Boldly exploring the HD Radio universe

I like to think of myself as a technology pioneer. In real life, more often I am a technology laggard. Take my television. It’s so 20th century. It still runs in analog mode with its mediocre 480 lines of resolution. I know in about a year I will either have to buy a high definition television or a converter box. I do not seem to be rushing to buy a HD TV, although I do plan purchase a set by the end of the year. I did spend the better part of a week last year replacing a door in our entertainment room with drywall. We intend eventually to mount a HD TV in its place. Of course, if like me, you do not watch much TV then there is hardly a compelling reason to go HD TV.

On the other hand, I listen to a lot of radio. Principally I listen to public radio. I am a news junkie, and in the Washington D.C. area where I live, there are excellent public radio stations. Consequently when I heard that my favorite public radio stations were now broadcasting in HD Radio (the HD stands for “Hybrid Digital”, not “High Definition”), and I could get two or three times the number of public radio stations by going HD, my only question was how to get a HD radio. I decided to let my wife do the shopping, and told her to add one to my Christmas wish list.

She succeeded, but finding HD Radios was quite challenging. The local Best Buy had exactly one model, which also came with a host of other features that I did not need like a DVD/CD player. Christmas morning though had me excitedly assembling it and placing it in the windowsill above our kitchen sink. I removed our venerable twenty-year-old G.E. portable radio. I was prepared to be overwhelmed. Instead, I was underwhelmed.

She must have bought a dud. It was not that we could not get a HD radio signal; it was just hard to bring it in any HD signals. When they came in, they quickly dropped off. It also suffered from a number of poor design decisions. The speakers were poorly constructed: high on the bass, low on the treble. It also came with a remote control you had to use to access just about everything. After a couple weeks, I had had enough. I returned it.

I still wanted the promised thrill of HD Radio. I ended up going online and reading reviews for HD radios. I ended up with a Radiosophy HD100 receiver, which with shipping came to about $125. I had never heard of the brand before, so I was a bit suspicious, but it got a decent review. Moreover, unlike the first HD radio this one was light and compact. It fit on a windowsill and did not have separate speakers. To adjust the volume, I turned a knob instead of pressing buttons on a remote. The sound quality was quite good for speakers that were perhaps four inches in diameter. In addition, it was reasonably portable, assuming you did not connect its AM antenna.

One of the surprising things I learned about HD Radio is that it is not just for FM. AM can play in the HD Radio universe too. Four AM radio stations in our area have taken the HD Radio plunge. During daylight hours, they are allowed to broadcast HD Radio signals. Unfortunately, AM HD Radio sounds like FM analog radio. Considering the low fidelity we have come to expect on AM, it is a huge improvement. Still, it does not quite sound high fidelity. This is because its signal tops out at 15,000 Hz. Moreover, when the sun goes down it reverts to the 10 kilohertz telephone quality sound that now seems hopelessly dated.

On FM, it can take 5-10 seconds for my radio to detect and lock into a station’s HD radio signals. In the meantime, you hear the regular FM analog signal on the default Channel 1. If your HD Radio is tuned to Channel 2 or 3, there is a period of silence before you can hear the channel.

We live about 15 miles from the center of Washington D.C. You would think that I would be plenty close enough to get high quality HD Radio signals. Yet that does not seem to be the case. Perhaps HD Radio cannot broadcast digital signals as far. All I know is that sometimes just walking around my kitchen will make the signal will disappear; I must be causing signal interference. After a time it will pick up the signal again. I think this will be disconcerting to many radio listeners.

What HD Radio needs are compliant radios that fit into a shirt pocket or snap onto your belt. Apparently, some models are in the works but they are experimental. HD Radios so far have much higher power requirements than regular radios. Considering the signal problems I have, I am dubious as to how well these radios will work in places that I frequent, like the health club or when riding on the W&OD bike trail.

We have three principle public radio stations: WAMU, WETA and WCSP. WAMU and WSCP have three channels each. WETA, which broadcasts classical music, has just the one channel, but it is HD. This is good because when I am in a classical music mood, the fidelity of HD Radio compared with FM radio is both quite noticeable and much appreciated. WCSP is C-SPAN radio, which means it broadcasts three times as much public affairs radio as before. Much of it though is not terribly interesting. Channel 2 is just the audio portion of C-SPAN television, and Channel 3 is the audio portion of C-SPAN 2. WAMU offers Bluegrass on Channel 2. Since I am not a Bluegrass fan, I do not listen. Channel 3 tends to be shows that are broadcast on Channel 1, but at different times. This means there is not much original content on Channel 3 as you might assume. However, Channel 3 also has a fair amount of BBC radio programming. It is nice to be able to pick up the BBC on the FM frequencies.

HD Radio is a large improvement over what we have become accustomed to hearing, but it cannot begin to offer the degree of listening experiences available on satellite radio. Of course, unlike Sirius and XM satellite radio, you do not have to subscribe to listen.

I will keep listening to HD Radio but I suspect over time I will migrate to satellite radio. With prices as low as $10 a month and with so many more channels, most of them commercial free, satellite radio probably offers a better overall value.

5 thoughts on “Boldly exploring the HD Radio universe

  1. HD jams AM and FM. If HD had its own band as originally conceived, consumers would probably embrace it. But BigRadio insisted upon sticking HD noise all over AM and FM, so as to jam competitors off the air and listeners into submission. The result? A mess.

    Wanna buy a mess? Me neither.

    Dr. Paul Vincent Zecchino
    Manasota Key, Florida
    26 February, 2008

  2. “Review: Radi-osophy HD100 — HD Sounds, But At What Cost?”

    “Remember those crappy $15 AM/FM/cassette radios from the 80s? The HD100 looks just like one and has the sound to match. Basically a glorified clock radio, it has a chintzy, careless interface with speakers that spew a tinny unrefined sound. And while carefully tuning the HD stations results in an audible improvement over analog alternatives, the overall quality is still poor — even for a $100 device. Frankly we’d be happier keeping our money and sitting in silence.”

  3. Well you hit on most of the problems with HD and there is no way around them, DAB has been a big bust in most places in Europe, Germany just ended digital radio after more than ten years, Canada’s is stalled at at small amount of stations, people just don’t want it as it’s range as you found out is dismal, and people also realize they just don’t need it as a good analog FM receiver is much more sensitive and sounds better as it’s not a digital composite of the sound, it the real sound, just as a good LP sounds better than a CD if you happen to be an audiophile.
    Incidentally any apparent high frequency response beyond the AM station’s normal frequency curve is artificial, yup it’s synthesized, so besides the fact that it jams both adjacent channels on AM with noise which you apparently missed, it also causes ear fatigue for most people. If I were you I’d hurry up and go on to either Satellite or use your PC or get a good quality analog FM receiver. I have an old Marantz which will blow any HD receiver away made and is 30 years old.

  4. – Occam’s Razor and the Schema of Universe.
    The principle states that:
    “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”
    Now the Occam’s Razor is in conflict with mainstream science.
    At first I take the simplest reference frame –
    – the Euclidean space ( 2D).
    Now I will put a virtual – ideal particle in this 2D.
    The 2D is a very thin and flat homogeneous space,
    so my particle also must be thin and flat and symmetrical.
    Can it be a very thin and tiny limited line- string?
    No. In my opinion even this very thin and tiny line
    under good microscope will be looked as a rectangle.
    Can it be a very thin and tiny limited loop?
    No. The geometrical form of a loop is too complex,
    needs supplementary forces to create it.
    Can it be a very thin and tiny limited circle?
    From all geometrical forms the circle is the most symmetrical.
    The surface of a circle takes up the minimal area it can and
    I will write it by formula: C/D= pi= 3.14. (!)
    But I can put many particles there, for example,
    Avogadro’s number of particles: N(a). (!)
    What is my next step?
    If I were a mathematician I would say nothing.
    But if I were a physicist I would say that 2D must have
    some physical parameters like: volume (V), temperature (T)
    and density (P). Yes, it seems the idea is right.
    Then, volume (V) is zero,
    temperature (T) is zero
    but . . but density (P) cannot be zero if 2D is a real space
    then its density can approximately be zero.
    What can I do with these three parameters?
    I have only one possibility, to write the simplest formula:
    VP/T=R ( Clausius Clapeyron formula ! )
    What is R? R is some kind of physical state of my 2D.
    And if I divide the whole space R by Avogadro’s
    numbers of particles then I have a formula R/ N(a) = k,
    then k ( as a Boltzmann constant) is some kind of
    physical state of one single virtual- ideal particle. (!)
    But all creators of Quantum theory said that this space,
    as a whole, must have some kind of background energy (E).
    And its value must be enormous.
    But the background mass of every Avogadro’s particles
    in 2D has approximately zero mass, it is approximately
    massless (M).
    The detected material mass of the matter in the Universe is so small
    (the average density of all substance in the Universe is approximately
    p=10^-30 g/sm^3) that physicists say: ‘ More than 90% of the matter
    in the Universe is unseen.’
    And nobody knows what this unseen ‘dark matter’ is.
    So, if I divide enormous energy (E) by approximately dark
    massless (M) then the potential energy/ mass of every single
    virtual- ideal particle ( according to Einstein and Dirac) is
    E/M=c^2 (potential energy/mass E/M=c^2 ! )
    ( I don’t know why physicists call E/M= c^2 ‘rest mass’
    and never say potential energy/mass E/M=c^2 .)

    In potential state my particle doesn’t move,
    so its impulse is h = 0.
    My conclusion.
    I have virtual- ideal- massless particle which has
    geometrical and physical parameters:
    C/D= pi= 3.14 . . . . , R/ N(a) = k, E/M=c^2, h=0.
    All my virtual- ideal- massless particles are possible to call
    ‘ bosons’ or ‘antiparticles’ . These bosons are approximately
    massless but have huge potential energy/mass E/M=c^2 .
    But I have no fermions, no electric charge, no tachyons,
    no time, no mass, no movement at this picture.
    Now, thinking logically, I must explain all the effects of
    motions. And. . . and I cannot say it better than Newton:
    ‘For the basic problem of philosophy seems to be to discover
    the forces of nature from the phenomena of motions
    and then to demonstrate the other phenomena from these forces.’
    How can one single virtual- ideal particle start its movement?
    At first, it will be right to think about some simple kind of
    movement, for example: my particle will move in straight line
    along 2D surface from some point A to the point B.
    What is possible to say now?
    According to the Michelson-Morley experiment my particle
    must move with constant speed: c=1 and its speed is independent.
    Its speed doesn’t depend on any other object or subject, it means
    the reason of its speed is hidden in itself, it is its inner impulse.
    This impulse doesn’t come from any formulas or equations.
    And when Planck introduced this inner impulse(h) to physicists,
    he took it from heaven, from ceiling. Sorry. Sorry.
    I must write: Planck introduced this inner impulse (h) intuitively.
    I must write: Planck introduced his unit (h) phenomenologically.
    At any way, having Planck’s inner impulse (unit h=1) my
    particle flies with speed c=1. We call it photon now.
    Photon’s movement from some point A to the point B
    doesn’t change the flat and homogeneous 2D surface.
    Of course, my photon must be careful, because in some local
    place some sun’s gravitation can catch and change its trajectory
    I hope it will be lucky to escape from the sun’s gravity love.
    My photon can have other possibility to move. This second
    possibility was discover by Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck
    in 1925. They said the elementary particle can rotate
    around its diameter using its own angular inner impulse:
    h * = h /2pi. So, when photon rotates around its diameter
    it looks like a string ( open string) and this string vibrates.
    My god, that is a strange technical terminology the physicists
    use: ‘ vibrate, vibration’.
    If I were a physicist I would say no ‘ vibrate, vibration’ but
    ‘ frequency’, ‘the particle rotates with high frequency’.
    The frequency is a key to every particle, by frequency we know
    the radiation spectrum of various kinds of waves.
    Now I can say: then my photon starts to curl its rotation
    goes with enormous frequency, faster than constant speed
    of photon. Now its speed is c>1. We call it ‘tachyon’.
    The tachyon’s spinning creates electric charge and
    electrical waves and now we call it ‘electron’ or ‘fermions’.
    So, in my opinion, virtual- ideal particle, photon, tachyon
    and electron are only different names of one and the same
    particle – quantum of light.
    My particle is a circle. When this circle started to curl around
    itself its form changed. Now it has volume and looks like a sphere.
    What is the law between particle’s volume and energy?
    I think: big volume – low energy, small volume – high energy.
    The more speed / impulse —-> the more particle (as a volume)
    compress —-> the more energy .
    And when the speed decrease – – the energy decrease too –
    but the volume of particle will increase.
    My particle behaves like ‘ a springy circle’ (!)
    This springy circle can curl into small sphere which must
    have volume and therefore can be describe as a
    ‘stringlike particle with vibrations’ only approximately .
    Springy particle – it means the particle is able to spring back
    into its former position. In my opinion this is the meaning of
    ‘ The Law of mass/energy conservation and transformation’
    Once more.
    Quantum of light has potential energy (- E=Mc^2 ).
    When it starts to curl around its diameter the potential energy
    (- E=Mc^2 ) is hidden and we can observe its electronic
    energy ( E=h*f).
    But there is situation when this hidden potential energy goes
    out and we can see its great active power ( + E=Mc^2 )
    looking the destroyed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    In my opinion the particle’s transformation from one state into
    the other was legalized as ‘ The Law of mass/energy
    conservation and transformation’.
    Different conditions of particles are also reason of new
    situation in 2D. Now the surface of 2D is changed.
    On the one hand we have the spinning electron ( E=h*f)
    On the other hand there are masses of Avogadro’s particles.
    ( kT logW )
    The spinning electron changes the temperature of the
    surface in this local area.
    Now this local area has Debye temperature: Q(d)= h*f(max) / k.
    In this space a grain of quantum gravity theory is hidden.
    The scheme of quantum gravity is:
    1. h*f = kT logW.
    2. h*f > kT logW.
    3. h*f He II – – -> He I — -> . . . . – – > H . . . – – >
    Plasma reaction… –> Thermonuclear reactions …–>……etc.
    ( P. Kapitza , L. Landau , E.L. Andronikashvili theories).
    (Superconductivity, superfluidity.)
    Now on the one hand we have quantum of light/ electron.
    On the other hand we have proton.
    Their interaction creates atom.
    This interaction is evolving process.
    The conception of Time appears as a period of these two actions.
    ( star formation and atom creation}.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik Socratus

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