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I find myself in need of a new car radio. Now that the government is planning to phase out analogue transmissions I feel it would be a false economy to buy an analogue radio for the car so I am looking for a digital one. There seem to be lots of separate DAB units to go with the satnav and mobile stuck on the screen and then interface badly with an analogue radio but I am looking for an all in one solution. I never listen to CDs or tapes, only MP3s on my iPhone. I do not want to 'control' my iPhone through the radio, I have never found a satisfactory interface.

So, what can I buy? Anyone into this sort of thing?

I need:

  • To be able to listen to Radio4
  • To be able to listen to Radio1 when the God botherers are on Radio4 (Sunday morning)
  • To be able to plug my iPhone in to listen to MP3s when the inane chat on Radio 1 gets to me
  • I want something that does not look like a part stolen from a flying saucer, though ideally with blue LCD

Any suggestions?

Thanks

Chris

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I use JVC KD-R901's in both a Defender and a P38 Range Rover.

The head unit is AM/FM/CD/MP3/Bluetooth with an external mic for the bluetotth hands free use.

For DAB you add an external JVC unit which you can hide away pretty much anywhere. It plugs into the back of the head unit like a CD multi-changer.

It has a USB port on the front.

You can play music etc... from the iPhone using the Bluetooth pairing albeit at a reduced quality, or you can plug straight into the USB port on the front using a standard iPhone USB cable. You can choose to either control the iPhone from the head unit's controls or from the iPhone (my preferred option). It's happy to pair via bluetooth for hands free at the same time as being connected via usb.

The DAB unit works well and it automatically switches from FM to DAB stations and back again. Very useful if you listen to Radio 4 a lot and you enter a fringe area for DAB reception.

I was so impressed with the first one I bought for the Defender I went out and bought another for the P38 Range Rover :)

You'll need to decide on a DAB aerial, on the Defender I used a joint FM/DAB aerial on the wing that works really well. On the P38 I added an additional DAB glass mount aerial on the inside of the rear quarter window.

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I use JVC KD-R901's

Thanks for the comments Dave, appreciated. Can I stop you there though...

  • I want something that does not look like a part stolen from a flying saucer, though ideally with blue LCD

Any other suggestions?

One thing I did wonder, was if I had one of the Pure type DAB things, which you can plug an iPod into, couldn't I just take the headphone out into a small amplifier behind the dash and do away with the traditional radio 'headset'?

Cheers

Chris

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One thing I did wonder, was if I had one of the Pure type DAB things, which you can plug an iPod into, couldn't I just take the headphone out into a small amplifier behind the dash and do away with the traditional radio 'headset'?

Cheers

Chris

Yes you could, via an amp would be fine. Or if you want FM too, you could use a head unit with an Aux in and that can act as your amp.

Rather than feed iphone into DAB unit, just dual feed iphone and dab unit into amp (or head unit).

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Flying saucer ??? I thought the JVC unit was quite restrained :) I have mine set to green LCD to match the vehicle displays but you can set it to just about any colour you want.

The addon units are OK but I'd avoid going full digital atm, the coverage isn't there yet. With that in mind you also need to sort out a decent aerial, the ones that come with the addon units are pretty poor and you'll struggle to pick much up unless you're in a strong signal area. If you're thinking of using it abroad you also need to be aware that most of the addon units only support DAB III which is used in the UK but not all countries use the same frequencies.

The sound quality of the addon units is generally not as good as the purpose built ones so you might want to try and hear one first to see if it's acceptable to you.

http://www.dabonwheels.co.uk/

have a useful star rating system on all their products which gives you an idea of performance between different units. I have a 3* aerial on the Range Rover and a 5* external on the Defender. Both work well in this area but I've found an occasional "hole" in reception in the Range Rover - there's one on the M62 eastbound carriageway which, bizarrely, doesn't happen when I'm on the westbound side. I assume that the lower down the star scale you go the higher the chance you'll lose signal. Other than the time delay (DAB is a second or two behind FM) the JVC unit switches seamlessly to FM so I don't really have any problems with it but I suspect it could be annoying if you were running a pure DAB setup.

Not sure what the current coverage is like in Scotlandshire although having said that the FM coverage was always pretty bad up there when it came to Radio4, It's the only place I know of where you miss having a LW radio !

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Chris,

I have always found Becker and Blaupunkt units to be the most restrained, and OEM looking, and I they do now offer some DAB units.

I have also found a number of sellers selling 'Mech Free' head units - ie they don't have a CD or tape mechanism in them at all

like this one albeit without DAB...

Personally I found DAB in the car not to be as good as I had hoped - as you move it needs to retune, and it seems to need to do this very regularly, which gets annoying. Mine was a Sony DAB tuner that was in my Focus.

just a thought

Mark

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ermmm, cant you get radio on your Iphone?

So just have any old boring understated head unit installed that has an aux in / USB connector on the back of the unit and hard wire a proper Iphone connector through the dash to the proper Iphone mount to make it all look rather pro (no loose dangling wires) and just listen to the radio from your Iphone?

Alternatively there are now plenty of car amplifiers that have an MP3 3.5mm jack input - so you could do away with the head unit altogether and just wire the ipod straight into the amp.

My phone gets brilliant internet radio reception and the data usage is very low - so could be a viable option instead of buying extra kit and aerials.

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I also bought a Sony DAB radio in the Van. It came with an antenna which sticks to the inside of the screen for DAB.

Unfortunately, I found reception in the South East at least, was worthless. It rarely picked up more than a couple of stations and they were usually 'special interest' - Birdsong, church muzac, and 'alternative lifestyle music' from Brighton.

I tried to take it back (to Road Radio in Horsham) but they said it wasn't their fault reception was poor - and it was not in a resalable condition as I had stuck the antenna to the window - and peeled it off. I've 'stored' it in the attic in the hope that reception improves by 2015.

I think you'll get more enjoyment by buying an FM radio and pretending it's DAB.

Si

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I've got an Alpine system with DAB. However I dont think they make the DAB tuners any more.

Jon

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No idea how the reception compares but most of the internal glass mount aerials give very poor performance, the best of them only give an "average" performance. An internal glass mount antenna without a built in amplifier is next to useless. They also won't work at all on heated screens or on some tinted glass.

The manufacturers recommend you stick the antenna in place with some insulation tape to test it before you fix it permanently.

The best aerial you can use is an external amplified aerial but most of them are either magnetic (not much use on a Land Rover) or need a hole drilling. The external glass mounts get good write ups but I've not tried one of those myself.

Which multiplexes can you get ? At the very least you should get the BBC National multiplex and the National Commercial one. "minority interest" channels are normally on local multiplexes not the national ones.

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They had a radio expert on Radio4 recently who said that dab was only an interim technology - with Internet radio being the next development.

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Ha Ha Ha!

Are you sure you heard that correctly?

How is internet radio going to work in a car? Wirelessly? Via which wireless system?

Cheers!

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Via which wireless system?

Radio waves?  :huh:

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Via which wireless system?

Cellular Data? I can get internet radio on my phone in my car without any wires....

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At what cost though? Data charges are quite alot at the moment!!

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At what cost though? Data charges are quite alot at the moment!!

On contract you get an allowance per month.

I've 2GB/month I think - more than I can get though with a phone browser/email/streaming music occasionally.

The allowances will only go up.

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Who would have imagined 20 years ago that we would have mobile data at all now. Even 30 years ago, you wouldn't expect to see mobile phones except for in films.

I don't know whether the next digital radio revolution will be IP based, but I agree that DAB is an interim technology. It doesn't really offer any advantage over analogue radio to the consumer and I doubt the take-up would be that good if we were not being forced.

DAB according to Curry's et al is a wonderful world of hundreds of crystal clear channels. Once you leave the shop however, discovered that it picks up nothing with the supplied antenna, had a 5 element Yagi put on your roof and can still only get six channels (Intermittent R4, 1 Xtra, birdsong, Asian music, Radio Mercury and Gaydar) - it doesn't look that shiny!

I don't bother with it at home or work now - just use Internet radio instead.

Si

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Here in Wiltshire cellular data is too patchy to be worth trying TBH - making calls can be a fraught experience! It sounds like getting reliable DAB signal is a non starter for the time being too. :(

I guess I will just have to make do with a cheap analogue radio which looks fairly 'normal' for now.

I heard the guy speaking on R4 - he seemed to be speaking rather optimistically about the current availability of cellular network data IIRC. Anyway, isn't all technology 'interim'? The very nature of what we call 'technology' is to bring new (improved?) developments every so often. :)

Chris

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They had a radio expert on Radio4 recently who said that dab was only an interim technology - with Internet radio being the next development.

completely agree,

the transfer of data via the t'interweb will become all encompassing in most areas of media. Its a very well established protocol, wireless connectivity is absolutely fantastic just about everywhere you can get a mobile signal and data allowances and transfer rates are constantly increasing at a ludicrous rate. 10 years ago most people were on dialup 56k or super fast 500Kb broadband. Now most homes can get a full 20mb connection via cable and 7mb (on average) via a telephone line and 3mb via mobile. So potentially 400 times faster than what we had before in just 10 years!!!

Plus alot of mobile devices are now so multi tasking we'll pretty much only require one device to do most things. Mine is a phone, mobile office suite, internet browser, music player, movie player, radio, camera, camcorder and satnav - all in a package that fits in my hand.

Is there a need to have a traditional 'headunit' in a car, if your mobile can plug straight in to an amp and play music whilst yoda tells you to turn left at the next roundabout?

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completely agree,

... wireless connectivity is absolutely fantastic

... just about everywhere you can get a mobile signal

... Now most homes can get ... 7mb (on average) via a telephone line and 3mb via mobile.

You and I live in different worlds, and if you had heard the Radio 4 programme earlier this week, I think it was You and Yours, you will have heard there is a significant number of people operating in my world, where land line data rates are below 1Mb, with no improvement planned before 2015 because we simply will not get fibreoptic lines to the local Distribution Cabinet, never mind the house.

In the Green Lane world I go to three good pubs for meetings.

Check out these Post Codes, because whatever they say on any mobile coverage map, I'll tell you none of them have a mobile signal good enough to send Internet data on.

The Grouse, Froggatt Edge, S11 7TZ.

RobinHood Inn, Baslow, DE45 1PQ

The Duke of York, Pomeroy, SK17 9QG

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From what I've read about DAB when looking to buy a kitchen radio CD wotsit, I wouldn't bother - reception and quality are worse than traditional FM by all accounts and as said above, there is a new generation of DAB "just around the corner" whatever that means......

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My experience is quite the opposite to Bish's in that FM radios were lousy in the house, both the kitchen and the bedroom. Both now have DAB radios and great reception - which is what turned me onto the idea of a DAB in the car.

Chris

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I use DAB successsfully at home (luckily seems to have a strong signal) and also looked at getting a DAB unit for the Defender so I could listen to Planet Rock ;)

In the end I gave up looking as I got the same responses and the couple of people I knew who had fitted one said reception was poor.

I bought a decent analogue haed unit with CD / MP3 / ipod aux etc for about £80 and will stick with that for a while.

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I'm in the market for a new radio for my 110 as well. I can't remember what the last one was and I've chucked it out now so I can't check but its favourite feature as far as I was concerned was its flip front that kept the worst of the muck out of the CD slot. Anyone got a flip front radio they can recommend?

Preferably something with some oomph to drown out the sound of the kids in the back.

Will :)

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Anyone got a flip front radio they can recommend?

I have one of the sonys. Cant remember which model, but something similar to this:

sony-xplod-cdxgt630ui12.jpeg

Best thing about it is it has an aux in for an MP3 player and a USB slot. I just stick all music on a USB stick. Good sound and has a front flip for sticking your 78s in too :D

Mine has bluetooth phone too which is great in the car. Haven't tried it in the defender yet - I suspect it'd be pretty mush* useless.

*typo, but I think it's appropriate.

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