: Alternatives to Cable FM Radio (disappearing)?
2012-06-07, 11:25 AM
In light of Cable FM Radio service disappearing in some/most parts of Canada, this thread is to discuss alternatives for those who wish to continue receiving FM Radio signals.
Here is some background on Shaw's recent cancellation of Cable FM Radio service: Analog FM Radio on Shaw Cable (http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=149849) and FM Radio Stations Now Gone (http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showpost.php?p=1418589&postcount=436)
Other providers have likewise stopped their FM Radio services. Yes, generic music services like Galaxie continue to be offered with digital cable subscriptions, but the programming does not typically rebroadcast desirable local FM radio stations.
What is a consumer to do? I think the most obvious categories are: Satellite Radio subscription (i.e. Sirius)
Internet Radio tuner (free and/or subscription)
OTA FM antenna
Although analogue FM is gone, (most of) those channels and more are available with a STB from the provider. That's what I have connected to my Stereo Receiver for audio only in my living room, but instead of listening to FM (which are in the channel 900 range on Rogers) I now listen to commercial free Galaxie stations, in the 700 channel range.
You can typically purchase a used STB for $50... So, I guess the answer depends on which provider you have and your interests.
2012-06-07, 11:37 AM
Galaxie is generic music, while my intent is to discuss specific local FM Radio station reception that may have disappeared with these analogue cable cutoffs.
Music is only just part of the payload that local stations provide, so really this is about consumers losing what used to be a fundamental feature of Cable TV and thus having to change to a digital cable subscription to get the same thing.
Analogue cable will not be around much longer. All of the providers are switching most/all channels to digital and much like the analogue to digital transition for OTA, people will have to adapt with new equipment, either digital STB or the items mentioned in post 1. Here's a link to the transition thread for Rogers. There are links in post 1 to the transition threads for the other providers...
2012-06-07, 12:23 PM
I haven't used cable FM for years but was considering hooking it back up a few months ago until I found Nobex Radio for Playbook. Has all the locals AM and FM and a few surprises from small town Alberta as well. (Big Dog 103.5 from Lac La Biche) Being the Playbook has an HDMI out that I have used on a TV I would ASSUME my receiver would have no problem with it either. I have no idea if this awesome App is available on other platforms or if those other platforms have a similar easy hook up.
I hope this helps!
2012-06-07, 12:42 PM
Apple TV, any generation.
It is easier for me to stream CBC FM signals from Edmonton from just outside the city than to use an antenna.
2012-06-07, 12:52 PM
I can't speak for cable systems in other regions. But our local Rogers cable provides local AM and FM stations and Galaxie music channels in clear QAM. Any digital TV capable of tuning QAM can receive them.
Unfortunately they're not tagged in any way--you'll have to do some listening to determine which station you're tuned to.
Have you tried doing a scan?
2012-06-07, 01:35 PM
Sangean and Grace offer dedicated Internet Radio set top boxes for home audio use in the $200+ range while Aluratek and others offer STBs in the $90 range. There are also many home media players and HTPC apps with similar Internet Radio functionality.
These STBs provide access to thousands of local radio stations from around the world that don't require any subscription, while many such products have the apps for receiving subscription-based Internet Radio services like Live365, etc.
Note: consumers need to always check first if Pandora, etc. etc. are available to Canadian subscribers.
I see Jase88 beat me to the fact that the channels are currently still available unencrypted. Here's a link for Rogers. Not sure how long this will last as Galaxie on Rogers just went onto QAMs instead of streams, as discussed in recent posts in the Rogers Galaxie thread.
I see that there are about 34 AM/FM channels that are still "streamed"
2012-06-07, 01:40 PM
A reminder that this is about alternative ways of getting favourite FM Radio stations after a person's analogue Cable FM signals are gone. :)
2012-06-07, 02:00 PM
Just wanted to mention that this is specific to cable TV. The telcos still carry "local" radio on their IPTV set-top-boxes. In fact, MTS is adding more radio stations as they expand to more communities in Manitoba. I believe the satellite companies still carry radio as well, but I haven't verified that.
Switching providers may be an option if that's a big enough deal or if you were considering it for other reasons.
BTW Shaw Cable doesn't have radio in clear QAM (just Galaxie).
2012-06-07, 02:21 PM
I'll have to go visit one of my neighbours who quit Delta Cable (Eastlink) when the FM Radio band disappeared. He just had Telus OPTIK hooked up and I'm curious whether KPLU Tacoma (http://www.kplu.org/term/jazz-blues) and other SeaTac stations are available in their FM Radio package. Telus staff could not tell him for sure beforehand.
If he cannot get the prized KPLU he'll either get an Internet Radio STB or a roof top antenna. I'm presently getting KPLU on my WDTV boxes via tunein.com's interface after flashing them with WDLXTV software. I also have a tester FM antenna up on the roof and I'm enjoying much better audio quality than over KPLU's poor Internet feed.
2012-06-07, 02:51 PM
Internet radio (IMHO) is the future of radio. I've felt for a long time that it will replace stuff like Sirius or radio-over-cable, etc.
The main reasons I think internet radio will win is:
- Integrates "live" content and "subscribed" content (i.e. podcasts) in the same interface.
- Low cost
- Widely available (usually not region limited and lots of devices support internet radio and podcasts now)
- Smartphones will drive the use of Internet Radio (and podcasts) in vehicles, and lots of vehicles support technology like Bluetooth AVRCP now so your Smartphone in your vehicle is very transparent (i.e. you can just use the controls on your deck or steering wheel).
In fact, I listen to my local CBC radio station every morning - but I'm not using a FM tuner, I listen using Sonos. I could just as easily be listening to the BBC or Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ).
2012-06-07, 03:26 PM
Stampeder, what type of FM antenna did you put up? What sort of feedline to your receiver?
I used to have our FM receiver attached to cable too and miss the interference free signals. CBC we've been grabbing from the internet ever since I disconnected the cable input; that gets piped through our two zone Onkyo receiver via a Squeezebox (gen 1). In the early days it was something of a hassle to modify Slimserver to stream CBC but it was possible; it's much easier now.
I'd rather pick up local stations OTA though, and reserve internet access for far away stations, so am thinking of putting up at least a half wave vertical dipole in the attic. We are atop one of the higher hills in Vancouver with clear views to the U.S. and north shore mountains, the Islands, and down the valley, so I don't imagine I'll need much more than some height. If I have to, I can chimney mount a mast and antenna.
2012-06-07, 04:36 PM
When Shaw started mucking about with FM cable, I switched to Telus Optik and connected an HD box to the stereo. Telus carries many radio stations from Western Canada but none from the US. Quality is good. I use a ten-year-old Slimp3 (now Squeezebox) for mp3s and internet radio; with that and the Telus box, I'm quite content.
I will try an external antenna for local radio, when the rainy season ends, but since the North Shore mountains are blocked by a large hill, I'm probably limited to Victoria and US stations.
2012-06-07, 06:01 PM
I've been listening to Internet radio since the very early days (in the 90's) when 56K modems meant that you had it made :-) and the stream quality was just 8kbps via Real Audio. It was my only way to listen to radio from France, other than via shortwave. Over the years, things have evolved and I've gone through almost a dozen internet radios. One thing I noticed is that Canada is lagging behind quite a bit in terms of stream quality compared to other countries. We still find here lots of 32 or 64 kbps streams while 128 kbps seems to be the norm elsewhere. In the rare times I listen to Quebec radio, the quality is just so awful that I just can't stand it. Even Cuba seems to have better streams!
A great site, for those interested: http://www.mikesradioworld.com/
2012-06-07, 08:29 PM
Stampeder, what type of FM antenna did you put up? What sort of feedline to your receiver?I have a couple of factory built VHF/FM/UHF TV antennas that would do the job but for this quick testing of KPLU on 105.5MHz from Mt. Vernon, WA I just whipped up a simple copper wire horizontal dipole.
You should be fine with a vertical dipole from where you are, and you can read about FM antennas in the following thread: http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=120261 and of course most of the info for FM Radio reception is the same as for VHF-LO TV info so check out the OTA Forum too.
2012-06-07, 08:47 PM
I use to have one of these Omnidirectional antennas on my old house... it worked great.
It cost about 10 bucks in those days... now I see they run about $20 to $30.
2012-06-08, 08:51 AM
[... nice picture above - omnidirectional, crossed FM dipole Antenna - good job.]
Analog FM via CABLE TV- radio stations from a little furthur away - were lost on COGECO Kingston, I think around July 2011.
They replaced some (but not all) of the radio stations via digital TV channels / digital adaptor box-if you were eligible to get an adaptor - or via a cable subscription and a regular digital cable box rental or digital cable box purchase.
Some good radio stations of interest were lost and not replaced YET.
Some good quality music stations were replaced with ones of lesser musical quality.
Some "alternates" were provided - ex a Classical and a Jazz station out of Toronto - O.K. - not to bad - but alot of Toronto blahh blahh blahh - annoying Toronto advertisements and blabber.
... and they provide a bunch of LOCAL Kingston FM ones ... that you can pick up yourself easily with a simple antenna anyway ... so nothing of much interest there.
ex. before, on Analog CABLE FM, COGECO Kingston Had - CBOX 102.5 FM "Espace Musique" from Ottawa/Gatineau, CBC 2 French, which is EXCELLENT music with very few interruptions .... excellent music and DJ's / hosts - all-be-it in French / no problem for me.
... was replaced with Digital channel 293, CJBC 90.3 FM "Espace Musique" (?)from Toronto which seems to be more TALK than music - and noisy, low signal quality as well - on the digital cable channel.
[ I have requests and suggestions in to COGECO - the Kingston Cable providor - on this matter - but so far just scripted / canned responses - I continue to monitor for any actual changes or improvements ]
Possible Alternatives to the old Analog FM via Cable:
Try a Clear QAM tuner / SCAN - and see if you can get some music channels from your providor that way. Either Radio stations or even straight Music Channels on Clear QAM, unencrypted digital.
But Clear QAM may not last very long, and may get encrypted at any time, or the channels may constantly get moved around - making it a bit of a nuisance.
Via Satelite Radio ? Free to air? Clear? Unencrypted?
... researching on the net ... I read:
Some countries shut down SW shortwave broadcasts - and instead started broadcasting to the world / some to North America via Satelite. Maybe C-Band for some - which means a large dish usually ( 6ft or more ). Sat Receiver and the works.
[ Yes, subscription Sat radio too - like Sirius Satelite Radio ]
Internet Radio seems to be the way to go - but you need usually a high speed internet connection. Lots of stations from all over.
Apple I-Pod (?) / internet streaming / internet radio
... a friend of mine streams internet radio stations to his hand held Apple I-Pod (?) via a wireless home router (connected to residential high speed cable internet service) to anywhere within range on his property - maybe up to a hundred feet or so from the wireless router. Works pretty much anywhere on his residential property.
He demonstrated it to me - neat setup.
Personally ... I WENT BACK TO FM ANTENNAS - FM OTA - over the air - myself - mostly
Personally, in Kingston and in Ottawa ... I just started putting up and connecting old fashioned FM Dipole antennas to all the FM radios again.
The "Cable Providor" does not seem that interested in providing what it used to. So bye bye COGECO Kingston ... we don't listen to your music much anymore.
I am also thinking of putting up a good FM antenna / or COMBO antenna which will receive FM - on the TV tower in Kingston - with a rotor - to be able to DX a little - get FM OTA - over the air - from a little furthur away.
Then, maybe with a good directional DX FM antenna on the tower, then there is the possibility of getting some HD Radio - Digital over the air radio - from the U.S. - receiving from Kingston. (ex. Watertown NY - Public Radio "Classic FM" 90.9 FM Watertown N.Y. / Syracuse N.Y. USA, WCNY, WUNY, WJNY - pretty nice stations / music / with few interruptions ).
2012-06-08, 08:54 AM
I don't have cable now, and when I did, I only used it for the stereo simulcast channels (MuchMusic, and what was then the movie channel that would be TMN). I prefer to listen to actual FM radio with a dipole or rod antenna, and have with most of my life.
Yes, now, you get the FM stations from a cable box, antenna, or streaming.