HD Radio: A Big Disappointment

Having noticed how local public radio station KUOW has some interesting-sounding programming on their HD radio subchannels, I did a little Google searching and found an HD tuner (new in the box) being offered for the somewhat astounding sum of $40. I did some research on the seller, and found her to be highly rated, so I decided to order it as a Christmas present for myself.

I was somewhat floored to find a box containing my purchase sitting on my doorstep this afternoon. I had not paid extra for rush shipping, and the quoted delivery time for non-rush shipping was as much as 4 weeks in the future. And it was as described: new, in unopened packaging.

Alas, HD radio itself proved to be as big a disappointment as the vendor who sold it was a pleasant surprise. HD is a subcarrier-based system, so it works basically like stereo FM signals: only the stronger signals present solid stereo reception, and only the stronger signals come in on HD. But, HD is even more fussy than the stereo subcarrier; you need a really solid, strong signal to get HD. Forget any sort of indoor antenna, you need something on the roof.

The only station I could reliably get in HD with an indoor antenna was the one I could care the least about receiving: the local right-wing Christian station. I had no luck getting an HD signal for KUOW, despite being able to get a fairly solid stereo signal on that station with an indoor antenna.

It’s presently not worth my scarce time and money to fuss with erecting an external antenna on the roof, particularly such a steep roof as the house I’m currently residing in as. So much for that experiment; glad I didn’t throw more than $40 at it.

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