back to article Nobody cares about DAB radio – so let's force it onto smart speakers, suggests UK govt review

The UK may require smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home devices to broadcast UK DAB radio stations, over government fears that Brits aren't consuming enough of the unloved radio tech. Under the guise of "protecting UK radio stations' accessibility" the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published …

  1. msobkow Silver badge

    Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers... *LOL*

    1. ShabWeasel
      Big Brother

      Could be worse...

      They could be sending some idiot round to demand money for a service you have no interest in using...

      ...

      ...

      ... Oh!

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

      I'm not sure what they are doing actually, except trying to kill off FM..

      On the one hand, our lovely tories have always tried to ensure a steady stream of license royalties to the patent holders of DAB, and DAB+ which still includes hefty per-unit licensing royalties. (and notice DAB+ is a requirement for the government's "digital tick") but I don't see how this particular policy benefits anyone except Amazon and Google.

      When they say "smart home devices will be forced to rebroadcast DAB stations" - I don't think that has anything to do with DAB itself - more like, they will have to be able to *stream* all DAB stations over the internet, and broadcasters may well have to pay for that "service". Moreover, it will encourage more people to get an audio bug installed in their home smart speaker, instead of a DAB radio set.

      Of course "smart speakers" will always out-compete DAB radios because 1. DAB is shit. 2. DAB is expensive due to the patent licenses, and 3. smart speakers pay for themselves in terms of all the data they hoover up. Amazon and Google would sell them at a loss if that sort of thing was legal and didn't make people suspicious.

      Plus, the Internet is much more capable of reliably delivering a 100kbps data stream without bit-errors than a broadcast antenna to most if not all places, (even cars) especially with the advent of 5G etc.. And with so many competing stations, "broadcast" loses its relevance (except for local stations) - "multicast" is much more efficient.

      My only hope is that this will finally kill off the idiocy that was DAB, and that it will convince the next government to NOT kill off analogue FM radio. We need it as an emergency broadcast system for one, and for two we still need some sort of broadcast radio service that is simple, cheap, license-free, local, accessible and NOT in the hands of the tech companies.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        > We need it as an emergency broadcast system for one

        This. If the Government had their heads on straight they'd be insisting it was the other way around: that smart speakers could receive FM (at least one emergency channel) so that receivers were readily available in the event of a disaster.

      2. Timbo Bronze badge

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        The problems with DAB are two-fold:

        1) OFCOM have not fully licensed the ENTIRE available DAB spectrum in the UK, hence we have only 3 national broadcast networks (BBC and Digital One and Sound Digital) and a few local ones.

        Hence as listeners we have less choice than would be the case, if more frequencies were freed up and licenced, esp with regards to local stations. More Single Frequency Networks, would then allow more stations to use higher bit rates and the sound would be better. (Each of the current DAB SFN's can only carry approx 1 Mb of data concurrently, which is enough to permit a maximum 4 stations at 256kb in stereo, for instance). So more SFN's would give more capacity to carry more stations and at higher bit rates.

        2) Arqiva (who own all the transmitter sites) are charging a premium for broadcasting out of each tower and they charge more if higher bandwidth is required.

        This has limited the growth of DAB/DAB+ and forces radio stations to keep their data requirements lower so we have too many station broadcasting in mono and at low bit rates (64kbs/80kbs), where as if Arqiva charged less, then many more stations would broadcast at "higher" bit rates and hence the sound would be better.

        So, the blame lies not with the tech, but with OFCOM and Arqiva.

        PS: As an example, listen to BBC Radio 3 on DAB on any DAB equipped hifi tuner - it is superb - no interference, no background noise and just great broadcasts, esp during the proms :-)

      3. Keith Oborn

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        "Plus, the Internet is much more capable of reliably delivering a 100kbps data stream without bit-errors than a broadcast antenna to most if not all places, (even cars) "

        Nope. I can find oodles of places where DAB works, FM is flaky, and there is no mobile signal to speak of. I live in one. In the outer darkness of North Hampshire.

        Driving around the UK I find DAB rarely drops out. FM does so often, and getting a good enough mobile data connection to stream audio is often problematical. Additionally many people are not on unlimited mobile data plans, so there is a cost implication.

        Having worked in the ISP business for many years, I think that using the more-complex technology - which, of course, is intended to generate, and requires, two-way traffic to and from each end point - is a case of "because I have a hammer all problems are nails". One way broadcast radio is way simpler and more efficient. You can argue DAB vs FM, but the latter needs a whole lot more transmitter power and is subject to far more sources of disruption.

        Look at TV: DTV transmitters run at far lower power than analogue, and deliver quality and reliability that analogue could never match, and that streaming services still struggle with.

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

          Exactly everything you said.

          A recent holiday to Cornwall proved it. I had problems ON THE WAY TO BRISTOL! Plus I live in Bedford, a place you would expect to have more than 1 bar of 4G signal as you drive about?

          Right now, in Bedford, right next to two main A roads, a super market and housing my phone says:

          Emergency Calls Only

          I recently had to fir out a pub with a new IT system. My teammates gave me a 4G router as the "backup" connection should the ADSL FTTC line go down. When I got to the location, what signal strength did get? 2 bars of 2G.

          I'm literally fed up with everyone who is in cloud cuckoo land spouting all this "mobile streaming" is brilliant etc etc. It was crap when I was using WAP on my 1G phone via a DIALUP connection charged per second and its still crap now. Broadcast is always the better option.

      4. Rob Davis

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        They should look at Digital Radio Mondiale.

        https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2021/10/22/smart_speakers_dab_dcms_radio_review/#c_4355668

      5. Paul Stimpson

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        I'm totally with you on this.

        "Amazon and Google would sell them at a loss if that sort of thing was legal and didn't make people suspicious."

        Are you sure they don't? When I ordered an item from Curry's recently, a thing popped up that said I could have a Google Nest Mini for £10. Surely, that's got to be selling at a loss once everyone's cut is taken out? I didn't want one but I bought it to see what it was like and because I could probably reuse the case and PSU if I don't like it

        I would be surprised if it is a long term feature in my home since the only real uses I have found for it so far are as a voice activated light switch, setting timers and for telling me how much something in a foreign currency costs in Pounds. It certainly can't answer "Hey Google, how many Watts is 8.6 Amps at 12 Volts?"

      6. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like they're trying to protect the livelihoods of the buggy-whip makers

        > Plus, the Internet is much more capable of reliably delivering a 100kbps data stream without bit-errors than a broadcast antenna to most if not all places, (even cars)

        Not even close.

        I recently went on a trip to cornwall for a week. I was intending on listening to the app of the DAB radio station I typically listen to.

        Guess what it was like.

        Cant guess? Well, it was f*cking shit! I was lucky if I got a 2G edge connection on most of the trip, and that was on the main A roads and motorways, forget in cornwall itself.

        I have long been adamant about the fact that mobile internet is not up to the task, so I luckily loaded a few podcasts onto my phone, plus I had my minidisc player... Yes, you read that right.

        I thought that maybe the lot that say "but 4g is great! streaming is the future" were finally going to prove it to me, a fan of "broadcast" over "multicast". Well, looks like I was proved right yet again.

        5G will fix it? Funny, thats exactly what they said when 3G came out. Then 4G came out to fix 3G...

        So when will it actually work? Its not soon, thats for sure. 5G will do it for a while till everyone is on 5G, then they will se up all the bandwidth and some savy ones will force the phone onto 4G, like me who forces my phone onto 3G just to get more than 1 bar of signal in my home town.

  2. steviebuk Silver badge

    Don't touch FM!!!!

    DAB signal is pretty shit in most places, get rid of that then no one will be able to listen to the radio anymore. Not everyone is into computers, lots of old folks still love their "wireless" and make use of FM where DAB isn't available. Its shocking how poor DAB is for signal, granted it sounds nicer than FM but not when your in a town that is big, supposed to have good signal yet there are still spots, largely populated spots that I drive through when the signal just goes dead.

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      "...who simply don't understand what's good for them and keep refusing to spend money on DAB."

      " ...do not fully understand the choice of free-to-access services" while asserting that stubborn analogue oldies are simply happy with what they've got and don't see the need to buy a DAB set."

      Some of us "oldies" have no bloody choice but to stick with FM.

      Where I live we have no DAB signal, so why would I fork out for something that is of absolutely no use to me?

      Give me a viable alternative and I *might* consider changing but from anecdotal evidence DAB is no real advance on what I already have.

      In actual fact I do a lot of my listening via my PC, mostly TMS, but it is nice to just switch on the radio and not have to log in and scratch around looking for the BBC Sounds website.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        "Give me a viable alternative and I *might* consider changing but from anecdotal evidence DAB is no real advance on what I already have."

        FWIW, DAB has pros as well as cons. The problem is the poor coverage, as already noted, and the compressing of more stations into the available bandwidth than was originally envisioned. Likewise, the inability to easily upgrade to DAB. It's all down to money, of course. With good coverage and a wholesale switch to a decent codec, we could have have a good range of radio stations at a decent quality, even in stereo. On the other hand, the radio market is shrinking in terms of choice. Conglomerates buying up local stations and effectively turning them into national stations with a few minutes of "local" news a couple of times per day and what local commercial stations are left blasting out adverts more and more frequently (or so it seems). Not to mention the small and infrequently changed playlists of "music".

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

          > Not to mention the small and infrequently changed playlists of "music".

          It won't be long before there is a "smart radio" with built in RAM that caches the playlist so they don't have to broadcast at all - only periodic triggers to play a tune or a bit of Smashy & Nicey prattling on or the ads, thereby fitting hundreds of stations into the bandwidth used by just one currently.

        2. Red Ted
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

          Did you know that all the “independent” radio stations have their news provided by the same service?

        3. Timbo Bronze badge

          Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

          The original DAB tech came out of Eureka 147 project and is based on MP2 technology.

          This was in the early 1990's and DAB came to market with relatively expensive hifi tuners in 1995, when the BBC first started broadcasting on DAB and at high bit rates (192 kb for Radio 1,2 and 4 and upto 256kb for Radio 3).

          4 years later, Digital One was given the licence to be the first national commercial operator on DAB and the 6 or 7 stations that they launched were either music or speech/news based and take up of DAB was stifled as no one produced a cost effective "portable-type" all in one radio (ie tuner with amplifier and speaker built-in) until about 2001 when the first £99 radio came out.

          So, DAB was slow to roll out to the general population, was initially expensive to own the hardware, and was stifled by OFCOM limiting the number of stations.

          The majority of the UK can receive DAB...but the issue with DAB is that you need plenty of transmitters to cover every nook and cranny....and Arqiva (who own the transmitters) have not broadcast at enough sites at the required power levels to make it easier for people to receive the signals.

          And in the meantime (30 years !!), audio compression technology has evolved to give us MP3 and now AAC, which was never considered "possible" back in 1990 when MP2 was chosen for DAB.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

          Radio 4 introduced us to Britain's (first) National Local Radio Station back in 1981... Radio Active

          (3 episodes on BBC Sounds)

      2. Paul Stimpson

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        "Give me a viable alternative and I *might* consider changing but from anecdotal evidence DAB is no real advance on what I already have."

        I bought a DAB radio early on because the marketing guff made it sound like a good thing which offered me more choice and better quality. The truth was anything but. The default codec on original DAB sounds like shit at the bitrates in use. Then "free-market conservatism" put pressure on Ofcom not to impose a minimum quality threshold and let the market decide the trade of between number of services and quality of each one. By the look of it, the market has decided and consumers seem to have gone with "We don't want 64 radio stations that sound like shit. Take your DAB radio and shove it."

        At the time, the public statements seemed to assume that cars would have DAB as they tend to be the place people listen to broadcast radio the most. That doesn't really seem to have worked out. My car has an integrated radio and touch screen that does other stuff in the car so I can't just take the radio out and fit another without losing functionality. I acknowledge that off-board units exist but I really don't want micro FM transmitters, stick-on control panels and wiring spaghetti all over the inside of my car to listen to something that sounds shit compares with what the car's FM radio can do. I have never heard an online version of a station, Spotify, YouTube, Vimeo or DVB radio that doesn't sound better than DAB. I just don't see the point in buying it.

        My confidence in the technology has been further undermined by the iterations that nobody told us about when they punted this thing , probably because we wouldn't have bought it if they had. Now, a chunk of the local stations here are DAB+, which my original DAB radio can't receive, rather than DAB so I need to buy yet another new radio and generate more e-waste to replace the still working DAB radio I have if I want the new stations. Now, there's talk of 5G Radio to cover the gaps in DAB and DAB+ so that's another change of gear. I don't want to spend money on radio to have the system change every couple of years and to have that money wasted.

        I think it's just laughable that the Government are trying to force smart speaker makers to carry broadcast radio stations, presumably so they can carry on making money from them for licensing, when most of the public I know don't seem to really want them any more. I'm more than happy with the SD card of music in my car radio and with Spotify

    2. Dave K

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      There's also the aspect of not wanting to throw away perfectly usable kit. I have a wake-up lamp with radio in my bedroom. The light steadily brightens in a morning, then the radio slowly fades up at alarm time to wake me. It works, it does the trick, and the FM receiver in it can receive the station I want to wake up to and plays it with perfectly acceptable quality.

      Why should I want to throw it away if it works OK?

      Plenty of other people I know use radios that are far older. They still work, they play what the listener wants to hear, and the audio quality is fine for that person's needs. I just don't see the point or the obsession with binning working kit just to jump on the rather questionable DAB bandwaggon.

      1. Mnot Paranoid

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        If that's the device I'm thinking of - looks like a fat off-white dish that's flat on one edge so it stands up - then that has one of the most sensitive FM receivers I've ever owned.

        Bearing in mind the antenna is just a piece of wire, it brings in stations that are just noise on most standalone radios.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

          You mean a "lumie" - they are great, if a little pricey

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

      The essential benefit of airwave radio is that it's an independent communication channel with simple reliable end points the client side of which can be self powered. As we're busy converging everything onto the internet, that's essential as otherwise we're incommunicado when either the broadband of the power goes down. OFCOM require just one hour of support for routing equipment, and that's not the only point of failure.

      We're making ourselves more and more fragile in the name of 'progress'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

        We're making ourselves more and more fragile in the name of 'progress'.

        I think it's more in the name of money. The whole idea of shutting down FM wasn't driven by any desire to make things better (because it worked, basically), it was so the spectrum could be reclaimed and then flogged again for profit.

        1. ovation1357

          Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

          Yes and let's not forget the news that BT is going to be switching off PSTN and giving everyone a VoIP box with some kind of battery backup.

          DAB is technically pretty shit, meanwhile the loss of AM/FM will definitely make our national communications network more fragile and then taking our 'proper' phones away will compound this

          I reckon that if we had the zombie apocalypse tomorrow there's a pretty good chance that a combination of analogue radio plus PSTN would survive to keep people in contact.

          I really don't fancy our chances with DAB and VoIP.

          1. AHW

            Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

            Openreach no longer provide battery backup for Fibre connections, the instructions boldly state that you will need a mobile phone for emergency calls during a power failure.

        2. Fred Dibnah

          Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

          Section 6 of the report has a paragraph stating that there are limited other uses for the FM band, and therefore little incentive to close transmissions and sell the spectrum.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

        I must confess my old Quad FM tuner is generally regarded by all and sundry as sounding far better than any DAB radio anyone has listened to. And its mono!

        I dont know how people say DAB sounds better when the boxes the radio come in wouldnt have been called hi-fi in the 1930s.

        1. Red Ted
          Go

          Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

          Have an up vote for the use of a Quad!

          Though I am interested in the model, if it is a mono receiver?

        2. Timbo Bronze badge

          Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

          Actually I would pitch my DAB tuner playing the live Proms in stereo on Radio 3 against your old "noisy" Quad FM tuner, (presumably a FM1 or FM2 - the FM3 was stereo) even without it's stereo modulator.

          Why? Because there's no background noise or "mush" on DAB (especially noticeable during the quieter moments between "movements" for instance (while on FM you just hear "white noise") and it is broadcast at virtually CD quality (256 kb stereo).

          1. Red Ted
            WTF?

            Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

            Ah it is interesting that you brought up The Third Programme. They have special dispensation to have the greatest bandwidth of them all, 192kbps. All the other main BBC channels are at 128kbps and most of the commercial channels at 64kbps.

            So, yes, given three times the bandwidth of the some of the other stations, it really ought to be as good as Stereo FM!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "lots of old folks still love their "wireless""

              Radio 3 over t'interrnet has a 320kbps option

              hmm... checking further it appears R1-5 are now all available in 320kbps HD sound (with R3 sometimes, eg. Proms, available in FLAC)

    4. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      granted it sounds nicer than FM but...

      But unlike FM it doesn't fade out gracefully when the signal is shit it goes from working to garbled and being unlistenable to.

      To get it work at all I had to install a loft mounted aerial and an amp.

      On the other hand my analogue radio in the bathroom manages quite happily with a few inches of wire dangling out the back.

      The other advantage of analogue is its paltry power consumption. I think the batteries in the bathroom set have a life time roughly equal to their shelf life. The same can't be said for digital radio.

      1. Soruk

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        There's a cause for Greta Thunderbird to get behind, all the extra greenhouse gases produced by DAB reveivers compared to FM radios!

      2. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        What I haven't figured out is why my kitchen DAB radio is mostly OK but turns to garbled shit every hour, on the hour, during the time signal. It doesn't recover, short of turning it off and on again. By which time I have missed the news headlines.

    5. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      Here here! Why not finish FM coverage before buggering about with anything else? There’s plenty of places where I use 4g to stream radio as I can’t even get FM. I can just about understand why it doesn’t work on the A595 between Whitehaven and Barrow, but it’s a bit much when it doesn’t work on the M6…

      In all seriousness, they’d be better off working out a way of paying the mobile operators to carry streaming traffic from the radio stations and excluding it from people’s data allowance than putting up DAB transmitters that are wanted by about 4 people!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        "but it’s a bit much when it doesn’t work on the M6…"

        Ah, yes, that stretch where the only FM station you can tune in is Classic FM!

    6. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      DAB signal is generally good across most of the country, but there are weak areas. However what you do tend to find is that some stations have poor sound quality, usually commercial stations. I have line of sight from my home to a bloody big DAB transmitter. All the BBC stations come over load and clear, as do some commercial stations but other commercial stations are muddy. I've checked and all the stations come from that same transmitter. The only reason I can see for this is that the stations with poor sound quality are using a lower bit rate. In other words it's not an issue with the signal and it's not an issue with the technology as such. It's an issue with the way some stations use it.

      1. Timbo Bronze badge

        Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

        Indeed....

        The issue with low bit rates is down to Arqiva charging DAB radio stations proportionately more for higher bandwidth...so it boils down to how much a commercial radio station can afford to pay to have it's output on DAB compared to how much profit Arqiva want to make.

        Plus, sending the same signal out on FM is cheaper (generally) plus Arqiva have the same costs whether you are sending out a mono or stereo signal on FM. Whereas if you want to broadcast stereo on DAB, you will use double the bandwidth and hence it is double the cost.

    7. Rob Davis

      Re: Don't touch FM!!!!

      Touch AM instead - find out listening figures for AM and consider rolling out Digital Radio Mondiale on there - https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2021/10/22/smart_speakers_dab_dcms_radio_review/#c_4355668

  3. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    I fitted a decent DAB stereo unit into my car some years back and it works pretty well, yes there are spots where the service is poor but I don't think I'd get much improvement from using 4G via a smartphone, given how crap my phone signal is up in the hills.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      We have a decent one in the car but my point is, the spot where DAB dies, FM still works fine.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        And that is the basis of the whole issue. DAB was marketed as the superior replacement of FM. It may be of superior sound quality, but FM works everywhere.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Unhappy

          It may be of superior sound quality

          Except that it isn't. The technology could offer higher quality (although the protocol used was a bit long in the tooth when it was chosen) but instead broadcasters prefer to compress the whatsit out of the audio stream in order cram in as many different stations as possible.

          Rumour has it that the industry might be more interested in revenue than quality. Amazing.

          1. rcxb1 Bronze badge

            <blockquote>broadcasters prefer to compress the whatsit out of the audio stream in order cram in as many different stations as possible.</blockquote>

            That's because there are so few DAB listeners that they can barely justify the cost of digital transmission. If FM didn't exist as a fall-back, and everyone had DAB radios, broadcasters would spend the money to have good coverage everywhere, high quality audio, etc.

            1. ThatOne Silver badge
              Devil

              Sure, keep dreaming. Experience has shown over and over again that when companies have a choice between pocketing a lot of money, or spending it on the Greater Good, they invariably chose to help the weak. It's really quite annoying, often laws have to be passed to force commercial ventures to be more selfish...

            2. Timbo Bronze badge

              It isn't the broadcasters fault as they (generally) do not own the DAB transmitters.

              So the cost of broadcasting is not in their control - that is down to Arqiva.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          > DAB was marketed as the superior replacement of FM

          And it really is, but "superior" didn't mean better quality, or being more useful to the end user, it just meant "extended possibilities of monetization", mostly by compressing each stream to death and thus cramming many, many more paying customers in a given slot. Who cares about the quality (it's mostly ads anyway), who cares about the coverage (dense population areas are what interests the advertisers), who cares about car drivers (they're on WhatsApp anyway).

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          "It may be of superior sound quality". Lower noise than FM - not noticeably in a vehicle. And given most of the radios I've seen are not capable of matching FM quality reproduction let alone venturing into the realm of hi-fi that can only be detected by people not doing double blind tests I think its a pointless expense for most.

          1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

            > let alone venturing into the realm of hi-fi

            Do you mean stereo?

        4. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          > It may be of superior sound quality

          Wait, mono audio is superior to stereo?

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        DAB is much easier to use than my first radio-set when I was a kid, fiddling with the crystal all the time was a pain - eventually my dad brought me a transistor and I fixed the problems.

        1. ClockworkOwl
          Facepalm

          Crystal!!? Luxury!!!

          I 'ad a glass tube wi'rail shavings ( buggers to get... ), an' an 'ammer. WOEBETIDE you if you tapped at t' wron time!!!

          (with apologies to... everybody really!)

          More seriously, the FM reception in the Forest here is pisspoor. When I hired a van recently, I was very pleasantly surprised that I could get 6 music on DAB with barely a dropout...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            More seriously, the FM reception in the Forest here is pisspoor. When I hired a van recently, I was very pleasantly surprised that I could get 6 music on DAB with barely a dropout...

            I'm not surprised you had trouble, given that 6Music isn't broadcast on FM...

            1. ClockworkOwl
              Facepalm

              Oh the sark!

              ANY channel is crap on FM...

          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Boffin

            Right About Now Foxhole Brother

            I had lump of coal & a nail, that me father's father brought back from Stalag 19 at end of the war as a diode!

            1. Mnot Paranoid
              Happy

              Re: Right About Now Foxhole Brother

              That he had to keep for four years in an uncomfortable place?

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      I've only ever used a DAB car radio when driving minibuses round Devon and Cornwall. Being a minibus the aerial is quite high. Fortunately I can connect the phone to the radio and listen to music stored on that because there is no usable DAB signal in 90% of the places I take people. The 4G coverage round here has improved a lot lately but DAB coverage is still pathetic and I dare say will remain so.

    3. Neil 44

      No RDS equivalent on DAB(+)

      The think they missed completely on DAB is an equivalent for RDS - which is particularly useful in cars with its TA feature to switch you to a local station for Traffic News.

      DAB radios in cars pretend to have this, but they are using the FM tuner to listen for it... So, no FM, no TAs

  4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Early adopter

    Unusually for me, I was an early adopter of DAB radio. But I spend most of my radio listening still on FM, as a clean FM signal seems to me to give the best sound quality. Slightly better than DAB for BBC Radio 3 and classical music. I do listen to some of the UK's digital only stations too. Maybe it is the older DAC that I have (but it was listed in What Hi-Fi as 'the best radio in the world' at the time, and cost a fortune - does AM, FM, LW and DAB).

    I suspect that younger people tend to listen on their mobile devices or computers these days, so have little need for a radio, whereas us oldies stick to what we tend to know and feel comfortable with.

    The other problem with DAB compared to FM is that if you listen to the same program on two different devices, they are perfectly in sync on FM, but due to the chip technology decoding the DAB signal are often several seconds out of sync, which is very annoying.

    1. Vic Not 20

      Re: Early adopter

      I adopted about 10 years ago and my first and only DAB receiver, Tranciva brand, was much loved at first but lately the reception had become very ropey (inner city London) with the gargling in mud sound never far away and now it has conked out completely! Not great longevity compared to an FM receiver that will basically never die... DAB+ may fix some of the audio quality/reception issues but UK seemed reluctant to adopt because of the existing DAB users I suppose.

      We got a screen/speaker for the kitchen 2 years ago and will never look back at DAB or even FM for in-house radio. The functionality of say the Global Player app (Capital etc) that shows you show info and previous and next 2 songs playing is a much functionally richer experience, plus the bonus of voice control when you've got your hands in the sink.

      For outside of the home coverage, I'd rather we invested (and regulated!) for a decent mobile data signal coverage nationwide than throw more good money after bad down the DAB(+) well. FM can get a stay of execution as long as there is a measurable user base.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Early adopter

        due to the chip technology decoding the DAB signal

        As a rule of thumb, the longer the potential latency in a digital signal chain, the higher the level of compression you would expect to be able to achieve. One of DAB's biggest failures is that it stands this rule on its head.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Early adopter

      they are perfectly in sync on FM, but due to the chip technology decoding the DAB signal are often several seconds out of sync

      Making the time signal completely pointless.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Early adopter

      Here in the UK FM radio was very carefully engineered to give good reception almost everywhere. It is one of the finest pieces of radio network engineering ever done, anywhere.

      And BBC Radio 3 FM is a different beast altogether. I gather it was allocated more bandwidth per transmitter, giving that channel greater audio dynamic range, in line with its content.

      That really is DABs problem. Nationally, FM is very, very good and matching it in the band they chose for DAB is simply not so easy.

      It is interesting that both DAB and a replacement for the emergency services radio network (Tetra, supposedly to be replaced with 4G) have the same problem with poor coverage. Put up enough 4G masts to satisfy the needs of our emergency services, and you will likely also have enough 4G to be able to dispense with DAB (or enough DAB transmitters to make DAB usable)

  5. iron Silver badge

    UKGov Nonsense as usual

    "protecting UK radio stations' accessibility"- DAB does nothing for accessibility, if you want accessible radio stations then you need FM or AM so they can be recieved with little more than a diode and an earpiece. Requiring complicated digital decryption circuits is not accessible. Then there's the complete lack of decent signal strength for DAB in most places, another accessibility own goal.

    DAB was crap when introduced and has not been upgraded to keep up with modern codecs, it does not provide a better service than FM and in many cases provides a worse service.

    TURN OFF DAB!

    KEEP FM!

    1. jonha
      Mushroom

      Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

      Perhaps I am the only person in Britain for whom DAB is significantly better than FM, who knows?

      I am a (well-matured) IT chap and privately I don't adopt new tech stuff very easily, mostly because the promised super features aka hype rarely materialise on the ground. So when I bought a cheapie DAB some years ago I was fully expecting to buy landfill. But no, it has been an enormous success in our home... so much so that we have now three of those things and no FM.

      So, with tongue firmly in cheek:

      TURN OFF FM!

      KEEP DAB!

      1. jonha

        With tongue firmly in cheek?

        Oh dear... it seems the British sense of humour isn't what it used to be.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: With tongue firmly in cheek?

          Oh yes it is.

          1. Clunking Fist

            Re: With tongue firmly in cheek?

            Behind you! Err, I mean: oh no it isn't...

      2. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

        The problem with technology is that technology keeps moving on.

        I've had a DAB radio since the early 2000s. At that point in time, it was a great improvement: I could listen to Radio 5 Live in acceptable quality rather than through the hisses and crackles of MW. I could actually listen to Radio 6 Music at all, as it was the only realistic way to access it. There were a whole bunch of other stations, such as Jazz FM, that just didn't broadcast in my area on FM, that I could now listen to. This was a genuine improvement, and it's important not to forget that.

        At that point in time, broadband was only in its early stages of availability and affordability, I only had a hulking desktop computer, I'm not even sure if any/many radio stations had started internet streaming at that point, and obviously there would be no way I'd crank up the relatively noisy computer for bedtime listening or a morning alarm clock (which I'm not sure I could have automated anyway!). My mobile phone at the time (the lovely SonyEricsson T610), did have internet access, but only GRPS, and I don't know if that would have been sufficient bandwidth for an audio stream, whether it had the codecs to play them, or, perhaps equally importantly, whether my contract would have allowed much such use without it costing a fortune!

        But time passed, and the 1980s DAB codec was starting to show its age and, compared to newer codecs, bandwidth inefficiency, and transmitter operators were trying to squeeze too many stations through too small a pipe, and for many of them, audio quality suffered, greatly.

        The problem was that no one had thought to plan for this (to be fair, possibly very few people in the 80s could have foreseen the sorts of codec and processor improvements that later became possible in a "relatively" short period of time), and very few, if any, DAB receivers were firmware upgradable to DAB+, so we were mostly stuck with what we had (the perils of the UK being an early adopter). I'm sure most people who have DAB radios are in the same position: it is mostly "good enough" for "casual" radio listening, if you avoid the nasty low-bitrate stations, but there's absolutely no way any of us can really justify the financial cost of replacing our existing DAB radios or hifis with DAB+ ones, unless we are perhaps buying a new additional one for another room.

        In the meantime, broadband and mobile data became more widely available and cheaper, computers, especially laptops, became much cheaper, smartphones became more common, and tablets came along.

        I'm not going to spend a few hundred pounds replacing my still perfectly adequate hifi system, although I might at some point replace my relatively cheap and cheerful stand-alone DAB radio (with alarm clock functionality) with a DAB+ model, if there is one at a reasonable price.

        Nowadays, the irony is that for most radio listening I now use internet streaming on my iPad, through Bluetooth loudspeakers (or via a Bluetooth dongle added to my hifi), so, effectively, even DAB+ has been leapfrogged by other technology. The one frustrating thing is that it doesn't seem to be possible for the BBC Sounds app to be used as a wake-up 'radio' in the morning, which is very annoying, so I still use my DAB radio for that!

        What is clear nowadays is that software-upgradable devices have to be the way forward, when we have continuing advances in codecs, and that, perhaps, internet streaming (and, especially, better mobile data coverage in rural areas) is maybe the better way forward regarding transmission, moving it to the internet rather than radio transmitters (obviously mobile network base stations are also radio transmitters of a sort, but you know what I mean!).

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

          > Nowadays, the irony is that for most radio listening I now use internet streaming on my iPad, through Bluetooth loudspeakers (or via a Bluetooth dongle added to my hifi)

          I cant stand doing that. Everything is delayed by 5 mins, when the app empties its buffer and fails to pull down the next several packets it decides to "fill the gap" by jumping 10 or more mins backwards, eventually I figure out why I have a sense of Déjà vu.

          I tried listening to one of the TWO stations I like on DAB via their apps whilst on the way down to cornwall for a holiday. You'd think that on motorways and close to places like Bristol that I'd have enough mobile signal to actually listen to the stations without watching the swirly thing go round and round for more than the next 10 mins (I wasnt driving btw) because that stretch of A road near exeter is a not spot for 4G and 3G for many miles.

          Heck when I leave my house in my home town I rarely manage to get above 2 bars of 4G on a good day and the drive to work goes through a not spot that sends the app into its crazed behavior, not to mention that when I get to work, inside ANY building in that area usually results in "Emergency calls only" on the phone much of the day.

          Streaming is great, when you have Wifi.

      3. Timbo Bronze badge

        Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

        I'm the same. Invested in an FM tuner when I was a lad and greatly enjoyed listening to many radio stations on FM, when living in London.

        Moved to Kent (for work purposes) and had far fewer stations to listen to, so radio became a "no-no" for me and I sold off my very expensive top of the range Pioneer FM/AM tuner.

        Then DAB started to be broadcast from Wrotham and there were more stations available and all in perfect quality, high bit rates and with no background hiss (which is very obvious on FM).

        Since then, I've continued to use DAB and even have one in the car, one in the bedroom and one at my works address 20 miles away. Still great sound wherever I go, but I accept that the coverage seems to be limited to major conurbations...so those "dissing" DAB are probably in areas where signals are weak/non-existent and have high expectations based on their experience with FM (which has been around for many many years and most foibles have been sorted out a long time ago).

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

      The UK gov shut down the best radio stations decades ago. I haven't really bothered with radio since Radio London went off the air and that was before most reading this were born.

      If I listen to music in the house, it's from the vast store of my own CDs or recordings on my PC, if it's in my workshop I have a Chinese I pod thingy that holds elleventy nine gigas of stuff I have saved on it.

      Either way there are no ads, breaks in signal or anything I don't want to listen to.

      Oh and the radio stations here in Spain are great if you like Hotel California several times a day every day for years but very little of anything new.

      1. Neil 44

        Re: UKGov Nonsense as usual

        Along with Caroline, North Sea International you mean? Or do you mean BBC Radio London?

  6. adrianww
    FAIL

    Did anyone ever get DAB to work?

    Over the last 15-20 years, I have tried various DAB radio receivers at various times while living in a bunch of different places. Admittedly, no major cities but various towns and villages and rural places in different bits of England and Scotland.

    At no point has DAB worked. I think the most stations I ever managed to pick up was about 7 or 8 and, of those, half of them were stations that I wasn't interested in hearing and all of them arrived with a sound quality that could be generously described as "variable" but was probably more accurately described as "a garbled, bubbly stream of unpleasant digital artifacts".

    Why the hell are they still flogging this dead and decomposing horse? Is it just utter technological stupidity or did someone get paid a lot of money to promote and support this utter monstrosity? Is there a worldwide champions league for governments based on how technologically incompetent they are and, if so, does anyone anywhere stand a chance of knocking the UK government off the top spot?

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Did anyone ever get DAB to work?

      Both FM and DAB are marginal in my house because a decade back I had the solid walls insulated with Celotex, which is faced with aluminium foil. This makes the house an ad hoc, slightly leaky Faraday cage, which is perfect for avoiding interference from the dozen or so WiFi stations in the neighbouring houses (one's an HMO with at least six WiFis), but a bugger for radio, especially as the nearest transmitter is about as far away as it can be and still work. The result is that FM is always accompanied by a noticeable hiss and DAB may or may not work depending on the whim of the gods that day(*).

      Because of this I've taken to listening over the net. A tablet plus cheap Bluetooth speaker works wonderfully for speech radio, with much greater clarity than OTA broadcast. You need slightly better kit for Radio 3 but it's worth it to avoid the frying bacon acoustic accompaniment. When I've got time I intend to build a streaming radio with a Raspberry Pi.

      (*) And for some reason my Amazon Basics clone of an Instant Pot shuts down DAB reception like a big red emergency switch. Pot on, kitchen radio off.

      1. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

        Re: Did anyone ever get DAB to work?

        Not in the UK (US West Coast, actually), but I have a similar problem with the one FM station I'd be willing to listen to at home. Where I live we are partially "earth sheltered". The house is on a hill, my wife and I are in a very nice basement area, which means...no radio signals. My solution has been a Raspberry Pi, 7" display, speakers, and a wired internet connection. The station has an internet stream version. Works great and is our "alarm clock". The screen--with controllable backlight--displays the time and the stream metadata.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Did anyone ever get DAB to work?

      "does anyone anywhere stand a chance of knocking the UK government off the top spot?"

      That would be the next UK government.

  7. werdsmith Silver badge

    I have a DAB Roberts Gemini 49, must be nearly 20 years old. Rechargeable, used all the time, in the garage, down the garden, in the workshop, in the bathroom, all over the place. It's brilliant, half a busted antenna, still gets a strong signal. DAB in the car is also good, I've not had any problems with the BBC National ensemble, very rare I lose signal.

    Audio quality, let's be realistic here, the Roberts has a 3 inch speaker. The car makes wind and tyre noise when it's moving, there's nothing between AM/FM and DAB for quality except for the RFI that affects the analogue modes.

    Although increasingly I use a bluetooth speaker with my phone to listen to French radio stations, I do like the convenience of DAB and its RFI free service.

    1. Lord Kipper III

      I take your Gemini 49 and raise you my Psion Wavefinder, can't say if it still works though as the last OS it had drivers for was XP.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "the last OS it had drivers for was XP"

        https://github.com/linuxstb/dabtools

      2. Paul Stimpson

        I still have one of those in "Ye Olde Box of Crap" (TM)

        Best DAB radio I have now is an RTL-SDR stick (from RTL-SDR.com) and a copy of Welle.io

    2. Michael

      try visiting the Scottish Highlands

      I was traveling last week. DAB was non existent not long after Pitlochry, switched to FM, perfect reception and random local radio stations.

      DAB is fine if you are in a city. Outside, I'll stick to FM. Also, as stated elsewhere, DAB bitrate has been dropped to support new stations meaning sound quality can't compete with FM. The UK should have upgradedto DAB+ years ago.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: try visiting the Scottish Highlands

        My understanding as well is that DAB is mono. While FM is stereo (which is the point of FM over AM). Has that changed? Going back to mono just seemed highly retrograde to me.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: try visiting the Scottish Highlands

          DAB is fully capable of stereo and indeed was intended to be used for high quality stereo to "beat" FM and get people to switch. But that all takes extra bandwidth. Broadcasting in mono at shitty bitrates means more stations per multiplex, so cheaper carriage deals and more profits.

  8. NanoMeter

    Norwegian radio stations cared about DAB+

    Unfortunately for them, their listeners did not care. They're now losing listeners all the time.

  9. xyz

    My God is that thing still alive!!

    No offence to anyone but who the hell wants to wait for a song (via FM or DAB) whilst listening to ads, when i can just stream the thing from someplace. Obviously one (or more) of Bosis' chums has invested heavily and needs a "favour"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My God is that thing still alive!!

      Eh? Maybe I’ve missed your point but how do I listen to The Today Program on Radio 4 while driving to work?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: My God is that thing still alive!!

        Yes, live radio, more engaging to me than the stupidity of paying to listen to music I already own my own copies of.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: My God is that thing still alive!!

      > No offence to anyone but who the hell wants to wait for a song (via FM or DAB)

      Dont think that people just listen to the radio to listen to music.

      I rarely do.

      Most music on the radio sounds like **** to me, everything I like is on CD and I rarely listen to those.

      I listen to engaging talk radio stations.

      > i can just stream the thing from someplace

      Still get the ads, although they are even more annoying as they tend to be the same ads, over and over and over. But yes the ads on the talk stations sometimes drive me nuts, like that horrible Vodafone advert.

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Boffin

    Dab is dead

    My last car had dab, and I tried it for a while, but it wasn't long before I switched back to FM. Not only was there vastly better coverage, the bandwidth stuffing used on dab ended up giving noticeably worse performance than FM. Also, when FN does start to fade out, you get plenty of warning and the noise background rises.

    My current car also has DAB. I've never used it. Mind you, these days I usually plug in my iRiver H320 and listen to my choice of music.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Dab is dead

      Similar in my car.

      Live in an area not well served by any signals (be it mobile networks or radio) and very hilly

      DAB either no signal, a garbled noise, or in a few areas it actually gives a second or 2 of intelligible sound, before normal abysmal service resumes.

      FM / AM signal not great, but at least it degrades nicely, hiss but at least I can hear the speech or music being transmitted.

    2. Neil 44

      Re: Dab is dead

      Thumbs up for the iRiver H320 - Rockboxed?

      (I think the CF disk replacement in mine has fallen out of its carrier - must get around to taking it apart and fixing it!)

  11. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    Two DAB Radios Suffered Early Death

    We had two DAB radios, both recently failed.

    I was shocked to find after five years of ownership, that the car radio has DAB, one day I might try it, though the main reason for turning the unit on, is to enable hands-free mobile response for urgent calls. The radio is normally muted unless I am alone, though I might listen to FM for traffic information or rarely to a non-commercial radio station.

    If a 'SMART speaker' works as well as a smart mobile, I know why I have never bothered with one.

  12. Retiredwatcher

    Keep FM

    I have loads of FM radio about the place all still working after many years 100% even the one in the shed.

    DAB needs an external aerial here and is rubbish signal strength.

    Yes I like variety but I have bought a couple of DAB radio to use in places like the garden and no good.

    Smart speakers are ok but you need a good internet - here in the sticks of course .....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

    Seriously. All I wanted was a small radio set for the bedroom, to replace an ailing FM set. My living-room set has a rooftop FM aerial and it's way better than DAB, but I can see the point of DAB in a small set so I tried buying one for the bedroom.

    But every single one of the sets on sale in local shops featured a clock that emitted light 24/7. I would like the luxury of being able to go to sleep without a light on in the room, and I don't want to just unplug the thing every night because my bedroom plugs are hard to reach. Maybe they want me to buy one of those extension leads with individual switchable sockets on it? What's wrong with putting in some means of switching off the display light? Of course any attempt to contact the manufacturers to suggest clever ideas like this, is likely to reach nothing more than a brick wall of frontline support whose job is to trick you into being happy with what they have and make sure your query goes no further.

    1. Andy Non

      Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

      We've got a DAB radio in the bedroom and due to the same problem I've stuck black tape over the display so it doesn't act as a sodding night-light.

      DAB reception is good where we live; I like the fact the radio in the kitchen displays the composer and title of the track currently being played (Classic FM).

      The car radio uses FM, so don't have many reception problems when driving around.

      Best of both worlds.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

        Switch the radio off, light goes out.

        1. Andy Non

          Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

          Nope, doesn't work, the display is still illuminated. The only way is to turn off the display is to unplug the radio and the power socket is not very accessible.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

            Bought the wrong radio then.

            An always on display illumination is not part of the DAB specification, so it could equally be an FM radio or internet radio if that’s the way it was designed. My portable DAB radio display comes on if I touch the buttons, but goes off after a few seconds, even if audio is playing.

            1. TheProf

              Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

              Yes the always on illumination is a pain in the retinas.

              I have a Sony DAB radio that turns off completely. No backlight, no LCD display just off. I did have to do a bit of research to find one that 'turns off' but they are out there. Also I use it in the bathroom so it's battery powered. Didn't want to change the batteries every other day due to the backlight using all the power up.

              I once owned an ALBA DAB radio that had a permanently illuminated bulb on the front panel. Fortunately a quick dismantle and disconnect of the wires to the bulb solved that.

      2. Jan 0

        Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

        > displays the composer and title of the track currently being played

        Doesn't RDS on FM do that too? (Admittedly I can't check because its not available on my Quad FM2 or FM3.)

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

          Yes, it does. Most broadcasters don't bother to do it though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

      well, you should have got one of those small dab radios with small remote. Obviously there's that little issue that, while it turns off the dab clock light, it emits its own light which you can't turn off...

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: I tried DAB but it didn't let me sleep

      I have a little card hung over the display of the DAB radio by my bed. This isn't the alarm clock, it is one that I turn on to mutter unintelligibly at me if I can't sleep. Which I want. If I turn it up, I get BBC Radio 4 or World Service.

      I had another DAB as alarm clock, along with a radio controlled clock, but the DAB stopped alarming. After factory reset, it seemed to behave, but I'd already bought a secondhand FM alarm with dock for an Apple phone model which no longer exists and which I've never owned. So that DAB is sort of sitting around. So is a ridiculously large one which also plays CDs. I actually listen to a couple of expensive big ones from Pure that record onto SD card if I want them to, and a matchbox-ish one that I wear on a neck cord with earphones. And to TV.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home or Car?

    Streaming via Sonos at home, DAB in the car. Has to be DAB to listen to BBC 6 Music.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB - missed the boat

    I think the real problem is that DAB never had a "USP" to draw in a committed audience. The traditionalists happy with FM don't see the point in buying more expensive fussier kit for no quality or service advantage; the extra stations on DAB are mainly recycled BBC audio wallpaper. Meanwhile the people who have the radio on for local news have found better alternatives on their mobile phones and other devices. Ofcom should have made it easier and cheaper to get onto DAB than be a pirate.

    For what it's worth I get better DAB than FM reception but everyone's got their own story on that.

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: DAB - missed the boat

      DAB and DAB+ certainly solved a massive issue for me regarding radio.

      All FM, AM etc were just full of stations that played music at you. 24/7! Euch!

      With DAB has come not only LBC but also Talkradio. AM had talksport which talked about decent stuff (i.e not about kicking a ball) but only after midnight. I used to listen to James Whale, Mike Dikin all sots at midnight as a kid falling asleep to their humor and all sorts of strange whacky callers. Good times.

      My local BBC station were also ok, no music at all. All local talk, local news views reviews. Lovely stuff. I loved driving the hour to work listening to the breakfast shows, then drive time on the way back.

      Then the rot set in and they started playing music, but fortunately not before 10am and not during drive time so that was ok but during the day I frequently had to mute the station to save myself from having to listen to somebody whaling and whining into a microphone about some silly little "sung about it a million times over 100 years" subject, typically love or sex or a breakup or how she is a "naughty girl" or "what if I was a boy" or other crap like that. Occasionally a nice electronic 80's track would come on from A-ha or Roxette, that was fine.

      Then after covid lockdowns, they went full on music. But by then I went full on DAB, talk radio rules and is sorely undeserved by only 2 decent stations, even if they did get boring talking about covid all the time but I eventually got used to that. Radio 4, well that can do. Now we also have Times radio, sounds ok, interesting subjects a bit like R4, not really into the callers more into the programmes.

      But, DAB is poor with signal.

      DAB is mono, so when I do hear A-ha, why would I bother?

      DAB+ could have saved it all but criminally has been abused just like DAB. Now you have stereo, but the bandwidth is still too low (even for AAC). Coverage is a joke in places I holiday in. And the streaming apps that I could use to listen also are unable to work outdoors on the road for much the same reasons why the DAB signal is weak.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FM vs DABS(+) !!!???

    Sometimes the old technology is well suited to its job [FM] and does not need replacing.

    This is particularly true of FM radio which in general functions quite well and gets almost everywere.

    DABS was a good idea that never really took off and has proven itself to be not as good as promised.

    Let FM be for the people that want it and accept DABS had its chance which has now passed.

    DABS can join VHS, Betamax, Video2000 and Videodisc etc etc as ideas that have had their time.

    The only idea pushing DABS was the idea to sell off the FM frequencies for 'many shekels' :)

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: FM vs DABS(+) !!!??? Qui Bono

      Except that (unlike analogue TV) there really isn't an awful lot of bandwidth to sell.. FM radio stations use what.. 150-200kHz bandwidth? And you can't even sell it to mobile phone or walkie-talkie manufacturers, say, since it requires a fairly huge antenna to broadcast a reasonable distance.

      There was/is, however, a great deal of money to be made by Phillips, Fraunhofer et al in the licensing of all the patents covering DAB/DAB+, which are chiefly why DAB radios cost so much more than FM ones - there is still about £20 (so i'm told) per unit of license fee to pay for DAB+. A little less than the ~£30 originally levied on DAB radios, but still a license to print money. (the original, and impressively shit DAB is now out of patent, but nobody wants to listen to that crap, if they even can..)

      So the public purse will make little to nothing out of this, but certain private companies will make a fortune, and Britain will no longer have a reliable emergency broadcast channel.

      Make no mistake, this is the crony government at work one again, lining their own pockets and those of their mates.

      1. Timbo Bronze badge

        Re: FM vs DABS(+) !!!??? Qui Bono

        "A little less than the ~£30 originally levied on DAB radios, "

        I very much doubt that...though it depends on which year you are talking about as "originally" as DAB was launched in the UK in 1995 when the Beeb started broadcasting.

        But by 2001, you could buy a DAB radio for £99 inc VAT from a bricks & mortar reseller....so taking off the VAT and the retailers margin and the manufacturers margin and shipping costs from the Far East leaves "not a lot", to be able to pay £30 per unit as a licence fee.

  17. Steve Todd
    WTF?

    Sorry, why is this about DAB?

    DAB is just a means of delivering content to listeners. Smart speakers won’t be forced to include DAB hardware, all they’ll need to do is stream internet radio, which most if not all stations broadcasting on DAB do anyway. So what it comes down to is not “force the users to listen to evil DAB”, but rather “make internet radio available to anyone who wants it on their devices”.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

      That was my reaction. This article just seems to be a way for the writer to throw an anti-DAB rant into a discussion which has nothing to do with DAB. The report merely points out that because DAB never took off, and many people prefer to stream 'radio' stations rather than listen to them off-air, it would be good if smart speakers also carried them.

      If anything, this report recognises that DAB has never really taken off, and that people prefer FM and streaming. Its not promoting DAB, rather the reverse. It's promoting the stations which aren't getting enough listeners via DAB.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

      "all they’ll need to do is stream internet radio, which most if not all stations broadcasting on DAB do anyway"

      My family has 4 Alexa devices in two houses. 2 of them will stream BBC radio, 2 of them won't. 1 of the ones that won't had a software update and broke - now we won't update the other ones for fear it will "break" them too. Streaming radio is 90% of what we use them for anyway, not least because they were cheaper than "proper" DAB radios!

      The BBC Sounds skill doesn't work...

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

      >“make internet radio available to anyone who wants it on their devices”.

      The recommendation is:

      " to ensure radio stations and radio and audio content can be easily found and is discoverable by users of voice assistant platforms"

      I thought "Alexa play Radio 2" was sufficiently simple, or am I missing something?

      1. damiandixon

        Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

        It used to be that simple until BBC decided to force the use of Sounds.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

          Things sort of make sense.

          By requiring the use of DAB, there is potentially no new licensing requirement, also device operators simply grab the free-to-air DAB feed. I can see the logic, but given DAB always was of poorer audio quality to FM, perhaps like digital TV, they should also be promoting an upgrade to higher quality audio standards.

    4. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Sorry, why is this about DAB?

      > all they’ll need to do is stream internet radio

      Not quite. The thing is they will be required to stream radio stations that are on DAB, regardless of whether they have a streaming service or not. Thus a station that has no streaming service will have to be "converted" into a streamable one by the manufacturer of the "smart" speaker / bugging device.

  18. Dwarf Silver badge

    Flogging a dead horse

    They screwed up the technical implementation of DAB by trying to squeeze too many channels into too little bandwidth so that they could make extra money from the additional channels. Obviously time has told that the quality was not acceptable to the primary user base.

    So, lesson to those looking to force things - learn from your mistakes, particularly as you are about to make another one.

    The Internet has largely taken over from many forms of previous listening and video with the large selection of video streaming and recently the addition of Sky as a streaming service rather than a satellite service.

    I'm left wondering if Sky will re-brand as Ground as part of this since most telephone cables are now underground.

    So, what does this leave - FM as it works for those that are in their cars and want local info for things like company and info on traffic jams, but we have Waze and its peers to provide some of that info now.

    It therefore makes no sense to keep trying to flog a dead technology in the vain attempt to try and monetise something from their bad decisions.

    I'm also not getting how they think they can force a broadcast medium on a remote Internet speaker that was not designed to do that sort of stuff. Do they expect that each of the smart speaker vendors will have to accept all the local and regional channels at zero cost ??

    How would they propose to get the local regional stations to the broadcast vendors - over DAB perhaps ?? Yea, that will work fine.

    Many local radio stations already do Internet streaming as DAB was so crappy, so there is simply no need for any of this.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Flogging a dead horse

      >and info on traffic jams, but we have Waze and its peers to provide some of that info now.

      Well, if the local radio stream was in DAB, perhaps Waze et al. would be able to listen in to the traffic reports... On a regular run between the East Midlands and South West, Waze on its own leaves a lot to be desired - thanks to local radio I was able to totally avoid a major road closure (not notified to Google/Waze etc.); I got home and parked on my drive, yet Waze still wanted me to turn around and retrace my route for several tens of miles, because it was quicker than some other route back to my drive...

  19. Scene it all

    It used to be cars came with tape players, 8-track then cassette. Then they came with CD players. Now they come with a USB jack where you can plug in a thumb drive, and that's what I use - thousands of tracks of stuff that *I* like to listen to on there, and audio books. Also podcasts from my phone over BlueTooth.

    The car also came with a Satellite Radio receiver with a free one-month subscription, but it is largely the same crap as you can find on broadcast radio so I ignore it.

    Some FM stations in the US also have digital subchannels, and some cars have the hardware for that, but I have never found anything worth paying for, and as the closest FM station is 50 miles away it is hardly worth it; even analogue FM is noisy. And of course AM is a wasteland of sports talk and wacko religous stuff.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Now they come with a USB jack where you can plug in a thumb drive, and that's what I use - thousands of tracks of stuff that *I* like to listen to on there, and audio books."

      Yep, same here. Most will also have some amount of storage in the radio unit too (mine has 2GB). You can transfer a fair number of your most favourite tracks to that so they are always available as well as whatever is on your USB stick. I tend to have audiobooks on most of the time and only switch to music or the radio if the books run out and I forgot to add new ones. I tend not to worry too much about quality of audio when on the road. There's plenty of other noise around that the quality becomes moot above a certain level.

  20. Colin Miller

    ok, they are going to force Smartspeaker manufactures to add DAB+ functionality, and then boast that 100,000+ DAB receivers are being sold a year.

    However, that doesn't guarantee that anyone will actually use the DAB. It really depends on if people like listening to ads and DJs who talk over the songs.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      ok, they are going to force Smartspeaker manufactures to add DAB+ functionality, and then boast that 100,000+ DAB receivers are being sold a year.

      Nothing of the sort. They are proposing to make sure that the stations which are available via DAB are also available as streamed stations, so that people don't need a DAB radio to listen.

    2. damiandixon

      It's a waste of silicon and customers money.

      There is also likely to be a licencing cost for DAB+ technology..

      I've one naff DAB radio in the house. I tend to use my smart speakers to stream radio.

      I'd prefer a cheaper product.

  21. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "We must make sure this treasured medium continues to reach audiences"

    It seems that the Dept of Culture Media's resident Sir Humphrey has given her the talk about getting rid of the difficult bit in the title. FM is indeed a treasured medium. DAB? Nope?

  22. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "learn from your mistakes, particularly as you are about to make another one"

    I'm not sure what other one you're thinking of but I'm sure you're right: being about to make a bad decision is a regular state of governments, alternating with just having made one.

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      I was thinking "continuing to try and flog DAB to monetise it", rather than taking it out back and having a bonfire to burn the evidence.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anything that makes life uncomfortable

    for the arch Tax cheats, Amazon and Google are fine by me.

    As I avoid them at all costs it won't affect me.

    Bring it on.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dud DAB

    DAB was (and still is) the worst con. trick pulled on the great British wireless-loving public. I was an early adopter, buying a Technics tuner, on the premise of the hype of super quality, low noise level, etc. The list goes on. Initially it literally sounded promising but I understand that bit-rates were sneakily reduced to squeeze in more stations and some sort of audio compression still appears to be used, just like the dreaded "Optimod" on FM. I'm sure I didn't dream of an early spec. of possible user-adjustable compression, which would have been ideal. It never happened. The resultant current sound is absolutely dire. No dynamic range and all the stations are going flat out to try and make themselves appear "louder" then the others, which totally wrecks any pretensions of offering high quality sound that was supposed to be better than FM. Like most radio these days, it's almost painful to listen to. I have reel-to-reel recordings taken off of FM from many years ago, before processing and gross butchering of the sound was introduced and, despite the theoretical 15k (or thereabouts) top-end cut-off, the sound is absolutely cracking and there is no comparison whatsoever to the "flat-line" dynamics that modern transmissions to have, without even mentioning the actual DAB signal that seems to revert to a load of "burbling" at the drop of a hat. Basically, radio sound quality has been totally wrecked and there seems to be no going back.

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Dud DAB

      The problem with DAB is that it’s a very old standard. It uses MP2 audio compression (so, low bandwidth stations sound really bad due to the old and poor compression) and little to no error correction on the signal (resulting in a kind of burbling noise when you have poor reception). DAB+ improved on it by moving to HE-AAC compression and adding Reed-Solomon forward error correction code to the signal. The down side is that older DAB radios cannot receive the newer signals, and in the UK at least, there are no plans to move to it until the majority of radios can handle it.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Dud DAB

        Most portable radios have tiny speakers with plastic cones and low watt amplifiers, in car Radio listening is also affected by other noise sources. Much radio nowadays is talk also. So no amount of waffle about audio quality really matters. Plus, I think there are a lot of stations now using DAB+ now, 25 or more major or on including all the Heart stations.

        As for coverage, I drive around and rarely lose signal, using a little sharkfin antenna. I get the feeling that a lot of people made up their minds about coverage years ago when it was less widespread and haven’t experienced it recently.

      2. Fred Dibnah

        Re: Dud DAB

        DAB & DAB+ services all use punctured convolutional coding in transmission. For MP2 DAB services Unequal Error Correction is normally used, which applies an appropriate puncture level to each part of the audio frame so that failure occurs across the frame at the same time. AAC DAB+ services can’t use UEP because the frame format is different, so they need extra RS protection to fail at a similar BER to MP2 DAB services.

  25. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    unloved radio tech

    Had to click multiple links to get past the waffle and down to any real numbers. Seeing _FINAL_REPORT_ in the name seems ominous. :(

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1027206/Digital_Radio_and_Audio_Review_FINAL_REPORT_single_view.pdf

    AUDIO (EXCLUDING VISUAL) BY DEVICE SHARE % FOR ALL ADULTS

    23% AM/FM radio

    33% DAB digital radio

    8% Desktop/Laptop computer

    17% Smartphone

    6% Voice-activated Speaker

    13% Other Devices

    So the actual radio split is 41% AM/FM vs 59% DAB, and most likely the concern is any rise in Voice-activated Speaker is going to come out of the DAB side. There is a very real possibility the doddering AM/FM malingerers will not die off soon enough to allow DAB to achieve its true destiny of radio domination.

    Note: I'm in the USA, so my only knowledge of DAB is what I read at theregister.com.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: unloved radio tech

      I would have to dispute your 59% DAB as that is actually 33% DAB and 26% 'Other digital formats'. While the total digital share is beating the Analogue, the 'Other digital formats' are more likely to take a slice out of the DAB share than the AM/FM share which could soon leave DAB in third place.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: unloved radio tech

        As at least some phones include FM capability it might well be that part of that 17% Smartphone slice is, in fact, FM radio.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: unloved radio tech

          People talk about DAB reception. FM radio reception on those phones where the earphone wire is the antenna is diabolical.

  26. herman Silver badge
    FAIL

    Analogue radio receivers were low cost

    DAB receivers are anything but low cost and don't work as well as the old kit either.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Analogue radio receivers were low cost

      The DAB portables that are under £20 in the supermarkets often get marked down in sales to about £8. Asda we’re doing a Polaroid branded one for £7 and Sainsburys a Bush bedside clock radio DAB alarm for £8.

      They also seem to be standard in new cars.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Analogue radio receivers were low cost

        Only because the DAB patents have expired. You won't see DAB+ at those prices.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Analogue radio receivers were low cost

          DAB+ receivers start at under £20.

          1. staringatclouds

            Re: Analogue radio receivers were low cost

            Now they do, when DAB first came out you couldn't get a receiver for less than £100 & the smallest were the size of suitcases

            Well at least the ones I could find were, finding a small, portable, cheap DAB receiver back in ye olde dayes was an exercise in frustration, especially when you could get an FM receiver that could practically fit on a keyring

  27. JohnG

    The report stated that younger audio consumers "do not fully understand the choice of free-to-access services"

    The DCMS don't understand that anyone can stream/upload their content on the Internet (free, paid by advertising, subscription), on their own or on some commercial platform (TuneIn, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc,) and they don't have to ask the government for permission or pay for any licence. Anyone can listen to stuff from around the world (subject to distribution rights, lawsuits, etc.).

  28. Esme

    Also..

    When it started, DAB was crap - when it was working the quality was similar (to my ears) to that of FM with good reception, but as many have noted above, DAB didnt deal with minor interference gracefully, making it painful to listen to. And it was a LOT more expensive than an AM/FM radio

    Last few times I've tried using the FM radio I have in recent years, it worked fine. I'm also poor, nowadays, but do have a PC and an internet connection (I bet you guessed! 8-} )

    So first of all, if its simply a matter of content, then t'internet is available, and i do not need DAB for that. The quality is utterly consitent via the internet, too. But suppose I wanted the proper listening to a radio experience sans t'internet, and found my FM radio no longer worked - why would I even think of buying DAB, given my initial experience thereof? (NB: I'm not claiming that DAB now isn't up to snuff; I have absolutely no idea what it's like nowadays)

    When it was released, DAB was a very poor solution to a problem that didn't exist for the overwhelming majority of users. In the meantime, the internet has overtaken DAB and provides a better solution than DAB for most, I'd wager. And I would hate to think that anyone who has no desire to own a computer has no option but to buy DAB if they wanted radio to listen to, given how nasty it can be to listen to if you live in an are where reception is patchy.

    I don't see the need for any action by HM Gov on this. If broadcasters cant make money from a medium, they'll stop presenting content on that medium, and that medium will die a natural death. (sheesh, I'm sounding like a cheerleader for capitalism now! 8-} *) If both are viable, why the need for any action? If one isn't, why try to force people to use it? (shrugs)

    * (for those that dont know me, I'm a Pinko Greeny that has no truck with communism and doesnt understand why more folk don't see that something NEW is needed to replace the obviously broken current economic system (not to be confused with any political system!))

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Also..

      "... understand why more folk don't see that something NEW is needed to replace the obviously broken current economic system"

      I might possibly go along with that, _except_ what we are likely to get is the DAB-like version of an economic system -- something fine in theory but in practice doesn't solve any outstanding problems, only gives a different solution to already solved problems. New is not necessarily better, it could just mean the grift ends up in a different pocket.

  29. TedF

    Car DAB misunderstanding

    It's a common misunderstanding that people see 'DAB' on their car radios and assume that it works fine, they don't realise that many will automatically switch to FM if they lose a DAB connection - and stay there.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Car DAB misunderstanding

      Do they? None of mine ever did. You choose DAB, FM, AM, internal RAM or USB. It never automatically switches from one to the other. And since DAB radio comes in at least a few seconds after the FM signal, I'd notice a jump 5-10 jump forward or back in time while listening. Maybe I don't buy the high end expensive cars with "cleverer" radios :-)

    2. R Soul

      Re: Car DAB misunderstanding

      If's far more likely they just stick to FM and don't bother with DAB at all.

  30. Dave1966uk

    Frustrating all round

    With DAB listening is frustrating as there are so many gaps in coverage. I can't seem to go on s single journey without losing the station entirely out the radio trying to follow the station.

    I listen to digital stations in the house but BBC is now frustrating as, since moving to BBC Sounds, you can no longer play the station all over the house as play groups are no longer supported

  31. cybernaut2042

    Quality first

    Possibly more people would give a damn if they actually gave us a signal and broadcast at a bit-rate that made listening tolerable.

    Even in a car, where reception anywhere rural is nonexistent, sound quality is noticeably worse on dab. I end up using Spotify for better quality or revert to FM.

    Even the BBC channels don't exceed 192Kbps and many smaller stations are down in the 64Kbps region! This is MP3 ffs! Sort that out and try again, Smart speakers are NOT a fix.

  32. martinusher Silver badge

    DAB is obsolete and always has been

    DAB is a technology that was obsolete before it was fully developed -- it belongs in an era before software defined radio. Now if it was thought to be important it would be just another set of algorithms. But its not important; anything of that technical complexity would be handled using streaming. Streaming is commonplace in homes, hence the smart speakers, and its becoming commonplace on the move as cellphone plans that make it cost effective become available. (I use streaming in my car when I'm out of the city -- I can use an Echo for autos in the car but the phone will do this directly for some services.)(I'm in the US, BTW.)

    The main reason for maintaining older technologies is coverage and emergencies. AM radio, in particular, can be received with minimal technology. FM is still had to beat for audio quality -- high quality audio systems are not kind to compression (or is vice versa?).

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    government fears that Brits aren't consuming enough

    why so shy? The Russkies had it sorted in no time, those tannoys fixed to masts along the road, on main squares, etc. Didn't we have them in this Greatest of Britains at some point too, around WW2 times? And then, by extension, you could make those (nano)speakers built into each led bulb, etc...

  34. talk_is_cheap

    First, we need some content worth listening too and then we need a transmission standard that can deliver the content across the UK, rather than just in limited areas.

    Many years ago Magic FM (also known as Tragic FM) was reported as having a playlist of only around 100 tracks which for many stations now would be considered a large track library. Magic/Tragic did not do themselves any favours as they published a Christmas CD box set with many of the tracks included - it allowed the iPod generation to rip the tracks and skip the adverts and chat - something that more and more people have done.

    Today my phone has my whole CD collection on it with no compression loss. With 1,800 odd tracks of what I wish to listen to about the only time I use a DABs based radio is as my alarm clock as it also provides the news when it goes off.

    1. Refugee from Windows

      Happens too often. Too many stations play the same selections of tracks for a week, but in a different order.

      Travelling around I default to FM, although there are some interesting dead spots even on the M6 through the fells, as DAB would often repeat itself often repeat itself when switching back and forwards.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "Playlist" is not supposed to be the only music that a station plays... I think. Just that presenters / producers are expected to include many selections from the playlist.

      "The same five songs all day long" is not an actual mission statement!

  35. -tim
    Facepalm

    Survey says BS

    Can we get some real numbers of how many digital radios are actually sold to consumers who know what they are buying? Stop counting the ones that come with the TV that no one ever uses. Stop counting the new cars and resold cars because those numbers are about as useful as the number of consumers who bought car jacks last year. Find out how many consumers went out to buy a digital radio to listen to digital radio. Then tell me how many are bought. Better data would include how many knew the new radio they bought was digital and wasn't mistaken for an AM/FM one.

  36. Darr3n

    Re:Quality first

    nope.,, its actually not MP3

    try MP2, so not only is the bitrate terrible, its not even MP3, hence why the sound is so bad.

    I would have loved a proper Digital Radio to have taken off in the UK, but sadly we jumped too soon & went on tech/codecs too old, & then to top it all as others have said, commercial companies then decided it was quantity over quality (now we have never seen that before have we) :)

    FM is way better tech in the UK for listening to radio over airwaves., period. . .

    Its obvious which tech needs to be abandoned, but I suspect the problem is, if its the travesty that is DAB, lots of people will be out of pocket & some peoples heads will roll.

    This is nothing to do with the listener or what's best for Joe Public, & all to do with people saving face & others not losing money.

  37. nautica Bronze badge
    Alien

    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble..."

    While you people of the British persuasion do a---mostly---admirable job of clear and unambiguous reporting, you sometimes fall down on the job by assuming everyone knows exactly what you're talking about.

    I read the entire article. Twice.

    To try and gain some understanding, I then slogged through half the more than one hundred comments before consigning that strategy to the "fool's errand" pigeonhole.

    What the bloody hell is "DAB radio" ‽ ‽

    1. The Axe

      Re: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble..."

      So you read through 100 comments and didn't bother to use Google (other search engines exist).

    2. Darr3n

      Re: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble..."

      Think yourself very lucky, most Brits would be really pleased if they could say that :)

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble..."

      What you don't need to know: https://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/help-guides/dab/what-is-dab-radio

      DAB is "radio", audio broadcast as a digitised signal. There are at least dozens of stations, mostly playing pop music, but also classical, jazz, "Asian", and also talky stations. News, sport, BBC does a lot of drama and comedy. I have an earphones receiver about the size of a 10 cigarette pack, and others.

      DAB+ is an upgrade, but a lot of receivers don't have it. I think at the moment we're being sold DAB+ receivers while a DAB service is operating. One factor that I think they improved is compatibility if taking your radio to a different country. This happens less when most of us are on one island, but it's nice to have.

  38. The Axe

    Overtaken by progress

    DAB is like fluorescent light bulbs - something imposed by government but overtaken by technology and the free market. Fluorescent light bulbs have been replaced by LEDs and DAB has has been replaced by broadband internet.

  39. David Pearce

    A UK and maybe Europe problem?

    DAB just has not happened in Asia, which is solidly FM only, so already car makers have to fit different stereo units. More regional incompatibilities.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: A UK and maybe Europe problem?

      Presumably different stereo units to save money. European car stereos have FM and DAB/+.

  40. Screwed

    I have a slight hearing issue - a bit of a notch towards the higher end. Combining that with DAB results in horrible sound quality. Bearable in a car but not exactly pleasant.

    Of my current options, the way of listening that gives the best quality for any radio station is streaming using an Apple iPad Pro. Or ear pods and a phone/iPad.

  41. Spanners Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    This makes me feel

    Government pressure like this makes me specifically want not to have this in any smart speaker I get in the future.

    Will there be a command to listen to a broadcaster but not by DAB?

  42. Big_Boomer

    Niche?

    I considered getting a DAB radio due to the poor selection of music styles on FM and there were a few stations that interested me that were on DAB. I listened to several DAB receivers at local electronics emporiums and thought that the sound quality was atrocious. I am no SuperDooperHiFi buff, but the DAB stations sounded flat with terrible dynamic range, so I simply didn't bother buying one. Once I found out that DAB streams are mono and highly compressed I understood why they sounded like crap.

    These days I can listen to any one of several Internet Radio stations that broadcast new and old music in my favourite music styles, and many of them don't even have advertising. For listening in the car, I can either stream Internet Radio via my phone if I have 4G coverage, or else play music from the phones SD card. I used to find FM radio useful for traffic reports, but they are so far behind events now, that I can find out more about the cause of the jam using my phone (whilst parked in the traffic jam with the handbrake on).

    DAB is dead, it just hasn't realised it yet.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Niche?

      Some DAB is mono. BBC radio does music, properly. Commercial radio does advertisements. But if you're happy with "internet radio", that's fine.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd say it's obvious

    R4 is one of the few places that even pretends to hold these tossers to account.

  44. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    Dead Horse

    The government and the industry need to admit they are flogging a dead horse.

    When DAB was first mooted as a replacement for FM it may have seemed to make some sort of sense. I remember at the time there was some talk of using the internet to deliver radio, but it was decided that the technology was not mature enough and coverage was far from universal. Fair enough, I think GPRS was about as good as it got at the time. So they were reasonable arguments against using internet delivery, but not good arguments for using DAB. After all DAB at the time was not a mature technology and there was zero coverage.

    I also remember a date of 2015 being set for the FM switch off. You could tell that panic had set in when it was announced that the switch off would go ahead in 2015 if more than 50% of listening was on DAB by that date. Think of that, the government (well probably the civil service) were perfectly willing to cut off 49% of listeners just to prove they were right to invest in DAB.

    With this latest move they have pretty much admitted they backed the wrong horse. But they are going about it the wrong way (as usual) most radio stations have a web presence these days and as such they are available on your chosen smart speaker. If a station is not available then it's probably not the maker of the smart speaker that's at fault, more likely it's the station that isn't publishing their content is a way that the smart speaker can pick up.

    I've just been checking all the different stations that I can't get on DAB but I can get on my smart speaker and it's a very long list. And therein lies part of the problem. You have much more choice of listening on your smart speaker or any other connected device than you will ever have on DAB or indeed FM.

  45. naive

    Can't wait for DAB

    Commercials for drills during the rest of the week after I googled for a drill.

    Listening to FM radio and paying with cash are the only two interactions with society that do not create a digital footprint.

    Oh, and btw my 1974 Yamaha CR-800 is very green, since it works perfect after 47 years, not generating Chinese E-Wate after 1 year of use.

  46. Rob Davis

    Digital Radio Mondiale - digital AM

    In that goverment doc, there was a short paragraph mentioning Digital Radio Mondiale - and that no plans for UK broadcasters to develop in this area.

    No further comment was given as to reasoning.

    I feel this is a real shame. There is so much potential with Digital Radio Mondiale on AM. The codecs these days are so advanced at low bitrates that good quality stereo audio can be achieved on AM bands as has been proven elsewhere in the world. The power requirement and coverage range of Digital Radio Mondiale is impressive and it will also work on FM.

    A vested interest in DAB seems to me to deter attention to AM. The transformation difference between analogue mono and low quality AM sound to higher fidelity stereo audio is much more stark than going from FM to DAB/DAB+, as well the coverage range.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we might have gone in too early with DAB at the beginning, when codecs were more primitive, MP2 (not MP3) was the original DAB standard and also the apparent lack of error correction perhaps contributing to the characterist mud flat burbling when interferences. Further on the codec point, DAB being touted by some, it seems, as CD quality was a lie really - with 96Kbs or 128Kbps DAB on Mp2, some mono! could never have been CD quality. Radio 3 fought for 160Kbps Mp2 stereo I'd imagine. But then we could be applauded for trying by being among the first to implement.

    I guess it might also depend on if a broadcast only standard is worth investing in versus internet broadcasting - which is also an exciting area, having made amazing progress over the last 20 years particularly with mobile networks. But at least with a simple one to many broadcasting system, the reception may be better in more places, save mobile bandwidth, as well as direct relationship between the broadcaster and listener, without any data analysis and associated privacy concerns. Mind you, such analysis might be necessary for recommendation engines to help keep services viable.

    Now we have advanced codecs such as AAC+, eAAC+ and the open ogg-live opus standards too.

    I'm sure Andrew Orlowski would have something to say if he was still writing at TheRegister!

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Digital Radio Mondiale - digital AM

      The big issue for AM radio is indoors / city where the levels of RF interference are atrocious due to all of the shit electronics that should (but does not) meet the EMC directives. The worst offenders are often the "power line" extenders for home networking, happily pushed by the likes of BT.

      For car use, especially rural, it is not such a concern, but you have to wonder how much investment and marketing would be needed for another DAB-like radio project that is unlikely to justify its cost.

  47. Piro Silver badge

    DAB switch off - when?

    More countries have abandoned DAB than FM. Let's just consign it to the dustbin of history.

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