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Developments on the digital radio fronts

I am still in awe of iBiquity and I have to hand it to them for stick-to-it-tiveness. The newest “fix” for their FM IBOC system, colloquially known as HD Radio™, is in contour on channel repeaters.  According to the article “Performance of FM HD boosters varies,” (Radio World on line edition), the reason for such boosters is to “increase or fill in FM Digital foot print so that the digital coverage matches that of analog.”

The idea that IBOC is somehow an improvement over FM analog is becoming (or has become) untenable.  In order to make the new system cover the same area with the same reliability as the old analog system, on channel bandaids boosters are now needed?  And what is with this extending coverage?  How much more expense will radio station owners have to deal with to make this scheme work?  And I still don’t understand where the improvement over analog only systems comes from.

As the article points out, however, all is not well in paradise; the IBOC booster signals interfere with analog signal close to the booster transmitter.  This becomes problematic if the receiver is an analog only device.  As of this writing, most of the radios in this country do not have HD Radio™ capabilities.  Thus, radios that are currently working perfectly well will cut out can become useless around these repeaters.

For your reading pleasure, the entire NAB report can be found here.

Try as they may, neither the NAB, iBiquity or Greater Media can supplant the laws of physics.  Then there is that insanity definition floating around:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

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4 comments to Developments on the digital radio fronts

  • NPR Labs also issued a report recently about asymmetrical FM-HD power increases. Their conclusion was underwhelming (just wrote a geek-out this wk).

    It amazes me that iBiquity remains in business.

  • John,

    How’s it going? I believe the only thing keeping iBiquity alive are the automakers. Radio Shack has given up, and Clear Channel is no longer running HD Radio Alliance’s spots. HD radios can no longer be found in the major retailers. A search of Amazon’s HD radios reveals much fewer non-automotive units, too. As we know, iBiquity and the automakers are under investigation, yet the automakers keep expanding their HD Radio offerings. A Google of automotive HD Radio complaints keeps growing. What’s up with that?

  • Y’know, I think the opportunity cost (so to speak) of HD Radio is coming down, especially for automakers. They’re all about the glass dashboard, and in-vehicle entertainment systems that go beyond smartphone-tethering.

    When you’re making as significant of a redesign to the dashboard as what seems to be happening now, throwing in HD compatibility becomes something you do just to add another bell/whistle to the millieu. It doesn’t mean that automakers or listeners are actually demanding more HD compatiblity, just that it’s now an “added feature” that’s become less cost-prohibitive to bolt on.

    I do wonder if those investigations will gather momentum; it will be quite a wrinkle if they do.

  • Here’s my “Underwhelming” experience with HD: I bought one of the Sony XDR-F1HD receiver units, and was instantly impressed with the analog reception. It was everything I read about. (I figured for $88, it was worth it for just that!)

    While working in a non-Broadcast job down in Norwalk, CT, I set the thing up in a window. I know that the signal had to be quite a bit more than 20mv/m for 660 and 880 AM, because I was about 20 miles closer to them than when I measured that much signal. Sure enough, after a few seconds, the “HD” logo began to blink, and suddenly the audio “opened up” on 880. Both my friend and I were startled by the transition from about 5Khz to 12 or 15, whatever they made the high end to be… It was impressive… for all of about 30 seconds!

    As we listened a little more, we both realized there was SOMETHING wrong with the audio! I began to piece it together, and then it dawned on me… ALL of the sibilants sounded IDENTICAL! Every “s” had the SAME sound. That is very unnatural.

    When I got it home, I promptly looked up some Mods, and added a switch to force it into analog-only mode. Nice little receiver, but HD is virtually worthless. On FM, you need at least 2 out of 3 “signal bars” for it to lock, and even then, it’s spotty.

    Underwhelmed, indeed!!

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