What Is HD Radio?


Radio reception has gotten crisper and cleaner thanks to the introduction of HD radio. HD radio is simply radio that is sent through digital signals rather than traditional, analog radio signals. The only thing people need to listen is a specially designed HD radio receiver, which looks like a traditional radio and will not break the budget.


  • Traditional radio is sent with analog signals, which are frequently blocked or bounced off objects in the environment, like mountains and buildings. This ends up with a poor quality broadcast, static or no radio reception at all. HD radio is transmitted using digital signals, which are not hindered by such interference. HD radio can be picked up by special radios that look like traditional radios and start at less than $100. Newer cars are being equipped with HD radio right on the assembly line. The last big advancement in radio was at least 40 years ago in the 1960s, when FM became widespread.


  • HD radio is broadcast the same way the traditional analog radio is: a station sends out a signal that is picked up by a receiver, a special radio that can pick up the digital signals. Some radio stations broadcast their stations with both the traditional analog signals and digital signals simultaneously. Folks who have HD Radio receivers can pick up both sets of signals but will most likely want to opt for the digital because of its superior quality. Those who only have traditional radios will pick up the analog signals.


  • Every state across the nation has stations that transmit HD radio. This doesn't mean those stations are broadcast in digital only and cannot be picked up by traditional radios; stations offer both forms of broadcasting. A station can install the equipment necessary to send out digital signal fairly inexpensively. More than 1,800 stations across the nation have already chosen to do so. For a list of stations that broadcast in HD radio, see Resources below.


  • The HD in HD radio does not stand for "High Definition" as is the case for the same abbreviation in HDTV. "HD radio" is a trademarked name which has no meaning behind the abbreviation. Other misconceptions around HD radio are that it is very expensive or will eventually replace traditional radio. Neither is true. HD radio is free, as long as the listener has the special HD receiver that can pick up digital signals. No plans are in the works to do away with traditional radio, either. One more misconception is that HD radio is satellite radio. It is not. HD radio will offer the same stations one would normally get on a regular radio but with better quality.


  • Some benefits of HD Radio include a better sound quality and greater reliability.

    HD radio is also free, once folks invest in the special radio. HD radio receivers look like traditional radios, but they are clearly marked to indicate their HD radio capabilities.

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  • Photo Credit Illustration by Ryn Gargulinski
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