Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Tuning in to stations on a digital radio

How tuning differs on a digital radio

There are a lot more stations on digital radio than on analogue. There are also differences in the way you find and select the station you want. With digital, you see the station names as you turn a dial or press buttons without hearing the broadcast changing. The way the list of stations is organised can make a big difference if you cannot see the display screen.

When you first switch on a digital radio, it automatically stores all the stations it can receive in its internal memory. It does this by scanning the DAB (digital audio broadcast) band, which takes only around 5 to 10 seconds. After this, you can scroll through the station names on the radio's screen. When the station you want appears, press the tuning dial or a button, and after a second or two it plays. When you switch a digital radio back on, it goes to the last station you were listening to.

A sound at the end of the station list would help blind users, so you could work your way down from the top. Of the radios on test, only the Sony XDR-S55DAB beeped.

Ways to tune in to a station

Presets

Most of us only listen to the same few stations. The summaries in our digital radio test reports show the number of presets each model had, and whether you pressed a button or searched a menu (less convenient and impossible without sight) to select them.

Autoselect

With the autoselect function, you can scroll through the stations - but if you stop briefly, the radio automatically tunes to that station. Half the models could do this. This is a feature worth having if you cannot easily see a display.

Station ordering

With some models, you can put the stations into different orders. Alphabetical order can be confusing because the station names are not always predictable - for example, some BBC stations such as 'Radio 1' and '1 Extra'. Multiplex order groups together all of the BBC stations (except their local stations), all of the national commercial stations and all of the local stations.

Multiplex

'Multiplex' is a group of TV channels or radio stations mixed together for broadcasting. In fact, for digital radio they are often called 'ensembles' by radio people.

New digital radio stations should be picked up automatically by your radio if they are part of a multiplex you already receive. Otherwise, you need to do a complete retune - that means just pressing a button on some models, but you need to do it via a menu on others. You should do your first tuning in a good reception area, so you pick up all possible channel groups.

Last updated: August 2011


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