Possibly the best (but most expensive) Digital Radio I’ve ever bought

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Yesterday, I bought a new radio.

It has a touch screen. It is really portable. Yet it won’t work inside the house.

Luckily, it’s in the new car, so hopefully it won’t ever work in the house. But its features were certainly an influencer in my purchasing decision.

I’m not a car snob – just need something that is fairly cheap to run, has a good load space and is comfortable. I’ve ended up with a new Peugeot 2008. To be honest, it could have been a Vauxhall Meriva or a Nissan Juke (too ugly) or even a Ford BMax (the kids loved the sliding doors). But I’ve had a 206 and 206 SW in the past so Peugeot won out in the end.

These cars all have DAB radio as standard, but this version has a pretty easy to use touch screen system which seemingly makes using digital radio easy. And whilst it looks a little functional and dated, it works really well (unlike other touch screen radios I’ve used).

You can tune between station simply by using forward and backward arrows, and yes, it’s still a bit clunky but it’s fairly painless – getting local, regional then national stations one after the other.

What I really like is the way that when you save stations as favourites, it allows you to save both DAB, FM, and even AM stations if you wanted to on the same list. Now, looking at the photo I too, it looks like you can also have a list of Music and Speech stations too which will be useful. But what I love is the fact that to tune between them, all I do is push the station name and it tunes to the relevant medium – DAB, FM or AM. Now it won’t allow me to add streaming stations to that list (and knowing the costs often discussed recently, I can understand why I wouldn’t necessarily want this option), but this sort of useability makes the DAB listening experience far more pleasant. The added bonus with this radio is that it will seek out the FM equivalent version of stations who broadcast across digital and FM so that if you loose the DAB signal, you can carry on listening. Now this doesn’t solve anything of the DAB vs FM debate, but at least it gives options. And as well as using the radio, I can plug in a USB stick and play any downloaded audio too. And display photos (though why you’d want to is beyond me..)

What did strike me, when I was going through the process of test driving, is how little information there is available about makes and models of cars with DAB options. It may be available from people like a Digital Radio UK, but at point of sale in dealerships, there’s very little messaging getting through (in my limited research).

So whilst you may not like my car choice, I’d recommend giving this system a look – it may improve your in car listening experience.

You’re gettin’ hit with the (blah blah) radio

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I’ve been driving a lot around the UK recently to various family events and a couple of weddings. And one thing has become clear. I need to get a DAB radio in the car this Christmas. Partly for the need to be able to get FunKids. Partly to be able to hear BBC 6Music. But mostly to be able to hear Absolute Radio  in listenable quality.

A couple of things have struck me during these journeys. Firstly – the rollout of Heart hasn’t ruined local music radio. It’s eminently more listenable than many of the previous offerings found on the drive across country. Wall to wall classic hits, hardly any talk – “does what it says on the tin”. It’s not my choice – in fact hearing the same songs every day in a slightly different order would drive me insane- but you can tell it will probably work well for them in the short to medium term.

Secondly, it’s become really obvious that the BBC doesn’t really cater for my listening needs fully. In fact, if I had the previously mentioned in car DAB, then  I’d probably have a hefty dose of Absolute Radio on the menu.

Out of habit, my first choice station is BBC Radio 1. I like Chris Moyles (in small doses) and think Scott Mills does a really good job. And the odd times I catch people like Zane Lowe, I’m hooked – mainly by his energy and by his enthusiasm. I caught most of the chart show and the first part of Switch last Sunday night – and it made me wish I was 15 again – just the sort of show Radio 1 should be doing.

Radio 2 is rarely a listening choice. I occasionally catch a bit of Jonathan Ross at the weekend, but rarely get the chance to hear Chris Evans. And once the children are in bed – it’s usually stuff on the house, work or TV that grabs my attention.

And whilst I feel BBC 6music should be up there for me – I probably hear more of it’s output via the Adam and Joe podcast.

And that’s why this week’s Radio 2 news has excited me (though not my friend Steve – younger than me but far more musically diverse in taste – who is a staunch TOG). There will now be a real reason for me to listen at breakfast and possibly later in the day. Many people, such as Matt Deegan, Adam Bowie, Nik Goodman and James Cridland have written in detail about what these changes may mean and the opportunities and/or threats they will make for Commercial Radio. For a show and station like Radio 2 that is so dominating the audience figures – a change such as this could be catastrophic – particularly if they lose their core listeners. But it also presents an opportunity for everyone else

For me, I hope Evans brings something new to the mornings. Terry Wogan is genuinely one if the best speech broadcasters. It’s just his style doesn’t suit our frenetic routine in the morning. Now, I’m not expecting Chris Evans to replicate his old Radio 1 show again. But he’s shown in the afternoons that he can be entertaining, play great music and (more importantly) interact with every listener whatever their age. If he can do that – with maybe a little more pace in the morning- then so much the better. The rest of the daytime lineup isn’t so much my thing – though Jeremy Vine works well. What interests me is the talk of Simon Mayo coming over to do drivetime. My friend Steve thinks that if this happens, the BBC will have to issue everyoneone with free Valium. I however would welcome him – particularly if it created a show which were part music, part current affairs and had some if the classics 5live elements such as Mark Kermode as well.

I briefly mentioned Absolute Radio earlier. I wouldn’t discount them, though from all of this. Commercial radio keeps bemoaning the fact that it’s hard to compete and there’s no room for creativity. The fact they now have signed Dave Gorman to add to Frank Skinner in their weekend lineup shows that there are some operators who are slowly gathering their weapons to start taking on the BBC in the battle for my listening hours.