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Volume 6 No. 4
FM Radio And DAB
Editorial By Paul Messenger


HIFICRITIC Volume 6 Number 4 October / Deceber 2012  As a journalist interested in news stories, I guess I should be grateful for the whole DAB saga and the threats of FM radio switch off, as the topic has kept me in stories since at least 1998, and still shows no sign of reaching any sort of conclusion. Some idea of the political chicanery surrounding the whole mess is found in Robert Sindenís feature starting on page 11, but the implications for us, as the PB consumers, are equally exasperating.

A decade or so back I bought myself an FM-only Magnum Dynalab tuner. I half expected it would become redundant within five or so years, as the DAB steamroller was well under way, but part of me couldnít really believe that any government would be stupid or vainglorious enough to switch off the FM network. Ten years on I can look back with a degree of smug satisfaction, that the purchase has been thoroughly worthwhile, and could well continue giving fine service for another decade.

I love radio, but only ever really listen regularly to the BBCís Radios 3 and 4. DAB does occasionally come in handy for excursions into 5 Live, but the various TV platforms and the internet cover the same ground these days, and actually do a rather better job.

DAB was always on a losing streak, because it got locked in to a very early form of digital compression, with no way of changing to keep up with the march of progress, which as anyone who uses a computer these days will know has been rapid and inexorable.

At the same time, FM radio still has a great deal on its side from so many points of view, it seems quite ridiculous to contemplate switching it off. And although I donít have the stats to prove it, I reckon far more FM than DAB radios are actually currently being made in one form or another. I daresay that very few actual hi-fi FM tuners are sold these days, but nearly all cars and mobile phones come complete with built-in FM tuners. And of course thereís a vast population of existing tuners, table radios, clock radios and so on that continue to work perfectly well, many years after they were originally made. Indeed, sitting beside my bed is a Hacker Sovereign that must be at least fifty years old, yet it still provides excellent service and rather impressive sound quality, and is used nearly every day. The crucial factor that those who decided we all wanted digital radio overlooked was that, unlike TV sets, cassette decks, CD players and (especially) computers, old radios simply donít die or even become obsolescent. They have no moving parts and simply carry on more or less forever. Letís just hope that theyíre allowed to.


Paul Messenger


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