Digital radio - not all it's cracked up to be?

So, the BBC reckons some parts of the country will never get DAB radio as it's too expensive. Given my own experience of the format, I wouldn't worry too much, says Andy Clough. DAB is supposed to give crystal-clear sound without the interference experienced on analogue – well, not in my house, it doesn't.

Getting a decent signal on the DAB micro system in my kitchen is a nightmare. Reception frequently suffers from what we call 'babbling brook' syndrome, a sort of burbling sound that makes listening impossible.

Getting tuned into any station involves hanging the aerial precariously off the top of one of the kitchen cupboard doors and then carefully opening the door until it's in exactly the right position.

Things improve if you use a proper rooftop aerial, for sure, which we'd certainly recommend if you're using a dedicated hi-fi tuner. But it seems a bit excessive if you just want to listen to the radio in the kitchen or bedroom on a portable or micro system.

Still, there's no shortage of DAB stations to choose from. A second DAB national commercial multiplex is due to be awarded by Ofcom in July, which will allow up to 12 new digital national stations.

But Mark Friend, who is responsible for digital radio development at the BBC, says the cost of building new DAB transmitters is "prohibitively expensive" and is unlikely to achieve universal coverage across the UK.

The BBC is experimenting with other means of transmission such as Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) that can be broadcast from existing medium wave transmitters. It's broadcasting Radio Devon on DRM in Plymouth, and is also looking at wi-fi and satellite radio.

Can you get digital radio in your area? And is it any good? Let us know what you think: comment here, or head over to the forums.

Technorati Tags: DAB, Digital Radio, DRM, Satellite radio, Wi-fi

Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.