Digital radios

There are a few cases  of newer technology that is not as good as older technology. I need to mention digital radio.

Like everyone I was made to go out and buy replacement digital radios when they changed the old broadcasting system. The fm service seemed to get fainter as they promoted digital.  They said they would be better.  I was supplied with a digital radio in my most recent car. They are worse than the ones they replaced, as well as being dearer. Nor was it environmentally friendly to have to ditch all the older radios which still worked fine all the time there was a signal for them to pick up.

There are places where my car radio now cuts out in the middle of busy areas because reception is poor. I used to get uninterrupted reception in these locations on the old system. The home radio needs to  be switched on two to three times before it will work. It does not give you instant reception with a simple turn on/off button as the old radio did.

There is one room in the house where I cannot get good reception, and can only get some signal  by balancing the radio high on a bookcase and adjusting the way it is pointing from time to time. When leaving the garage the car  radio repeats itself.

In another room reception varies depending on where a person is in relation to the radio.

Whilst most modern technology is so much better than last century, digital radio is temperamental, poor quality and frustrating to the listener.



  1. Lifelogic
    March 21, 2017

    Indeed there is little point in it at all. It also uses far more power, eating batteries very quickly in portable devices. Anyway we now have internet connections on the move and can download podcasts of almost anything as we wish as needed. Also the screen interface in cars can be very dangerous as people look down and scroll through the channels.

    Needless to say is was pushed by government and the BBC hugely with endless BBC adverts for them. Command economy rather than driven by customer demand. Needless to say they are still pushing it now by threatening to cut off FM rendering old better radios useless. I think I have about 20 in my house, on my mobile phone, in the cars, clock radios, hifi …..

    1. Lifelogic
      March 21, 2017

      If the customer is king then new technology will only survive if it is better and people choose consistently to buy it. But when you have the state and daft regulation driving the ship all sorts of lunacies and lunatics arise.

      Bio fuels, half baked smart meters, millennium domes, the counterproductive wars, state monopoly schools and NHS, climate alarmism, PV and wind subsidies, Welsh Lagoons, the BBC, hip packs, workplace pensions, OTT building and planning regulations, HS2, Hinkley C, police who ignore shoplifting and many other crimes, cars that have no spare wheel, baking hot Boris Buses, absurdly designed tram systems, the endless growth in the feckless living off others, sugar taxes, absurdly congested roads, people who are better off not working than working…….

    2. Lifelogic
      March 21, 2017

      Rather like the NHS, people only use it if they are forced to. Either by cutting of the alternative or because the government has taken all your money off you and the only way to get any back is to use their rather dire “free” public services (after the 12 months waiting and if you are lucky).

  2. Leslie Singleton
    March 21, 2017

    Dear John–You have got that right and the situation is a disgrace. Never mind just the radio stopping me changing cars, I still prefer tapes over CD’s when listening perhaps to a novel on a long journey–much easier to change to next tape rather than to next CD. Mind you I like very little that can be called high tech and would rather have nothing at all to do with tough screens in cars , sat nav and all that jazz. I do not feel the lack, nor even close.

    1. Leslie Singleton
      March 21, 2017

      Oops–touch not tough (or please edit)

    2. Leslie Singleton
      March 21, 2017

      Postscript–And very much not to be forgotten is that vintage bakelite (Heavenly stuff) radios are invariably things of beauty and me personally I even think the bakelite smells nice.

  3. Electrickery
    March 21, 2017

    As with TV which went onto the new system, the government didn’t impress upon manufacturers to provide a free replacement. If a car manufacturer suddenly does something which debilitates the car you bought then you expect compensation. I told the TV people. They replied “A TV is not a car”. I guess a radio is not a car either. When my boss sees me sat down doing nothing and says “other people here work” I’ll reply ” I am not other people”. That should do the trick.

  4. HappyDays
    March 21, 2017

    “They said they would be better” and you believed them
    “Like everyone ” Not quite all of us.
    The old system still works here.

  5. Jerry
    March 21, 2017

    “Like everyone I was made to go out and buy replacement digital radios when they cut off the old broadcasting system.”

    Err!… Best you tell the BBC that they are not broadcasting on FM, never mind MW (as Radio Five-Live does), or LW as Radio 4 still does, never mind all the commercial and community stations broadcasting within the analogue spectrum…

    No one has been forced to do anything, with regards digital radio (unlike TV), many people have chosen to buy a DAB or DAB+ set, often not because of the hype and miss information but simply because it gives more choice.

    But I agree with your sentiments about DAB reception, that is its biggest problem, that unlike analogue were reception gradually degrades to nothing but hiss, DAB simply falls off the cliff so to speak – all or nothing. Just to add, when some people comment about the quality of the sound reproductions they are making a subjective judgement, in the same way as the debate about Vinyl vs. CD’s.

    National radio, and no not just the BBC, should remain on analogue.

    1. Know-dice
      March 21, 2017

      Jerry, in addition to your comment about quality – it’s mostly down to money and the charges the MUX operators make for bit-rate per service.

      Unfortunately most broadcasters are using DAB+ to save money by buying lower bit-rate rather than maintaining bit-rate and improving the quality of the received audio on DAB+

      I would be surprised if Mr Redwood’s car radio is DAB only – but I may be wrong 🙁

    2. Atlas
      March 22, 2017

      I still use MW for reception of my local radio stations. It is the only reliable way where I live.

      John, Can’t you get the Dept of Media Culture and Sport to keep the analogue broadcasts going? OR is this all an EU stitch-up?

      1. Jerry
        March 25, 2017

        @Atles; Much broadcasting regulation pre-dates the EEC/EU, and still has little to do with the EU. Please do not mix up bodies such as the EBU, or international frequency governance, with the EU.

        The reason our government seem hell bent on DAB is because of the valuable (in licensing terms) that the likes of 5G will have, using broadcast spectrum previously used by the analogue broadcasts.

  6. alan jutson
    March 21, 2017

    I have to say John I do agree, when refurbishing our kitchen 4 years ago we purchased at substantial and not inconsiderable cost a new wall mounted radio which could receive both digital and the old analogue system, for digital to work I had to purchase and install a loft aerial, again at extra expense.
    The digital element of the radio failed after 2 years, so we are back to using the new radio on the old system, which has its own built in aerial .

    The Analogue tuner (used every day) on my old but very expensive (at the time) Hi Fi System is still working well after 25 years.
    The expensive CD player added only 10 years ago (and little used) failed 2 years ago, because the laser reader only has a typical lifespan of 8-10 years I was informed.

    Sometimes so called progress is not progress at all.

  7. Know-dice
    March 21, 2017

    “Like everyone I was made to go out and buy replacement digital radios when they cut off the old broadcasting system.”

    And when did that happen?

    FM (Analogue) Radio is still alive a kicking in the UK…

    Fake news?

  8. Little Englander
    March 21, 2017

    Quote: Digital radio is temperamental, poor quality and frustrating to the listener Unquote. Reminds me of the Biased Broadcasting Corporation. Let’s get ‘back to basics’ – a signal that is clear, precise and uninterrupted in transmission in the first instance and a source of National pride and respected around the world in the second.

  9. Ex-expat Colin
    March 21, 2017

    VHF FM is still operational although I think in some areas like mine (W. Mids) either power has been lowered or some transmitters have been closed. Reception is plagued with interference as a result. Digital reception in my area is surprisingly good….lucky?

    Theoretically you should have a receiver operating in clear line of sight of a transmitter preferably – nothing/little in line obstructing. That is preferably with a high external antenna – anything less means signal degradation/loss which the authority will not be interested in. FreeSat at would relieve that….at home.

    Digital TV signal coverage maps for UK are here:

    The above maps do not guarantee very much at an indication of signal level for a high mount antenna.

    DAB Radio post code checker here:

    As regards digital broadcasting. I note the differences in transmitter power and in some cases its large across UK. Major differences between the broadcast companies with the BBC always the highest transmitted power.

    DAB radios are far too expensive and I think that has to do with system licensing. Most of them are ugly designs anyway. Is there much on the BBC to listen too really?

  10. Narrow Shoulders
    March 21, 2017

    This is an example of where competition could bring improvements. If FM was not being phased out digital would have to be better than FM to encourage take up and drive down costs as an FM/AM set can still be relatively inexpensive.

    Digital on my television is crystal clear and uninterrupted. It works. The radios in the house are all tuned to FM even where they are digitally enabled as they are not guaranteed to work.

    Typical government heavy handedness, they should have let the market make FM obsolete rather than setting an arbitrary turn off date.

    1. Jerry
      March 21, 2017

      @NS’ “This is an example of where competition could bring improvements.”

      Wrong, very wrong. The only way DAB could be improved is for the boffin’s to redesign the core technology behind the system!

      The only way that the current system could be improved would mean limiting competition, both in receiver design and delivery (less choice, allowing greater bandwidth for those stations kept on the platform).

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        March 21, 2017

        Business finds a way when it can gain advantage Jerry so unlikely to be wrong

        1. Jerry
          March 25, 2017

          @NS; Utter nonsense. DAB is not “Business”, it is a science (electromagnetic) [1], and as we know such laws of science do not bend, otherwise energy would be dirt cheap to generate for example, “Business” having found the holly grail of perpetual motion to keep the generators rotating!

          [1] only its application, within the bounds of said science, is “Business”, which is of course the problem, not the solution

    2. Lifelogic
      March 21, 2017

      Indeed driven by daft government and the daft and evil EU rather than Market demand.

      1. Jerry
        March 21, 2017

        @LL; More likely the EBU, not quite the same as the EU!

        Anyway, if this was some sort of EEC driven policy [1] without merit then why has so many non EU member or even associate/accession countries also adopted the system?

        The basic problem of DAB is the over commercialisation of the technology, and that is the fault of national governments alone.

        [1] DAB technology pre-dates the formation of the EU by at least ten years

        1. APL
          March 23, 2017

          Jerry: “The basic problem of DAB is the over commercialisation of the technology, ”

          Incorrect. The basic problem of DAB was that it was imposed by the BBC, when there was a perfectly acceptable alternative up and running.

          In actual fact, the BBC pushed DAB, when the private sector were offering podcasts MP3 recordings, etc.

          It wasn’t ‘over commercialisation’ that made MP3 the favoured audio delivery media, it was the market – that is, actual commercialisation.

          The BBC doesn’t commercialise anything, its a monopoly provider not a market orientated organisation. The BBC is scared of the market because it secretly fears that the propaganda it spews out about itself, isn’t worth a hill of beans in the market where free people make free choices.

          1. Jerry
            March 25, 2017

            @APL; Believe what you like, the facts are quite different though. It would also help if you do not mix up RF delivery and IP delivery! They are chalk and cheese, both marvellous in their respective fields, just do not try writing with cheese, and unless told by a doctor please do not try to eat chalk…

            The BBC was indeed the first to use DAB in the UK (test broadcast started in 1990, service TX in 1995), and whilst the BBC does indeed push the uptake of DAB it has done both at the behest of UK government and (RF) regulator.

            The facts are, as originally launched DAB was OK (with the then quite high bandwidths), it has been the DfCMS and Ofcom fault that DAB has become worse than MW in many respects, because of over commercialism, trying to squeeze ever greater numbers of radio stations into the same area of radio frequency spectrum, all paying for a licence to broadcast (often via auction and thus having to be the highest bidder).

            Just to add, Mp3 has only become the file format of choice via IP, for delivery to the consumer, since much higher bandwidths have become available coupled to generous or unmetered bandwidth allowances. If I was going to suggest a RF technology, different to DAB, to take over from the wide spread use of analogue reception then satellite radio might be the way to move, even if it does mean shifting towards a subscription mode, back to a reception licence fee or a mixture of both the latter being the more likely.

          2. APL
            March 26, 2017

            Jerry: “and whilst the BBC does indeed push the uptake of DAB it has done both at the behest of UK government and (RF) regulator.”

            So you agree, is wasn’t over-commercialisation which was your first accusation, is was a monopoly producer with a privileged dominant position abusing its position to force the consumer to accept a wireless solution the consumer didn’t actually want.

            And of course, the BBC and the regulator are both organs of the British Government.

            Clearly, a free market.

            Jerry: ” it has been the DfCMS and Ofcom fault that DAB has become worse than MW in many respects, because of over commercialism,”

            You are funny, Jerry.

          3. Jerry
            March 26, 2017

            Oh for goodness sake @APL, what did you not understand about “[the BBC] has done both at the behest of UK government and (RF) regulator“? Just as the BBC were told that it had to fund government policies such as free TV licences to those entitled, or how the BBC had to help fund DSO (such as free STB’s) etc.

            Getting back to DAB, should it have been launched in the UK, probably not and certainly not in the basic form it was (most likely to keep costs down, to encourage retail uptake). Is reception problematic, yes. Is audio quality suspect, sometimes. Is any of that the fault of the BBC, no, because back in the 1990s they, along with the transmitter owners, were just doing what they had been instructed to do by HMG and the regulators (the latter specifying the technical specs to be used).

            @APL; “[the BBC’s] privileged dominant position abusing its position”

            Perhaps you might like to check how many DAB and DAB+ licences are being held by the relatively few large commercial media groups before accusing the BBC of being the dominant force in DAB.

            “to force the consumer to accept a wireless solution the consumer didn’t actually want.”

            Of course DAB was a solution the consumer didn’t actually want, they didn’t want satellite TV either – before the service was launched that was…

            As for quality vs. over-commercialisation, the RF spectrum allocated to DAB is in effect fixed, the only way a (seemingly) never ending number of extra services can be added to the multiplexes is to reduce the bit rate (bandwidth) that affected radio stations can broadcast at, this in turn has an affect on the audio quality and perhaps reception.

            As an example, this change in quality, due to lower bit rates, can sometimes actually be witnessed on the DAB transmission of BBC R4 when the “LW” opt-outs happen and the DAB R4 LW station pops-up (such as for Today in Parliament and the Daily Service), as the same bit-rate allocation for the “FM” service is shared between the two stations.

            No doubt @APL, in your world, a single pint of beer will retain its quality no mater how much water is added to make it go further, thus the landlord grows rich with little investment – yet you call me “funny”, mind if I call you clueless….

          4. APL
            March 28, 2017

            Jerry: “[the BBC] has done both at the behest of UK government and (RF) regulator“?”

            Doh! Jerry, an organisation acting under the instructions of government, and government by proxy. Funded by a coercive tax ( but I repeat myself ) on the use of the provided supposed ‘service’. Isn’t operating in commercial manner!

            So your accusation of ‘over commercialization’ is arrant nonsense.

            Jerry: “Perhaps you might like to check how many DAB and DAB+ licences are being held by the relatively few large commercial media groups before accusing the BBC”

            relatively few, so no over commercialisation at all.

            If you’re going to take a contrary position you really need to get the knack of not contradicting your own argument.

            Jerry: “As for quality vs. over-commercialisation,”

            There is no ‘over commercialisation argument.

            Now as for audio quality, a topic I haven’t addressed yet.

            Again you damn the BBC as an actor of the government, the BBC deliberately coerced the general public to use a service that was often inferior to the existing analogue FM service, all the while pretending the so called benefits of DAB made it far superior.

            Then to cap it all, forcing the public to buy DAB receivers that were often four times the cost of existing analogue receivers , all in a cynical attempt to create a market for DAB that the general public didn’t want.

            No commercialisation ( not even ‘over’ ) at all. Just coercive monopolistic behaviour by a privileged state operator abusing its captive audience.

  11. Christopher Hudson
    March 21, 2017

    In perfect conditions Digital radio works….perfectly, though perfect conditions are very rare, they were a case of change for change sake.

  12. Nigel
    March 21, 2017

    Why was digital radio pushed? Could it be that Government wanted to sell off the spectrum released by cutting off the old wavebands?
    Another example of politicians and civil servants thinking they know best?

    1. Qubus
      March 21, 2017

      Yes, I believe that that is the reason. I also remember reading somewhere that the sound quality, i.e. frequency range, of DAB is not as good as FM; this was/is a complaint usually made by HiFi buffs. It was said that the reason for this was that the frequency spectrum allocated to DAB was too narrow

    2. BobE
      March 22, 2017

      I agree that was the reason

  13. Alan
    March 21, 2017

    Maybe it depends on where you live. In my house digital radio gives clearer reception, much better than the VHF that it replaced. There are occasional drop-outs, but my receivers are old and I imagine newer ones would be better. The drop-outs are less irritating than the previous VHF poor reception. The car radio works well all the time.

    In general the digital revolution in communications seems to me to have greatly improved the quality, as well as providing extra capabilities.

  14. Roy Grainger
    March 21, 2017

    As is the way of things by the time DAB is perfected it will be obsolete, non of these new technologies has a lifespan of more than about 20-30 years. The radios in my house are either analogue or they stream radio stations direct from the internet, the only place DAB might be useful is in the car but because I am an evil person with an old diesel car it still has a working analogue radio.

  15. ChrisS
    March 21, 2017

    I mistakenly bought one expensive digital radio. It is completely useless in our home.

    The BBC is pushing for digital-only radio reception and the Treasury would like to sell off the analogue radio frequencies. Fortunately the change seems to have been pushed back to the next decade.

    In our household we have nine vehicles, all with analogue radios, some of them very expensive and high quality units. We also have no less than eight analogue radios in the house. UK rubbish bins would be the fate of hundreds of millions of perfectly serviceable analogue radios. Are the BBC and the Treasury going to pay to replace all of these ?

    Of course not – the government would waste the money and we would pay for the BBC upgrades via the licence fee. We would be left to replace all of our analogue radios. I am particularly fond of my 1980s Grundig Satellit 3400, one of the finest analogue radios ever built.

    But events are moving on. DAB will be obsolete technology by the time a final decision is made.

    When I’m working in my garage I now listen to the Daily Politics on TV on my phone.

    1. ChrisS
      March 21, 2017

      PS : My post was just 197 words

  16. Antisthenes
    March 21, 2017

    There is no doubting that modern technology has vastly improved our lives but it can also be a Damocles sword. Our reliance on it is absolute. If we are ever deprived of it we are ill equipped to deal with the consequences. Our society would collapse. The possibility exists that can happen. Solar flares, hacking, cyber warfare, terrorism and normal war are constant threats and we are a long way from making them much less so . At the other end of the spectrum AI and robotics may be a technology too far if we do not build in safeguards against it using it’s superior abilities against us.

    Only logic not emotion and sentiment will dictate it’s actions. A logic that will clearly see us as being a blight not a beneficial enhancement to the natural order of things. We have the intelligence to create technological marvels but we do not have the wit and maturity to keep pace with it. A toxic combination that not so far in the future may manifest itself in ways that are decidedly not to our liking.

  17. Bert Young
    March 21, 2017

    We have the same problem of clear reception in my house , There is one spot in the kitchen where it is fine ; shift the radio a couple of feet and it is not . Another complaint is the tone control ; being able to get a higher frequency tone to suit my hearing is impossible .

  18. James neill
    March 21, 2017

    Yes absolutely agree..analouge was so much easier to tune is difficult to navigate and not so user friendly. But am afraid that commercial interests and the technical gurus are driving these changes.

  19. acorn
    March 21, 2017

    Third reading in the Lords today. Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill 2016-17. The government has once again made a total horlicks of digital broadcasting

    The Digital Switch-over to DAB (shutdown of AM and FM broadcast radio), ain’t going to happen any time soon, it was scheduled for 2017. DAB+ is being trialled for local stations in the UK, it is the standard in Europe and is far superior. DAB+ is not compatible with existing UK sold DAB radios, unless it says so on the box.

    1. Robert Christopher
      March 21, 2017

      I do believe than when purchasing a DAB radio, you have to give your address so it can be put in the ‘have DAB’ list, which gets us closer to closing down the FM waveband, no matter how many FM radios you may have in the house or car.
      It’s why we soldier on with a couple of old radios with broken cassette mechanisms (plus hifi in the living room!)
      If FM is not good enough quality, there is always the internet, and for listeners on the move, there cannot be many who can say FM is not good enough for their audio equipment, and they cannot guarantee DAB will be any better.

    2. Peter D Gardner
      March 22, 2017

      My radio is by Cambridge Audio and covers DAB, DAB+, FM and AM. I bought it in UK because Hi-Fi is vastly more expensive in Australia. Although Aus started with DAB+ I can’t say reception is any more reliable here than I experienced with DAB in UK. The audio quality is probably superior but it’s hard to say. With reception so unreliable I end to leave it on FM.

      AM is still used for many national broadcasts by the ABC. Presumably because with a thin population over 90% of the land area and an obligation to broadcast to country folk in emergencies as well a for news and entertainment it remains efficacious where sound quality only needs to cope with speech and crap music. However, it is useless in central Melbourne where the city’s trams cause very loud buzzing interference.

  20. MickN
    March 21, 2017

    I have long been of the opinion that nostalgia is not what it used to be either

  21. ChrisS
    March 21, 2017

    Congrats for signing the letter to the BBC this morning.

    The timing was right : the BBC is no longer an unbiased neutral reporter of matters such as Brexit ( or political events in France or the USA for that matter ).

    Instead of automatically turning to for in-depth coverage of news, I now go straight to the websites of the three leading UK newspapers, plotting a course between the views expressed in the Times, Telegraph and Guardian.

    Laura Kuenssberg’s deeply disrespectful question to President Trump was a perfect example of an attempt at political point scoring and when one reads articles by Paul Mason in the Guardian these days, it beggars belief that he was ever considered suitable to be economics editor of Newsnight.

  22. JM
    March 21, 2017

    It is also susceptible to interference from other electrical items in the house, e.g. fridge, lights, etc.

  23. English Pensioner
    March 21, 2017

    Most digital radio is of poorer quality than FM. The main advantages of digital broadcasting is that they can squeeze more channels into the same space in the available radio spectrum. But whilst they can be transmitted at a higher bit-rate, similar to that of CD’s, many channels are transmitted at a far lower bit-rate which gives poorer quality. Which is why vinyl records are back in favour.
    The same applies to television, if you have a modern TV recorder which records to a hard drive, you can see that some programmes take twice as much space on the disc as others for a given length of time, and the amount of storage used reflects the quality.
    So whilst, in theory, the quality of digital transmissions can be better, many channels are actually worse.
    Who said “Improvement means deterioration”? It’s true in so may cases thes days.

    1. Peter D Gardner
      March 22, 2017

      Peter Simple, writing for 50 years in the Telegraph, real name Michael Wharton.

  24. graham1946
    March 21, 2017

    Digital tv works, radio less so.

    Also in the rush to everything digital even the news broadcasts are now frustrating. When a presenter has a conversation with someone just down the road there is an almighty time delay like we used to get on transatlantic telephone calls.

    Also, the time pips are up to 5 seconds slow.

  25. Marjorie Baylis
    March 21, 2017

    I think perhaps you need to go and have a chat with Ed Vaisey Mr Redwood… he was very keen on transferring us all over to digital to free up width for the phone companies….

    I must confess that finding rooms in our house that will pick up the signal can be a problem and indeed when I take my radio with me to hotels and the like (I do like to get myself ready for the day listening in the morning) and it is frustrating when you hit a black spot, as it is with phones.

    As you say – many improvements to make!

  26. John B
    March 21, 2017

    Digital transmission is all or nothing.

    And was digital radio determined by the free market or Government?

    Ah. That explains it, as it does with NHS, education, railways… or indeed anything where the Government believes it knows better than the market.

    Why digital? Well radio transmission is a Public Good – that is it is non-rivalrous and non-excludable. This explains, rather I should say is the excuse for,the ‘unique way’ the BBC is funded, although other broadcasters get over the Public Good issue by use of commercials and/or subscription.

    Speaking of which, analogue transmissions cannot be encrypted and therefore be a subscription service, digital transmissions can. Maybe the BBC has plans?

    Disruptive technology: the Internet is disrupting the broadcasting model. More and more people are using streaming of music, radio, TV and video over the Internet. The days of satellite and terrestrial broadcasting via antennae are numbered – sadly the same cannot be said for Government.

    Right now I am listening to the radio streamed to an Apple AirPort connected to my hi-fi. Perfect reception and I can chose from hundreds of radio stations round the World.

    So really, as usual, Government and ‘legacy’ companies are way behind consumer preferences and market and technological innovation.

  27. Cliff. Wokingham.
    March 21, 2017

    I must admit, living in Wokingham where I live, the signal is clear and stable however, I can almost see the Copid Beech radio and TV tower from my house: It is only about a mile away from me as the crow flies. I am sure this helps.

    The audio quality is not as good as the old FM system in much the same way that CDs are not as good as the old vinyl records were in terms of warmth of the sound produced. Even with a top end Cambridge Audio hi fi system and high end Tanoy speakers, it is very clear but rather tinny. I suppose sound quality is very subjective but, I know which sound I prefer.

    1. John E
      March 21, 2017

      The sound quality was intended to be much better but the politicians pushed for more channels for “inclusivity and choice” which meant insufficient bandwith for each channel to have decent audio quality.
      Those of us with decent ears are in a minority it seems.

  28. David L
    March 21, 2017

    My car came with an after-market digital radio. Generally it works well, but should I inadvertantly brush against one of it’s many buttons it instantly loses all of it’s settings and I have to retune it, a 5 to 10 minute job. I feel the move to DAB was mainly to sell new equipment.
    Similarly, I feel the car scrappage scheme, which some advocate bringing back, is to boost car sales. Claims of electric/hybrid cars being “greener” don’t stack up in my opinion. How is the electricity generated? What air pollution is caused at our power stations? What enviromental issues arise from the mining of the ores needed for the systems? Why can’t an older, well-maintained and sensibly driven vehicle be allowed a useful life rather than use valuable resources to replace a functioning machine? My oldest car is now 18 years old and people tell me it’s an appreciating classic! What a strange world!

  29. Julian
    March 21, 2017

    As an alternative to digital radio: when you are at home you can stream radio via a laptop/tablet and optionally pipe through a bluetooth speaker – great quality sound.
    Digital TV has some similar issues: my tv cant bring up the guide for a minute or so – it has to warm up like and old valve set. With analogue tv the guide and station changes were instant.

  30. ExecutiveN
    March 21, 2017

    Regarding car radio, FM holds up very strongly against DAB in hilly mainland areas, even the Derbyshire Dales!
    …..and Big Ben or the pips on DAB, of course, are never accurate !

  31. Freeborn John
    March 21, 2017

    I don’t think you are correct to say that DAB is inferior to FM/AM. Any digital technology suffers a ‘cliff edge’ where if the signal is too weak all communication is lost. But if the signal is strong enough transmission will be be perfect and certainly seperior to analog FM or AM. You only have to hear the two side by side to realise that DAB sounds superior. In addition you get other side benefits, such as a highly accurate clock signal that automatically adjusts to summer time, textual information about the broadcast and automatic scan of stations that compiles a directory of services for simplified change of stations. It really is a step forward.

    1. Mark
      March 22, 2017

      The sound quality of digital depends on the bit rate, which has to divide between providing detail and loudness (how many bits are used to characterise each sample and channel – stereo takes twice as many bits as mono), and frequency, which sets twice the maximum sound frequency that can be reproduced according to sampling theory. A CD is 16 bit at 44kHz in stereo or 16x44x2=1408 kbit/sec. MP3 digital compression techniques allow that to be compressed to about 320kbit/sec – the rate provided by BBC iplayer internet streams. Broadcast DAB is much lower quality – sometimes as little as 32kbit/sec – with only Radio 3 among BBC offerings being above 128kbit/sec.

      Higher bit rates will chew through internet data allowances faster – particularly important for those using a mobile phone network to connect. It also determines broadcasting cost, because the DAB signal actually wraps many stations up onto one broadcast frequency – so 1 Mhz modulation could allow 8 128kbit/sec stations, or 16 at 64kbit/sec for about half cost per station. Streaming radio on the move produces other problems with maintaining synchronisation as you move from cell to cell.

      A part solution is to switch to DAB+, which uses more sophisticated data compression techniques to reduce the bitrate required for a given quality of signal. Coverage remains a problem because of the transmission frequencies used requiring line of sight to the transmitter. On DAB, I have a problem with the signal cutting out when I pass the transmitters on the M4 at Membury despite having the transmitter tower looming above the services because the radio beam isn’t angled towards the nearby ground.

  32. Lee
    March 21, 2017

    Agree, DAB isn’t great in vehicles. When it works its crystal clear, or it cuts out. Feast or famine.

    In the house, suggest investing internet radio. No balancing the radio on book shelves necessary and stations from around the globe.

  33. Beecee
    March 21, 2017

    Welcome to the world of solutions looking for problems.

    Like HS2, Wind Farms, Swansea Tidal Lagoon, SNP, etc. etc. (the list over the years seems endless)

    Sorry – SNP listed as a solution in error!

  34. BOF
    March 21, 2017

    It always seems to go pearshaped when the Government (and BBC) gets involved. We have never bought a digital radio and are lucky that both our new (to us) cars have the choice of digital or FM. The digital is a waste of time.
    Perhaps the BBC can go exclusively to digital and the market opened up to a variety of other broadcasters on FM. That could cut the BBC down to size!

    OT No 10 could consider making important announcements after the Evening standard deadline. We will have the news and comment in our morning papers but poor George will have to wait…………

  35. forthurst
    March 21, 2017

    The only problems with DAB radio are that firstly the technology is inherently more expensive to produce than fm, the digital-to-analogue converter is highly energy consumptive, the existing UK standard is using an obsolete low compression codec and lastly its not nearly as clever as a typical computer with which it is possible to install a codec or fifty rather than throwing the device away to purchase another – in fact total rubbish costing more than a cheap computer.

  36. libertarian
    March 21, 2017

    DAB digital radio is a poor technology hastily bought in to free up bandwidth to be auctioned off for 5g mobile.

    However fear not as radio has a very rosy future Internet Radio. It has a far better range of offerings and content and like all modern media it has moved things away from a single platform focus into multiple niches of interest

    As the owner of two FM stations and an Internet station all my investment is going internet radio. I wouldn’t touch DAB with a bargepole and in fact turned down the opportunity to trial community DAB

    1. Jerry
      March 25, 2017

      @libertarian; “I wouldn’t touch DAB with a bargepole and in fact turned down the opportunity to trial community DAB”

      Your loss, but I can understand the appeal of IP based ‘radio stations’ over both analogue and DAB, IP being far less regulated and far simpler to set up. Indeed anyone who can afford the bandwidth can set themselves up as a radio station in the spare bedroom or study these days, even more so if they do not carry live programming.

      The local community radio station in my area is going from strength to strength (due directly to taking part in the Ofcom trials you mention), both on DAB, DAB+ and their moderately powered FM frequencies. Old technology is still very important to them, due to their target audience demographics, however their IP radio service is still very popular and not just here in the UK, nor with just the expat community abroad either.

      1. libertarian
        March 26, 2017


        DAB is no loss to me

        My community FM stations are growing listeners still , the problem being that OFCOM rules severely restrict our revenue generation in order to invest in staff, more programmes, state of the art kit etc

        My IP station which broadcasts 24/7 has 50 live shows weekly ( plus pre recorded panel discussions, outside broadcasts, plays, dramas, and short stories) goes from strength to strength with listeners in every region of the world and an ability to generate revenues, such that we are just about to open our third studio. Whilst not licensed or regulated by OFCOM I’ve chosen to implement OFCOM broadcast rules on content. We also have a very popular Catch up service and also distribute some of our programmes as podcasts .

        1. Jerry
          March 27, 2017

          @libertarian; My community FM station (24/7 TX with a large number of live shows per week), along with their DAB services, appears to have a paid staff of one, the other (70 or so) members of ‘staff’ volunteer and do their ‘jobs’ for the love of it, plus perhaps free coffee. The OFCOM rules you talk about are no barrier to a community station, only want-to-be commercial stations trying to slip in under the radar – hence the rules!

  37. Stephen Munslow
    March 21, 2017

    Largely agree. In terms of sound quality my best radios are 30 years old with cassette players.
    Another piece of technology which I think has been inappropriately promoted is the condensing boiler. They seem to be extremely wasteful of water. I have to run 1.5 to 2 gallons of water before it even warms up and yet it’s virtually impossible to buy a traditional boiler.

  38. Pirate radio
    March 21, 2017

    I still have a manual tin opener which I bought in the Eastern Bloc over 35 years ago. I use it regularly to open up cheap baked bean tins (cans ). It has worked perfectly. Unique design, must be on patent, its not the “stab” kind of tin opener but levers the point into the tin efficiently. Today, after reading JR’s blog, I tried using it to tune into Simon Dee on Radio Caroline.Nothing! Communism really sucks!

  39. Original Richard
    March 21, 2017

    “There is one room in the house where I cannot get good reception, and can only get some signal by balancing the radio high on a bookcase and adjusting the way it is pointing from time to time. ”

    I think you are unlucky, although I admit that since the DAB system is using VHF, there will be places where it is not possible to obtain a signal, as is the case for mobile ‘phones.

    Perhaps there should also be an implementation of DAB on a MW frequency which would enable everyone to get reception wherever they are.

    I use a small portable DAB device the size of a mobile ‘phone to listen to radio whilst gardening and it is far better than all previous such radios. The number of stations is enormous and the reception of BBC Radio 5 (and 5+) is always crystal clear.

    In the past the reception of these 2 stations on the MW analogue band was almost impossible after the sun had gone down, or at least it was on my car radio.

  40. John E
    March 21, 2017

    It occurs to me that I am on my third car with DAB radios and all of them have or had FM and AM bands available as well. Have you checked the manual for your car? I would be surprised if the DAB band was the only option available to you. FM is by no means dead yet despite the desires of your ministerial colleagues.

  41. Peter D Gardner
    March 22, 2017

    The UK chose the basic standard, DAB, for its digital radio, instead of the more advanced DAB+ which is technically superior. However DAB+ doesn’t necessarily result in higher quality sound and both standards are more efficient and cheaper to establish and run than FM. The standards provide for options in implementation and it is the choice of options that determines the performance, efficiency etc.,

    Because DAB operates at a much higher frequency than FM, reception by an FM antenna is poor. You need a proper DAB antenna.

    The way DAB responds to interference is different from FM. DAB incorporates a high degree of processing to correct errors in the digital stream. Therefore the listener notices no effect until the point is reached when the processing cannot correct the errors and the audio cuts out altogether.

    I have experienced DAB in UK and DAB+ in Australia. In both countries digital reception is very much less reliable than with FM. Even at home DAB+ reception can be impossible for hours or days, whereas FM is always received. I do not know the reason but I have not moved and the DAB+ and FM transmissions are made from the same antenna site.

    I do not use a portable radio, but I am told that DAB+ mobile will never catch on because trying to listen to the radio commentary on DAB+ while at the footy is a nightmare because the signal processing delay is several seconds and too far behind the action on the ground.

    1. APL
      March 27, 2017

      Peter D Gardner: “Even at home DAB+ reception can be impossible for hours or days, whereas FM is always received.”

      These digital streams are very susceptible to environmental conditions, the similar technology, DTV might give an excellent picture on one day but a slight change in the weather and the picture is breaking up and the image can be unwatchable.

      Whereas the old UHF/VHF analogue signal would degrade but not to the same extent.

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