Thursday, 11 February 2010

My Belfast DAB radio mystery

After stepping foot out into the cold with my digital radio nestled in my pocket, I looked up at the sky. What I saw was a blanket of wispy edged, fast paced, grey clouds that were swimming in their lanes of air - from where I was standing, the main culprits of oxygen, hydrogen and light were providing the beautiful blue backdrop for the blanket of cloud. A backdrop that only ended at a human themed horizon of rooftops and street lights. The radio was fully charged with full signal and like the clouds and me, ready to get going.

It was a pretty sight but a little surreal because I was having a strange day before I had even emerged from behind the door. I hadn't been able to sleep very well due to a chesty cough and cold recently and I ended up waking up much earlier than normal with the need to remove some lovely green gloop from my airways. I had awoken abruptly at about 7.30, that mightn't sound early to most people, however I generally work a couple of hours later into the early evening than most people so it was early for me.

The extra time had given me a chance to say a fully conscious goodbye to Norn Girl for once which was nice. She's always an early bird due to the distance she has to travel to work. So normally she's jumping out of bed and I'll still either be fast asleep or only manage to give a semi unconscious farewell. It also gave me chance to take some cold relief tablets with a much needed glass of water and also a chance to take a long soak in the bath. Despite the relaxation and respite I was still feeling tired but as good as I could hope to be as I took in the first outdoor breaths of cold air. I was on my way to work.

It was from a sneaky layer of cloud that had snuck up on Belfast that a fine and sparse snow fell as I got closer to my destination. My ear phones in position, I was listening to my Digital Audio Broadcasting  radio, more specifically, I was listening, as per usual, to the fun and friendly Chris Moyles show. I really like my portable DAB radio, maybe more than is healthy but not as much as Stephen Fry and those Apple products. The item itself is a Philips DA1103 and was a present from my madre-in-law. It's one of those things I would use almost daily - well at least when my metaphorical batteries are recharged enough to remember to recharge the AAA batteries it takes. It's a good radio because it works really well even after being bashed around numerous times. Saying that it's also a sound recorder and 1GB MP3 player but I can't remember ever using those functions. I don't know if I have managed to kill those and am maybe using them as substitute padding. *checks*... Yay, still fully functional.

Back to yesterday morning and the traffic on the roads wasn't too bad for once. Unfortunately though, I had maybe spent too long in the bath because I wasn't quite yet in work as the Chris Moyles show was drawing to a close. Car park catch phrase ended and the hand over to Fearne Cotton approached. I usually listen to the radio most of the day if I have the chance to and at 10am, the Greenwich time signal PIP's or beeps sound out to keep us up to date with the time.

Now this is where, in the slightly snowy but bright light of day, an 'under the weather' and tired me, was subject to what has become a regular disorientating silence. The problem is, for some reason that eludes my searches of the web, then and only then, after those short pip sounds at 10am, my DAB radio will fall silent.

On the first occasion that this happened I thought it was likely it was just a coincidence - that I must have just lost signal. The second time I was a lot more suspicious. The only common factor was the time at which it had lost the sound after the pips / at 10am. Sporadically it continued to happen depending on which station I was listening to at that specific time. I found it only ever occurred when listening to BBC radio stations – Radio 1 and 4, and it only occurs directly after the pips. That morning I ended up yet again short of sound from my ear phones and needing to pay acute attention to my radio. The sudden cut in sound is slightly off putting as it's like having a sense suddenly go dead after my ears have become accustomed to the low level noise. In a movement I've done numerous times, I took my hands from my pockets and took the black and white machine into the palm of my hand. I performed the usual practice of pressing to the side to select another station. It's a choice between a quick visit to Radio1 Extra or BBC Asian Network because they're one press either side. On this occasion I opted with a flying visit to Radio 1 Extra. As always, once selected, the sound mysteriously returned. I then switched back to the station I was listening to originally and voilĂ  - the sound has found its way back to my ears. On this occasion there was Fearne, Chris and their team's half way through a conversation.

It's not the end of the world I know, but it is baffling mystery to me. I suppose it could be my DAB and some sort of signal changing incompatibility between shows if the signal isn't continuous? But I've no access to another portable DAB to check it against. It might be my radio taking a huff at the PIPs?  I suppose it could just as easily be a coincidence of something interrupting certain digital signals at that time of day somewhere in Belfast. Whatever it is, something special happens at 10am each morning (well I guess slightly after due to the digital lag) that cuts off my radio in Belfast when I'm listening to certain BBC stations, no matter where I am and what the signal strength is. I must try to remember to see if it does the same when I'm elsewhere in the UK. On the plus side, its another mystery to work on solving - though I think I could live with this one forever holding its digital secret.

Answers on a postcard... alternatively, please do comment below with your best crazy scientist theories...


  1. Look up government testing which has been done to your ionosphere over there.

    Good luck in them telling you the truth about it though.

  2. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what could be causing that. Well, except that it's obviously aliens from outer space. You've checked your skull for probe marks, I assume?

  3. I'll get my tin foil hat on! You might be right Shelly, but in regards to the DAB radio issue, transmissions are closer to home the same as FM radio and hopefully won't be taking such a detour to get to us.

    Lol, you know what, I haven't! *note to self* Must get Norn Girl to check to see if she can spot any small probe marks.

    The good news is that they didn't leave anything sticking out. Saying that my hair was sticking up a bit that morning and it wouldn't go down without a fight :-S get busy with that tin foil whilst I remember.

  4. I have the same model radio and experience the same phenomenon - in my case I usually lose radio 4 at 7am directly after the time signal. I live in the south of England. If this is the future of radio then I'd rather stick with fm!

  5. weird. i've got exactly the same problem listening to bbc 6 music in the morning. happens every day. the radio doesn't switch off - just goes silent. yours is the first post i've ever seen about something similar. i figured it was just my radio.

  6. I have the same problem with Radio 4. Every morning at 7am the radio goes silent for a few seconds.



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