Digital radio switchover is happening all around the world. Today, many national stations are only available digitally. If your favorite station no longer broadcasts on an AM or FM frequency, you might need to switch to DAB radio.
What is DAB radio? DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcasting. It uses digital technology to transmit radio signals, which truly outperforms traditional AM and FM radios.
Unfortunately, there is no DAB radio in USA. If you want to get digital radio in the country, check out our article on HD Radio.
All About DAB Radio
1. DAB radio meaning
DAB means digital audio broadcasting. The technology digitized radio signals before transmitting, allowing them to maintain high audio quality and block out interference. To enjoy the service, you need to buy a DAB radio (or digital audio broadcasting receiver).
DAB is available in more than 40 countries, including Australia, the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Denmark, Netherlands, Hungary, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Africa but not the U.S.
2. Limitations of old radio technologies
The limitations of AM and FM radio are the interference and low audio quality.
AM transmits on long wavelengths so the signals can travel further, but they suffer from background interference.
FM transmits on higher frequencies, providing better sound quality than AM, but still lower than CD quality. In addition, bandwidth is limited on such frequencies, which restricts the amount of content and radio features that stations can send out.
3. DAB radio technologies
How does DAB radio work? It uses a digital transmission system to solve all these problems.
DAB has the same bandwidth as FM radio, but digital radio signals are less susceptible to channel interference, thus allowing it to squeeze more channels in.
Digitalization lets DAB radio stations broadcast in CD audio quality. Plus, there is little to no interference on digital radio frequencies. So, users won’t experience fading signals, background noises, hisses, or static.
How Do I Listen to DAB Radio?
In the past, the only way to listen to DAB radio is to purchase a DAB receiver or DAB/FM radio. When you have the device, you will tune in to the channel you like to listen to its content, just like an AM and FM radio.
But today, there are many ways to enjoy DAB service without a DAB tuner:
1. USB DAB radio
You can listen to DAB on your PC with a USB DAB radio. The device has the size of a USB. You can easily bring it wherever you go.
Just plug it into your PC’s USB port and you can enjoy the newest content on DAB. It also allows you to record the content you like and convert it into an MP3 file.
2. In-car DAB radio adapter
You can gain access to DAB radio even if you drive an old car. As long as your car has an FM receiver, you can turn it into a digital FM radio with a DAB radio adapter.
All you need to do is power the device via the cigarette lighter socket, fix it in the dash, secure the wire, and install the antenna.
Many apps on smartphones let you access DAB and Internet radio, such as TuneIn Radio.
You can download the app and listen on your phone. You can also connect your phone to your car via the aux-in port or Bluetooth to listen to DAB on the go.
The Difference Between DAB and DAB+ Radio
DAB+ radio is an upgraded version of DAB; it is more popular nowadays. It uses the same transmission and broadcasting technology as DAB but converts radio signals to digital signals in a different way.
DAB+ digital radio enables more stations to broadcast within the same bandwidth as DAB. In the UK, you can receive up to 60 additional stations.
To experience this upgraded version, you must have a DAB plus enabled radio. When you purchase a device, look for the green tick mark. The mark means digital radio enabled. These models can receive DAB, DAB+, and FM stations.
Is DAB radio worth it?
Yes, it is. Besides the improved audio quality and variety of channels, a DAB radio offers many interesting features.
- It can scan over the entire frequency range and present a list of currently broadcasting stations.
- It carries radio texts (song titles, music genres, artists, traffic, weather updates, and news). Digitalization allows a DAB to carry up to 128 text characters along with the audio.
- The local broadcasting time is sent along with DAB signals. So, the device can automatically correct its clock when you travel between time zones.
Does DAB radio come with any disadvantages?
No technical device is perfect. DAB has its flaws:
- Digital signal processing requires complex electronic circuitry. Thus, DAB portable devices have short battery life. They also consume more power when charging.
- Signal delays have always been around in the radio world. They apply to DAB radio, too. When you listen to live events, expect a few seconds of delay.
- If two listeners sit near each other (e.g., in different rooms of a house) and use DAB/FM radios at the same time, they will hear interference.
What channels are available on DAB radio?
Digitalization decreases the bandwidth needed for mono talk radio, news, weather channels, and other non-music programs. This allows DAB to squeeze in numerous channels.
You will find Fun Kids, JazzFM, BBC, Forces BFBS, Virgin Radio Anthems, Capital XTRA Reloaded, Capital Dance, Boom Radio, talkSPORT2, talkRADIO, Radio X – just to name a few.
As the era of digital radio approaches, many users have to change the way they listen to the radio. We hope our answer on “what is DAB radio” helps you find a suitable radio service.
So, DAB vs FM, which one do you choose? Join the discussion in the comment section below.