HD radio is a new digital radio format that is suppose to replace the older and more outdated AM and FM radio formats. HD radio broadcasts offer high quality static free signals, however you need a special radio to pick them up. The Sangean HDR-1 HD is one of those special radios.
- Auto Tuning System (ATS)
- 20 Memory Presets (10 FM, 10 AM)
- Analog Only Mode
- Split Audio Mode
- Alarm w/Humane Wake System
- Multicast Capability
- Program Associated Data Service (PAD)
The ATS (Auto Tuning System) function will scan through the selected band frequency for all usable signals. It will create a list of all the signals it found so that you can look through it and find one that you want.
The 20 presets are very useful, especially because with HD you will probably have more stations to choose from.
If you don’t want to use the HD capabilities of the radio, you can turn on analog only mode which will cause the radio to only look for standard AM and FM stations.
The Humane wake system is slightly different from a normal alarm. If you have chosen the “Beep” sound for the alarm then the volume starts off low and gets louder for 60 seconds. Then it goes off for 60 seconds and starts over. This will continue for 30 minutes unless it is turned off by pressing the Power/Standby button.
Multicasting is the ability for a radio station to broadcast multiple signals on a single station. I have found that this usually includes an analog signal and one or more digital signals.
Program Associated Data Service is a way to include extra content in the signal that can be shown as text on the radio screen. Usually this is stuff like the name of the song, station, and DJ. I have also seen where it will display information about the current commercial, like a phone number or other relevant information.
The radio has a kind of retro wood grain look. The front is very simple and only has a small display, a single knob, and two speakers — one on each side.
The display shows a variety of information. All the menus and settings are shown through this display. Also, when a radio station is playing the display will not only show the radio call sign, but below that it can show either a clock, text from the radio station, the equalizer, or a decibel gauge.
The back is where you will find all the connectors and antennas. The radio comes with three antennas, two FM and one AM. The antenna that is attached is a telescoping antenna, but there is also a ribbon FM antenna. If you want to use the other FM antenna, the radio comes with a small wrench for taking the telescoping antenna off. The AM antenna is the standard loop type that comes with all stereos. On the back is also an external antenna port (for the AM antenna), AUX in, and a headphone jack. There is also a small switch next to the headphone jack. This switch has two settings, Music and News, and it changes the equalizer settings.
The HDR-1 also comes with an IR remote. This remote has a lot more buttons than the radio does, but you are able to access all the functions with either control. However, the remote may be easier to use because the buttons can get you to the functions quicker.
Both AM and FM radio have been around longer than I have, and during all that time there have not been any major improvements to the technology. HD radio is a very recent improvement to those signals and provides a much better quality signal. However, as with all new technology, it has some problems that need to be worked out by the broadcasters and the radio makers.
Most radio stations that broadcast HD play the same content on their HD channel as they do on the analog channel. When they do, the HDR-1 will automatically switch to the HD channel. In addition, some stations offer more than one HD channel, called multicasting, and the HDR-1 can get those stations as well. When an HD channel is found it will be displayed on the screen next to the radio station as “HD2”. In several cases the radio stations that are played are either available online or they are rebroadcasts of AM new or talk stations.
I am happy to say that when I was able to get an HD signal it sounded really good. I could actually tell when the signal would change from analog to digital. The HDR-1 also does a great job playing the HD content. Keeping in mind that this is not a 5.1 stereo, you can expect the radio stations that you get to be crisp and clear. The radio reproduces the sound really well and the speakers sound really good. I even tried cranking the volume and I never had any trouble with the sound getting distorted or the speaker making other funny noises. Below I have 4 sound clips. The first one is standard AM, and the next one is the same broadcast in HD.
The next two are FM stations that simulcast in HD, when the HDR-1 detects the simulcast it automatically switches to the HD signal. This happens about 6 seconds into the clip and if you listen carefully you can hear the music get clearer.
The biggest problem I found with the HD radio is that the HD signal is very sensitive. I have always been able to get certain FM stations and luckily those stations are also the ones that multicast HD signals. So I expected to get HD signals with the same reliability and quality as I get with FM stations. I was really surprised when I first plugged it in and I could not get any HD signals. Even when I could get an HD signal it would sometimes cut out on me. I actually had to be right near a window before I could get a clear signal that did not cut out. On one local station that multicast an AM station I noticed that it was about 50 seconds behind the AM signal. This is not necessarily a problem with the radio. It is probably a symptom of having to process and transmit the higher quality signal with the radio station and then having to decode and play it on the radio.
The controls are also not the best. As I said before, the radio has a single knob that handles all the controls. Push and hold to turn the radio on and off, push quickly to access the menu, and turn the knob to go to different menus. When playing radio stations you can turn the knob to change the volume. The process can be frustrating because if you wait too long the menu times out and it goes back to the radio station display, and you have to start all over. The remote is a little better because you can use the many buttons to quickly get at some of the features, however even it does not give you quick access to everything. I think with a little work, the controls can be improved. I understand the desire to have a clean look, but more buttons on the front and a bigger remote with more functions would be nice.
The alarm system is really the only other functionality besides the HD radio. The alarm provides the standard functionality with a little extra added for increased usability. For example, you can set the alarm to only go off on the weekdays, weekends, or just one time. The alarm also can be set to turn on any station, the line in, or a beeping sound. The latter uses the Humane wake system which I talked about earlier. One major problem is that there is no snooze bar, the only way to get the alarm to turn off is by pressing the power button.
Before you go out and purchase an HD radio you will want to make sure you have a station in your area. You can visit the HD Radio website and do a quick search.
Warranty and Support
The warranty that comes with the Sangean HDR-1 HD Radio is only one year parts and labor. I am surprised that a company as well known as Sangean would offer such a skimpy warranty. However, if it is taken care of it should last a really long time.
I am happy with the radio. I like the sound of the radio and the features are great. However, I am not happy with the controls or the signal availability of the local radio stations. Because the signal quality is not completely the radios fault, I cannot give them a bad rating for it. The controls however, are their fault and I have to ding them a little because of it. I am going to rank this radio as a Silver because of how cumbersome they are. If Sangean can work out a better control scheme, the radio would certainly be worthy of a higher rank. As always compare prices before purchasing.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|