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Digital Portables, Car Receivers Proliferate

HD Radio-based traffic to be more of a factor this year

HD Radio will be available in more cars and receiver form factors this year, including more portables — with at least one HD Radio portable that includes AM for the first time.

More radios will offer iTunes tagging; and real-time traffic using the data portion of the HD Radio signal will be featured on more navigation devices.

These trends were evident at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Technology developer iBiquity Digital Corp. hopes that as the economy improves, more broadcasters and, in turn, more of the public will notice the expansion and participate.

In the automotive category, Ford showcased what it and iBiquity call the first factory-installed implementation of an HD Radio-enabled iTunes tagging receiver. Automotive aftermarket receiver manufacturers JVC, Kenwood and Sony are coming out with integrated auto aftermarket HD radios, including the first aftermarket integrated in-dash radio with Real Time Traffic, the JVC KD-NT3HDT; this also was used at CES to display image support, delivering images synchronized to audio programming on HD Radio broadcasts using Clear Channel Real-Time Traffic with Journaline Information Services.

Cydle showed a portable navigation device with a built-in HD Radio Electronic Program Guide.

Here’s an overview of news related to HD Radio from CES.

HD Radio Portables Soon to Include AM

The Sangean DT600HD, to ship in June, is a portable that includes not only digital and analog FM HD Radio but also analog AM. A planned subsequent version will add digital AM too. The first HD Radio portables to include either analog or digital AM reception are coming this year. Sangean displayed two such prototypes in the iBiquity booth.

The Sangean DT-600 HD personal receiver supports analog AM along with FM analog and HD Radio reception. The pocket-size unit features a built-in speaker, a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, 20 presets (10 each for FM and AM) and a sleep timer. The radio is multicast-capable and supports program-associated data services. HD Radio options include emergency alert and iTunes tagging via a USB port.

Up until now, manufacturers have resisted including analog or digital AM in HD Radio portables, citing the difficulty and expense of getting good reception with a small antenna. The 600 uses an earbud cable as an antenna. The 800 uses that, plus a telescoping monopole.

Also on display was what would be the first portable to support both AM and FM-band HD Radio reception, the Sangean DT-800 HD. The pocket-size radio includes the functions of the DT-600 HD.

Sangean projects June availability for the DT-600 HD, and October for the DT-800 HD; it has not yet announced prices.

Nav Devices Feature HD Radio Traffic

Cydle, JVC and Nextar introduced navigation devices featuring HD Radio traffic data.

In addition to the United States, Cydle says its T43H, a portable GPS navigation device with built-in HD Radio, can be used in Canada and South America. The real-time HD Radio traffic updates feature Clear Channel’s Total Traffic Network.

The unit also functions as a multimedia player for listening to music as well as to view movies and pictures. Cydle also is working to add features such as Bluetooth, mobile TV and Wi-Fi, a spokeswoman told Radio World.

JVC expanded its in-dash CD receiver line with four HD Radio models including a navigation unit, the KW-NT3HDT. The South Korean company projects the T43H will be available at the end of the first quarter.

JVC expanded its in-dash CD receiver line with four HD Radio models, including a navigation unit, the KW-NT3HDT. The navigation receiver includes an HD Radio tuner and features iTunes tagging and Clear Channel’s Total Traffic HD Network, a free lifetime subscription with the purchase of the unit. Local weather conditions, sports scores and news headlines are also featured with Total Traffic.

The KW-NT3HDT navigation receiver is satellite- and iPod-ready and has a front USB port for iPod/iPhone control. The unit is MP3/WMA-compatible and features a front auxiliary input. The receiver is available in March with a list price of $1,199.95.

Nextar debuted a portable navigation device with traffic and other updates — such as weather and speed-camera warnings and gas prices — using HD Radio. The unit is slated to ship in the second half of the year.

Struble: It’s a Different World Now

Ford will offer HD Radio technology with iTunes tagging capability as part of its updated Sync communications platform this year. The automaker will offer Pandora Internet radio as well.

Pioneer and Alpine are including HD Radio and Pandora options on their navigation platforms as well this year. The Pandora reports were big news at CES (see Feb. 10 issue).

What does increasing connectivity in the car mean for HD Radio? IBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble says Pandora is just one more new entertainment choice up against traditional AM and FM in the automobile. Social media, as well as live, mobile television services like Flo from Qualcomm, and soon to come digital mobile TV, to name a few, are also radio’s competition in the car.

“AM and FM is going to have to innovate and work very hard to keep a position” in the car, he said in an interview; but Pandora and other Internet radio “in a mobile environment is not going to be Armageddon nor ‘Death Stars’ for AM and FM.” He said Internet radio in the car “won’t work from a capacity or economic standpoint.” He characterized mobile Internet radio as a niche service, much like satellite radio.

However, new services competing for consumer attention all are digital, he said. “Radio has to adopt digital technology to be able to compete effectively in the race for the car.”

When told of a radio programmer’s statement at the show that the HD Radio rollout is in trouble, Struble disagreed, noting that more than 730,000 HD Radio receivers were sold in 2009, twice as many as in 2008.

He said HD Radio is not dying in the car, citing announcements by Ford to add iTunes Tagging capability to its HD Radio offerings. Volkswagen announced that some 2010 models equipped with DVD navigation systems will include HD Radio. The automaker also plans to bring HD Radio to its touch-screen radio systems on future models. Audi will make HD Radio standard in several 2011 models available later this year.

The announcements bring to 15 the number of automotive brands offering the technology in cars in 2010.

However station conversions as well as promotion of the technology at the station level were limited in 2008 and 2009, he acknowledged, without giving figures. “Radio has been troubled by the economic downturn. That, to an extent, is going to limit the resources [and] creativity they can apply to the technology.”

As to what innovations broadcasters will see from iBiquity in 2010, he cited the first HD Radio portable to include AM (see story above). “That’s something AM broadcasters have been asking for.”

IBiquity and partners keep working to “feature up” the system. He pointed out the Cydle and JVC introductions, the first aftermarket in-dash navigation products containing HD Radio and real-time traffic.

He predicts consumers will see album art, images synchronized to audio programming, featured in HD Radio products this year; iBiquity is developing a software development kit for receiver manufacturers to help enable integration of this feature, planned for late 2010. It displayed such a platform from SiPort in its booth. “It’s something consumers clearly want,” and stations and automakers like it as well, he said.

The company also displayed a development platform from STMicroelectronics featuring HD Radio-based traffic supplied by Navteq.

Asked what iBiquity can do to get stations, especially smaller outlets, refocused on HD Radio once they begin to see revenue return, Struble said: “Ultimately, what we’ve heard frequently is to get anybody excited you have to have monetization potential. And you can’t have that unless there’s an installed base. So that goes back to, if we sell radios in cars, portables and in consumer electronics devices, then things get a lot better.”

There are some HD Radio applications that can help stations make money, he said, and some HD2 channels are being monetized, citing bandwidth leases as an example; iTunes tagging results in revenue for stations as well. Indeed, Sony and Kenwood are offering tuners with built-in HD Radio technology featuring iTunes tagging for the first time.

If stations are able to look over the horizon again in 2010 they’re going to see HD Radios in more cars, with more available features and portables, Struble said. “In the last 18 months it’s kind of a changed world.”

Sherwood America’s first audio/video receiver with HD Radio capability is the RD-7405HDR. Sherwood Debuts A/V Receiver With HD Radio

Sherwood America’s first audio/video receiver with HD Radio capability, the RD-7405HDR, adds digital AM and FM to its RD-7405 model, otherwise sharing the same features and specifications including AM/FM stereo tuner. Its HD Radio tuner can display real-time song and artist information on its front panel, and it can also receive multicast programming on HD2 or HD3 channels.

With a list price of just under $220, the 7.1 channel receiver RD-7405HDR is expected to ship in March.

Other features include 30 tuner presets, discrete amplifier stages and 192 kHz/24 bit D-to-A converters for all channels, both Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II processing and five DSP surround modes. The unit also has multisource two-zone capability, two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. Audio connections include two coaxial and one optical digital, five analog inputs and two analog outputs.

Sony Ships First HD Radio-Embedded Unit

Sony’s first CD receiver with built-in HD Radio, and its first with iTunes tagging, is the CDX-GT700HD.

Sony’s first CD receiver with built-in HD Radio, and its first with iTunes tagging, is the CDX-GT700HD. Available now for around $180 from Sony and its retailers, the Xplod CD receiver features a detachable faceplate, front auxiliary input, MP3/WMA/AAC playback, built-in HD Radio tuner, EQ3 Stage 2 and wireless remote. A USB 1-wire for iPod, iPhone and MP3 players lets you connect, charge and control a digital music player using the USB jack in the front of the unit, as well as view metadata like song title and artist on the front display.

Users can search and select songs by category including artist, album, genre or playlist. Jump Mode allows the user to fast-forward through a music category in 10 percent increments.

Kenwood, JVC Integrate HD Radio

Kenwood USA’s integrated HD Radio offering for 2010 is the KDC-HD545U, with HD Radio and iTunes tagging.

A front-panel USB input and mini-plug auxiliary input enables playback of external media. Mixed-preset memory gives the user one-touch access to selected AM, FM, HD Radio. With an additional tuner, the unit can receive satellite radio stations. The KDC-HD545U is available through authorized Kenwood retailers at $240 list.

JVC has added HD Radio to more in-dash CD receiver models. The KD-HDR40 CD receiver features an HD Radio tuner, front auxiliary input and MP3/WMA playback. The receiver is available now and lists for $129.95.

The KD-HDR60 CD receiver features a built-in HD Radio tuner, front auxiliary input, USB 2.0 connection for iPod/iPhone control and iTunes tagging. The unit has MP3/WMA playback capability; it’s available now for $169.95 list.

The Arsenal KD-AHD69 includes the features of the KD-HDR60 and is satellite- and iPod-ready, with front USB port. The unit is MP3/WMA-compatible and available now for $189.95 list.

Also of Interest:

— THX II Certified audio systems will be paired with HD Radio and DTS Neural Surround decoding in all Lincoln models in the 2011 model year, THX announced. HD Radio will be available with Lincoln THX systems for the first time. DTS Neural Surround was available as part of a THX system in only one Lincoln model in the previous model year. Neural decoders upmix two-channel music sources to 5.1 channels.

— Clarion introduced in-dash multimedia source units with Bluetooth and iPod capability and feature HD Radio connectivity. The units, models VX400, VZ400, VZ300, decode HD Radio and feature iTunes tagging with the addition of an HD Radio tuner. They ship to retailers in Q1.

— Sage Alerting Systems and SpectraRep demonstrated delivery of “enhanced” emergency alert messages to HD Radio receivers. They said this was the first public demo of interoperability between SpectraRep’s Alert Manager system and the Sage Digital Endec, as well as the first of emergency messaging received by both home and portable HD Radio receivers.