What is DAB+

A new form of digital radio broadcasting is now available in the UK: but what is DAB plus - and what do you need to listen?

By James Cridland
Posted 7 April 2016, 10.15pm bst

So, what's DAB+ all about? Here's a simple guide.

For a more technical view of DAB+, discover more about DAB+ in the UK.

What is DAB+?

DAB+ is a new form of DAB Digital Radio broadcasting. DAB+ uses a different way of transmitting the audio.

A DAB+ radio will receive old-fashioned DAB signals, as well as new DAB+ stations.

How can I tell if a radio works with DAB+?

  • Look for a DAB+ logo, or a Digital Radio 'tick', on the box or on the device itself.
  • If it is clearly for sale in other European countries (the box has German, Danish or Norwegian on it) it'll almost certainly get DAB+
  • If it is built-in to a car and the car was manufactured since 2014, it'll almost certainly support DAB+

To check for certain, turn the radio on and look for "Fun Kids UK" or "Magic Chilled". If you can hear these stations, your radio supports DAB+

Why is a DAB+ radio a good thing?

DAB+ lets radio broadcasters fit more stations on transmitters. That means more choice of radio stations, and can also mean better sound quality.

Are they using DAB+ anywhere else?

DAB+ is the standard form of digital radio broadcasting in many countries in Europe and Australia. The UK is relatively unusual in still broadcasting most services in the older DAB standard.

What happens to my old DAB radio?

With millions of older DAB radios still in use across the UK, and a relatively low replacement cycle, DAB will still be broadcast for years to come. But perhaps now's the time to upgrade: you'll find more stations available now and in the future.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 7 months ago

UK's next door neighbour in The Republic Of Ireland could have interesting developments for DAB+ in the short term!
Two of RTE's primary radio channels have additional capacity for simulcast DAB+ on the state broadcaster's multiplex. The additional test multiplex covering Dublin and Cork has DAB+ services on its ensemble.
Pointers seem to indicate that a DAB+ future is not far off in Ireland with its improving economic outlook!

5 years, 7 months ago

Have to say that the DAB+ feeds sound really good. It would be really good if we could push more DAB+ services. Although it means rendering some sets obsolete, if the industry truly wants a switchover they've got to render a great many more analogue sets obsolete in the process anyway.

Indeed this is happening in TV... Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky all have STBs that are now in some way obsolete.

I'd be interested to find out how many CRT televisions are still in use, and especially so how many of them have got a "smart" box plugged into them (YouView, Now TV etc.) Then I wonder how many are still 4:3. I can't think it's that many. Even my 92 year old granny had a full HD smart TV when she died (but no Internet connection.) But barely anybody had a flat screen TV 15 years ago, and only a few people had 16:9 sets.

If we could get services with sound quality comparable to a good FM signal I'd be all for an FM swtichoff personally.

5 years, 7 months ago

I'd be interested to find out how many CRT televisions are still in use, and especially so how many of them have got a "smart" box plugged into them (YouView, Now TV etc.)

I have a CRT 14" set in the kitchen with an old Freeview box, but I admit that it'll have to go at some point as it's too much hassle to get a HDMI to Scart converter to get a NOW TV box connected to it, when it's so much easier to buy a LED set which doesn't take up as much room.

As for DAB+, what I've heard from the SDL mux is slightly too low bitrate for my ears. Ideally those music stations would be 48kbps.

At least a classic DAB stream at 80kbps can sound adequate. I used to get frustrated when stations would drop to mono, but it's perfectly fine for when I listen to DAB, which is either when commuting or in the kitchen on an old Bush DAB receiver.

Indoors, linear DAB/+ & FM are largely redundant with internet listening accounting for 95% of my listening time. The NOW TV box has Tune-in, so I can listen to stations through my television without the need for Freeview/Sky.

5 years, 7 months ago

On Ireland - they're in quite a tough place re: DAB rollout.

There's a strong interest from RTE - as it helps with public purposes (though they don't have the money to rollout it everywhere)

Commercial radio's not really bothered - as they don't really want any more competition. There are no plans to advertise any commercial multiplexes from the regulator.

However, in the Republic you can buy radios, and their cars will have them (because of the UK). This will set up a situation v. positive for RTE as they get a free run at listeners sampling their new stations and consuming more RTE content at the expense of the commercial broadcasters.

5 years, 7 months ago

Matt, I was recently on holiday outside Buncrana in County Donegal, Ireland. There is currently no DAB reception yet from the nearby Holywell Hill transmitter.
I had to rely on a small Saorview television set in the cottage to receive all the RTE radio channels.
After all the years of listening to RTE Radio, it is pleasing to report they still do radio drama with Drama On One on RTE Radio One. The drama still has a sponsor, currently being Kia Sportage. Past drama sponsors on Radio Eireann included Cadbury's Fry, Jacobs Biscuits & even Lux Soap Flakes. The Radio plays are still good as well!

5 years, 7 months ago

RTE DAB only comes from four sites: Three Rock (10kW), Clermont Carn (5kW), Spur Hill (5kW), Woodcock Hill (5kW) - it's still very much in the test camp.

5 years, 7 months ago

In theory at least, the underdeveloped state of DAB transmitter rollout in Ireland should make a transition to DAB+ easier than it would within the UK!
Stating that, DAB is available in the most populated areas of the Irish state.
According to Mr Dusty Rhodes of DB Digital Broadcasting, the test multiplex is not being extended to Limerick as previously planned.

5 years, 6 months ago

Over the weekend my wife and I stayed in Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. There was no DAB coverage and the only stations I could clearly receive were BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 & 4 as well as Classic FM on the Holme Moss FM frequencies plus Stray FM on 107.8 FM and a fuzzy signal on 104.9 FM from Dales Radio.

So when talking about DAB+ in the UK we need to remember that there are still parts of Northern England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that currently have no access to DAB or even DAB+.

5 years, 6 months ago

Actually, some parts of rural Scotland do not even have FM reception.
FM debuted in Scotland back in 1956 with the transmitter opening at Kirk'O'Shotts, Lanarkshire. Some 60 years after launch, it can be assumed that existing FM reception blackspots will never be plugged on a terrestrial radio system!
As an example, a road trip on the rural A713 through hilly terrain from Ayr (Ayrshire) to Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfries & Galloway (D&G). FM radio reception is available at both start and finish ends of the A713, with FM signal blackspots in between, especially within the more hilly section of the D&G journey.
Assuming, there is a few examples of the A713 listening experience up and down the UK, DAB can be an enhancement over FM for solid reception in hilly, mountainous areas!
There are a few examples in rural Scotland where solid omni-directional signals from DAB is a lot smarter than FM's multipath distortions with hiss and twitter!

I honestly do not think DAB/DAB+ will ever have 100% per cent coverage in the UK! I think residents in Scottish But'n'Bens will have to rely on satellite or (if lucky) smart radios for reception!

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