painful unlistenable burbling and glitching any day.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Cut our losses

    DAB was optimized to work well in cars etc. If that's not living up to the promise, it's a white elephant.

    If no significant markets outside the UK are using it, the receivers will never become cheap, nor integrated with mobile phones.

    DAB is, it seems, going to die a death sooner or later. So, we should have the guts to phase it out now, before anyone else gets saddled with expensive receivers (I should point out that Tesco have them on special offer from time to time, and they are almost affordable).

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Typical crap from ZaNuLab scumbags:

    "Neither does the AM nor FM spectrum hold value for the Treasury, as much is likely to be re-assigned to non-profit community radio services."

    In other words, it's all about promoting MultiCulti. (Illegal) Immigrant shall speak double dutch unto (Illegal) Immigrant. Want to know what is top of the pops in Double Dutchland, just tune into BBC Double Dutch 1 on your DAB radio.

    I will never ever ever buy a DAB radio because they are very expensive very poor quality shite produced by local shite manufacturers which offer the poorest possible service to English people who like classical music.

  52. Steve Green

    Re: I had a DAB in my car

    "The sound quality is actually a big improvement over FM. I know there are loads of hi-fi prats that go on about how awful it is but they're idiots who spend a grand on a cd player because "it's got a lower bit error rate""

    DAB's sound quality is miles worse than on FM. I don't know which DAB car stereo you had, but DAB receiver modules that implement FM are absolutely diabolical on FM (they're made by DAB companies, so there's a slight vested interest in making them sound terrible on FM...), so I wouldn't go off what sound is coming out of a DAB car stereo - try comparing the sound quality with FM on a normal car stereo instead.

    "Just go DAB+ or come up with some sort of standard that is low bandwidth enough to piggyback on the FM signal."

    Correct re DAB+. But all the systems that piggyback on the FM signal are a pile of doggydoo - in fact, they're even worse in terms of allowing protectionist practices than the DRWG report wants to happen.

  53. richard


    Having Lived over in Canada some time I do Miss Sirrius and XM, but you forget if you can put up with the crap, irritating DJs the BBC stations are AD-less.

    As for DAB, installed a Car Radio, went back to FM within weeks, and only that long as I needed to get round to taking it out.

    I can go out and get an FM stereo receiver the size of a few coins for a few £. DAB offers me nothing that I dont already have. When radio gets really dire I can always stream CJAY, although that confuses my co-workers :)

  54. Nebulo
    Thumb Down

    A mantra for our times

    "Dogmatic rather than practical".

    Perfectly put. The quality is shit (also true of AAC+, btw). The coverage is shit. The battery life is a joke. But "the future is digital" so the public will get its brown shower whether it will or no.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of nonsense

    - My dad's got a digital radio. He has to use a seven foot metal curtain pole as an aerial.

    - I saw one for sale in Sainsbury's (i.e. a big metal shed of a place). It couldn't pick up a signal.

    - Why oh why do they have to look like something from the fifties with bits of wood and twiddly grandad knobs and a big handle on the top and stupid tartan vinyl side panels?

  56. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    Did I read that right? Analogue switched off once digital listening exceeds 50% of the market? Or to look at it another way, lets just piss off 49% of the market. Are people going to rush out and replace their tuners, or are they just going to think "fuck that" and stop listening to radio.

    To be honest though I think they're going to have to fiddle their figures in order to get their 50%. Unlike TV, most radio listeners stick to the same channel all the time. As a result you simply can't bribe them with extra channels.

    They were also lucky with digital TV in that every sheep in the country simply had to have the latest 42 inch flat screen. Can't see that happening with radio. So they're stuck with waiting for radios to break and b replaced. However if the cheap little FM radio in my kitchen breaks it will be replaced with another cheap little FM radio, because DAB units cost far too much.

    So what they really need to do to to improve the uptake of DAB is spend millions subsidising DAB radios so they are as cheap as a good old tranny and then people will buy them.

  57. Iain Thomas

    Mobile w/ DAB

    Except there /was/ a mobile phone with a DAB radio. HTC Monet sold as the Virgin mobile Lobster 700 TV... Except that sank with that BT/Movio mobile TV thing...



  58. Doug Elliot

    DAB Madness

    Have they gone mad?

    Why replace a high quality FM network and an ubiquitous AM network with an inferior service?

    I have a DAB radio and the audio quality is appalling.

    They also forget the enormous quantity of toxic electronic waste that scrapping millions of AM and FM radios, some parts of expensive hi-fi systems will generate.

    Not to mention the fact that the system they are plugging will be obsolete by the time they get around to it.


    Doug Elliot

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got dab in car

    And I love it.

    I live in Bristol and don't like any of the local fm stations.

    With DAB, I can get Absolute Radio, 6music, xfm all in stereo, in the car.

    In the case of Absolute, I can drive Bristol to Birmingham and pretty much keep the signal.

    Yes it's awkward and unpopular, but find me another way to get those stations in the car, in stereo. Can't be done any other way at present.

    If I lost dab, I'd ditch radio altogether at the moment.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cost points

    AC from Bristol again here.

    Stereo home dab units are less than £30.

    In-car dab/cd/mp3/cdrw/fm/am radios are under £100 from some brands (jvc seem to be cheapest).

    Granted you need a different aerial and a good one is £40. Mine is a bootlid one which I sat on the parcel shelf. Works fine.

    The only reason dab as an option is so expensive is because it's a rip off.

    My sister bought a brand new Clio and as standard it still comes with a tape player (no, really).

    A CD player (no mp3 playback) was a £100 "option".

    As dab is new/uncommon, it's even more of a rip off. No wonder nobody has it installed in a new car. I wouldn't either.

    Iain - Lobster used to use spare dab frequency to show tv or something. You couldn't pick up dab radio with it.

  61. Iain Thomas

    Lobster @Bristol AC

    The TV stuff ran over DAB-IP on another frequency, but if you start the TV/Radio player, and hit "Radio Guide"... Have one myself, and it still picks up DAB radio just fine... Even Birdsong...

  62. Aidan Whitehall

    @blue & @Andrew Martin

    Yup, gotta agree. Bought a Ministry of Sound portable DAB radio a couple of years ago... whilst I'm sat at work (first floor office) and sit dead still, it sounds great... but move an inch and it's unlistenable.

    IIRC paid £90 and have got precious little use out of it because whilst it was marketed as a *PORTABLE* DAB radio, if you're at ground level and/or moving, it's unusable.

    If required, let's junk the technology before the masses buy into it and instead invest in an infrastructure the provides a service that improves on what we already have.

  63. John Lodge

    Dab? Doh

    It;s a huge waste of money...

    FM works wonderfully well in most of the UK, DAB doesn't. I now, thanks to Santa, have doubled my DAB radio count to 2 which is 2 too many. Reception is not good around here (Central Essex) and we often get the babbling mud effect. I have 6 perfectly good analogue receivers, at least one of which is 40 years old, if fact I am listening to Radio 4 on it right now!

    And another thing - the power consumption of these thinks is unbelievable, they eat batteries and the mains powered ones do nothing for the old carbon footprint (Not that U actually give a stuff).

    God only knows what Those That Know All are thinking of - I can't for the life of me think of one advantage Digital has over Analogue is this case.

    On the list of strange British stuff, 13 amp plugs and BT phone sockets deserve a mention as examples of pointlessly over engineered gubbins. I think it was deliberate in case the Frenchies or the Yanks invaded - none of their technology would work ...

    PS I have 5 car radios that would need changing too

  64. Robert E A Harvey

    green angle

    My little sony dab portable munches though 4xAA batteries in around 5 hours, or it would if I let it.

    similar size roberts fm/sw portable can go two months on the same, and often does.

    On the green issue alone, DAB should be damned.

  65. Rob Foster

    Digital Radio Working Group?

    Let's think about this. Its a report by the "Digital Radio Working Group" (whoever they are). Presumably paid to sit & pontificate about this. They're hardly going to say "no its all crap, close it down & stick with analogue". Their entire raison d'etre and subsequent well-paid jobs would be lost. Turkeys don't usually vote for Christmas.

  66. Mark York

    DAB - Dead A Brick

    Which is what our existing radio's will be.

    Getting me coat as I am fucking off to Canada this year.

  67. Nick Fisher

    One reason to buy a DAB set

    Good luck trying to listen to Test Match Special on R4LW.

  68. Nigel R

    Prediction: Europe goes 100% digital before UK

    It's worth remembering that DAB+ is hugely more resistant to the burbling mud effect, due to a better error correction system. You lucky lucky mainland Europeans - the Euro AND DAB+ too!

  69. Oliver

    The loonies are in charge of the asylum

    Someone said name a British manufacturer of DAB radios - never heard of Roberts then? When I checked DABs out in the shops they took up half the display. The reason I never bought one was because, at the time, they were at least £100 for a shitty bottom of the range model. Totally prohibitive and always will be as long as it's a British peculiarity. It's the law of mass production.

    Since then I've learned that the sound quality and network coverage is scandalously inferior to FM. Many rural communities who don't get TV receptions rely on analogue radio, what will they be left with? DABs also eat juice so are not eveironmentally friendly and will never be viable in mobile phones let alone the fact that international mobile phone manufacturers will never bother to make them. And the 'portable' ones are hardly tiny. The whole technology is a joke.

    There are too many alternatives around anyway. In the home we use the internet and the freeview box to listen to the radio and I would never bother with it in the car for the reasons mentioned by others above. As I say, it's unlikely mobiles will ever sport DAB and it won't even be compatible when going abroad.

    Makes total sense that the Govt and BBC are four-square behind it!

  70. Richard Porter
    Gates Horns

    Not upgradeable?

    "the UK is unlikely to make such a switch [ to DAB+] because the majority of the 7 million DAB receivers sold to date are not upgradeable."

    And just how many non-upgradeable analogue televisions have been sold?

  71. Luther Blissett

    DABbling in the future

    > the Working Group’s insistence that the DAB platform must replace AM and FM radio broadcasting, by a target date of 2017

    WTF. Why? Is that when the Alien Grays are expected? The reasoning of the WG is so senseless it begs to be explained by the irrational. Yet, with no analogue reception capability, a Great Firewall of Britain would be extremely effective for propaganda purposes in controlling a (possibly fulminating) mass of citizenry that has just found out the hard way the real meaning of communism. Or depression. Or the 12th century.

  72. Steve Green

    @Luther Blissett

    Don't worry about the 2017 date - it's completely unattainable, because they've only set a target for all cars to come factory fitted with DAB by 2014. There are 30 million cars, and car sales are around 2.3m per year, so they'd only have 3 years of full car sales with DAB factory fitted - that's only 6.9 million cars out of 30 million.

    Basically, the 2017 figure was simply a fabrication because they didn't want to admit the truth that it's giong to be around 2022 - 2024, because that's just too far for anybody to care about.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I live in Hampshire, not too far from a transmitter but in a bit of a radio dead zone. MW is pretty poor during the day here, and fades at night. FM reception is OK (and probably would be better if I could be arsed to fit an external aerial) but only for a couple of stations. A few months ago I borrowed a friend's DAB radio to see if it would be as poor in my houseas MW/FM, but was surprised at how good a signal I could get. So now I've got two DAB radios - a Roberts jobbie that I bought on offer for £19 from Comet that I run off rechargeables (that last about 2 weeks, with the radio on for at least half the day - to keep the dog entertained...) and a Revo Blik that I run off the mains. DAB's not perfect, but for where I live it's better than the alternatives.

  74. Anonymous Coward

    Just not worth it

    The major stumbling block for DAB is power consumption, making portable devices i.e. battery powered radios expensive to run, not to mention inconvenient as the batteries are constantly running flat.

    That alone is enough reason to keep broadcasting on FM, lets face it, a lot of radio listening happens via battery powered devices like mobile phones or MP3 players.

    The second stumbling block is that we simply don't need it, the advantages of DAB are outweighed by the disadvantages, it makes no practical sense. Analogue out performs DAB in every respect bar one, which is that DAB, assuming you're in a good spot!, will give you clearer sound - I won't say better because I simply don't think it is.

    I would say that FM has better fidelity but more noise, the lack of fidelity on DAB is substancially noticiable when listening to classical music for example. I would rather have decent quality with a bit of noise than poor quality with no noise.

  75. Tezfair

    regular user of DAB

    Not me...the wife. always plugged into radio 5 live because its better quality than MW.

    I did once buy a bedroom alarm clock with DAB on it, but had to take it back as I could get a reliable radio station on digital. Not much point trading the old one in if I used it on FM so took it back.

  76. Paul

    DAB has its uses

    To be honest, the whole idea of erecting a network of radio (and TV towers) is ludicrous when satellite bandwidth is relatively cheap - analogue TV and radio should have been left along and satellite radio and TV created. Oh, I forgot, the UK government f*cked over the UK population granting a de-facto monopoly to Sky when the mismanaged BSB went under.

    Anyway, that said, DAB radios are fairly cheap, really - 20 quid is not that much, most whining brits waste far more than that on booze and fags a week! The idea of DAB(+) is good... BUT it's been seriously screwed up - it makes me sick is that there was plenty of opportunity to upgrade the codec years ago yet wasn't due to government incompetence.


  77. Graham Smith
    Thumb Down

    More money wasted...

    I wasted £££ on buying my wife a DAB radio from a nearby ASDA store, only to discover that the DAB signal is too weak to be received here in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Thank goodness the radio had FM capability!

  78. Gareth Jones Silver badge

    Where's the logic?

    The logic seems a little flawed. They don't want to switch to DAB+ because it will upset those people who own a DAB radio. That's presumably somewhat less than 7 million people given how many pro DAB posters here own several DAB tuners. However they want to start to switch off FM when DAB listening exceeds 50%. So they don't mind pissing off everybody who owns an FM tuner, which will be considerably more than 7 million people.

    Oh and for all the DAB adherents out there, I have a question. DAB sounds great to you, you have good coverage (and sod the rest of the nation), but how can you say it's so great if you've never heard DAB+?

  79. Reinhard Schu

    Pirate Radio allowed to take over analogue FM

    In London, Ofcom have all but abandoned the analogue radio spectrum and have left it to the pirate radio stations. It has become difficult to listen to legitimate radio stations as the interference from the loud pirate transmissions bleeds into the regular stations, even the BBC.

    This looks suspiciously like deliberate policy to me in order to force peope onto DAB.

  80. David Ramsay

    Pensoiners to revolt

    IMHO every single pensioner should sue using the human rights act - Right to receive and impart information - the government should pay all persons aged 60 + the cost of replacing all Analogue receiving equipment including both radio and TV.

  81. Paul Stockwell

    Kill off the White Elephant now!

    Time to kill the white elephant methinks.

    There are over 50 million vehicles in the UK virtually all of them having an FM radio in them. the chances of upgrading this lot to DAB are nil. Since the average car lasts about 14-16 years now (how many K,L, and M reg cars do you regularly see) FM demand will be there for quite a while. Trying to kill it off is more likely to get this working group killed off. Thats ignoring all the DAB owners who can't get a station, the commercial operators who have written it off and the 6 radios per household.

    The sensible thing to do would be kill off this white elephant, do the ritual enquiry into why all this taxpayers money was wasted in the first place and implement a decent infrastructure to make RDS announcemnts actually useful for drivers, far cheaper than big illuminated signs and expensive telematics systems and the whole motoring population will use it because they dont read car handbooks and womnt be able to figure out how to turn it off anyway.

    Will common sense prevail?

    Mines the one with the telescopic aerial sticking out the pocket.

  82. Gareth Jones Silver badge

    Comparisons with digital TV

    It seems that the comittee have been emboldened (love that word) by the comparitive success of the switch over to digital TV, and think they can do the same with DAB radio. Sorry guys but there are major differences.

    1. The impecunious can switch to digital TV buy spending under £20 on a freeview box. Can't do that with DAB.

    2. The price of a freeview box is peanuts when compared to the price of a TV. The price of a DAB radio is not peanuts when compared with the radio it replaces.

    3. Almost every new TV sold now has built in Freeview, but FM tuners are still widely available and generally cheaper than their DAB equivalent.

    Many DAB adherents are comparing a £50-100 radio with an old FM "tranny" that cost 90% less. Of course DAB sounds better in that scenario. Does it, however, sound better than an FM radio costing the same as your DAB radio.

    Inspite of what one of your posters seems to think Freeview doesn't degrade when the screen gets busy, nor is the video compression visible. I can only assume the poster has a cheap early Freeview decoder, some of those did have problems, but that's nothing to do with Freeview transmissions. DAB, however, does have enormous quality problems.

  83. Mark Ramsay

    I have DAB....

    in my car and at home and it works pretty well - travelled a fair bit across Yorkshire North West and Midlands and down to London without losing a signal. I realise i,m well served where i live and others aren't but its something we're going to have to get used to - bt wont have to connect you to a phone line soon and I can see a day where the Royal Mail wont give you universal deliveries either - sad but true - the digital divide is coming

    I am changing my car soon and looking for one where i can actually change the head unit as more and more are integrated into the other electronics. grrrr!

    Anyway just a few picks at the article - many stations like gold xfm heart etc broadcast on fm in their local areas but also on the regional multiplexes around the country and Virgin/Absolute is on AM nationwide - in my area they are really digital only stations but i assume will be measured as simulcast so I dont think a fair comparison can be made.

    My 2nd pic at the article is that we arent the only ones using DAB - Ireland is rolling out a DAB network as are many other countries in Europe and around the world.

    The last pick is over price - in the run up to xmas I have seen own brand DAB radios in the supermarkets at around £25 - a lot less than the £50 in the article plus aftermarket car radios are much cheaper than they used to be - plus a lot of problems with car radios is from NOT using an external aerial - throw away those wires that you stick to the windscreen and replace your old fm aerial !!!!!

    Anyway had my say - i'd like DAB to stay - put more transmitters up to improve coverage, turn the power up on the rest and i'd be a happy DAB listening bunny

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