Rupert Brun, expert on all things audio and late of the BBC, has been testing his radios at ahead of the Sound Digital (SDL) launch in a week’s time. The multiplex is in full test mode at the moment, so if you want to know if you can hear the new services, then a rescan of your radio may be in order.
So I’ve decided to test my own radios allowing Rupert to incorporate them into his results.
First of all I should note, as the photo above shows, that I’m in a rather fortunate location with regard to DAB/DAB+ radio. I live in north London, inside the M25, but close to the green belt. I’m also high up (at least for London) at somewhere around 70m above sea level. What that all means is that my radios will currently tune in 125 different services coming from the following multiplexes
- BBC National
- D1 National
- SDL National
- London 1
- London 2
- London 3
- London Trial
- Herts, Beds & Bucks
I am somewhat surprised that I can get the Surrey multiplex, since it’s geographically the other side of London. And to be honest, reception is poor – but listenable. Kent might seem as far, but historically FM services have always reached this part of north London, and the closest transmitter for that mulitplex is actually in Benfleet in Essex.
Anyway, here are the results of my radios. I’ve included the number of services tuned into to give you an idea of the sensitivity of these sets. I tested them all with their own built in antennae, except the portable models where I used a set of ear-buds extended vertically.
|Brand||Model||Results||Rating (Based on Rupert Brun's Rating)||Services Tuned|
|Roberts||Eco4 BT||Displays and plays DAB+ services||Good||125|
|Roberts||Ecologic 4||Displays and plays DAB+ services||Good||125|
|Roberts||Stream 83i||Displays and plays DAB+ services||Good||125|
|Roberts||Gemini 59||Shows but does not play DAB+ services||Poor||125|
|Grundig||Opus||Shows but does not play DAB+ services||Poor||125|
|Pure||Move 1500||Shows but does not play DAB+ services||Poor||116|
|Bush||CDAB431R||Does not show or play DAB+ services||Average*||122|
|Goodmans||GHDAB101||Shows but does not play DAB+ services||Poor||125|
*Note that Rupert measures both sets that present DAB+ services that can’t be tuned, and those who can’t tune them, so hide them, as both “Poor.” That’s true, but I think it’s a better user experience to hide services that can’t be tuned. It you see a service and tune to it, it looks like there’s either a problem with your radio, or perhaps the station is off-air.
In summary, the more expensive radios – the first three Roberts models – all did fine. Which is as well, since these are my most used radios, and also deliver by far the best sound. I’m unsurprised that none of the portable models tested works, but I do have a new Pure Move 2500 – untested because I left it at my parents’ house accidentally – which should give me DAB+. And none of my cheap models surprised me by revealing that they were indeed DAB+ compatible.
Two more thoughts on my testing:
– The test audio that SDL is currently broadcasting for Virgin Radio is truly awful in sound quality. While the service will only be 80k mono, it sounds like they’re playing a 32k mp3. Not the best way to show off a new service.
– My radios get a lot of Heart stations. And it’s not always easy to tell them apart. In order I get the following:
Heart – Herts, Beds & Buck
Heart – London 1
Heart Kt – Kent
Heart Su – Surrey
Heart Sx – Essex (esS eX – geddit!)
You’ll note that the first two are indistinguishable from the short version of the DAB label. I have to tune to one of them and then hit “info” a few times to determine which multiplex I’m listening to.
When Heart Extra launches in a few days that’ll be one more! (With the London breakfast show carried on the service competing with all the local Heart breakfast shows.)
I know that DAB labels aren’t easy to manage. I once battled with naming all the Absolute Radio services, trying to get radios to sort them in a logical order. Unfortunately, what’s logical on one radio, isn’t on another – different brands and models use different sorting algorithms! So trying to get Absolute Radio 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, along with the main brand and classic rock, into a sensible order proved impossible.