Happy Summer/Winter Solstice: Listening to New Zealand and Australia

Australia-NewZealand

I’ve been on the road a lot lately. A lack of time resulting from this, combined with frequent afternoon and evening thunderstorms when I am home, has meant that I’ve not had the radio time I often enjoy.

This morning,  I woke up around 5:50 AM determined to get a bit of time on the radio. After all, today is the first day of summer here in the US, and a special day for me. I walked outside and hooked my antenna back up; I had been forced to disconnect it yesterday as pop-up thunderstorms persisted throughout the afternoon and evening.

I then brewed a cup of coffee and settled into my “listening lounge” for some early morning tuning.

Elad-FDM-S2-Coffee

I started off this morning off by tuning the Elad FDM-S2 to Radio New Zealand International on 9,890 kHz in DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). I was treated to one full hour of Peter Fry’s Saturday Night music; the DRM lock was completely stable.  Though I prefer the sonic characteristics of AM over digital modes, I’m most impressed with the audio quality DRM affords coming from a 50 kW signal being broadcast on the other side of the planet. The quality is so exceptional that, if you listen carefully, you can even hear the news reader shifting papers at the top of the hour.

That got me thinking: I’m flawlessly receiving and decoding a wireless digital audio signal from 13,500 kM away. Amazing. Especially considering that my laptop struggles to receive Wi-Fi in many hotels.

RNZI signed off after an hour, so I switched modes to AM and tuned to Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz.

BombersAs I had hoped, RA was broadcasting the second half of the AFL match featuring the Essendon Bombers who ultimately held a nine-point win over the Adelaide Crows. Alas, Radio Australia dropped the signal before the end of the final quarter, but I was able to watch the results roll in on my iPhone while making waffles in the kitchen. If this had been a World Cup match, I would have scoured the shortwaves for another Radio Australia frequency.

Immediately after tuning in RNZI, I hit the record button on the FDM-S2 (around 5:55 EDT/9:55 UTC) and didn’t stop the recording until after Radio Australia signed off, so there is a 30 second silence in the middle while I tuned and switched modes from DRM to AM.

Click here to download my full 2+ hour morning recording, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Depending on which hemisphere you live in, I hope you enjoy this summer–or winter– solstice.

As for me, I’m looking forward to a happy birthday with my family.  Cheers!

Shortwave Radio Recordings: Radio New Zealand International (DRM)

This morning, while scanning the 31 meter band, I noticed a DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) signal on 9,890 kHz. Normally, I ignore most DRM signals because the amount of signal strength needed to properly decode the mode (here in the US) is simply too low for pleasant, artifact-free copy.

Still, I thought I’d give the new Elad FDM-S2 a try, so I changed mode from AM to DRM.

RNZI-DRM-003To my amazement, the FDM-S2 quickly decoded the signal and produced excellent audio from Radio New Zealand International.

I assumed the decoding lock would not hold, but I was wrong; indeed, I believe there were only one or two significant drops in the 40+ minutes I listened. This may be a very good sign from the FDM-S2, even if propagation was above average.

I’m not a big DRM listener, but that’s mainly because there is so little to hear on the bands. The real test will be All India Radio in DRM–I’ve never managed to get a consistent lock on them from here in eastern North America.

Still, I’m pleased as punch that I can so easily copy RNZI–one of my favorite international broadcasters–in DRM.

Here’s a recording of the broadcast starting at 11:18 UTC on June 14, 2014. Click here to download the the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

SABA conference to feature special DRM broadcast from Ascension Island

SABA

(Source: DRM Consortium via Alokesh Gupta)

The DRM Consortium is a Sector Partner at The Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), Digital Radio Broadcasting Summit in Cape Town from 22nd – 24th April. The event will include a presentation by the DRM Chair, Ruxandra Obreja, on April 22nd at 11.50am and a dedicated DRM workshop on the 23rd April, from 4.00pm to 5.30pm under the title “The DRM Platform: A detailed and practical look at its superior functionalities and flexibility”.

The workshop will offer a live demonstration of DRM30 with a two-hour BBC broadcast, from Ascension Island – a site managed by DRM member, Babcock – to Southern Africa carrying BBC World Service English from 13:30 to 15:30GMT/UTC (114 degrees) 21735 kHz.

During and after the workshop DRM representatives and South African DRM supporters will be available to meet you and explain the features and to answer any questions.

The DRM Consortium has already been present at SABA events in Johannesburg and in Arusha (Tanzania) last year. The DRM standard is the only global standard which can be used in all radio frequency bands and is ideal for the large countries of Southern Africa. From national networks and regional stations to smaller commercial and community stations, all are able to broadcast their digital radio programmes with enhanced content and in excellent sound quality to everyone in their respective countries, regardless of whether people live in large cities, in small towns or villages.

BBC World Service features DRM

In this BBC World Service report, Mark Whittaker explores Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and, especially, its potential in India. Use the embedded player or link below to listen:

(Source: Audioboo via Tarmo Tanilsoo on Facebook)

drmlogoYou’ll note the BBC World Service fails to mention that DRM has been in use now for over a decade.

The report ends by suggesting that portable DRM receivers will be on the market in a few months. Even if DRM radios start appearing, whether or not they’ll be effective and inexpensive remains to be seen. So far, portable DRM radios have been mediocre performers (at best) and relatively expensive.

Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see DRM take hold, I just have my doubts. DRM might stand a chance if a manufacturer like Tecsun were to build an inexpensive portable radio, with a form factor much like that of their other portables. If they made a DRM version of the PL-380, for example, it could be a winner for both the company and the medium/mode.

By the way, if you’ve never heard what DRM sounds like over the shortwaves, I just posted a fifty eight minute recording of All India Radio on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Contributor, Mark Fahey, recorded the broadcast from his home in Australia.

I’ve embedded a link to the audio below, but you can listen to the broadcast and read Mark’s notes on the shortwave archive (click here).

Extended HE-AAC: DRM to upgrades audio codec

drmlogoMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mike, for sharing this news item on RadioInfo:

(Source: RadioInfo)

The latest upgrade to DRM’s audio codec was demonstrated in a presentation at this week’s Digital Broadcasting Symposium in Kuala Lumpur.  Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is the first global broadcast standard to adopt the Extended HE-AAC (xHE-AAC), which promises improved quality for DRM broadcasts in SW, AM and FM.

Alex Zink, the Senior Business Development Manager for Digital Radio at Fraunhofer, outlined the benefits of DRM in emergency situations, particularly the ability of DRM transmissions to signal receivers to turn on automatically and deliver emergency warning messages in a crisis.

“Unlike consuming radio on a smart phone, there is no gatekeeper in between digital free to air broadcasting and the consumer,” said Matthias Stoll in his presentation during the afternoon workshop.[…]

Read more at: http://www.radioinfo.com.au/news/new-audio-codec-drm-digital-symposium-2014 © Radioinfo.com.au

Outernet: shortwave radio for the smartphone enabled?

There’s a new project in the works, Outernet, that aspires to bring the international accessibility of shortwave radio along with the versatility of the Internet. Outernet’s goal is stated on their website:
OuterNet

“By leveraging datacasting technology over a low-cost satellite constellation, Outernet is able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy, and offer a universally-accessible information service at no cost to global citizens. It’s the modern version of shortwave radio, or BitTorrent from space.”

It’s a fascinating concept: deploy low-cost, CubeSat satellites which broadcast data in a way that it should be accessible to anyone with a wi-fi enabled device such as smart phone or computer. Specifically, Outernet states that they will be using, “globally-accepted, standards-based protocols, such as DVBDigital Radio Mondiale, and UDP-based WiFi multicasting.”

(What?  Did they say Digital Radio Mondiale?  They did indeed.)

I’m all about freedom of and access to information, so I hope Outernet is successful. They’ve published an ambitious timeline with a goal of having CubeSats ready to deploy as soon as June of 2015. For more information, check out Outernet’s project page.

Chorus 4: The DSP chip that supports AM, FM, DAB, DAB+, HD Radio and DRM

FrontierSiliconThe London-based digital solutions company, Frontier Silicon, has announced a new DSP radio chip that offers a wide array of available modes and is even DRM ready.

I have seen no specifications for this chip yet, and do not know if it covers the shortwave radio spectrum.

Still, this might be the perfect chip to allow radio manufactures to design an inexpensive, fully digital product in countries where digital platforms are gaining strength (anywhere from the UK to India, for example).

Many thanks to Rob De Santos for apprising me of this. I’ll post the specifications when they become available. Read the full press release below:


(Source: Frontier Silicon Press Release)

Chorus 4 a single-chip solution, integrating four previously separate chips

London, 17th December 2013

Frontier Silicon announces details of Chorus 4, its next generation digital radio chip. Chorus 4 is a single-chip solution, which integrates four previously separate chips to deliver significant cost and energy consumption savings.

Chorus 4 is the fourth generation chip from Frontier Silicon. The chip is designed to encourage the continued advance of digital radio around the world by supporting all major global digital radio standards. Chorus 4 provides solutions for multiple devices, including consumer radios, the automotive aftermarket and, for the first time, smartphones and tablets. The company’s previous solutions have already powered over 20 million digital radios worldwide.

The key features and benefits of Chorus 4 are:

  • Low cost, single chip solution: integration of RF front-end, baseband, application processor and DAC (“four chips in one”) delivers significant cost savings which enable high quality, entry-level price point digital radios
  • Ultra-low power consumption – one month’s listening for 5-6 hours a day on a portable radio with four D cell batteries (comparable to FM performance)
  • Multiple solutions for portable and table-top radios, smart-device docks, wireless speakers, hand-held receivers, sound-bars and audio systems
  • Automotive aftermarket – solutions for head units, integrated convertors and low cost adapters
  • Smart devices – enables digital radio solutions for mobile phones and tablets
  • Bluetooth connectivity – connecting smart devices and digital radios to enable hybrid radio (with interactivity and additional content delivered via IP), music streaming and remote control
  • Integrated service guides – new software will enable listeners to select stations from a single list of digital and analogue stations regardless of platform
  • Multiple radio standards – including support for AM, FM, DAB, DAB+, HD Radio and DRM

Digital Tick compliant – Chorus 4 solutions meet all technology requirements of the UK minimum specifications for both domestic and automotive digital radio devices.
Frontier Silicon CEO, Anthony Sethill, said

“Chorus 4 represents a step change for the digital radio market. After ten years of development on this and previous solutions, we now have our fourth generation chip – an integrated, single chip offering enhanced functionality, lower cost and significantly greater energy efficiency. Chorus 4 will power multiple devices, including low cost automotive adapters and devices with Bluetooth connectivity. For the first time, digital radio in mass deployment smartphones will become a viable proposition. As a multi-standard chip, Chorus 4 will address emerging opportunities around the world. I look forward to working closely with broadcasters, transmission operators and device manufacturing partners to address these exciting opportunities.”

About Frontier Silicon Limited

Frontier Silicon is the world’s leading supplier of integrated circuits and modules for digital radio and connected audio products. Frontier Silicon is part of the Toumaz Group, a pioneer in low-power wireless semiconductor and software technologies for the consumer audio and wireless healthcare markets.

The group is headquartered in London, England, with design centres in Oxford, Cambridge, Hong Kong and Romania. The company also has sales and technical support teams in Hong Kong, China and Japan.

Frontier Silicon’s audio products offer solutions for DAB/DAB+, Internet radio and connected audio – from silicon through software to production-ready platform designs.

Customers supplied by Frontier Silicon include Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Bush, Denon, Dual, Geneva, Goodmans, Grundig, Hama, harman/kardon, Hitachi, JVC, Magic Box, NAD, Onkyo, Panasonic, Philips, Pinell, Pioneer, Pure, Revo, Roberts, Ruark Audio, Sangean, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, TEAC, TechniSat, Tivoli Audio and Yamaha.

Frontier Silicon is a trademark or registered trademark of Frontier Silicon Ltd.