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Are HD radios made with crappy tuners?

I hesitated even to publish this post because the argument behind it is so isolated and anecdotal. But I’m putting it out there so you, dear friends, can tell me this singular – and very highly publicized – trashing of the quality of some of our most prominent HD radio models is wrong.

Richard Menta of MP3 newswire clues us in to a dirty little secret on the consumer side of things: most of the hardware on the market today sucks. Specifically, Menta put three current models (Boston Acoustics’ Recepter Radio HD, Polk Audio’s I-Sonic Entertainment System, and the Accurian HD Radio from Radio Shack) up against three analog units he had lying around the house (his car stereo, a cheap Sony shower radio, and just for fun, a 1940 Zenith tube radio), and much to his surprise, even the crappiest of the latter group was able to pick up analog stations better than the most expensive HD device. Furthermore, the HD models did a terrible job picking up the digital stations they’re meant to highlight in signal-rich central Jersey, as they were only able lock in one of the 13 channels promoted by the HD Radio Alliance with any regularity. Luckily this poor performance seems due to the lack of sensitivity in the tuners these radios are built with — an issue that’s easily solved — so the real question is whether manufacturers have the will to start tossing better parts in. If not, things don’t look very good for HD Radio.

Is this true more generally? Or is this just a function of one isolated New Jersey address? Radio, after all, always has reception trouble somewhere, no matter where you live. But a new radio with new technology certainly shouldn’t work worse than your old equipment at the same address.

Is HD radio being stabbed in the back by the very manufacturers who make the equipment?

Given the radio industry’s investment in this technology, it seems to me we deserve a clear answer.

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