Review: Talk Radio Goes DAB+, is this of any benefit?

You may be aware that Talk Radio and Talk Sport 2 have both converted to DAB+. DAB+ is a newer form of DAB, which uses the more efficient AAC codec. This allows for a more efficient use of the bandwidth available, allowing more radio stations to broadcast on a single frequency.

Both stations switched from 64 kbps normal DAB (mono LSF) to 32 kbps DAB+ stereo, allowing Times Radio to launch in the 64 kbps of space made available. Talk Radio ran dual transmissions on DAB and DAB+ for a time, to assist listeners with the switch, and this gave the opportunity to compare DAB against DAB+.

The switch to DAB+ does not appear to have reduced sound quality, although perhaps there is a slight reduction in clarity. What seems a little pointless are Talk Radio and Talk Sport 2’s stereo configuration, as both are near 100% speech based stations.

Perhaps, keeping DAB+ but reverting to mono may remove the slight clarity issue.This is in stark contrast with rival speech station LBC News, which although currently uses 24 kbps DAB+ (mono), did at launch use the same DAB+ configuration as Talk Radio and suffered badly from bubbling noises and was (and still is) extremely difficult to listen to. There is a possibility that radio stations encoding equipment can affect DAB+ sound quality.

On the whole, the Talk Radio and Talk Sport switch to DAB+ has enabled an additional station to launch, without sacrificing audio quality, and can only be beneficial for listeners. However, it was worth considering those who do not have a DAB+ compatible radio, who will need to replace this to continue to access Talk Radio and Talk Sport 2. Perhaps, with the launch of Times Radio using normal DAB, this could be described as a one step forward, two steps back scenario for some.

Two radios have been used to test Talk Radio on DAB and DAB+, a Sony portable mains unit, and a Roberts pocket DAB radio. Both gave similar results.

DAB+ for Talk Sport 2 and Talk Radio

Both Talk Sport 2 and Talk Radio have switched to DAB+ transmission on the SDL National DAB multiplex. Talk Sport 2 has made a direct switch, meaning some older DAB radios can no longer receive the service

Talk Radio has begun a period of dual transmission, with the new DAB+ service identified by a ‘+’ at the end of the station name. Dual transmission ends on 26th June, allowing some time for listeners to upgrade their radios if required.

Both stations have switched from 64 kbps mono, to 32 kbps DAB+ stereo. The use of stereo is unlikely to be of benefit as both services are talk based, but the changes free up additional space for new services, including the forthcoming Times Radio. Unlike some other DAB+ services which suffer from poor sound quality, Talk Radio and Talk Sport 2 do not appear to be affected in the same way.

Talk Radio, Talk Sport 2, and Times Radio are all operated by News UK’s subsidiary Wireless Group, who alos hold a 30% share in the SDL National DAB multiplex. SDL stands for Sound Digital Limited.