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Are you using a DAB receiving device?

 
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:37 am    Post subject: Are you using a DAB receiving device? Reply with quote

In the context of my monthly round of ideas-pitches to magazine editors, I've been asked by one "lifestyle" editor to propose a few ideas relating to digital technology as appropriate for a "fifty-something" readership.

In addition to my usual stock-in-trade stuff about computers, cameras, camcorders, making your own family websites, etc etc., I thought it might be a good idea to do something on DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) and covering the basics such as:

    What is DAB?
    How does it differ from "normal" radio?
    What do I need to receive it?
    What are the potential problems involved in its adoption?
    What units are better (functionality, value) than others?


As always, it's a good idea to ask those people who actually use the technology what they think. I know, from her posts, that Rachel is a DAB user, and I believe Helen is too. Would you folks - and others - care to share your thoughts on DAB with relation to the above?

I'm also interested in those systems which enable users to capture (ie: record) the audio streams that arrive via DAB - such as SD or other memory cards.

Other areas I'm interested in are the potential for "hybrid" DAB units - units that also act as web radios by connecting via one's WiFi router to available sources on the web - to provide access to a wider range of sources such as audio books, podcasts, etc. An SD card slot also means that blind people can be sent their audio books/newsletters on SD card rather than cassettes (as many still are) or CDs.

Please share!

Thanks

Colin

PS: Look for me in the current "Mac User" magazine as well as "Family Tree"! How about that for diversity, eh?
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Rachel
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are two ways to look at DAB.

The first way is to imagine that it all works properly, the signal is just about everywhere and the radios themselves work in cars and are easily affordable for everyone. Given that. The DAB radio sets are pretty easy to use, they make it simple to select other channels and they give you a little extra information in the form of scrolling text which some may say adds to the listening experience. On the downside a lot of the sets are of a “retro” style presumably to attract the more mature taste, but to me, they just look awful. We have three DABs now , one in our stacking HIFI (it’s really quite good and really easy to use but doesn’t sound as good as FM through a really good quality system- DAB is too compressed to get away with use in a good quality HIFI system), a Dulalit Kitchen DAB ( it looks fantastic- like a toaster, it sounds fantastic and it’s really easy to use, I love it!) and a Pure One Classic kitchen DAB ( looks ok – it’s matt black, is really difficult to use – takes ages to tune but does have a useful “revue” ( rewind and listen again feature) ). If there had never been any other sort of radio DAB would be seen (heard) as quite good.

The second way is to live in the real world and look at DAB as part of the big picture. Coverage is poor at the moment. They don’t work in cars and probably never will, properly. The signal is really overly compressed; so much of the sound quality is lost, although you don’t really notice that on most of the single speaker kitchen radio type DABs. Then there’s the cost of the units (huge compared to an FM set) but that may come down as (when/if) they get more popular. Then there’s the amount of power they consume. An Kitchen style FM radio typically draws less than 1watt (much less in fact) a DAB on the other hand draws 12-14Watts, so by comparison to FM they are really power hungry, don’t ever try using one on batteries- they eat batteries hand over fist, green, they are not.
There was an interesting debate on Jezza Vine the other day , the, I think, Culture Secretary came on to spout the Government line but it all sounded like waffle to me. He said you can buy a little converter to convert your FM set into a DAB set but he couldn’t remember if they had that working yet, where you can get one or how much they would cost. He said switching off the FM signal in 2015 is dependant on, 1) at least half the population having a DAB by 2013, 2) DAB signals being available over 97% of the country by 2013, 3) DAB working properly in cars by 2013. Apparently switching off national FM will save the BBC £200 million and leave the FM spectrum clear for local FM stations (will they have to pay £200 million?) If the BBC can’t afford to broadcast on FM what makes the Government think that small local commercial stations can or will?

My advice is this… buy a really obscure DAB radio – not for the listening experience but as a capital investment, stick in the cardboard box under your bed with your I-phone, Blackberry and Minidisk Player. Then in many years time you can flog it on e-bay as an obsolete curio from the past.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabulous analysis Rachel! I particularly like your last line........ and did you know that Betamax recorders now fetch good prices on eBay! Smile
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Helen May



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Colin,

I did buy a Pure Evoke 3 at Christmas but when I set it up the Radio 2 signal was worse than the one from my wi fi internet radio and kept fallin off. So I decided to take it back to John Lewis and they gave a refund. I bought it because I wanted to record SK or even Alex Lester to listen to instead of CE but of course it only records from DAB. So that put and end to that idea.

I can't see why I can't get a decent signal as we aren't in a valley or on the top of a hill but am a bit wary of trying another one.

As I mentioned I have an internet only radio, Accoustic Energy, but that died on me recently. It is a Wi fi problem, to do with the 'N' routers which can be upgraded by the manufacturer, which I'm in the process of doing.

It still doesn't solve the problem of which radio to buy for the kitchen though! I wonder if a different manufacturer would make any difference?

H
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I said it live on air in the studio with Jeremy Vine on 10/3/2005
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Helen May



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
Fabulous analysis Rachel! I particularly like your last line........ and did you know that Betamax recorders now fetch good prices on eBay! Smile


As do reel to reel tape recorders!

H
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I said it live on air in the studio with Jeremy Vine on 10/3/2005
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen May wrote:
As do reel to reel tape recorders!


How right you are. I foolishly sold a professional Revox B77 for a pittance a few years back, and now that I need to digitise a load of 10" reels for a client I'm finding they're like hens' teeth!

Anyway, I digress, as usual........
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen May wrote:
I did buy a Pure Evoke 3 at Christmas but when I set it up the Radio 2 signal was worse than the one from my wi fi internet radio and kept fallin off. So I decided to take it back to John Lewis and they gave a refund. I bought it because I wanted to record SK or even Alex Lester to listen to instead of CE but of course it only records from DAB. So that put and end to that idea.


Yes, that's right. The reason for the latter is because writing to a card (or other flash memory utility) is simply a matter of moving the bits and bytes (the ones and zeroes) around and dumping them into the card, whereas to record an analogue signal would mean undertaking and A-D (analogue to digital) conversion first, and that - quite reasonably - is beyond the scope of such devices at that price point.

Helen May wrote:
I can't see why I can't get a decent signal as we aren't in a valley or on the top of a hill but am a bit wary of trying another one.


I know how you feel. My parents down in Plymouth pretty much have line of sight to the Caradon Hill transmitter over the Tamar in Cornwall, yet the DAB music-centre thingey I bought them, which is identical to the one we have in the kitchen, gives very inconsistent quality reception.

Helen May wrote:
As I mentioned I have an internet only radio, Accoustic Energy, but that died on me recently. It is a Wi fi problem, to do with the 'N' routers which can be upgraded by the manufacturer, which I'm in the process of doing.


I would assume that the fact it can access the web means that the update to 802.11n can be done onboard?

Helen May wrote:
It still doesn't solve the problem of which radio to buy for the kitchen though! I wonder if a different manufacturer would make any difference?


If it's DAB it's a lottery, I suspect (as Rachel has found).

Very unsatisfactory, I agree.
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Helen May



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Location: Cheshire

PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
Helen May wrote:
As I mentioned I have an internet only radio, Accoustic Energy, but that died on me recently. It is a Wi fi problem, to do with the 'N' routers which can be upgraded by the manufacturer, which I'm in the process of doing.


I would assume that the fact it can access the web means that the update to 802.11n can be done onboard?


I found out via the Reciva website and forum that it needs a 'dongle' inside it. So rang up AE who fortunately are in the UK and they can do it for me for£25. I decided I may as well have it working rather than throw it away and it gives me a bit of time to ponder over the radio situation.

SF has the Roberts internet/DAB/FM radio which I may invest in. If only you could get an internet one that is also able to record to and SD card.

At the time I bought the AE internet one, about 4 years ago, it was a toss up between it and the Pure Evoke 3. I think I went for the right one at that time, as it's great for Listen Again in the kitchen when you don't want the laptop in there.

H
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I said it live on air in the studio with Jeremy Vine on 10/3/2005
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RockitRon



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked over and listened to some DAB portable radios a couple of months ago, and mentioned it here at the time - I was unimpressed to say the least with the sound quality and reception (even allowing for the fact that reception must be difficult in a city centre store surrounded by a load of concrete). I was particularly disappointed with the Roberts, which have that solid retro look which is supposed to suggest quality; and the build quality of the model that incorporates the revue facility was very poor - when I turned one of the buttons it came off in my fingers.

The big Pure Evoke sounded the best, and so it should at a penny under £200, but I don't think even that was as good as the Grundig Elite Boy portable, which I bought in 1970 more or less as soon as I went to work and had money to burn. It was this model...
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Vintage-Grundig-Elite-Boy-Transistor-Radio_W0QQitemZ270545236814QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxq20100313?IMSfp=TL100313126001r22227
...and two things make me very sad about it - 1. I lent it to my mum and dad to use in their caravan when they went on holiday up to Scotland about fifteen years later, and dad managed to leave it lying on the ground and ran over it with the car, and 2. I wish I'd seen that on ebay five hours or more ago!

As Rachel says, the Pure Evoke is a bl00dy big, ugly black brick.

My Denon hifi tuner has just given up the will to live, after 25+ years, and I shall be looking for a replacement, with both FM and DAB, imminently. But, at the moment, I just don't think that the small DAB radios are worth it, and I'll make do with the FM radio on my i-pod dock for the bedroom and holidays.
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MadeinSurrey



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must be lucky, and live in decent DAB-land.

I have a little Sony DAB/FM in the bathroom, a Philips DAB stereo in the kitchen, a Sony Micro DAB stereo in the lounge and all are fine 99% of the time.

I read the other day that DAB reception is going to be radically improved in places like the West Country so at least there is hope on the horizon.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have a Micro Hi-Fi thing in the kitchen whose DAB tuner doesn't like Radio 2 at all! It's fine with Radios Three and Four, and it's perfectly happy with Moyles on Radio One, whereas the sound of the Radio Two breakfast presenter is inaudible due to break-up.

Is there a technical reason for this - or is the DAB unit trying to tell me something? Smile
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SantaFefan



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like MIS, I must live in decent DAB land too..although I believe this has only been the case for maybe 18 - 24 months.

My first DAB radio, admittedly a cheap ALBA from Homebase, was a big disappointment! the sound quality was poor and it wouldn't pick up any BBC stations apart from local stuff. I just used it in the kitchen for Planet Rock and even then it came close to being smashed to smithereens ( in true Gemini style ) many times because the signal would break up with that horrible squawky sound if the rigid telescopic aerial was a thou out of line.

About 20 months ago, I bought another cheap DAB radio in the form of a £14 bedside unit which initially pleased me because that unit did pick up the BBC stations and, it had a wire aerial. This too was confined to the cupboard because even though it was a radio/alarm clock, it didn't have a "Sleep" function... no wonder it was cheap.

Further disappointment came about 15 months ago when I bought the top of the line PURE radio.. the one with the SD slot. Looked very nice with it's wooden case but, although it worked nicely in the store, it was hopeless at home. On the East side of our place it didn't work but on the very edge of the West side, it worked ok..
Funny thing was, the FM receiver in the PURE was rubbish! very shallow, hissy sound. I took it straight back to the store and got a refund.

Whilst browsing about a year ago, I came across the ROBERTS RD-41 radio. It too had the SD slot and this feature really appealed to me so I explained the situation with the chap in the store in that if it didn't work, I'd bring it straight back.
Maybe a DAB transmitter had recently been switched on, I don't know but it worked perfectly with a full signal indication... even if the aerial wasn't quite right and a low signal indication was shown - the sound was excellent.
I was so impressed, I bought another which was on offer.

The record facility, combined with the Electronic Programme Guide, is priceless for me.. allowing me to easily record the late night shows or favourites like SOTS to enjoy whenever I please..
One feature I miss on the Roberts, compared to the various TV recording devices we have nowadays, is the "Resume" technology.. one has to fast forward through a recording to reach the part last listened to.

My latest radio purchase, which I've praised many times on the boards! Laughing is the ROBERTS Stream 83i Wifi/FM/DAB radio.. I'm so pleased with this unit! ( I don't work for Roberts - honestly!) The WiFi feature I find just amazing.. countless programmes to suit ALL tastes at any time ( for me it's the US stations.. ) I now have my favourite KYA San Francisco to lull me to sleep every night.

It may be described as shiny black brick too I suppose but I like it. The sound quality is excellent with its three speakers - possibly due to it's biggish woofer in the back. It has lots of features including an equaliser and dimmable display for late night.

Yes, I'm a big fan of DAB and although I haven't got a "big" HiFi DAB unit, I have to say the sound quality from my three portables is far better than FM.

By the way.. my old Alba still won't pick up any BBC stations.. so maybe there's good and bad Dabs..
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SantaFefan



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
but I don't think even that was as good as the Grundig Elite Boy portable.


I do believe I still have mine in the garage Ron.. you're right, it has got a very rich sound for a portable. I'll dig it out and compare it to my Roberts on FM.
Come to think of it, I have maybe a dozen old portable radios laying around. I have both my Mum's and Sister's from the 60s. Both identical Fergusons in a leather case.. one brown the other red.

I really must get rid of this stuff.. or "axe" as scott would say.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all your contributions folks. It makes great reading and has given me some good ideas.

The predominant issue here seems to be portability - eg: a unit working in geographical location and not another. That's one that I hadn't really been aware of.

I'll see if I can get someone from one of the manufacturers to explain why this is.
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nod



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
Thanks for all your contributions folks. It makes great reading and has given me some good ideas.

The predominant issue here seems to be portability - eg: a unit working in geographical location and not another. That's one that I hadn't really been aware of.

I'll see if I can get someone from one of the manufacturers to explain why this is.


Surely it's just signal strength and signal quality, include reflections etc if it works one place and not another.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It should really only be down to strength rather than quality because a data stream is a data stream. I think it has much to do with the decoder, to be honest.
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Ian Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got a DAB receiver in 3 rooms - all of which are 'boombox' type machines that can play CDs or iPods too. They're great, but strangely hard to find - I just don't get the appeal of those mono old-fashioned devices that sell for loads of money.

My girlfriend has a cracking Bush boombox that she can take around the house and play CDs.

I've also got a device for my car but I've not got round to installing it yet. All in all, including the one on my desk at my old workplace, I've been very happy with reception and usability.
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aviddiva



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 9:00 am    Post subject: Are you using a DAB receiving device? Reply with quote

I had a Pure DAB radio at first, but the element wore out and so I use a Ferguson model for listening to 6 Music when I'm having a bath. My mum, who's in her 80's, likes me to retune it to Great Yorkshire Radio in the kitchen on a Saturday whenever Leeds United play an away game. I will also listen to Planet Rock when I'm in that sort of mood.

This is a good portable model, but when I'm waking up on a morning I like to listen to 6 Music via my little HD-ready digital TV (Hitachi model).
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Rachel
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We've returned our Pure One Classic to Argos this morning for a refund. We looked on the web and discovered that most of the problems we have with it are known software bugs, and Pure don't intend to do anything about them...... well.... they don't get my money for stuff that doesn't work... and with me you get only one chance. I'll never buy another Pure.. anything.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rachel wrote:
We've returned our Pure One Classic to Argos this morning for a refund. We looked on the web and discovered that most of the problems we have with it are known software bugs, and Pure don't intend to do anything about them...... well.... they don't get my money for stuff that doesn't work... and with me you get only one chance. I'll never buy another Pure.. anything.


Rachel, until recently my wife worked in the Buying Dept at Argos' HQ here in Milton Keynes and she knows many of the buyers (Argos has 35 Buying Teams). I'm sure they'd be interested to know about your problems.

I'd recommend that you email their customer support address (I don't what it is) and be specific about the model and the problem. I know it seems like you're dropping a small pebble into the Atlantic ocean but rest assured that it will get to the buyer and the buyer will take it up with the supplier, especially if they've had a lot of similar returns. Some suppliers have RTM (Return To Manufacturer) agreements which means they they have to carry the cost, whereas others don't and Argos has to cop for the loss. If goods are faulty they can then reclaim against the supplier's account. They really don't like a faulty product coming back in large numbers and suppliers have found themselves being dropped from the next catalogue if they're guilty. (My wife has often phoned a supplier to tell them that they've been dropped completely - it's not easy when the retail giant is their main client, sometimes worth £millions in turnover).

So you must tell them.
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nod



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
It should really only be down to strength rather than quality because a data stream is a data stream. I think it has much to do with the decoder, to be honest.


Don't forget the quality into the receiver stills affects it eg Signal to noise, BER, interference, echoes etc. OK it's digital and survive errors until it gets close to failure point and iof you only move a small amount then it must be close to failure point.
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nod



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rachel wrote:
We've returned our Pure One Classic to Argos this morning for a refund. We looked on the web and discovered that most of the problems we have with it are known software bugs, and Pure don't intend to do anything about them...... well.... they don't get my money for stuff that doesn't work... and with me you get only one chance. I'll never buy another Pure.. anything.


I bought a PURE DAB radio once, it had a software bug in that the sleep button did nothing, it went back. Rolling Eyes
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nod wrote:
Don't forget the quality into the receiver stills affects it eg Signal to noise, BER, interference, echoes etc. OK it's digital and survive errors until it gets close to failure point and iof you only move a small amount then it must be close to failure point.


Yes, that's true. The aerial of my DAB in the kitchen only needs to be moved slightly and the audio goes from good to zilch.
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