Full DAB+ support for Android car stereos using DAB-Z with OMRI

DAB-Z is a wide-spread radio application for retrofit Android car head units. Affordable Android car head units are being successfully sold worldwide and can be purchased on shopping sites like Amazon, eBay or AliExpress. Prices typically vary between 180€ and 450€ depending on features and specifications such as RAM or flash memory. These units are available as models for fitting in standard DIN slots or even for a perfect fit into car manufacturers dashboard e.g. Smart, VW, Ford and many more.

DAB-Z app installed on Android car stereo

DAB-Z app installed on Android car stereo in a Smart Forfour (April 2020)

DAB-Z in Google Play Store

Goggle Play Store listing of the app

These head units basically are Android tablets in a car-fitting enclosure with USB Host Mode (OTG) support. USB DAB receivers are supported by the HRADIO OMRI implementation and can thus easily be attached with the Android head unit. However, USB DAB receivers only come with DAB player software provided by the chipset manufacturer. These implementations are not being developed further and lack support for many of the DAB+ features and services.

DAB USB receiver supported by OMRI

Example DAB USB receiver supported by DAB-Z and OMRI

An online community around a German developer began to take up this task and they now actively develop this application further. Their development is released in the Google play store as DAB-Z.

While enhancements in the GUI and some other functionalities could be achieved, a further development for the support or bug fixing of the DAB system part of DAB-Z is not possible due to the closed and proprietary nature of the original underlying driver for the hardware. On behalf of the HRADIO project, IRT contacted the developer and offered to use the HRADIO OMRI implementation as an open, more flexible and feature-rich alternative. Integration of the OMRI implementation into the DAB-Z app proved to be straight forward and in January 2020 it became the middleware enabled by default in the DAB-Z application.

“As developer of the Android “DAB-Z” App, which is available in Google Play store, I started the integration of OMRI as an alternative middleware for accessing USB DAB/DAB+ adapters. The app is quite popular amongst users with an after-market Android head unit, but I also received positive feedback of users that use it on Android TV devices. While OMRI was evolving in stability and feature set, I decided to make it the default middleware in Jan 2020 and thus I am able now to offer features to users, that I was not able to provide before, like Time shifting and DL plus support. Using OMRI improved the audio quality, signal reception and stability compared to the previously used middleware. The interface of OMRI provided to app developers is well designed and hides all of the complexity of USB access under Android and decoding of DAB protocol and audio formats. It took only hours to create a sample app based on OMRI until the first audio was audible on the loudspeakers. I am glad that OMRI has been published on GitHub and I hope that the HRADIO project will further fund additional development and maintenance of OMRI by the IRT.”

Quote from DAB-Z lead developer.

Data provided by the DAB-Z developer shows the number of users who have the app installed on at least one device that was active in the preceding 30 days. More than 90% of this users run DAB-Z with the OMRI middleware for DAB reception.

This means that more than 20.000 users of the DAB-Z application receive their daily DAB radio program with the help of the HRADIO OMRI implementation. 

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