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HD Radio - Next Big Thing or Flop?

by April 21, 2008
HD Radio - Up-and-coming or Flop?

HD Radio - Up-and-coming or Flop?

HD Radio makes sense. Digital music with meta information similar to mp3, but with even more flexibility. As the digital transition looms nearer for televisions, radio - for the most part seems bent on staying analogue, even though the same fuzzy AM and FM radio has been annoying us for decades. HD Radio proved to change all that, but similar to HD DVD, there seems to be only one main technology player in town - iBiquity and they aren't exactly having adopters sign up in droves for a non-mandatory digital radio transition.

So what is HD Radio? Well, according to wiki:

HD Radio is the registered trademark for the in-band on-channel Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2002 for terrestrial digital audio broadcasting in the United States. The IBOC technology was developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation, and it allows stations to simulcast HE-AAC-quality compressed digital audio and traditional analog audio, without changing to new frequency bands. The specification for this standard offers two operating modes: "All Digital" and "Hybrid Digital". According to iBiquity, the name " (IBOC) technology selected by the HD Radio" is simply iBiquity's brand for its digital radio technology, however according to the HD Radio Alliance the HD means "Hybrid Digital".

So the FCC is behind it in support since 2002, but here we are in 2008 and only one company, the developer is really pushing the marketing and advertising of the HD Radio technology (and doing very little to explain itself to consumers, most of whom aren't aware of any digital radio besides XM or Sirius.

So what's so great about HD Radio? Well for one, there are already over 1200 stations across the US. Since it's digital, you either get the station or you don't. There is no more static. Also, since HD Radio is somewhat experimental, there is a proclivity for broadcasters to think outside the box and experiment with new formats and programming styles. Meta information means that now you'll know who you are listening to and (hopefully) which album the song came from. One manufacturer, Polk Audio, is even tying HD Radio meta information to iTunes, allowing you to "tag" songs for later purchase.

But is HD Radio making it as a format? Not yet.

Most radio stations are not jumping into the new format and currently there are only a handful of manufacturers making home devices to receive the digital transitions. Like satellite radio, the majority of adopters seem to be in the automotive industry - which is doing all it can to provide value-added features to lure consumers. The auto makers who are currently supporting HD Radio in come fashion include:

  • BMW
  • Ford
  • Hyundai
  • Lincoln (Ford)
  • Mercedes Benz
  • Mercury (Ford)
  • Mini
  • Scion
  • Volvo (Ford)

Manufacturers making aftermarket HD Radio kits for vehicles include Sony, JVC, Jensen, and Alpine among others. These kits range in price from $100 - $400, about the same range as home models - of which there are very few. Most notably, HD Radio is becoming available in home theater receivers from such companies as Denon, Marantz, Onkyo/Integra, and Yamaha.

So will HD Radio make it in the consumer market or fizzle out like so much unused technology. We believe the infrastructure is still growing and it's only a matter of time until HD Radio experiences the "trickle-down" effects and gets placed in lower and lower priced equipment. The only downside now is that iBiquity is the only game in town and when one technology or company is behind the advancement of an entire technology it had better put forward the marketing dollars to make it work. At this point, HD Radio is looking a lot like Toshiba and HD DVD, minus the format war, of course.

Let us know if you're using HD Radio in our forum poll below - we want to see if this is something that is taking off with excitement, or something consumers are meeting with a "ho-hum" yawn.

 

About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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Recent Forum Posts:

jostenmeat posts on April 26, 2009 19:59
I just clicked “What's HD radio?”

I don't have the capability, but the couple of times I was in someone else's car, and there was classical music playing, it would display the name of the work/composer (but I don't remember if there was anything else). That's pretty cool, as I've discovered some good stuff over the radio, but many times I'm not going to sit in the car until it's over just to find out what it was. (Though I've done that on a couple of occasions).

So, yeah, that's my favorite thing about HD radio!
Adam posts on April 26, 2009 19:48
Welcome to the forum, Mike! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
mecolwell posts on April 26, 2009 19:47
HD Radio

I am new to HD Radio, having upgraded my Processor to the excellent Onkyo Pro PR SC-885. It replaced a Classe' SSP-25, and older excellent preamp/controller.
I am a very analog guy, listening to mostly vinyl, for serious listening, and FM for casual/background. With the new HD radio in the Onkyo, I have been enjoying the sound of HD and the additional channels, which also have no ads.The Onkyo Pro is set to switch to HD Digital if there are both analog and digital available, and it takes a few seconds to do so, so it starts out analog, then to digital, and the HD sound is clearer, and, to me, sounds better. My old tuner was a fully modded Tube 60's Dyna FM-3, which sounds excellent.
So, I am happy with what I m hearing with HD radio, so far.
Happy listening, and, as always, “Enjoy”.
Mike
Mr.M-500t posts on May 21, 2008 00:25
Biggiesized, post: 414241
The problem with HD Radio is that it isn't all digital. When the FCC started planning for the analog to digital broadcast transition, why didn't they consider developing an all digital terrestial radio system for broadcasters as well? This is in-band on-channel stuff is garbage.

Do the idiots in Washington DC ever do anything right ?
Biggiesized posts on May 20, 2008 08:40
The problem with HD Radio is that it isn't all digital. When the FCC started planning for the analog to digital broadcast transition, why didn't they consider developing an all digital terrestial radio system for broadcasters as well? This is in-band on-channel stuff is garbage.
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