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MajorFubar's picture
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DAB sound quality?

The industry seems committed to end at least national FM broadcasts by some time in 2015. The only digital radio I have experience of in a HiFi system is Freeview (the mono Pure DAB in the kitchen doesn't exactly qualify). But generally the SQ of radio on Freeview is poor compared to the same stations on my Cyrus tuner, and even the online-streaming quality of some stations (like Smooth Radio I listen to a lot) also leaves a great deal to be desired as well. When they more or less force me at gunpoint to buy a DAB HiFi tuner (more technology we didn't ask for and don't need imo), am I likely to be less disappointed with the SQ?

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DAB sound quality

DAB sound quality on my Pure kitchen radio is fine, and on my bedroom Bose Wave music system II is fine (but you can tell there's less 'openness' than the same program on FM, even on the Bose).

I have long been disappointed with the attitude towards radio hifi enthusiasts from the powers that be concerning the difference in sound quality going from FM to DAB in the context of a hifi system rather than a small radio. Any discussion about quality has been about signal strength rather than sound quality. They seem to have been purposefully ignoring the SQ side of things (because there is no solution with the current DAB).

I'm not looking forward to the day when I can no longer listen to FM radio on my hifi.

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RE: DAB sound quality

In hindsight the choice for DAB is ludicrous. DAB+ is much better when it comes to SQ. Here in NL there have been trials with DAB but the conclusion was that the SQ was bad at low bitrates and they have switched to DAB+. From January 2014 national public broadcasting will be available. From September 1 2013 commercial and regional broadcasters are availabe. A total of 26 stations will be availabe by January 2014.

I don't know anyone though who actually owns a DAB+ radio so I can't comment on the SQ. There are no plans to switch off FM in NL, especially since there are hardly any cars with DAB+ radios.

I mainly listen to radio through FM which is fed by the cable company (36 stations, including BBC Radio 2 and 3). The SQ is actually better than the digital feed that I can get through the TV or the Humax box, although there are more stations available.

Yamaha R-S500, Infinity Overture 1, Cambridge Audio DACMagic, Sony KDL 40HX750, Humax iHDR 5200c, Sony BDP-S590, Pro-Ject 1Xpression III Comfort, Sony MDS-JE 520, Apple Airport Express, Apple Mac Mini (2013), Atacama Eris Eco 5.0

MajorFubar's picture
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RE: DAB sound quality

iMark wrote:
There are no plans to switch off FM in NL, especially since there are hardly any cars with DAB+ radios.

 

Yeah there aren't many cars here with DAB either, comparatively, but the broadcasters still seem adamant to pull FM. I was researching the issue earlier and one reason quoted is that the broadcasters/stations have to pay two licence fees, one to transmit FM and the other to transmit DAB, so pulling FM would save them money. TBH I think they'd be better-off pulling DAB!

FM apparently is overcrowded and doesn't permit enough stations. Hah! Quantity certainly doesn't equate to quality. Where I live, there are about 20 sations of mostly junk on DAB and the only one worth listening to which isn't also on FM is the ironically-named Jazz FM!

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RE: DAB sound quality?

Agree with comments on DAB SQ. I was looking forward to more from the industry. I bought one of the first Pure tuners so I could listen to Jazz FM (more Soul/funk music) which was DAB only up in Scotland and was originally 128k and accetable. Having forked out a few more £s for an Arcam tuner I was annoyed when they announced the change to mono 80k a while back. When I emailled Jazz FM I received a weak reply from one of their techy team trying to justify how I would be better off with more information being sent at 80k.  Eh ???  I recently noticed that it is now 64k. This is ok for Talksport but not for a music station. Seems to be commercial gain over quality. Might be ok for background music on the kitchen Pure DAB.

OK so I could rig up my lap top and improve this with online but that is not the point.

Is anyone aware of moves to provide HD DAB?

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RE: DAB sound quality?

I get sooo cross about DAB SQ. I embraced DAB with huge excitement and pleasure when it was first available, and loved Planet Rock, BBC R4X and Absolte 80s in particular. The SQ may not be as good as FM, but it was perfectly acceptable at 128 kpbs (which seemed to be the most common bitrate; I seem to remember that Virgin (before it became Absolute) was broadcast at 192 kbps, as was BBC R3). It was clear and interference-free, and having all the extra stations was terrific - even if down here in Good Old Weymouth we only got 23 or so, it was a huge improvement on the paucity of FM stations in the area.

I bought a Pure Evoke 3, a Sonus XT for the kitchen, and an Avanti Flow for the bedroom, as well as a Denon TU1800DAB for the h-fi; I also had a proper DAB aerial (as well as FM and TV, all done when we moved house) installed to make the most of it all. I even had a small personal Sony DAB for listening to at work.

Now, though, I don't listen to Planet Rock, or indeed any of the commercial music stations at all. 80 kbps is not acceptable for music. I don't mind mono for talk (R4X for example) but not music. The BBC still broadcast at 128 kpbs, so I do still listen to R2, R4 and occasionally R3.

I have, though, fairly recently discovered internet radio on my Avanti Flow; there are SQUILLIONS of stations available, and they are mostly quite good for SQ ... I even listen to Planet Rock again, but only now and again, since there are so many other stations to choose from.

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RE: DAB sound quality?

Unfortunately we're stuck with DAB (not DAB+) here in the UK for the time being as Governments (of whichever political persuasion) don't see it as a problem. As for analogue radio switchoff, it was originally thought it might be 2015, but now looks more likely to be 2017 at the earliest. The lack of in-car DAB radios, in particular, is one reason why switchover has been delayed.

Sound quality on DAB has long been a contentious issue: I think it's fine for in-car/portable use, less so for a serious hi-fi tuner, and of course it all depends on the bitrate being used by the broadcaster, which can vary enormously. I'm currently listening to Radio 3 at 320kbps on an excellent old TAG McLaren (remember them) DAB/FM tuner which sound great, but sometimes even R4 can go down to 128kbps in mono during the middle of the day. Not so good.

Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and whathifi.com

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RE: DAB sound quality?

My view is that DAB will be solely consigned to in-car / portable / kitchen-player use in future. 

For home use, Internet Radio has to be the way forward.  If you get a mo, trawl through the Sky radio channels from New York - pretty decent SQ with a separate channel for each genre of music - fantastic for jazz fans especially.  The astounding volume of choice and the quality of (many) stations of Internet Radio makes DAB look pretty outdated.

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RE: DAB sound quality?

DAB would be great if it wasn't DAB!   :grin:   The station choice available with DAB is what appeals to me, and I regularly tuned in on a cheap portable DAB radio (mono speaker) I got from Tesco some years back - I connected it to my hi-fi via the earphone jack to bypass the mono speaker and get stereo from my hi-fi. Not fantastic of course, but not so bad as to not be able to listen to it.

On my latest Hi-Fi DAB sounds okay, but not a great deal better than the cheap portable plugged into my Cyrus II and PSX / M751s.  The poor DAB sound quality is noticable when comparing to the same stations on FM. Anyone doing 'the test' will no doubt find the DAB sound (mostly) dull, muted, and flat compared to the same station on FM. I had a dedicated FM tuner for years, with a roof aerial, so I'm used to how FM can sound. No contest...miles apart. You do get used to the DAB sound though, as we all adapt to what we have to, but I resent that as well.Left with that feeling that quality is losing over convenience..and I still wonder why we can't have both.

Then there's the price of DAB radios compared to FM. Man alive, they saw us coming!

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RE: DAB sound quality?

I recently acquired a Naim Uniti with DAB and FM "tuner" which enabled a quick side by side comparison and must say I was disappointed with the DAB quality. There is undoubtedly not the same depth  and would add the description "thin sound" to the above observations. As a result I investigated the differences and contacted my local MP to enquire why we are to be left languishing in the second league with DAB. I received a two A4 side reply from Ed Vaizey,Minister for Culture,Communications and Creative Industries for which I am very grateful and somewhat impressed.

 This focused mainly on the role of Ofcom so I suggest if anyone wishes to pursue this issue Ofcom should be the point of contact. I could present the entire communication which was predictably full of statistics but will leave you in the dark but for these gems :

The authorities seem to view this from the point of view of "capacity for more services" but Ofcom retains "backstop powers" to intervene whilst their guidance on audio quality on DAB is that it should be "consistent with reasonable expectations for the majority of listeners taking into account the nature of the content and the sound programme service concerned" So I guess it's as we suspected - all about how thinly we can spread the jam for it still to be called a jam sandwich.      

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RE: DAB sound quality?

I recently acquired a Naim Uniti with DAB and FM "tuner" which enabled a quick side by side comparison and must say I was disappointed with the DAB quality. There is undoubtedly not the same depth  and would add the description "thin sound" to the above observations. As a result I investigated the differences and contacted my local MP to enquire why we are to be left languishing in the second league with DAB. I received a two A4 side reply from Ed Vaizey,Minister for Culture,Communications and Creative Industries for which I am very grateful and somewhat impressed.

 This focused mainly on the role of Ofcom so I suggest if anyone wishes to pursue this issue Ofcom should be the point of contact. I could present the entire communication which was predictably full of statistics but will leave you in the dark but for these gems :

The authorities seem to view this from the point of view of "capacity for more services" but Ofcom retains "backstop powers" to intervene whilst their guidance on audio quality on DAB is that it should be "consistent with reasonable expectations for the majority of listeners taking into account the nature of the content and the sound programme service concerned" So I guess it's as we suspected - all about how thinly we can spread the jam for it still to be called a jam sandwich.      

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RE: DAB sound quality?

robertlloyd wrote:
their guidance on audio quality on DAB is that it should be "consistent with reasonable expectations for the majority of listeners taking into account the nature of the content and the sound programme service concerned"

We've no hope then. We live in a time where the majority of people are happy to buy their music as compressed lossy downloads or pirate it from bloody awful YouTube videos.

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RE: DAB sound quality?

Yes Major but at least we are aware and can let it be known that UK is in danger of falling behind others who are establishing superior digital radio services.

For a nation that enjoys world wide recognition for the excellence of our digital creativity we are in danger of losing the edge on the back of cost driven expediency. I have let my MP (Mike Weatherly) know and he has listened and taken some action - if we all do the same maybe others will listen too and who knows they may begin to understand what we are about.    

(to say nothing of the high end hi fi market that generates so much good reputation and revenue for this nation.)

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RE: DAB sound quality?

As Andy points out - we are stuck with plain DAB which uses MP2 as it codec! DAB was a European EUREKA project started back in 1986. The story I heard was that to keep it entirely European, the project chose the European MP2 (Fraunhofer Society) over the more effecient codecs such as the American AAC one. Putting arguments regarding SQ aside, MP2 is very inefficient hence takes up more bandwidth (radio spectrum) than is necessary so is expensive to broadcast on. DAB+ uses HE-AAC v2 which uses far less bandwidth than MP2. DAB was launched prematurely IMO. They could have gone for updateable codecs which automatically get downloaded months in advance of a switch-over than swapped in on the preassigned date.

As for the Pure brand, I have 3 working Pure radios. Mu original Tempus developed a display fault that ITL were unwilling to repair & like GEL, was offered a discount which I accepted. I bought a Tempus 1S 3 yrs ago that has been fine apart from the time can drift out by over 2 mins! My ONE Classic has been OK & is over 2 yrs old (I updated the firmware today - prompted by this thread) but my original Evoke Flow does refuse to turn on every so often, requiring the battery being removed. It also kept loosing a menu setting associated with internet radio that ITL rather rudly refused to accept as a fault.

Although this thread may have backfired on GEL a little - not helped by his inflamatory intial post, ITL can be a little offhand with customers when things go wrong. I'm not sure exactly what the guarantee period is in the UK (some people have demanded & received 24 months) but the law seems even more unclear regarding customers rights to have stuff repaired after any guarantee has run out.

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RE: DAB sound quality?

I have just discovered some cracking tunes being played on DAB Radio 6 Music - In particular Iggy Pop on Sunday afternoons & Gideon Coe evenings. :rockout:

Iggy recently played Gorecki Symphony No. 3 sung by Dawn Upshaw which just blew me away.

I find the sound quality a little brash & conjested at times.

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RE: DAB sound quality?

For anyone that's interested you can find a Audio Quality comparison of PCM, DAB, DAB+, FM and AM here.

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