Awards

  • Recommended by TR

Summary

Our Score

9/10

Review Price free/subscription

DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) radio is something of a lost child when it comes to digital technology. While the government is speeding towards the final 2012 switch-off date for analogue TV, there aren’t any plans on the table to turn off analogue radio. Though things are beginning to pick up, it’s fair to say that digital radio hasn’t grabbed the nation in quite the same way as digital TV. In many resepcts that’s a shame. Digital radio is easier to use and as the latest adverts claim, hiss and crackle free. Similarly, when CDs were the latest thing, I can remember London's Capital FM having a special jingle if a particular record was broadcast, “crackle-free on CD”. Now DAB broadcasts are claimed to be better quality and, the theory goes, less affected by adverse weather conditions. Digital radio can also carry useful extra information, such as the currently playing record as text and it’s dead easy to tune into a station: just pick one from the list.

In reality though, DAB has problems. First of all, coverage is an issue. Currently around 85 per cent of the UK can get some form of DAB but only 75 per cent of the country can get BBC stations {Update - the BBC has contacted me to say that its DAB coverage now stands at 85 per cent, with plans to extend this to 90 per cent. Which is nice.} In the TR offices in Bracknell we get no DAB signal whatsoever, though our FM and TV signal is fairly appalling too. In my house though, I get a good DAB signal. Before you buy then, you should check if your post code, has coverage on this page here.

Even assuming you do get reception though, it’s marketing nonsense that DAB radio is free from interference. It is, when you have a very strong signal. If you don't you get lots of rather nasty digital gurgling noise as the signal drops in and out, which many will find more objectionable than the hiss and crackle of dodgy FM coverage. If you're lucky enough to get a strong signal you’ll find that DAB broadcasts can sound very good indeed, but then the same can be said for FM.

Secondly, the outstanding quality that was promised early on has been replaced by the sell of more stations, with bit-rates cut to accommodate them. The highest bit-rate stations are Radio 3 on 192Kbps and Capital on 160Kpbs. All the rest make do on 128Kbps, while the talk stations make do with 64Kb mono.

In my tests however, I found that while I couldn’t get perfect DAB reception all over the house, or walking round my area, it was generally better than FM. It was generally clearer and crisper than FM with better stereo imaging and depth. So despite my gripes with some of the marketing and the dodgy coverage, given the choice, I would choose a DAB unit over an FM radio.

So onto the radio on test. The MPIO PD100 earns points straight away for being smaller than the Sony DAB unit I tested here and it weighs only 106g. The standard LCD screen isn’t as cool as the Sony but the silver casing competes well even if it is plastic. Like the Sony, the MPIO offers FM radio reception for when DAB signals are hard to come by.

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