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Airwaves: August 17, 2007

Local Motion

K-EARTH 101 seems to like Rancho Palos Verdes. They just spent Tuesday August 14th helping to support our troops by broadcasting from the Bob Hope USO Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Trump National Golf Course. Now they are scheduled to take part in the 3rd anniversary celebration of It's a Grind Coffee House, 29050 S. Western Avenue, this Sunday from 12 noon to 5 PM.


The first commercially available tabletop HD radio is being retired.

Boston Acoustics announced that it has discontinued production on the Recepter Radio HD which made its debut only two years ago. This radio was significant because it was the first "affordable" radio available for HD radio listening, and the first model widely available for purchase by the general public rather than radio station engineers.

So why is it discontinued? HD radio is in its infancy, and new, better and cheaper designs are being released every day. The Recepter HD may have been first, but it has been eclipsed by models with far better reception from such companies as Sangean, Sony, Cambridge Soundworks, and even Radio Shack's in-house brand, Accurian, among others.

Boston Acoustics has not announced if it will bring out a new HD radio to replace the Recepter HD. Stores that sell it are expected to have them available through the end of the year.

HD What?

So what is HD radio? You may have heard some of the (lame) ads on your favorite station talking about secret stations, but that's only part of the story.

HD Radio, the official trademark from creator Ibiquity Digital Corporation -- the "HD" doesn't actually stand for anything -- is a totally different way to broadcast signals. HD is digital, designed to increase the fidelity of both AM and FM, as well as allow FM stations to "multicast," or send more than one channel of programming on one frequency.

The digital signals are sent along with the traditional analog signals, so your regular radio still works. But you do need a new HD radio to receive the HD signals. Because the signals are sent together on the same frequency, the system is also known as IBOC, or In-Band, On-Channel.

Theoretically, normal radios don't notice the digital signals, but in reality the HD system does indeed cause interference to analog reception. Tune just above and below any station broadcasting HD on the AM band, and you will hear "hash" like a computer modem. This can cause adjacent channels to disappear into the noise. Something similar can happen on FM as well, though I haven't heard or experienced it myself.

Many broadcasters feel that interference issues are nothing compared with the benefits: vastly improved fidelity on AM, and slightly improved fidelity on FM -- along with that multicast capability.

Personally, aside from interference concerns, I like HD. KDIS (1110 AM) can sound phenomenal with HD (though as of late they seems to have done something to their processing that has negatively affected their sound). With HD, we might hear more music on AM again. On FM, I love the fact that I can now hear adult alternative music again -- on three stations no less: KMVN (93.9 HD-2), KYSR (98.7 HD-2), and KGGI (99.1 HD-2) along with standards on KKGO (105.1 HD-3) and numerous other formats spread around the dial.

And while HD is on the slow road to acceptance, with some decent promotion and continued development of HD radios, we could be onto something really big.


Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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