DAB+ Digital Radio Explained

Posted by Motorama in Motoring Tips

​A lot of people talk about Digital Radio. Whether you’re on the eight ball or have never even heard of the service before, this article will provide you with the info about the revolutionary digital radio that you need to know to make the most of it. Your car might even be compatible!

What is it?

To summarise the future of radio in as few words as possible, the acronym DAB+ stands for: Digital Audio Broadcasting (plus), it is an enhancement of the previous DAB radio and a modern alternative to analogue radio. Think of it like digital television is an alternative to analogue television, but for the radio. Digital radio features improved sound quality over analogue, more stations and the ability to pause and rewind live ‘shows’. 

The DAB Radio service started as a European experiment in the 1980’s and Norway was the first country to launch a digital radio station in 1995. At the time Australia started using the service, an upgraded version was available – aptly named DAB+. Being a late adopter had its perks and as a result this version fixed some bugs like interference issues and added enhancements such as higher quality Audio.​

How can I get it?

Now for the best part: The service is free, and certain models of cars have DAB+ receivers built into them! Just like analogue radio, you can tune in without a need to subscribe or apply to the service and you have an array of new and current stations to choose from. In order to access digital radio in Australia, you need to live in one of the capital cities as the service has not been implemented across the country yet. As popularity spreads and the government builds more infrastructure, DAB+ will be available in more places across Australia, currently the signal will drop off completely once you leave these areas (unlike FM which fades out with static.) Due to the broadcasts being on a higher frequency than AM/FM stations, you need to have a radio that can receive the signal. You can fit an aftermarket radio that can pick up DAB+ signals, and most models also integrate analogue radio as DAB+ can lose signal outside of metropolitan centres.​

Apart from more stations and better sound quality, what makes digital radio so special is that radio text can also be transmitted to your device. This means you will know the name of the song you are listening to (maybe even see the album art depending on your radio display) as well as being up to date with the weather forecast and traffic conditions. If your car doesn’t currently come with a compatible device (and a fair few imported European vehicles are made to use the DAB system, which is not cross compatible with DAB+), there are many options for in-car receivers available, with more receivers on the market as the listening trend grows.

Will analogue radio be phased out? Will I have to get a new car stereo?

If you still love your traditional channels or are not in possession of an appropriate receiver, fear not! Unlike European countries which are leading the revolution in radio, Australia currently has no plans to discontinue FM services in the near future. Some cars feature DAB+ systems, while others (such as Holden with myLink) use an internet radio system which offers an even wider service, that differs from digital radio.

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