Digital radio promises CD sound

BRITAIN'S 3 million satellite and cable TV homes could be experiencing something new by the end of this year - digital radio giving CD-quality sound, writes Steve Homer.

As most people feel FM radio leaves a lot to be desired, this could be good news for British music lovers. DMX (Digital Music Express) will have 30 channels ranging from non-stop heavy metal to non-stop opera beamed from Atlanta, Georgia. The system, designed for the cable TV system in the United States, will launch on selected UK cable operations this March.

Users will need a special 'tuner' to decode the signal. No prices are available, but in the US the system is rented out for about dollars 12 (pounds 8) per month. Later this year, BSkyB will carry DMX.

As DMX only plays uninterrupted music, listeners will need to use a special remote control to find out what they are hearing. When this is pointed at the tuner, details of the song, aria or track are displayed in a panel on the remote control.

There is a danger that pirates will make perfect copies. But as single tracks, arias and movements are played, bootlegging is difficult.

Sound quality should be as good as a CD player. However, because it is necessary to be linked to a cable system or satellite dish, DMX will be no use in the car or outside. High-quality listening there should eventually be made possible by digital audio broadcasting (DAB), a system that the BBC is working on.

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