Question What's the best quality source of Radio 3?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by PeteInOxford, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. PeteInOxford

    PeteInOxford
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    Here's a tricky one (for me, anyway). Radio 3 is available via four principal routes (and perhaps AM as well):

    1) FM. The granddaddy of them all. But as I understand matters it's dynamic-range-compressed (DRC) for in-car listening.
    2) Streaming over the 'net. But by definition it's been through some-codec-or-other and is thus bit-rate-compressed (BRC). No idea if it's DRC as well.
    3) Satellite (which is de facto BRC, although there's bandwidth aplenty). But is it DRC as well?
    4) DAB. I've heard no good about it, and sooner or later it will go the DRC route as more people use it in their cars, IMHO.

    Anyone know a way though this maze? I'm about to set up a system in a quiet area, and in a room with very thick walls indeed. Dynamic range matters to me ... but so does inherent quality. Any help (or hard facts!) greatly welcomed, 'coz I don't want to go out and spend quite a lot of money to "do things right", and then have to splash out again.

    TIA,

    Pete.
     
  2. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Satellite.. by a long way,fed by coax into a good amplifier or AVR
    Then FREEVIEW terrestrial
    ..can suffer from fadeouts.
    Then FM ..slight hiss acceptable
    Then
    streamed via Tunein
    Last and least DAB
     
  3. larkone

    larkone
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  4. mushii

    mushii
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    This information is cut and pasted from various internet sources but should provide the information that you are looking for. If you dont want to read it all in summary. General consensus (from places like Steve Hoffman Forums etc) is that a strong FM source is best with a high end tuner, then Streaming, then DAB, then a weak FM Source. Some people prefer the High Bit Rate streaming because of its consistency over FM.

    What are the codecs, bitrates and protocols used for BBC Radio online?

    Since 2015, all of BBC Radio's online content has been produced by the Audio Factory platform that provides the same quality and device support for all of our stations.

    Audio Factory is the BBC’s internal name for its audio streaming infrastructure. It is not related to the radio production company of the same name or with the website www.audiofactory.co.uk.


    Audio Factory encodes BBC Radio content using the following codecs and bitrates:

    Profile Codec Bitrate Channels
    1 AAC-LC 320kbs Stereo
    2 AAC-LC 128kbs Stereo
    3 HE-AACv1 96kbs Stereo
    4 HE-AACv1 48kbs Stereo
    2a MP3 128kbs Stereo

    Not all of these bitrates are necessarily supported by all devices at all times. For example, a mobile phone may only be offered the lower bit rate streams when on 3G/4G to ensure the connection is more reliable and a better listening experience is achieved. Also, some devices may only be able to cope with a single bitrate and so may not offer the other options, e.g. some internet radios.

    Audio Factory does not support the WMA (Windows Media Audio) encoding or delivery protocol.


    Audio Factory packages and delivers BBC Radio using the following protocols:

    Protocol Profiles Target Devices
    HDS 1, 2, 3 & 4 Desktop computers (PC, MAC). Requires browser Flash plugin.
    HLS 1, 2, 3 & 4 Smartphones, tablets and IP radios and streamers.
    MPEG-DASH 1, 2, 3 & 4 New format to replace HDS and some HLS uses.
    ICY (SHOUTcast) 2a Low end Internet Radio devices and 3rd party Apps.

    With the exception of Radio 3 HD, we no longer provide ICY (SHOUTcast) streams using the AAC+ codec. MP3 at 128kbs was chosen following advice from a number of internet radio device manufacturers regarding the codec and streaming protocols supported by the largest possible number of their legacy devices. Newer internet radio devices should be able to make use of the HLS and/or MPEG-DASH protocols using the higher quality AAC+ codec.


    DAB Radio


    BBC Radio 3 is one of the best performers, achieving 160-192 kbps, while most others are in the 80-128 kbps range. Lower bit rates may be acceptable for the more efficient compression achieved by MP3, where 48 kbps is the equivalent of 64 kbps in MP2.
     
  5. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    I beg to differ.. getting information on the major satellite platforms on Astra and Hotbird on the audio rates is difficult. But I am letting my ears guide me. Most of the references to satellite radio refer to the USA centric Sirus ,which by any accounts badly compressed. As chance would have it, I had spent yesterday listening to Astra fed MDR and France Musique fed into the Harmon Kardons DAC..and it was no worse than any FLAC CD .
    Now the FM tuner in the HK would have been their selling point,and with a local station RTE Lyric ..which is line of sight to the transmitter 15 miles away..and it is very good
     
  6. Jampot90

    Jampot90
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    FM with a decent aerial and an old school tuner all the way.

    There is a frequency cut off at around 15Khz but if you are over 40 that is unlikely to be an issue:)

    There is no objective way to compare FM reception (which is analogue and therefore no bit rate to measure) with digital transmissions, the variety of which is extensively addressed above.

    In my experience the only point in favour of any digital broadcasting is the incredible choice of content, but the OP is looking specifically for Radio 3 so irrelevant.

    'Decent' will vary according to distance from the transmission mast, roof mounted by a guy who knows where to point it and understands how much gain is required.

    A piece of wet string is not going to cut it.

    Jim
     
  7. Fred Smith

    Fred Smith
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    But the website liked too clearly states:

    UK Digital Radio Bitrates
     
  8. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Again I respectfully disagree. Nothing invalidates what I have written. I am in a fringe reception area for Terrestrial Digital from UK Transmitters. .. major BBC transmitters being about 40 miles away. I can receive BBC FM radio with even modest antenna,but with hiss and potential interference, I can receive Terrestrial Digital, but it is subject to dropouts, with high atmospheric pressure, but Satellite is crystal clear 99.5% of the time..( snow storms included, blizzards excluded).
    The other advantage of having a satellite dish and receiver is that there are a range of quality European classical stations from Switzerland, Germany, Spain and France, similar to the excellent BBC Radio 3 available on 19.2 East.Astra. These are also stations of national prestige,so their quality of transmission and selection of material is top notch.
    The OP wanted long term quality and no expensive mistakes, so a good sturdy dish and even low cost satellite receiver with either an optical or coaxial feed to a DAC in or external to an Amplifier or AVR will satisfy that need.
     
  9. Fred Smith

    Fred Smith
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    I use a FTA satellite receiver for radio reception output via coax digital cable to my amplifier, so I know how good it can be.

    I also have a old but good analogue tuner, Quad FM4, which I prefer were possible to digital.

    But how references to a USA based radio service relate to UK based ones? The logic is is beyond me.
     
  10. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    I had hoped my previous comments might have explained that.. most casual references to satellite radio will bring up the low earth orbit bandwidth limited satellite service ..and indeed many US AVR brands will have the tuners for these So i included them, in order to remove them from consideration. It is the case, and I agree with you that the mainline Geostationary satellites ,have ample bandwidth for excellent radio transmission.
    As I said I also have 12 Year old Harmon Kardon AVR with FM tuner. The traditional strength of the HK brand was FM Stereo and it does not disappoint...It would gave been on a par with the Quad. ..It also has m a power supply capable of 800 Watts RMS , so driving two channels it is just idling...
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  11. mushii

    mushii
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    At the end of the day the source stream for Satellite is still only 192kbs whereas for internet streaming it is (upto) 320kbs which makes it (technically) a much better source. So although there is still debate over FM, from a digital point of view, internet streaming, for BBC Radio 3 is the best quality source.
     
  12. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Yes.. but using tunein radio which is what I use ,it is 128k
     
  13. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Isn't the UK going to cut off all analog broadcasts of FM Radio at some point in the somewhat near future? I think the cut off date keeps moving, but the threat is still there.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  14. Fred Smith

    Fred Smith
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    With the total lash up of DAB here, low bit rates and predominantly mono, I hope we have at least another ten years if not more of FM.
     
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  15. Jampot90

    Jampot90
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    Most cars, vans and trucks still come equipped with FM even if some have DAB as well.
    There are apparently 120 million (ish) FM radio receivers in the UK, that's an awful lot of land fill and a lot of unhappy people if they suddenly stop working.

    There are plenty of good quality FM tuners for home audio use available s/h and the major cost is likely to be installation of an aerial, but hardly prohibitive in hifi terms.

    DAB coverage is still not uniform across the UK quite apart from any quality considerations.

    Jim
     
  16. mushii

    mushii
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    From the FM Radio Wiki Page

    Future switch off
    The UK government is planning for a switchover from FM to digital radio once take-up and coverage meets certain criteria. Successive Governments have admitted that FM VHF Band II analogue radio would not cease until the majority use digital, so no actual date has ever been agreed. Digital listening figures however consistently include Satellite, DTT and online streaming, not just DAB. In any case there is a commitment to maintain community FM Radio. This means that as long as there are significant numbers of listeners on FM in the United Kingdom no government is likely to take the politically unpopular decision to turn off analogue. Support for the FM Switch Off in the UK is limited
     
  17. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Let me add one more point, though not really helpful. This is Radio we are talking about, even at its very best it is just OK. Don't get me wrong OK is pretty good for casual use, but it is none the less ... just OK.

    My point is, don't stress too much worrying about this. Pick one that serves your location, your convenience, and your budget, then shrug your shoulders and say - good enough.

    For what it is worth.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  18. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Steve, am I correct in assuming you live on the American continent?. If so ,you might be unaware of the strong attachment of Europeans to quality Radio.. particularly of us older folk. Whereas it may not have the absolute fidelity of a CD or SACD , the transmission from a good FM transmitter, of live concerts or as I have said, Satellite retransmission of a high quality digitised stream, leaves little to be desired...and is highly comparable with Vinyl
     
  19. kahlua

    kahlua
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    tune in radio via my avr gives 320 kbs and sounds great.
     
  20. Wilbobp

    Wilbobp
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    As of 1997 when BBC Transmission was sold off. FM Network radio was
    distributed around the country to the main sites Wenvoe, Sutton, Coldfield etc using Nicam 3. This is a lossy codec developed in the 1970s for program links. It uses 14 bits with a sampling rate of 32Khz.

    The relay stations, Exeter St Thomas etc. picked up the main station off air demodulated it to audio and re broadcasted the audio.

    If Nicam 3 is no longer being used then I bet its not an analog distrubution network so some other form of digital coding would be taking place. MP4 AAC MP3 perhaps.

    So the only analogue part of an FM broadcast is the actual FM transmission.

    However the following links work for me using Google chrome browser to cast audio to a Google Audio Chrome cast. They work at 320Kbs using AAC.

    BBC Radio 1
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/live/manifesto/audio/simulcast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_one.m3u8

    BBC Radio 1Xtra
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/live/manifesto/audio/simulcast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_1xtra.m3u8

    BBC Radio 2
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/live/manifesto/audio/simulcast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_two.m3u8

    BBC Radio 3
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...lcast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_three.m3u8

    BBC Radio 4
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...cast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_fourfm.m3u8

    BBC Radio 4LW
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...cast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_fourlw.m3u8

    BBC Radio 4 Extra
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv.../hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_four_extra.m3u8

    BBC Radio 5 Live
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...t/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_radio_five_live.m3u8

    BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...high/ak/bbc_radio_five_live_sports_extra.m3u8

    BBC Radio 6 Music
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/live/manifesto/audio/simulcast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_6music.m3u8

    BBC Asian Network
    http://a.files.bbci.co.uk/media/liv...ast/hls/uk/sbr_high/ak/bbc_asian_network.m3u8
     
  21. mushii

    mushii
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    Really interesting read here:

    The BBC PCM / NICAM Story

    if you are interested in the history of FM broadcasting in the UK and how, FM has not actually been Analogue since the 1970's and is not today. It is only the final broadcast that is analogue, the entire signal path from the BBC studios all the way to transmitters was and is a highly compressed and companded digital stream as @Wilbobp describes. The 14bit sampling rate is actually companded to 10 bits further reducing its dynamic range.

    So actually you can compare an analogue FM signal directly with a pure digital stream as the analogue signal is encoded and companded into a digital signal for transmission to the transmitter:


    FM Analogue - 14bit, bit depth (companded to 10 bit) 32khz sampling rate
    Digital - 16 bit, bit depth, 48 khz sampling rate

    The audio quality comes from this BBC reference paper
    http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/radio/commissioning/TechnicalSpecificationRadio.pdf

    So even with a perfect FM signal path and a high end tuner, the audio quality will never be as good as a high quality digital stream.

    Many thanks to @Wilbobp for his education on the whole process.
     
  22. mushii

    mushii
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    upload_2019-7-12_13-37-20.png

    If you don't want to read all of the second document, the salient points are in the table.
     
  23. dannnielll

    dannnielll
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    Foiled again... The BBC streams as indicated by Wil,will not work outside the UK. Whereas the Tunein radio will work at its 128k resolution. However Freeview and Freesat are available.
     

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