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Charlie Jefferson's picture
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Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

I've just re-integrated  my ancient Videologic DAB player into my main set-up. It's been languishing in the garage for years and even survived the skip and three separate eBay listings, but it's back, perhaps for good. 

 

My main listening in the car and kitchen is Radio 3, 4 and an occasional slice of 6 Music, so this will probably be the case with the hi-fi set up too. 

I've hooked it up, via digital coaxial, to my DAC and it sounds great, particularly Radio 3. My question is, what would I need to do to vastly improve my radio hi-fi listening? If future upgrades come a-calling, what would anyone recommend?

(can somebody remove my mistaken and incomplete posting above, please?)

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

The market for DAB tuners seems pretty scant these days (as opposed to table radios and car radios), and I'm tempted to say get a top of the range FM tuner while you can.  The only DAB tuner I recall that was ever really rated as an audiophile product was the now defunct TAG McLaren audio one (can't recall the model number), although some Sony and Denon models fleetingly appeared.

However, as it is, you are surely getting pretty much the best from the data provided.  In my experience, HD internet radio is nowhere near FM standard yet, although it can be perfectly listenable. 

This would be my pipedream: http://www.magnumdynalab.com/tubeoverview.htm

Krell CD and amp, Michell/Rega/Grado record player, Hitachi and Sony tuners, Nakamichi cassette, SBT streamer, Sonus faber spkrs.  Sony and Samsung BDP & TVs. Qobuz > iPad > AudioPro Allroom Air One

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RE:

I'm glad nopiano posted before me. When you said you'd got an old DAB radio and you want to know what you can do to improve the sound, first thing I was going to say was "bin it and buy a really good FM tuner and a rooftop aerial", but I was worried that would look smart-a$$ and flippant. Then I saw nopoiano had posted basicaly the same thing and I felt better lol

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RE:

MajorFubar wrote:
I'm glad nopiano posted before me. When you said you'd got an old DAB radio and you want to know what you can do to improve the sound, first thing I was going to say was "bin it and buy a really good FM tuner and a rooftop aerial", but I was worried that would look smart-a$$ and flippant. Then I saw nopoiano had posted basicaly the same thing and I felt better lol

 

Well yes, thanks for that. I sold my Denon FM tuner years ago and only bought the DAB out of curiosity really. I've not been too bothered about radio listening in the evening (I listen in the car and the kitchen for a couple of hours a day normally), but an emerging preference for music on R3 has piqued my interest in sound quality. Would a cheap-o FM player really whack my DAB/DAC into touch?

I'd forgotten I had my DAB aerial removed during a house re-build but there must be some remnant up there because I chanced it and put the gnarled aerial cable into the back of the Videologic and strangely it worked. 

 

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RE:

Not sure mate, a lot will depend on how good reception is in your area. As you will know already, being analogue FM is susceptible to hiss and noise if you're in a bad area or if you have a bad aerial.

As for which tuner, there are good bargains to be had on the used market with FM tuners. I bought an early Cyrus tuner in 2010 for about £40 and listening to high quality stations I was amazed by the sound.

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RE:

I notice you have a Mac and a DAC and an ATV.

You love Radio 3. 

Radio 3 (via the internet) is 320Kbps and stonking good quality.

There must be some combination of Mac/DAC/ATV/AirPlay and your system that will give you 320k AAC. It will trash DAB for quality (and give the best FM signal into a decent tuner a stiff run for it's money).

 

"We are currently awaiting the loading of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment and hygiene during the journey."

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RE:

chebby wrote:

I notice you have a Mac and a DAC and an ATV.

You love Radio 3. 

Radio 3 (via the internet) is 320Kbps and stonking good quality.

There must be some combination of Mac/DAC/ATV/AirPlay and your system that will give you 320k AAC. It will trash DAB for quality (and give the best FM signal into a decent tuner a stiff run for it's money).

 

Mac to DAC via ATV will surpass DAB/DAC then?  

Will try it this afternoon and find out. Maybe, as you point out, the answer to my original question was right under my nose. 

Thanks Chebby. 

 

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

Mac to DAC yes.

ATV + AirPlay if you prefer to control things from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch without the Mac. (Your AEX should facilitate that too.)

"We are currently awaiting the loading of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment and hygiene during the journey."

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

I agree with MF about the reception challenges. I recently had my FM aerial moved onto the roof from the (safer and less visible) loft.  The very nice aerial people don't even carry FM aerials now, aside from folded dipoles. He had nothing to align mine save for the meters on my two tuners - the Hitachi listed plus a Sony ES I got for a tenner off EBay.  So you do need a strong signal!

I defer to Chebby re the alternative.  The irony is that a bargain used FM tuner needs a decent aerial unless you live near a transmitter, and that can mean the total cost is too hgh.

 

Krell CD and amp, Michell/Rega/Grado record player, Hitachi and Sony tuners, Nakamichi cassette, SBT streamer, Sonus faber spkrs.  Sony and Samsung BDP & TVs. Qobuz > iPad > AudioPro Allroom Air One

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

I was under the impression that R3 FM used a lot of dynamic compression compared to the Internet/DAB streams. This would put digital R3 firmly above FM in sound quality.

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

chebby wrote:

Mac to DAC yes.

ATV + AirPlay if you prefer to control things from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch without the Mac. (Your AEX should facilitate that too.)

 

Well, I've spent the afternoon playing Radio 3 and comparing an iPad-stream to the Videologic DAB sound. Both are fed into my DAC, the former optically and the latter via digital co-axial. 

I was surprised to find the DAB sound was significantly superior. Despite, I'm asssuming, lower bit-rates between the two. The DAB into DAC sound was simply fuller and had a distinctly greater dynamic range. Is this the DAB aerial providing a "better" feed than the wi-fi enabled iPad stream. 

 

I've not streamed directly from Mac to DAC yet, but will give it a go. 

My father-in-law (an accomplished classical pianist and hi-fi enthusiast) was also in no doubt, the DAB won out. 

What's going on??

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

Charlie Jefferson wrote:
What's going on??

See my post above. DAB tuners usually have something called DRC (dynamic range control). This acts like a loudness button by reducing the dynamic range - I'm sure R3 DAB is broadcasted without the compression found on FM. I'm not sure about Internet radio, I assumed it was the same as DAB but may be I was wrong?

Are you using the BBC iPlayer?

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

Phileas wrote:

Charlie Jefferson wrote:
What's going on??

See my post above. DAB tuners usually have something called DRC (dynamic range control). This acts like a loudness button by reducing the dynamic range - I'm sure R3 DAB is broadcasted without the compression found on FM. I'm not sure about Internet radio, I assumed it was the same as DAB but may be I was wrong?

Are you using the BBC iPlayer?

 

I always turn off DRC where possible. Radio 3 on the DAB facilitates this. 

No, I wasn't using iPlayer. I was streaming from Radio 3's website from my iPad.  

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

nopiano wrote:

The market for DAB tuners seems pretty scant these days (as opposed to table radios and car radios), and I'm tempted to say get a top of the range FM tuner while you can... 

I may sound biased but I can recommend the Rotel RT-11 FM/DAB (DAB+ ready) tuner, the little brother of the RT-12 Tuner/Streamer that they also do.

Have only had it a while but am very happy with the features, reception & sound of the unit...worth a listen/demo if one is in the hunt for this sort of kit.

:grin:

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

Charlie Jefferson wrote:
I always turn off DRC where possible. Radio 3 on the DAB facilitates this.

No, I wasn't using iPlayer. I was streaming from Radio 3's website from my iPad.

The "lack" of dynamic compression on R3 DAB was one of the things that attracted me when I bought a DAB tuner.

There used to be several different BBC Internet streams of differents kinds and varying bitrates and what you received depended on how and where you accessed it. I don't know what the current situation is.

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RE: Calling all radio heads - how to optimise my sound?

More comparative testing reveals that all bar Radio 3 does indeed sound better streamed from iPlayer to AEX. That's Radio 2 & 6 Music anyway. 

I still prefer R3 through the DAB. Which is a shame because I would have been happy to rid myself of another box, but R3 is overwhelmingly my evening listening preference if I'm in a radio mood. 

So, why is it all bar Radio 3 sound better online&streamed than the DAB?

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