CHOICE membership

Digital Radio DAB+

The latest issue of Choice review of Digital Radios contains sensible advice, that before buyers purchase a digital radio they should first ascertain whether or not digital radio operates in the area where they live.

In the last week a resident of Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula (part of the City of Greater Geelong) in Victoria complained on Facebook that she could not receive Melbourne radio station 3AW on her clock radio, a digital model.

Some salespeople in electrical goods stores in Geelong are unaware that DAB+ reception is either patchy or non-existent in Greater Geelong. Residents of Colac, for example, have no reception, but residents of Werribee, at least when there is no Lockdown from Covid 19, who often shop in Greater Geelong, do have DAB+ reception. I purchased a clock radio from a store in Geelong, but the only models available are DAB+ and FM. I was happy with my purchase, but wish I could get digital reception all of the time instead of patchy reception some of the time.

Victorian regional cities, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and in the LaTrobe Valley are not scheduled to have DAB+ reception any time soon. A great pity. I hope the government will do something about this in the near future.

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I use the following to look up or check by post code.

https://www.digitalradioplus.com.au/can-i-get-digital-radio

Reception in marginal areas might be improved with an external aerial attached to the radio. Our Bush AM/FM/DAB+ radio has provision for one, or a simple indoor aerial.

My take on Digital Radio is it is Capital Cities only, (plus a few exceptions). 99% of regional Australia misses out.

It’s going to be a problem for rural and regional Australians if quality AM capable radios disappear from the market place. While one can stream ABC services if you are connected to the NBN, as to why that is not the solution should be self evident. At least to those who don’t live in a Capital.

I noted this in the Choice review @DenisGallagher

Most digital radios, or cars and hi-fi systems with a digital tuner, can pick up FM broadcasts, but you won’t find many with an AM receiver. This isn’t a huge problem if you listen to one of the major AM stations as they usually simulcast in digital, but smaller broadcasters may not.

As alluded to it is a huge problem if you live in an area where there is only bog standard AM and perhaps one or two FM stations nearby. Is Choice going to do provide a current review of the best AM/FM radios (DAB+ optional) for those members lucky enough not to live in lockdown central’s? ‘Capital Cities’ :slightly_smiling_face:

EG Townsville, Maroochydore, Caloundra etc etc do not have DAB+ according to the search tool in the review.

Noted just 2 of the DAB+ models reviewed have AM capability.

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When I first set foot in Australia 50+ years ago FM was the norm in the USA and a wet dream in Sydney led by the lonely ABC in '76 not attracting commercial participation for another 4 years. Outside the capitals FM was available to those practising magic. By 2021 it has come such a long way that FM is as accessible as a reliable mobile signal. (/sarcasm)

It is not just government that controls spectrum by policy and auction, it is also whether commercial networks want to make the investment and for what return they will get. ABC taking a lead (again)? With the ‘good manners training leash’ perennially around its neck in recent decades not much chance when AM is good enough for us and it is an ‘opportunity’ for private enterprise, someday. Maybe. Right!

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I was under the impression that DAB had been available in Cairns for years.

Apparently not.

Around 1990, we bought a 1966 Ford sedan which had been brought from the UK to Australia by the original owner. It had a factory installed AM/FM radio but there was no FM stations in Cairns back then.

The local hick commercial radio station had “progressed” from shuting down by midnight at the latest to stereo AM.

Right there at the leading edge of technology.

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One of our neighbours as a child in Brisbane was a producer in ABC radio and I asked why ABC radio wasn’t broadcast in FM stereo (something as a youth always wanted the best at the time…which other than a quadraphonic amplifier was FM radio). I remember being told the ABC focused on AM band for most of their broadcast as it has a long range, unlike FM which is significantly less…(and today DAB which is less again).

As Australia is sparse and large distances between residences outside urban areas, the longer reaching AM band makes sense. It would save considerable costs having to install transmitter/repeater aerials at say 100km distances to ensure a few homesteads had good FM radio reception.

There were early city FM stations at the time, mostly catering for a particular genre…and audiences possibly mostly located in urban areas.

I also remember my university days working in central Qld, and being able to listen to AM Brisbane ABC radio station at night (900km+ away)…when most of the dual was silent. Such would be impossible with FM or DAB.

The government will only influence potentially ABC digital rollout, but as outlined above, DAB has significantly limited range when compared to AM and FM. The benefits (better sound quality where there is reliable signal and greater number of streaming services with a bandwidth) really only benefits those close to transmitters. Rural and regional folk could be seen as ‘second class citizens’, especially if AM broadcasts ceased to reduce costs of broadcasting or due to limitations of providing both signals,

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It is the norm that as time goes on and technology offers something better people want it. In spite of AM ‘going the distance’ should listeners be satisfied just because?

Does one use the same justifications against the benefits of faster mobile networks? 5G is shorter range than 4G so needs more towers and infrastructure… you can see where I might ‘go’ with the ‘argument’ so I’ll stop before recursion sets in. :wink:

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Wild weather at Mt Dandenong yesterday caused 3AW to be unavailable on my DAB+ digital radio.
But my old Sony Transistor had no problems.
So much for progress :laughing:

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What benefits does it offer over traditional broadcast frequencies. If one is using a bedside clock radio, differences will be in discernable apart from clock time being set automatically and potentially more stations (such as ABC that has Grandstand etc which isn’t broadcast separately in the past).

Likewise in the car…if one is stopped with no background noise, differences in quality may be detectable with a good in car audio system. When travelling, the background noise will negate quality benefits.

If one has a digital tuner in their hifi system, differences will ge noticeable, but I am not sure this is a big market or hifi systems are bought for the purpose of bring a radio.

New technologies doesn’t always mean it it better for everyone. It only benefits those who want and can use the change. It applies to mobile networks. Ask someone who lives in a regional or remote area, if being able to make a call with slow download speeds is more important than fast download speeds with flacky or no signal at all. This will give you the answer to why distance is more important outside urban areas. Living in a regional area, this is often a point of discussion. I was like you with similar thoughts before moving out of the big smoke. One has to remember Australia is a lot more than cities, which those in the cities often forget.

If one is worried about sound quality and this is the personal driver for change, a lot of radio stations stream online and one can listen with similar quality through a smart device.

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The quality of even basic FM compared to AM is like night and day, unless your hearing is off or your equipment is substandard, and FM is static free.

That is subjective. I do not agree in my car, in my experience.

A UHF manufacturer claims about 14% of the continent has a usable mobile signal. Not than FM is pervasive as has been noted, but stream away? Yes, there are a lot of reasons for AM, but being dismissive or rationalising the scarcity of FM, and DAB+ seem unwarranted.

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I am in Melbourne so have access to stations using both AM and DAB+ and also streaming. Sometimes different content is broadcast on the different media. Ie, talkback on one but live sports on the other.
Broadcasters will have an AM licence or an FM licence but I am not aware of any that have both.

So a radio that does not have AM is limiting choices, but is also as useless as a woodpecker with a rubber beak when it comes to remoter areas.

Streaming has something that AM, FM, and DAB+ cannot do. Access to radio broadcasting from all over the world. I like to listen in to some stations from UK and USA, and some others that are speaking a language I can understand. Basically English.

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DAB+ quality on most small devices (car radio, clock radio, portable etc) will not be discernable for most with the FM frequency. I wasn’t comparing AM with FM.

DAB+ plus in non-city areas is a ‘wish’ or ‘want’ and not a necessarity…and may never happen fully as a result due to range limitations. Having DAB+ doesn’t change the possibly only essential use of radio, that being communicating critical information in the time of a disaster or other similar events. AM (and FM where it can be received) has been very successful at doing this through it frequency reach. DAB+ is likely to be less successful for such use.

Wishing to have DAB+ over FM or AM doesn’t change the ability to communicate such information. Wanting a FM or DAB+ in any urban, regional or remote areas is a personal choice of the listener…and maybe in some respects to keep up with the Joneses.

I have both DAB+ and AM/FM devices in our home…and when in Brisbane there was no discernible difference between FM and DAB+ on these devices (we have no DAB+ coverage in regional Tasmania). There is a somewhat difference between these and AM, but differences were based on signal strength and speaker quality. AM is possibly easier to listen to voices, as there is less depth of frequency which exists with the other two (making some deeper voices less understandable).

I also stream content as possibly prefer it as one has the choice of what to listen to and when. Only in the car or in bed at nIght do we listen to the radio.

I feel that once again everyone is missing the lede. We have already switched to digital television; when we switch to digital radio, our galactic neighbours will no longer be able to easily translate the signals Earth is broadcasting. So we have been broadcasting these signals for a little over 100 years, and now we are effectively ‘going dark’.

My clock alarm has been DAB+ capable for years, but I am pretty sure it would get terrible reception. It has the only FM service that I listen to, and that only for about five seconds on a weekday morning.

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I doubt the Overlords will permit that. Or have you just found the solution to the Fermi paradox?

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Maybe the paradox could be explained by considering that the garbage we earthlings broadcast on radio and TV is simply a put off.
So where are the aliens? Out exploring far more interesting places.

Closer than we might choose to believe (Bostrom 2003 et al). I blame them for not being able to receive DAB+.

Perhaps it is a known defence? (FF to 1 minute if impatient)

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Yes, digital TV replaced analogue transmissions. For regional viewers, that did not go well. In the Hunter Valley, channels which had used VHF switched to UHF. Premises that could view the old channels suddenly had nothing. For distances, UHF is worse than VHF and digital is worse than analogue. Our government auctioned-off the VHF spectrum that had been “freed” by the transition. They called it the “digital dividend”. It proved a nice little earner.

In Australia, DAB+ is transmitted at around 200MHz. FM broadcasts centre around 100MHz. AM radio is generally below 2MHz.

In the future, look out for Digital Radio Mondiale. If adopted, that will take over existing AM frequencies. There’s an extension known as DRM+ which targets the FM band (and VHF TV).

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DRM is a digital solution for the full range of radio broadcast bands. DAB+ is a short-range joke that should be considered a failure for Australian use.
I do hope DRM is adopted in Australia. Much better suited for a big country.

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