Upgrading to digital two way radio. Is it worth it?
Analogue receive audio degrades gradually, while digital audio works at the same high quality right to the edge of range, then… just stops.
This effectively increases the usable coverage area of a radio system. Whereas noisy audio signals are nearly unreadable, digital audio stays crisp and clear. Remember that with digital, there is no actual audio within the radio signal, just data.
Things about Digital mobile Radio (DMR) that you should be aware of.
• Digital Two Way Radio is not a hi-fi recording studio.
Just because it’s “digital” does not mean that you will get CD quality audio. The digital processing of speech is intended to minimise transmitted data, whilst maintaining a good level of intelligibility. (The same quality as a traditional landline telephone).
• Digital sounds… “different”.
Because of the data compression techniques, you will experience a different sounding result to analogue two way radio. To reduce the amount of data, the audio digitising process is designed to process only human speech. (Not singing, whistling or humming… just speech). This also has the beneficial effect of reducing, or even eliminating background noise around the user like wind noise or machinery.
• Digital audio creates delays.
Because of all the processing going on, a short delay is introduced. This can be a little disconcerting if another radio is within earshot when you transmit.
One reason for this effect is that received data is constantly checked for errors. If there are errors, attempts are made to repair the damaged data. (This can occasionally create strange sounds called “artifacts”.)
• Going digital will not solve existing problems.
When upgrading from analogue to digital, any existing issues such as interference which could originally be heard on analogue radios will not be heard on digital. However, the interference will corrupt the data and could result in “gaps” in receive audio, or even total silence. (If the radio doesn’t receive valid data it won’t produce any sound… at all).
Don’t forget that you can upgrade your system gradually. You don’t need to replace every radio you have in one go.
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