Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Adventures With HD Radio

I hope HD radio succeeds. I believe the extra channels present public radio with long-term opportunities to diversify its audience and reach more Americans.

That said, my first experience as a consumer of HD radio was not a good one. To put my story in context, I live in Annapolis, MD and receive radio signals from DC and Baltimore.

Last week, I was the lucky recipient of a brand-new Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio HD. I took it home, set it up next to my clock radio (a Sony Dream Machine ICF-CD823 for those of you who must know), and tuned to 88.1FM, WYPR in Baltimore.


So I tried 88.5 FM, WAMU. Digital chirps.
90.9 FM, WETA. Static.

I couldn't hear one public radio station that I usually hear on my clock radio -- at all. All told, I could hear about half the FM signals I usually receive. The HD indicator did not come on for any of them. I could not get an HD signal, commercial or public, in my bedroom.

Next stop, the kitchen. My lucked changed with a few commercial stations. Digitally encoded station and song information started showing up on the radio display. I actually heard my first "second service" from WSMJ (104.3), smooth jazz, in Baltimore. I managed an intermittent second signal from Mix 106.5 from Baltimore. And I could hear one public radio station, WBJC (91.5) from Baltimore, which is not an HD radio station.

What I did hear sounded good. Even the AM stations sounded better than on my clock radio. In both locations, however, I spent a lot of time holding the FM antennae wire in the air, along walls, and against windows. I moved the radio around. I tried everything I could to get a better signal. It all seemed so old-fashioned, so "analog."

My best guess as to why I had so many problems is the location of our home. We're 20-30 miles from many radio towers and nestled among some small hills. I must admit, it didn't occur to me that our location could be a problem until there was a problem.

I hope others will have a better first experience with HD radio than I did. Otherwise, the iPod/MP3 input jack on the back on the unit will start looking, and sounding, very good.


Blogger Aaron Read said...

(disclaimer: I understand that your experience with IBOC..."HD Radio" is a marketing term owned by iBiquity only and won't apply as other producers of IBOC gear rolls out...is a good analogy to what the Joe Schmo Listener will have)

Home radio typically get WORSE reception than car radios for the simple reason that a car radio has an antenna that's not surrounded by four walls of a house. An exterior antenna...even dangled outside a window...can make a significant improvement. Remember that FM's heyday was when everyone had a TV antenna on the roof (which uses frequencies close to FM) that was aimable, directional and had a certain degree of "gain" (inherent signal amplification).

Either way, most radios sold these days have terrible antennas. I suggest an aftermarket antenna from C.Crane - they're pretty good and not too expensive (the cheapest is only $25).


Or if you have an old TV antenna on the roof of your house - hook your FM radio up to that.

C.Crane also makes FABULOUS antennas for AM as well called the "Select-A-Tenna". They can make a major difference in some cases.


By the way, have you installed a IBOC-capable radio into your car? Besides multicasting, a big advantage of IBOC is that it eliminates the pops and bursts of static from multipath; commonly heard while driving.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“HD Radio on the Offense”

“But after an investigation of HD Radio units, the stations playing HD, and the company that owns the technology; and some interviews with the wonks in DC, it looks like HD Radio is a high-level corporate scam, a huge carny shill.”


“Sirius, XM, and HD: Consumer interest reality check”

“While interest in satellite radio is diminishing, interest in HD shows no signs of a pulse.”


"But is 'availability' of HD radios the problem?"

"And one broadcaster reported to me that he asked an iBiquity rep how many HD radios had actually been sold as of the most recent accounting. And this was his answer: 150,000."


"Is Pay-for-Play HD Content on Horizon?"


"HD Radio Effort Undermined by Weak Tuners in Expensive Radios"


"The FCC Tunes Into HD Radio--And May Turn Off Distant AM"


“RW Opinion: Rethinking AM’s future”

“Making AM-HD work well as a long-term investment is seen as an expensive and risky challenge for most stations and their owners. There is the significant downside of potential new interference to some of their own AM analog listeners as well as listeners of adjacent-channel stations.”


HD Radio is a farce !

11:23 PM  

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