Tag Archives: DAB+

Richard’s initial impressions of the Sony XDR-S41D FM/DAB receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who recently attended a conference in Paris and picked up a Sony XDR-S41D. Richard writes:

The workshop closed around noon on Friday so I spent part of the afternoon walking around the nearby Darty consumer electronics and appliance store.

I wanted to buy a DAB/DAB+ portable receiver just to see what Europe was doing with digital radio. I bought a recently introduced Sony XDR-S41D DAB/DAB+/FM(with RDS) receiver for 79€ (about 11€ off list price).

I can use it in North America to listen to FM and take it with me when I visit Europe for DAB/DAB+ as well as FM.

It has reasonable sound from its 8-cm speaker and pretty good stereo sound on headphones. It has an automatic search mode on both DAB/DAB+ and FM and creates a list of available stations.

In my hotel room in the 13th arrondisement, I could receive 46 DAB+ stations. One of the stations is World Radio Paris (WRP) and they provide English language programming 24 hours per day from BBC World Service, Public Radio International, Radio France International, and Radio Canada International, among others as well as their own programming.

Another available station was Medi 1, which just dropped its shortwave transmissions. I recorded some of the WRP programming:

Audio Clip 1 (MP3)

Audio Clip 2 (MP3)

There is no line output from the receiver but I was able to use the earphone output and crank the volume to maximum to get an acceptable recording level without noticeable distortion.

Happy with my purchase and can’t wait to go back to Europe again, say to England, to try out DAB+ there.

I also spotted three receivers with SW capability on the shelves at the Darty store:

  • Panasonic RF-3500 for 45€
  • Brandt BR200D for 45€
  • Brandt BR120A for 15€

You don’t see SW receivers in North American consumer electronics stores anymore and I’ve not spotted any in airport duty free stores lately either.

I’ve been listening to the XDR-S41D at home and it sounds pretty good on FM, too, and does a good job of displaying the RDS information although a character or two is sometimes cut off the end of the data but that could be the fault of the station. Need to investigate that some more.

By the way, the radio doesn’t come with a case but I found (just before I was going to toss it) that it just fits in the magnetic-clasp case of one of those Air Canada amenities kits that they give you in business class (see photo below).

That’s the second Air Canada item I have recycled. They used to use full-ear headphones with disposable foam covers. They were a perfect fit for the deteriorating covers on my old Sony noise-cancelling headphones. I’ve since upgraded to Bose. 😉

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Richard! The Sony XDR-S41D sounds like a keeper for sure and is certainly compact enough to easily accompany you on travels to Europe. I was not aware of World Radio Paris either–I see they’re available via TuneIn, so I’ll add them to my WiFi radio station favorites!

Ofcom Calls U.K. Small-Scale DAB Trials Successful

dab-radioRadio World  reported on 9/30/16 that the British government’s Office of Communication sees value in small scale DAB technology and will likely allow permanent licensing for smaller stations:

Ofcom recently completed a trial of its “small-scale DAB” technology for 70 local and community radio stations. The official report that Ofcom created for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport deemed the trials “a success.”

Small-scale DAB is designed to allow smaller radio stations that were not able to afford the United Kingdom’s DAB radio platform go on the airwaves with available software and equipment for a lower cost, explains Ofcom.

The regulator concluded with its trials that small-scale DAB works and stations were able to coordinate with multiplex licensees. It also said the trials suggest there is a demand from smaller radio stations for this technology.

The U.K. government will look over the findings before determining the next stages, but Ofcom claims that it is ready to work on any necessary steps to enable small-scale DAB stations to be licensed permanently.

Ofcom added that it has been contacted by other regulators in Europe who have expressed interest in using the same approach.

Ofcom notes:

The new technique, known as ‘small-scale DAB’, allows local and community stations to hit the airwaves using freely-available software and equipment costing from £9,000.

Previously, these stations have broadcast on analogue AM and FM, but have been held back by the higher cost of broadcasting on the UK’s Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio platform.

We have also identified space in the airwaves that could support a UK-wide roll out of the technology, using spectrum bands previously occupied by business radio. Re-using these bands could pave the way for hundreds more stations to join the digital radio revolution.

This certainly seems like it could open up room for a good deal of alternative programming targeted toward smaller communities. It will be interesting to see the developments and the impact on the local radio community.

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.


Guest post: The future for radio broadcasting in Australia

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who shares the following guest post–an article he originally authored for the Australian DX News:


WHKY-AM-Radio-Tower

What Future for Radio Broadcasting in Australia?

By Phil Brennan, Darwin, NT

As we witness the worldwide decline in long wave, medium wave , shortwave and indeed FM broadcasting, it can be at times a slightly depressing exercise to ponder the future of our hobby.  As I write, just last week Radio France announced that it will soon cease all LW broadcasting.  There’s an on-line petition to save the service: this morning it had collected 770 signatures after one week. It was 769 until I sent my modest click across the universe L.

On the domestic front we’ve seen the pointy-headed bean counters in Canberra and their political masters take the knife to our national broadcaster to the point where Radio Australia now seems to be little more than a relay station for the ABC with barely any in-house production tailored for its audience.

With all this doom and gloom it was with some trepidation that I spied a recent Australian Government report entitled Digital Radio Report [1] which arrived via my email in-box through the excellent Australian Policy On-line resource.  The report was published in July 2015 by the Department of Communications and was conducted by the Minister for Communications under the Broadcasting Services Act and the Radiocommunications Act. Note: the Minister for Communications then was Malcolm Turnbull who is now Australia’s Prime Minister.

The report makes for an interesting read (for nerds like us) and provides some great insight into the bureaucracy’s thinking on the future of radio broadcasting in this country.  So while the report ostensibly considers the current and potential state of digital radio in Australia, in so doing it looks at the other forms of radio broadcasting and gives us a peek into the future.

The report broadly considers the following issues:

  • The current state of digital broadcasting and alternative forms, eg streaming services through the interwebs
  • Whether Australia should set a digital switchover date and close off analogue services; and
  • The legal and regulatory framework for digital services.

Like you would have dear reader I quickly scrolled through the report to see if it was recommending a full switchover to digital.  The good news is that this won’t happen anytime soon and perhaps not ever.  Phew! It seems Australia’s geography and sparse population works in our favour (for once).  Anyway, more on that later.

So what does the Australian radio broadcasting landscape look like at present?  Well for lovers of analogue radio it’s still looking pretty strong and it’s likely to remain that way for some time to come.  In the five big cities the 2014 average weekly audience for commercial radio services grew by 4.13 per cent to 10.1 million people.  That’s pretty impressive given the quality of the stuff they serve up each day.  Aunty’s (that’s the ABC to foreign folk) radio service reached a record 4.7 million people in 13/14, an increase of 155,000 listeners on the previous year. Well done Aunty!

All up there are 273 analogue commercial radio services (104 on AM, 152 FM and 12 outside the broadcasting service bands.  Community radio is going strong with 357 analogue services (13 AM and 344 FM) plus 244 narrowcasters (33 AM and 211 FM).  There’s lots of stuff still out there it seems.  Perhaps too much as the FM band is becoming very crowded in the major metropolitan areas.

There are 142 commercial digital services in the big capitals plus the two trial sites in Canberra and Darwin.  Interestingly a good proportion of the digital services are simulcast analogue services, for example 11 out 29 of the commercial digitals in Sydney.  Listenership of digital radio is growing slowly and steadily, reaching 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, primarily due to the growth of receivers in motor vehicles.

Streaming services are rapidly gaining ground with services like Spotify, Pandora and the new Apple Music picking up new subscribers each week.  The move by Aunty and the Special Broadcasting Service’s (SBS) to mobile apps for streaming content is also showing good growth. It would appear that to some extent this growth has been at the expense of terrestrial digital services, but audience data in this area is pretty sketchy it seems.

So what of the future for digital radio? Well it seems that for the present the public does not show a preference for digital radio over other forms. And while some European countries such as Norway with near total digital coverage are looking to switch off their FM services, some countries such as the UK have postponed their planned switchover to digital due to slow uptake by the listening public.

In Australia there are big interests such as SBS, Commercial Radio Australia and Broadcast Australia pushing for a switchover to digital as soon as possible.   Thankfully the report’s authors have listened to other bodies that advocate for a multi technology approach.  Significantly the report notes that while digital could match FM for coverage with a similar number of transmitters, it will struggle to match the coverage provided by the medium and high powered AM transmitters that reach the remaining population.  Digital Radio Mondiale and satellite digital radio technologies could increase digital’s coverage but are not considered viable.

Internet based services are not seen as a realistic alternative in the medium term due to high data costs, restricted wifi coverage, likely interruptions in high traffic areas and poor battery life on mobiles.  It’s likely that this will be a niche medium for some time.

So what does the report conclude and recommend?  Well, digital radio was only ever introduced as a complimentary technology and that will continue to be the case.  In saying that the report makes a series of recommendations to free up the rules so broadcasters can take up the digital option more readily.  DAB+ is the preferred technology so don’t go ordering a DRM set anytime soon.

Perhaps most interestingly, the report makes a major finding that there may be an opportunity to consider how analogue terrestrial radio coverage can be improved pending the roll out of digital radio.  This includes further research into how AM coverage can be improved in metropolitan areas and whether the FM spectrum can be made available in regional areas for new analogue services or switching existing AM services over to FM, potentially in lieu of the rollout of digital services.  For us lovers of analogue radio this is certainly good news, particularly if more high powered AM broadcasters hit the band.

Does this actually mean that analogue radio services are safe?  Well, governments have been very good at ignoring reports advocating for the public good and succumbing to the commercial interests with other agendas, particularly when it comes to media.  That said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the government to pull the plug on analogue anytime soon given the coverage issues in regional Australia.  However, when it comes to governments, the sensible thing to do is often viewed as the last option.

[1] © Commonwealth of Australia


Thank you, Phil, for your article and opinions! I agree–in a country with such vast expanses, analog radio still has advantages over other mediums. Comments?

Sweden (Again) Rejects DAB

Degen-DE27Digital Radio FM Europe blog is reporting Sweden wants to keep FM radio:

Parliament Confirms Rejection of DAB Radio in Sweden [updated]

Public radio continues on FM and will push for extending its remit to include digital radio online.

The Constitutional Standing Committee (KU) in Riksdagen (the Parliament) has processed the government missive regarding the 2015 National Audit review of digital radio in which the proposal for a transition from FM to DAB+ in 2017-2022 was rejected. After a short debate and without objection from any of the eight political parties Riksdagen today appended the missive to the protocol. This marks the end of 24 years of efforts to replace FM with DAB in Sweden.
Already in June 2015 the Government took the decision to reject the proposal for a digital transition for terrestrial radio. In November this was piggy-backed in the budget proposal to the Parliament.
——————–
This vote in the committee did not come as a big surprise as there has been an increasing skepticism in most parties against closing the FM band. A year ago in the consultation round the proposal was put into question or rejected by most qualified state institutions as PTS the telecom authority, KTH Royal Institute Of Technology, the Armed Forces, the Transport Agency and the Competition Authority as well as organizations as Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Ericsson and the Community Radio Assn.
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KU has been listening to the arguments for DAB+ from the two commercial networks and the public radio Sveriges Radio (SR) as well as critical comments by the Public Service Council. KU notes that the Government in its missive says that it cannot be ruled out that the question of digitalization of terrestrial radio will be on a future agenda. KU is satisfied with the Government plan to observe international developments. However, there was no other comments by the committee other than the missive should be appended to the protocol.
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This marks the end of 24 year period of futile efforts to introduce the DAB technology in Sweden. SR started testing DAB in Stockholm continuous since 1992 and officially went on air 1995 the same year as BBC introduced DAB in the UK.  2005 DAB was rejected for the first time by the social democratic government. Program have been broadcast in an inofficial mode via DAB and DAB+ transmitter in four major cities but few listeners are reported.
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Today up to a third of all listening on the public radio channels are on-line. This is much due to the high smartphone usage on 3G/4G LTE networks in Sweden. While forced to leave the DAB agenda SR will now request that the politicians will include its Internet activities in the next public service remit 2018.
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The two commercial radio networks Bauer and MTG still hold licenses to start DAB+ broadcasting later this year. But they are not expected to go DAB alone without having the public radio onboard. 60 % of the radio audience in Sweden is listening to SR. In the consultation round the DAB proposal was rejected by the community radio organisations.

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.


DAB Praha: Czech Radio begins digital broadcasting

Czech-Republic

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David Iurescia, who shares this news and audio report via the Radio Praha website:

“10:55 on Thursday morning was an important occasion in the history of radio in the Czech Republic as it was the exact moment that full digital broadcasting was launched in the country. The new network carries nine Czech Radio stations, some of which were previously only accessible online. For now the service is just available in the capital and Central Bohemia, but there are plans to roll it out to other parts of the country in the next few years.”

Click here to read the full transcript at Radio Praha.