FM switch-off

Ravenswood10 posted:

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.

Indeed, dynamic compression is used on a station by station basis and programme by programme basis on FM just as with elsewhere. If think you'll find the dynamic compression on Radio 3 is minimal if at all. The FM distribution in the UK is non linear PCM NICAM. This is different of course to the psychoacoustic lossy compression as used by encoders used for web radio, although the latest AAC type encoders in the various transport streams aren't too bad, but to my ears still ultimately sound a little synthetic for immersive listening.

I've mentioned this before on here, but I often find that CDs played on BBC Radio 3 FM and received through my NAT01 tuner can sound better than the same CD ripped to NS01 and streamed through my NDS. I wonder if anyone here finds likewise when listening to radio broadcasts through a DAB tuner? Or even iRadio through a Naim Audio streamer?

I suspect that sound quality will be irrelevant when the BBC considers FM switch over.

Clive B posted:

I've mentioned this before on here, but I often find that CDs played on BBC Radio 3 FM and received through my NAT01 tuner can sound better than the same CD ripped to NS01 and streamed through my NDS. I wonder if anyone here finds likewise when listening to radio broadcasts through a DAB tuner? Or even iRadio through a Naim Audio streamer?

I suspect that sound quality will be irrelevant when the BBC considers FM switch over.

I'm not sure its better Clive, maybe a touch softer/warmer & missing the top end CD "bite".   I suspect it might be that the top end is curtained by the FM 19kHz pilot tone filter.  It varies a lot depending on tuner make plus variables,  at best the filter comes in at 15kHz, many are lower. The Leak Troughline is a classic example of what is supposed to be one of the best for SQ,  but in reality it has no output above 10kHz.      I would love to test an 01.

I tend to agree SQ seems to be irrelevant in the consideration of FM switch off.  But reading the working group publications shows that as not so;  but for sure its not as highly regarded as many of us hifi users would wish.  The working group publication shows "In an independent survey of current DAB users, 85% rated the sound as clearer. ......  none of the hiss and crackle of analogue radio because with digital radio the signal is either very good or not available" .......  "many radio listeners cannot tell the difference between FM and DAB in terms of quality. There is, however, a small minority of "audiophile" consumers who do not consider that the sound quality available from the current DAB technology is satisfactory".   Truth be told we are a small voice in a large crowd,  most of which are either going deaf or don't give a damn.   But don't blame Auntie Beeb,  its the HM.Gov (bless'em) Ofcom & the radio industry of which the BBC is just one player.

I'm sure Pt. Frazer sums it up for many, however I'm resigned to the fact that FM will not be around as a national broadcast service forever.  But unlike Pt.Frazer I am an optimist, & pending something better that is bound to come in the future,  I'm expecting my post FM future broadcast listening to be iRadio for home listening & DAB in the car.  iRadio is not perfect but is better than DAB & in some respects its better than some FM,  plus it carries so many excellent & diverse stations.  DAB hopefully will change to DAB+ one day (maybe not so soon),  but in car listening to me is not (cannot be) serious listening,  for longer journeys I take WAV files on a USB as an alternative to daytime radio.   But even with FM my only serious listening is my own music streamed from my NAS.

David Hendon posted:

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

Don't misunderstand me, Dave, I don't have a problem with i-radio...  but there are some days when I get home after a long, tiring one (...work, SWMBO shopping expedition, grandkids challenge... you know the sort of thing) when all I want to do is find a glass, fill it, press 2 on my preamp as I walk past, sitdown, chill and listen to whatever is being played to me.

And there are other days (the majority of course) when I'm looking to find a particular kind of music to match my mood and to listen 'seriously' for a while... these are the times when the i-pad comes out, the streamer gets scanned, playlists get maintained and the original justification for buying Naim is confirmed time and again.

Or to put it another way... some days I'm just much lazier than others  

Roger

 

Mike, the trouble is with web radio.. Is you need a good internet connection.. and until more capable bandwidths are available in less urban parts many are reliant for FM for serious listening. 

Interestingly in my routes through Europe I have heard  very little DAB service in France, but Switzerland and often northern Italy support DAB and DAB+. The DAB+ on my car receiver does exhibit increased hissing noise as the signal deteriorates .. where as DAB just cuts off (the squelching mud of earlier receivers seems removed on my current car receiver). The complete cut off is disconcerting, as you can miss things, especially speech.. I would prefer the DAB+ approach of reduced SQ in poor signal areas as you can still follow speech... And DAB+ often sounds as good as higher bandwidth web radio . It would appear consumers here in Switzerland and Italy appreciate the higher quality of DAB+ over DAB.. and often it appears stations provide both services as well as FM.

Indeed Simon,  but I did say I am expecting my post FM home listening to be web radio & mobile to be DAB.   Your point about the need for better countrywide broadband is a "given" for the UK as a whole but I do expect that will be here before FM does get switched off.

I'm also very familiar with the differences with DAB & DAB+ as I travel quite a bit.  For the life of me I do not understand why the UK (Digital Radio Action group) is not embracing it.  My guess is they have spent good money on outdated technology & now are reluctant to spend more on what has turned out to be the slowest fast track ever.   I do expect it to start to gain momentum now other countries & some UK services have moved to it.

All that said,  given the politics of these last few days & the news thats brewing this morning,  the potential for a complete change in many different directions is on the cards,  so I'm not holding my breath on anything,  yer never know FM might see me out.  

Mike-B posted:

.  For the life of me I do not understand why the UK (Digital Radio Action group) is not embracing it.  My guess is they have spent good money on outdated technology & now are reluctant to spend more on what has turned out to be the slowest fast track ever.   I do expect it to start to gain momentum now other countries & some UK services have moved to it.

 

I believe the main problem they (and the Gov/Ofcom) see is that there are too many older DAB receivers out there that don't support DAB+ and they can't face the backlash if they were suddenly to consign all of those to the scrap heap. But we can hope that eventually the proportion of DAB-only receivers will become low enough to change everyone's minds. The fact that there are trials going on is hopeful, at least.

best

David

That is part of the problem David,  but they issued the directive on Eureka147 some time ago;  its now time to move on this IMO. DAB & DAB+ can share the same multiplex – if a radio doesn't speak DAB+ it will not play it.  And why not have a transition period,  add DAB+ to the existing DAB service for a while.  But in the meantime all DAB sets must have DAB+ per Eureka147 & assuming FM gets switched off sometime after 2020,  my guess is most DAB only sets will be dead by then.

Mike-B posted:

That is part of the problem David,  but they issued the directive on Eureka147 some time ago;  its now time to move on this IMO. DAB & DAB+ can share the same multiplex – if a radio doesn't speak DAB+ it will not play it.  And why not have a transition period,  add DAB+ to the existing DAB service for a while.  But in the meantime all DAB sets must have DAB+ per Eureka147 & assuming FM gets switched off sometime after 2020,  my guess is most DAB only sets will be dead by then.

Makes eminent sense, Mike.

Not sure I agree on both your points David.  The installed base of DAB (only) sets are now getting long in the tooth & life expectancy is low anyway so when FM does get switched off these sets will be pushing up recycling daisies & I really do not see any revolution in prospect.    UK is only using MUX blocks 10 to 12,    5 to 9 (& 13) are unused apart from being available for local trails & although they are intended (eventually) for local services there is no reason why they can't be used for a temporary DAB/DAB+ crossover plan. It only needs a political directive.   But pie in the sky thinking & I am not expecting that to happen,  its just that it could.  The simple solution is cut to DAB+ & that will make the space available - & maybe/hopefully the space for better SQ on the serious listening services.

We are probably just going to have to disagree, but it only took me a couple of minutes to find a Wikipedia article which mentions that the UK is using all of the DAB national Mux channels available to it under the international radio spectrum plan and that the reason DCMS has ruled out DAB+ is the number of DAB only receivers in use.

best

David

The Wikipedia article refers to the interview with the DRDB chair Tony Moretta in 2009 & whilst it arguably made sense then,  it was predominantly radio industry cost avoidance.    But that was 2009,  its now 7 years further down the road.   The second half of the Wiki paragraph gives more up to date info & despite DRDB advising HM.Gov to oppose,  DAB+ trails are going on & its the radio industry that are doing this.  It would be interesting to get an up to date opinion from Moretta & a report on the latest DRDB meeting,  the last one I saw published was April 2014.

Dears, some comments from an noth Italian DAB+ user (272)... The quality is far better then DAB, not so the broadcasted programs... Seems so radios just re-route the studio compressed audio of FM to the DAB+ carrier... FM is still the most listened so far here by occasional listener and so, even the DAB+ is almost completed we have not really yet done a switchover.

Sometimes there are classic concert broadcasted live in real DAB+ quality.

Well, interesting that I said that I couldn't find 'reliable' information as to the proposed shut-off, and the debate/confusion seems to exist in this thread too.

Anyhoo, I decided to compromise, and managed to get myself a mint condition NAT03 at a decent price. When I unplugged the aeriel from the Rega, and removed the adapter, water squirted out! I managed to catch it in a glass. Turns out the cable had a split in, and water was backing up it. Glad i caught it when i did - could've been nasty.

An aeriel man came and installed a new cable for me. We got talking. He sees fewer and fewer FM aeriels being installed, but thinks that based on what he's heard/read in the industry, switchoff won't be for a long time. 

NAT03 installed and working, a significant upgrade over the Rega.

regards,

Will

UK only  -  the new government changes has some interesting moves that might affect FM switch off (or not)

At the top Sec of State level;  John Whittingdale is sacked as Culture Secretary & replaced by Karen Bradley

At the ministerial level; Ed Vaizey has gone - he was Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with responsibility for digital industries.

He's been replaced by Matt Hancock as Minister of State responsible for digital policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.   The change in the title might not mean too much, or it might be a journalistic error,  but it is repeated in Wikipedia.  He does not appear to have any background in anything technical other than briefly working at his family’s software company after uni. (filling in time I guess)   He's an economist (PPE & Ph.M)

Might well be so Simon if my area is anything to go by.   Ed Vaizey is MP for Didcot & Wantage & his (& mine) DAB TX is Oxford (Beckley) & that has four MUX carrying ~48 stations (& some are DAB+)      Reading the radio industry blogs I see Suffolk has finally agreed something to get local & other stations to add to the one & only BBC MUX.   

Mike-B posted:

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.   

Hi Mike, it appears there is more definitive Suffolk DAB info now, and tests should start September.

There will be three DAB transmitters across the county using Warren Heath, Mendlesham and Puttocks Hill .. with internal signal coverage to about 56% of household/dwellings in the county. There appeared only one applicant for the multiplex, that being Muxco. The mux will contain at least two local commercial and BBC Suffolk.

Looking at the coverage map, the estuaries and forests on the east as predicted will have gaps or low signal strengths perhaps requiring external DAB antennas where there is signal possible. We live on a hill / ridge, so although very close to the Deben coastal estuary we have line of site to Mendlesham.. so we should have no issue.

http://www.radio-now.co.uk/new...olk-dab-stations.htm

Morning Simon,  welcome (pending) to the 21st century.   It will be interesting to see what stations & MUX numbers you do end up with.  But don't hold yr breath,  I get ~48 stations from the four MUX (or is that MUX's)      Its OK for the car (except the steep valleys of the Chilterns)    But given 48 stations we only have it on the kitchen set to see who the music artist is etc.,  & its rare we stray too far from Auntie Beeb so what price 48 stations.  Keep posting on the tests.   

I've had DAB for over 15 years now and have liked the additional stations but been, in general, unhappy with the quality (too little bandwidth assigned to stations). It does seem to me that some IP based solution is the future rather than DAB+. One question I have is how does DAB quality (which often has less than 100KHZ bandwidth) compare to Internet Radio (particularly some of the quality stations such as Radio Paradise 320K)?

I'm also going to vent my favourite rant about problems caused by not letting anybody with a scientific or technology background near government (either elected or civil servant). We desperately need people in government who really understand science and technology so their decisions are not controlled by lobbyists, vested interests, bureaucratic inertia and lack of knowledge. Sorry about that.

 

The Strat (Fender) posted:

Peter,

I've worked in and around Government for years and worked alongside many highly talented scientists and engineers.    

Regards,

Lindsay

Actually, so have I but there seems to be a dearth of scientists and engineers at the top levels and in ministerial posts.

my thoughts -- of the scientists and perhaps less so engineers I know I just can't see them ever becoming successful politicians - i think for the latter to be successful you need  strong emotional intelligence - not always a trait of some of the  successful scientists and engineers I know - exceptions of course... mind you ministerial pay fares quite well with many senior engineers and scientists remunerations (IME) - speaking as an engineer

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