Halfords invents radio signals that don't travel at the speed of light

Or their marketing dept is talking utter hoop

Halfords is telling potential DAB radio buyers that the digital radio tech is "super-fast" compared to analogue AM radio, which might come as a surprise to the laws of physics.

The car accessories retailer is trying, like all good businesses do, to drum up interest in its DAB digital radio sets. To this end it published a webpage trying to convince consumers to hand over their hard-earned cash in favour of one of the newfangled devices.

Halfords did a Stephen Fry and tried to give the world a simplified explanation of why DAB is superior to traditional analogue broadcasts. Unfortunately, like the great Stephen, they bungled it almost beyond recognition.

Its DAB car radios buyers' guide + video [sic] has this to say about the merits of DAB:

Simply put, DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) digital radio offers superior sound quality than traditional FM / AM band radio. Digital transmissions contain more information than conventional FM / AM, thanks to the super-fast wavelength of around 220MHz in the UK, compared to the 75KHz or so wavelength of analogue FM / AM radio broadcasts.

It also claims that British listeners can pick up DAB stations from abroad, which is certainly news to anyone who's tried to pick up domestic UK stations, let alone ones from further afield.

Register reader Andy, who read this and sent it to us in high dudgeon, opined: "Anyone knowing the basics of radio will not only have their chins on the ground, but physicists will be baffled by the claims that break the laws regarding the speed of light and electromagnetic waves."

Indeed they would. Radio waves travel at near-as-dammit the speed of light – 299,750km/s, or slightly less depending on the specific refraction index of the air mass a particular signal travels through. Roughly speaking, the nearer the ground, the slower an electromagnetic signal travels – down to a positively snail-like 299,225km/s at ground level.

That aside, DAB isn't always of higher quality. Outside of the London DAB transmitter coverage area, it all gets rather dubious.

"If there's been a consistent criticism of DAB in the UK, it's sound quality. Even in London, very often coverage can be ropy, especially indoors. Long-time DAB users will be familiar with the sort of warbling underwater sounds that arguably are far more annoying than the background hiss of a weak FM signal," we reported last year when the BBC cancelled its plans to switch off its FM radio signals.

We asked Halfords what it intends to do about its webpage of technobabble and a PR person told us: "Thanks to the eagle-eyed readers of The Register for bringing this outdated and incorrect description to our attention. It has now been updated." ®

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