May 26, 2005 6:10 PM PDT

High-definition radio gears up for reality

The 1,000-mile journey toward high-definition radio will begin with a few giveaways.

The radio conglomerates, chipmakers and other companies behind HD radio--a digital form of broadcasting that essentially fits into the same spectrum as current analog channel--say their campaign to promote the technology is about to begin.

Boston Acoustics and other companies are expected to show off HD radios next week at the Computex trade show in Taipei. While $400 HD radios are now available in limited quantities, tabletop HD radios selling for $150 to $250 will start to appear in stores later this year.

HD radios are also heading for car dashboards. Alpine plans to come out with a car model in August.

BMW will include HD radios in its fall 2006 car lineup, said Patrick Walsh, chief financial officer of Ibiquity Digital, which licenses HD radio intellectual property to manufacturers. MP3 players and cell phones will also eventually come with HD radio embedded.

Consumers can expect to see that old radio promo--free stuff for callers--to be part of the plan. Rewards are likely to come in the form of free radios during pledge drives this fall at National Public Radio affiliates, Walsh said.

The push on HD radio is a combination of opportunity and desperation, Walsh and others concede. In HD radio, up to eight separate stations can be squeezed into the same spectrum currently allotted for a single station. As a result, broadcasters can offer multiple channels of related programming; a classical station, for instance, could dedicate channels to chamber music or opera. Ideally, this will lead to more listeners and advertisers.

"Multicasting is the killer app," said Chuck Tweedle, senior regional vice president of Bonneville's San Francisco stations. These new stations can be broadcast for free, or delivered for a nominal subscription, such as $1 a month, that would undercut satellite radio services.

As an added bonus, broadcasters don't have to terminate analog broadcasts while adding digital channels, so listeners aren't compelled to upgrade.

Texas Instruments plans to get in on the act by selling chips to power radios for the new standards, but they aren't acting out of the good of their heart.

While the average house in the United States has seven radios, traditional radio is under attack. The two major satellite services, Sirius and XM Satellite, have seen their subscriber rolls grow. XM added more than 500,000 subscribers in its recent quarter and expects to have 5.5 million by the end of the year.

"XM and Sirius are the best thing that ever happened to our company," Walsh said.

Many, meanwhile, have turned to MP3 players and Internet downloads as their source of music. Peer-to-peer radio services such as Mercora also threaten to grab listeners.

Those declining numbers can also be partly attributed to sclerotic programming too. "We took the consumer for granted more than we should have," Tweedle said.

In a rare example of cooperation, the major radio broadcasters announced support for HD radio at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. The plan is to invest $250 million to upgrade 2,500 stations across North America for HD. NPR is seeking grants to allow it to upgrade 800 stations. So far, more than 300 stations have upgraded.


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It's The Content Stupid
Of course the listening public is defecting from "free" radio to subscription based services. How many people want to listen to endless commercials, moronic radio hosts, and repetitious music? As listenership declines, it becomes a race to the bottom. The commercials become more pervasive and perverse. Radio stations like KSFO and KNEW, in major metro markets, have prostituted themselves to pitchmen selling New Mexico raw land, foreclosures, weight loss pills, male enhancement pills, memory pills, multi-level marketing schemes, steel sheds, you name it. Every con and scam in the book. If I hear that Lesko guy scream one more time, I am going to smash my radio with a hammer and mail it to KSFO.

My privacy at home is not even respected. Despite being on the national Do Not Call list, I am bombarded with calls from market research companies asking my opinion about radio station in the area. What fools!
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's time to call in a refill...
Posted by moderndaymarconi (1 comment )
Link Flag
Old news
You make it sound as though it's something new, with
manufacturers demonstrating 'new' receivers.
There's no mention of the fact that other countries have had digital
radio for over 3 years, with Hi-Fi receivers, car radio and personal
radios freely available, not later this year, not next year, now.
Posted by idf03 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What will HD radio do?
Other than multicast?

Will all radio stations start also transmit their call tags? song info? These things are available today and still only 15% of stations use them.

How about sound quality? will that improve? will reception improve?
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HD radio? Hardly!
Given the audio quality that the proposed digital radio services will be offering, based on the testing up to now, calling it HD is a joke!

And most of the ancillary services in purports to offer as something new, exciting and incredible, such as titles of songs being played, breaking news, traffic reports etc have all been possible in the analog realm on FM for years. But stations never bothered investing in the relatively inexpensive equipment to provide them. Why should digital radio (or, ahem, HD radio) be any more of an incentive.

It's also about trying to hype up a medium that should merely be seen as utilitarian within the plethora of media out there. Broadcast radio is no longer an "exciting" medium. To try to artificially boost its fortunes now with something as lame as this is like throwing money down the toilet. Remember "return on investment", hmmm?!
Posted by thebek (7 comments )
Link Flag
How about sound quality?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
The absolute lack of...
... quality free radio stations now does not bode well for any
technique to expand the number of such free radio stations. We
will just wind up with that many times more audio garbage.
Sirius and X-M work because people will pay to get the
programming they want. No advertisers are involved (or so I
think - I don't care for satellitle radio), and ratings are simply
measured by subscritptions.

My personal preference is MP3 music and audio book files via
my super iPod. So I do my own programming the way I like it.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Suck you in, then bury you in ads.
So Clear Channel can have up to 30 stations in the area that play nothing anybody wants to hear? Hot darn, sounds like a winner to me.

NPR fears losing money if XM and Sirius drain local pledge drive listeners away. But in the end, if nobody wants to listen to local stations, I think that is there right, and the Government has to get out of the way. I'd give anything not to be forced to watch news from the local TV stations in this area, they are horrible beyond words.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
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What a joke!
Who are the morons that run the entertainment business? I'd like to know because these people have to be the most clueless jokers in the history of the planet.

Here's what will fix radio: better content. No more stupid "Morning Zoo Crew." No more stations that play the same ten songs over and over and over and over. No more stations that broadcast yet another conservative talk show.

I have news for you: it's all BORING. It's all stale. People are tired of it which is why many have stopped listening. I'd rather have my iPod playing what I want to hear than to listen to the same old tired stuff on the radio.

It doesn't matter if you broadcast radio in HD Surround 3D Holograms. If the programming remains narrow and boring, no one will listen.
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The public, and the government are being given a real snow job by a cartel of more then 15 of the largest broadcast interests about a digital disaster known as iBiquity HD radio.
HD radio iBiquity proposes to transmit a jamming digital signal that sounds like a fax or dial up modem on top of the signal from the present AM and FM stations, to sell expensive new proprietary digital radios to the public, by convincing them there is something wrong with the analog radios that they already own. It will jam many small and medium powered independent radio stations, and the idea is to force them off the air. One proponent calls this "thinning the herd full of cripples".
The word on the street is that the fix is in with congress, the White House, and the FCC, to pass this inferior and incompatible digital broadcasting system.
More information is available at my blog:
&lt;<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>&gt;
Fewer broadcast stations mean fewer independent voices, less service to the public, and limits freedom of speech.
Richard Franklin
Posted by (1 comment )
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Jamming Claim is Utter Nonsense!
There are seven FM stations broadcasting HD in my metro area, and there is no "jamming".

It would seem that Mr. Franklin feels he has been "wronged" in some way, or maybe lost money on an investment as a result of the delayed roll-out of this technology. Maybe he owns stock in or is employed by one of the pay-to-listen satellite radio services. It makes no difference to me, everyone is entitled to say what they like, but to make false claims is not okay.

The claims made by Mr. Franklin are unfounded from my personal observation. I don't know if Mr. Franklin has actually ever experienced any of the problems he claims in his posting, but I have not. I'm not relying on the stories appearing on this or other websites to jump to a conclusion (correct or otherwise). When possible, I do hands-on research, I'll check-out the topic with as many sources as I can find, get professional opinions when necessary. I've listened to the seven stations in my area, and the adjoining stations, and can find none of the problems claimed by Mr. Franklin.

It is my personal opinion, that one reason that the availability of HD radio receivers is severely limited, is likely due to the high risk that manufacturer's must contend with when launching a new product. It's very risky, not to mention very costly, to gear up production for a product that the public has not yet committed to purchase. The demand is just not there at this time. Add to this the proliferation of the pay-to-listen satellite services, and the massive marketing campaigns on the iPod and other portable music players, HD radio is up against some really stiff competition. Not to mention that the public has probably never even heard of HD radio. I've never heard one mention of HD broadcasting on any of the stations I routinely listen to, and I listen to six of the seven local HD stations in my area.

In other posts on this topic, some have stated that the popularity of "podcasts" and their mp3 collections allow them to select their own program content, thus avoiding bombardment of advertisers on commercial stations, and the short repetitive playlists. Quite true. But tell me, where can you download the podcast that contains the traffic report of the automobile accident that just happened three miles ahead of you on your way to work?

I don't own an HD radio, but I would love to own one. I can't afford to spend $269 for the least expensive HD radio on the market. Perhaps the prices will fall when the the availability is better, as usually happens with new technology.

Do a little research, this is not difficult. Check to see if there is a station broadcasting HD in your area. Use this link to iBiquity: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a> and listen to the HD stations in your area, then tune up the dial to the next station, and then tune dial down to the next station.

By the way, I don't work for any broadcaster or manufacturer. I have no money invested in any any broadcaster or manufacturer. I hold no malice toward the satellite radio providers or the proponents of podcasting. I have nothing to gain from this posting. That is, unless enough people read my posting, and see that the claims are not as Mr. Franklin claims, and they decide that they too would like to have their own HD radio, then the manufacturers begin mass producing them, and then prices drop to something I can afford. Okay, then, I may have something to gain. But who's going read this and take it seriously?
Posted by NicoleNichols (1 comment )
Link Flag
HD radio
I've had a Boston Acoustics HD radio for over a week and I love it. The sound is amazing! You can hear the sound change dramatically when the HD locks in. Listening to a regular radio is not an option for me anymore.
Of course there are problems and it's expensive. Isn't that the case with anything new? I'm sure that will all change as time goes on.
Why don't you give it a try before condemning it?
Posted by beatlesnut63 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Amazing HD sound
Posted by rxeagle (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
get my hands on one
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
HD Radio-Its a Good Thing!
I recently read the comments section concerning HD Radio and cannot believe the negativity out there except for Nicole's. I always believed that more content available was a good thing...if you don't like the music played, change the channel and listen to another! Commercial playing, change to another station!

Lets face it, XM and Sirrus broadcast NATIONWIDE and several stations are commercial free..very tempting if you don't mind paying and paying monthly. Just remember, we all have been down this road with Cable TV, it was cheap when first offered in our communities but now that we are "hooked" we are paying through the nose every month. I don't want the same to be done to radio!

Just one more comment, though HD Radio has been launched this past year, I recently heard (through an Analog Radio Station) about it, so I tried it on my computer and enjoy having more choices to listen to. I would like to purchase a HD Radio for my car but was dumbfounded when I went to several stores (Best Buy has none, Circuit City has two but are not hooked up so I could hear them, a small independent store is waiting for them to be shipped by Alpine). This experience took place this week (in the New York City Area). I guess that I would have to wait since I would not purchase Electronics without hearing what I am paying for!!

Alright already! Here's the bottom line...when the products are out there in sufficient quantities and the majority of radio stations start broadcasting in HD (free of coarse), you will see the end of Satelite Radio. Hey, maybe Howard Stern and Cousin Brucie will come back to FREE Radio!
Posted by jptb923 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Checking out new HD Radio Stations
A friend of mine indicated that you can check out HD Radio stations online at this new website:

The site is pretty cool. Kind of like "TV Guide for HD Radio".

It shows you the album art of what is playing on every station and makes it easy for you to play it.
Posted by juhedwig (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is reality?
Fact: Companies are in business to make money.

Satellite, HD or FM all require customers and funding must com from either subscription, advertisement or a combination of the two.

Satellite is subscription with advertisement and will morph into the programing that we get in cable TV.

HD does provide a superior sound quality. But look at the programing. It is the religious right that controls the programing. Perhaps not intentionally but try to find anything that is not a religious program in some form or another at least in the north east market.

Only MP3 (digital) players can provide what you want when you want it without commercials. Buy the music once an not pay multiple times to hear the same music in the future (either through satellite subscription or being subject to commercials)

Mark my word satellite radio will become what Cable TV has become and there will be no competition as there is virtually none with cable TV.
Posted by poed (1 comment )
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