Io credo di sì e penso che Jack Schofield abbia fatta benissimo a scrivere, sul Guardian, che l’FM analogica, in buone condizioni di ricezione (ma anche il DAB ha i suoi problemi di ricezione, fa giustamente osservare il giornalista), è superiore. Il suo non è un attacco indifferenziato alla radio digitale, Schofield invoca anzi l’adozione del DAB+. Ma la critica è puntuale e condivisibile. Se è la ricchezza di programmazione che cerchiamo, sottolinea inoltre l’editorialista tecnologico del Guardian, oggi la troviamo su Internet: se in casa tua puoi permetterti una economica Internet radio Wi-Fi, che senso ha sintonizzarsi sul DAB?
DAB radio leaves us with the worst of all worlds
Thursday November 15 2007
Don’t tell my wife, but for the past four months, she has been testing a DAB digital radio. It’s a double-blind study, because her complete lack of interest in technology means she doesn’t know if she’s listening to DAB or FM: the only buttons she uses are the on-off switch and the volume control. It’s objective because I have not asked her opinion: the “principle of quality” is whether things get used more.
All this started after I attacked DAB and a friend at Virgin Radio was shocked to find I didn’t actually have one. He loaned me a Pure Elan DX40, a low-end mains-powered table-top model. I installed it on the kitchen table, showed my wife the on-off switch, and turned it on. She turned it off. So it goes.
Bearing in mind the small sample size, these are my findings. First, convenience is DAB’s only real advantage. My wife ended up using the DAB radio rather than our old manual-tuning Sony FM/AM/LW ghetto-blaster, even though the Sony sounds better – the Elan DX40 has a thin and somewhat tinny sound.
Second, DAB doesn’t sound any better than FM, assuming reasonable reception. To my ears, DAB sounds worse than FM, even on the Elan, but my wife either didn’t notice or didn’t care whether I’d secretly switched the setting to FM.
I can understand some people claiming that DAB “sounds better” if they mean that they are not getting any FM hiss, crackles or whatever. But still, this is a matter of reception quality, not sound quality, and DAB can have its own reception problems.
Third, the extra DAB radio stations are not worth paying for, unless you really want something like BBC7, the BBC Asian Network, or GCap’s The Jazz or Chill. Even the most popular digital-only station, Emap’s The Hits, only gets a 4% share of “digital platform listening,” and 0.5% of all radio listening, according to Rajar, which measures radio audience figures. (2007, Q2).
And if you want this sort of station, you can probably listen to it already, without buying a DAB radio. The BBC stations and The Hits are among the 26 digital radio stations available on Freeview, and there are thousands more on the web. The bad news is that you can buy a Freeview box for less than the cost of DAB radio and you get a few dozen TV channels thrown in free.
It gets worse. We all know that content is king: if you want, say, Test Match Special or the latest grime, you will put up with mediocre sound quality rather than listen to Biber’s Rosary Sonatas in stunning stereo, or (in my case) the reverse. And if you want content, it’s on the net, usually in better-than-DAB quality. There are thousands of stations available, including customisable ones from sites such as Pandora and Last.fm. If you can get them all on a cheap Wi-Fi tabletop radio, does DAB still have a point?
We have the worst of both worlds. DAB could offer better sound quality, but the quality has been reduced below FM levels to make room for more stations, and it’s still falling. DAB could offer better programs, but the broadcasters are on a hiding to nothing if they switch people from a few profitable FM stations to many unprofitable DAB stations (expensive to run, small audiences, very little advertising).
Finally, the UK’s DAB system is old and technically obsolete, and I think it will eventually have to be replaced with the new world standard, DAB+. That was the point of my original attack. At the time, I thought that switching to the much more efficient DAB+, which will allow more stations and higher quality at lower cost, was DAB’s best hope. Now I wonder if even that will be enough.