back to article Analogue radio given 10-year stay of execution as the UK U-turns on DAB digital future

Analogue radio station licences will be extended for another 10 years, the UK government has said – entirely reversing plans to shut off FM and AM radio stations in favour of DAB digital radio. Commercial radio stations will be allowed to renew their existing, close-to-expiry licences for another decade, meaning your old …

  1. Lon24

    The future is behind you ....

    Is this an analogy for IPv6 v IPv4?

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: The future is behind you ....

      No, because at least IPv6 is better.

      FM works perfectly fine for quality and AM works perfectly fine for range.

      DAB just sucks. It only exists because they want to use the FM and AM spectrum for something else.

      1. Vulch

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        It's also a lot harder to run up a homebrew DAB multiplex for unlicenced purposes than it is to build a functioning AM or FM transmitter.

        1. jonfr

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          That is what you think. With a modern computer and a good SDR it is easy to create a DAB Mux and DAB+ mux and broadcast on the VHF channels for anyone.

          1. Matthew 25

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            Actually, radio is inherently analogue. Even when you have created your digital multiplex you still transmit it using an analogue process because those radio waves are um... waves. How much simpler to just modify, say, the amplitude or frequency of one of those waves.

            For AM all I need is an oscillator and an amplifier. Feed in the signal I want to transmit to vary how big the output is and Robert is your mother's brother.

            For PWM its even simpler because I only need to transmit two states (big wave & small wave at the same frequency)

            For FM I just control the frequency of the oscillator with the signal I want to transmit. This is very wasteful of bandwidth, which is why it is restricted to VHF.

            No Computer. No complicated electronics. To transmit a DAB Mux I need all the stuff you mentioned PLUS one of the above analogue processes.

            1. Trollslayer Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              It seems you don't understand what SDR is.

              In practice mobile phones use it.

              SDR produces the baseband signal via a DAC which, in the case of mobile that i was involved with, there is a device known as the RFIC whose output chain is composed of primarily a DAC, RF oscillator and the mixer to modulate the carrier.

              An external RF power amplifier and filters complete the transmit chain.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                It seems you don't understand what the original poster said: "It's also a lot harder to run up a homebrew DAB multiplex for unlicenced purposes than it is to build a functioning AM or FM transmitter."

                The homebrew FM transmitter would have run off a car battery (or two) and broadcast a decent signal that could be picked up for 10~20 miles by an off-the-shelf "transistor radio" !!! :) (anonymous because of a summer spent in the company of Radio North London...) - getting a mobile to do similar, whilst possible, I suspect won't be so easy.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        Actually current plans (unless things have changed again) is that the FM frequencies will be used for community radio. Disclaimer: I used to work in the radio industry. The question of the national analogue license (INR) renewal came up in the context of renewal was in 2010. This was when those scamps at Ofcom decided that the length of the license might not reach 10 years. They based this on the (frankly unbelievable) basis that there would have been a switch to DAB in the middle of the license period. They decided that there was unlikely to be any new entrants willing to bid for a license under those circumstances.

        This was despite the fact that at least one newspsper at the time found people interested in bidding. So under the Digital Economy Act the licences were not advertised for bidding. Instead they reduced the amount that both licence holders was reduced. Talksport went from paying £100k per year to £10k which isn't as shocking as the other license holder. Classic FM had paid £50k per year plus 8% of their qualifying revenue. This went down to just 10k per year and 0% of qualifying revenue which is frankly pathetic. That was based don't forget on the limited length of the licences. So now those are being extended by another 10 years for the current holders. I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank. I know the FCC (rightly) come in for a kicking on here but personally Ofcom deserve the same treatment.

        1. cyberdemon
          Devil

          Ofcom..

          So you're saying that Ofcom believed that analogue radio was going to die out very soon (despite massive opposition for a switch off) and so they reduced the analogue license fees to essentially zero for an entire decade?

          Trebles all round at Classic FM then! Sucks to be a new national DAB station like Union JACK in that case.

          I seem to remember multiple Beeellions being involved in the 2004 analogue TV spectrum auction..

          Presumably Vodafone et al must have realised by now that 200MHz wavelength is a bit long for a handset (unless they wanted it for backhaul) but while switching off analogue TV made sense with the compression ratio that digital video affords, doing the same for radio is and always was stupid. It occupies very little bandwidth anyway, and the costs outweigh the benefits in every area. e.g. people listen to radio on the move, whereas TVs are usually static, so they don't need to re-establish a link. Once the antenna is tweaked enough to work, it usually stays that way.

          Whereas driving around with a DAB radio in the car going on and off is beyond annoying.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Ofcom..

            So you're saying that Ofcom believed that analogue radio was going to die out very soon (despite massive opposition for a switch off) and so they reduced the analogue license fees to essentially zero for an entire decade?

            If Ofcom really believed that we would reach the 50% listenership needed to set a date for switchoff then they're the only ones. The rest of the industry believed it was an unlikely pipe dream and there was no chance we'd be anywhere near that by 2015. Yes the owners of Classic FM have basically paid nothing for the last decade and won't for another decade.

            Trebles all round at Classic FM then!

            They (Global Radio) also used a perfectly legal technique (Eurobonds) i believe to minimise their tax bill. So they didn't pay much if any tax after they bought GCap Media Plc either.

            Part of the problem is what DAB offers to the listeners. The extra stations and ease of tuning mean that it's easier for the listener to find new stations they can't get on FM/MW. So if you're running an FM station why would you promote this new technology that may cost you listeners? There's no incentive but some disincentive and consequently a lot of Programme Controllers just didn't bother.

            To get to the state of 50% digital listening over 1.5 billion quid and it's probably closer to 2 has been spent. Was it well spent? I'll leave that up to you to decide

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Ofcom..

            "Whereas driving around with a DAB radio in the car going on and off is beyond annoying."

            It IS good advertisement for getting an iPod. I've several with different stuff on each one. Audiobooks, classical, rock, a broad mix, etc. A Gen 4 32gb is dirt cheap on eBay and has BT/Wifi along with an analog jack so it's extremely versatile. I still like a good radio station that plays more than bands that haven't put out an album in a couple of decades. It's still a good way to find new music especially if the station has DJs that are really into music and are allowed to go off menu.

      3. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        DAB just sucks. It only exists because they want to use the FM and AM spectrum for something else.,

        Plus they can squeeze more stations in (by lowering the quality but ho hum) which means more income from license fees.

        Jaded moi? Maybe.

      4. Weiss_von_Nichts

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        Sure. The way vinyl is just better than CDA. You silly children only think so because you never new the real good stuff as wax cylinders, grammophones and hitting sticks and stones together.

        1. mutt13y

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          DAB has way less bandwidth than FM and many many stations are mono! So it's more like comparing CD to MP3.

          DAB is *potentially* better quality than FM but that is not what they did.

          I reckon most radio listening happens in cars these days. Well over 50% of which can not receive DAB

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            I can't be bothered with radio in my car. I just have an iPod Touch stuffed full with most of my music collection. It plays on album shuffle and that's all I need.

            Well..actually I'd prefer it to be a non-Apple device but sadly I've not yet found any other music player that will store as much or work as flawlessly. But lordy, how I hate iTunes.

            1. tony2heads

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              How do you get the traffic reports (like when a crash happens) live?

              1. Medical Cynic

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                Satnav?

                1. wyatt

                  Re: The future is behind you ....

                  Are TMC updates being broadcast via DAB or only FM?

                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_message_channel

              2. batfink Silver badge

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                I do the same as AndueC but it's piped through my ICE. Traffic reports interrupt the playback as you'd expect.

                1. cyberdemon
                  Devil

                  Re: The future is behind you ....

                  > I do the same as AndueC but it's piped through my ICE.

                  Piped through your Internal Combustion Engine?

                  Sounds like a recipe for Carbon Monoxide poisoning if you ask me..

                  1. batfink Silver badge

                    Re: The future is behind you ....

                    Nah I've got the exhausts tuned just right....

              3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                "How do you get the traffic reports (like when a crash happens) live?"

                "SatNav?"

                Satnav is useless for traffic. I have that on mine and all it tells me is there is a reported accident and sometimes gives me an alternate route. The traffic report on live radio tells me if the accident is clearing, how much traffic is backed up, what alternate routes are now worthless to try and if I might do better turning around and going the really long way around as it's a biggy and the motorway will be shut down for hours while the filth set up all of their little flags and faff about with slide rules, drip feeds and film cameras.

            2. Xalran

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              Personally I have a Sony Walkman ( NW-A35 ) ( I never was an Apple fan, except long ago when it involved computer illiterate people that wanted a computer [old macs were computer illiterate friendly.. modern Linux/NeXT flavored macs are not] ).

              It can connect to the car in Bluetooth or via USB. Between the internal 16Gb and the card slot ( with a 32 Gb card ) I have most of my music library on it ( most is only because I haven't udapted it for a while... I still have room on the card )

              So far I never found a car that wasn't accpeting it on Bluetooth. ( I don't own a car, I rent it when I need one...It's much cheaper for me )

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                Even if the car didn't have bluetooth built in, it's often possible to retrofit a cheap bluetooth adapter anyway for a few squids.

              2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                Re: The future is behind you ....

                Personally I have a Sony Walkman ( NW-A35 ) ( I never was an Apple fan, except long ago when it involved computer illiterate people that wanted a computer [old macs were computer illiterate friendly.. modern Linux/NeXT flavored macs are not] ).

                I find if you want an MP3 player on he cheap, just pick up your base-model TracFone or other pre-pay Android phone, and just never activate it. Put all your music on the microSD, install VLC or your other favourite media player app, and you're all set.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: The future is behind you ....

                  "I find if you want an MP3 player on he cheap, just pick up your base-model TracFone or other pre-pay Android phone"

                  A blacklisted 6" screen phone is great for that and it's also possible to load maps and Torque Pro if your car doesn't have all of the fuel management/trip features. Even if it's blacklisted, you can still use it for emergency calls. It's backup if your mobile goes for a tumble and stops working.

            3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              It's what I do. I have lots of music ripped from CD and Vinyl, plus purchased occasional albums from iTunes (when they actually have something I want) or from some doujin label's website. Plus whatever J-metal, Touhou doujin, Vocaloid, etc I can rip with youtube-dl. Oh, and a good batch of anisong I got from my brother's co-worker. And some music circles like Il-Cremonese/okame-P have some albums available for free download.

              I just burn the MP3s to a CD-R or copy to a USB stick, and play on the car stereo that way. (there's where I'd like to find a car stereo that could play from DVD-R disks).

              Nothing worth listening to on mainstream radio anyways.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            Also on jobsites for various trades (PRS notwithstanding). We frequently have to switch back to FM because DAB is hit or miss, despite being less than 10 miles from the Rowridge transmitter on the isle of wight, (I work in gosport/lee on solent)... and often have a line of sight to the transmitter mast (literally, you can see it out of many upper storey windows around town!)... but DAB radio no can see cap'n.

            Pirates because all this talk of radio has me thinking back to Radio Caroline and Laser 558

            1. AlbertH

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              We've got Radio Caroline (sort of) on 648kHz up here in East Anglia. They got licenced for 1 kW from the old BBC Orfordness site. It's true crap - their modulation sounds like it's coming through a sock, and the frequency is deliberately chosen by OFCOM to screw them over: They have zero coverage during the hours of darkness because of the two multi-kilowatt stations on the same frequency in Europe. They can't be heard right next to their site at night!

          3. TechHeadToo

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            I listen to Radio 3 or classic FM in the workshop. I'd like DAB quality for both of those - but no DAB signal.

            Who is going to pay for all my kit that will be instantly redundant?

            Same scam as promoting cars, then stopping petrol.

            Where does the money go? - are we propping up the makers - Bush, Roberts, Armstrong, Philips - unnamed Chinese Dab makers - and which MP's and party backroom string pullers are the ones making the money from all these unwanted changes.

            Not that I'm paranoid or anything.

            'Community Radio' - was there ever anything of value broadcast on 'community radio'?

            .

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              "'Community Radio' - was there ever anything of value broadcast on 'community radio'?"

              Yes - as someone who runs a community radio station for four weeks each year, there is something of value on there.

              No it's not all of the same production quality of a BBC or commercial station - but it's an excellent starting point. We have several people who have come through the community radio route and now work in commercial radio and the BBC.

              Indeed for several years we have run a competition where the winners (based on their favourite 'link') got an hour show on a commercial station.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              "I listen to Radio 3 or classic FM in the workshop. I'd like DAB quality for both of those - but no DAB signal."

              Do either of those transmit a stereo DAB signal with enough bandwidth to at least be equivalent to FM?

              PS, the answer is "no", so in realty you are asking for a downgrade in quality.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            Errr.... No. DAB can't get anywhere near to VHF stereo quality, despite the 15 kHz upper frequency limit on FM audio. DAB is inherently crap - based on mp2, with ever-reducing data rates in an effort to cram more stations in. They hope that the audience won't notice - after all they all get their music from crappy iPods and things.

            Unfortunately, the reality of DAB is that the coverage is - at best - patchy. It also doesn't work well whilst mobile, because it doesn't degrade nicely. The receiver chipsets are expensive and incredibly power hungry. Have you ever tried to run a DAB "portable" on batteries? It's a joke.

            DAB is 1980s technology and DAB+ brings it into the 1990s (almost). It's OK for casual listening from a static location, but you really wouldn't want to listen to Radio 3 on DAB (it's horrible), and the stations still don't know how to process their audio to get as much as possible out of DAB/+. They're mostly awful.

            Back in the 80s, I worked in the 'States on FM radio. There was an "enhanced" FM system called "FMX". This eliminated the "picket-fencing" of weak FM reception in the car, and used no extra bandwidth. There were receivers available for the system, and it was backwardly compatible with older FM receivers (both mono and stereo). It was superb.

            The imbecilic FCC killed off FMX in favour of IBOC (in-band, on-channel) semi-digital transmission which wildly increased the required bandwidth (and the adjacent guard bands), and generated huge amounts of interference. But who cares? Nobody listens to FM these days anyway (according to the FCC).

            None of the regulatory authorities anywhere in the world have a real clue.....

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          No - the way a well looked after vinyl on a decent table is better than a 16kbps mono MP3

          1. tony2heads

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            a good vinyl has dynamic range. Most MP3's are compressed to nothing

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              That's a mastering choice though... Can't really blame MP3s for the producer's desire to sound louder.

            2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: The future is behind you ....

              a good vinyl has dynamic range. Most MP3's are compressed to nothing

              It's where FLAC should really be an option. Almost never see that presented as an option for music downloads (other than a few Touhou doujin releases).

        3. ICL1900-G3

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          At least we can spell 'gramophone'.

      5. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        here in the USA we have the same broadcast bands for AM and FMthat we've had for DECADES, running at 540khz to 1600Khz for AM, and 87.9Mhz to 108.1Mhz for FM (with the lower FM bands reserved for public broadcasting and college stations, etc. - my favorite is on 88.1Mhz, KSDS, which plays 'straight ahead' jazz, run by the local city college, and has a web page you can listen on if you want). And it's highly unlikely that digital radio will replace these broadcast bands in the USA, for many of the same reasons mentioned in the article.

        Incidentally, you can hear broadcast AM at night over thousands of miles, depending on where you are.

        It's also worth pointing out that you can build an emergency AM radio out of a needle and a razorblade if you happen to have some crystal headphones. Google it, yeah. Surprise!

        So there's one other, perhaps less obvious, advantage to keeping the AM band at least: National Civil Defense

        The one thing that a post-apoalyptic world will need is the ability to communicate again, and if (let's say an EMP) damages all of the hi-tech radio gear, and we're stuck with Fleming's technology or even Marconi's, at .least those of us who have working (simple) receivers that for some reason weren't destroyed by EMP would still be able to listen in. So if for no other reason, keeping the AM band for talk, news, and emergencies is a good idea.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          Bear in mind that in the US, radio stations do not pay royalties for broadcasting records. Here in the UK, every song broadcast incurs a cost.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: The future is behind you ....

            "Bear in mind that in the US, radio stations do not pay royalties for broadcasting records."

            Oh yes they do!

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          "So if for no other reason, keeping the AM band for talk, news, and emergencies is a good idea."

          On a slightly less apocalyptic note, during and the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina, a cheap battery operated AM radio which lasts for many, many hours on a single set of batteries was the only way to get news for quite a period of time for a lot of people. a battery DAB radio will get you far, far less time.

      6. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        DAB+ is pretty good though. And it exists more because of the demand for digital audio than reuse of relatively low bandwidth spectrum that there are plenty of better options for already after analogue TV was turned off.

      7. boltar Silver badge

        Re: The future is behind you ....

        Agreed apart from reusing the spectrum. 20Mhz of band 2 is useless for any digital service other than PMR these days and as for the 1.1Mhz in the AM band, pfft, forget it. You'd have to pay someone to use it. The problem with AM broadcasting in the UK is the transmitters are huge, old, power hungry and spare parts are becoming a problem.

        1. AlbertH
          Happy

          Re: The future is behind you ....

          I've been known to put a reasonable signal into a fairly efficient medium wave aerial on occasions. I got a daytime signal that covered the south east of the UK and much of the Benelux with just 600W carrier / 2400W peak. If you want night-time coverage, you need about ten times that power unless you're fortunate enough to find a truly clear frequency.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The future is behind you ....

      Analog AM and FM have a huge installed base. Lots of emergency kits have a small handheld radio that can be hand cranked or powered from rechargeable batteries. A hand cranked circuit full of digital components can easily turn into a brick. They don't like uneven power.

      During hurricane Katrina and other large scale emergencies in the US, independent and "pirate" radio became people's source for news and information for weeks at a time. Low power FM stations were manned 24/7 and owned/operated by enthusiasts that had wind/solar backup so they could stay on the air.

      Satellite radio killed DAB. Internet music services are often a first choice for many within reach of a cell towner. Users can listen to their favorite station worldwide or have a personally curated library of their favorite audio. While modern versions of radio are one step forward, they are also a significant step back. Some big station owners in the US centrally program all of their music and DJ's phone it in. The local office is just that, an office. Many of those offices are completely lights out after 5pm. If emergency services needs to announce an evacuation or a "shelter in place", no longer can they send somebody to the radio station.

      Think of carpenters using nail guns day in and day out on jobs. They still have a simple hammer because it's sometimes the perfect tool for a job. It can also do things a nail gun can't.

  2. idiottaxpayerhere previously ishtiaq/theghostdeejay

    Thank fuck for that

    Because my old Naim tuner will now probably outlive me!

    Apart from which, due to amount of data reduction (read"compression") that radio stations use D.A.B. sounds shit.

    Cheers… Ishy

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Thank fuck for that

      Is it the radio station - or the shite sample rates and codec in the DAB Spec?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thank fuck for that

        Bit of both, I reckon. I was an early DAB adopter, buying a Technics tuner, and there was no doubt that, in the beginning, the sound was impressive but, bit by bit (pun intentional) it all went pear-shaped, not only caused by the chopping of bit rates to squeeze in more and more channels (one in MONO, for goodness' sake!) but, once again, the ogre of audio compression was also introduced, judging by how flat the audio is now, and it all now sounds just as lousy as the foul sound put out by pretty much all FM stations these days. In the end, the tuner was a complete waste of money, as the transmissions appear to be butchered at source and you can't bring back quality that doesn't exist in the first place. I'm pretty sure I read that the original spec. was going to include user-adjustable compression but it seemed to have got lost along the way. Somebody tell me that I didn't dream it! Satellite may possibly be a better bet, but don't bank on it.

        1. Oldgroaner

          Re: Thank fuck for that

          Absolutely, DAB useless if you want to listen to classical music with its wide dynamic range.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale

            Re: Thank fuck for that

            This! Compare Radio 3 with decent headphones on FM and DAB – even with a hiss and a crackle, the absolute breadth of the sound on FM is astonishing compared to the flat, two-dimensional sound of DAB, even at 192kbit/s. I really want it to be better, I do, but it simply isn't. It's not just the dynamic range – whatever psychoacoustic model is used for DAB compression, I suspect nobody was thinking about classical music when it was devised. How does MP3 at 192kbit/s sound so much better? Surely that's an older spec?

            1. paulf Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: Thank fuck for that

              It's worse than that, sadly. DAB uses MP2 compression, not MP3, which is why it sounds so bad, even when the Beeb throw a 50% bigger bitstream at the Third Program, than they do Pop stations like Radios 1 and 2. DAB+ uses the more modern HE-AAC v2 (AAC+) audio codec and would make a big improvement in sound quality.

              This is unfortunately the big problem - there's a big base of older DAB receivers that don't support DAB+, and DAB sets aren't forward compatible to DAB+ broadcasts. Try to pick up a DAB+ station on a DAB set and you just get silence. So the UK being an early adopter of DAB was the first problem, as that gave us loads of old DAB sets installed that would be obsoleted by the (necessary) move to DAB+. That DAB+ support wasn't mandated quick enough in all radios sold since its introduction in 2007 was the next big mistake as it meant non-DAB+ sets kept being sold making any switch to DAB+ progressively harder.

              1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: Thank fuck for that

                Yup DAB+ sounds much better than DAB, biggest issue I have is that you can still buy brand new "DAB" radio's that don't support DAB+ (As I found out when I purchased a cheap DAB Radio from Argos to find none of the stations I listen to work).

                I won't say who I listen to as I'll get downvoted again.

            2. Joe W Silver badge

              Re: Thank fuck for that

              Is there any station at 192kbps? In Norway there's none. I think about 64kbps is maximum...

              And that is the main reason why DAB sounds... well... shite.

              1. Red Ted
                FAIL

                Re: Thank fuck for that

                Is there any station at 192kbps?

                Only one: BBC Radio 3 as their listeners really appreciate dynamic range! The rest of the beeb channels are at 128kbps.

            3. Zudobug

              Re: Thank fuck for that

              Agreed regarding DAB (by the way it uses MP2 not MP3), but BBC National FM/AM radio is distributed using NICAM - lossy compression of the 1970s kind. NICAM distorts the audio signal in a rather nasty way. So both versions of R3 are unlistenable in my opinion.

              1. Hubert Cumberdale

                Re: Thank fuck for that

                Ah, but you should hear my Hi-Fi. It has a built-in system for polishing each electron individually so the sound is scientifically clean, and these are then lovingly transported along solid platinum speaker cables that have no curves with a radius greater than 3km to speakers that require no coils because their cones resonate naturally from a sense of pure joy at the quality of the signal they're receiving. If you listen carefully, you can hear the conductor's asthma.

                1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
                  Happy

                  Re: Thank fuck for that

                  Rubbish! My HiFi has all that, AND a built in virtual inhaler to remove the sound of the conductor's asthma...

                  1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                    Re: Thank fuck for that

                    But it's so much warmer with the wheezing as the orchestra intended.

                  2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Thank fuck for that

                    "Rubbish! My HiFi has all that, AND a built in virtual inhaler to remove the sound of the conductor's asthma..."

                    It's not asthma affecting his breathing, it's the lack of oxygen in the cables you heatless bastard!

                2. Tomato42 Silver badge

                  Re: Thank fuck for that

                  I don't believe you, you need gold-plated S/PDIF connectors for that and I didn't see you mention them!

                3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

                4. The Pi Man

                  Re: Thank fuck for that

                  Do you filter the air that your speakerS move ? If you don’t, then quite frankly it’ll sound shit.

              2. paulf Silver badge

                Re: Thank fuck for that

                Yeek - NICAM was great when it added stereo sound to analogue telly (UK) in the early 1990s but to still use that as your reference distribution feed to radio transmitters is pretty crap. I suppose the best way to get around the distribution limitation of FM and the broadcast limitation of DAB is to use get_iplayer and set it to the highest quality stream, on the assumption that the feed is encoded direct from the studio output. That gives me 320kbps VBR downloads in MP4 AAC.

                If I want to remind myself of how crap audio compression was back in the early 1990s I dig out the Sony MiniDisc demonstrator I got at the Live 94 show in Earls Court. The comparison with the encoding on my 1999 MD deck is not flattering; Des'ree sounds like she's singing with a peg on her nose!

          2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: Thank fuck for that

            Absolutely, DAB useless if you want to listen to classical music with its wide dynamic range.

            So then DAB would be good for hip-hop and Top-40 then.

      2. AlbertH

        Re: Thank fuck for that

        Is it the radio station - or the shite sample rates and codec in the DAB Spec?

        A combination of both. DAB and DAB+ are abysmally designed. The radio stations consigned to use these media don't really care much about how they sound, because they know that DAB/+ has practically no listeners (the OFCOM figures are entirely bogus).

    2. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: Thank fuck for that

      Yay! My Quad FM3 packed up this week. I was wondering whether I should splash out on getting it repaired. The answer is clear now!

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Thank fuck for that

        My Quad Fm2 still works - just goes to show progress aint all its cracked up to be!

    3. dinsdale54

      Re: Thank fuck for that

      And if it doesn't outlive you then you'll be The Man with No Naim

      1. TobyDog

        Re: Thank fuck for that

        If you have a 1990s Naim tuner then I may have tested and aligned it. I've still heard nothing better over the air.

        Sadly I'm working in TV now, same shit, different medium.

  3. katrinab Silver badge
    Flame

    "Although yesterday's Ministry of Fun* announcement said digital now makes up 58 per cent of British radio listening, the real problem here is the slow pace of change."

    The real problem is that digital doesn't just mean DAB. It also means DVB-A - listening to radio on your TV, and internet streaming (including podcasts). I rather suspect most of that 58% is internet streaming, and not DAB.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's true that 58% digital means mainly DAB (in practice) but also IP, FreeView etc. But, it doesn't matter which flavour of digital radio is used, to inform the decision when to switch off analogue the only thing you need to know is how many people have abandoned analogue. What type of digital they moved to is irrelevant.

      1. idiottaxpayerhere previously ishtiaq/theghostdeejay
        WTF?

        Quote " What type of digital they moved to is irrelevant." unquote.

        You have not got a clue have you?

        Cheers… Ishy

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        If you switch off analogue without a DAB replacement, that means people start to ask questions like "why was the migration to DAB so screwed up over 25 years that it turns out we don't even need it now?"

        Another symptom of the same screwing up is Ofcom daren't push for DAB+ as that means people start to ask the same type of questions.

        So DAB is now nationally vital... as a face-saving exercise. Carry on regardless.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          We went with DAB rather than DAB+ from the start ( no mandatory forward compatibility in early receivers ).

          Cars were able to be sold with analogue only radios for far too long. Mandating DAB support in 2010 would have been reasonable and would have solved the problem by now.

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Cars were able to be sold with analogue only radios for far too long. Mandating DAB support in 2010 would have been reasonable and would have solved the problem by now.

            Interesting, as my 2011 car was sold without a radio at all.

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Anonymous Coward

        It's true that 58% digital means mainly DAB (in practice) but also IP, FreeView etc. But, it doesn't matter which flavour of digital radio is used, to inform the decision when to switch off analogue the only thing you need to know is how many people have abandoned analogue. What type of digital they moved to is irrelevant.

        Except that the figures are I believe taken from RAJAR which to my mind at least makes them suspect. RAJAR is still using the diary system to record listening. This requires the person to remember what were listening to and how. From discussions with friends and family they don't remember what medium they were using to listen. My sister for example has a radio in her car that does FM, MW, DAB and LW. She can't tell you whether it was DAB or FM she has had on. Both FM and DAB have station and track information on the display. When I was involved in DAB there was a company listing sales figures for radios. They were supposedly recording all products with DAB capability that were sold but not all the products with an FM capability. They allegedly didn't include mobile phones for example.

        Apart from extra stations there isn't much if anything that DAB does that FM doesn't. Personally I listen to FM, MW, LW and SW which I do on various Sony radios. I am a DAB owner but only because I was given the set by my ex-employers - I don't use it though.

      4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        I'm not sure if people have 'abandoned analogue'. Like, I suspect many, I use both. Analogue in the car, digital (via broadband) at home. DAB? What's that? Not available in this part of Cymru!

        1. VBF

          Not to try and outdo you, but I use analogue (FM) and DAB in the car, digital (via broadband) and FM at home (Quad FM4) and often listen to BBC radio off the TV iPlayer app.

          DAB is great in the car for the sheer quantity of stations but other than that, the above works for me

      5. tip pc Silver badge

        “ What type of digital they moved to is irrelevant.”

        Our early Dab radio hasn’t been used in ~7 years.

        Our Sonos and smart speakers are used daily for radio.

        My car doesn’t have dab but I often listen to internet radio via Bluetooth or just fm.

        Also when out riding or walking I listen to internet radio. I’d listen to fm if my Sony Bluetooth dongle thing worked.

        People may be turning onto digital but it’s not to DAB.

        In the past I thought there was a strategic requirement to maintain a radio service, be it dab fm or am, if there is some future catastrophe and everyone is using internet radio the government can’t talk at us if the internet is down, they can on fm though via wind up radios, could probably do wind up dab by now too.

        They broke dab by being too early on it, they further broke dab by reducing the quality. No one wants to listen to dab when there are better quality streams from the internet or fm.

        1. hoola Bronze badge

          And not forgetting the absolutely shite battery life of any DAB radio that is portable. A basic FM radio will last for weeks whilst some piece of fancy crap costing 10 x the price will barely last a day. And the solution is to make then rechargeable. That is not a solution that is using sellotape to repair the Titanic.

          It done not matter how you try and justify DAB, it is shite whatever you do, always has been and always will.

          The only DAB we have is in the car and it is never used because the reception is so rubbish,

    2. Microchip

      What really grinds my gears is the poor quality of most Internet quality streams. I'm looking at you, anything by Bauer Media (aka Absolute Radio network etc) and Global Radio last time I checked. They slowly removed their high quality streams, and now don't offer any direct streams other than via proprietary players. (Research may be out of date, I got fed up of looking a while ago.)

      Gone are the 320K MP3 and 128K AAC+ streams, now you get 128K MP3 or 48K AAC+. Both are "okay", but surely the slightly higher bandwidth didn't cost much more to give a hugely better listening experience... but maybe I'm just a consumer that happens to like hearing the music, rather than losing half the soundstage to high compression.

      DAB+ should have been mandated long ago for digital, and unless it's a talk only station, a minimum bandwidth set. What's the point in having the nice DAB radios in cars if you get crappy mono audio through it?! I'd happily internet stream it instead, but now it seems everything is dropping to the lowest common denominator quality wise, which is sad considering the generally increased bandwidth available to most people.

      Absolute (and back when it used to be Virgin Radio) used to be great, you could have a 320K Ogg Vorbis stream if you wanted that sounded brilliant. But they're long dead.

  4. amacater

    Department of Culture, Media and, of course, Sport

    Sorry, I can only ever see that now and think of that excellent documentary series from the BBC - W1A

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Department of Culture, Media and, of course, Sport

      One of a long line of fine BBC documentaries. And I see that 'Yes Minister', anpther in the genre, is being broadcast again of Radio 4 extra (or 7 as I prefer to remember it by)

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Department of Culture, Media and, of course, Sport

        So its probably available on get-iplayer!

  5. Detective Emil
    Happy

    Radio 4 LW?

    We still have a couple of a.m. radios tuned permanently to R4 LW. I hope the transmitter holds out for another ten years.

    (Or Arqiva/the BBC/the UK government stumps up for a replacement — despite protestations to the contrary, there are still companies around that would be only too pleased to provide a quote.)

    1. Vulch

      Re: Radio 4 LW?

      It is said that the Royal Navy's finest submarines have similar tuned to R4 LW...

      1. druck Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Radio 4 LW?

        You can even use Radio 4 LW masts as a Non Directional Beacons when flying, it's also better slightly listening than the morse idents of other NDBs.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Radio 4 LW?

          But they do dump the voodoo on it sunday mornings.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Radio 4 LW?

            "[...] the voodoo on it sunday mornings."

            And scattered throughout the day under various guises. R4 is ignored throughout Sunday apart from the news - even when Classic FM is playing an excruciatingly bad advert.

            1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
              WTF?

              Re: Radio 4 LW?

              These days I find the alternative reality offered in the 'Sunday' programme preferable to the version of reality spewed out by the once excellent 'Today', and more believable too. And I'm an atheist.

        2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Radio 4 LW?

          You can even use Radio 4 LW masts as a Non Directional Beacons when flying, it's also better slightly listening than the morse idents of other NDBs

          Actually, isn't tuning to 200 (near enough to 198kHz to pick it up) a better use of the NDB receiver than using it for navigating ? It's a long time since my licence expired, but isn't (wasn't) Test match Special on R4 LW - I vaguely recall listening to that on one trip.

          1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

            Re: Radio 4 LW?

            TMS is on DAB & other digital, on 5Live sports extra. Most car radios don't have LW these days, so on the move you'd need either DAB or mobile data.

            1. Evil_Goblin

              Re: Radio 4 LW?

              For "home" series TMS is usually available on R4 LW.

              Many car radios do still have LW these days, they just don't break it out as a separate selection to AM/MW anymore, so you just hit AM, and keep scrolling on down to 198.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Radio 4 LW?

                "don't break it out as a separate selection to AM/MW anymore, so you just hit AM, and keep scrolling on down to 198."

                Yes, I first noticed that a few years ago on car radios. No MW/LW any more, just an amalgamated AM. I'm of an age where AM stations are what they have in America and over here we have MW and LW stations :-)

          2. AlbertH

            Re: Radio 4 LW?

            One really useful function of the 198kHz signal is that it's a worldwide frequency standard, traceable to the National Physical Laboratory. I remember having to modify my 200kHz frequency standard receivers for the move to 198kHz. I've also used off-air 198kHz as the reference (when divided down to 9kHz) for the PLL synthesis in medium wave transmitters. It was funny when the OFCOM inspectors smugly told me that the rig they were inspecting was 105Hz high in frequency, and I demonstrated that their "officially calibrated" frequency counter actually was significantly wrong!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Radio 4 LW?

        Only on the surface, and so they know if a nuclear war has started. If they're hiding under the Arctic ice they won't have a clue what's going on.

        1. General Purpose

          Re: Radio 4 LW?

          What was "Arctic ice", papa?

    2. BenDwire Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Radio 4 LW?

      When I was a lad (Work experience at English Electric Valves) I was involved in the testing of those transmitter valves, and yes I broke one of the test rigs! I ought to write that one up as a "Who Me" tale!

    3. Hubert Cumberdale

      Re: Radio 4 LW?

      Not to mention what would become of the radio teleswitch services.

      1. Neil 44

        Re: Radio 4 LW?

        The successor to Teleswitch is, of course, 2G Phone services - lots of "Smart" meters only work on 2G. Came across a problem with one we were using in a trial in eastern Brighton - where they'd redeployed all the 2G facilities in the local cells to 4G and there were no 2G signals at all.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Radio 4 LW?

          That's becoming a problem in gosport too. 2G reception is pretty much nada... most 'smart' meters are constantly searching for a signal

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Radio 4 LW?

            of course if they had done smart meters properly............ They should use what ever signal is available, be it 2g 3/4g or wifi The mobile mast that serves my village has moved location so my smart meter now gets no signal so is basically useless, now it it could have just used my broadband connection instead!

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Radio 4 LW?

              Indeed that should be an option. But the rollout of 'smart' meters in the UK is purely a box ticking exercise.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actual sound quality

    Some real live decent sound quality would be nice. I could write reams about how audio compression and processing over the years has totally wrecked any semblance of the sort of sound quality that was enjoyed on FM some years ago (and now also dire sound on DAB, together with ever-decreasing bit-rates), well before the idiots in charge at the Radio Authority (as was) decided to allow radio stations to use an infernal system called "Optimod" (which, I understand was used by the off-shore pirates on AM in the 60's and was never originally intended for FM.) in an attempt to out-do each other's perceived audio "punch" on air, with the result that they all now sound as bad as one another, with absolutely no dynamics and flat-as-a-pancake thin sound. Almost painful on the ears! Just load a current radio recording into an audio editor and it all but flat-lines! Absolutely appalling quality and I swear getting worse. There seems to be no going back, unfortunately.

    1. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Actual sound quality

      To be fair, most modern music is flat lines in an audio editor *before* it reaches the radio station. The stations applying further processing and compression to an already heavily compressed audio source just means the result sounds even more crap.

    2. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

      Re: Optimod

      Other audio processors are available :-)

      Robert Orban (Orban are the makers of the Optimod) sold his early processors to radio stations with the strapline 'Be the loudest on the dial!'. Of course the first station to buy one became the loudest, but only until all the other stations bought their own Optimods. Now everyone was equally loud, but with the added bonus of all sounding equally awful.

    3. AlbertH

      Re: Actual sound quality

      "Optimod" if used correctly can enhance the perceived quality of a broadcast signal - on AM. The FM version of it, however, is just a box of frequency-selective clippers, and sounds really horrible no matter how it's set up.

  7. Libertarian Voice

    DAB Is dead in the water

    Internet radio has taken over from DAB and is far more reliable, if anything I have got to the point where I prefer it to FM; it means that I can listen to local stations like XS Manchester while I am working down in Essex and with modern car radios doing bluetooth well I can listen to the uninterrupted signal while travelling too. I just do not see the sense in DAB.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      +1

      Our Echo in the kitchen spends most of its time tuned into an internet radio station or 2.

      I suspect that is what the Govt is hoping for.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: DAB Is dead in the water

        The government hasnt a clue. It will do whatever its biggest donor asks of it.

        1. TechHeadToo

          Re: DAB Is dead in the water

          Well, that's certainly been true for big donors - USA, China... Property developers...

    2. Jason Hindle

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      I've not switched the (actually now quite old) DAB radio since since I got an Echo Dot (connected to an old but good enough speaker). That said, I never had a problem with DAB audio quality- that's what CDs (and increasingly decent internet music services) are for.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      I love the concept of Internet Radio: shame about the damn GUIs. Seriously who designs those things? Somewhere there are still people who doesn't know about the WASD layout for arrow keys.

      1. Ogi

        Re: DAB Is dead in the water

        Surely the GUI is up to whatever application you use to listen to your internet radio station, rather than the station itself?

        I use MPD (https://www.musicpd.org/) myself, and I source my stations from http://www.radio-browser.info/ (they have a free API, if you fancy to write your own radio app).

        I use RadioDroid on my phone (GPL app that uses the above DB), which I connect to in my car when I want to listen to the radio. I never bothered with DAB, and indeed at this time I see no point really in broadcast type distribution of radio a la DAB(+) etc...

        Whatever the choice they provide, it will never match what you can find on the internet. I can listen to radio stations all over the world, and even in high bitrates (320kbit/s +) if I have the bandwidth for it. Unlike DAB, where you have a fixed channel and you must shove $x number of stations down it whether or not I listen to them, with internet radio, I only stream the data I actually want, so I can get higher quality with lower bandwidth than a DAB transmission (and even ignoring that DAB uses mp2, while internet radio uses newer/better compression such as mp3/vorbis/opus/aac).

        Not to mention the ease at which I can rip the streams and replay them. I have actually ripped a few days worth of radio streams (using streamripper, another GPL app), which I play when I am driving abroad (avoiding roaming internet charges).

        Really, to me DAB seemed like a solution in search of a problem when it was first released, and now, 20 years later, it seems to be largely irrelevant. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone with internet access, which allows them to do much more apart from listen to the radio while on the go.

    4. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      yep - in my experience 3G/4G internet radio works better in the car than DAB.

      1. Mike Pellatt

        Re: DAB Is dead in the water

        Yep, I'm wondering whether it was worth purchasing the DAB antenna for my Android head unit.

        You're right, I'm not actually wondering any more. It wasn't worth it.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      I can see a nice market in the next 50 odd years for Device X (wifi/internet etc) to FM tuner transmitters for the old classic radios. Like the cassette to IPod adapters they use to do (or Ipod to FM transmitters). Why? Cos then we can keep the old things going longer, and also our old tech. ;)

      1. AlbertH

        Re: DAB Is dead in the water

        These have been on the market for the last 15 years!

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      totally agree, mobile 3/4/5g is pretty decent now nearly everywhere where as DAB isn't, a technological dead end really time just to bin it, i actually can't think of anything to say in its favour apart from maybe easy of use ie you pretty much turn it on just like a radio.

      Reception is always going to be the issue, reception in cars is dog shite. I live on the coast and like most coastal areas down here in sunny Cornwall our TV and DAB come off a local relay as being in the shadow of the coast and valley we don't have LOS to the main transmitter for the area (Caradon Hill on Bodmin moor) so no DAB and VERY few OTA Freeview channels, go to the top of the hill and its fine. There are no plans to upgrade local relays so we'll never get DAB

    7. AlbertH

      Re: DAB Is dead in the water

      DAB has always stood for "Dead And Buried"!

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I can listen to radio at home through the stations broadcast on DVB-T and through the internet so I don't see any point in going to buy a DAB radio for home.

    Especially as the quality of the audio on DAB is pretty questionable. The bit rates they are using to cram in as many stations as possible (32 to 64kbps) means its often better to listen to the FM broadcast if available.

    1. elaar

      Yes, they really messed up with DAB. It had the potential to have far superior sound quality to FM, and yet they decided to carve it up as much as possible for financial gain and actually make it absolute shite.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Gresham's Law in action.

        Bad money drives out good.

      2. Paul Shirley

        Once they started concentrating on selling DAB into noisy car environments, after it was DOA in the home, sound quality stopped being relevant. Not helped by excessive licencing costs on a format that allows trading quality against cost.

        It was doomed from the start by launching before the technology was affordable anyway.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Its bad enough in the house. DAB on the road round here is an utter no-no. Its like the old joke about your friend who is a radio announcer and you cant hear him in tunnels only here you can only hear him going over hill tops.

    2. druck Silver badge
      Unhappy

      As well as low bits rates, most of the stations are mono - in this day and age!

      It's like a leap backwards to the 1970s before most stations had an FM presence, and were mono on AM, except that you could actually receive AM just about everywhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] except that you could actually receive AM just about everywhere."

        Earned my teenage pocket money in the 1960s repairing people's radios - particularly transistor portables. There were always compliments when the radio was returned with the MW tracking optimised for Radio Luxembourg.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It's like a leap backwards to the 1970s"

        That's what brexit is all about :(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I presume you were downvoted because Brexit isn't a return to anything. In the 1970s we were in the EU. Before that we still had our good friends in the Commonwealth. Brexit means having no friends, only a rapacious US picking up our land and businesses for cents on the dollar.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            I don’t think there was an EU to be in back in the 70s.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              OK, Common Market. And the difference it makes is?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Everything, apparently.

                The Common Market was OK, but not the EU.

                Nope, I don't understand that, either.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  The Common Market was (sold to the British people) as a free-trade area (though in practice, it was a customs union) with no intention for any loss of sovereignty beyond the very limited extent necessary for the trade agreement to work, at a time of relatively high global tariffs and other obstacles to International trade (pre-dating the creation of the WTO).

                  The EU is a political union and a customs union, which, by its very creation, confirms that the concept of 'ever closer union' (which the British people were told by British politicians in the 1970's not to worry about, because it didn't really mean anything) is a central element. It now has a central bank, a common currency, a common foreign and defence policy, a defence acquisitions plan and regular discussion about actual EU military forces, amongst numerous other elements of 'ever closer union'.

                  The EU clearly goes way beyond the (claimed) trade-only relationship that was the public basis for the UK joining the EEC. With the WTO now in existence, there is now also less value from even the basic EEC model.

                  The full details of what membership of the EEC, the EC and the EU meant for Britain, and what Britain's membership meant to the other members, is quite complicated. However, hopefully that relatively short explanation has clarified for you why "The common market was OK, but not the EU" is actually really easy to understand.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    "...no intention of loss of sovereignty"

                    That is your opinion. Yet 20 years before, in 1950, Churchill was challenged:

                    ‘Are you prepared to part with any degree of national sovereignty in any circumstances for the sake of a larger synthesis?'

                    Churchill responded:

                    ‘We are prepared to consider and, if convinced, to accept the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards… national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.’

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      British leadership from the time of joining onward has failed to ensure to persuade the British public that the "conditions and safeguards" were acceptable, bearing in mind the reduction in Britain's clout as part of a much larger democracy.

                      They have just shifted the blame by accusing the EU of not playing by British rules.

                2. AlbertH
                  Headmaster

                  The Common Market was OK, but not the EU.

                  Nope, I don't understand that, either.

                  Simple. The Common Market allowed free trade across borders. That's all it did. The EU is trying to create a European Federation - a "United States Of Europe", with political and social alignment and homogenisation throughout. As a Dutch person, I have nothing whatsoever in common with a Greek (for example) - we have different values, desires, wishes and ideals. We're completely different.

                  The EU tries to remove that difference. It's a fascistic socialist super-state, and if you want to see just how badly that turns out, just look at the history of the USSR. Nobody knows where the incredible amounts of money paid into the EU have gone. Some people have become incredibly rich out of the EU scam.

                  The smarter countries - the UK first, then the Netherlands and Denmark next - are getting out of the EU before it collapses under the weight of fraud, thievery and dodgy politics. Now the UK isn't paying in insane amounts of money, the only countries "contributing" are Germany and (to a much lesser extent) France. They're not going to prop up the collapsing super-state for long! All the southern countries are fiscal basket-cases - can you really see the French baling out the Greeks as they sink beneath their ocean of debt?

                  Here endeth the lesson.....

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Roll on the next European war then.

                    Britain can then cheer from the sidelines and pretend it won't be affected...

                    Idiots.

              2. werdsmith Silver badge

                The difference is that the common market and even the EEC don't have some of the post Maastricht stuff that the bigots really object to.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "through the stations broadcast on DVB-T"

      There was no problem receiving analogue TV not far from London. DVB-T was never as reliable - and eventually stopped being useful after the switch-over.

      Even with 70mbps bandwidth on FTTC - the iPlayer often stutters now. Never used to be a problem even on 12mbps ADSL. Not sure where the bottle-neck lies - but YouTube is ok.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Even with 70mbps bandwidth on FTTC - the iPlayer often stutters now. Never used to be a problem even on 12mbps ADSL. Not sure where the bottle-neck lies - but YouTube is ok.

        The problem will likely be your ISP. I bet like most people you went with the cheapest provider you could find. A 70Mb/s connection means little if the pipes carrying your data around the country are congested.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I bet like most people you went with the cheapest provider you could find."

          AAISP isn't a cheap option. Broadband speed checks are usually up there in the 70mbps level. Only iPlayer stutters - no problem with YouTube. The iPlayer says its stream uses 5mbps.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Meh

            Indeed they aren't cheap. They are one of the really good guys and I'd expect a lot better from AAISP. What do their support say?

            I'm with IDNet and although it sometimes takes a day or two to get through first line support they take any such reports very seriously.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "[...] expect a lot better from AAISP. "

              I see no reason to bother AAISP about this. YouTube 1080 HD video streams flawlessly using an apparent rate of 23mbps according to its in-screen info. Only iPlayer stutters - and it appears to be only needing 5mbps of bandwidth.

              1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                For what it's worth as a data point, I too am with A&A, and iplayer doesn't stutter here. Youtube sometimes does however?

              2. AndrueC Silver badge
                Happy

                I see no reason to bother AAISP about this.

                Data takes different routes through networks and just because the route between you and YouTube is fine doesn't mean that the route between you and an iPlayer CDN is. At some point after where they diverge there could be a problem - it's unlikely to be the iPlayer CDN. Now it might not be AAISP itself, perhaps one of its partners but either way it's something AAISP can probably control and based on their reputation I'd expect them to be interested in resolving it.

                1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                  Indeed, they're proper geeks and LIKE to investigate faults or other issues. Wouldn't be surprised if one of their staff didn't read this

  9. batfastad

    Bluurrrb blaarrrp kkiciccikkk bbrrfzzzpaa

    Shame to see DAB struggle. I happen to enjoy the sound quality of a potato... underwater.

    In all seriousness though if someone can find me a DAB radio that can get through a full 5 match cricket test series on a pair of AAA batteries and is no larger in size or mass than a Roberts 984, then I'd consider DAB to have feature parity and technological progress to have been made.

    DVB solved an actual problem. All of the advantages of DAB have been handled by internet devices for almost the entire duration of DAB's existence, so I think we all know which one should be switched off!

    1. Mark192 Bronze badge

      Re: Bluurrrb blaarrrp kkiciccikkk bbrrfzzzpaa

      Yep, looked at pocketable DAB radios and the battery life is a few short hours so plumped for an FM one and get 3 or 4 times the listening time.

      I've moved over to mainly podcasts, rather than live radio, now. Can't sleep? Queue up a few Moneybox Live episodes.

  10. Lorribot

    What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

    The Governement missed the DAB boat 20 years ago by allowing new cars to still have analog receivers fitted, if they had made DAB radios compulsory then they would likely be up around the 80% take up mark by now. Typical governement didn't realise 80% of people listen to radios in their cars so that should have been targetted especially as you are looking at a 20 year life cycle for most cars thes days. The fact that you can still buy a new car with an analogue only radio today means we will still have analog radio in 20 years time.

    As for quality, as someone who has normal to tone deaf hearing, hearing I can't tell the difference with the compression its all just sound (some may think i am blessed) to me, i only listen to Radio 4 and speech is probably not affected so much as music.

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

      "allowing new cars to still have analog receivers fitted"

      Allowing? As in not banning? Even ignoring the chicken and egg problem, that's a dumb thing to say.

      Given the crappy reception of DAB in many parts of the country, the cars would effectively no longer have a radio.

      Which would just create an after market demand such as with phone docks. Or even making older cars more desirable.

    2. ExampleOne

      Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

      The problem isn’t the analog receiver, the problem is the lack of a DAB receiver. They didn’t need to ban the former to mandate the latter.

      1. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

        "The problem isn’t the analog receiver, the problem is the lack of a DAB receiver."

        My car has FM, DAB, Spotify and Tune-In. I don't use DAB at all because it typically has either 1 - 5 stations or none, even in areas that are supposed to have good outdoor DAB reception. DAB is utterly useless in cars.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

          I use DAB all the time in my car. Never has a problem with reception.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

            It's interesting that everyone on this website seems to have major problems with DAB reception. IPv6 and DAB seem to attract a lot of negativity that doesn't reflect reality. (I do agree that DAB can sound terrible - but that's a commercial and not a technical issue)

            I don't live in a sprawling city, rather I have lived in two fairly rural counties. DAB works fine - the places where DAB isn't, FM is basically hiss anyway. There is a difference between the four multiplexes I can get, but that's to be expected - the "SDL" mux is built on the cheap, basically from the main TV transmitters only, so it's going to cut out more than the BBC or Digital One who have a 15 year head start and DAB transmitters all over the place.

            Perhaps my (and your) car's manufacturer has done a better job with the antenna than others?

            No real issue at home either - I use a DAB alarm clock. With no real thought to how the wire antenna is laid, I get most of the stations with no real issue.

          2. AlbertH

            Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

            I use DAB all the time in my car. Never has a problem with reception.

            Presumably you have the local DAB site within a few hundred metres of your home, and your car never leaves the driveway.

    3. rich_a

      Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

      A car without an analogue receiver is a scary thought. Our Mini struggled to get any DAB radio signal from when we turned off the A1(M) going up to the North East coast. It's only the fall back to FM which meant we had something to listen to.

    4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

      The Government missed the DAB boat 20 years ago by allowing new cars to still have analog receivers fitted

      Since when has choice of in-car entertainment been a matter for the Government? Perhaps they should have banned cassettes when CD became available?

      They should definitely have banned 4-track cartridges out of hand.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: What a surpirse. It's muppetry.

      "As for quality, as someone who has normal to tone deaf hearing, hearing I can't tell the difference with the compression its all just sound (some may think i am blessed) to me, i only listen to Radio 4 and speech is probably not affected so much as music."

      If you are after fidelity, radio isn't going to get you there. Even less if you are in a moving car. Most people listening to radio aren't sat in front of £10,000 speakers at the optimal listening distance. They are propped up on a beach enjoying the sun or on a drive somewhere. Many recordings aren't up to scratch either. Very few are of such a quality that you can pick out that the second seat cellist is tapping their foot, never mind that the drummer's high hat pedal squeaks a bit.

  11. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    As a bit of a geek, I like the latest tech, and listen to a lot of radio. So, when I could first afford it years ago, I bought a DAB radio. Being a bit of a Sony fan boy and wanting a DAB I could take on the train, I spent a fair wodge of cash on a decent looking pocket DAB radio. It did sound decent, but died after a couple of months. Thinking I must be unlucky, I took it back, and they replaced it. A month or so later, the second one died. The Sony had a bit of a design flaw in that if you pulled the battery without turning the radio off, you ran the risk of blowing something (a fuse, I think) in the radio (this is the only time I've encountered the requirement to shut something down safely outside computers or video projectors). As I'd blown two, I'd argue it was a definite risk. BTW, I don't recall ever pulling the battery without turning the radio off, but both times, the Sony failed when I had changed the batteries.

    I got a refund for the Sony (the Shop couldn't really argue: I'd had two radios in two months), and I bought Roberts DAB with the refund. Lasted a good year or so, but still not as long as I'd expect consumer electronics to last..

    I didn't replace it. Why? Because I found with both radios, when the signal was good, they sounded great. When the signal wasn't so good, the sound from both radios turned into an unintelligible mess very quickly, and it seemed as though a lot of the stations reduced their bit rates very quickly as more stations came online. No matter how good your compression, a lower bit rate is going to sound worse. That, combined with the increasingly bad signal I got on the train, meant I was pushed back to FM more and more.

    Then there was the power consumption. The Sonys took 2 AAs, and the Roberts 3. They would both last for about a day and a half (actually about 4 hours, as I'd use the radio for an hour each way on my journey to/from work and an hour at lunch. You could guarantee a set of AA's would last for the Journey to/from work + lunch on the first day, then the 2nd, they would only last for the Journey to work.

    My little Philips FM Stereo pocket radio cost a fraction of what the DABs did. At the end, it sounded a lot better, had more reliable reception and lasted for over a week on 2 AAA batteries.

    1. ovation1357 Bronze badge

      "It did sound decent, but died after a couple of months"

      Well that's what you get for buying anything from Sony. I know there's loads of folks that love 'em but I've had nothing but bad experience with Sony stuff ranging from MiniDisc, HiFi, TVs to Mobile phones. In fact I swore I'd never buy another Sony product ever again and then reneged on that some years later when I got tempted by an Xperia phone which turned out to be a disaster and which ultimately died very terminally on me very suddenly, and not until it had cleared a whole month when its cloud backups were silently failing so I also lost some vital notes and photos.

      I'm now 100% definitely never going to buy anything made by Sony ever again :-(

      Your point about the terrible battery life of portable DAB isn't something we can blame Sony for (or can we?) but it is certainly one of the many reasons why it didn't take off any why you don't get it embedded into mobile phones though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Totally agree, but my main motivation for never buying Sony again is that they are a bunch of over litigious DMCA abusing expletives.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Totally agree, but my main motivation for never buying Sony again is that they are a bunch of over litigious DMCA abusing expletives."

          Sony was top of the mark decades ago when it seems management had some engineering savvy. That changed when all corporations were driven to "maximize value for the shareholder". The "shareholder" being defined at the C-Level MBA's at the company. Sony figured they could leverage their reputation for quality by slapping their badge on increasingly dodgier kit. Now they are on par with most of the "upscale" no-name product coming out of China. Likely the Sony tat is produced at the same factories on the 4th shift.

    2. Jason Hindle

      Crikey....

      My Panasonic DAB radio must approaching 20 years old. I'd always assumed the power brick for it would be the weakest link, but it's been fine. That said, it's unplugged and looking sad since internet radio arrived (via Echo) a few months back.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My bedside Sony radio works most reliably on FM - not so reliably on DAB even with the coax feed yagi.

      Unfortunately Classic FM do not use the text stream to show the current playing title on FM. So switch to DAB to see the title - hoping it won't say "go to www.classicfm.com/playlist".

      As soon as DAB is selected an internal fan starts running - presumably because of higher power consumption. On the adequate low volume in the middle of the night - the fan noise is intrusive even though not apparently faulty.

  12. ovation1357 Bronze badge

    Hooray!

    I've tried a few DAB radios. Never really been impressed. I think a particular failure, which certainly extends into TV as well it's that it's too fiddly to operate... With AM/FM you just twiddle the knob and find the next station (okay, so modern radios may have scan buttons and some station presets) but with the DAB radios I've used you have to navigate around a menu to find the stations and there's hundreds of the damn things. It's just overcomplicated.

    I make the point about TV for similar reasons - when anyone over about 35 was growing up they just had a few simple buttons to switch TV channels. Even with early Sky TV it was still pretty simple to use.

    Now all our TVs have hundreds of channels and a complex menu/schedule system but absolutely no standard way of just going straight to the few main channels. It's even worse when dealing with all the different platforms because each one does its own thing.

    I don't have any technical trouble navigating these things although I do get aggrieved that I've had to press 15 buttons to get back to whichever series I'm watching, but I also feel a bit sad for much older people who (in general) must find this very daunting and quite inaccessible.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Every Freeview device we've owned let's you enter the channel number and wait for it to tune. Even works on our Kodi boxes. A single jab at 1,2,3,4 or 5 gets you to the 'main channels'. My wife actually remembers the dozen or so 2 or 3 digit channel numbers she watches, I *choose* to complicate it by reordering them and working by channel name on the guide screens.

      Roughly the same on satellite or cable TV.

      1. ovation1357 Bronze badge

        Fair point, and true about Freeview and the basic channels.

        I don't recall being able to assign 1-5 to the standard channels on Sky though.

        We don't have an Ariel and the old sky feed comes in to what is now the dining room so we're 100% internet TV. About the only time we ever watch live TV is at New Year or the news if there's a really major event... So day to day is mainly all on-demand, however that's where it gets into needing a separate app for every single channel, each with a separate log in and each working a bit differently. Even on a TV with iPlayer built in there's no way to attribute 1 to BBC one and so forth - wanna watch BBC, well press the home menu, navigate to the iPlayer icon, wait for it to load, scroll along the top to Channels, scroll along the channel list to the desired channel and finally select the watch now button. This could all work so much more smoothly if the providers collaborated on allowing a single, consistent interface for accessing their content which could also be more tightly integrated with the TV itself.

        For now I'm extremely pleased with my £30 Roku streaming stick and a combo of Netflix, NowTV and Prime although it definitely suffers from some of the above problems and it would be great not to need 3 subscriptions to be able to cover off all the series we want to watch.

    2. TechHeadToo

      ON and OFF and a choice of 3 channels would do it.

      It isn't as if any of them offer any broadcasts of quality, and only a rare something which hasn't been on before.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Now all our TVs have hundreds of channels and a complex menu/schedule system but absolutely no standard way of just going straight to the few main channels. "

      A reason for that is the Cable/Sat companies would get slaughtered if they made it easy to bypass the forth channel of Bass Masters without having to cycle through it. While some systems let you program your favorites, they change the line up at least once a year so you have to go through all of the channels again. Advertising revenue is based on views and audience size. If they can get you to watch for a certain amount of time, you count in the tally.

  13. jonfr

    Signal strength in the UK on DAB and DAB+

    According to German radio people the reason why people in the UK get bad signal is that the transmitters are at low power compared to elsewhere. For London as an example the largest transmitter I can find on this list is 10kW and some are even as low as 0,003kW in transmission power.

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

    Compared to Berlin where the largest transmitter is 25kW and the smallest is 1kW.

    https://www.ukwtv.de/cms/deutschland-dab/berlin-brandenburg-dab.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Signal strength in the UK on DAB and DAB+

      Transmitter powers in U.K. are low, because (particularly in London), radio stations cater to a very diverse set of nationalities and subcultures. Basically, we implemented cellular radio since before cellular was invented. To get the frequency re-use, we use low power, short range stations. Certainly many hundreds and probably low thousands in London alone. You can (and I do) triangulate your location in London within a few streets, as you travel from Cypriot to Greek to Bengali communities. And subcultures from “grime” I believe da kidz call it, through Church of Latter Day Saints, through to a bloke explaining how to fix cars as radio entertainment.

      Whereas Germany is a bland monoculture, and has comparatively few radio stations. Zero geographic or ethnic diversity. Berlin, Bonn and Munich are identikit German-speaking. Music-wise, up to age 25 you are required to rebel in the specified ways - choice of Berlin Love Parade or skaterpunk (boy), Kpop(girl). Then you must transition to Europop; and at age 35 it’s Kirche and Kuche all the way to the nursing home.

      A single 1MW transmitter covering the country would be sufficient for each of these. I guess they have local radios for Traffic Info.

      1. osakajin Bronze badge

        Re: Signal strength in the UK on DAB and DAB+

        ERM about those millions of Syrians that popped over a few years ago?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Signal strength in the UK on DAB and DAB+

          And by “millions”, you of course mean 0.7 million.

          Whereas London has 55% population not “White British-born”. Which is exactly how you can tell that London is still hanging on by its fingernails as a major world city on the crossroads.

          Back on topic, google “Arabic radio station Germany”. Top hit is “Berlin soon to get its first Arabic language radio station”, from late 2019. LMFAO. London has over 80 *officially listed* Arabic language radio stations, and certainly at least hundreds unofficial ones.

      2. AlbertH
        Megaphone

        Re: Signal strength in the UK on DAB and DAB+

        A single 1MW transmitter covering the country would be sufficient for each of these. I guess they have local radios for Traffic Info.

        Sadly, no. Certainly not on VHF. The signals on the 3m band go to the horizon and no further. You extend the horizon by putting your aerial up a hill and a big mast. The power of the signal simply defines the signal to noise ratio at the receiver. A 1W station goes just as far as a 1kW station - it's just weaker when it gets to the horizon (and probably in the noise!).

        Even the Netherlands requires regional transmitters to cover the whole country.

  14. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    > improving the radio listening experience

    Hearing aid batteries need changing?...

    .

    "Digital" always means lower quality, both in TV and radio. Simply because of greed.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale

      True in many cases, but a bit sweeping...

      ...if you compare a broadcast of BBC1 HD to its analogue predecessor, I think you'll find the former is somewhat higher quality. Now, other "cheap" channels, on the other hand, can look fine until anything actually moves, when they turn into a blocky mess.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: True in many cases, but a bit sweeping...

        > you'll find the former is somewhat higher quality

        I don't say digital can't be good, I know it can. I only say digital allows greedy broadcasters to sell quality for quantity. The rationale is probably that, given the quality of most TV programming, who cares if you only see a mess of moving ghosts and compression artifacts.

  15. Andy Livingstone

    DAB

    It exists only to lock us into listening to UK radio stations.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: DAB

      And UK radio stations exist to get us to break that lock. Thank god for radiogarden and others.

  16. steelpillow Silver badge
    Coat

    dabshite

    dab is shite for three irreconcilable reasons:

    - wavelength limitations forbid adequate coverage of not-spots, they are fractally distributed over the land surface of the planet.

    - the standard allows operators to fsck the signal to squeeze in more "quality" content, i.e. advertising

    - the technology it is subject to patent licensing fees

    Give me a medium-wave slot with a bandwidth of 25 kHz and some mobile phone processing tricks, and I will digitally stuff Hi-Fi stereo down it, right into your back room and your short tunnel, my dear - and, as Groucho Marks would say, even innuendo. That saves 5 kHz on the dual 15 kHz channels that FM needs for stereo, which is plenty enough to add metadata such as song info, station playlists or whatever. So no need to revisit the dicing-and-slicing of channels, even. A dual-mode radio would automatically switch to the technology you just tuned to. You could even use your old FM tuner with a digital decoder bunged between the output socket and your priceless old valve amp. But hey, whoever designed consumer technologies for the convenience of the consumer? >Sigh!<

    1. David Pearce

      Re: dabshite

      DAB cannot still be in patent coverage, DAB+ must be about to run out

      The problem is that DAB is based on renting bandwidth in a multiplex from a middleman compared with owning you own transmitter

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: dabshite

        There's a chap up the road from me I went to see about some welding. In his bench there was a triode the size of a bucket - he reckoned it would do a MW in the FM range. If I could afford a packet of fags I reckon that would work out cheaper using a steam generator than the same range on DAB.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: dabshite

      Not quite clear on how squeezing bitrate allows more advertising in a linear audio format? Do they magic up extra seconds in each minute?

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: dabshite

        "Not quite clear on how squeezing bitrate allows more advertising in a linear audio format? Do they magic up extra seconds in each minute?"

        It allows more channels, which carry more advertising. Buy a fixed wad of bandwidth and squeeze in all the channels you can. Q.E.D.

    3. Ogi

      Re: dabshite

      Yeah, your post reminded me of an alternative to DAB that unfortunately didn't win, which is DRM (not that kind):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Radio_Mondiale

      Basically they send digital signals down the original AM and FM frequencies, with more modern technology to pack higher quality audio into the channel.

      Perhaps in future it will see use, but I suspect before then people will just move to packet switched networks and listen to internet radio (which is what I did).

      1. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: dabshite

        DRM does look close to what I have in mind. Wonder if we could persuade one of the big independents who still do FM to graft it onto their service anyway and write a decode/replay app. They could start with say midnight to 6 am and then expand it if it catches on.

        But I don't do Internet radio, coverage is as shite as DAB.

      2. AlbertH

        Re: dabshite

        Digital Raddio Mondiale is used by some short wave stations and is capable of remarkably good results even over a restricted bandwidth channel. I've done lots of DRM pirate broadcasts from my site in the Irish Republic - the response from listeners used to be very good.

    4. AlbertH

      Re: dabshite

      An FM stereo channel is 150kHz wide - 75kHz either side of the carrier. There are three principal components - sum (L+R - mono) received by mono receivers, difference (L-R) which is modulated on to a 38 kHz-centred double-sideband-suppressed-carrier sub-carrier, and a 19 kHz pilot tone to indicate the presence of stereo and to provide the 38 kHz to re-insert to demodulate the difference component. There is a fourth component these days, another DSSC signal centred on 57kHz which carries the RDS data stream.

      For its day, Zenith-GE multiplex stereo (that's what it's called, folks) was a pretty nifty way of retaining compatibility with existing mono radios, and conveying two good quality audio channels (albeit with only 15kHz top end). It's pretty wasteful of bandwidth, but there's a hell of a lot of "plant" about and endless receivers for it in the hands of the public. When done properly, it can sound wonderful.

  17. jason 7 Silver badge

    I don't get why...

    ...a sub-standard tech that came out nearly 30 years ago is still quite expensive.

  18. Timbo

    Crazy UK idiots...

    The issue from the very start has been:

    a) the financial costs that Arqiva charges make for broadcasting DAB - so carrying stereo costs twice as much as carrying mono. Nett result is radio stations only trasnmit in mono to save money

    b) There are 37 individual DAB multiplexs available for use within the UK - and OFCOM have licensed just three National multiplexes - so BBC, Digital One and Sound Digital. London has 3 "local" mulitplexes, but other cities/large towns might only have 1, maybe 2.

    This means there is less space on each mutiplex for more stations....and about 30 multiplex frequencies are completely unused.

    *IF* the idiots at OFCOM had actually licensed the remaining multiplexes, that would provide more bandwidth and so radio stations could then transmit at 320kb stereo, instead of 64kb mono (which leads to better sound). And then Arqiva need to reduce the price of transmission and make their money from having many more stations available instead of just a few.

    The problem with FM is that the BBC have multiple frequencies spaced apart by a few 00s of kHz for just 4 radio stations (1 through 4) as these are needed to prevent nearby transmitters "beating" interference.....a problem that DAB doesn't have as nearby DAB transmitters create a mesh to improve the signal....which leaves little space for any NEW radio stations, esp those who want a national presence.

    As is usual with UK "controlling" instituitions is that they just don't have a clue how to make the most of the technology.

    1. reubs007

      Re: Crazy UK idiots...

      DAB was initially pitched as CD quality in the UK. What a joke! The BBC also hobbled its online streams for many years by sticking with RealPlayer, so that DAB sounded better by comparison.

      1. reubs007

        Re: Crazy UK idiots...

        TIL RealPlayer is still available!!

    2. AlbertH

      Re: Crazy UK idiots...

      The problem with FM is that the BBC have multiple frequencies spaced apart by a few 00s of kHz for just 4 radio stations (1 through 4) as these are needed to prevent nearby transmitters "beating" interference

      Not quite true. The BBC national services (with the exception of Radio 1 that was added some years later) were smeared across huge swathes of the band because when they started, domestic receivers had rather poor selectivity, and so the stations in each area were well spread in frequency. The clots planning the network forgot about FM "capture effect" (basically, the strongest signal wins, completely blotting out the weaker signal beneath it), and frequency re-use was considered to be a "bad thing".

      Properly engineered, the four BBC nationals should occupy no more than 87.6 to about 90 MHz. This would really open the band up - as suggested by the "Wise Report" on FM broadcasting in the late 70s. Fred Wise suggested "classes" of station from nationals down to regional, city-wide, community of interest, then "parish pumps" broadcasting to a neighbourhood. With careful planning and a bit of intelligence, Band II could accommodate a huge number of stations.

      There is no sane reason for the BBC nationals to occupy over half the band!

  19. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    4G

    Driving through the Scottish highlands, I found that listening to the radio through the internet using an app on my phone Was more reliable and with fewer dropouts than listening to the same station on DAB. In fact, DAB was a complete disappointment whilst on the move.

  20. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Haven't listened to a radio for decades. but...

    The U-turn "ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of treasured FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade," boasted media minister John Whittingdale,

    .

    treasured ??

    ..

    Makes it sound like the kind of cheap tat produced for maudlin commemorations or unimportant sports events.

    I expected more from this government.

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Don't be too disappointed. It could have been:

      The U-turn "ensures there is no disruption for loyal listeners of world-beating FM and AM radio services such as Classic FM, Absolute Radio and TalkSport over the next decade," boasted media minister John Whittingdale

  21. reubs007

    Will someone please shoot this poor, dying horse?

    My God, vast sums have been spent by successive governments and the BBC pushing this ancient, crappy tech. 25 years after the UK launch, and FM/AM *still* accounts for a greater share of radio listening. I imagine by 2030 this will be largely a moot point thanks to ubiquitous access to Spotify, podcasts, apps etc via 5G. Radio listening via online/apps is up from 11% to 14% of all radio listening just in the last year according to RAJAR.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Will someone please shoot this poor, dying horse?

      "I imagine by 2030 this will be largely a moot point thanks to ubiquitous access to Spotify, podcasts, apps etc via 5G"

      All of that takes an enormous amount of back end to make go. Any break in the chain and it's crickets. Switch to another station, still crickets. If an FM station is off the air, chances are that others aren't unless the JCB operator sliced through a major fibre installation that also included all of the upstream signals to an antenna farm on the hill.

  22. Kevin666

    All those new stations

    We were promised that DAB would open the door to a flood of marvellous new stations. Surprisingly enough it has turned out that anything other than wall to wall music, or inane chit chat and phone-ins costs serious money and is never going to happen.

  23. SuperGeek

    DAB+? Where's the +?

    DAB+ was introduced with higher quality AAC codec yet most stations are stil using old 32kbits quality, and that includes a lot of BBC stations! No wonder they sound crap!

    I bought a PCI Modular Technologies DAB card years ago, and it is now as rare as hen's teeth. I don't think it is DAB + as there were never any firmwre updates as Modular went bang a few years after it launched. It has a brilliant aerial, and is great for recording radio, as the only other DAB recorder I know of and own is the KAOS PDR1 portable, which records to MicroSD, but is frankly crap, and cost £60!

    DAB is like 3D TV. Great idea, poor and costly execution.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: DAB+? Where's the +?

      Probably worth looking at dirt cheap RTL2832U usb dongles and software defined radio. My dvb-t2 versions came with dab support in the useless bundled software. Seems to be plenty of SDR support for them including DAB+ and customised versions with different antenna connectors and tweaked hardware. Wouldn't be hard to build a Pi based DAB recorder.

  24. George Spiggott

    Oh no another 10 years of being able to hear Steve Wright as I live in a DAB poor area.

    1. The Pi Man

      How the fcuk he’s still on the radio is beyond me.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So this is what "taking back control" looks like :/

    Putting the great back into Britain...

    Couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery, more like.

  26. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo

    Why would you replace something analogue that works perfectly well?

    AM and FM have been around for decades, yet in the two decades digital radio is around they introduced DAB and DAB+. I envision compatibility breaking changes every 10 or 15 years, once analogue is dead for good, and radio-listeners have to buy the latest implementation of some crappy, new standard for digital radio.

    While disruption sound really exciting to some, for the consumer, little good come from it.

  27. Torchy

    Desert.

    Thank God for that.

    Up here in south east Northumberland DAB drops out when you are driving around in the car and if you go north of Morpeth it is non existent until you reach the outskirts of Edinburgh.

    I have a really good system in my car but I have no use for DAB so can the manufacturers take note and leave the DAB system out so I can have my radio a bit cheaper please.

    While on the subject all the new mobile phones are 5G ready but 5G is not going to arrive in Northumberland until 2024 so can I buy a cheaper non-5G enabled phone?

    No, I thought not so the likelihood is that the phone will be binned before 5G arrives.

  28. spireite

    Was always a solution looking for....

    ...a problem....

    I could never understand the point. MP3 Players were everywhere relatively, and since most people who wanted music would either record their own compilation on said player, or even *shudder* use cassettes/CDs, radio listening was on a downward trend.

    Of course, predominant listeners were 60++, and they were luddites who wouldn't want to throw away their standard radio receiving tech.

    I listen to the radio in the car, and Soundcloud/Spotify anywhere else. Even in the car it's only for the morning/evening drive (LBC for me) and that is it!!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Was always a solution looking for....

      Radio is not just music. Would you put live sports, news bulletins and half R4 content on MP3 players?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I lived in London I never had any problem with radio reception. Guess where the guys making these decisions live. I moved to the North - hey there BBC, ever heard of hills & valleys? Reception was poorer but good old long-wave goes round corners. At first reception was OK but gradually we've been moved to shorter wavelengths less good at handling obstacles. I used to be able to listen to my portable radio just about anywhere in the house using the internal antenna but up-north: extent the aerial, find the best direction to point it to get a usable signal and don't move around or you'll disrupt the signal and it's back to heavy distortion.

    I gave up on Radio 3 a long time ago, great for the guy with good reception, with his carefully placed stereo speakers and expensive kit but here - forget it. But classical music is wasted on Northerners anyway isn't it!

    Of course we're always the last to move to the wonderful new technologies too. DAB coverage is still patchy but now I can get a load more channels I don't want and didn't somebody say one of the benefits was "better quality"? Liar.

    I'm not even talking about the difficult rural locations, total "not-spots" just a couple of miles from the centre of Sheffield. Going out into the Peak District? best switch the car radio to an AM channel. Stoney Middleton? Now you're just taking the piss. But never mind, the southern bastards are coining it by selling off the only frequencies that work for us.

    I paid £200 for an allegedly premium portable DAB radio, nobody mentioned that I'd need to take out a second mortgage if I wanted to run it on batteries (several "D" cells) "rechargeables" do I hear you cry? Fine if you don't mind changing them every couple of hours.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I have a Roberts Gemini 49. 2006 vintage. It has rechargeables that charge in situ and give 24 hours of playback time. It's very battered now, having had so much use in bathrooms, gardens, garage etc. But it still a great bit of kit.

      It's true an FM radio would go a lot longer on the same charge but then a cat's whisker crystal radio from the 1920s doesn't even need a local power source. That's progress for you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depends on your definition of North

      I live in Cambridge. Back in the mid-2000s I bought a DAB radio, after checking that my postcode would have good reception. They lied. Reception was terrible. And we don't even have any proper hills or valleys round here.

      I used to switch it on every year or so to see if things had improved. Now I just listen over the Net like everyone else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Depends on your definition of North

        As I discovered (not commenting on bitrates) - DAB reception needs a good radio. Good <> expensive , Good == well designed. I'm guessing that loads of early DAB radios manufacturers slapped together a cheap as chips receiver (optimised for FM probably) with a decoder, assuming that a good receiver didn't matter because the error correction could cope with a poor input.

        1. jonfr

          Re: Depends on your definition of North

          You can use your old VHF antenna on your house to get DAB/DAB+ signals. It has better reception than indoor antenna any day. The old VHF (channels 5 - 13, only ch 3 to 12 where used for analogue television) are now used for DAB/DAB+ radio. It looks like that the bandwidth for DAB/DAB+ in Mhz is just 1,712Mhz and that is why there are so few and poor quality in both DAB and DAB+ channels. Normal DVB-T and DVB-T2 channel is 8Mhz and supports several HD channels or one 4K channel.

          I don't know if DAB3 standard is on the way. I doubt it though since IP radio is making its way in the world.

    3. Lunatic Looking For Asylum

      Blat fatteries

      This was one big gripe with them. They ate batteries and I ended up leaving them plugged in to the wall wart. More annoying was that the radios had to be on a window sill to receive anything, I don't get a particularly good FM signal here either but I can generally get it anywhere in the house with a bit of careful orientation of the radio, DAB is window sill only, it has improved since early days where it was kitchen window sill, at least now it's any window sill and the dining room.

      Don't get me started on the number of times we have to retune the smart telly because somebody has decided to renumber the stations or move them.

      Back in the 405 days, we had three channels and admittedly the volume wasn't there but at least you could watch something. Digital it's either picture of black screen.

      We'd probably get better service if th BBC actually puit some money into infrastructure and bandwidth instead of the luvvies/over paid presenters.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Blat fatteries

        wall wart - Like Wal-Mart only with a slight inversion?

  30. //DLBL SYSRES

    Nice

    This is one of those very rare occasions on Reg when (nearly) everyone agrees. DAB as implemented is crap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice...but......

      Agreed DAB is crap and pointless.....but.....actually being fair DAB receivers are mostly crap and pointless. I've owned 2 clock radios with DAB built in and one dab only receiver. The DAB receiver and the first clock radio basically struggled to get anything other than a crackly underwater gargle. I happily went around saying 'DAB is rubbish'. The second clock radio - switched it on - tuned all the local DAB, effortless, reliable etc. The older models still don't work, so it's not a change in transmission just a better receiver.

  31. Atlantic Roller

    World radio

    I thought this was quite cool.

    http://radio.garden/

    The green dots are radio stations you can click to listen to.

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: World radio

      Hmm. Local community station's not on it.

      Fail.

    2. Lunatic Looking For Asylum
      Thumb Up

      Re: World radio

      Really good. I liked that though it thought I was in Canada :-)

      http://radio.gaga whould have been much cooler :-)

  32. Joe Harrison

    Satellite radio

    I had a rental car in America with satellite radio and it was really good. Great sound quality, huge selection of stations, and didn't fade in and out as you drove through small towns. Why can't we have satellite radio?

  33. theregister@mariegriffiths.co.uk

    Mr Carlson's Lab gets a stay of execution

    Anyways now lets look at those tubes.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB sounds worse than FM!

    I have tried DAB many times before and have found both the audio and signal quality far inferior to FM.

    Though I prefer FM to DAB, I now find myself mostly streaming music and radio via the Internet anyway. It sounds better than both of them!

    I can't see DAB having much of a future unless they improve the audio and signal quality. It is unfortunate that the powers that be decided it would be a good idea to lower bitrates in favour of cramming more stations into the space available.

    Also, it doesn't seem particularly environmentally friendly to throw away all the perfectly good FM/AM radio receivers, which are not only cheaper but also consume far less energy than DAB receivers. Is it really worth it for all those disadvantages? I don't think so.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pips

    Have they fixed the pips in DAB radios yet?

    1. Steve K Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Pips

      I heard that Apple are working on it...

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Pips

        Team Lead is Gladys, but she only works at night.

    2. AlbertH

      Re: Pips

      Nope - they can't. The decoding time lags vary by receiver model / chipset. I generally find that DAB is around 3 seconds behind the analogue version of the same programme, but varies from receiver to receiver.

  36. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Meh

    Given that DAB is basically an outdated spec, and limited to the UK, I can easily imagine manfuacturers abandoning the platform for lack of sales, and DAB essentially ceasing to exist before these renewed licenses expire.

    I can also imagine the UK govt "priming the pump" by doing something silly to promote digital radio that probably has unintended consequences, too,

    Maybe I'm just being cynical, though.

    1. reubs007

      They have priming the pump for 20 years. The airtime the BBC used for DAB propaganda would have cost millions on commercial stations. Funny the BBC never mentions it these days. They relentlessly promote BBC Sounds instead, which is actually good and lives up to its promises.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      DAB+ is not a UK only standard - it's the European standard that is also used in other non-European countries. It's not going away.

      DAB (i.e the older version) is fast becoming a niche thing, but radio support is not likely to disappear any time soon

    3. Timbo

      Cynical?

      "Given that DAB is basically an outdated spec, and limited to the UK"

      DAB was designed back in the late 1980's (as part of the Eureka project) as a way of increasing the radio spectrum, using up the "space in the ether" that was used for 405 line (B&W) TV.

      At the time MP2 encoding was "de rigeur" and as such, once the format was established, the BBC started broadcasting in 1995 and carried 4 stations (IIRC) at 256 kb stereo and it was quite groundbreaking to hear music with wide bandwidth (compared to the 15 kHz HF limit on FM, due to the 19 kHz pilot tone) and no noise.

      A commercial licensee came about in 1999 and they started broadcasting a number of stations some of which continue to this day.

      But the issue was always one of "price" as the initial way of receiving the signal was from one of 4 different brands of hi-fi tuner (Sony, Technics, ARCAM and one other I forget) and via ONE "mains portable" made by Roberts.

      Times move on and 30 years on, and DAB, when given a chance, still works very well...BUT it has been stifled by a lack of support by OFCOM (who are not keen to increase the number of licenses to broadcast) and by Arqiva (who own the transmitters) to lower their pricing structure and to widen the number of main and secondary transmitters to ensure that the Single Frequency Network can provide a good signal strength to anyone.

      In the meantime, new codecs have been developed and DAB+ can carry more signals within the limited bandwidth (approx 1 Gb/s) of each multiplex frequency.

      And many countries in Europe and around the world have adopted DAB/DAB+ as their "replacement" system for national radio, as FM has too many issues that cannot be worked around.

      A more positive licensing strategy from OFCOM would help make DAB/DAB+ a much better system...but they do not want to move, as they are stuck in a 1980s rut of wanting to control everything. :-(

  37. zaax

    If only there was another way to get digital radio over the air. Maybe we have on our mobile phones, it could have thousands of stations and we could call it Internet Radio

    1. Old Tom

      Large crowds / widlerness

      I regularly listen to FM radio using my mobile phone; it much works pretty much everywhere, anytime.

      If I'm competing with thousands of others for the local tower's capacity in/around a football stadium on match day I doubt that I'd get the throughput to listen to a live Internet radio stream; if I'm in the wilderness, there is no internet radio. This is why my personal minimum spec for a phone includes FM radio.

      Other negatives for streaming include the required data allowances and the massive latency of the broadcast - listen to streamed football commentary and your 'latest scores' app will notify you of a goal/event way before you hear it happen on the 'live' broadcast. Also, I'd be very surprised if streaming used less power than FM

  38. Path/Find.r

    Its not DAB that sucks, its the broadcasters

    Im all in favour of DAB over traditional radio waves. However until broadcasters start broadcasting at better quality than 64Kbit then its always going to suck. Licencees squeeze the bandwidth just to push more terrible channels.

    Im a 6 music fan, the stream from my laptop sounds better than through the DAB broadcast. Whats that about?

    1. Timbo

      Re: Its not DAB that sucks, its the broadcasters

      "Licencees squeeze the bandwidth just to push more terrible channels."

      No, it's Arqiva keeping the cost of broadcasting tranmissions high (as cost is proportional to bandwidth used by each station) and of OFCOM for not releasing more frequencies for radio stations to use...and therefore more multiplexes could operate, meaning stations could broadcast in near enough CD quality (say 320kb/s stereo) as opposed to 48 or 64 kb/s mono.

  39. Jerry CB.
    Thumb Up

    Going backwards

    Great news.Maybe the next thing will be to remove RDS from FM so my old English made Alba tuner will perform as well as it did in 1970.

  40. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Horses for courses?

    My first personal radio was a crystal set. Reception of BBC 'Home Service', 'Third Programme' and 'Light Programme' was adequate. My expectation from recorded music was based on the capability of a wind-up acoustic gramophone playing '78s.

    Those were fascinating times because audio technology was moving apace; the nowadays wrongly maligned BBC being at the forefront. With respect to listening experience AM radio, in good reception broadcasts, was fine in the generality; nobody expected concert hall or theatre experience.

    FM programming drawn from stereo LPs offered frequency, dynamic ranges, and background noise, not much degraded from the disc played in the studio.

    Meanwhile provision of home Hi-Fi based on vinyl discs became a major luxury industry. It encompassed a multitude of misleading claims for esoteric equipment and pundits hailed each genuine incremental advance a major leap forward. However, everyone with nous knew that impressions on vinyl suitable for commercial distribution had a pretty much unalterable frequency and dynamic range. The former was adequate then and now for most people. The latter was restrictive for playback of symphonic music; yet, people these days playing popular music on the go in noisy environments and using earpieces of indifferent quality actively deploy dynamic compression.

    The major recorded-audio advance in my lifetime was introduction of the CD (and other digital manifestations). It far eclipsed long ago transition from cylinder to shellac disc and thenceforth to vinyl. Standard CD quality is not fully encompassed by FM. In principle, DAB can match CD quality and beyond (for people desirous of ultra-high definition from specially produced recording). In practice, that is not so because of imperatives to compress bandwidth; perhaps lossless compression with matching decompression on receiving devices is the way forward? However, mass musical taste seems well satisfied with lossy music electronically tweaked to cover up deficiencies; this similar to 'pop singles' issued with considerable boost to base and treble so that the heard result on a simple 'record player' or transistor radio was satisfactory; that last from an engineering point of view rather than expectation of remedying musical illiteracy of 'artists'; previous recollections remind me that when transistor radios first appeared on the mass market the number of transistors contained in the device was blazoned on the casing as badge of merit.

    'Horses for courses' is response to diverse options for transmitting and receiving audio 'content'. Voice and most drama is coped with adequately on AM, much better and with option for stereo on FM, and to almost any high standard demanded by audiences when transmitted by adequate bandwidth DAB or via the Internet (this last being something the BBC excels at for A/V in general).

    Looking to the future, terrestrial air-wave broadcasting of news, information, and entertainment, may end after a couple of decades except for remote niches.

  41. Palf

    They'll have to pry my diode + OC71 from my cold dead hands!!

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