I was contacted a little while ago by the maintainer of FMLIST, an online database of worldwide FM radio, DAB and TV information. He appreciated my posting on Melbourne’s DAB radio stations that I made in my trip down there earlier this year as the information is easy to obtain, but rarely published. Most importantly, he gave me some hints about providing the most useful forms of data for maintaining the list, namely exporting .csv, .fic and AudioInfo.txt files.
Since I reside in Sydney, and my last analysis of DAB radio in Sydney was over a year ago based on a rather crude “Magic Radio” software, I decided to re-do it with DABPlayer as a practice run as next week, I will be down in Canberra for a conference (and hoping to collect some data there as well). Of interest was that attempting to get DABPlayer to work with R820T based RTL2832 dongles was fruitless, especially under Windows 10 where the “2009” version drivers will always be installed. I had to resort to manually overwriting the two .sys files in C:\Windows\System32\drivers with the “2012” version drivers to get the latest Realtek drivers installed, but still, the R820T faultered in scanning, so I resorted to my older and more trusty E4000 based tuner.
Scanning took place in the evening (local time) of 25th November 2016, with some reception through into the early morning hours of 26th November 2016.
For those interested in the .csv, .txt, .fic files, the station data is all contained inside a single ZIP file – sydney-au-dab-2016-11-25.zip
As in most of Australia, DAB+ radio is carried in three multiplexes, at channel 9A, 9B and 9C. The first mux at 9A has an ensemble name of DAB+ Sydney 1, and has 6.3% of the mux unused, the rest carrying audio. Reception was strong with close to 20dB SNR.
The second mux at 9B has an ensemble name of DAB+ Sydney 2, and was received with 16dB SNR. This is slightly weaker than the first, but still a very good signal. This mux has 13% of the capacity free, with the rest carrying audio.
The final mux at 9C has an ensemble name of SY abc&SBS RADIO and was received with 17dB SNR. This mux has no free capacity, with 0.7% used for EPG data and the remaining used for audio.
A total of 61 services (60 audio, 1 data) were received. Interestingly, the Service Country data seems to point to ACT/Victoria even though I am in Sydney, which is a bit of a surprise. The vast majority of stations now carry the slideshow feature. Quite a few station names have changed, but there are also new seasonal stations such as “Christmas Hope” and “Elf Radio” and others such as “EON Sport Radio”, “OLDSKOOL”, “OMG!” and “Easy Radio”. Some stations seem to have been lost or renamed – “Stardust Radio”, “LoveLand-80s&90s”, “FBi Radio”, “Apna Digital” to name a few.
A vast majority of stations broadcast in 48khz with the exception of four stations, and the majority broadcast in stereo with the exception of six. Gross bitrates of between 32kbit/s to 128kbit/s are seen, although the majority of the stations seem to be below 96kbit/s. The majority of the stations use SBR (spectral band replication) which means their upper treble content (12-24khz in the case of a 48khz sample rate) is made from intensity-coded information, and thus is not as detailed as the information in the 0-12khz band. This is a inexpensive (bitrate-wise) way to make a station sound better at lower bitrates. Some stereo stations also use PS (parametric stereo) which encodes stereo information as parameters, resulting in potentially less detailed stereo imaging but again, enhancement in quality at lower bitrates as part of HE-AACv2. Most notably, it seems all of ABC’s channels refuse to use PS encoding.
This time around, I tried to be diligent in making an effort in saving the slideshow data. I waited at least five minutes on each station for a first image, and when an image was received, waited until the whole “reel” had looped around at least twice. This process took hours to complete, as the send rate for some stations was about 800bit/s effective, resulting in images every 10-15 minutes! For the stations where no image was initially received, I came back to them and left a tuner on them for an hour to see if there would be any image sent.
Stations claiming slideshow feature but not sending images
- 2RPH Digital
- 2UE Lifestyle
- Fine Music
- Koori Radio
- 2MFM Muslim DR
- CW Remix
- Coles Radio
- The Edge
- The 90s
- The 80s
- smooth fm 95.3
- Nova 969
- SBS PopDesi
- SBS Radio 4
What is surprising about this list is that some of these stations had prior been observed sending images in the last catalog of DAB+ broadcasts. This specifically applies to CW Remix, Koori Radio, Nova 969, smooth fm 95.3 and The Edge. I wonder if it’s due to equipment problems which may have caused them to (temporarily) stop broadcasting images.
2SM Talk & Sport
2DayFM hit 1041
Looks like Triple M is having issues with its next song text as well.
Buddha – Chill
Sky Tbred Cent
Of note is that it seems both Sky stations send the same graphics, but due to the time difference in surveying the two stations, I wasn’t able to catch the same images.
While I did capture slideshow files on the night, they never got saved because they have the name prefixed with a path “Nexgen_XML_Export\#Digital Output\WSFM\”. As a result, I had to “create” the path by making those directories so that the images would save, so the capture of images was from the following evening.
Same reason as above, except for the path was “Nexgen_XML_Export\#Digital Output\kiis1065\”.
702 ABC Sydney
ABC Classic FM
SBS Radio 1
SBS Radio 2
SBS Radio 3
It seems everything is working fine, and that DAB+ Radio in Sydney is still mostly the same stations just with a few seasonal tweaks. While almost all stations now claim to be sending slideshow data, some of them do not, and the slideshow data seems to take longer to download as less spare data capacity is available to carry the slideshow images. There are also the occasional blips with a few services where the slideshow information isn’t being properly dynamically updated, but I suppose this isn’t a major issue given that most people won’t be receiving the slideshow anyway. With the free mux capacity, it’s a shame that the quality of the stations haven’t been upgraded – this appears to be mainly a governmental decision in terms of allocation of fixed amounts of channel units to broadcasters which then all want to “subdivide” and conquer by offering a larger variety of stations rather than higher quality.
I hope you enjoyed the slideshow images. I guess I’ll soon see what DAB+ is like in Canberra when I go down there for my conference …