FM switch-off

have a Rega radio 3 in my system, I often think of getting something loke a 2nd hand Nat02 (there was 1 for sale the other week), but I'm concerned about the threat of DAB switchover, and FM signal switch off. I can't currently find any reliable information.

Does anybody know if it's still being considered and, if so, when it is scheduled for?

 

cheers,

 

will.

Linn LP12/Hercules/Kore/Ekos2/Klyde

CDX/XPS

102/NAPSC/HC/180

Linn Keilidh

Original Post

It is still being considered and if you google it you can see what the responsible minister Ed Vaizey has said about that in the recent past. There are often parallels drawn with digital TV switchover, but that programme was completely different because the 800 MHz radio spectrum was needed for mobile phone networks.  In contrast there is no obvious alternative use for the Band 2 frequencies and if the BBC were to switch off their national FM radio networks, the band would quite likely be used for more local and independent FM radio.

The main reason the BBC would like to turn off FM radio is that it is expensive to simulcast in both FM and DAB.  The public take up of digital radio listening (DAB plus radio over digital TV plus internet radio) is about large enough and the proportion of cars with DAB is about high enough for the Government to consider announcing a switchover (I suspect switchover rather than switch off, as the former is seen as more of a good news story than the latter).  But it seems to me that it is unclear that such an announcement would be particularly attractive and as it will inevitably take a couple of years or more and the next General Election is in 2020, it isn't obvious that either of the bigger parties would see this as a useful part of either a manifesto for the next Parliament or something to chalk up as an achievement in the current one.

But ultimately it could be wrapped up as part of a grand digital vision, including super fast broadband and 5G. There is a Digital Economy Bill in the drafting and maybe when that emerges, probably before the summer recess, we may hear more about FM/DAB switchover in the statements that emerge from Westminster. And the government is working on a "Digital Strategy" which also could conceivably bundle FM/DAB switchover as part of what DCMS is setting out to achieve.  So we can't be sure, at least not by what has been said about this publically.

Anyway whatever is announced, it isn't going to happen overnight and personally I think that if you are attracted to the idea of buying a 2nd hand Naim tuner then you should do so because you will probably get loads of pleasure from it long before anyone actually switches FM off.

best

David

The gov are waiting for two key targets to be reached  (1)  digital listening audience (all platforms) to be at 50% vs FM/AM,   that will probably be sometime next year.  (2)  DAB coverage will equal the current FM 90% area & 96% population,  that will be achieved when the current DAB transmitter expansion program is completed sometime in late 2016.

Then the gov, Ofcom, radio industry & others working group meet to go over the proposed plan ...... plus a shedload of other stuff that if you want a read is all in here ...  https://www.gov.uk/government/...associated-documents

The industry is talking about the plan announced 2017 & switch off in 2020.   But it involves politics & it might get pushed through before 2020 elections or stretched out to later.   In the cold light of day,  the economics of parallel national FM & Digital terrestrial radio coverage that we have now does not make sense,  area & population coverage of DAB will be as good as FM very soon,  better/more adaptable DAB+ is slowly coming in with new services launched this year & BBC & commercial co's running test transmissions.  Plus web-radio is growing market share at a faster rate than any of the other digital platforms & most significantly with hifi listeners (one of the objecting groups), this & other developments in superfast broadband & telecoms digital developments, its almost running away faster than the industry can keep up.  Whilst the run in to digital has been lack lustre & in truth the poor quality & coverage of DAB is in most part to blame,  once the gov make a decision with a fixed plan & dates, it will put a rocket under us all.  

Richard Dane posted:

And yet still DAB just doesn't work very well in a car. 

It works well in mine Richard,  in fact I prefer DAB to FM for some stations,  Jazz FM over DAB+ is superb.  I was touring from home via Salisbury Plain & then around Hampshire, Dorset & Devon last week end & it was 100% all the way.   My only problem area that I do have problems with is some (not all) of the valleys around the Chilterns,  but whilst it picks up nothing (it goes to off) FM is unlistenable noise.

In my girlfriends car, and in my mothers car DAB is not at all good. Impossible to listen to Radio 4 thanks to the drop outs. This is just driving around Surrey, East Sussex and Kent.. My girlfriend was complaining about the drop outs so I changed it over to FM. Quite apart from curing the drop outs she also said it made voices on the radio sound much nicer too. 

Richard Dane posted:

In my girlfriends car, and in my mothers car DAB is not at all good. Impossible to listen to Radio 4 thanks to the drop outs. This is just driving around Surrey, East Sussex and Kent.. My girlfriend was complaining about the drop outs so I changed it over to FM. Quite apart from curing the drop outs she also said it made voices on the radio sound much nicer too. 

If you use a DAB tuner which shows bit rate, (not in the car presumably) you will quickly see why it sounds so bad. The only BBC station that uses a reasonable bit rate is R3 and even then not all the time. Radio 4 is much worse and, I am told but haven't actually checked myself, even transmits some studio speech programmes in mono. Personally I really don't like the sound of DAB so always use FM, even on my 272 and my Superuniti.

best

David

Richard Dane posted:

In my girlfriends car, and in my mothers car DAB is not at all good. Impossible to listen to Radio 4 thanks to the drop outs. This is just driving around Surrey, East Sussex and Kent.. My girlfriend was complaining about the drop outs so I changed it over to FM. Quite apart from curing the drop outs she also said it made voices on the radio sound much nicer too. 

We use DAB in our Golf and it's been perfect, even on a 200 mile journey. It's not failed once on any of the BBC stations, and sounds really good. I never use it on the 272 though. 

Richard Dane posted:

In my girlfriends car, and in my mothers car DAB is not at all good. Impossible to listen to Radio 4 thanks to the drop outs. This is just driving around Surrey, East Sussex and Kent.. My girlfriend was complaining about the drop outs so I changed it over to FM. Quite apart from curing the drop outs she also said it made voices on the radio sound much nicer too. 

Drop outs are caused by a poor signal (reception) (no transmitter coverage)   Looking at the current DAB transmitter map in the SE area it looks like you have a lot more new (coming soon) transmitters - marked as a cross.

 

 

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No Richard, 'fraid not.  Unlike the slow degrading of SQ with FM as signal strength reduces,  DAB is like digi TV,  its perfect until it gets to the cliff,  then like a pixelating digi TV,  it goes into "bubbling mud" sound & then goes off.  

With the basic DAB as we have it in UK, SQ is badly affected by low bitrates & its MP2 codec that its locked into.  It's subjective as to what bitrate gives the same SQ as FM (so many variables make it impossible to answer)  But it's generally accepted that 256kb/s is as good as most FM & uncompressed R3 is 320kb/s & higher.    On the current BBC national DAB transmissions R1 & R2 are 128kbit/s (stereo),  R3 is 160-192 (stereo)  & R4 is 80-128k & is in variable mono & stereo (dependant on material)      The emergence of DAB+ will enable much better SQ for the same bitrate as it can use modern codec such as AAC+,   but I fear DAB+ will not be around anytime soon as the national standard.    

Interesting what they will do with DAB in east Suffolk. On many days I can get the Dutch multiplexes - but if I am lucky I can get the Essex commercial and Norwich commercial multiplexes when on high ground or more predominately to the NE or SE of the county. The National BBC multiplex seems the strongest and the only multiplex generally available on the east - and even then there are no signal areas in dips, some village/towns, forest areas  and some estuaries. That means there is no local DAB in Suffolk - and I did read interference and contention with the continent multiplexes is the big issue, therefore I guess no imminent switch off for FM in Suffolk until that is all resolved - and as that will involve potentially several countries changing frequency allocations I am not holding my breath. For many here DAB would be effectively starting from a standing start if it were to be rolled out tomorrow in this part of the world.

Mike in the circles I inhabit including AES I have not ready anywhere that DAB matches most FM signal SQ at 250kbps or at any bandwidth. The big advantage for DAB is that it allows multiplexing (better commercial exploitation and reduced station output transmission costs), can work in a more noisy electrical environment and the MP2 codec is more tolerant of transcoding. Therefore a lossy compressed source will subjectively sound better on a MP2 DAB rather than AAC type DAB+ for a given bandwidth. Given a lossless source like PCM then yes DAB+ wins all the way for SQ compared to DAB. But both are inferior to what is potentially available with Wide modulation stereo FM - i.e. the FM broadcast band - but alas in this day an age this is seen as not being bandwidth efficient. The argument appears to be SQ vs bandwidth efficiency. I am afraid those that are after SQ are seen as a minority and largely inconsequential.

Simon

 

Simon,  looking at the DAB transmitter map for East Anglia it looks like you have more "coming soon" than are operational (I'm hoping the map is out of date or I fear this program is further behind than is being admitted to)  . But "coming soon" in your back yard is Woodbridge & Warren Heath   ...........   https://ukfree.tv/transmitters.../all/ie/ESSEXENGLAND

The bitrate "same as FM" was bandied around in the early days but having spent time listening (not technically justifying) to various DAB bitrates I have found the difference between 128 & 192 quite noticeable,  but as 192 is the best we get in UK there is no hope of getting anything like as good as SQ if 320 is the required rate.  So your point about those that are after SQ are seen as a minority and largely inconsequential is probably correct.   

Salmon Dave posted:

I reset my Naim streamer last week and now I can't find Radio 3 HD (320kbps, or even 192) - any idea where to find it?

Using the remote, for example, although I guess you can also use the IOS app, go to iRadio, then to BBC, then to Radio 3, then to Radio 3 HD. I hope this helps.

best

David

Salmon Dave posted:

I reset my Naim streamer last week and now I can't find Radio 3 HD (320kbps, or even 192) - any idea where to find it?

I don't understand this - Salmon Dave, you are a UK resident aren't you ??     If you live in UK on the Naim streamers you will get the HLS service,  thats 339kbs & 139kbs,  not 320 or 192kbs.

Using the app open iRadio & its listed as BBC Radio & in that list its all the BBC service including all the local/regional stations.  In that list there is BBC Radio 3,  open that & it shows the list of four services,  3HD, 3, On Demand & Podcasts

David Hendon posted:

Your streamer needs to have 4.3 firmware or later. Maybe that's the problem?

best

David

You're almost certainly correct, as I haven't updated my 3 year old streamer. Previously (hem hem) it picked up R3 HD fine - and I think it described it as 320kbps.

I assume this firmware is freely downloadable?

Thanks all

To add to my last post, there was a legacy 320 Kbps R3 stream from the BBC for a while, but you need the later firmware to get the HLS streams that Mike mentioned and which I was referring to. The latest version of the firmware is 4.4 and that is what you should install.

best

David

Good point re firmware 4.4 David,  I tend to assume people keep their firmware up to date, especially so with forumites.      

To add to the updating firmware need;   if I remember correctly,  at the time the BBC HLS feature was introduced the f/w needed to be uploaded & then the streamer needed to be reset to factory default to enable the HLS feature.   That can be a bit of a pain, so I advise to run thru & make a note of the settings on the streamer screen so the reset back to your own settings can be done more easily.

He's just reset his streamer so it may not have special settings. But also I upgraded my four streamers to 4.3 and didn't reset any of them and the HLS worked fine. So it's probably one of those things Naim like you to do, but you don't have to. In fact I remember Phil saying something like "we can't make you reset your streamers!"

Best

David

I wasn't in the beta team then. I think sometimes the process of updating firmware can lead to odd and unexpected problems, for example I remember one guy lost most of his DAB stations and only resetting the streamer brought them back. I suppose it's hard to test every possible combination of circumstances, as Apple demonstrate ably with every new IOS release!

And to Lindsay's question, don't worry about it. I guarantee DAB is not for you!

best

David

That's a pretty good description Willy, I thought DAB was awful through my system, much prefered Internet radio and FM over that. I spent a while mulling over the switch off and then thought life was too short and bought a Nat05XS - it helps that I rarely listen to BBC stations though

Thanks for the info about the firmware update - I'll give it a go soon (ish). I also have a NAT05XS so it's not urgent, though I'm getting increasing amounts of hiss later in the day on 91.7 FM with a standard FM roof aerial.

BTW I quite like some DAB stations when I've had use for them - 192 kb+. Of course DAB Plus would be better, but sadly we people would be the sort of pressure group which doesn't seem to exist for it here. (ducks)

Hi Mike, sorry for the delay.. On the road at present. Yes the Warren Heath transmitter is the Ipswich low power transmitter. Currently hosting a few very low power Ipswich FM commercial stations I believe. The Woodbridge transmitter looks to be an infill transmitter for the Deben estuary shadow. Currently low power vertical polarisation DVB and mobile phones resides on that water tower. Not much coverage beyond the Woodbridge/Melton  lowlying area.. Still looks like no local DAB for Suffolk, good job we have FM still in Suffolk 

 

 

 

David Hendon posted:
 

The main reason the BBC would like to turn off FM radio is that it is expensive to simulcast in both FM and DAB.

Not quite true David. There is quite a lot of very concerted opposition to any FM switch-off/switch over within the BBC.

There's a common misconception that the "DAB agenda" is being driven by the BBC, which is not the case. It is being driven by the DCMS, which hopes to: a) generate some income from the frequencies (quite how, I'm not sure); and b) further reduce the scope and influence of the BBC. Poor old Auntie, cowed by a succession of governments wedded to neloiberal dogma, just has to go along with it.

Well, I've been merrily listening to my NDS streaming BBC R3 over past few hours but have just given up. Dropout after dropout has just made a live broadcast unlistenable. Not helped by this terrible weather in the S East. So I've just fired up my trusty NAT01. What a difference. No dropouts and crystal clear dynamics. If this is compression, bring it on!! Don't get me wrong, I love my NDS but for radio, the NAT01 leaves it for dead.

Kevin-W posted:
David Hendon posted:
 

The main reason the BBC would like to turn off FM radio is that it is expensive to simulcast in both FM and DAB.

Not quite true David. There is quite a lot of very concerted opposition to any FM switch-off/switch over within the BBC.

There's a common misconception that the "DAB agenda" is being driven by the BBC, which is not the case. It is being driven by the DCMS, which hopes to: a) generate some income from the frequencies (quite how, I'm not sure); and b) further reduce the scope and influence of the BBC. Poor old Auntie, cowed by a succession of governments wedded to neloiberal dogma, just has to go along with it.

Kevin I didn't say that everyone at the BBC supports DAB and I am sure you are right that many BBC folk don't but nevertheless what I said is correct. Corporately the BBC do not want to be paying for simulcasting national radio channels in FM and DAB and so corporately they want to switch FM off.

i also think you are wrong when you say that DCMS want to reduce the scope and influence of the BBC although I agree that probably that is part of what Whittingdale in his present role of Secretary of State wants personally. But anyway whether the BBC broadcast national radio in FM or not is irrelevant to their scope and influence.

I'm afraid I also disagree that DCMS is driven by a desire to make money by selling the spectrum. They know as well as the rest of us that the band 2 spectrum has little monetary value as it isn't useful for mobile phone networks.

What I think few at DCMS understand is how poor the sound quality of the current DAB offering is or why that matters.

best

David

The question has to be asked... Why do Naim not offer a DAB / FM tuner  (NAT05XS with DAB on board) ?  

Having a tuner as a discrete source component on my rack is (almost) essential... I can sit down, relax, select 'Tuner' on my preamp and I'm away.   One button pressed, no ipad to find, no apps to negotiate, no artists to choose... just pre-programmed content to relax to  (OK, I change the pre-set from time to time).

And for the folks who would encourage me to use the i-radio facility on my streamer... it just isn't as simple as selecting input #2 on my pre... true 'click & go'.

Roger

PS - has this been mentioned before?

 

 

 

 

I suspect the reason Naim don't make one is simply because they don't think there would be a big enough market to justify the investment. Including DAB in the SDR module of a streamer is, on the other hand, almost free to them, just having involved them in some firmware writing.

if you do use iradio in a Naim streamer, you can still select it by a single button press on the remote. It plays the channel you used last. If you have the FM/DAB module the preamp will go to the radio system you last used. Of course you have to also have selected the streamer  I'm not sure I understand the problem you have with iradio?

Best

David

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