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Re: “HD Radio on the Offense

I have an Alpine car radio with the HD Radio upgrade.

The good:

1) Sound quality is very good. AM sounds like FM. FM doesn't sound as good as CD, but still better than analog FM.

2) The "secret" stations, the subchannels of FM stations, have some good content
on them.

3) HD Radio is free of charge! After eating the cost of the radio up front, there's no subscription needed.

The bad:

1) HD Radio is too expensive! A radio that should have cost $25 ends up costing $200. I wish the FCC hadn't handed the HD Radio monopoly to a single company. There's no competition to drive down the price. One single company makes all HD Radio chipsets used in every radio.

2) The HD Radio signals aren't strong enough! They cut out too easily, even when the analog station comes in strongly. I read somewhere that the HD Radio digital signal is transmitted at a mere 1% of the wattage of the analog signal. It gets really annoying when you're right on the edge, and the radio keeps bouncing between digital and analog mode.

3) HD Radio requires 8 seconds to "lock on", before the analog signal becomes digital. That's about 7.5 seconds too long. It's annoying to tune to different HD Radio stations, because of the long waiting time. Also, it makes HD Radio useless for broadcasting a live event, because of the time lag.

4) AM doesn't have any "secret" stations. The AM subchannel is forced to carry a simulcast of the AM analog signal. There's no technical reason for this, since the AM analog signal isn't required anymore once the radio is able to "see" the digital signal. Most AM stations are talk, which doesn't sound any better in HD. The AM stations could have made decent money renting out their digital signal to somebody else, who could play music.

5) The HD Radio chipsets are poorly engineered. They use too much power. That's why you can't buy a battery-operated portable HD Radio. There's no alternative, because as mentioned earlier, only one company has the rights to make HD Radio chipsets.

The ugly:

Anyone remember AM Stereo of the 1970's? That's the path HD Radio is going down. A good idea, ruined by poor execution, and bad business decisions.

Posted by Krellan on 09/24/2008 at 2:56 AM

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