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Out of the mouths of babes: "HD = Huh?"

Posted on: 12/27/2007

Viewpoints.com is a cool new website on which thousands of typical consumers are rating many thousands of different products and services — from Cheerios and iPhones to local restaurants and dentists.

In exploring the site, I came across a user review of the Boston Acoustics HD Radio that nicely sums up the problems that the radio industry is having with launching HD Radio. (I liked a recent HD Alliance press release saying, basically, “We’re doing great — the only remaining step is getting consumer acceptance!”)

Specifically, the problem is: To a typical consumer, the whole deal makes no sense.

Here’s the consumer’s review:

HD Radio Background: HD radio is as unnecessary as it is cool. HD radio is supposed to have better sound quality relative to non-HD radios, though I can’t quite pick up the difference. HD radio’s key benefit is that it provides users with MORE access to their favorite local stations.

Huh?,you may say. Well, most of your local favorites also have other stations that are only available in HD (for example, 93.1 AND 93.12, etc.). While these ‘extra’ HD stations may thematically align with their terrestrial brethren, these other ‘only available in HD’ stations do not carry advertising and are a little less ‘commercial’ in what they broadcast.

As with all radio, HD is regulated by government and currently ads are not allowed on HD stations. In this sense, HD is a bit like satellite (although not nearly as content robust).

Boston Acoustics HD Radio: The Boston Acoustics HD radio is very nice looking. It is quite portable, although does not run on batteries. It would make a nice alarm clock for a couple as it has two alarms that can be set for different times. Moreover, there is an AUX option for easy ipod connection.

HD radio by Boston Acoustics is one of those unnecessary luxuries. I rarely use it, but it looks nice in our guest room. However, with a price tag of $300, one might find something more appealing.


Kurt here again. Let’s review:

  • To a consumer, “HD” means “High Definition” (the HD Radio Alliance wants to draw on this meaning in consumers’ minds without specifically committing to it), which, to a reasonably-savvy consumer, would be something like 5.1-channel Dolby. But it isn’t.

  • Even someone who paid $300 for a radio can’t explain the ludicrous channel-numbering system correctly.

  • The guiding concept behind the content on the new secondary channels is unclear. Are they thematically aligned with their terrestrial brethren or not? Consumers can’t quite figure it out. (The actual answer: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Consumers can’t figure out the pattern because there is no pattern.)

  • ‘Free’ sounds nice (when used in terms of monthly fees), but the cost of buying new radios is far from free. And the product is so far from being as “content-robust” as satellite that the relative price/value proposition makes no sense.

This is why HD Radio, despite allegedly being last year’s biggest radio advertiser (in terms of the value of the donated time), is getting nowhere. (Which, by the way, on the surface does not appear to speak well to the power of radio advertising.) If the concept’s flawed, execution can’t save it.

Read that consumer’s full review on Viewponts.com. But note that “Huh?” really sums it up nicely.

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  1. You are correct – in the minds of consumers, HD Radio is a big “huh”:


    PocketRadio · Dec 27, 08:41 AM · #

  2. The consumer’s wrong about one thing here, when he/she implies that the “government” forbids commercials on HD. That’s not true, though there’s a voluntary 18-month moratorium on ads. I imagine that’s nearly up.

    About everything else, though…

    Catrish · Dec 27, 09:52 AM · #

  3. IBOC radio (HD) is dead in the water.

    bobyoung · Dec 27, 02:34 PM · #

  4. HD means nothing. It may mean Hybrid Digital. When pressed, cheerleaders shrug. HD Radio is BigRadio’s attempt to jam competitors off the air and listeners into submission.

    HD cheerleaders have stated ‘we could lose half the AM stations and no one would notice’, and that HD jamming will ‘thin the herd’ of ‘unnecessary’ stations – as they see it – by denying your ability to listen. HD is ‘free’? As with everything HD, another fanciful claim. HD cheerleaders have long been discussing CA, Controlled Access – wanna listen? You gotta pay. Sweet. For them. HD jamming renders billions of your radios worth trillions of dollars obsolete. Cheerleaders audaciously demand you buy their HD stooge radios. Talk about shakedown! And, you guessed it, these are costly power hogs having limited range, mediocre audio, which require 1940’s style outdoor antennas. What next? Will the Double Batwing Antenna be the New, Hot HD Accessory? HD is a scam – one most profitable for them and costly for us. HD Radio is viewed as a ‘carny shill’ by some observers. Here’s the juice: Older consumers don’t want HD. Younger ones laugh at it. Manufacturers dislike it. Retailers can’t sell it. 2007 passed with nary an HD radio sold. But wasn’t 2006, 2005, the year HD would take the world by storm? More like a wheeze.

    Paul Vincent Zecchino
    Manasota Key, Florida
    28 December, 2007

    paul vincent zecchino · Dec 28, 01:00 AM · #

  5. I have an HD radio, and my biggest complaint is lack of portability. It is big, has an antenna this isn’t self-contained, and doesn’t run on batteries. Satellite radio has portable models. Why doesn’t HD?

    Rick Roderick · Dec 28, 09:05 AM · #

  6. The NAB touts in their ads that HD radio “makes local radio even more exciting…”
    more exciting than what..? Local terrestrial radio has become a generic, low-cost provider, the home- shopping network without pictures. HD was a worse idea than AM stereo! It’s not the delivery, stupid…it’s all about content!

    Brian · Jan 2, 06:29 AM · #

  7. HD Radio is the future?????? It’s the Internet, Stupid.

    Frank Gagliano · Jan 4, 11:57 AM · #

  8. Brian, above, hopefully won’t mind if I quote him with all credit due him. Priceless, radio has become home shopping network without pictures.

    And BigRadio thinks – and as Brian ably rebuts – HD can fix what ails radio? As Brian astutely notes, what ails is not AM and FM’s delivery, it’s content.

    Isn’t the HD radio gang a persistent, if not peculiar lot?

    By their tortured illogic, we select what we read based not upon content, but rather on paper texture and weight. Why do they persist with this costly nonsense?

    Paul Vincent Zecchino
    Manasota Key, Florida
    09 January, 2008

    paul vincent zecchino · Jan 9, 01:18 PM · #

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