Other things on this site...

MCLD
music
Evolutionary sound
Listen to Flat Four Internet Radio
Learn about
The Molecules of HIV
MCLD
software
Make Oddmusic!
Make oddmusic!

Wi-fi radio - better than DAB?

I've just read about some very interesting wi-fi radios. This wifi radio is a really good-looking object, with a very sensible-sounding design. It would be great to have something just like a normal radio but which can pick up internet-streamed radio from anywhere in the world!

This could blow DAB away, for in-the-home use at least. It does require you to have broadband wireless internet in your home, but then that's fast becoming the standard package that all the ISPs are offering.

I've always been suspicious of DAB radio, and puzzled as to why the UK government seems so keen to jump away from analogue radio to this digital replacement. The trumpeted advantage of DAB is that it's "perfect" digital quality, with no interference, but that is quite simply a lie. We have DAB radios in our house and they do get interference - if the signal is not strong enough you get a sound like blowing-into-a-milkshake. (And we live in London so it's hardly a poor-reception area!)

One definite advantage of DAB is that it will work well in cars and other mobile situations, since it doesn't suffer from the standard AM/FM problem of radio transmitters overlapping and interfering with each other, which means that if you're driving up the motorway you might have to retune to different frequencies simply to keep listening to the same station the whole way along. But then I don't drive so it's not much of an advantage for me. The only "advantage" I'm left with is the silly bit of scrolly text that is broadcast along with each DAB station's signal, which is just as annoying as scrolly text always is...

DAB has added drawbacks over analogue radio, including (1) the signal is delayed by different amounts by different radios, so they're not all in sync with each other, and (2) the technology involved is more expensive and convoluted (so, for example, the wind-up radios pioneered by a British inventor would not be so cheap or durable if they were DAB).

So anyway - the advantages of these new wifi radios over DAB are clear to me. (1) There should be no interference at all, since it's coming down your telephone line - although of course the "reception" depends on your internet connection and your wireless router both being generally reliable. (2) You can listen to a whole variety of radio streams, not just streams published by people with radio broadcast licences - should open up a whole palette of amateur and semi-amateur stations to tune in to. (3) And you can listen to streams from around the world, not just UK stations. (I'll be able to listen to RUV, for example, the Icelandic equivalent of the BBC.) I should admit though that the two DAB disadvantages I mentioned above are also disadvantages for wifi radio.

Someone pointed out elsewhere, that the system I referred to earlier relies on the company's website to provide an up-to-date database of radio streams. That means that they can in theory filter or control the list of stations that appears, and also that if they go out of business the unit may become useless. Definitely worth bearing in mind! However, I would hope (and this is only a hope, nothing like a certainty) that it might be possible to reverse-engineer the communication so that it could be possible to update the list yourself.

| technology | Permalink

social