When Sangean released the HDT-1 component-style HD Radio receiver, it was to the delight of radio engineers. Many of us had been waiting for a radio we could put in our racks to replace a homebrew car receiver or similar jury-rigged solution for our in-house monitoring.
The HDT-1 filled that need and then some, with its stylish design, intuitive controls and large display. It wasn’t perfect, though.
Sangean now has released an updated version, the HDT-1X, that adds a few nifty features while maintaining the performance of the original.
(click thumbnail)Sangean seems to want to appeal to radio engineers, and the proof is in the HDT-1X’s signal diagnostics and control.Quickly recapping the original and new units, the radio is a component-style tuner. It doesn’t have any rackmount hardware but will fit easily in any 2RU space; Sangean says Bradley Broadcast and Pro Audio has fabricated a rack mount kit (2RU rack ears) that retails for just under $20.
The front controls include a large power button, a numeric keypad for presets or direct entry of a frequency and three rocker switches for incremental tuning, seek tuning and seeking only for stations broadcasting in HD-R.
There’s also a “band” button to cycle through two sets of FM presets and two sets of AM presets, and an “info” button to cycle through various functions on the display.
The rear has an AC power connection, a coaxial FM antenna jack, a twin-lead AM antenna jack, two unbalanced analog RCA audio outputs and now an optical digital audio output, also unbalanced. A remote control that duplicates most of the front panel’s controls is also included.
I mentioned the optical digital output; that’s one of the main upgrades in the HDT-1X. It’s not balanced, but I imagine you could easily convert the optical digital output to balanced AES or whatever format you need.
However, in comparing the optical output to the analog, the optical sounds slightly “brighter,” with more high-end treble. It’s possible this is a byproduct of my stereo, but this tended to make over-compressed audio sound more “crunchy,” especially on our local AM-HD stations.
The display is fairly large, 2.75 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall. It can be cycled through showing the time, a graphical EQ, artist/title in large, call letters and frequency + call letters + artist/title.
It can also show “SSI,” which presumably means “Signal Strength Indicator.” I’m not sure how useful this meter is, since it seems to vary wildly for no apparent reason. Of course, perceived signal strength also tends to do that. Still, it can be handy to fine-tune your antenna’s orientation.
Product CapsuleSangean HDT-1X HD Radio tuner
- Extensive diagnostic controls
- Good radio reception
- Decent budget choice for professional monitoring
- Stays off after AC power outage
- Loses multicast lock with loss of signal
- No rackmount hardware
Available at dealers including Crutchfield, Listen Up, Bradfords HiFi and J&R Music. See full list at www.sangean.comAnother bonus in the HDT-1X’s display is the addition of a stereo indicator. A quick scan of the dial didn’t reveal any HD-R signals from FM stations that were not in stereo … even stations obviously broadcasting mono content.
However, on the AM side I noticed news/talker WBZ was choosing to transmit its HD-R signal in mono. I had suspected that the Sangean HDT-1 tuners also decoded the old C-Quam AM stereo signal, and listening with the HDT-1x, to the sole Boston source of AM stereo, confirmed it; the stereo icon appeared about 15 seconds after I tuned to 740 WJIB.
One oddity carries over from the HDT-1. Where some other HD Radios show some combination of station information or artist/title, the Sangean will only show call letters. I have a suspicion that Sangean actually is displaying it “correctly” but other radios might be using a more aesthetically sensible method.
In the end, this is ultimately just a radio; so how good is the reception? I’d say pretty good.
It’s not the most sensitive tuner I’ve ever owned, but it was able to receive most signals that I expected it to. Interestingly, even some stations that had pretty poor analog reception — and low numbers on the SSI — would switch successfully to HD-R.
To compare it to the original HDT-1, I split the stock FM dipole antenna into both my HDT-1 and the HDT-1X, and found that they both seemed to have the same sensitivity. Similarly, the stock AM loops in about the same location yielded comparably sensitivity (and SSI numbers) for both radios.
Sangean seems to want to appeal to radio engineers, and the proof is in the HDT-1X’s signal diagnostics and control.
The original HDT-1 had several interesting signal diagnostics such as Bit Error Rate, carrier-to-noise ratio, FUSE Bit Check, (HD-R) Transmission Mode and station ID. But the 1X adds some broadcaster-friendly tricks: force-analog only, force digital on left, analog on right for time-synchronization purposes, and force mono vs. stereo (only in analog mode). Even in analog-only mode, the display still shows HD Radio PSD information if it’s present.
Proving that Sangean really aims to please even certain whining reviewers of other HD Radios (see “Directed’s Latest Entry-DMHD-1000 Is an ‘Add-On’ Tuner,” RW June 6 and RW Online), the company even added a bright/dim control to the backlight. The backlight shuts off when you power off the unit. Yay!
With the HDT-1X, Sangean has taken an already fairly-broadcaster-friendly HD Radio tuner, and made it even better.
The biggest downside is that it doesn’t retain its settings through a loss of AC power. That necessitates a battery backup/UPS for professional monitoring uses. Similarly, if you’re monitoring a multicast channel and the signal is lost for more than a minute or two, the radio defaults to the analog channel.
But remember that compared to radios that do have those features, the HDT-1X is drastically cheaper. Plus, a digital output at all is really nice, and the added analog/digital and forced analog controls are very useful. The stereo indicator rounds out a great package of improvements.
If you’ve been desiring a house monitor for HD-R that won’t break the bank and looks slick, Sangean has delivered the goods.