Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Crystal Set: Louis Barfe Discovers Some Surprising Advantages to Going Digital. (Radio)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Crystal Set: Louis Barfe Discovers Some Surprising Advantages to Going Digital. (Radio)

Article excerpt

The primary selling points for digital audio broadcasting (DAB) are choice and sound quality - "crystal-clear digital sound", as the adverts tell us ceaselessly. Having overcome the teething problems with my digital set that I wrote about a couple of months ago, I'm not sure either of these holds true.

Although there are plenty of stations, especially if you live in London, that have five multiplexes stuffed to bursting, too many of them sound exactly the same, and play only contemporary chart pop. One new national digital-only service, The Core, is alarmingly similar to London's Capital FM or any number of local commercial stations.

As for the promised CD-quality sound, oh dear. ITN's rolling news service on Digital One is not so much "crystal-clear" as "crystal set". That's what comes of over-stuffing the multiplexes.

Oneword (www.oneword.co.uk), the bookstation, has just won its second, well deserved Station of the Year award at the Sonys. As well as readings and plays, Oneword majors in author interviews and round-table discussions, all conducted by the excellent Paul Blezard. It is a shame that the output is in mono, as some of the plays would benefit from stereo.

Thankfully, however, there is an upside to owning a digital set. Stations that have been stuck on crackly old medium wave, like the London country-and-western station Ritz 1035, can now be received in stereo. Then there are the interesting commercial operators, such as the London-only children's station AbracaDABra, which acts as an all-day version of the BBC's long-defunct Children's Hour. …

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