HD Radio

With all of the attention given to the switch from analog to digital television in the United States, some people have been confused when they hear the term “HD Radio”. Despite some confusing terminology, it is important to remember that there is no connection at all between HD Radio and HDTV.

HD Radio is the name for a digital radio format developed by Ibiquity. Unlike HDTV, which requires new televisions or converter boxes, HD Radio is completely compatible with existing radios. When an AM or FM station switches to using HD Radio, it still broadcasts an analog signal. To a listener with an ordinary radio, everything sounds exactly the same. But the HD Radio station is also piggybacking extra digital information onto the analog signal. Some stations have chosen to use this to provide superior audio quality (near CD-quality on FM) and some have chosen to provide additional channels. Only a listener with a HD-compatible radio can hear the improved sound or the extra channels.

It is unclear whether HD Radio will become widespread in the future. Converting stations to use HD Radio is very expensive, but many have already taken the plunge. You can find out if there are any HD Radio stations in your area at the official HD Digital Radio website.

So should you buy a digital radio? It probably depends on whether there are any HD Radio stations in your area and whether the better sound quality or extra channels are important to you. HD-compatible radios are still more expensive than ordinary radios, but I think that two stand out from the pack:

  • One good choice is the Sangean HDT-1 HD Radio Component Tuner. It’s not very expensive compared to other tuners, and the sound quality and performance are excellent. Ordinary analog AM and FM reception is also very good. There are many positive reviews of the Sangean HDT-1, including this one and this one.
  • Another excellent choice is Sony XDRF1HD HD Radio. It is somewhat cheaper than the Sangean HDT-1, but provides similar performance. Some say that it is performs even better than the HDT-1. You can read some of the reviews here, here, and here.  Despite the name, the XDRF1HD is also a tuner, meaning that you will have to supply your own speakers.

If you want to buy a HD-compatible radio, then I think that either the Sangean HDT-1 or the Sony XDRF1HD are a good choice. But if I was choosing only one HD-compatible radio today, I would choose the Sony XDRF1HD HD Radio.

One comment on “HD Radio

  • I purchased cheap an Insignia to test whether I can get HD in a fringe to low reception area far from the city when I put up a large ole style FM antenna from Radio Shack atop a 40 foot tower. It will have to be sensitive enough for this to work and there are only two HD stations, both of which play classical music. If the Insignia can’t do it would a Sangean likely do any better? The coverage map for one station has me about 5 miles outside the outer circle and the other station’s map has me about 5 miles inside the outer circle. If this does not work I will sell the Insignia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *