Digital radio has been launched with much fanfare in all major capital cities. The technology offers significant advances over FM radio in terms of sound quality, features and available radio stations. But the prohibitive cost of digital radio receivers (also known as DAB+ receivers) will no doubt stop many of us from making the switch any time soon. Even an entry-level transistor radio receiver like the Bush BR10DAB costs over $150!
Rather than splurging on a digital receiver, wait until DAB+ technology comes down in price and in the meantime tune in to your favourite radio station online. Listening online will provide audio quality that's almost as good as digital radio (in terms of clarity at least).
Listen to streaming radio
If you’ve got a fast Internet connection, you’ve already got a vast range of radio stations at your fingertips. Most of the Australian stations currently broadcasting digitally are also streaming their content live via the Web at similar quality levels. However it will consume some of your Internet bandwidth (how much will depend on the quality of the stream), so if you’re listening at work then check with your IT administrator to make sure you are allowed to do this. Some of the digital stations currently streaming over the Internet are ABC’s Triple J, DMG Radio’s Nova 969 and the ABC’s NewsRadio
In terms of dollars and cents, you’d need to listen to a lot of streaming radio before it cost you as much as a digital radio receiver; you’d need to listen to 36 hours of streaming radio before you use up 20GB of bandwidth! And although you might miss out on some of the niceties of digital radio, such as streaming song titles, if you’re listening at a computer then you can check the station’s Web site for playlist and presenter information.
Wait for a more appropriate product
The digital radio space in Australia is still quite devoid of products. There aren't any MP3 player–sized receivers, car-friendly units or consumer-level stereo systems available yet. You can conceivably use one of the transistor-style digital radios that are currently on the market in a car, or on the move if it has batteries, but they’re definitely not suitable for use everywhere. Over time more suitable models will become available at a lower price. We’re told that car-compatible head units and players will hit the market within a year, while some companies are already trialling digital radio decoder chips in their MP3 players.
Buy a cheaper digital radio set
If you’re dead-set on buying a digital radio, we think it’s reasonable to buy a cheaper model like the Bush BR10DAB or the Pure ONE Classic. As newer, more fully featured models — such as those with colour LCD screens — come to market and prices fall, you’ll be able to pick one of these up and relegate your old digital radio to occasional duties or pass it on to a friend. If you buy an expensive model early on and quickly upgrade, you’ve lost more money.
Digital radio is destined to become the new standard for radio broadcasts in Australia, but it’s still in its infancy. If you can hold out on buying a radio for a short while, you may be able to score a better deal.