Saturday, July 21, 2007

FM? AM? HD? IBOC? Digesting the alphabet soup

By now, you've probably all heard of a young technology on the radio dial. Supposedly, it will make AM sound like FM, and FM sound like digital CD quality. In addition, it has the potential to double, triple, even quadruple the selection of programming on the dial.

But the question all of us are asking is, what the hell is HD Radio?

I've been thinking about writing something about HD Radio for awhile. As readers of LTR know, audio technology, in the form of webcasting, WiFi, podcasting and satellite radio has been a frequent part of this site. I guess what inspired today's entry is the news out of Cincinnati that venerable online (and former local station) WOXY.com will be making a return to the Queen City airwaves thanks to this semi-obscure technology. Today, we turn our focus on a different type of radio animal, HD Radio. Now, I am far from an expert on this, and I may even get a flaming comment from some tech geeks. Think of it as a rube talking to other rubes, trying to explain it all in simple terms.

But the question is, how does one listen? What does it cost? Can I pick it up in my everyday Chevy beater?

In short, what the hell is HD Radio?

HD Radio was developed by a company called iBiquity Digital Corporation. And it is a brand name of a form of digital transmission for your everyday AM and FM radio stations. The HD Radio system allows stations to broadcast crystal-clear audio and a variety of text and data-based services, in addition to more FM channels, without changing to new frequency bands.

To help avoid confusion with HDTV, a much faster-growing technology, the 'HD' in 'HD Radio' does not stand for 'high definition'. It's basically a brand and trademark of iBiquity. There's really nothing 'high definition' about it, except that the signal it receives is in the form of ones and zeros. In short, it's digital. The 'HD' doesn't officially mean anything in iBiquity's scheme of things. If one were to attach a meaning to it, I guess 'hybrid digital' would be adequate.

In keeping with the rest of the world, and as the FCC is heavily foisting HDTV upon the masses, to the point that all analog television broadcasting will be kaput in a year and a half, the commission selected HD Radio as the standard for digital radio broadcasting. Evidently, they learned their mistakes from the AM stereo blunder in the 1980s, where they fumbled in establishing a broadcast standard, to the point that when they finally settled on a technology, Motorola's C-QUAM standard, nobody really cared anymore. Hell, the only place I've ever heard AM stereo was in an old Dodge K-Car. Think typical AM sound, but with channel separation. Still sounded pretty cool, though.

Now, I guess the best way to describe HD Radio is by comparing it a little with its TV counterpart. Keep in mind that TV uses a totally different technology. But some of the main components are similar. The content is sent digitally, rather than in plain analog. Meaning that in pure digital mode, there is no static or ghosting. You either get it or you don't. Today's HD radios, however, are designed to switch back and forth between analog and digital, depending on the strength of the signal (like in digital TV, the digital signal in radio is far weaker than the analog one). So if you venture outside of reception areas, it may flicker back and forth a bit. Kinda like stereo to mono on typical FM. Fret not, they're working on the signal strength issues, and newer receivers will be more finely tuned. And unlike HDTV, in which stations use a separate dedicated digital channel, digital radio piggy-backs on current frequencies, making transitioning a little more complicated.

Hearing radio in far superior sound quality may or may not be enough to entice consumers to go out and buy new receivers. But the icing on this cake does hold some promise. Namely sideband channels. HDTV is already well-known for this. You can see for yourself on your local NBC affiliate, which will likely have an all-weather side channel. Or your local public TV station, which may have different side channels devoted to children's programming, Spanish-language shows, and even the really cool 'Create', which consists of lifestyle, travel and how-to programming.

Digital FM (AM is not a possibility) will have something similar. This concept is called IBOC (in-band on-channel). For example, people in Los Angeles listening to KROQ on their HD units can flip over to the HD2 channel to hear a separate "ROQ of the '80s" channel, complete with all the old music they used to play and even really old liners and promos). Or they can hear a secondary channel consisting of jazz, classical music or eclectic rock on their local NPR outlet. People in Sheridan, Wyoming, who would otherwise never get to hear liberal talk on a local station, can tune into KYTI's HD3 side channel and hear the straight Air America Radio feed. Their other two sister stations carry ESPN radio and comedy on their sidebands. And so far, aside from talk formats and AM simulcasts on the sidebands, it's all commercial free.

The cost to receive the programming? Zilch. So far, many of the big radio companies, such as Clear Channel, CBS, Entercom, Citadel, etc. have upgraded their broadcasting and transmission equipment for this and over a thousand stations nationwide are broadcasting digitally, side channels and all. Clear Channel even went to the workshop and came up with "Format Lab", 75 distinct automated formats for their stations (and others) to pick up. Formats like bluegrass, dance club music, classic and alternative country, golden oldies, blues, indie rock and others. They also have Pride Radio, targeted toward LGBT listeners, and even a channel programming nothing but classic Casey Kasem countdowns from decades past. Aside from audio programming, some companies are exploring other options, such as commuter traffic data.

So, you're probably thinking this sounds pretty damn cool. What's the catch? Well, in order to hear this stuff through a radio, you gotta get the right equipment. A typical receiver will not pick this stuff up, only the venerable analog signal. An HD Radio-compatible unit is required. And this is where iBiquity and their partners have screwed up. Sure, they promote the hell out of it, but it's all very confusing, particularly since there's a competing (but somewhat compatible) technology out there called FMExtra. The biggest problem is that there's hardly any product out there. There's a few household and tabletop units available, but not as many people really listen to radio that way. Most of the listening is done in cars, and so far, there's not many options available. BMW and Volkswagen supposedly are offering it as an option on their factory-installed units. Some car dealerships are following suit. A few companies have HD Radio car converters available (remember those old FM converters from the '70s? These are a bit more advanced.). And so far, only one company, JVC, manufactures a complete HD-ready aftermarket head unit for about $199, with other companies such as Sony and budget line Jensen to soon follow suit. But that's not enough. In order to grow, people have to have an easier way to hear it. And for that to happen, they need to get receivers out there, and especially in cars. And they need salespeople in the Best Buys and Radio Shacks of the world who know what the heck it is. Often, there are stories about salespeople who have no clue as to what the hell HD Radio is. They're most likely to take you to the TV section.

Another hurdle for HD Radio is competition. Satellite radio services such as XM and Sirius are fairly well-established, and are widely available from the car manufacturers and in aftermarket kits. Many car receivers made today have connection plugs for easily plugging in an iPod or similar device. And with new technologies such as WiFi and phone-based internet services, the day when we can actually hear internet radio conveniently in the car may soon arrive. Where does HD Radio fit into this grand scheme?

HD Radio does have some advantages. Namely, the infrastructure is already there. AM and FM radio are not going away anytime soon, and many stations have or are working on upgrading to the technology. Unlike TV, which is being forced to upgrade by the FCC prior to the analog shutoff in February 2009, the commission is letting HD Radio cut its teeth first, allowing the marketplace to determine its destiny. HDTV also has an advantage in that all TVs sold today are capable of digital reception (older TVs are S.O.L.). For radio, this will take a bit longer.

The HD Radio standard is different than digital radio in other countries. iBiquity's technology is in use only in the United States, Brazil and now the Philippines. This allows digital signals to piggyback on already existing AM and FM ones. Many countries are going with a different standard, Digital Audio Broadcasting, which broadcasts in a different frequency spectrum (and yes, the U.S. has been experimenting with this one). One system found in some European countries is Digital Radio Mondiale. Of course, these different technologies are in no way compatible with each other. Confused?

The slow rise of digital radio can best be compared with FM radio. FM hit the marketplace in 1940, with stations located on the 42-50MHz band. After WWII, all the FM stations moved up the dial to the present 87.9-107.9MHz, leaving the few FM radios out there instantly obsolete, save for tinkering radio geeks and collectors. FM didn't make an impact in the ratings until KPEN (today's KIOI) in San Francisco became the first to crack the top five in the early '60s. It took until the mid-late 1960s, the advent of stereo FM and distinct formats such as easy listening and freeform progressive rock to actually draw listeners in general. And it took until the early '70s to tweak FM technology so that people could actually listen to it in moving vehicles (i.e. 'circular polarization'). FM receivers weren't really installed in cars until that decade. The FM band didn't overtake AM in popularity until 1978 or so. So, FM radio took over a quarter of a century to get anywhere with consumers, and so far, it has stuck around. Likely, digital radio will take some time as well.

Like with most other innovations, there are some very vocal critics out there. They claim that HD Radio is a non-starter. That it's dead in the water. That it's useless technology. That it interferes with analog signals. Now, I don't really get some of the more die-hard critics. Hell, there's one guy, who calls himself "Pocket Radio" who seems to be on a personal obsessive vendetta against it, practically spending his every waking hour trashing it. What I don't understand is, why? What's wrong with technology? He obviously isn't footing the bill for it, so who cares? As for interference, most listeners may not notice it. It's more prevalent on the AM dial, since the digital signal stretches the already narrow AM sidebands to even more extremes. Apart from radio geeks who like to DX distant radio stations (i.e. dial around at night to pick up stations from hundreds of miles away), most people are indifferent. Let's face it, DX'ing stopped being fun when every powerful radio station in the land decided to put George Noory on at night and baseball teams started moving their games to weaker AM stations that would cave in to their excessive demands (like in Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Francisco and other markets). DX'ing was more fun back in the day when CKLW, WLS and WABC blasted the country with the hottest hits and jocks in the land. Today, most AM radio sounds the same, so DX'ing is no longer as much fun. And the point is moot anyway, since, as a casual DX'er, I have had little problem pulling in stations from even a thousand miles away after dark. So essentially, casual listeners to analog radio will likely not notice any issues due to HD Radio.

So, what will be the ultimate fate of HD Radio? Well, it will survive in one form or another. It has to. There's a lot of money tied up in it, far more than was tied up in AM stereo. And the technology will get better. Just like the original FM technology was impossible to pick up in cars prior to a few tweaks, digital radio will get better. The equipment will improve and be more readily available. The signals will get stronger. As will the programming choices. I say give it some time. More listening options are not necessarily a bad thing, are they? Now why would anyone complain about that?

(Note: I originally posted this entry yesterday, but for some reason, was not pinging correctly. Hopefully, this repost will show up on feeds, search engines, etc.)

12 comments:

PocketRadio said...

Consumers are not interested in the HD Radio farce:

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com/

ltr said...

All consumers?

My my, why are you filled with so much anger and hatred over a mere product? Pretty silly, isn't it?

So tell us, why is HD such a menace to the human race? And don't just cut and paste it, tell us. Be convincing. In your own words.

I say go out, get some fresh air, find a nice girl, do something. And while you're at it, how about upgrading from Windows 98 and AOL? This is 2007, after all.

scanman said...

I have purchased and tried HD Radio, and am not impressed with it at this time. IMO, analog AM and FM have better audio quality (AM analog, while not having the same frequency response as AM HD, doesn't have those harsh digital artifacts that cause me listener fatigue).

I do believe in time, the technology of HD Radio will improve, along with the programming and services. Reception problems adherent in current HD radios will be resolved as well.

FM took 38 years to achieve mass popularity and overtake AM in number of listeners. While I don't think HD Radio will take that long to do the same, it won't happen overnight, either. We just need to give it some more time.

PocketRadio said...

ltr,

What a stroke of genius - so you ran this against my IP address:

http://www.showmyip.com/

Too bad, I have AOL dialup for $10/month, which menas that I do not have a dedicated IP address, so good luck. Nonetheless, iBiquity is looking into other options, because HD/IBOC has been such a complete failure:

"Finally, A Good Use for HD Radio"

"That's why I was happy to hear that even the folks at iBiquity are looking at other options. They have to."

http://insidemusicmedia.blogspot.com/2007/07/finally-good-use-for-hd-radio.html

You undoubtedly spent much more time writing this shill-spot for HD Radio, that I have posting comments - so my question is, why spend all of this time shilling for a technology that is DOA ?

hashfanatic said...

Oh, that's just propaganda, from old-school radio whiners feeling threatened, and some satellite corporatists.

Pay no attention.

I have one of the Radio Shack units, and while it is certainly not perfect, and sound quality is not there yet, I can tune in different types of formats, and it's interesting to listen to once in a while.

Never discard any imperfect technology until you see how big business can choose to exploit it.

ltr said...

To Pocket Radio:

Actually, I have server stats. I kinda had a hunch about the system you were using. Win 98? AOL? Sounds like you're kicking it old school. No wonder you hate technology! Hell, you've gotta pay for that! You've got a dumpster dive PC and dirt cheap AOL connection! Live in the now, brother!

As for whatever else, don't flatter yourself, kid. I could give a rip. I often check my stats to look at search terms used, screen resolution, readers' hardware, web connection, etc., as it helps in making this blog more user-friendly. I really don't care about anything else, and no, I don't spy on anyone here.

But as I figured, you still bring nothing to the table as far as credible reasons why you don't like HD. Just another cut and paste link. Use your own words, not somebody else's. Think for yourself for once. That's what I did.

And finally, I found your last sentence quite ironic, given that this is really the first time in almost three years of doing this blog that I covered HD Radio (though I had mentioned it in passing once or twice before). I've always been curious about technology and thought I'd go on a non-partial exploration of it. What I'm still wondering is what your beef really is about HD Radio? How and why does it affect you, to the point that you've spent an obscene amount of time bashing it on message boards and blogs. I mean, http://www.radio-info.com/smf/index.php?action=profile;u=43722;sa=showPosts870 posts about this on Radio Info in the last four months??? All bashing HD Radio? And you say I spent too long writing my one measly article? So, have you succeeded in killing HD Radio yet? Good luck with that.

That's it, I'm convinced that you bring nothing to the HD Radio debate. You're a cut n' paste lightweight with a chip on his shoulder who bitches just for the sake of bitching. I ask you a question, and you can't even answer. People, pay no attention to this worthless fool. Your're a lightweight.



To hashfanatic:

I have yet to purchase a unit, as I don't like much of the selection out there (I really have no use for a tabletop radio). The JVC head unit caught my eye, as I'm looking to install a new stereo in the car. I've heard many good things about it. Only thing is that I often wait to buy new technology, as the initial units are often expensive and crude (i.e. the original DVD players). Besides, the technology and quality improves with time. I'll let others pay to be the guinea pigs, and buy into it later.

HD Radio is still cutting its teeth. I am interested to see where it goes, and I don't really understand the furor over it. As I mentioned before, it seems none of the critics can give a legit reason as to why they hate it so much. Just that they do. Right now, I really see no problem with it. And I certainly have no reason to hate technology (save for operating modern day TV remotes).

PocketRadio said...

Actually, you might be surprised at the damage that has been done:

http://tinyurl.com/yoqk6d

My comments are on about every HD Radio consumer site - my review was the first on Circuit City's site for the Receptor HD, which is now being discontinued - big surprise, it has receiver only 600 votes in 10 months ! Ha Ha ! Radiosophy may also be in trouble and RS is discontinuing the Accurian HD - wow, these crappy HD radios are selling like hot cakes ! Aside from that, your comments are what I would expect from a liberal - BTW, I hear libral talk radio is DOA, just like HD Radio ! LOL !

ltr said...

Googling your own blog spam and using that to prove a point? Oh, please!

You still have not explained in your own words why HD Radio is a bad thing. All you do is cut and paste. Don't you have any of your own opinions? Of course not, you're obviously a conservative! Put it in your own words! No links. Quit being such a candyass!

And if you knew anything about electronics, most gadgets have a shelf life of a year or less anyway before they're upgraded or reintroduced. But you already knew that, right?

PocketRadio said...

Here is a copy of my article that will appear in Radio World Online next month:

HD/IBOC is a thinly-veiled attempt to jam smaller broadcasters and rim-shots off the dial. HD is a "fix" for something that was never broken - besides the programming, how many listeners complain about the quality of analog AM/FM ? HD represents the interests of only larger broadcasters and is not a technology that consumers have demanded. Broadcast radio is in trouble, due to competition from Satellite Radio, iPods, and cell phones - HD is an attempt to please Wall Street by building the HD infrastructure, but in reality the lack of investment in the HD2 channels has resulted in repetitive, automated, bland programming. Most metro areas have more than enough radio stations to satisfy listeners, without the need for HD multicasting.

AM-HD ignores listeners by making AM sound horrific on existing radios - newer AM radio designs are wideband because of their cheap IF design, and sound like a waterfall mixed with a million angry crickets, when one tunes an AM-HD station. HD jams adjacents and has extremely poor building penetration, even in those cherished city-grade metro 10 mv/m signal areas, and less then 50% intermittent HD-AM coverage in the 5 mv/m area, as HD's inferior coverage was indicated in the NPR study, "HD Radio Coverage Measurement and Prediction". Arrogant IBOC advocates proclaim the nonsensical statement, "you were never supposed to listen to first-adjacents, or out of protected contours". Some of us “outmoded-DX’ers" are working over-time trying to help a next-generation of DX'ers, some only 12 to 15 miles from HD towers, get enough HD signals into radios to get reliable decode. We see the folly of a system that forces consumers to do something it has been proved they will NOT do - become antenna tinkerers. A percentage might tinker with antennas for a specific format, but the system is defective when it doesn't work with internal antennas, which for decades have been adequate for analog stations.

HD-2 is going to become pay-per-listen - the technology is out there, it was demonstrated, and the chance to rake in money from niche-audiences is too tempting to pass up, especially when ad revenue is falling; however, this strategy may backfire and drive even more defections to Satellite Radio. So, why the pretense that HD will always be "free", when the technology to make it subscription-based has already been announced?

Few HD radios have been sold, as consumers have moved onto other entertainment mediums. Robert Struble of iBiquity admitted that so far only 150,000 HD radios have been sold (minus returns and fudge-factor). For all HD radios on Amazon.com, 3,500 is the highest in the electronic sales rankings. On Circuit City's Internet site the Receptor HD, which is being discontinued, has received only 600 consumer votes in ten months. Some visits to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Radio Shack show no signs of HD Radio. Internet HD message boards indicate that radio-geeks are buying multiple HD radios, having to upgrade from bug-ridden units, so the actual number of HD listeners may be much smaller than previously indicated. Bridge Ratings stated that, "HD is the most disappointing media of 2007" and that, "consumer interest in HD is decreasing, as stations work hard to increase awareness". Also, in "HD Radio: The Battle for Your Mind", Bridge Ratings stated, "Thus far it is still the audiophiles and early adopters who show interest and that is where the several hundred thousand units sold comes in to play". A 2007 In-Stat survey, "Digital Radio Set to Take Off" indicated that 75% of consumers are aware of HD, at some level. Currently, there may be a slowdown in HD sales as the radio-geeks are completing the initial round of purchases.

The Big Three have rejected HD in favor of Satellite Radio, and aside from a few luxury models that include HD as a $500 option (Hyundai and Jaguar sales have stalled), HD has recently been relegated to used car dealerships. Sprint has integrated Pandora personalized music service into its cell phones and CBS bought Last.fm. If there is any doubt, as to the popularity of personalized music services and other competitors to HD, go to statsaholic.com website traffic statistics engine and compare “hdradio.com” and “clearchannelmusic.com” to “pandora.com", “last.fm”, “sirius.com”, and “xmradio.com”. If still not convinced, go to google.com/trends and compare “hd radio” to “sirius”, “xm”, “internet radio”, and “podcast”. Internet traffic to hdradio.com and clearchannelmusic.com is almost nonexistent, and interest in HD (i.e., Google searches for "HD Radio") has been almost flat, since the first HD radio was sold in January 2004 and HD stations started broadcasting in 2002.

While the AM band may be struggling, news/talk/sports on the 50KW’ers remain very popular. AM-HD should not be allowed to destroy this valuable resource that reaches many thousands of fringe listeners across many states (WLW boasts 38 states) - AM-HD is essentially turning AM stations into localized FM stations, and we have yet to see the effects of nighttime AM-HD. Through this travesty, the FCC literally gave away our free airways to the HD Alliance/iBiquity, but it is still up to the marketplace/consumers to determine the fate of HD. Internet message boards and blogs are filled with negative comments, as HD is being viewed as a solution in search of a problem. To quote Jerry Del Colliano, Professor of Music Industry at USC and founder of Inside Radio, who has daily contact with Generation Y, "So, the old consumers don't want HD. Young consumers think the concept is laughable. Big retailers can't sell it. And radio companies won't invest in it. Sounds like a winner to me".

Satisfied ? :-)

ltr said...

HD/IBOC is a thinly-veiled attempt to jam smaller broadcasters and rim-shots off the dial.

It is? Funny, I live in an area jam packed with rimshots, out-of-town signals, LPFM, pirate broadcasters, etc. I have no problem picking any of those up, and more than half the stations in town are doing HD. I've even pulled in FM stations from a hundred miles away. On a simple car radio. And I have no problem picking up distant AM stations from even a thousand miles away. Not too long ago, I was driving around at night downtown listening to a blues music show on a CBC station (AM) out of Winnepeg., literally hundreds of miles away. I was also able to DX a few dozen stations airing George Noory. There really isn't much FM interference. I have heard sideband interference on local AM stations, but nothing that really interfered with other local stations. I will say this much: I don't like AM HD much, as there are interference issues that need to be ironed out. Whether it can be done effectively remains to be seen.

With LPFM, more of the problem with this lies in the FCC's strange approval methods for those hundreds of religious translators that seemingly pop up like weeds across the landscape, crowding legitimate community/educational LPFM off the airwaves for simulcasts of stations out of Idaho. This is a travesty, and I plan on writing about this in the near future.


HD is a "fix" for something that was never broken - besides the programming, how many listeners complain about the quality of analog AM/FM?

I'll agree with you there. Radio programming sucks, and always will. It's often looked at by the owners as avenues for advertising, programming to the lowest common denominator. And I do complain about the sound quality of stations out there, but that's due usually to horrible compression and an over-reliance on compressed audio via the computer automation systems (like Prophet, etc.) found in virtually every station across the land.


HD represents the interests of only larger broadcasters and is not a technology that consumers have demanded. Broadcast radio is in trouble, due to competition from Satellite Radio, iPods, and cell phones - HD is an attempt to please Wall Street by building the HD infrastructure, but in reality the lack of investment in the HD2 channels has resulted in repetitive, automated, bland programming. Most metro areas have more than enough radio stations to satisfy listeners, without the need for HD multicasting.

And you were just criticizing stations' programming for sounding so bad. More choices are a bad thing? Digital radio was in the works before anyone foresaw mp3 players, multimedia cell phones, etc. As of right now, HD Radio is in its infancy, just like there was a time when FM radio, FM stereo, TV, the VCR, etc. was. Nobody expects anything to be 100% ready right out of the box. Technology doesn't move that fast. And you complain about radio companies playing to Wall Street? What the hell kind of conservative are you?

AM-HD ignores listeners by making AM sound horrific on existing radios - newer AM radio designs are wideband because of their cheap IF design, and sound like a waterfall mixed with a million angry crickets, when one tunes an AM-HD station. HD jams adjacents and has extremely poor building penetration, even in those cherished city-grade metro 10 mv/m
signal areas, and less then 50% intermittent HD-AM coverage in the 5 mv/m area, as HD's inferior coverage was indicated in the NPR study, "HD Radio Coverage Measurement and Prediction". Arrogant IBOC advocates proclaim the nonsensical statement, "you were never supposed to listen to first-adjacents, or out of protected contours". Some of us
“outmoded-DX’ers" are working over-time trying to help a next-generation of DX'ers, some only 12 to 15 miles from HD towers, get enough HD signals into radios to get reliable decode. We see the folly of a system that forces consumers to do something it has been proved
they will NOT do - become antenna tinkerers. A percentage might tinker with antennas for a specific format, but the system is defective when it doesn't work with internal antennas, which for decades have been adequate for analog stations.


Again, HD is young technology. If you refer back to the article, I mentioned that initially, one couldn't even pick up FM radio in moving vehicles until one guy came up with circular polarization. FM (and AM as well) in the early days also sounded like pure shit. Obviously, it got better. HD will take some time as well.

And the FCC gave up on DXers years ago when they started assigning new 50KW stations to the clear channel frequencies.

HD-2 is going to become pay-per-listen - the technology is out there, it was demonstrated, and the chance to rake in money from niche-audiences is too tempting to pass up, especially when ad revenue is falling; however, this strategy may backfire and drive even more defections to Satellite Radio. So, why the pretense that HD will always be "free", when the technology to make it subscription-based has already been announced?

Yes, the technology is there to encrypt a digital signal. But we're going to be old men when and if this ever happens. And funny, I don't recall reading anything saying that they're going to charge for it when it becomes more popular. Likely, the only way they'll do it is to air racier, non-FCC compliant programming (remember those subscription services on the UHF channels back in the early 80s?). You're making a rather wild claim here.

Few HD radios have been sold, as consumers have moved onto other entertainment mediums. Robert Struble of iBiquity admitted that so far only 150,000 HD radios have been sold (minus returns and fudge-factor). For all HD radios on Amazon.com, 3,500 is the highest in the electronic sales rankings. On Circuit City's Internet site the Receptor HD, which is being discontinued, has received only 600 consumer votes in ten months. Some visits to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Radio Shack show no signs of HD Radio. Internet HD message boards indicate that radio-geeks are buying multiple HD radios, having to upgrade from bug-ridden units, so the actual number of HD listeners may be much smaller than previously indicated. Bridge Ratings stated that, "HD is the most disappointing media of 2007" and that, "consumer interest in HD is decreasing, as stations work hard to increase awareness". Also, in "HD Radio: The Battle for Your Mind", Bridge Ratings stated, "Thus far it is still the audiophiles and early adopters who show interest and that is where the several hundred thousand units sold comes in to play". A 2007 In-Stat survey, "Digital Radio Set to Take Off" indicated that 75% of consumers are aware of HD, at some level. Currently, there may be a slowdown in
HD sales as the radio-geeks are completing the initial round of purchases.


Again, this is young technology. FM radio was there at one time, and it took roughly a quarter century before people started listening to it. iBiquity and their partners have been a bit slow at getting merchandise to marketplace. I have criticized them repeatedly for this. And they need to come out with more automotive and portable units, rather than overpriced table radios aimed at tech geeks.

You make a big deal out of the Receptor HD unit being discontinued. So what? All consumer products go off the market at one point or another. Take a look at the car industry. The original generation of the new Mini Cooper was phased out this year. Why? It's a great car. Well, they redesigned it and made it better. Are any of the original HDTVs still on the market? Nowadays, all TVs are HD, and you can even get a decent widescreen LCD unit for under $500. The first few generations of iPods are no longer in the marketplace. Does that mean the iPod was a dud? I don't think so. They improved them by adding more features and making them smaller.

The people who buy the first few generations of any device are basically overpaying to be the manufacturers' beta testers. That goes with anything. When the digital watch and digital calculator came on the market in the early 1970s, they sold for hundreds of dollars and nobody could read the red-on-black displays unless they were in total darkness. Today, you can buy a cheap digital watch or calculator at a dollar store that is of higher quality than the $300 technical innovation from 1974. The original VCRs cost over a grand, were as big as a suitcase and had crappy pictures. The first CD players skipped like crazy and made frequent trips to the shop (I had a few). Early CDs sounded harsh and cold (compare any disc from the Beatles catalog--they haven't been remastered since the mid-80s--with a newly remastered CD such as "1" or "Love"). Early home video games looked and played like crap (i.e. Atari). The first Apple Macintoshes had simple monochrome graphics and measured their memory in kilobytes, not megabytes or gigabytes. See where I'm going with this? New technology takes time to get right. And the people who are first to buy anything, whether it be HD Radio or even the new iPhone (which has just been discovered to be prone to hacker attacks) are basically tech junkies who like to tinker and beta test. They also pay heavily for that privilege. I admitted earlier that I tend to wait a year or two before buying any new technology.


The Big Three have rejected HD in favor of Satellite Radio, and aside from a few luxury models that include HD as a $500 option (Hyundai and Jaguar sales have stalled), HD has recently been relegated to used car dealerships. Sprint has integrated Pandora personalized music service into its cell phones and CBS bought Last.fm. If there is any doubt, as to the popularity of personalized music services and other competitors to HD, go to statsaholic.com website traffic statistics engine and compare “hdradio.com” and “clearchannelmusic.com” to “pandora.com", “last.fm”, “sirius.com”, and “xmradio.com”. If still not convinced, go to google.com/trends and compare “hd radio” to “sirius”, “xm”, “internet radio”, and “podcast”.
Internet traffic to hdradio.com and clearchannelmusic.com is almost nonexistent, and interest in HD (i.e., Google searches for "HD Radio") has been almost flat, since the first HD radio was sold in January 2004 and HD stations started broadcasting in 2002.


I assume you mean the car manufacturers. Got news for ya bub - satellite's been around a lot longer than HD. Sirius and XM also pay dearly to cut deals with car manufacturers to make factory-installed radios that are ready to activate. Same with the internet services you mentioned. And having done a stint selling new cars, I can tell you that even upgrading to a factory satellite radio in a car will run about $400-500. A basic AM/FM/CD unit costs about that much. Better get your facts straight. For starters, try some of the manufacturer sites that let you build a car with options.

While the AM band may be struggling, news/talk/sports on the 50KW’ers remain very popular. AM-HD should not be allowed to destroy this valuable resource that reaches many thousands of fringe listeners across many states (WLW boasts 38 states) - AM-HD is essentially turning AM stations into localized FM stations, and we have yet to see the effects of nighttime AM-HD. Through this travesty, the FCC literally gave away our free airways to the HD Alliance/iBiquity, but it is still up to the marketplace/consumers to determine the fate of HD. Internet message boards and blogs are filled with negative comments, as HD is being
viewed as a solution in search of a problem. To quote Jerry Del Colliano, Professor of Music Industry at USC and founder of Inside Radio, who has daily contact with Generation Y, "So, the old consumers don't want HD. Young consumers think the concept is laughable. Big
retailers can't sell it. And radio companies won't invest in it. Sounds like a winner to me".


Reading all of this, I have finally figured out which camp you're coming from. You're a DXer. Well, as I've stated before, you still shouldn't have a problem pulling in distant stations. Perhaps you need to invest in better analog radios. I live hundreds of miles away from Cincinnati, and after dark, I have no problem pulling in stations like WLW. Again, I think AM HD needs serious work, to get rid of sideband noise. Still, even with interference issues, DXing distant stations has not been a problem for me. If anything, the increased crowding of the dial a decade or two ago, and the deterioration of many transmitter facilities has caused more problems for distant reception than HD ever has. For example, WWRC in Washington, DC used to be a top-rated station with 5000 watts at 1260AM. Covered the whole metro too. Nowadays, the signal barely gets out of the city. Many have cited their worn out transmitter facility.

As I've said before, once technology escapes into the public, it can't be bottled back up anymore. Like the saying goes, you can't put the shit back in the horse. What we need to do is take this technology and make it useful. And in time, I'm pretty confident that HD Radio could be made to work. I'm kinda curious to see what happens.

In conclusion, I think it's rather silly to make this much of a fuss over a piddly issue like DXing. You seem way too obsessed with trying to make it go away (again, good luck with that) rather than making suggestions to improve it. You've gone so far as to spam retail comments, criticizing products that you've never bought. Don't you have any ethical qualms about this?

Satisfied ? :-)

Never.

ltr said...

Just wanted to add a little FYI:

FM sideband use is nothing new. As you may or may not know, sidebands have been used for years to transmit data, emergency alerts, Muzak subscription services (elevator music in stores), reading services for the blind and other uses. Much of this sideband use is long outdated, though RDS data (in newer radios, you'll see a readout showing station name, artist and song title, etc.) has caught on in recent years using sidebands.

Of course, this stuff has not existed in the past with AM. The closest we've seen to that is AM Stereo (see article).

PocketRadio said...

ltr,

It is still up to consumers to determine the fate of HD Radio and they have voted NO - iBiquity is already looking at other options. HD is DOA ! You seem quite obsessed, yourself !


  © Blogger template Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP