In case you haven’t noticed, HD Radio is here in all its glory, warts and all. First-generation products are a challenge to review fairly, and here we have a first-generation “system,” the Ibiquity hybrid analog-digital radio system for FM and AM, and a first-generation tuner from Sangean, the HDT-1.
I was fortunate enough to acquire one of the first HDT-1 tuners for evaluation. My first impression, before listening to it, was that it was an attractive matte-black unit that blended in well with my more expensive audio components.
It weighs 5.6 pounds and has a solid metal case; the only plastic parts visible are the front-panel switches. The HDT-1 looks more expensive than its $199 list. I would soon learn that it sounds as good as it looks.
The unit comes with accessories: remote control, FM dipole antenna, AM loop antenna, audio output cable and detachable power cord. The instruction manual was written for the layperson and is sparse but adequate.
Hooking it up
Sangean HDT-1 Tuner
Excellent audio quality
Full-featured remote control
Good to excellent sensitivity and selectivity
Large blue LCD display
Cannot be locked in analog mode
Cannot output analog and digital simultaneously
No FM stereo light
Setting up the Sangean HDT-1 is simple: connect the two antennas, connect the detachable power cord to an ac supply and use the supplied stereo audio cable to connect the tuner to your sound system. At first I was stumped on how to mount the supplied AM loop antenna, but I settled on a piece of gaffer’s tape.
The HDT-1 has an attractive blue and white 1.5- by 2.75-inch LCD display. An internal clock can be displayed when the radio is on.
In the stand-by mode, the clock is displayed in a dimmed mode. I found that the clock in my unit tended to run a little slow: maybe by as much as two minutes every 24 hours. There is no alarm or timer.
If the AC supply is interrupted, the clock must be reset, but the HDT-1 remembers all your presets.
From left to right, the front panel consists of a “Standby/On” switch with LED indicator, a 12-button data entry pad, the LCD display, “Info” and band buttons, Tuning control, “Seek” and “HD Seek” rockers.
From left to right, the rear consists of an FM antenna socket, AM loop connector, line out RCA connectors and the AC power cord socket.
You will have the HDT-1 up and running in mere minutes without cracking the manual.
This radio sounds great. There is a tendency to forget that you are listening to low-bit rate digital data. It makes AM sound like FM and the improvement on FM is substantial, especially under high multipath conditions.
Depending on station processing, the blend from analog FM to digital HD Radio can be a subtle improvement, with increased clarity and openness. Because the HD-R system does not use pre-emphasis, the high end sounds less busy.
Unfortunately, some stations are using identical processing for their analog and HD1 signals, including heavy high-frequency limiting. These stations are obvious when monitoring on the unit.
The HD2 streams sound excellent, but the perceived quality is largely dependent on the station processing. At first I felt the HD2s sounded noticeably worse than the HD1s, but this turned out to be a difference in audio processing and the quality of the source material.
Operation of the HDT-1 is simple. All functions are available on the front panel or the credit card-sized remote control. The radio is never totally off unless you pull the power cord (and lose the clock). When in standby, a red LED lights.
Then select your band: AM 1or 2 or FM 1 or 2. There are 20 presets available for FM and 20 for AM. Press the preset button and the number of the station you want to recall. Or you can press the “Direct Frequency Button” and enter the frequency directly.
The “Info” button cycles radio text, time, signal quality, frequency and spectrum.
The tuning rocker moves forward or backward one channel at a time. The seek rocker finds the next or last usable signal, and the HD Seek rocker only stops on HD stations.
An indicator on the LCD screen indicates when the radio is locking on an HD Radio signal.
Under the hood, there are four boards: power supply/amplifier/I/O, front panel, display controller and the LG-Innotek DSP HD Radio module. Most of the inside is empty space.
Sangean, with 32 years of experience building radios, has produced an impressive first-generation tuner. Does it have a few small warts? Yes.
My tuner would mute occasionally while I was pressing buttons. Recycling the power reset the audio. The clock is slow. There is no stereo light for analog FM. As a bonus, the HDT1 will decode C-Quam AM stereo, but there is no indication of this on the panel.
For professional use, there is no way to lock the radio in the analog mode and no way to call up analog and digital channels simultaneously for time syncing. But then this is not a professional product; I would classify it as high-end consumer, suitable for studio monitoring, quality control and home component use.
My grade: a solid “B.”
For more information: www.sangean.com.
Jim Somich is a former major-market radio chief with equipment design experience. He works as an engineering consultant and tech writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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