Radio in the car - a better experience | radioinfo

Radio in the car - a better experience

Tuesday 13 November, 2018
Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland


About 50% of all radio listening happens in the car (the figure’s lower in countries like the UK, but higher in places like the US).
In many ways, radio’s best in the car. Radio - the original multitasking medium - lets you concentrate enough to drive your 1,300kg (2,800 lb) metal death-machine along busy streets alongside soft, vulnerable fleshy pedestrians, while you enjoy an unfunny stunt from breakfast show presenters who are such awful people you’d never let them into your house.
Radio’s popularity in the car is clearly important to us as an industry. But the experience of a car radio hasn’t changed much since the original car radio in the 1950s. We have to remember two random numbers to listen to a radio station - a frequency and a preset number. Switching between FM, AM (and DAB) often changes the user experience entirely.
The experience for DAB is especially poor in most cars. My Toyota Prius (yes, I’m one of those) lists stations on DAB by service ID, not alphabetically; and lists ensembles separately.
In the US, HD2 stations offer usability issues in a car. If you want to listen to Bloomberg Radio in San Francisco, you need to tune to 103.7 FM, then wait a few seconds (no, really), then hit the ‘up’ button to find the HD2 signal. A triumph!
It’s good news, therefore, that someone’s trying to fix this on behalf of radio.
Radioplayer, the not-for-profit project that is now in many different countries including Canada, the UK and Germany, showed a research prototype last week in Berlin. It highlights how we in radio want the in-car experience to be.
Tuning is by station name, not by random frequency. Station names are announced by voice before the audio starts (good for your station’s brand awareness). Decent quality logos are on the screen while you listen. And, probably most importantly, there are no “band” buttons - if a station’s on FM, HD2, DAB or just the internet it gets equal prominence. The radio will even switch between FM and the internet if it needs to - and back again.
It’s just a reference design for now: but auto manufacturers already know how important a decent radio is in a car. Hopefully this will give them the information and the data they need to help make a better one.
This is important work for our future - and deserves our support.


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland


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16 November 2018 - 1:59pm
This article is largely irrelevant in Australia.
DAB is the original version of Digital Audio Broadcasting and is now only used in the UK. Australia was the first country (which was in 2009) to commence high powered DAB+ broadcasting. DAB+ has improved error correction which provides perfect reception when under the same conditions DAB sounds like bubbling mud. In addition we transmit digital radio at much greater power (The same as for digital TV). We also have on channel repeaters in black spots. In addition nearly all programs in Australia nearly all DAB+ programs are in stereo where as in the UK most are mono, because of inefficient compression.

HD radio is only used in the USA, where all the digital signals are between 1/10th and a 1/25th of the FM signal power. The HD Radio in the AM band interference makes the digital signal even weaker.

As a result HD2 - HD4 fails much more often in vehicles than does DAB+. In addition HD1 is a simulcast with the FM or AM signal. In poor signal conditions the radio automatically blends back to FM or AM.

In Australia listeners select programs by name and not frequency making logos less necessary, even so, some stations already transmit station logos without Radioplayer using of using mobile broadband to deliver logos.

The adoption of using Radio player which will switch to mobile broadband when digital radio signals is a poor solution to poor radio technology. It would not be necessary if they converted all programs to DAB+ instead of the 3 they have now.

A better option is to use Digital Radio Mondiale who's signal processing is very similar to DAB+ but it can operate in any frequency band from the Medium Frequency band (which is used by AM radio), through HF (Short Wave) through the vacated TV band 1 and on into the FM band. Its narrow transmission bandwidth compared to DAB+ enables many more transmission channels, so broadcasters can install transmitter in the centre of the audience through to worldwide coverage depending on the frequency and power used. DRM is capable of transmitting station logos and station selection by name and not frequency.

28 March 2019 - 1:29am
It is genuinely interesting, in having kicked around in the background of radio as nobody since the first AM two way i bought and a spectrum scanner in the mid 1980's i largely have no objection to DAB and SDR systems coming to existence since recently listening to news only channels.
Only last week i found that the market (retail) finally has 3 good model of DAB available at least
1. An AM/FM/DAB with external antenna and bluetooth wireless (around 200),
2. a world band SW ssb/FM/AM/DAB radio (around 200)
3. A very cheap priced 'mono" large portable shelf sized good reception (around 25 bucks) from a major cheap department store franchise
The last i have been listening to and using.
It has long been known that if the signal is there then UHF frequencies deliver some form of information in the signal with it.
However, both VHF and UHF have their problems but it is no surprise DAB because of the building of file segments of binary for temporary operation unlike the only moment the actual information is present is the moment the carrier has it and gone forever if it is missed !
However, the antenna remains the most subtle link in the chain.
It seems the sun is going down on FM stereo stations, but they have never had a proper omni-directional antenna.
But it does not mean you do not need a good one for DAB in the rain too.
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