DAB – 30 Years of Engineering Progress

Photo of Bush CDAB5R DAB stereo radio

Bush CDAB5R DAB stereo radio

Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) became available where I live yesterday. I had given my wife a present of a Bush CDAB5R DAB stereo radio for Christmas in the knowledge that DAB radio transmissions were due to become available. This replaced a Waltham W152 mono transistor radio (FM, MW and LW), which was about thirty years old. The Waltham was a low-cost radio when I bought it and was not of high specification for the time. However, it served without fail and there was never any justification for replacing it as the counter-top radio in the kitchen.

Photo of Waltham W152 analog radio

Waltham W152 mono transistor radio (FM, MW and LW)

Engineers should be rightly proud of the progress that has been made in radio in thirty years. A single radio station can now be transmitted and received at high quality while using up only a very tiny fraction of the capacity of the airwaves. However, when I experience a product such as the Bush I am not proud to be an engineer. I find the sound quality very tinny and, in fact, there is a buzz at certain pitches in speech and music that irritates me. The radio has a small backlit display for the station name and other broadcast information. This has disappointed me because the text is blurred and difficult-to-read for my 56 year-old eyes, especially moving text on the second row.

Photo of the backlit display of Bush DAB radio

Backlit display of Bush CDAB5R DAB radio (lower line is moving text)

The Waltham radio was self-contained and mains-powered, with its transformer inside the casing. The Bush radio has an awkward and heavy transformer plug. It is rated as 230-240v 90ma input for 9v 600ma output, which means that it is very inefficient. Furthermore, it is wasteful of energy if left plugged-in to a live socket.

On the web today I learned that DAB is not forward-compatible with DAB+, which is more efficient and may supersede it, so the Bush is unlikely to serve for as long as the Waltham. Thankfully!