Monday, December 11, 2006

BusinessWeek: HD Not Much Of A Threat To Satellite Radio

You Heard Right: HD Radio
Dec 11, BusinessWeek

Most Americans probably realize we are moving to a digital TV format called high-definition television, or HDTV, but few people are aware of its audio counterpart, HD radio. As the name implies, this format aims to deliver big improvements in quality and a wealth of new services. But as with digital television, HD radio's reality falls far short of its promise.

Like its digital cousins, XM Satellite Radio (XMSR ) and Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI ), HD radio relies on special equipment to produce much better sound than conventional analog broadcasts. HDFM offers near-CD quality, about what you hear on XM or Sirius, and HDAM is supposed to approximate conventional FM, according to promoters. But the only digital AM stations I found offered nothing but yak. Both the AM and FM varieties are mercifully free of static and hiss, though with a weak signal the sound breaks up like a bad wireless phone call.

Unlike XM and Sirius, HD radio is free to anyone with the equipment to receive it. I tried two different systems, the high-end Polk Audio I-Sonic ($599), which can also get XM service, and the much cheaper Radio Shack (RSH ) Accurian Tabletop HD Radio ($179). Not surprisingly, the I-Sonic sounded a lot better and did a better job pulling in weak signals. Will people spring for this costly equipment just for the superior sound? I doubt it. In the case of satellite radio, it's the programming, not the improved audio quality, that justifies spending $12.95 a month. Alas, HD radio—at least as it exists today—is largely the same vast wasteland as conventional radio, with stations offering short playlists of music in a few repetitive formats...read more: here
posted by ssg5

12/11/2006 05:13:00 PM

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