Since the end of last week, Sound Digital has been testing a DAB+ service called "Sound Waves+" alongside the existing "Sound Waves" test station, enabling listeners to see if their radio can handle the newer DAB+ standard. The tests are currently taking place on VHF Block 11A ahead of the commercial launch of the new Sound Digital multiplex - also known as SDL National or Digital 2.
In a twist, the DAB+ service is using the newer HE-AAC v2 audio codec, which means some DAB+ radios will offer the station in mono, while others will enable the listener to hear stereo sound, depending on whether or not they have the relevant chip for HE-AAC v2. DAB+ radios with a mono speaker can be checked for their compatibility with HE-AAC v2 by plugging in head or earphones and checking if you can hear the waves breaking from one side to the other as they hit the coastline. Other stereo effects include a distant ambulance siren and a train speeding past in the background.
On Twitter, you've been telling a516digital about your reception reports, and the HE-AAC matter has gained some interest. The test transmissions aren't yet available from all future Sound Digital transmitter sites, and while some users have emailed in to say they're getting a clear sound on Sound Waves+, others have compared it to a poor quality internet stream.
The Sound Waves+ DAB+ test is for many UK listeners the first chance of trying out DAB+, the newer standard of terrestrial digital radio, already adopted as standard in other countries, including Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany. Until now, there has only been a handful of DAB+ tests: notably Fun Kids DAB+ in NW Wales in late 2014 and the current broadcast of two DAB+ services on the Portsmouth trial multiplex.
|Is your radio compatible with DAB+?|
In a nutshell:
- Sound Digital is testing on VHF Block 11A. Not available in all areas. Further transmitters to be activated. You may see labels containing the term "3G" before the tests go live.
- There are two services: Sound Waves and Sound Waves+. Sound Waves+ is a DAB+ only station, and is allocated 32kbps of bandwidth. Radios with short displays (up to 8 characters) will display the services as Waves and Waves+.
- The tests feature the sound of waves lapping onto the coast, with occasional noises from nearby roads and railway lines.
- The DAB+ test will test the capabilities of your DAB radio - non-DAB+ compatible radios may display the name but not decode the service. DAB+ compatible radios (which should display the official DAB+ logo, shown above) may offer the sound in mono or stereo, depending on the chipset used in the radio. Of those DAB+ radios, there are differences in how the service is decoded, leading to large variations in sound quality reports.
- From 29th February, you'll be able to hear a number of new and existing stations on the multiplex.