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What Is HD Radio?

HD Radio

HD Radio is a new way of broadcasting the AM and FM radio stations you love. Standard AM/FM radio broadcasts have been sent through the airwaves as analog signals for the past 50 plus years. An analog signal is an audio or video signal, in this case the human voice, which is translated into electronic pulses to be read by other devices and played back. New HD Radio is transmitted using a digital signal which is represented by a series of “1”s and “0”s known as binary code, the same code used in most electronics today, especially computers. This digital technology knows what the signal is supposed to look like at the end of the transmission, so it corrects any errors that occur during data transfer.  This means any AM/FM stations that broadcast a digital signal now come through special HD receivers with CD like quality. There is more to offer though besides clarity.

Here is a list of the primary benefits to going HD:
1. FM stations broadcasted in the digital format will have near CD like quality while AM stations will sound like current FM stations. Digital signals are less vulnerable to reception problems and interference. This means clear sound without static, hiss, pops or fades.
2. If an HD Radio receiver loses its HD signal it will transition seamlessly back to FM until the HD signal returns.
3. Multicasting (HD2 Stations): The digital signals that HD Radio uses have larger bandwidth than analog signals so they can carry one extra music channel and three addition talk channels. This means you can tune in to one station and then select any alternate channels on that station.
4. HD Radio receivers can display text data (artist and song information) or even show updates on the weather, stocks, sports scores and more.
5. iTunes Tagging: HD Radio receivers can “tag” a song which will later show up in your iTunes for purchase. This only works if your iPod can be directly connected to the HD Radio receiver and that HD station has tagging enabled. A “tagged” song will load up in your iPod and then transfer to your iTunes when your iPod syncs up again. iTunes then gives you the option to purchase that song.

Radio stations will continue to broadcast regular analog signals along with HD signals. This will allow older radios to continue to receive AM/ FM signals. There are no current plans to shut down analog radio stations or to stop analog broadcasts, even in the near future. The biggest advantage of HD Radio is, besides the higher quality, that it is free to any listener with an HD radio. Additional features such as surround sound and other multicasting options will be made available as time progresses and the full realization of extra bandwidth usage is made clear.

How does it work specifically?

1.  Radio stations send out a bundled signal comprising both analog and digital. The digital signal is comprised of textual data such as stocks, sports scores, song information and traffic.
2.  This signal is compressed by a computer and digitized into “1”s and “0”s, similar to how MP3 files are a compressed version of WAV files.
3. The combined analog and digital signals are transmitted via specially equipped transmission towers capable of handling both signals.
4. Radio signals bounce off of object such as buildings which is a big contributor to static in conventional radios. HD Digital radio receivers sort through and repair the reflected signals getting rid of artifacts such as hiss, pop and fades.
5. Both analog and digital signals reach their destination and remain free to the listener. HD Receivers decode the information for a clear listening experience.

More and more aftermarket car receivers come with HD Radio preinstalled or as an add-on module giving you high quality radio with a bunch of added features. You can add HD radio to your factory car stereo or aftermarket car stereo using an HD radio add-on kit. These types of kits allow you to add HD radio to your factory or after market stereo using a 3.5 mm headphone jack, RCA connectors or a wired FM modulator. HD Radio can also be found built-in to aftermarket car stereos or as add on modules to these radios. An aftermarket radio with HD radio capability can also come with additional features such as bluetooth, navigation, iPod integration and more.

With no additional costs, an added HD radio is a great investment, especially because most stations will be broadcasting a digital signal in the foreseeable future.  With so many ways to add HD Radio to your life there is no reason you can’t take advantage of this high quality, crisp, clear and FREE radio.

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Staff writers at Sonic Electronix are experts in their field. In addition to a complete in-house training program, these experts typically have many years of hands-on experience in their specialty. Some come from car audio installer backgrounds, while others come with extensive retail experience.
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