The world of HD Radio grew by another two devices on Tuesday, as Sony announced a table-top radio and in-car audio adapter.
The term “HD Radio” does not refer to high-definition radio; instead, it means “hybrid digital radio,” which means that each station has a digital and an analog signal. HD Radio technology allows existing radio stations to provide new digital channels along with accompanying data, such as the artist’s name and song information.
HD Radio can improve sound quality so that AM radio stations sound more like FM and FM stations sound more like CDs. Sony called the technology “the future of traditional radio,” and said it is making a long-term commitment to developing and distributing HD Radio products.
Sony’s Two New Models
Sony’s XDR-SEHD radio resembles an old-fashioned radio in a box with a cherry-wood finish, and offers AM and FM along with HD. The user can store presets for up to 20 AM and 20 FM stations. There is also an alarm clock, a remote control, separate bass and treble controls, and an auxiliary input jack.
A supplied cable for an external music device makes playback from a digital music player all that much easier. The unit has a backlit blue LCD and a mesh-covered front panel. Priced at about $200, the radio is targeted for a July release.
For the car, the XT-100HD HD Radio tuner is a “hideaway” radio module that connects via a bus interface to the majority of Sony car stereos. It “feeds rich information,” such as the artist’s name and song information, to the display on the car stereo, as well as radio station names and genres when that information is available.
The tuner, with an expected price of about $100, will also be available in July.
An existing radio station remains in the same place on the radio dial after it becomes HD. The wireless data can include not only song information, but also weather, school closings, or traffic alerts. FM HD Radio stations can multicast, meaning one station can offer several audio channels as well as data, such as one channel of music and one of news — or three channels in different languages.
The technology, invented by iBiquity Digital, was approved by the FCC in October 2002 as the only U.S. system for digital AM and FM broadcasting. Under development, according to iBiquity, are such features as surround sound, rewinding a just-heard song, having on-demand access to news and other information, and buying via an e-commerce button.
There are about 1,300 stations currently broadcasting over HD Radio, according to Sony, plus another 2,500 planning to do so. While the Sirius and XM satellite radio services offer digital and commercial-free radio, they come with a subscription fee. HD Radio, by contrast, is free but accompanied by commercials.
Other current or upcoming manufacturers of HD Radio car products include Eclipse, JVC, Kenwood, Panasonic, Sanyo, Yamaha, and Boston Acoustics.