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Digital radio switchover - fitting a DAB antenna


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I recently refurbished the entire interior of my 1988 Esprit Turbo and took the opportunity to upgrade the radio to a dual FM/DAB receiver.

 

There is industry/government talk of a digital switchover for radio starting from 2015 so every car owner is going to have to face this at some point but I was keen to access new channels now.

 

Of course, this meant fitting a new DAB antenna (aerial) in the car somewhere.

 

Many of the after-market DAB antennas are intended to stick to the windscreen glass (ugly) and bond to an earth plane. Not so easy in a non-metallic car!

 

After a bit of metal bashing, I hid the antenna (little black matching box + self-adhesive hairline antenna) and my earth plane mod away in the A-Pillar and wow, what crystal clear reception. Very happy ears indeed, and the car remains 'authentic' (as much as a chrome Esprit can) in that the original FM aerial still raises and lowers on command from the head unit.

 

post-15334-0-50094700-1375956257.jpgpost-15334-0-42436300-1375956258.jpgpost-15334-0-66597400-1375956259.jpg

 

Given this was part of a much larger interior refurbishment project, I don't have photos of all the steps but to fit the antenna in this location, this is roughly what you need to do:

 

1. Photo 1 : Remove the A-Pillar trim cover (I did it on the left side of the car).  It's fixed with 3 push fit trim fixings and you need to be pretty aggressive to pull the trim off but not too much that you break the fibre glass part. I broke one of the fixings but SJ Sportcars have them in stock.

2. Photo 2 : Get a strip of ferrous metal of some description (I had a piece of thin stainless steel tubing lying around which I bashed flat) and drill an 8mm hole in it.

3. Photo 3 : Remove the nut securing all those black ground wires in the photo above, remove the earth connectors and fit the metal strip at the base of the bolt before refitting the earth wires and nut.

4. Fit the DAB antenna to the inside of the A-Pillar according to the manufacturer's instructions, ensuring the the earth part of the antenna will stick firmly to the bit of metal you just added.

5. Feed the antenna cable under the dash (securing it with tie wraps as required) to the head unit area of the dash.

6. Remove your old radio and refit the new one with DAB support. This may or may not require wiring loom changes and/or removing the radio trim surround which I won't cover here but is pretty easy.

7. Plug the new DAB antenna into the new head unit.

 

Enjoy your new DAB stations.

 

post-15334-0-31400100-1375955101.jpg

 

So what's it like?

 

Well, I have to say that driving around locally is fantastic but as soon as I venture further afield, I often loose a non-national station.  The nice thing though is that the Kenwood head unit I bought (KDC BT73DAB) supports auto switchover between FM and DAB, picking the strongest service, so national stations such as BBC services work really well.

 

P.S. I tried one of those dual FM/DAB splitter things prior to doing the above. Useless!!!

Edited by JamieG

I'm human, just not like the rest! Why? ChromeLotusEsprit.com

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I'd love to update the car stereo but 99% of them just look ghastly. They even stick out like sore thumbs in modern cars, so you can't just say it's because they need to look up to date. The Kenwoods are about as subtle as you can get

In the garage no-one can hear you scream 

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John - nice find.  I see mine's #3 in the list.  The Pure unit looks quite nice too.  The Pioneer styling will not make Mark a happy chappy ;-)  One thing the review doesn't mention is that the Kenwood comes with the DAB antenna that I used in the install above (not sure about the other two).

 

Mark - couldn't agree more! I looked at the Alpine CDE-136BT unit too which was very subtly styled but it only had USB at the rear and the suggested solution of "put your external player in the glove compartment" was about as ridiculous a suggestion a sales person has ever spouted to me.  I can barely reach mine from the driver's position, never mind open it, take out a player and control it, all while driving.

 

It's such a shame that the likes of Pioneer have marketing departments that have identified the replacement market as comprising boy racers who need an aggressively styled unit with all sorts of flashy things going on on the display while driving :-(

 

Even the Kenwood unit has its 'demo' mode enabled by default. Most annoying.

I'm human, just not like the rest! Why? ChromeLotusEsprit.com

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IMHO you should have to go looking for a car stereo, not for it to reach out and stab you in the eyes. For me the best looking radios were Blaupunkts between 1986 - 1996, not to mention the classic "ice-cube" Alpines. When thinking back to the cars sold with them in I could cry.

 

Blaup-Cata86_Folder-be_04.jpg

 

Sorry to hijack your thread with pointless nostalgia! Back on track....

In the garage no-one can hear you scream 

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Straight to the point Buddsy ;-)

 

Unfortunately I think it will happen, maybe not in that timescale but eventually.  Why?

  • Too much invested in it by numerous companies such as BBC (I worked on it shortly after graduating in the early nineties!), receiver manufacturers, silicon fabs.
  • Government is greedy and needs all broadcast services to switch to 'efficient' digital spectrum so that they can auction old analogue spectrum off to highest bidders for other services.
  • DAB+ developed to address some of the quality concerns.

 

Quality point accepted.  And not easy to educate users on the ways services are accessed either, making the UI on some devices overly complex (the Kenwood user guide has a diagram explaining the Services & Ensembles multiplex concept and you need a degree to understand it). But recall the classic VHS versus Betamax war where quality did not win. The whole thing is far too political to be concerned with only quality.

 

Regarding nostalgia Mark, I found a great company in the USA making custom configurable retro radios when searching for something that would fit (style wise) in my MG Midget.  Just goes to show that technology and style can be independent.

 

post-15334-0-17580900-1375963517.jpg

I'm human, just not like the rest! Why? ChromeLotusEsprit.com

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I must admit I've got DAB in my everyday car and it's pretty rubbish which is surprising since I live less than 2 miles from Kent's main transmitter stations at the top of Bluebell Hill. 

88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

Evora NA

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We have a DAB at home its shite, breaks up (which I though was the point of it not doing that) cant find stations etc..  FM works fine

Amateurs built the Ark

Professionals built the Titanic

"I haven't ridden in cars pulled by cows before" "Bullocks, Mr.Belcher" "No, I haven't, honestly"

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So, just to clarify, you chaps think DAB is ......shite?

 

Just wasn't sure there for a mo.

 

I installed a ribbon antenna in my roof edge when retrimming and its meant to be DAB OK but I didnt fit a DAB radio in the end.

Following suggestions here, I fitted a fairly unobtrusive JVC one thats totally black when off, with no sticky out bits.

bluetooth-car-stereo-2.jpg

"Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them." Albert Einstein

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I just don't understand what the point of DAB is, FM works fine and in our area works better, our DAB either dosn't pick a channel up or it breaks up. I know you can get more channels, my only conclusion, is it allows the Govt to sell of bandwidth for cash. I'm not a luddite, but in this case I do not see the need for it.

Amateurs built the Ark

Professionals built the Titanic

"I haven't ridden in cars pulled by cows before" "Bullocks, Mr.Belcher" "No, I haven't, honestly"

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The point is that if it works you get 100 channels rather than 5. 

88 Esprit NA, 89 Esprit Turbo SE, Evora, Evora S, Evora IPS, Evora S IPS, Evora S IPS SR, Evora 400, Elise S1, Elise S1 111s, Evora GT410 Sport

Evora NA

For forum issues, please contact the Moderators. I will aim to respond to emails/PM's Mon-Fri 9-6 GMT. 

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Well I have to say I really like DAB radio I've got one in the Esprit and the Elise as well as one in the garage and one in the house. It's true the reception in some areas isn't all that good, but a lot of the problems in our cars at least is due to the lack of a good ground plane. In the Esprit the antenna is on the shelf in the rear window with a sheet of aluminium underneath the shelf to act as a ground plane and the Elise has just got the optional screening foil on the rear hatch cover. The other thing to watch is if you use a DAB spliter on a standard antenna it must be a non-amplified one otherwise it won't work, so forget trying to use one with the bee sting antenna on the latter Esprit and Elises.

 

Some DAB radios I've tried are quite poor and only work in a good signal area it's just a case of finding the one with the best reception. I have a quite small "Pure Move" portable radio which I've taken all round the country with me and it's got the most amazing reception for something so small.

 

Martyn :welcome:

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I seem to have opened a can of worms by starting this thread!

 

I too like DAB.

 

My son has a new low cost CD/MP3/DAB player in his room and he now has access to speciality stations playing specific genres of music which he never had access to before (although given his choice, I might regret the purchase).  It never breaks up and the audio quality is actually very good for the price of the unit.

 

I can listen to stations that are broadcast on FM from London but aren't receivable where I live in Reading by tuning into them on DAB and my wife can listen to all sorts of trash :-D

 

I have to admit that coverage is an issue when mobile but driving around in a plastic car without a really large earth plane, I feel I am being unfair. I would like to listen in a more modern car to see if it's a coverage, installation or receiver quality issue.

 

I can also accept that any technology transition is exactly that.  They doesn't happen overnight.  It will be several years before service is really good comparable to FM but at that point, I bet everyone will be saying "I don't know how I ever survived with analogue"!

 

Do we really want our VHS tapes or analogue audio cassettes back? No thanks.

I'm human, just not like the rest! Why? ChromeLotusEsprit.com

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I've just bought a new stereo as you'll probably know if you've seen my thread. DAB wasn't a factor in the decision making process at all. I only presume it has a FM radio :).

 

Let's be honest, radio is crap. With the moronic adverts and talking and repeating of tracks they think you should listen to - but I can see it serves the needs of the few and niche. Traffic and news updates are usually irrelevant with your smartphone or traffic enabled satnavs catering for these now. But just because I don't need or want it, doesn't mean I don't care about it.

 

The switching off of FM radio and mandatory transfer digital radio isn't going to be as easy for the government to enforce on the public as digital television was. For the people that digital TV impacted the solution was relatively simple; just buy a set top box and as a bonus you've got even more channels you'll never watch.

 

Radio is different because of all the cars (40,000,000 in the UK in 2012) that have radios that cannot be easily converted. How many cars have in-dash units? I want to design a DAB radio that uses the same tech as a FM sender that can be picked up by your old car stereo. I'll market it as the "Ironic". People just won't bother for their cars, listening figures will drop and radio shall die.

 

Only to be reborn via internet radio, which will probably be available from your friendly mobile carrier on the very same frequency band as FM is right now. That's progress. 

 

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Well down where I am the DAB signal is very patchy so I'm using a Parrot Asteroid mSXqe-UB2admXAb3TGMMGZw.jpgwhich I use to get radio off the internet !if I can't find anything on FM to listen to or I can listen to music from the mUHiasOxJRga1JY_XiVYUbA.jpghard drive I've plug in to it, 

Edited by paul1972
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  • 2 weeks later...

Yet to be convinced on DAB in cars after terrible reception with a kenwood unit, admittedly a couple of years back. Great at home though, if you don't have excellent FM signal.

Couldn't agree more on how modern stereos are aesthetically and ergonomically poor. Flimsy, overcomplex and invariably with the volume control on the left. I want metal, clunky sliders and clicky knobs, circa 1990 but with usb ports and cd. No hypnotic lights either please. I'm 35, hardly an old git!

I love the sound quality of the pioneer 80dehprs i have in the Esprit but wish it looked more like the old Alpine which came out. Nakamichi comes closer to what i want aesthetically but seem to be pulling out of ICE.

Moan over.

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  • 7 months later...

I'm fitting the same kenwood unit in mine tomorrow for the run down to brooklands next week, the Sony pull out cassette player has a crap fm signal and the tape to head phone converter is littering the interior. I've chose this unit for the ipod control, rear usb so I can put an ipod lead into the armrest/centre glove box, and mainly because it's the plainest looking unit with the most functions. All the lower spec ones looked too lively

First time I've seen thus topic so I will copy your dab ariel idea although the dab was a bonus feature I thought you might as well have (other than special as l eventS say twice a year it will not get out of Lancashire ha ha)

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Still happy with DAB on my Kenwood unit. The only complaints I have is that the front USB doesn't seem to charge my phones (even though the phone says it is) and there's not enough contrast in the display to overcome the reflections from here there and everywhere. So I bought a remote control for 12 quid off of Ebay as I couldn't control the unit safely while driving.

I'm human, just not like the rest! Why? ChromeLotusEsprit.com

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