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Christopher Spry

Making audio-CDs from BBC Radio 3 DAB broadcasts

This page was written by Christopher Spry. It describes how I create high-quality audio-CDs of BBC Radio 3 Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) programs. These are for my personal convenience, as when programs are broadcast at night or when I am away from the DAB reception area and want to hear a broadcast later. Note that I do not encourage or condone illegal use of copyright material.

This procedure does not take long, once it has been setup and used a few times. The final product is a high-quality audio-CD in better than 'CD-quality', which makes later listening as pleasurable as listening to the live DAB broadcast.

My Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) Radio

In August 2004, I bought a Roberts RD-1 ‘Gemini 1’ DAB radio from Simply Radios for £199.99. It came with a 32-MB 'Secure Digital' (SD) card. I bought from Dabs a larger capacity Kingston 512-MB  SD card  for £64.51, so that I could record just over six hours of continuous broadcast programs, say 01:00 to 07:10.

This radio receives Radio 3 DAB broadcasts well where I live in London and it can record them automatically, using a timer function, into files that are equivalent or better than commercial audio-CDs of PCM 'CD quality': 44,100 Hz, 16 bits per sample and 2 channels stereo. I was disappointed that the BBC does not appear to broadcast in any other DAB radio channels with a quality that approaches CDs.

1 Recording
2 Transferring
3 Selecting tracks
4 Converting MP2 tracks
5 Burning the compilation
6 Testing
7 Problems


1 Recording the broadcast

First, I set the Roberts RD-1 radio to record to the SD card. I have found that loud screeches may be recorded onto the SD card if the radio's buttons are touched while recording is taking place. Sometimes screeches are present at the start of an unattended recordings. For this reason, the radio is best left switched off to do the recording and not listened to while this takes place. I delete any affected part of the recording, later.

On my computer which has internet access,  I make a text file with details of the program that I have recorded. I cut and paste the details of the broadcast listing on the Radio 3 website to a text file 'Play_List.txt' and save it in a new directory, '\Audio_CDs\directory_name' for example. Later, I use this to make the play-list on the CD jewel case insert.

2. Transferring the recorded program to the computer

I put the SD card into a SD card reader on the computer and transfer the recorded MP2 file to the computer, to a file called, for example, '\Audio_CDs\directory_name\recording.mp2'.

3 Selecting tracks from the MP2 file using 'mp3DirectCut'

The next step is to remove unwanted sections at the start and end of the recording and to create MP2 tracks corresponding to each section, or track in the recording. For this, I use Martin Pesch's free program 'mp3DirectCut' v 1.36. This is an excellent program to scroll quickly through the recording while listing to it, to find and select individual tracks.  But first, after the MP2 file with the recording is selected, check in 'mp3DirectCut' that the check box of 'Edit | Tag ID3 and file info | Use ID3v1 Tag' is not selected, as this can result in a saved MP2 file that can not be converted to WAV by Winamp, as described in the next section. Play and scroll through the recording and save selections one-by-one as new MP2 files with the name '1 First track.MP2', for example, in the directory \Audio_CDs\directory_name.

4 Converting MP2 tracks to the WAV format using 'Winamp Pro'

I then convert the MP2 tracks to WAV files, using 'Winamp Pro' v 5.2, which I had bought online. Winamp can convert rapidly MP2 files to the WAV format, without playing them through the computer's loudspeaker. I follow the advice at Radio-now to select 'Options | Preferences | Plug-ins | Output' and choose the 'Nullsoft Disk Writer plug-in v2.1[out_disk.dll]' option. While this option is selected, I click on 'Configure' then 'Output directory' and enter the directory created for the MP2 files: '\Audio_CDs\directory_name\. I then click 'Convert to format' and make sure that this is set to 'PCM, 44.100 kHz, 16 Bit, Stereo'. I close the dialogue boxes with 'OK' then 'Close'. Once this has been setup (it remembers for next time you use the program), I select 'File | Play file' and select the MP2 file(s) I want converted. To save time, I can select several MP2 files to convert. Conversion starts once I click on 'play'. The output of each file conversion is written rapidly to WAV files, which are saved automatically in the directory selected in 'Output directory'.

I have also configured Winamp Pro so that it does not automatically associate itself with all types of sound files, when the program starts up. Deselect 'Options | Preferences | File Types | Restore the associations at Winamp start-up'.

5 Burning the compilation to an audio-CD and making jewel case inserts using 'Nero' and 'Cover Designer'

I then make an audio-CD using 'Nero' v 6. 6 and Verbatim CD-R Datalife Plus (48x) 80 Minute disks, which I buy in spindle tubs of 50 @ £7.99 from blankdiscshop.co.uk. I select the WAV files with the selected audio tracks. In the 'Properties' section of each track, I cut and paste from 'Play_List.txt' the title of each track and the name of the artist. Later, these are used by Nero to create the CD jewel case inserts automatically. I give the CD a title and name before burning it. When it is complete, I save the Nero project data to '\Audio_CDs\directory_name'.

I make the inserts for the CD jewel case using Nero v 6 'Cover Designer'. I use a modified version of the 'Classic' format to do so. I copy and paste the data in the 'Play_List.txt' file, so save having to type it in.  I print the pages containing the inserts and cut them to size to fit into the case. I also save the Nero cover designer data to '\Audio_CDs\directory_name'. When I have created many CDs, I do not bother with a jewel case, but simply put the CD recordings back in the CD spindle tub that they arrived in.

I have found that each time Nero is started, it creates a new set of shortcuts in 'Start | Programs' if these are not present already. I delete these if they are not wanted.

I write the details of the program I have recorded onto the top surface of  the new audio-CD using a CD marker pen. (I bought an {AC 5000} Pack of CD Marker Pens @ £0.84 fromblankdiscshop.co.uk.) I do not use sticky labels, as these may cause problems such as damaging the disk or altering the way the disk spins in the CD caddy.

6 Testing the audio-CD

I test the new audio-CD and if it plays correctly, I delete the MP2 files from \Audio_CDs\directory_name. I keep the *.wav files and the saved project and label details from Nero. I delete these later if I need the space on the hard disk.

7 Problems encountered recording radio programs with the Roberts RD-1 ‘Gemini 1’ DAB radio

I have found that the Roberts RD-1 ‘Gemini 1’ DAB radio may fail to work: it fails to show that it is connected to DAB and no sound is produced. As others have reported, the way to fix this is to disconnect it from the main electricity supply, remove the batteries then replace them. Doing this does not reset the radio's settings, but it starts working properly again.. I have not had to return the radio for a replacement, as some have reported. Some recordings of radio broadcasts have an occasional short unwanted soft sound or a short gap in the recording. This happens when the DAB signal is poor. To prevent this, ensure that the DAB signal strength is optimal. Fortunately the strength of the signal is shown on the front of the Roberts RD-1 ‘Gemini 1’ DAB radio which I use to make recordings. I only record when the signal is maximal.

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