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Audio quality, less interference and free service … (http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060322/BIZ04/603220383/1148/AUTO01)
The Detroit News - Bryce G. Hoffman – March 22, 2006
Video may have killed the radio star, but AM and FM radio stations are not yielding to the satellite challenge without a fight.
Even as Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio strive to convince consumers to pay for a service they have received for free since its inception, the nation's broadcast radio stations are rolling out new digital technology that delivers better audio quality, less interference and a host of new features.
Twenty-three Detroit-area radio stations already offer the new technology, known as HD radio, and the industry is lobbying aggressively to get automakers to offer HD radios in their cars and trucks.
So far, BMW AG is the only one that does, but eight more automakers are planning to offer HD radios on 36 models over the next couple of years. And while the number of HD radios in use today is in the tens of thousands, it is expected to grow to 1 million by the end of the year, according to iBiquity Digital, the company that is developing and licensing HD radio technology.
That's still a sliver of the 100 million radios sold annually and the 900 million to 1 billion radios in use today. But HD radio promoters remain confident it will grow in appeal, much like high-definition television is taking root.
"It's well under way," iBiquity CEO Bob Struble told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit on Tuesday. "We've got vehicles out there. We've got products out there."
The Federal Communications Commission approved the rollout of HD radio in 2002. More than 3,000 radio stations have announced plans to convert to HD broadcasts over the next couple of years. Hundreds already have.
The nation's largest radio companies have formed an alliance to develop and promote the technology. They plan to spend $200 million to advertise HD radio on radio stations this year, making HD radio the single largest radio advertiser in the United States.
HD radio also promises to revive the AM spectrum, which has long languished as a victim of poor, monotone-only sound. Digital AM stations can broadcast in stereo with FM-quality audio.
A unique feature of HD radio is multicasting, which allows broadcasters to transmit multiple audio streams over the same frequency. That means radio stations can simultaneously broadcast several programs.
Some Detroit stations are already doing just that. For example, WNIC broadcasts a second HD channel on the same frequency that plays nothing but love songs.
HD receivers also can work with vehicle navigation systems to allow traffic accidents and other hazards to be displayed on screen in real time. Second-generation systems will allow listeners to record and rewind radio programs, retrieve more in-depth information and even make purchases with their radios.
"There's no better place to make an impulse purchase than when you're stuck in traffic," Struble said.
Visteon Corp. was the first company to produce an in-car HD radio receiver. It supplies BMW and has inked deals to supply other automakers.
"We're in a good position," said Visteon technical fellow Bill Whikehart. "Things are really accelerating."
Visteon forged an alliance with iBiquity in 1999 to help bring HD radio to the world. In fact, it developed a key component of the technology, which it now licenses to other manufacturers. But Visteon also produces satellite receivers for both Sirius and XM.
"We view the HD and the satellite as complimentary," Whikehart said.
03-22-2006, 07:39 PM
wow unbelieveable, I didn't know next generation free radio was in the works. Something to look out for when you purchase your next car.
12-20-2008, 03:41 PM
HD Radio is nothing but a farce:
12-21-2008, 01:30 AM
I had Sirius in my last car. I liked the idea of 100+ stations and no commercials on the music stations.
I don't get the point behind HD. If I'm going to spend a bunch of extra money for a fancy specialized receiver, I d*** well better not have to listen to 12-15 minutes of commercials per hour. Back when I was a kid and stations were federally limited to something like 6 minutes per hour, commercial radio was tolerable. It no longer is.
Meanwhile, I mostly listen to radio for the news. Otherwise I listen to my iPod now.
The way I see it radio is killing itself by over-advertising. I'd like to see the return of strict limits to the amount of advertising. If the media giants can't make their business model work, they can sell their licenses at a loss to someone else who can.
HD radio has been around for a while, and, in theory it should be great. but like WC stated, the commercials are terrible on some stations.
I know it was said already but, HD radio boasts the ability for a station to put out multiple broadcasts over the same frequency, so, they can play two separate music playlists at the same time ... unfortunately for some stations, that mean you can listen to the same three songs on different stations, 5 minutes off from each other. The problem I read a while back was that if they are putting out too much info on the one station, then they may not have enough bandwidth to run a second feed over the frequency. But a bonus is you don't need a navigation system to get the information, quite a few aftermarket radios even a decade ago had great screens that could scroll the text, even full color spectrums to display pictures (which could be used for radar displays if the station wanted to get fancy), so there is potential for great use in emergencies ... not to mention if you missed the dj telling you the song name and artist (or can't wait to see if they will), it scrolls on there for you ;) so no more getting a song in your head then trying to figure it out all day ... though song info has been available over analog broadcasts for quite some time (called RDS or something like that).
There is another problem that goes with any digital signal. Digital signals don't fade out into static, they just stop working, or you may hear it clear, but have it cut out, like a slow internet connection will play a live video feed with no buffer. This problem exists in HDtv, and this is why you won't see 50+ ft HDMI/DVI cables like you can see for coaxial/RCA (composite and component are virtually identical cables). To make a digital cable that long, you are going to need serious sheilding and very high quality components in the wires, otherwise, a booster is more practical. This is also why a $5-10 HDMI cable is just as good as a $100 cable of the same length under 20 ft (though the same is pretty much true for analog cables as well).
So, HD radio has its advantages, and there is no reason for it not to be implemented in all new cars, the same as a satellite receiver should be standard in all cars as well from the factory. If it was part of the process, then mass production lowers production costs, and installing it before the car is put together lowers installation costs, which also makes sense for the satellite company to give you a year free to get you addicted to near-commercial-free broadcasting (since I swear I remember some type of commercial, maybe just a self-promotion though), which I do miss from my dealership lot porter days. The only problem I could see if there becomes a gov't mandate of all stations switching to digital by a certain timeframe as they have forced to television broadcast industry.
I didn't realize this wasn't a feature in most new cars already :P But it is good to spread the word about it. It really isn't an expensive addition to the receiver, compared to the other options available that drives up costs in the higher end aftermarket units, like the ability to program the distance of each speaker from the drivers and passenger's seats so it can readjust the timing of the sound so it hits your ears at the exact time from each speaker, or higher preamp voltage outs for a clearer signal to your quality amplifiers running your high end speakers, which your radio may have built-in selectable frequency high and low end crossovers with selectable dB/octave cut levels. A few years ago, that was the cost problem, it was only on the models with all that extra stuff audiophiles want but the average consumer would find too complicated to mess with.
Whatever the case may be, I don't want to see radio die. It is a better form of entertainment than tv, since usually you don't stare at the receiver and therefore get other stuff done, and, the best part, it is free and usually has a fair amount of selection in most areas, and you can buy a cheapie for $10 or less and have entertainment for those who can barely afford the necessities of life, which entertainment is a necessity for human existence. It would be better if better stations with less commercials were out there, and have more of the radio plays like back in the day/before my time :) .
12-21-2008, 02:03 PM
Think if you could get FM quality audio over the range of a MW (AM Band) stations. In the evening on clear channels stations could broadcast across much of the US. This is possible with DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). But, to date the FCC has not permitted DRM except in a small band near 26 MHz at low power. In Europe, DRM is has 7 full time stations scattered all over that continent in the MW (AM Band) and many more on the Shortwave bands. Here in North America the only reliable broadcast of DRM is from Sackville (New Brunswick) Canada by Radio Canada International on 9800 KHz. I am hearing it here on my modified Ham Radio, and special computer decoder equipment and an indoor (1.5 meter loop) antenna here now in Chicagoland, as I type this.
Ready to go DRM receivers are being mass produced. Its also a spectrum efficient method, fitting into a 10 KHz channel (versus 200 KHz for traditional FM). It can operate mono/stereo, in robust modes, or in higher fidelety modes all switching on the fly to suit conditions intended audience and program material. DRM can simultaneously broadcast text news service, with audio, and an electronic program guide. This is being done now by the BBC+DW service that blankets Europe on the Shortwave bands.
Check out http://www.drm.org for more information.
12-21-2008, 03:28 PM
Read through some of the IBOC and Anti-IBOC stuff. Hmm, quite a controversy. Seems it comes from wanting it all on AM. Both a digital and analog transmission at the same time is the issue as this requires a 30 KHz wide transmission, or litterly 3 channels wide on AM. That should be disallowed in my opinion. They should transmit a 10 KHz wide max signal either digital or analog, but not both simultaneously. In the US, the 10 KHz wide DRM modes (which are what are used on SW) would be very compatible.
How to get the conversion started is the problem. This probably means two transmiters and switching back and forth between the two. Clear Channel stations (not to be confused to be stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, but those with non-interferring allocations for nightime skip) would be idea for this. After about 8 pm, I doubt many people are listening to AM radio. Some of these stations could do DRM.
12-22-2008, 03:27 PM
I recently bought an HD radio for home, since I live in a fairly elevated area and get a lot of stations, many proclaiming how they have gone HD. The problem is with IBOC, the station is forced to decide what percentage of their transmit power goes to digital, and all too often it is a very small percentage (~1%), so as not to reduce the coverage pattern for their analog listeners.
By and large most stations which I receive crystal clear on analog are just barely on the edge for HD. (The radio wants to see >55dB S/N ratio). Half the time it will sit there going in and out of HD until I just force it to analog to stop the audio from jumping around.
There are only a small handful of stations (about 3 out of the 30+) where the HD signal is more stable and cleaner than analog. Keep in mind this is all with a rooftop antenna, so I can't imagine it working well in a car.
The HD2 stations are nice to have, If i can stay locked on (50% chance) and IF they put something worthwhile on them (30% chance).
All in all, a neat gadget but I probably wouldn't pay extra for it in a car.
12-22-2008, 03:47 PM
Hmm. That kinda firms up my opinion that digital radio is an all or nothing affair. Trying to send both on the same carrier is not working out.
DRM works very well, but it is digital, and if you strain, you can listen too a much weaker AM signal if its a single signal path. Espcecially with some of the audio processing programs available now to help with neighboring stations and errant TV receiver noise. The DREAM software, for recieving DRM, requires a 12 KHz IF (intermediate frequency) out of the radio. This is very handy once implemented for AM too. As it allows one to do brick wall SSB (single side band) selection and bandwidth filtering by Digital Signal Processor in the PC. Musical noise scrambling is also implemented, which makes noise less straining to listen to.
The 13 kb/s encoding of DRM has very good noise performance. And is actually superior in severe multipath conditions than AM. There are some artifcacts at this low a bit rate, but they hardly an issue compared to the normal noise one hears on a AM SW broadcast. An example of this was Vactican Radio broadcasts some times of the year from Italy on the 9.5 Mhz band. The signal typically had 5 to 10 different signal paths (you can see the delay spread spikes in DREAM) all about the same amplitude, but being decoded by DREAM just fine. This signal is like S 7 on my Drake TR-7 and indoor loop antenna. My experience with AM signals is such conditions would render the signal so corrupted it would be almost impossible to listen too enoyably. Like Frara Zhaka, with 10 people all repeating within a second of each other!
Part of the problem with DRM is the broadcasters like to use the high bit rates. And that results in more drop-outs. It sometimes works, but if they are broadcasting during periods of changing propagation, it can be a problem. When it does work, its pretty impressive. One service transmitts stereo music at 20.88 Kb/s, and it actually does not sound half bad, for recieving something 1500 miles away. This mode would be great for broadcast to a non-skip vehicular audience on AM.
12-22-2008, 03:58 PM
I haven't really tried the AM aspect of it, as I can't get any digital signals at all on AM with the included loop antenna on the Sangean HDT-1X.
12-23-2008, 09:26 AM
I bought one for in my car, an Insignia NS-C5112. It was on ebay as "broken faceplate hinge." I thought 'what the heck, I can probably fix that.' It came with the original box, manual, wires, remote, EVERYTHING; but because it was broken, it was only at like 3 bucks.
I won it for something stupid like $3.74 with 9 or 10 bucks shipping. Took me about 2 minutes to fix, works perfectly.
While HD Radio can be nice, it has its downsides too. My unit will allow you to seek only HD stations, or seek normal. If it seeks normal, and locks a station, it will search for an HD signal, and "up-lock" if it's available, while maintaining the analog. In this way, you never lose audio if you lose HD-lock - as long as you are on HD1. If you are on HD2, and you lose lock, the display flashes "LINKING" until it re-locks.
In my area, there aren't many HD broadcasts, and even fewer multicasts. The ones that do have sub-channels, though, play the sub-channels with NO COMMERCIALS - which I like.
If you tune a station, it will lock the analog, and give you audio. In a few moments, the HD kicks in and there is a split-second "echo" as both signals play until it asserts the HD over the analog. This affect occurs when it loses the HD-lock and drops back onto the analog as well - mildly disconcerting, but you get used to it and I find it much preferable to a complete drop-and-change from HD to analog.
Overall, I find the tuner sensitivity to be at least as good, if not better, than either the factory unit or my wife's Sony CDX-L410X. This may be due to being newer by far than either of those units.
For what I paid, it was a great deal - but I'd say HD radio isn't worth seeking out exclusively yet, especially if you live in a more rural area.
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