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As consumers turn to Internet radio over digital radio in Australia, the OZ radio industry is set to start promoting the roll out of 40 new digital radio stations. However, transmissions from some stations only running at 64- or 48-Kbps, rather than 128.

The noticeably poorer quality sound is particularly prevalent in Sydney.

A recent SmartHouse research study revealed that 38% of consumers had listened or did listen to Internet radio Vs 1.5% who had purchased a digital radio. Only 7% said that they would consider the purchase of a digital radio in the future.

Despite this, digital radio gets an official nationwide kick-off today with 40 stations across the nation taking part in what’s described as a “world-first massive outside broadcast”. From 5.30am to 9am, there’ll be events in Sydney’s Martin Place, Melbourne’s Federation Square, Brisbane’s Redcliff Place, Adelaide’s Victoria Square and Perth’s Forrest Place. ABC, SBS and community stations will take part alongside the commercials.

Each location will have a digital radio “Listener Post” where radio manufacturers Roberts, Sangean, Yamaha, iRiver, Bush, Revo, Grundig and Pure will showcase a range of digital receivers.

Digital broadcasts using the high-quality DAB+ format in fact have been going since May in the five capitals, with Sydney the last city to join in.

 

The new format is claimed to deliver hiss- and crackle-free delivery, from a wider range of old and new stations but requires new receivers, with prices starting at about $140 and zooming to just under $1000 for the iPod-compatible Pure Avanti Flow, pictured.

There’ll be little rejoicing in regional cities like Cairns, Townsville, Albury, Newcastle, Wollongong, Port Augusta, Bunbury or Geraldton ­- let alone Hobart or Darwin ­- thanks to squabbles over scarce spectrum. ACMA has no plans to take digital into regional areas before 2013 ­ and probably well after ­ when the closure of analog TV may make more spectrum available.

And even in the five spectrum-blessed capital cities, there has been some disappointment with early reception. Promises of “near-CD quality” music are not being met in many cases, thanks to broadcasters failing to transmit in the full 128 kilobits per second slot each has been allotted. Some aren’t even transmitting in stereo ­ and many music lovers swear analog FM sounds significantly better.

One of the potential benefits of digital radio is that the DAB+ system allows the broadcasters to transmit information ­ like song titles, artists names, even CD cover artwork ­ for display on the more expensive receivers.

But broadcasting this material cuts into the station’s bandwidth: consequently some stations are transmitting music at 64- or 48-Kbps, rather than 128, with noticeably poorer quality sound.

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