Battle for the Dash Is On

Automakers, OEMs expand HD Radio offerings as other media options proliferate
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Automakers, OEMs expand HD Radio offerings as other media options proliferate

HD Radio is gaining traction among automotive aftermarket receiver makers and among automakers themselves. But it was clear from walking the floor at this year’s CES that traditional radio increasingly is just one among several options in the dashboard and that automakers’ plans for future cars are accelerating the number of in-dash choices available.

HD Radio proponents say the fight for the dashboard is real, and stations need to go digital to remain relevant.

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Alpine’s first built-in HD Radio head unit is the INA-W910 audio/video/navigation receiver, available in May. “The dashboard wind is blowing away from radio — and in favor of smartphone functionality, streaming options and other attractions that can diminish radio’s share of in-car audience,” blogged Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs after the January show. “It has been gradually happening during the past couple years, and is accelerated by systems like Sync, now in 3 million vehicles, and Toyota’s new Entune.”

IBiquiy Digital President/CEO Bob Struble agrees, telling Radio World that the features Toyota has included in the Entune multimedia system to compete with the Ford Snyc — such as built-in HD Radio, satellite radio and Internet connectivity for apps like Pandora — will be the norm.

“The battle for the dash is real. We’ve been talking about it for some time. You’re now seeing it now in mainstream vehicles,” as in-dash choices that take the listener away from traditional radio,” proliferate, said Struble.

“I think the reality for broadcasters is they need to embrace that, and quickly, because there’s a risk that they’re going to get left behind,” he said. “There was a monopoly position in the dash. It isn’t anymore and it’s only getting worse. Our view is the task of gaining a fair share of a driver’s time and attention is a lot easier to get in digital. There’s more you can do.”

As reported in the Feb. 9 issue of Radio World, various OEM and aftermarket receiver makers are increasing their offerings that enable users to connect their smartphone to the unit for in-dash control of apps, such as Pandora, Twitter or iTunes.

Several receiver makers, such as Pioneer and Kenwood, as well as carmaker Toyota told Radio World they see HD Radio, satellite radio and Pandora as complimentary services, not duplicative. The automakers are also able to switch out smartphone applications on the car displays should some apps become less popular with customers than others.

Connectivity rush

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Clarion unveiled its first receiver with built-in HD Radio. The CZ401 CD-receiver features an iTunes Tagging button and is Sirius Direct Connect-ready. Several observers told Radio World that it remains to be seen how many listeners will actually be willing to pay for Internet connectivity in the car.

Struble agreed, saying that satellite radio, which is also a paid service, has held steady at 20 million subscribers. Contrast that with traditional radio, “which 250 million people listen to every week. You’ll see that same dynamic play out with Pandora because it’s a paid service and there’s only a certain amount of people that are going to be willing to pay for audio services,” said Struble.

Pandora offers a 40-hour cap on free listening per month; additional listening requires a payment. But listeners are more likely to run into fees from their wireless carrier as cellphone companies move away from unlimited data plans.

Struble cautions that broadcasters need to upgrade their offerings to match the requirements of this new digital world by making sure they have good content on their HD2 or HD3 stations and that those stations are promoted.

Audiovox President Tom Malone said during a connected car session that his company sees the value of HD Radio and offers it, but the technology’s biggest issue is “customer awareness,” which Audiovox would like to see improved.

Indeed, when told that some broadcasters offering HD Radio have been frustrated with its slow if, steady rollout, Kenwood Senior Vice President of Car Electronics Keith Lehmann said that although Kenwood is satisfied with the rollout, “We understand that it will take a very strong presence in the OEM to really make this a format that could be considered an industry standard versus regular AM/FM. But we’re excited about it. We still command a premium for it. What may need to happen here is to teach people more about what it really is and have them come in and ask for it. That will be the real challenge.”

By the end of calendar year 2011, iBiquity expects a total of 109 vehicle models will be available from 17 automotive brands with OEM radios factory-installed as standard or optional. At this time last year, the tech developer predicted that a total of 80 vehicle models from 17 automotive brands would offer HD Radio in 2010, with 36 offering HD as standard equipment.

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JVC displayed the first auto aftermarket launch of Artist Experience. The KW-NT50HDT navigation receiver includes Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic and iTunes Tagging. The commercialization of HD Radio data services was a big theme for iBiquity; last year the tech developer was showing traffic data services. Now it’s also featuring other advanced services in OEMs like live pause and bookmarking, which allows listeners to capture and store information about radio content in real time for later reference. The bookmark feature can also deliver QR codes to HD Radio receivers, enabling consumers to link to a website or other resource using a smartphone app.

Struble encourages stations to offer images synched with audio, the latest feature of HD Radio called Artist Experience. Radio competitors like satellite radio and Pandora already offer such images too, he said.

Milford Smith, vice president of radio engineering at Greater Media, agreed the industry needs to offer album art and other images along with audio to stay relevant. His company plans to implement the feature, Smith said. Clear Channel Radio is testing the feature in 20 markets, according to sources familiar with the AE rollout. In iBiquity’s booth, a Volkswagen Jetta was equipped to display the AE data feature with the necessary visual data transmitted by Clear Channel KWNR(FM), Las Vegas. IBiquity said that was the first OEM implementation for Artist Experience.

The feature was first available on the updated portable Insignia HD, the NS-HD02 now in Best Buy stores.

Struble predicts the Artist Experience rollout will be phased in over time, much as HD Radio stations did in implementing iTunes Tagging capability. IBiquity believes AE gives stations a chance to bring in some HD Radio-related revenue. For example, “There’s no reason when that Geico ad is playing that I shouldn’t see the picture of the lizard on my radio screen,” Struble said.

Overall, the automotive aftermarket continues to be strong for new HD Radio radios as manufacturers grow their offerings. JVC, Kenwood and Clarion are expanding their automotive HD Radio choices. JVC displayed what it and iBiquity say is the first auto aftermarket launch of Artist Experience. This model includes Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic and iTunes Tagging, marking the first time these three features are available on one consumer electronics device, according to iBiquity.

Alpine announced its first built-in HD Radio head unit.

Insignia unveiled the first HD Radio-enabled “built for iPad” docking system.

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The DNX9980HD multimedia/navigation receiver is Kenwood’s first multimedia model to feature built-in HD Radio. The family of HD Radio portables is growing; Cydle unveiled a multimedia player that includes an HD Radio receiver.

Here’s an overview of some of the HD Radio news coming out of CES.

Media systems

TOYOTA: HD Radio and XM Radio are part of Toyota’s new Entune multimedia system, which offers pre-integrated support for a number of mobile apps, including iheartradio, Bing,, OpenTable and Pandora. Entune will be offered on some Toyotas in calendar year 2011. Toyota will be the first OEM to offer iTunes Tagging on all radios that include HD Radio technology, according to iBiquity.

FORD: The new Ford Focus was the official car of the show. The Focus, with its updated Sync system, includes MyFord Touch, HD Radio and in-car Wi-Fi capability.

VOLKSWAGEN: Model year 2012 cars featuring VW’s Premium VIII touchscreen-controlled radio will include HD Radio technology as standard or optional; the new radios will feature Artist Experience and iTunes Tagging.

Car radios

ALPINE: The manufacturer’s first built-in HD Radio head unit is the INA-W910 audio/video/navigation receiver; the AM/FM/CD/DVD receiver also features iTunes Tagging and Bluetooth capabilities. The INA-W910 can control the Pandora app from an iPhone. Available in May, price to be determined.

CLARION: The receiver manufacturer has expanded its HD Radio-ready tuners and offers five new CD models that are HD Radio-ready. It unveiled its first receiver with built-in HD Radio. The CZ401 CD-receiver features an iTunes Tagging button and is Sirius Direct Connect-ready. The CZ401 lists for $229 and will ship this month.

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Cydle has the P29 multimedia player, which includes an HD Radio receiver. KENWOOD: Kenwood introduced a new flagship multimedia/navigation receiver, the DNX9980HD, Kenwood’s first multimedia model to incorporate HD Radio as a built-in feature. The unit includes Pandora Internet radio link and Navteq traffic. The receiver is available this month for $2,000 list. Bluetooth, HD Radio and a Pandora link are included in Kenwood’s Excelon CD receiver, the KDC-X995. Both radios are set for March availability with list prices of $350 and $380 respectively.

An integrated HD Radio for 2011 is the KDC-HD548U with suggested $200 list price. This is a successor to an earlier model; the receiver maker says the NPD Group reported that sales of that unit gave Kenwood the top-selling in-dash player with an integrated HD Radio tuner from April through October 2010, based on unit and dollar volume.

JVC: The JVC KW-NT50HDT, the first auto aftermarket launch of Artist Experience, was displayed. This model includes Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic and iTunes Tagging, marking the first time these three features are available on one consumer electronics device, according to iBiquity. This and a second navigation receiver will also feature Clear Channel’s Total Traffic HD+Network. Newly added to the KW-NT50HDT is connectivity with the iheartradio iPhone application from Clear Channel. Models KW-NT50HDT and KW-NT30HD are available this month for $1,199 and $999 respectively.

PIONEER: In addition to a map database from Tele Atlas, the AVIC-Z130BT features built-in HD Radio, 4 GB of flash memory, a 7-inch touchscreen display, DVD playback, dual zone capability for rear-seat playback, built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and music streaming, USB connectivity for iPod/iPhone connectivity, SD card slot, and backup camera input; it is Sirius XM satellite ready. The AVIC-X930BT will be available in March for $800 list. Portables

CYDLE: The South Korean manufacturer unveiled the P29 multimedia player which includes an HD Radio receiver. This new unit has a 2.9-inch LCD touchscreen. The device also functions as a video and audio player, picture viewer, voice recorder, document viewer, calculator, calendar, clock/stopwatch and notepad. The company plans to add Artist Experience capability and price the unit at just under $100. Cydle also makes the T43H GPS navigation system with built-in HD Radio receiver and plans an updated version.

Home audioBEST BUY: The retailer’s in-house brand Insignia announced the NS-IPHDR1, the first HD Radio-enabled “built for iPad” docking system. The product also features iTunes Tagging, now implemented across many product categories since the initial launch on docking speaker systems.

AUDIO VISUAL RECEIVERS: Denon, Marantz and Yamaha continue to expand their HD Radio Technology equipped lineups. New models range from $300 to $2,000. The offerings join a total of more than 35 HD Radio equipped models from several brands including ADA, Anthem, Auvio, DaySequerra, Denon, Insignia, Integra, Marantz, McIntosh, Niles, Onkyo, Sangean, Sony and Yamaha.

Denon models range from the AVR-1911, listed for $599.99 to the AVR-4311CI at $1,999.99. Yamaha models are priced at $749.99 for the RX-A800 to $1,699.99 for the RX-A3000. Marantz models range from the SR 6005, listed for $999.99 to the AV 7005, priced at $1,999.99. New market entries include the full-featured Anthem MRX 700, priced at $1,999.99, and the Sherwood RD 7405HDR for $299.99, designed to reach into the mass-market price range.