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Feature Article

Digital Radio

What is DAB?

Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is the new way to receive radio. In your home or on the move, it offers the next level in listening pleasure, with near-CD-quality sound, free from interference and, best of all for long-distance drivers, you don't need to retune just to keep listening to the same national station. As if that wasn't enough, DAB introduces text, data and even pictures alongside the terrific sound signal.

What do I need to listen to DAB?

You will need a compatible tuner (radio) unit. An increasing number of these are now on the market, including combination in-car units offering CD, MiniDisc and/or MP3 players. Alongside this, many units are now 'DAB-ready', so if you're upgrading one component in your in-car entertainment system, you'll be safe in the knowledge that you can add a digital radio later that will plug straight in and work.

A different type of aerial is required to receive DAB. DAB aerials are on the market, but at least for the time being we would advise a combination FM/DAB aerial, which gives you both options, particularly if you listen to one of the (decreasing number of) stations that doesn't currently transmit digitally or if you drive in an area that isn't yet covered.

What you don't need is a subscription - unlike satellite/cable digital television, DAB is free-to-air, with no further outlay required once you have your DAB receiver.

Can I get DAB now and do I have to?

At the time of writing, DAB broadcasts cover 80% of the UK population, with new transmitters pushing this figure up every month. Analogue (old-style) signals will be phased out and turned off eventually, but this isn't expected to happen until at least 2015. However, those in the industry don't believe the switch-off date is the key issue. Once people experience DAB, they're more than happy to switch because of the far superior sound quality alone, let alone all of the other benefits!

And once I have a DAB system? Is there anything to listen to?

There certainly is! A huge number of stations across the country have already gone digital, with more doing so all the time. In addition there are even more national and regional stations being launched, bringing a new level of diversity to the airwaves with something for everyone. Check out the following to see just what's on offer.

We would particularly recommend you visit Digital Radio Now, set up by the Digital Radio Development Bureau (which comprises all of the major broadcasters using DAB), and use its Station Finder to find out exactly what broadcasts are available where you live, work and play.

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