The Anatomy of a Digital Radio: Know Before You Buy

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The Anatomy of a Digital Radio: Know Before You Buy

The majority of people enjoy listening to music whether it is pop, rock, classical, folk, hip hop, or jazz, and there is likely a radio station for everyone. Most people think more about how loud the music is or the type of music being played instead of thinking about how the music is being transmitted to a stereo system. Currently, there are two ways that sound is transmitted: analogue radio and digital radio. Digital radio transmitters process sounds into patterns of numbers, or digits, and the signal is almost always transmitted. Analogue radio carries electricity and magnetism from huge transmitter antennas that are connected to a radio station to the smaller antenna connected to a personal radio set. An easy way for the consumer to tell which type of radio he or she currently has is to search for an antenna. If an antenna is present, then most likely it is an analogue radio. Digital radio is available in some new cars and can be purchased at electronics shops and the online auction website, eBay. Cars that have digital radio have a button to switch from digital to traditional analogue. Important considerations to take into account before purchasing include: the difference between analogue radio and digital radio, how digital radios work, and digital audio broadcasting.

How Digital Radios Work

Before investing in a digital radio, it is important to understand their anatomy. Digital radios operate by sending programme signals broken into fragments and coded in numbers. By sending each digital fragment multiple times, the chance of getting through are greatly increased. If digital fragments are delayed or interrupted, the receiver functions to put all of the fragments together to create an uninterrupted programme signal. Digital radios travel on an enormous broadband of radio frequencies, allowing for a single digital signal to carry six stereo music programmes. The term broadband refers to the bandwidth and its ability to transport multiple signals. The large broadband allows the signals to avoid interference. Digital radio can have the signals sent from the ground or from space. Normally, satellite digital radio provides a stronger signal because there is less interference compared to a signal sent from a ground station. Digital technology is able to provide many additional stations and display information about a programme, including the names of music tracks, music programmes, and the name of a singer.

Simply, digital radios work by collecting fragments flying through the air and sorting and reconstructing the fragments in order to make a complete radio signal. Once the complete radio signal is made, the consumer is able to hear the programme he or she prefers.

Differences Between Digital Radio and Analogue Radio

Before the consumer is sold on purchasing a digital radio, he or she may want to understand the key differences between digital radio and analogue radio. Digital radio’s information is encoded differently on carrier waves in comparison to analogue radio. There are two different ways that signals can be sent using the analogue process: frequency modulation (FM) and amplitude modulation (AM). The typical radio user is probably familiar with AM and FM radio but may not have thought about what it stands for or how it affects the sound coming through a stereo. Frequency modulation, FM, conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its instantaneous frequency. FM is widely used to broadcast music and speech. In amplitude modulation, AM, the amplitude of the wave changes while the frequency remains constant. An issue with AM and FM is that when the signal is being transmitted, it becomes part of the wave that is carrying the signal, so if part of it is missing, the sound is not communicated correctly and a crackling sound is heard. Interference does not affect digital radio the same way that it affects analogue radio. Digital radio sends radio broadcasts in a coded numeric format so it is not as easy for the signal to experience interference. Digital radio tends to read at gigahertz, whereas analogue radio reads at kilohertz or megahertz, therefore, completing the signal and producing the sound clearer and faster. The chart below shows the different types of radio and how they rank based on sound quality, interference, and additional features.

Types of Radio

Sound Quality


Additional Features

Analogue Radio


Very Likely



Digital Radio


Not Likely

Audio on demand

Interactive features

Digital screen

Consumer advantages of buying a digital radio versus an analogue radio include: greater audio quality, new auxiliary services, enhanced design with simplified functions, and potential to introduce more data and information via the digital screen. The audio quality is better because the signal reaches the transmitter easier. New auxiliary services provided by digital radio include: the ability to programme multiple audio channels, audio on demand services, and interactive features. The digital screen provides the opportunity to include notes regarding a song or musician, as well as a place for advertisements. Although, sometimes more features can mean that the radio can cost more money, so it is important for a buyer to research the product and figure out the amount of money he or she would like to spend and which features are needed.

Digital Audio Broadcasting

Digital Audio Broadcasting is a digital radio technology used for broadcasting radio stations in multiple countries, most popular in Europe. Digital Audio Broadcasting, also know as DAB, offers more radio programmes over a specific spectrum. DAB has a critical threshold between which the signal needs to be, in order to produce high-quality sounds, and if the signal drops below that threshold, the quality declines immediately. On the other hand, FM reception slowly fades with the reducing signal. The advantages of DAB include: more stations, reception quality, improved features, variable bandwidth, and transmission costs. The disadvantages of the DAB consist of audio quality, signal delay, coverage, and compatibility.

Other Considerations Regarding Digital Radio

Some people may wonder if he or she need a new portable radio in order to receive digital stations, and the answer is yes. A digital receiver is required to receive digital stations. Digital radios are still able to receive analogue signals, therefore, the consumer can still listen to AM or FM radio if he or she prefers. In addition to purchasing a digital radio, the buyer may want to also consider purchasing accessories, such as speakers or headphones.. If the digital radio requires batteries it is recommended to purchase rechargeable batteries. Speakers, headphones, and rechargeable batteries can all be purchased on the online auction website, eBay..

How to Buy Digital Radios on eBay

Ultimately, a buyer has the final decision when it comes to the type of radio being purchased. eBay offers several options when it comes to purchasing digital radios. The easiest way to search for a digital radio is a keyword search. Luckily, there is a search box on every eBay page. In this space, the buyer can type in keywords, such as “digital radio”. After clicking on the search button, multiple results may be populated for digital radios. If a buyer would like to search through a smaller results list, all he or she has to do is enter a more specific keyword search.

A buyer can determine the legitimacy of a seller and review his or herfeedback. All feedback ratings from the previous 12 months appear in the seller’s eBay history. The feedback is beneficial for the seller and the buyer. Feedback is beneficial for the buyer because it provides the buyer with the seller’s past interactions and allows the buyer to make an informed decision before purchasing. The feedback is advantageous for the seller because it allows the seller to improve on any area the buyer may not have been happy with or attracts more buyers to his or her page as a result of positive feedback.


Overall, the digital radio seems like a much better option than analogue radio for the most obvious reason: sound quality. The main reason people listen to music is to hear their favourite songs or talk shows, therefore, finding a radio that allows the consumer the best quality is the best choice. The type of radio to choose is ultimately the buyer’s choice. However, there are many factors that need to be researched and understood before a purchase is made, including: how digital radios work, the difference between digital radio and analogue radio, and digital audio broadcasting. The explanation of how digital radios work should provide the consumer with the research needed when purchasing a radio. The digital fragments are reorganised to make a complete radio signal, hence the programme that a listener wants to hear. After understanding the differences between analogue and digital and how digital radio operates, it is time to purchase one. Luckily, eBay has a large variety of digital radios to meet every buyer’s need. Listening to the radio should be relaxing, and a consumer should not have the constant struggle of dealing with static because the signals are experiencing interference while using an analogue radio. The digital radio should provide a clearer, higher-quality sound for easy listening.

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