LAS VEGAS Look for advanced features on HD Radios as well as more units to choose from later this year.
That's the word from proponents who base their predictions on conversations with receiver and automakers, chip developers and retailers.
Eventually HD Radio will be offered as a standard feature in the dash, they say; but to bridge the gap until then, car converters are coming to the market. Some use wired FM modulators to add HD-R to existing car stereo systems; others plug an aftermarket HD Radio tuner into the car radio's CD-changer input or the car's data bus, allowing the existing in-dash radio to control the tuner via a wired controller added to the dash.
Ibiquity President/CEO Robert Struble, noting many advanced application demos in the Ibiquity/Alliance booth at this winter's Consumer Electronics Show, said consumers may see features such as electronic program guides in some HD Radios by the end of the year.
HD Radio was featured in 20 booths at CES, quite a change from the technology's introduction at this show in 2004.
Demos showed store and replay, electronic program guide and conditional access capabilities in the Ibiquity/Alliance booth. A large shelf system displayed numerous home HD-R receivers coming onto the market this year. A Jaguar and a BMW were equipped with in-dash HD Radios.
HD products were available at the end of 2006 from Accurian (a RadioShack brand), Alpine, Audio Design Associates, Boston Acoustics, Cambridge SoundWorks, Directed Electronics, JVC, Kenwood, Polk, Sangean and Sanyo.
This year, offerings are planned from DaySequerra, Denon, Dice Electronics, Integra, Niles Audio, Radiosophy, Rotel, Visteon and others.
HD-R products are available from more retailers and prices are dropping. At CES 2006, the big news was that the first table radio that would be available a few months later. That unit, the Boston Acoustics Recepter HD, retailed at $499. Today it lists for $249 and an increasing number of HD Radio receivers for the car and home are available for $199 or less.
Now about 40 HD-R products are available. Those include tabletop radios, shelf systems, A/V receivers, stand-alone home tuners, after-market car CD players with built-in HD Radio and stand-alone car tuners that plug into specific brands of after-market CD players.
Highlights of the CES show including these HD Radio news items:
Alliance Ads Changing in '07
Alliance President/CEO Peter Ferrara said awareness of HD Radio is up dramatically. Last year at CES, he said he had to seek people out to talk about HD Radio; this year, manufacturers and retailers came to him, saying they'd heard the ads and asking how to get involved in the promotion effort.
The alliance has tweaked some ads to reduce consumer confusion, Struble said. The ads now specifically tell listeners a new radio is necessary to get the benefit of the new stations and digital sound.
Alliance ads will promote more individual retailers and radio options, Ferrara said, to reflect growing availability of HD-R products for the home and car, particularly car converters.
“HD-R has gone from a few products to several. I don't want this to be a niche product anymore,” he told Radio World. “It's now ready to be a mass product.”
Ads promoting BMW's radio were planned for airing beginning in February; the automaker announced it is carrying HD Radios as in-dash options across its 2007 product line.
Lower Conversion Costs for Small Markets?
Ibiquity and the alliance are pursuing ways to win over more medium- and small-market broadcasters to HD Radio, Ferrara and Struble told Radio World.
Struble said to expect announcements soon about incentives for small-market broadcasters.
Ferarra said discussions are underway about bringing down equipment costs for single-station operators. “We're looking to improve transmission technology to make it more affordable.”
Stations were broadcasting in 68 metro areas in January; the number was expected to grow to 85 in February and to the top 100 markets by May.
HD-R Chips Getting Smaller for Varied Devices
Chip development to reduce the size and power consumption for HD Radio is underway. Proponents expect to see the advanced chips ready for receiver and other device makers late this year. That means these chips would be in products in 2008, said Struble.
HD Radio proponents are “aggressively pursuing interfaces with radio, iPods, iTunes and Zune” to name a few, Ferrara said.
Mike Starling, NPR vice president, chief technical officer and executive director of NPR Labs, singled out the SiPort module as an interesting HD-R product notable for its low power consumption. NPR held good talks with receiver manufacturers, he said, and several manufacturers offered peeks of other product launches to come.
SiPort is developing an IBOC/DAB/DMB chipset to receive terrestrial digital radio and television broadcast on mobile devices.
'George' Combines iPod, HD-R
Soon you'll be able to listen to Jack or Bob in digital on your George.
Chestnut Hill Sound Inc., a new company, has produced its first radio. It is billed by its creators as possibly the first digital radio to combine an iPod music playback system, wireless remote, AM/FM radio, alarm system and HD Radio in one product.
The George radio itself is available now; an HD Radio module is to be available in the second half of the year.
The unit features a removable front panel that serves as a remote for iPod, radio and alarm clock functions. To use the radio, consumers insert their iPod into the built-in dock, which downloads all the iPod meta data.
The wireless remote supports iPod navigation, including “jump buttons” to navigate a personal music database quickly.
Bandless tuning allows AM/FM radio allows users to organize stations based on genre.
The charge for the wireless remote lasts four to six hours; it can be recharged on the front panel or in an optional charging stand.
The George has a rear USB port for future hardware and software upgrades and a line-in jack to accommodate devices CD players and MP3 players. It includes a pre-amp jack out to support the installed base of larger A/V systems.
The standard finish is white; other wood finishes are available. Customers can install them using the included Phillips screwdriver.
George is available online at www.chillsound.com and later this year at retailers. Price is $549, or $599 with a remote charging stand.
Visteon Jump Available Now
Visteon unveiled its transportable HD Radio receiver, the HD Jump. The unit converts most models of auto radios into HD Radios.
In a press conference, HD Digital Radio Alliance President/CEO Peter Ferrara said, “We need this. Jump is the perfect product at the perfect time.”
The product docks into a cradle in the car or at home. The cradle's aux jack allows users to plug in an MP3 player and hear its contents through a vehicle's sound system.
Visteon says the dockability feature is unique and differentiates the product from other HD-R car converters coming on the market.
'Jump' on Design Fast-Track
Visteon went from design to working prototype in eight weeks. Two key considerations were getting the right industrial design and taking advantage of multicasting, said Jonathan Weisberg, director of mobile electronics for the North American Aftermarket for Visteon.
The Jump can be connected to the existing head unit in two ways. “If there's an aux input in the head unit, we have a line out of the cradle that goes into the head unit. If there's no aux input, we have a (wired) FM modulator in there,” said Weisberg.
No special antenna is needed; the installer or the consumer would reroute the vehicle's antenna into the head unit, into the Jump and then back out of the Jump and through the head unit.
Jump was expected to be available at auto dealerships by early February and list for $249, Visteon executives said. Weisberg said demonstrations to consumers in car dealerships would be done by salespeople comparing an HD-R station to analog, and going back and forth between the two with the Jump in digital, FM modulated and analog modes.
Visteon shipped Jump samples to some station engineers and asked for feedback before introducing it.
Delphi Displays HD-R Store & Replay
Delphi, the other big radio supplier to auto OEMs, displayed three configurations of HD Radios for different vehicles. Delphi has been offering HD Radios to automaker customers since 2005.
It had a store-and-replay demo in an actual end-unit; the Ibiquity demo was on a development platform.
Asked if the introduction of multicasting channels was a challenge, Matthew Yarosz, electrical design project engineer, said, “There was a little bit of a user-interface effort” because each automaker has preferences for how they want the HD-R feature displayed.
Emerson Licenses Ibiquity Receiver IP
Emerson Radio Corp. anticipates bringing its HD Radio receivers to market this year. It recently signed a technology license with Ibiquity Digital to produce and sell HD Radio digital audio receivers to the North American market.
Last year, Emerson sold 5.8 million electronic products that featured radio receivers.
Griffin Shark to Adapt to HD-R
Griffin Technology announced radio Shark HD, a digital tabletop radio for Mac and PC with HD Radio technology. The radio Shark HD is an update to Griffin's radio Shark and radio Shark 2; it will house a radio tuner in a “shark fin” that connects to the USB port of a Mac or PC.
The radio Shark HD will allow users to pause live radio and to schedule recordings of digital radio programming, similar to a DVR. It will identify radio stations and individual songs broadcast in digital format, and allow users to review and playback music recorded from digital radio on a personal computer, sync recordings of digital radio programming to an iPod, and purchase songs heard on digital radio from Apple's iTunes Store.
The Griffin system will work with personal computers running Mac OS X, Windows XP or Windows Vista. The company expects it to be available in summer. Pricing has not yet been set.
TI: Combined Digital Radio Chips Are Here
Officials at Texas Instruments, which makes chips for HD-R, Eureka-147, Digital Radio Mondiale and satellite radio, expressed excitement about HD Radio testing in Europe and planned tests in Canada.
John Gardner, digital radio marketing manager, said in an interview that HD-R would have to overcome channel spacing differences between the United States and Europe before it can take off there.
Asked about the timing of a hypothetical digital radio that incorporates all the technologies mentioned above, Gardner said it's already begun to happen. The DRM radio uses the TI RS500 module, which can handle DRM, DAB and FM on one chip.
Dice Shipping Vehicle-Specific HD-R Adapter
Dice Electronics says it has the first vehicle-specific HD Radio receiver for OEM radios. In the fall it began shipping the HD Dice HD Radio adapter, which works with most factory radios.
Vehicle-specific connectors are provided to shorten installation time; an HD Radio specific antenna is included.
The unit plugs into the CD changer control port or the satellite radio port of the radio and displays HD Radio and multicast station and metadata on the car radio. Other features are an iPod connection port and an aux input for additional devices, such as a DVD player.
Mark Kovacs, head of the Dice Design Department, said the tuner works with some models from BMW, Toyota, Scion, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Lexus and Volkswagen. GM, Acura and Honda models are to be added in Q1. Suggested retail is $199.
Sangean Adds Rack Mounts for HDT-1
Sangean has a tabletop HD Radio and home tuner on the market. The HDR-1 tabletop retails for $249 and the HDT-1 set top box for $199. Stations have been buying the tuners to place in their equipment racks and optimize their signal, said Clayton Scott, sales and marketing manager for Sangean.
“We're developing rack mounts so they can affix the tuner (to the rack) instead of having to get a shelf,” he said. The rack mounts would probably be available in the first quarter, he said.
Sangean started shipping the tuner in December. It sent out 10,000 units that month and is shipping several hundred units a week, according to Scott.
Alpine 'Street Rod' Features HD-R, iPod and Sirius
Alpine Electronics included HD-R in a demo car on the CES show floor, turning a General Motors Chevy into a “retro street rod.” The car has an audio, video and navigation (AV+N) system.
The IVA-W205 2-DIN DVD/CD/AM/FM head unit with a 6.5-inch touch-screen is the core of the system. This serves as the base for multiple audio and video sources in the car, such as HD Radio from the TUA-T500HD HD Radio Tuner; iPod from the KCE-422i Full Speed Connection for iPod, and Sirius from Alpine's KCA-SC100 Sirius Satellite Radio Interface.
Bluetooth wireless capabilities are available via the KCE-300BT Bluetooth Adapter. In addition, the car supports DRM-10 MP3 players through use of the KCA-620M USB Adapter for WMA/MP3 players.
Specifically placed speakers, amplifiers and subwoofers enhance the audio sources.
Rounding out the system is a second-generation Blackbird portable navigation device, the PMD-B200. The Blackbird and IVA-W205 were designed to work together. The IVA-W205's faceplate motorizes down to reveal a dedicated slot for the Blackbird.
When the Blackbird is docked in the slot, navigation functions are transferred to the IVA-W205 touch-screen display, and the voice-guided driving instructions are delivered through the speakers. Navteq Traffic RDS service provides real-time traffic updates to the Blackbird.
Jensen: Nine Media in One Receiver
“If it's too loud, you're too old.”
That's what Jensen states in its ad for the VM9512, a DVD-MP3-WMA-AAC multimedia in-dash receiver. The unit is HD Radio- and satellite-ready (with the addition of the appropriate additional tuners or converters) and is compatible with iPod, RDS, USB, SD and Bluetooth.
It has 240 watts peak power and a 7-inch swivel LCD touch screen. The MediaPlex head-unit core offers digital signal processing, improved disc playback, cooler operation and faster switching between sources, the company said.
The Jensen VM9512 ships March 15 with a list price of $699.
Terk Shows Indoor, Outdoor HD-R Antennas
Terk by Audiovox introduced two HD Radio products, which the company is calling “high definition.”
The HDR-o is described as an outdoor amplified high-definition radio antenna to capture AM and FM HD Radio broadcasts. It features high-gain design and band separation with mast and wall mount options included. Suggested list price is just under $130.
The company said its HDR-i indoor antenna includes proprietary AM loop technology for minimal interference and a low-noise amplifier design. The suggested retail price is just under $50.
BMW Expands HD-R Options
BMW is expanding its HD Radio offerings across its entire vehicle line, and says it is the first automaker to do so. The HD Radio option will list for $500.
BMW HD Radios are now multicast-capable and the automaker is featuring HD-R as an option this spring on 2007 Series 3, 5, 6 and 7 models, as well as X3, X5 and Z4.
In the fall of 2005, the company announced OEM availability of HD Radio technology in its 2006 Series 7 and 6 models. In June 2006, the company announced that HD Radio receivers would be offered in its 2007 Series 5 models and last month it announced what it says is the first factory-installed multicast capable HD Radio in the new 3 Series convertible.
AXXESS: Users can upgrade a factory head unit to an HD Radio receiver with the Axxess Digital Interface. Designed to work with a factory-installed automotive radio, the product consists of a universal HD Radio tuner box and an interface specific for each vehicle class. It connects to an OEM radio through the CD changer or the satellite radio port.
Axxess is a Metra Electronics brand. The unit was expected to be available Feb. 15 and list for $199.
DIRECTED Electronics shipped an add-on HD-R receiver in December at a suggested $249.
PERIPHERAL expected to ship an HD Radio car adapter in the first quarter. The HDR2Car is an AM/FM HD Radio tuner that connects through the satellite radio port while retaining the satellite radio function. It will list for $199.
More consumer electronics news next issue.
LAS VEGAS Look for advanced features on HD Radios as well as more units to choose from later this year.