Thoughts on HD Radio

I’m still around – there are actually 3 projects on my bench currently that are ongoing, and I’ll hopefully have a few posts in the next couple of weeks were I fix a Philco Model 66, a Silvertone 1708A, and a Westinghouse WR-8 Columnaire. Until then, I’m quite busy, so things are moving a bit more slowly than they otherwise might.

I bought an inexpensive aftermarket car stereo about six months ago, and it’s sat unopened in my closet until this past weekend when I was able to find 30 minutes and actually put it together. The process in my 2003 Honda Odyssey was incredibly simple – six screws was all it took. And now I have a great, brand new Blueetooth and Pandora-enabled car head unit!

The feature I already enjoy the most, though, is the HD Radio receiver. I’ve never owned anything with HD Radio before, nor can any of my SDRs decode HD Radio as it is heavily protected by iBiquity patents. Let me tell you – it’s like night and day. FM Radio around the Seattle area is always spotty for some reason which I’ve always attributed to the geography. Even a big station like KNDD (locally, 107.7 The End) pushing 18.2 KW of transmitter power has static intrusion, fade, and general sub-par audio quality beyond the normal loudness war audio degradation.

Every time I tune a station on this new head unit, it’s like an immediate A/B comparison between Analog and Digital radio. The tuner first locks onto the analog channel, and there’s some hiss and crackle and the sort of noise you expect from radio. Then the “ST” indicator disappears from the dial and “D” appears when the digital sideband locks in, and the audio quality jumps, the sound field expands, and the artifacts melt away entirely. I swear, it’s like I’m listening to a CD. Except for the commercials.

It’s just amazing. It’s by far the best feature on my head unit, because it makes the experience of being lazy and passive in my music selections better like night and day. Now the music I listen to when I’m bored of my CDs, sounds as good as the music I’ve put some planning into bringing with me. If you don’t have an HD Radio already, you should definitely get one.

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2 Responses to Thoughts on HD Radio

  1. Kevin Henne says:

    I’m enjoying the benifits of HD radio with my 2 tube radios. Bought two small Insignia Portable HD Radios NS-HD01($30) and 3.5mm stereo to RCA Jack adapter for the GE. So that on the ‘phono’ selection I can play HD radio on both the GE LF-116 & Farnsworth K-262P. The GE pulls in KIXI fine but sometimes in my basement the Farnsworth can’t get 880AM, in both the sound quality is amazing. (You get HD stability in signal and the warm tube sound, best of both worlds) For my needs this was a easier solution than setting up a AM transmitter (http://antiqueradio.org/transmitter.htm) These small HD radios get poor reviews from folks that try to use them while running/jogging, but for use in a static location they work great. -Kevin

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