Sunday, September 28, 2008

New HD Radio

As one of the approximately one-dozen Northeast Ohio residents with an HD Radio unit, it's our obligation to inform the other 11 about new stations lighting up the "HD" light on those receivers.

There's a new one as of this past week, and one we believe is pretty new.

The HD Radio newcomer is on the AM side, as Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 Akron "SportsRadio 1350" is using the digital technology as of late last week. That makes it the first Akron-licensed broadcaster to go "HD" - as sister WKDD/98.1 is actually licensed to Canton, as is WRQK/106.9. WHOF/101.7 is licensed to North Canton.

WARF, of course, is Akron's oldest station that is still operating - dating back to its days as WADC in the mid-1920's.

Since it's AM, there's no alternate programming on WARF...just a change in audio quality. AM HD has its drawbacks in that regard...non-music AM HD stations, especially, sometimes sound like they're being sent over a low-bandwidth Internet connection with some artifacting.

But in brief listening over the past couple of days, the WARF HD side sounds less affected by that artifacting than sister talk WTAM/1100, one of two other area AMs putting out the IBOC carrier. (The third is Radio Disney O&O WWMK/1260.)

On the FM side, we don't know how long it's been doing HD, but Radio One urban AC powerhouse WZAK/93.1 Cleveland is simulcasting in the digital format now. WZAK has no HD2 or HD3 side formats, at least as of this writing.

And just so you're not further confused, given our call for questions in the previous item:

"HD" on the radio side of things does not stand for "high definition", though a full-bandwidth HD Radio channel may provide some audio improvements, particularly on FM.

We'd believed that it stood for "Hybrid Digital", which is the technical name for the "HD" standard..."hybrid" meaning that stations broadcast both the analog carrier, and the digital carrier, in tandem.

But we've heard recently that it's basically just a brand name...something which trademark holder iBiquity confirms in the FAQ on its own website for HD Radio:


A: The ‘HD’ in ‘HD Radio’ is part of iBiquity Digital’s brand name for its digital AM and FM radio technology. It does not mean either hybrid digital or high definition, it is simply the branding language for this new technology.

As always on this controversial topic, we have no intention of turning this item into yet another "pro vs. con" debate on HD Radio...or to provide a platform for some to promote their websites...