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In Search of an HD-R Receiver

I had never, not even for an instant, ever heard an HD-R channel, so I decided to purchase one.

I love radio.

The company at which I strive makes technical radio products, including one for HD Radio. I have been reading about HD Radio for years. I have been listening to ads on a local station for their HD-R channels for more than a year and have checked out IBOC signals on a number of my beautiful spectrum analyzers.

And yet: I had never, not even for an instant, ever heard an HD-R channel, so I decided to purchase one.

Shopping for an HD Radio

My first effort was this June.

With only slight inconvenience I have the option of taking a very commercial route home that winds its way past any number of large shopping venues, including a Barnes & Noble, a defunct CompUSA and my destination for this adventure, an enormous Circuit City in Totowa, N.J.

Just guessing, but I would say that the establishment has perhaps 30,000 square feet of merchandise, tastefully arrayed in islands and alcoves, on walls and even on the ceiling, where an especially large fixture was suspended with a 360-degree array of CRT monitors exhorting me to buy some sort of game-console gadgetry.

I was surprised to see this because it looked like it weighed (literally) a ton, and if there were ever a candidate for flat screen displays this was it.

Within the compass of this vast retail enterprise was a substantial section for LCD and plasma “teevee” sets, and even a large section devoted to music served on plastic.

Thousands of CDs of every persuasion except, of course, for anything I would ever listen to.

Circuit City

I arrived at this emporium about an hour before closing time. An ideal time, really, because it’s too early for the salestrons to be focused solely on going home but too late for a press of customers to throng every available red-shirted customer consultant (or however they style them).

Mission-oriented dude that I was, I almost immediately looked for the “radio” section. (Almost because I can’t pass up checking the weekly depredations the LCD “teevee” manufacturers are committing on each other.)

Of course there was no “radio” section. Radios are no longer something, although they’re often in something. As I wandered the aisles, a gentleman asked me if he could be of assistance.

“Hi! I would like to buy an HD Radio.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you; I don’t work in that department. You could try one of them.” (All quotes are approximate.) He pointed to the section I had just left with the LCD teevees.

Since I just came from there and had seen no sign of HD Radios, I decided to continue wandering.

Moments later I found myself in the auto-entertainment alcove, filled with Sirius and XM gadgets. The Sirius radio on demo was playing Jerry Garcia’s “The Wheel,” so I waited til it was finished and asked the sales guy, unaccountably wearing a black shirt, if they had HD Radios.

At least they have their story straight; he pointed me to the teevee area and agreed with his predecessor that only a red shirt would do. I gave up and returned to the teevee area. Almost needless to say, the salestron there immediately told me to go see the guy in auto entertainment. “You mean the guy in the black shirt?” So it seems.

You see where this is going.

Without attempting to recreate further quotations, I can report that of all the people I asked, only one actually seemed willing to admit that he had never even heard of HD Radio.

He was by far the most useful. He took me to the “boom box” area where they had one that looked like it was ready to attack the next passer-by. It was called an “xplod.” Did it have HD Radio? He shrugged.

Actually there was another useful one. He’s the one who asked, “Have you tried RadioShack?”

My mission was a failure, at least for the moment. Apparently you could not get an HD Radio at one of the largest consumer electronic dealers in the United States of America. What does this say about the future of HD Radio? I don’t know — that’s why they call it the “future.”


There was progress in a follow-up visit on Sept. 14.

Same commercial route, same Circuit City, different security guy. I walked in, deliberately looking bewildered. This requires no acting talent on my part.

A guy in the Verizon booth piped up, “Do you need help?” I’ve never quite figured out how to answer that, but I asked if he knew where the HD Radios are. He told me to check in the Auto Section. Miracle!

The sales guy not only had heard of HD Radio, he pointed to one that they had on demo. It was a very nice-looking JVC car radio for $199.99. (When I got home and checked the Web site, it had been reduced to $159.99. Not bad for a drive of a few miles.)

I asked him if they simply had an HD Radio I could buy to listen to at home. He said there were none in stock.

Were they expecting any? Without flatly saying “No,” he pretty much indicated that I shouldn’t skip any desserts while waiting.