Some thoughts on local HD radio

Jim Hall
Thu Aug 11 14:24:11 EDT 2011

The thing I like best about my two Sony HD table radios is that, aside from AM simulcasts, most HD2/3 stations are still (probably not by choice) "commercial free". Some of the programming is admittedly "niche" programming that would not (or did not) do well on an analog FM station. But it's nice to have it available. 

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Bob Nelson
Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:21 PM
Subject: Some thoughts on local HD radio

A while back I bought that $40 (sale price) Insignia portable from Best Buy. It isn't too bad, and it is good to get some
 "extra stations" etc. but from what I can gather HD isn't exactly doing blockbuster sales, despite a lot of advertising by some big companies.

 --I spin down the dial and notice that the main signal of stations like WROR and WMJX sounds good for a few seconds, then when the HD light stops blinking it's even better. Maybe it's like hearing "FM Wide" vs. regular FM stereo, or
 "FM Stereo" vs. FM mono. This is on "ear buds" (I was actually using a pair of earbuds I got on a Sony portable
 digital recorder). Is it blow-your-mind excellent sound quality? Not really that much but not that bad either.

 --The "extra stations", the "hidden ones" seems to be what HD is promoting. The idea is for people to buy these radios and hear them for free instead of buying a satellite radio. I have that, too (XM) and when I drive I can hear
 classic country, ballgames from all over, the sound portion of news channels, music from various decades, "new wave hits of the 80s", blues, jazz, and so on. Some of these types of formats do pop up on the local stations under HD2 or
 HD3. There is an HD website out there which lists them but it's not necessarily accurate. I think they listed "comedy" as the HD2 under WAAF. Wrong. "Blues" was listed as the HD2 for WKAF. Wrong. To the best of my knowledge those formats never aired on those HD2s. (Blues, however, is on the HD2 for WZLX)

 --Some AM news/talk stations have popped up on HD. Perhaps those who have trouble picking up the stations--
 interference in an apartment building or a workplace, or maybe the signal has to change direction after dark--
 can tune in. WXKS 1200 is on sister station WXKS-FM's HD2. WEEI is supposedly on both the HD2s of WAAF
 (west of Boston--makes sense, as they have problems after dark) and WKAF (_that_ one I can get in, but I can
 only get the main signal of WAAF). WRKO is supposedly on the HD3 of WAAF. And WBZ AM is on WBZ-FM's HD 3.

 --For those who were getting trouble picking up WCRB at 99.5, WGBH offers it as an HD2 on their 89.7 signal.

 --Formats I can pick up on my portable include Nothing But the 70s, 80s Rock, blues, Irish, "Radio You" (alternative?),
 rhythmic AC (for those who miss "Star 93.7"), hiphop, "Freeform BCN", soft hits, smooth jazz, classic country, etc.

 --Reception? It depends where you are. I think they have to only push out a certain amount of power to avoid interference. Sometimes you don't get an HD2 or HD3 at all. Other times, it comes in, but for a second but
 then quickly drops--and a "Channel No Longer Available" text hits the display. Speaking of display, song titles often pop up (similar to satellite radio). I WILL say that it's pretty good for plain old FM reception. Maybe it's the time of year but Cape Cod stations at 104.7, 106.1, 96.3 (WEII), etc do come in well. I also am getting an 88.7 which
 I think is a religious station out of Sanford, ME it worth it? As a portable, it's not bad, but I get the feeling most people either don't know about HD or don't care. If I were a salesman I'd say that the $40 portable isn't that much more expensive than a regular AM-FM
 walkman and "you get a lot of extra stations".

 But do most people simply accept what's out there and don't care about the "extra stations"? Hey, they like
 Mike 93.7 or the new country on 102.5, etc., and they're fine with that. Some folks might like the extra formats--
 smooth jazz! Classic country! Or the ability to hear some AM stations without static etc. (I will add in some cases
 certain stations are being squeezed off the air, like WJMF down in RI, and they wind up on HD. As WCRB is taking over their main signal at 88.7, the college radio stuff is being sent to the Web--and to HD. How many of their listeners will bother buying an HD radio?)

 So the question is, is HD what it's cracked up to be in the ads? Will it succeed? So far it doesn't seem like it has the mass appeal they'd hoped for. Perhaps if more HD radios wound up being put into cars, or if there were competitively priced (some say there already are) component units or portables, it might do better.

 Or do people rather intend to buy phones with apps that can pick up stations, or are people waiting for wifi radios
 to show up in cars (already happening in some cases?)

 Someone like me who wants a bit of variety can enjoy an HD radio but will the masses warm up to it? It seems
 so far like it hasn't quite caught on...

 Comments?--Bob Nelson

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