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.

Review: +1 Channels – Are they still needed?

On demand content access has improved significantly in recent years, so I thought it would be useful to evaluate if there is a point to keeping these channels.

+1 channels of the likes of ITV and Channel 4 were established to allow viewers to catch a show that they might have just missed the start of. They have historically also been used as placeholders, pending the launch of new channels. They can be found on all major TV platforms, including Freeview.

Subsequently, nearly all TV channels have developed an on demand platform. These allow viewers to catch up on missed programmes for between 7 and 30 days (sometimes longer) after they were first broadcast. Well known catch up services include BBC iPlayer and My5.

Despite this, many +1 channels still exist. For those with recorder boxes which can only record 2 programmes at one time, the +1 channels can assist with reducing scheduling conflicts. However, as programmes are often repeated several times, there are ways around such an issue without +1 channels.

With advances in 4G and 5G mobile data, catch up services are become more accessible to smartphones and tablets. Arguably, this further reduces the need for +1 channels, as TV programmes can be accessed from any location.

Ironically, Freeview frequencies are being reallocated to 5G. Therefore, many +1 channels are likely to have to make way to ensure all channels can continue to broadcast. This means, on Freeview at least, +1 channels are unlikely to stay much longer.

I can’t find a particular need for +1 channels, and while they can at times be useful, I would rather see the space occupied by these channels put to better use.

 

Review: Humax HDR-1800T 320GB Freeview+ HD Smart Digital TV Recorder

Photos to follow.

The Humax HDR-1800T is Freeview HD personal video recorder (PVR) box, allowing you to record Freeview TV programmes to watch later. It is compatible with the latest TVB-T2 standard, allowing you to watch Freeview HD services.

This box can also be connected to the internet (via cable), allowing access to streamed channels and additional content. The device also has a USB port, allowing you to watch content from a USB memory stick or portable hard drive. Weirdly, the USB port is located on the back of the device, making access a little difficult.

As tested, the Humax HDR-1800T cost £139.99 from Argos (catalogue price may differ), and performed extremely well. Unlike some Freeview devices, this will work well with a correctly positioned indoor aerial. All available channels were receivable via this box, and recordings took place as expected. Within the menu, there is also an option to add on a buffer at the start and end of recordings, if you find that recordings start late or stop early cutting off parts of the program.

The interface is clear and easy to use, with simple menus and clear graphics. Menus are simple and easy to understand. The remote also features decent size buttons and is comfortable to use.

Overall, the Humax HDR-1800T is well priced and represents great value. The USB on the rear is a minor irritation, and no faults were found elsewhere. Guide price £140.