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IBiquity Launches Private-Label HD Radio Tuner Line

Pubcaster HD Radio survey also underway

IBiquity Digital has now launched a line of private-label receivers to be sold online. I had reported earlier the company intended to do so.

Called “Sparc,” the products include a mix of tabletop, boombox and portable AM/FM/HD Radio tuners.

The HD Radio tech developer is working with its Asian suppliers on the line, which is meant to beef up the number of product in the marketplace.

While HD Radio receivers are proliferating in new cars and the aftermarket receiver world, engineers and other station personnel have been asking Radio World and other industry experts why there seem to be fewer tabletop, boombox and portable radios on the market these days. We’ve reported that’s because fewer consumer electronic devices in general include AM/FM or HD Radio now. That trend is being driven by younger consumers, who aren’t walking into brick and mortar retailers asking for radios.

The upshot is radio is more likely to be an app on a multifunction device, for example, we’ve been reporting for a while.

Asked about this trend during a recent interview, iBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble confirmed retail shelf space being devoted to radio products at consumer electronics brick and mortar retailers “is not what it once was.” As an example, he said, there used to be two aisles devoted to radio products at retailers like Best Buy. “Now that’s about two feet.”

That’s why iBiquity has brought more manufacturers into its fold. We reported from CES that two makers of European DAB tabletops and portables, Roberts Radio and View Quest, are bringing out HD Radio products.

And now iBiquity has launched the Sparc product line, which Struble describes as “affordable.”

Six tuners are described on the Sparc website. The tabletops include the SPARC SHD-T750, a follow-on to the Narrator AM/FM HD Radio including voice prompts for the visually impaired, the Sparc SHD-BT1, a Bluetooth unit featuring a wood cabinet; and the boombox Sparc SHDTR10.

Three portables appear on the site: the Sparc SHD-TX2, which incorporates emergency alerts; the pocket-sized Sparc SHD-P360; and the Sparc SHD-TR05R, which includes support in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Three models are available now.

In related HD Radio news, iBiquity is mid-way through a survey being conducted about how public radio stations are using the technology. Rich Rarey is the independent contractor heading up the project; he’s also the new editor for Radio World Engineering Extra, though Radio World is not involved in the project.

The survey asks pubcasters who are licensed to use the technology about their station’s technical setups, the versions of HD Radio equipment they employ and how that gear is configured. The results will drive an iBiquity initiative to encourage such stations that currently “don’t take full advantage” of the technology, meaning if they don’t multicast or do iTunes Tagging with it, for example.

Using the information gleaned from the responses, the tech developer will also get a fuller picture of pubcasters’ not transmitting Artist Experience or logo information. That will drive another iBiquity project to help them do so, according to iBiquity Director of Broadcast Business DevelopmentRick Greenhut. The different features of HD Radio don’t always involve getting new gear. “It’s knowing how to get information out of your automation system” do to program service data for the receiver display, or how to display a station logo, for example, Greenhut tells me.

“We need to know how many stations will commit to do something further,” he says, adding that knowing that information will help the stations as well as iBiquity.

Initially, public radio stations received grants from the former NTIA Public Telecommunications Facility Program to implement HD Radio transmission, and upgrade their FM analog transmission chain at the same time, we’ve reported.