Tech

DAB +: digital radio for cars, PCs and mobile phones


More stations and functions, interference-free reception and better sound: digital radio offers many advantages over FM. Our guide explains DAB + and Internet radio and explains how you can listen to digital stations on your notebook, mobile phone and in the car.

Music streaming, video on demand, television and telephoning have long been working digitally, but analogue FM reception is still the top priority for radio. But something is happening here too, as the latest digitization report from the state media authorities shows that around a quarter of all German households now also hear digitally. The fact that many people receive both analogue and digital radio is due to the many different devices and opportunities available: at home, at work, in the car and on the go.

This guide shows the advantages and disadvantages of digital reception and explains the very different technologies this term summarizes, what you should pay attention to when buying a digital radio, what options are available for retrofitting and how you can listen to the radio on vacation. Some neighboring countries are way ahead of the Federal Republic of Germany in terms of digital radio and have completely or partially discontinued FM broadcasting.

Due to the current situation, the focus is on “digital radio”, as the term is mostly used: in other words, with terrestrial reception via antenna as with VHF, just digital. Because from December 21st, the radios in new cars must support the DAB + digital standard. A similar digital requirement also applies to new stationary devices at home. The only exceptions are receivers without a display and those for which radio reception is a secondary function.

See also:

DAB + overview – the digital radio in Germany’s federal states

Digital reception via antenna, internet, cellular network or …

In principle, radio can be sent and received digitally in very different ways. The two most important technologies are DAB + (Digital Audio Broadcasting) and streaming over the Internet, often also referred to as “Internet radio” or “Web radio”.

How did the types of distribution differ? What both have in common is that compared to FM, they offer better sound, more stations, better and noise-free reception and additional information such as traffic data or messages in text form. Otherwise, however, “digital radio” and “Internet radio” differ in many ways: Depending on the state and location, DAB + can be used to listen to over 100 stations, but there are thousands from all over the world on the Internet. Web radio, on the other hand, requires an Internet connection – at home, via WLAN or via cellular network – while terrestrial digital radio works via antenna. You can find out where which stations can be received via DAB + under

www.dabplus.de/empfang
.

Overall, antenna reception, especially in rural areas, is better and more stable than streaming via mobile internet; According to the operator, the DAB stations reach up to 98 percent of the area of ​​Germany.

Web radio also consumes mobile data on the go: If you stream one hour a day, this adds up to around two GB per month, which costs an average of just under five euros each month. The reception of DAB + is free for the listener, provided a digital radio. Simple DAB devices start at 30 or 40 euros.

For the sake of completeness, digital radio reception via satellite and cable is mentioned, but both are rarely used.

Retrofit digital radio reception in your own four walls

New radios for the home that will be sold from the cut-off date shortly before Christmas must therefore offer digital reception. This does not affect existing receivers; you can also equip your living space with DAB + at a later date. Before you buy a digital or web radio or an additional device, check whether the existing stereo system may have DAB +: Many models from recent years do this. Then all you need is a rod or indoor antenna, which is available for ten euros. More powerful external antennas cost at least 20 euros.

But music systems that are not DAB-capable can also be digitally retrofitted. The device manufacturers often offer special additional tuners for high-quality hi-fi components, otherwise you will achieve your goal with additional DAB devices. You can find these on the Internet with the terms DAB +, adapter and stereo system. Depending on the version, manufacturer and price range, the audio signal is sent via Bluetooth, cinch cable, digitally via S / PDIF or optically from the tuner to the playback device. The adapters usually cost between 50 and 100 euros, the choice of devices is considerable, and a remote control increases ease of use.

In a similar way, depending on the adapter model, the music system can also be equipped with web / internet radio, web and DAB radio or even additionally with music streaming via Spotify and similar providers. Another convenient and inexpensive listening option at home is the Bluetooth transmission from the smartphone to wireless speakers or the music system. One of the many radio apps from the Apple app store or the Google Play store is sufficient for streaming. Practically all landline contracts offer unlimited data volume, and most Internet households also have WLAN.

DAB + digital radio is particularly convenient in the car

While you can listen to the radio at home using different reception channels, DAB + shows its advantages in the car: interference-free reception, no running costs – not even abroad – and more convenience. If you listen to one of the nationwide stations, you don’t have to adjust anything between Flensburg and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The frequency changes that are often necessary with VHF are a thing of the past. Retrofitting with digital reception is therefore particularly worthwhile in the car.

If the vehicle has a classic radio slot in 1 or 2 DIN format, the complete device change is a simple and inexpensive solution at around 100 euros. Otherwise, DAB adapters are also used here, but they differ from those for at home in their compact design, the 12-volt connection for the cigarette lighter and a bracket for the dashboard, window or ventilation slots.

The additional receivers themselves often cost between 50 and 80 euros, plus 20 to 30 euros for a glass antenna. If you want to use the existing FM antenna for DAB +, you need a special FM / DAB splitter. However, choosing the right model is not easy.

The additional DAB adapters are not nice as they result in two or three loose cables on the dashboard. The DAB adapter is more elegant

Dension DAB + U
, which is connected to the car radio via USB, ideally on the back. The adapter and cable then disappear completely in the radio slot or glove compartment. Before buying, however, you should check the compatibility of your own radio or car; the manufacturer leads to this

an extensive list
. This lists the radios installed ex works (“Original compatibility”) and those commercially available (“Aftermarket compatibility”).

The adapter alone costs around 140 euros in the current, third version, and around 170 euros with a glass antenna.

Digital radio under Windows on a notebook or desktop PC

Just like in the car, DAB + is also ideal on the go on notebooks and smartphones (see box below right) because, unlike web radio, it does not require an internet connection and does not use mobile data.

A DVBT stick is a prerequisite for reception: in addition to digital terrestrial television, this also receives digital radio. Because the DVB-T2 support required for TV operation in this country is not required for DAB +, you can also use an inexpensive “non-T2 receiver”. You can find it with the search term

RTL2832U

(for the chipset) on the Internet. On Amazon, the prices for a set of stick and antenna start at 20 euros, foreign online shops such as

AliExpress
or

Deal Extreme
.

Install the radio software on the Windows notebook or PC

wave.io
, connect the USB stick with the antenna plugged in to the computer and start the program. If welle.io reports the error “No device found”, start the tool without installing

Zadig
. Click on “Options -› List All Devices “in the menu bar and select the (first) entry for your USB DVB-T receiver. The designation, in our example “Bulk-In Interface”, is often not very meaningful, but the entry can be identified using the exclusion principle or by unplugging and reconnecting.

After you have selected the option “WinUSB (v …)” to the right of the green arrow, click on “Replace Driver” and wait until Zadig displays “The driver was installed successfully”. Close the tool and restart welle.io. The software should then recognize the tuner. You can start the station search by clicking on the three dots next to the still empty station list and “Start search” and then select and listen to one of the digital stations.

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