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Best Buy Takes Pre-Orders for ‘The Narrator’

Unit is first ‘talking’ HD Radio receiver, designed for the visually-impaired

Best Buy is taking pre-orders for a new HD Radio tabletop receiver, “The Narrator,” designed with the visually-impaired in mind.

The Narrator was created with input from the International Association of Audio Information Services, the group that represents radio reading services. 

The unit, marketed under Best Buy’s Insignia brand, is unusual in that it’s designed for both sighted and visually-impaired users, according to Best Buy and iBiquity Digital. (Photo below.) It’s also the first Insignia brand HD Radio receiver to include AM.

“With The Narrator coming to market, people with visual disabilities will have a radio that they can program and tune themselves,” said Dave Noble, chairman of government relations for IAAIS. 

For years, visually-impaired listeners have had to use single-purpose, expensive SCA receivers that have lower-quality audio. The IAAIS has pushed for an HD Radio receiver designed with poor-vision or blind users in mind so those listeners could have a “regular” radio.

The buttons on the unit are larger than normal, with raised lettering. The units are shipped with the accessible mode as the default, so when a blind or visually-impaired purchaser turns it on, he or she is prompted to tune the radio with voice commands, said Best Buy Senior Product Manager Mike Dahnert. 

A sighted user can turn off the accessible voice command feature. This is also the first HD Radio tabletop receiver that supports Artist Experience, in which the audio and is synched with visual images. 

The regular pre-order price is $99, however Dahnert said attendees of the IAAIS annual conference going on now in Houston can get a special $89 price for Best Buy’s in-house Insignia-branded radio. 

The unit ships in July and will be available for purchase on Best Buy’s website. IBiquity will work with alliance member stations to promote the radio on-air.