Absolute Radio goes mono on DAB

By Brian Winter
Posted 5 January 2015, 12.43pm est

I have just read an article in Radio Today that Absolute Radio has now been reduced to 80 Kbps mono. I rarely listen to Absolute radio, but given that it currently uses 1215 KHz and adjacent frequencies on medium wave, this is not, in my view a good move. It is a good quality music station and surely that deserves stereo. I can only hope that this is a temporary situation until Digital 2 is up and running, but if not, then, as has been said in some of the Facebook comments under the Radio Today story, it is a bad day for DAB and another nail in its slowly being built coffin.

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4 years, 11 months ago

Or is it? Especially considering that most people's means of listening via DAB is on a device with a single speaker, placed in the corner of the room. As for stereo in the car, you don't actually get the full stereo effect because you sit to far to one side, not to mention the noise of the engine and tyres hampering the audio quality.

I remember the days when I listened to Virgin Radio in glorious stereo via SKY News' sub carrier and later via SKY digital satellite but at all other times I had to pt up with medium wave, there was no DAB stereo at that moment.

These days if I REALLY want to hear Absolute Radio in glorious stereo between my ears with either headphones or if I sit bang in the middle between two speakers and do absolutely nothing else with my time at that moment, then I can use the internet or Sky. Alternatively, I can enjoy the music played on Absolute in super CD quality by actually listening to the CD's.

4 years, 11 months ago

I don't own a single radio set with one speaker, unless you count my phone on loudspeaker.

4 years, 11 months ago

I don't own a single radio set with one speaker

That's not the point, really. The question is whether you listen with an effective stereo image, or whether going mono makes little difference.

As an example - I have an effective stereo setup in my living room, but not in the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom, all of which have radio sets with only one speaker. In the office, I have a Bluetooth speaker which is stereo but is only ten inches long, and doesn't give me an effective stereo image at all. The car is a perfectly good stereo image, as are - of course - my headphones.

As this stands, therefore, I'll only notice the mono signal in the front room, the car (except I'll be on FM), headphones and partially notice it in the office. Those combined are around 15% of my total radio listening. The majority is in the bathroom and kitchen.

Do I think it's sad? Yes. Do I think it'll make a difference to most people? Nope...

4 years, 11 months ago

Bauer's decision to reduce Absolute Radio to 80 kbps mono has sparked an interesting debate about DAB sound quality and the radio stereo listening experience . In truth this has little to DAB as a transmission technology . DAB can deliver excellent sound quality when you dedicate sufficient capacity . This is demonstrated by many commercial stations and all the BBC National and Local DAB stations . The BBC music DAB stations are stereo and Radio 3 is broadcast at a heady 192 kbps for it's golden eared listeners and their advanced systems . I believe that Bauer faced with limited DAB capacity made the decision to offer the widest possible choice of their stations nationally by sharing the available DAB bandwidth between them . The upside for listeners is they can now listen to Magic nationally on DAB - good news - but one of the consequences is a reduction in kbps for Absolute Radio. For the vast majority of listeners the addition of services outweighs the benefit of sustaining a potential higher sound quality on an existing station . Absolute Radio is not available nationally on FM and is still a better experience at 80kbps on National DAB than on MW . Absolute Radio is available at 112 kbps on London DAB and of course is available online . The success of National DAB stations has boosted demand from commercial broadcasters for capacity and clearly more capacity is required . D1 is full but the D2 licence will be awarded next year and will provide valuable additional capacity with the opportunity to get some increases in effectiveness through the introduction of DAB+ transmission . It is perhaps significant that Bauer is bidding for the new national DAB capacity as part of the Sound Digital consortium . As James has said above in truth few listeners are listening to true stereo and indeed the majority of domestic radios sold and in people's homes are mono . This isn't to negate the importance of sound quality , it's really important and DAB can support extremely high quality - it's just at this point broadcasters are having to make a choice / quality trade off . The continued growth in DAB listening and ownership would suggest that for the vast majority of listeners at the moment they are getting that trade off just about right

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