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.

“That sounds a bit complicated…”

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A listener called today. She was mid 60s, with a name like Maureen or similar. She listens to JACK fm..as do many of her friends.

“Hi there. I’m trying to listening to your station and I can’t hear it today..”

“Where are you listening?”

“I live in Midhurst..”

“Well, that’s on the very edge of our area so our signal may not reach that far”

“Well, I can normally hear you, but some days I lose reception, so I switch to Smooth Radio. Can I get you on Digital Radio – I have a digital set but haven’t really used it..”

We are on digital radio. Have you looked for us”

She looks and lists the stations she can see..

“I can see Absolute, BBC stations, Premiere radio. No, I can’t see you..”

“I’’m sorry. Have you tried listening online – or maybe tried our mobile apps”.

“Sorry dear – I’m a bit old fashioned – I just want to listen in the kitchen – that sounds far too complicated”

“Ok – we’ll hopefully you’ll get the signal back soon”

“I’ll do that. I love your station. Do you know why I listen?”

“Tell me..”

“I found your station and started listening because you have the same name as my son. He’s called JACK too”.

I’ve heard many reasons why people listen – but never because the station is named after a family member.. but what are the real reasons people choose to listen to stations? The fact that she liked the name hooked this listener (someone who is out of our target). She likes the music (though I’m not sure what our overlap would be with Smooth Radio).

But the thing that struck me the most was her comment :

“Sorry dear – I’m a bit old fashioned – I just want to listen in the kitchen – that sounds far too complicated”

She’s an older listener.

She’s open to listening on Digital.

She can’t be bothered about how she gets the stations she wants.

She just wants them in one place in one box – and she doesn’t need to think about how to find them.

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We’re not making things easy for people like “Maureen”. They are getting the digital message. They  are starting to understand the range of choice. They want to listen to the content. But some of them just don’t understand how to get hold of it or can’t be bothered with the hassle.

The sooner someone cracks the connected box that has a menu that lists the stations and tunes to the station whether its via FM, DAB, online stream the better. It’s great that the team at UK Radioplayer (with others from Global Radio and Absolute Radio) are doing just that. This is the sort of radio I want..

As for us, we’ll just home the wind is in the right direction for Maureen to listen on FM. Or maybe I’ll record some output and post it to her on a cassette…

UPDATE:

Matt Deegan posted a blog today that included a presentation from James Cridland – all about the need for user experience to be better in all digital radio. It’s certainly worth a watch.