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Another exciting new sound for BBC Radio

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James Cridland James Cridland | 10:30 UK time, Friday, 19 June 2009

"Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1!"

Those words, spoken on 30 September 1967 by Tony Blackburn, heralded a new sound to the airwaves. And today on the BBC iPlayer, I'm proud to also be able to welcome something new - this time, an "exciting new sound" for all our UK national radio stations on the internet, as we make a number of changes to our live and on-demand streaming infrastructure.

The BBC iPlayer now uses Flash-based streams for live radio as well as on-demand radio on all our UK national radio stations (that's stations like BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 7, or the BBC Asian Network). Flash Player is already installed in many corporate environments - and, since Flash is in use on many other websites (including the video for BBC iPlayer), chances are you'll already have it. For live radio, the BBC iPlayer requires Flash Player v9.0.115 or above - which has been freely available since December 2007. The current version is v10; and we're joining broadcasters like Absolute Radio in the UK and ClearChannel, CBS Radio and NPR in the US in using Flash as our default player format.

In the UK, we've taken this opportunity to greatly increase our audio quality: doubling the bitrates for most live streams, and using a significantly more efficient audio codec which increases the audio quality yet further. The results are excellent. For the technical, our UK streams are 128kbps AAC (192kbps for Radio 3, which has a wider dynamic level, and 96k for BBC Radio 5 Live, which is only available in mono). For bitrate watchers - AAC is much more efficient than MP3 at the same bitrate, and thus gives a significantly better sound. And yes, these bitrates are the same for both live and on-demand radio. Bitrates may change from time to time, but we'll let you know when they do.

Outside of the UK, we've also introduced Flash-based streaming: for both live and on-demand. We're hoping the convenience of our Flash-based streams are welcomed by our international audiences. For overseas listeners, we're using 48kbps HE-AAC v2 format stereo streams (known by some as aacPlus) for all our stations, excepting BBC Radio 5 Live which is a 32kbps HE-AAC v1 mono stream. Just as the UK, these bitrates are the same for both live and on-demand radio.

We've concentrated hard on getting the audio right, too - ensuring that we take a digital feed directly out of the transmission chain, rather than a previous rather roundabout route involving satellites. The processing of our audio quality is now tailored for listening at your desk or in your living room; and carefully optimised for online listening.

This is a really significant step - as the BBC's online radio services take a great leap in audio quality. It's been far too long coming; but now, you'll find the listening experience online is among the best we offer. I'm really proud of the audio quality we are making available today.

And there's more

I'm also happy to let you know today that we've made live streams for BBC Radio 1,2,3 and 4 available in Windows Media format for our overseas audience - a format hitherto unavailable. If you've an internet radio device, make sure you're using the ASX files we publish in the iPlayer help site: these changed location earlier this year.

I've posted a link to this posting in the BBC iPlayer radio messageboard, where I, and the rest of the community there, would be happy to answer any questions you may have - whether your question is about the BBC iPlayer or an internet radio device.

Happy listening.

PS: If you're a fan of BBC World Service, that comes fully to the BBC iPlayer in this new quality in the next couple of weeks; and nations and local radio streams will be upgraded by the end of the summer.

James Cridland is Executive Producer A/V Products, BBC FM&T Audio & Music and Mobile.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Well done James and all at the BBC - excellent quality here in the UK and no doubt pretty good around the globe too.

    Like you say it took a while.

    For us internet radio device users can we please have the "vanilla" (as you once called - and promised them) URL streams as soon as possible so that we can listen to these streams on our Squeezeboxes and similar devices.

  • Comment number 2.

    Congratulations to you and your team. Having been responsible for delivering a comparable project in a former life (with James at Virgin Radio), I can attest to the complexities of providing a reliable, resilient, and high quality live internet radio service.

  • Comment number 3.

    James, perhaps you'd like to explain why these higher quality live Internet radio streams have been delayed for the last year?

    As people can read on the following web page, I consider that the BBC has deliberately delayed launching these higher quality live streams for the past year because the BBC is biased towards DAB:

    http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/2009/06/bbc_degraded_quality_internet_radio_streams.php

    The above page also provides details about how the BBC delivered the Internet radio streams at diabolical audio quality levels from 2004 up to 2007, and at far lower quality than was possible from 2007 up to the launch of these new AAC streams.

    For example, the BBC could have used the AAC/AAC+ audio codec for the Real Player streams from January 2004 to vastly improve the audio quality even without increasing the bit rate levels it was using, but today is the first day that the live streams have used anything other than the dire Real G2 audio codec.

    I fail to believe that the BBC wasn't aware that it could use the AAC/AAC+ audio codec for the Real Player streams for the last 5.5 years, which suggests that the BBC deliberately chose not to use AAC+ in order to keep the audio quality low. I don't happen to think that's what we pay the BBC to do.

    The BBC also used a bit rate of 32 kbps for the Internet radio streams for Radios 1, 2 and 4 up to mid 2007, even though just a few months later the BBC launched the iPlayer TV streams that began life using a bit rate of 500 kbps. The next year they were increased to 800 kbps, and in April this year HD iPlayer TV streams were launched using a bit rate of 3200 kbps. Obviously the BBC could have used far higher bit rate levels for the Internet radio streams than it did. Again, I would suggest that the BBC chose to do this because the BBC is biased towards DAB and biased against Internet radio because live Internet radio poses the main threat to DAB.

    And as James admits above, the audio used for the Internet radio streams up to last autumn was received via satellite prior to encoding and distribution over the Internet. This decoding followed by encoding to a different format is called "tarnscoding", and it degrades the audio quality so it should be avoided, especially when the bit rates are low - and the BBC was using a bit rate of 32 kbps, which is as low as it gets. This was done to avoid paying the £5,000 - £10,000 per annum to install a leased line to transport teh audio to the servers in Maidenhead -- at a time when the BBC has been spending between £10 million to £14 million every year transmitting DAB. If that isn't due to bias, what is it down to?

    The BBC also specified the requirements for the new encoders that went live last autumn 4 years ago, but they obviously delayed deploying them by 4 years. The only benefit gained from that is teh few hundred pounds saved per annum in interest payments. Also at a time when the BBC was spending £10 - £14 million per annum transmitting DAB.

    I'm sure many people can remember the diabolical audio quality the BBC delivered its Internet radio streams at up to just a couple of years ago, and the sad fact is that that was entirely avoidable.

    I also don't see why the BBC should be thanked for providing streams at 128 kbps considering that hundreds of Internet radio stations have been using bit rates of 128 kbps since around 2002 / 2003, and James actually launched 128 kbps radio streams at Virgin Radio in 2004, and GCap Media (now owned by Global Radio) launched all of its stations at 128 kbps in January 2007, so it's taken the BBC 2.5 years just to catch up with the quality that about 50 UK commercial radio stations have been deilvering their Internet streams at.

    The reason this has happened is due to the BBC's long-term protectionist strategy which entails pushing as many people onto DAB as possible and detering people from listening via the Internet, because the BBC believes that if Internet radio became successful it would lead to the BBC losing listeners. Therefore, IMO the BBC deliberately degraded the audio quality of its Internet radio streams for the last 5 - 6 years in order to help achieve that happening.

    The only reason they've succumbed to delivering good quality now is because not doing so is simply far too hypocritical, e.g. with HD iPlayer TV streams and the majority of commercial radio stations using far higher bit rates than the BBC was using.

    The way the BBC has managed the Internet radio streams over the last few years has been nothing short of a disgrace.

  • Comment number 4.

    Fabulous last post and James he has it spot on!!!!

    Also a disgrace that BBC local radio is still not available at 128 aac and I am unable to hear the mentioned Tony Blackburn show on BBC London 12-2pm saturdays or on listen again at a decent audio quality

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Ian,

    Have you seen the BBC iPlayer help page at http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/finding_programmes/real_wma_streams

    Jonathan

  • Comment number 6.

    What a disaster DAB has been. The bigest technical blunder ever made. Now that Norway is going to DAB+ Denmark is the only other european country using the legacy DAB. It looks to me that the Internet is the best medium for home use. Blaupunkt has developed what look to be the world's first Internet radio car stereos. So we could see portable internet radios as well as mobile phones. Its great to see the BBC using AAC at last. I wondered what has happened to the use of unicast for internet streams at the BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    so we are even more far away from live streaming of radio to the Iphone without having to pay for wunder radio app for the iphone (its a great app for US and international radio but I don't like having to pay 4 pounds plus to listen to my licence fee funded radio.)

  • Comment number 8.

    This is great news. Just disappointed by the very low bitrates for us ex-pat listeners overseas. I appreciate we're a lower priority, but 48k HE-AAC is pretty stingy. The old RealPlayer SureStream 44k stream sounded better. Let's hope that some time in the future circumstances will change and we ex-pat Brits could possibly pay a subscription and get the wonderful iPlayer like our licence fee-paying families back in the old country.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's really good to finally get the flash based streaming abroad.

  • Comment number 10.

    brilliant work guys, sounds much richer, at last internet radio may stand a chance over my FM radio.

    ps, anyone else sick to death of @digitalradiotech's "thoughts" - ive read his webpage, fair enough but its here today, higher quality and he still complains that it was not fast enought, what does he want, compensation? cos you certainly cant rewind time...

  • Comment number 11.

    @trevorjharris: "I wondered what has happened to the use of unicast for internet streams at the BBC." - that's what we're using, of course! I suspect you mean "what happened to multicast"; I'm probably not the right man to answer that question, but we've been looking into multicast for a long time. Try http://www.bbc.co.uk/multicast/radio/index.shtml for supported services.

    @shades846: we're looking at what we can do on further mobile devices: but don't worry, the advent of Flash streaming on the iPlayer doesn't mean we're any further away from supporting the iPhone. Live BBC radio is available on more and more mobile phones - the Nokia N95 just added it last week, in fact; and iPhone v3.0 adds a ton of useful opportunities.

  • Comment number 12.

    @digitalradiotech

    With your out of place passion, anyone would think you were discussing 9-11 conspiracies. Cheer up!

  • Comment number 13.

    @darrenj1,

    "anyone else sick to death of @digitalradiotech's "thoughts" - ive read his webpage, fair enough but its here today, higher quality and he still complains that it was not fast enought, what does he want, compensation? cos you certainly cant rewind time..."

    Should we just accept everything that's gone in the past then? I disagree.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is excellent news, I always feel dirty having to install realplayer on a new machine and with the BBC finally ditching the damn thing I should never have to suffer its pathetic software again. Indeed I still vivdly remember installing the thing when I first got the internet in 1999 to watch a tiny version of the nine of clock news and it was shoddy even then. Good riddence to bad rubbish.

    On a slightly different note though, I find it worrying that when I first saw the title of this - indeed just the sight of Cridland's face - had me first and foremost wondering what problem digitalradiotech and rangersman[QPR] would complain about first.

    Sadly I was incorrect this time, as my presumption was that the bitrates would be too low for their liking.

    Not that I like DAB of course, it's far poorer than FM is capable of, but still, at least its more advanced than broken records eh?

  • Comment number 15.

    @Hymagumba

    I am unable to hear BBC Devon,London on BBC online radio unless Real player is installed,so the BBC aint done away with the crap audio just yet!!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    @Hymagumba

    "I find it worrying that when I first saw the title of this - indeed just the sight of Cridland's face - had me first and foremost wondering what problem digitalradiotech and rangersman[QPR] would complain about first."

    Don't try to suggest that this has *anything* to do with James Cridland. For example, apart from the first few lines in my long post you refer to, *everything* was about decisions that were taken long before James joined the BBC in 2007. So if I was only interested in slagging off James Cridland, why didn't I omit all of the criticism of stuff that happened before he got there and just concentrate on criticising the stuff he's been responsible for?

    Sorry, but I actually couldn't care less about *who* is in charge of the Internet radio streams. It's purely about whether the decisions were right or not - not being the operative word.

  • Comment number 17.

    @digitalradiotech, I should clarify that when I said "when i see his face" I meant as in I knew it would be a post about radio, rather than suggestiong you have a vendetta gainst him.

    @rangersman[QPR], I never listen to the local stations so that doesn't affect me, however surely any uninstallation of real player is cause for celebration ;)

  • Comment number 18.

    @ Hymagumba

    Yeah unininstalled it last year & dont miss it.

    I have 470 128k mp3 or aac stations on winamp!!!!

    I also believe James Cridland is the best man for the job of getting the BBC audio sorted.

    He did the same thing for now defunct Virgin Radio 5 years ago,so should be more than capable of delivering for the BBC,he needs to persuade BBC though that licence fee payers are not all TV fans and radio is a vital component in our lives.

  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent news, having been brought up on BBC radio on the old wireless but using the net to stream now it is good to see further progess. RealPlayer i first "bought" some 11 years ago but have to say it does rather irk me to still have to use it at times, another cog to slow the wheel as they say....

    Matthew Anderson
    Director The [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]Franchises

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm actually LISTENING to Radio 3 at my desk in Burbank, California: not counting bits at all...

    Seems to me the sound has improved noticeably in the shift from Real Audio to Flash.

    And it's Bruckner, for goodness' sake!

  • Comment number 21.

    @Jon iPlayer-Host

    Jon thanks for the comment. I have used the WMA streams for my Squeezebox for some years and was well aware of them.

    I was hoping that the BBC would provide base aac streams (not wrapped in Flash) of the main network stations (as James promised) so that these could be heard on Squeezeboxes and the like.

    Further I was hoping that these base stream URLs would be included on the WMA/Real address page.

    After all some of these devices are in a chain of hifi equipment that is capable of reproducing quality audio in the home and the WMA streams whilst having served their purpose are not the highest availabe quality.

    Can someone at your end please confirm that you still intend to do this?

  • Comment number 22.

    @Tulkinghorn1,

    "I'm actually LISTENING to Radio 3 at my desk in Burbank, California: not counting bits at all..."


    The following statement *always* holds for perceptual audio coding (it is basically *the* fundamental rule of perceptual audio coding):

    "with all else being equal, a higher bit rate level always delivers higher audio quality than a lower bit rate level, and vice versa"

    Think about it. A higher bit rate level literally means that there are more bits to encode the audio per second. The higher the number of bits there are the more accurately the audio can be represented in compressed form. The more accurately the audio can be represented the higher the audio quality.

    The reason why the international Radio 3 stream you're listening to is at higher quality than previously is because it's now using AAC+ whereas previously it was using the dire Real G2 codec. AAC+ is the most efficient audio codec on the planet at very low bit rate levels like 48 kbps, which is the bit rate of the stream you're listening to.

    But the 192 kbps AAC stream of Radio 3 that we're getting in the UK is guaranteed to be far higher quality than the 48 kbps AAC+ stream you're listening to, which is quite simply because there are far more bits to encode the audio with.

    And if you read my first long post above, I mentioned that AAC+ has been available to use for Real Player streams since January 2004. That means that the BBC could have used 48 kbps AAC+ for its Internet radio streams since that date (and at no extra cost to the BBC). So, yes, you're getting higher quality streams now, but the thing I'm complaining about is the fact that they could have delivered the quality they're now delivering 5.5 years ago.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ian_heys - we're working to increase the amount of streams we produce. I can't really comment about future plans, however: but supporting wifi radios is important to us. We're bitrate-limited outside the UK, though.

    @digitalradiotech - I agree: it would have been much better if we'd have done these audio streams earlier. I moved as quickly as I could.

  • Comment number 24.

    @James Cridland,

    The issue is not about the time it took to launch the AAC streams, it is about the fact that the live streams have been at low quality for the past 12 months when they could have been at far higher quality even without launching the AAC streams. That works out to be that people have spent about 200 million hours listening to streams at low quality when they could have been at far higher quality than they were.

    If you wanted to improve the quality of the live streams over the last 12 months you had a number of options:

    * increase the bit rates of the existing Real Player streams

    * make the WMA streams the default streams after you'd increased their bit rates last October/November

    * launched MP3 streams at some point, whcih was the original plan, then you said "they'll launch in September after the Olympics", then the Olympics came and went and no new streams were launched and in teh end the MP3 streams never materialised at all

    The fact that the quality stayed low for 12 months given all the options available to you speaks volumes about the BBC's attitude towards the live streams - which just so happen to be the biggest "threat" to the BBC's preferred DAB system, and the BBC just so happens to have nobbled the quality of the Internet streams for the 4.5 years prior to that as well.

  • Comment number 25.

    @digitalradiotech.

    "The issue is not about the time it took to launch the AAC streams, it is about the fact that the live streams have been at low quality for the past 12 months when they could have been at far higher quality even without launching the AAC streams. That works out to be that people have spent about 200 million hours listening to streams at low quality when they could have been at far higher quality than they were."

    Ok, we all know your 'issue' but what do you actually want? All I can ever see is you going on BBC message boards and quoting your issues about stuff. Now that the quality has improved, should we care about your issue over the time it took to take an action?

  • Comment number 26.

    @darrenj1

    In fairness to Digitalradiotech & people like him getting us value for our licence fee, we would still be stuck with the dreadful sound the BBC offered and still are offering if you tune to BBC Local radio via real Player!!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Not *this* again?

    I'm sure I'm speaking for quite a few people who would normally enjoy blog posts such as these except for the fact that each and every time anyone from Radio posts something, digitalradiotech insists on hijacking the comment threads and banging on about the same old uninteresting points that everyone else stopped caring about a long time ago.

    As a licence fee payer, I'd rather all the DAB conspiracy types accepted that they have more than adequately made their point in front of anyone who might care about the issue, and then let the BBC get on with the job in hand and stop clogging up all the blogs with their rantings.

    Specifically, @rangersman[QPR] - the BBC say here that local radio will be upgraded by the end of summer. I work in technology and I know there'll probably be a huge amount of complicated infrastructure work to be done before this can happen and you can't turn these things around easily - unless you yourself have detailed knowledge about the local radio playout systems that make you confident that it could all have been done at the same time as national radio - in which case, tell us all how it could have been done!

  • Comment number 28.

    @hexenductionhour,

    Things that you're uninterested in others are interested in, and vice versa - never heard the saying "each to their own"?

    And if "everyone", as you claim, were uninterested in what I have to say, why do so many people read my website, and why do so many people email to tell me that they find the website interesting? It's here if you're not acquainted with it yet:

    http://www.digitalradiotech.co.uk/

    Regarding what you say about being a licence fee payer, that gives you the right to have a say on what the BBC does. But that does not extend to telling other licence fee payers what they should or shouldn't do.

    If you think the DAB issue is just going to go away because the Government has sided with the BBC's protectionist anti-consumer recommendations, think again. Basically, what's gone on up to now is nothing compared to what will happen in the future.

    If you read any articles on the web about the suggestion that FM might be switched off, there's invariably a hell of a lot of hostility to the idea, and the closer it gets to the date when the BBC will try and switch off its FM stations the more hostile people will get and in larger numbers.

    Anyway, shall I count you as a 'no' for joining the Save FM campaign?

  • Comment number 29.

    @digitalradiotech,

    I find FM radio appalling. I don't listen to it any more. Hissy, unreliable, outmoded. Not I'm trying to convince anyone here (least of all you)- this is my personal experience.

    Back to you - your grasp of netiquette seems poor and you simply don't recognise that your continual single-issue harping in comments is not only boring and off-topic a lot of the time but is stifling some genuine debate that could be happening here if others weren't put off by you.

    If you are so keen to dish out criticism, you should be able to take some on board yourself. Anyway, I shall not engage with you again - I just didn't want to see your persistent annoying behaviour uncriticised.



  • Comment number 30.

    @hexenductionhour,

    Then you suffer from poor FM reception quality. Tens of millions of other people get good FM reception quality, though, and for those people DAB would be a downgrade because it provides lower audio quality than FM.

    And do you not see the irony of calling FM "outmoded" when you're effectively sticking up for DAB? DAB was designed in the late 1980s, and because of the pace of change of digital technologies since then, that makes DAB about as outmoded as you can possibly get - it was around at the same time as mobile phones were the size of a house brick! There's no way the UK should have to accept the use of such a totally outmoded digital radio system as DAB.

    Anyway, add http://www.savefm.org/ to your bookmarks in case you change your mind.

    As for your other comments, you're basically saying the same things you did in your previous post, which I've already replied to.

  • Comment number 31.

    Many thanks BBC for increasing the audio quality, it is much appreciated as I listen to Dance Anthems with Dave Pearce on 6music this evening.

  • Comment number 32.

    As an international user, thank you for taking care of us. (Not paying a license fee, I don't expect more than I get! (Except perhaps for World Service given it's mixed funding sources.)) The type of programmes on BBC radio are simply not available to us at any price from other sources. So I thank you for making all the WMA streams available. (Even if you did cut the bitrate on 6 and 7 from 64kbps to 48kbps.) Three questions:

    1] Is there anyway to get direct URLs for the AAC+ streams? I currently use Fstream on my iphone to stream the WMA streams, but would like to take advantage of the higher quality encoding.

    2] The mobile iplayer site, when viewed from an international iPhone is unable to play radio catch up because of rights; while the desktop iplayer site can, now, play those same programs. Is this planned or an oversight in the recent change in policy? Is it normal, in the UK, for the mobile iplayer site to not have live streaming?

    3] Will there be a supported/recommended way to listen to the AAC+ streams on an international iPhone?

    Thanks once again for giving us as much as you do!

  • Comment number 33.

    Please, please make "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" available as a podcast - thanks!

  • Comment number 34.

    To digitalradiotech,

    Do you regard putting radio stations on Freeview as anti-DAB and anti-FM?

  • Comment number 35.

    @_marko,

    No, I don't. If the BBC had shown 21 TV advertising campaigns for digital radio via Freeview and no TV ad campaigns for DAB (substitute DAB for Freeview and Internet radio for DAB for the actual situation), then I'd say that the BBC would have been biased against DAB.

  • Comment number 36.

    The point about DAB is if FM AM is to be discontinued then more multplexes will be required giving the opportunity for more bandwith.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hmm, another international listener here and I've just tried the new flash-based R4 stream in iPlayer and compared it to the old Realplayer stream that is still being invoked on my computer by the pop-up on Radio 4's homepage.

    I have to second bravegannett (nr8); the old Realplayer stream sounds considerably better. And I'm no fan of Realplayer. Surely the aac+ stream should be better than Realplayer given the slightly higher bitrate? Is it a question of the BBC needing to tweak the settings for the streaming? It sounds on the verge of being distorted compared to the familiar muddy-but-smooth sound from Realplayer.

    I agree that we international users shouldn't complain too much since we don't pay the licence fee but chalk me up as another user who actually *would* pay some kind of international licence fee.

    I'd also like to know what is going to happen to Reciva wifi radios that access the Realplayer streams internationally...?

  • Comment number 38.

    @jsteinhu - currently, the aacPlus streams we use are Flash-wrapped and thus can't be played on other devices. I'd recommend the WMA streams for international use.

    In terms of the mobile iPlayer (in its many guises): this is currently supported for the UK only.

    @tienshan - thanks for pointing out the error on BBC Radio 4's website. Apologies if you think the audio on your aacPlus stream sounds worse than RealPlayer - I don't understand why that should be.

  • Comment number 39.

    @cping500,

    I'm afraid DAB won't be getting any additional bandwidth when FM is switched off, because FM and DAB use different frequency bands.

    Also, the MP2 audio codec that's used on DAB dates back around 25 years (it's based on MUSICAM, which was out in the mid 1980s), and they've optimised it as much as they can, so the audio quality on DAB isn't going to get any better than it is now either. And in fact the bit rates of commercial radio stations have started dropping again recently - half of all stereo stations on local DAB multiplexes in London have seen their bit rates fall from 128 to 112 kbps, and there's a load of music stations broadcasting in mono on DAB.

    Basically, the audio quality on DAB will always be very poor - until DAB is phased out and replaced by DAB+ anyway.

    Hey, I've got an idea: why doesn't the BBC switch off its FM stations and inflict low audio quality on the nation via DAB instead?

    The BBC's live AAC Internet radio streams that this blog is about are at far higher quality than DAB will ever be able to deliver. Also, it can be said today that the audio quality of the live AAC Internet radio streams are at higher audio quality than the BBC could ever deliver via DAB+, because at the bit rates the live streams are currently using the BBC's stations wouldn't all be able to fit onto the BBC's national DAB multiplex if they were using AAC on DAB+, so they'd have to use lower bit rate levels on DAB+ to fit all the stations on, so the audio quality would have to be lower.

    Awww, bless DAB and its 1980s technologies.

  • Comment number 40.

    rangersman[QPR] wrote:

    "I am unable to hear BBC Devon,London on BBC online radio unless Real player is installed,so the BBC aint done away with the crap audio just yet!!!!"

    You should see flash streaming of BBC Local Radio, the end of Real and the introduction of Windows Media streams by August this year.

    James - any chance we can have deep linking of Radio on the iPlayer - it's there for TV shows or is there a music rights issue?

  • Comment number 41.

    @upyourego

    If you work @ the BBC and August is a genuine target,all I ask is that the flash streams are 128 aac just like Radio 1 & 2 or do not bother because having heard 96 aac on the tests, the improvement on the real player streams aint then significant enough to bother.

  • Comment number 42.

    @rangersman[QPR]

    As far as I'm aware there will be two mp3 stream versions 128k and 64k for slower connections.

  • Comment number 43.

    @upyourego

    I suppose 128k MP3 on listen live and listen again is acceptable on all BBC Local,what irritates me though is my licence fee gives radio 3 192 aac.

    I think this is well out of order.

    I think Radio 3 is a dreadful station. BBC explanation that it merits better quality dont wash with me.

  • Comment number 44.

    @rangersman[QPR] wrote: "I think Radio 3 is a dreadful station. BBC explanation that it merits better quality dont wash with me."

    I guess that depends on whether you like classical music and live performances of classical music or not - you do need a higher bit rate to get the extreme peaks and troughs of a more challenging piece that you don't really need for a distorted guitar and drums.

  • Comment number 45.

    @upyourego

    I like some classical music,classicfm is far better than radio 3 for example

  • Comment number 46.

    @upyourego

    Why use mp3 for local radio streaming when the nationals are using AAC?

  • Comment number 47.

    It is certainly good news that we finally have good sound quality on the default streams. However hi-fi listening is still not well catered for.

    The only way to play the high quality streams through a hi-fi is to connect a computer to the hi-fi system. Most computers don't have high quality digital to analogue converters. I also have an added problem, I find my laptop tends to produce interference when connected to my hi-fi. I don't think it was designed to be used in this way.

    The WMA streams are much easier to play via a hi-fi, as they don't need flashplayer. I can easily play them using my Squeezebox. However the WMA streams are not hi-fi quality. They are good enough for portable radios, but sound disappointing on a hi-fi system.

    It would make life so much easier, if high quality streams were available in non Flash format. The so called vanilla acc streams. I hope it will not be too long before these streams become available, and I hope they will sound as good as the default aac streams.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ Dark-Avised
    Good point, why use mp3.

    I wonder if the answer is something to do with compatibility and cost.
    The national broadcasts are provided not only in aac, for use on computers, but also in WMA for wi-fi radios and other such devices.

    Perhaps for local radio it is too expensive (or too complicated) to provide multiple streams. If they need to do it using just one stream, then they can't use Flash, as wi-fi radios would not be able to handle it. (Actually as far as I know not that many wi-fi radios support aac yet either).

    If they can't rely on aac being decoded by Flash Player, then they need to use a codec that the vast majority of computers can decode, without relying on the Flash player. It also has to be a codec that works on wi-fi radios.

    WMA would be a possibility, as almost all PCs and wi-fi radios would support it. However I'm not sure how many Mac's and Lunix systems can decode it.

    Mp3 on the other hand is a codec that has been around for a very long time now, and pretty much any device can decode it.

    Perhaps that is why they chose mp3. Mp3 is not as good as aac, but mp3 encoders have improved a great deal in recent years, and a really good mp3 encoder can sound surprisingly good at 128k. Not as good as I would ideally like, and not as good as aac, but better than many people might expect.

  • Comment number 49.

    There will also be a wma stream for local radio - not just mp3.

  • Comment number 50.

    @upyourego

    Save your money if less than a 128 wma stream

  • Comment number 51.

    So, zero actual effort by the BBC to make the AAC streams playable on the Squeezebox etc. for UK license payers! Instead the content is all wrapped in a proprietary 'Flash' stream for reasons never actually explained (except in marketing gibberish). 'Monetising' this service must be part of the BBC's planning.

  • Comment number 52.

    I am another voice from overseas to agree with bravegannett in response 8 and tienshan in response 37 on the quality of the overseas streams.

    Yes, the frequency response is better than the old Real Audio streams, but there is some sort of distortion going on in the 48K AAC stream which makes the BBC Radio 2 and Radio 3 streams difficult to listen to. I've been a listener for seven years and I am thinking of giving it up -- the sound is that bad.

    This is much, much worse than the 64K Real Audio streams which were available on Radio 3 from July 2008 until recently, with some interruption. The 64K streams started to capture the sense of "bloom" that good music reproduction should have. It's also worse than the 44K Real streams, which I compare to AM/Medium Wave radio in sound quality.

    I am listening to "Listen Again" replay shows from the USA, and as I mentioned I consider myself a veteran listener, since 2002.

  • Comment number 53.

    Why isn't adaptive streaming used? As of now I see that I can change quality/bitrate between high and low manually.

    Has it been considered to use the functionality for dynamic streaming that Flash Media server offers?

  • Comment number 54.

    While it's great news that the quality of the Internet feeds has significantly improved, I listen via satellite. While satellite has lots of bandwidth available (compared to DAB), the BBC is still using only 192kbps for the main stations(with MPEG2). In comparison, German radio stations on satellite are using 320kbps. Is there any chance that the bit rate could be improved via satellite, at least for Radio 3?

  • Comment number 55.

    @RichardEvans67 - you might have spotted the good news that we yesterday began upgrading our Windows Media streams to 128kbps, the same bitrate as the AAC streams. AAC support in wifi radios is not as widespread; we're working with manufacturers to look into how we achieve this.

    @JJCarter - we're using Flash Media Server for the best reliability and for new features which rely on FMS. That's why it's not a vanilla stream. The vast majority of people listen via the BBC iPlayer, and I want to ensure that they get the best possible featureset. And no, 'monetising' is categorically not our plan. You've already paid for it.

    @KenJ_in_Michigan - I'll go and listen to the Radio 2 and Radio 3 international streams to see whether your claim of distortion is happening; but you're welcome to comment in the iPlayer messageboard.

    @grandAndy212: we currently have no low-bitrate stream in Flash format, so that's why we're offering no adaptive streaming. Yes, we are actively considering this for the future.

    @Mark600 - not my area. Sorry.

  • Comment number 56.

    @ James Cridland

    Yes, it's good news that the WMA bit rates have been increased, I noticed about 2 days ago, but was too busy at the time. I've just been trying 6 Music on my hi-fi this morning (using one of my Squeezeboxes). I reckon it sounds similar to 96k aac, just about good enough for hi-fi listening. A significant improvement over 96k WMA. Obviously it would be better to be able to play the 128k aac streams this way, but it looks like I'm gong to have to wait.

  • Comment number 57.

    Thanks to all concerned for the vast inprovement in internet sound quality. Having listened to the first few prom concerts here in South Africa, I can report that at last I can enjoy radio 3 (and other bbc radio stations)in decent sound. Life here in South Africa is now perfect!! Best wishes, Steve Golding.

  • Comment number 58.

    In the case of a live Radio 3 stream the status bar on iPlayer typically shows "192 | aac | AF". In the case of an on-demand stream the same bar typically shows "b001xqq1 | aac | LI". What exactly is being shown here?

    I think some of the improved quality on iPlayer over the past few months compared to DAB or FM is due to the fact that these streams are not low-passed at 15kHz, as are the DAB and FM transmissions. So why is it that the Proms internet transmissions are still being low-passed at 15kHz?

  • Comment number 59.

    @ James Cridland

    "we currently have no low-bitrate stream in Flash format, so that's why we're offering no adaptive streaming. Yes, we are actively considering this for the future."

    What does the "Use lower bandwidth version" button in the iPlayer do?

  • Comment number 60.

    Does an internet radio exist that can decode the flash wrapped AAC streams?
    I'm using my a Logik IR100 to play the WMA streams but would prefer the AAC instead.

  • Comment number 61.

    > Does an internet radio exist that can decode the flash wrapped AAC streams?

    No response so I assume the answer is no.

  • Comment number 62.

    #61, core, you're an impatient one, you only posted your question less that 24hrs before getting on a high horse...

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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