Compared to AM, DAB+ has vastly superior audio quality. It’s essentially like travelling to your favourite AM station and camping outside the studio, listening to the direct monitor feed. What’s more, since voice gets away with a lower bitrate than complex music, stations will be able to split their signal and pipe several channels at once.
Three football games you really want to follow? You no longer have to rely on the station to choose when to cross to each game: the signal will split, and all three will be available for you to select. What’s more, a radio text layer will display live scores on the radio’s screen.
DAB + vs FM radio
The older DAB system used in Europe was actually inferior to FM in terms of pure audio quality. But DAB+ uses a better compression system, and stations can choose to dedicate most of their bitrate to a specific channel if they want to provide a very high-fidelity audio experience.
Because DAB+ can change the bitrate on the fly, you might listen to a discussion on Mozart on ABC Classic Digital at 64kbps, and then the actual concerto that plays immediately afterward will be boosted to 128kbps.
DAB+ also supports MPEG Surround, so it will be possible for broadcasters to create immersive live concert experiences by piping the crowd to your rear speakers.
What about DAB+ in the car?
Initially, there won’t be head-units with integrated DAB+ for car audio. Instead, you’ll use a separate module that sticks onto the windscreen like a GPS unit. These units will connect to your existing incar system via an aux plug, though if you’re pressed you can also have the DAB+ module rebroadcast to your car’s analog tuner via FM.
That’s hardly ideal of course, but it will massively improve AM reception, and of course you’ll get all the other benefits, such as an increased number of channels and meta-data on the module’s display. Initial in-car units will cost around $299.
Digital radio buyers guide – digital radio makes its debut in May, promising better quality and a range of new features not available from current radio broadcasts.