Sorry for the OT but I'm sure someone here will know.
I'd like to buy a digital radio for someone as a Christmas present. I am
clueless about the options on these new-fangled beasties. The person concerned
would, I know, like to take off-air recordings (:-)) - but do all these types of
radios provide such an output? (similar to the way ordinary radios have an
earpiece output socket). What features should I check for? I'd like to avoid the
"ah if only it had a ????" thing. I see Argos have several models - anyone have
a recomendation for any of them - or maybe somewhere else I should look?
I have the Richer-Sounds cheapie tuner, the Acoustic Solutions SP110, which
in the summer was 80 squids. Being a "Hi-Fi Separates"-style tuner, it
has a stereo analogue output on two phono sockets, just right for taping
from; a headphone socket with its own level control; and an optical
digital-out (Toslink) also. The built-in digital-to-analogue on this
cheapie is a bit naff (some distortion on speech, sometimes, which is what
I listen to most of all); I know it's the D-to-A because feeding the
digital-out into the 'puters TosLink digital-in clears up said distortion
on the spot. Here in Bristol I use just the supplied-in-the-box wet-string
indoor aerial, and the signal-quality and strength reported is very high;
for a more rural location you might need a Real aerial.
It's not a medium for the ultimate Hi-Fi enthusiast, as in order to squeeze
lots of stations into the available bands, they push the encoding down or
indeed beneath the quality of typical MP3s (with the alleged exception of
Radio 3 live concerts, AIUI). But for me, the instant tuning to a wider
variety of stations than FM, and the lack of fading in/out, makes it
worthwhile. A colleague with a portable DAB radio, on the northern fringe
of Bristol, reports it's very senstive to location in his house - full-on
error-free reception in one position in a given room, no or very poor
reception a few feet away. As with all matters radio, your (more relevantly,
your benefactee's) mileage may vary, objects in the mirror may be closer
than they appear, the value of your investment may go down as well as up,
errors and omissions excepted, etc. etc. etc. (Which suggests it may
be worth buying from a shop with a real refund policy and giving your
happy gift-receiver the receipt, even though it reduces the romance
Hope that helps some - Stefek
An excellent summation - but two comments stand out and cannot be ignored.
Firstly, the signal strength is vitally important. Portables will only work
successfully and reliably within a few miles of a transmitter with a clear
signal path. Unlike analogue FM radio which degrades gracefully, digital is
on or off with no halfway house. The hi-fi tuner or a separate aerial option
(yes even the portables (as distinct from personals) have an external aerial
socket in addition to the telescopic) require a new (and thus likely still
expensive) aerial as (a) digital is transmitted around 220MHz which is 'out
of band' for both existing TV and radio aerials and often for masthead amps
as well and (b) they are vertically polarised where many existing external
aerials (particularly FM) will be horizontal. Also be aware that not all
transmitters radiate all stations: we have a Tx site about nine miles from
here but it only transmits the Leeds EMAP multiplex that carries a few local
independent and one BBC local station but none of the BBC or independent
nationals. For those I would need a significant directional aerial to point
at sites 30+ miles away.
Secondly the quality. The broadcasters seem to have taken the opportunity to
make digital a quantity rather than a quality medium and as such it suffers
badly. MP3 is usually at a data rate of 128Kb; you need 256Kb to get
anything remotely near a good FM receiver. It is alledged that BBC R3 uses
192Kb at certain times of day, but 160Kb is more common. ClassicFM uses
160Kb all the time, as does (did?) BBC R2. But - and this probably gives
more indication of how the broadcasters view it - BBC R4 is in mono - yes
mono - most of the time, news, plays, or whatever.
If your friend already has any form of half decent FM receiver then he/she
will probably be disappointed with the quality of DAB, unless that is it is
receiver on a card in the PC and plays through PC speakers where quality is
expected to be poor!
Excuse me, may I interuppt please? Where does my original comment say that
Radio 4 is changed to mono by DAB? My statement was - and as far as I can
see does still say - that Radio 4 being broadcast in mono on DAB (whilst in
stereo on FM etc) shows the standpoint of the controlling organisation -
'never mind the quality feel the width' - pack as much in as you can and
ignore the feelings or interests of your customers.
I wonder how long they would last in the real world with that view?
It's the factual basis of your claim which Dave is taking issue with.
In my DAB listening, I certainly hear some transmissions on R4 in
stereo - quite distractingly so given the particular layout of the
speakers I listen on (some drama soundFX recreate the glorious days of
Steam Radio as they pass unctiously from panned-hard-right to
panned-hard-left. Always in that direction, too: clearly the BBC's
ideological bias showing again. The Torygraph ought to point out that
dastardly plot...). And the Archers gives me Ruth spatially separated
from David. So, at least *some* R4 programs reach *my* DAB set in
In the Real World, compromises on quality so as to address the mass
market are common as muck and cheap as chips. You want a premium product,
expect to pay a *hefty* price premium. The market driver for DAB seems
indeed to be variety rather than broadcast quality: sorry, but the hi-fi
quiet-room listening audience seems to be a (small) minority. The Beeb
caters to that minority in some cases - Radio 3 concerts are allegedly
broadcast in a higher bitrate than most - but seems to exercise at least
defensible "real world" judgment in its use of the spectrum it gets;
at least to this licence-payer's cloth ears!
I don't know where the myth that R4 DAB is mono came from, but I've read
it before many times.
Of course, not all programmes on R4 are made in stereo, so they'd be mono
on DAB. And FM, come to that. Oh - and LW. ;-)
*If God dropped acid, would he see people?
Dave Plowman firstname.lastname@example.org London SW 12
Hey, why is there a fashion to knock LW all of a sudden?
I am in Northern Holland and can happily receive R4 all the time,
even listen in on my car radio. I even get uninterrupted test match
special, without SWMBO trying to change channel! Hands off LW!!!!
Don't knock it just because you have bought the sales pitch for the
fancy technology. I'mm keeping a look out for a good 2nd hand radio
with LW for the garage so I don't have to carry a portable in the
I suspect is all a plot to prepare the public for stopping
transmission on LW.
BTW I recently looked at digital for my house in the UK. However my
area has effectively no reception at present, and will not do so in
the forseeable future.
What has actually annoyed me is the official statements that DAB will
be introduced, and existing systems withdrawn, with the expectation
that there will be cheap conversion kits available. Actually I have
quite a lot of radios dotted about (don't forget the car), so I aked
what the story was on conversion. The answer was of course that
conversion is unlikely to be available. So at some point, I am
expected to buy new kit?
In my kitchen I have a Grundig radio that works fine, as it has for
the past 20 years. I am sure it will do so for another 20, so what is
in it for me to support a change?
Unless of course the manufacturers don't like the fact that radios
last! How can they generate obsolecence in the market ? Simple,
persuade the Government to muck about with the fundamentals of the
system. Very eco friendly I don't think.
Ooops my short comment on DAB has got a bit out of hand!
I am in my forties, and grew up having the radio on rather than the
TV, and enjoy the fact that you can listen while doing other things
rather than be sitting passive in front of the haunted fishtank.
Hence the LW radio for the garage. I regret that the the kids of
today don't seem to do this, including my own. I used to work late
nights in a garage changing gearboxes etc, and we always had R4 on.
Perhaps strange but true...
I think when they first started messing about with the bitrates, R4 did go
into mono at times. I remember hearing Jenny Abramsky (on Feedback,
probably) admitting it had been a terrible mistake and promising that they
wouldn't do it again, honest. Since then the notion's been perpetuated be a
certain one-man anti-DAB campaign.
Like me, you probably remember when they turned the pilot tone off durng
And the fact that it still happens.
shows how it's all packed into the BBC mux, and how things have to be
squeezed when BBC 5LIVE SportX is added. (Scroll down to the BBC
Could you give me some concrete examples and I'll check out why.
Since I use this computer for audio related work, I've got both level and
phase meters attached, and can instantly switch from R4 DAB to FM (or
*I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
Dave Plowman email@example.com London SW 12
That's not always the case. The bitrate of Radio 4 and/or Radio 3
(gasp - no - surely not!) is reduced to make way for 5 live sports
Quite simply, if there's some sport on 5 live sports Xtra (and all
other channels are on-air), Radio 4 on DAB will be in mono, even if
the programme was made in stereo, and is stereo on FM.
What's more, BBC7 is always in mono on DAB, whereas its many stereo
programmes can be heard in stereo via FreeView and Sky.
If the option is available to you, Digital Satelite (a free package -
no contact with Murdoch is necesary!) or FreeView will bring you _all_
BBC radio stations at higher sound quality than DAB. Digital satelite
also gives you more (and in some cases better quality) commercial
The only use for a DAB "Hi-Fi" component is for folks who have no
other option. Portable radios are a different matter, but for a fixed
Hi-Fi, DAB loses to digital satelite on all counts (and to FreeView on
some, including quality and value!).
P.S. your question about digital radio wouldn't have been off topic in
alt.radio.digital which (despite the alt. name) is a UK dominated
Others have answered your specific query. Just a thought, but when
I've looked for digital clocks in the recent past a fairly high "must
have" feature for me is the ability for the clock to sync to the Rugby
time signal. I've got a cheapo (sub 10 pounds) sitting on my desk next
to the monitor and I know I can depend upon it being accurate.
This sort of sync would be particularly useful for a clock radio if
the mains fails and you have forgotten to replace the battery in the
recent past. If you have to get up for work the next morning it would
be nice if the clock figured out what the time was and remembered to
give you a nudge at the appropriate time.
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