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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

A Digital Radio, the Best Christmas Present

This street shop in Moroni has lot of radios, although no digital ones. There are currently DAB transmissions in over 40 countries, but not in Comoros.

A lot of people talk to me about digital radio. They know I work with media. Some seems to hate it, others are full of appraisal. But following Christmas Eve I have only heard great things. From a lot of people. Why? Because they just got their first DAB+ digital radio as a Christmas present. The official sales statistics are not out yet, but judging by the feedback I have got, a lot of Norwegians have discovered DAB+ radio under their Christmas tree in 2012.

There are some reasons that stand out when people tell me about their gifts. And they do so enthusiastically, so please excuse the widespread use of exclamation marks below.

1. – The sound is much clearer!

This is of course a debatable claim, as we have seen through repeated discussions following the launch of digital radio in the 90s. It all depends on the bandwidth the broadcaster allocate to each channel, the equipment on the receiving side as well as available signal strength and the space you are listening in. The higher the bandwidth, the better the sound. Keep in mind that most people compare the sound to their old FM radios and that most people listen while doing other things, moving around in a room or two. Most of the negative audio claims about DAB came from audiophiles who had enjoyed optimal listening conditions. They were typically sat between two high-end speakers connected to good receivers in an area with top signal strength and in an acoustically tailored room. Is this how you typically listen to the radio?

2. – I can finally change stations!

Some people claim that they didn’t dare to before, because the FM radio was tuned in just right and they didn’t want to risk losing the frequency. With DAB+ you will see the list of all available radio stations which you can easily switch between.

3. – The selection is so much better!

This is certainly true outside all major cities. In Naustdal, my home village on the Norwegian West Coast, you will get 5-6 stations via FM and 21 via DAB/DAB+. One of the FM stations is transmitting on FM only, but all modern DAB radios come with FM as well, so you don’t risk losing those odd FM only ones either. In addition, several radio station are digital only and cannot be received via FM. The number of such stations will only increase year on year. All of Norway is not covered via DAB yet, so some areas are still with FM only. NRK P1 covers the country best with 99.5% population coverage. DAB currently covers approximately 84% of the population, but by the end of 2014 99.5% will get at least 12 radio stations via DAB, 90% will get more than 30. Some areas in Norway do not currently have FM at all, but will finally get radio via DAB in early 2013.

4. – Car radio listening has dramatically improved!

Several people have told me that they will never again drive with an FM radio switched on after having tried DAB in their cars. The sound appears better (see the first point, and add that the car noises might also contribute) and they don’t repeatedly lose coverage. This is of course only valid on roads with DAB coverage, but more and more roads are being covered, many of which do not currently have FM. Road tunnels are also gradually being covered by the Norwegian Road Authority, as DAB there works as an emergency system too. If an accident happens or a fire breaks out, the tunnel controller can override the radio stations and tell motorists how to get safely out of the tunnel.

5. – Now I can see who sings that song I loved so much!

Metadata are being broadcast together with the DAB radio signal. That may at times offer the listener valuable information about artists, song titles or names of presenters, DJs or guests.

I could have added to this list myself, but that would’ve been bragging. Please feel free to add your own comments below though. And congratulations with your DAB radio, whether you already got it or soon will. Have an eminent radio 2013!

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